After The Match 


Crystal P-Liverpool 1-0 (1-0)            Sat Apr 23.          Premier League
Goals: Johnson (33)
Team: Dudek, Finnan, Hyypia, Carragher, Pellegrino, Traore, Gerrard, Welsh, Le Tallec, Baros, Morientes
Subs: Potter (Baros 37), Riise (Pellegrino 53),  Cisse (Traore 68)
Not used: Carson, Biscan
Yellow: Carragher (35), Morientes (45), Gerrard (59), Finnan (77), Riise (87)       Routledge (45), Granville (54)
Red: None
Referee: Dermot Gallagher
Attendance: 26,043

                            MATCH-REPORTS & RESULTS 
Shots on target: 3-7
Shots off target: 3-2
Fouls conceded: 19-14
Corners: 4-1
Yellow: 2-5




HEADLINES "...ask Milan Baros
about how physical
they were."
         Rafael Benitez
2404: Johnson's head exploits Benitez bloomer
2304: Symons defends Palace
2304: Rafa: Football wasn't possible


Johnson's head exploits Benitez bloomer

By Tom Collomosse - The Independent

Rafael Benitez needs an enormous improvement from his Liverpool side in the first leg of the Champions' League semi-final at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday following this stunning defeat by relegation-threatened Crystal Palace here yesterday.

Andrew Johnson's 35th-minute goal was enough to give Palace three vital points that lifted them out of the Premiership relegation zone, but Benitez must be regretting his decision to rest some of his key players.

The gifted Spanish playmaker Xabi Alonso - who Benitez claimed was injured - was not even on the bench, and John Arne Riise only came on as a second-half substitute. Luis Garcia had a thigh injury and Igor Biscan was rested.

Liverpool also missed the chance to close the gap on Everton - who could only draw 1-1 at home to Birmingham - in the race to qualify for next season's Champions' League. They are now four points behind their Merseyside neighbours.

Benitez was clearly upset by Palace's physical approach. "We wanted to win the game but sometimes it is not possible to play football," he said. "Football is football and is similar everywhere but I have not seen many games like this in other countries.

"Watch the match on television and analyse the game. Look at the three challenges on Milan Baros and judge for yourselves."

The Czech Republic striker, was forced to hobble off shortly before half-time after some rough treatment from the Palace defenders and Benitez does not yet know whether if he will be fit to face Chelsea.

Palace are now a point clear of West Bromwich Albion - who have a match in hand - and two above Southampton, who face their local rivals Portsmouth today. Iain Dowie's men have a home match against Southampton on 7 May, sandwiched between trips to Newcastle and Charlton, whom they face on the final day of the Premiership campaign.

Mindful of the biggest match of Liverpool's season at Stamford Bridge, Benitez made four changes to his starting line-up. The captain, Steven Gerrard, was brought back into the side along with Anthony Le Tallec, Mauricio Pellegrino and John Welsh. Alonso and Luis Garcia should be available to face Chelsea.

The Palace manager, Iain Dowie, also made four changes, with Danny Granville, Tony Popovic, Aki Riihilahti and Tom Soares all recalled. The changes seemed to work as Palace displayed an excellent attitude, high work-rate and the displays of Johnson, central defender Fitz Hall and midfielder Michael Hughes were superb.

Although Liverpool settled into the game better than their hosts, Palace seemed to be the more threatening. In the 27th minute Hall played a superb crossfield pass to release Johnson, whose clever reverse ball found Granville, but the left-back could not find the finish to match his run and Jerzy Dudek saved easily. At the other end, Le Tallec found Baros with a clever pass, but Gonzalo Sorondo was alert to the danger and made a perfectly timed tackle for Palace.

The home side took the lead in the 35th minute. Jamie Carragher headed Granville's cross clear, but when Routledge volleyed the ball back into the danger zone from the right it was Johnson who reacted quickest to head the ball into Dudek's bottom-right corner.

Palace began the second half as dynamically as they had ended the first, and Liverpool were lucky not to fall further behind. Sami Hyypia and Pellegrino made a hash of Johnson's low cross, but Soares - perhaps surprised that the ball had reached him - shot high and wide.

Liverpool responded by switching to a 4-4-2 formation after Fernando Morientes' header had been saved by Gabor Kiraly, Benitez sending on Riise for Pellegrino. After a quiet first half, Gerrard's influence grew as his side came forward in search of an equaliser.

The England midfielder showed his ability with a clever pass for Morientes in the 71st minute, and the Spain striker was denied only by a superb tackle from Popovic. Eight minutes later, a raking pass from Gerrard picked out the Liverpool substitute Djibril Cissť on the right corner of the penalty area, but the Frenchman's volley was easily stopped by Kiraly.

The Hungary goalkeeper then kept his side in front with a fantastic save from Gerrard's well-struck effort from 20 yards following Morientes' knock-down. At the end, Palace sometimes defended with eight men. But they defended well.

Symons defends Palace

By Alex Dunn - Sky Sports

Crystal Palace assistant manager Kit Symons has hit back at Rafa Benitez's comments about the physical nature of his side.

The Liverpool chief hinted after his side's 1-0 defeat that Palace were over physical, with Milan Baros a first half casuality after being the victim of several tough tackles.

However, Symons believes his side never stepped over the line and on the contrary, pointed to the booking count as an indicator as to how the afternoon had unfolded.

"Look at the bookings count," said Symons. "Five of their players were booked, and only two of ours.

"Liverpool are an excellent side. Their form in Europe this season shows that, so we needed to work very hard to nullify their threat.

"And apart from an excellent save by Gabor Kiraly from Steven Gerrard towards the end, we made life difficult for them and they didn't create many chances.

"(The relegation dogfight) will be about which team can hold its nerve, and which team is willing to play football when the going is tough.

"There will be some really hostile atmospheres to face between now and the end of the season, but I'm convinced we can churn out the results."

Rafa: Football wasn't possible

By Lee Brown - LFC Offficial Website

Angry Liverpool Manager Rafa Benitez has hit out at Crystal Palace's physical style after his side suffered a deeply disappointing defeat at Selhurst Park today.

Andy Johnson's 33rd minute strike was enough to give Iain Dowie's strugglers the points, but Benitez felt that Palace's tactics made it impossible for his side to play football.

He said, "I am very disappointed with the result, but we tried to play and sometimes this isn't possible.

"We knew they would be very physical, but ask Milan Baros about how physical they were. He has problems all over his body. Watch the TV and you will see what I mean."

Baros was forced off injured after 37 minutes after a series of heavy tackles and is rated as doubtful for Wednesday's vital Champions League clash with Chelsea.

This defeat now leaves Liverpool with an almost impossible task of making 4th place this season, but Benitez says they won't give up without a fight.

"I thought we controlled the first half", he said. "But conceding the goal when we did made the difference.

"Now we have three games left in the league and two in the Champions League and we must focus for these games. We will probably have to win our last three games though to have a chance of finishing 4th."

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Thor Zakariassen ©