After The Match 


Liverpool-AK Graz 0-1 (0-0) 2-1 agg.     Tue Aug 24.   CL qualifier - 2. leg  
Goals: Tokic (55)
Team: Dudek, Carragher, Henchoz, Hyypia, Riise, Kewell, Gerrard, Diao, Potter, Baros, Cisse
Subs: Warnock (Kewell 58), Pongolle (Ciise 75), Hamann (Baros 90)
Not used: Harrison, Biscan, Finnan, Whitbread
Yellow: Potter (43), Gerrard (61)
Pogatetz (34), Plassneger (67), Aufhauser (68), Muratovic (74)
Red: None
Referee: L Medina Cantalejo (Spain)
Attendance: 42,950

Shots on target:
Shots off target:
Fouls conceded:





"...when you lose
you have
to learn also."

              Rafael Benitez

2508: Benitez looks to new signings
2408. Benitez takes share of blame
2408: Champions League after a huge scare


Benitez looks to new signings

Sporting Life

Rafael Benitez is anxious to plunge his new Liverpool signings into action following the embarrassing 1-0 Champions League defeat by Graz AK on Tuesday night.

New manager Benitez left no-one in any doubt of his disappointment at the stumbling performance which left Liverpool hanging on for a 2-1 aggregate victory in the qualifying tie.

Liverpool were relieved when referee Luis Medina Cantalejo finally blew the whistle to calm Anfield's nerves.

Benitez had 16million of Spanish talent in Xabi Alonso and Luis Garcia watching because they were not qualified to play.

But from Sunday when Liverpool go to Bolton in the Premiership, and for the lucrative Champions League group stages Benitez will have his Spanish imports available. That includes Josemi and Antonio Nunez who are injured.

The former Valencia coach said: "I have a good squad, the only thing we have to do is to learn and to understand what we did badly.

"We have two or three possibilities now to change, we start from here with Xabi Alonso and Luis Garcia and that will give us more choice.

"The Spanish players who have arrived will give us more scope, more alternatives. When you have more players it is more competitive and that is better for all the players and the team in the long run."

His first three games without defeat with some comfortable, confident displays had maybe given the Anfield public the impression that a click of a Spaniard's fingers had solved all the ills of the past.

Now they know it cannot be a quick fix. Liverpool's squad do not possess the mental capacity of a battle-hardened outfit like Benitez left behind in Valencia.

There, with a 2-0 first leg lead, Benitez would have had no problem switching his side, bringing in a few youngsters, and acquiring the regulation victory.

Jamie Carragher, one of the few players to produce a decent performance, said: "It will take time because we were a long way off the top last season. It's not going to happen in one season.

"It was a disappointing performance. The main thing is to get through but we expected a lot better from ourselves and the supporters deserved a lot better."

Benitez ended up substituting three of his front-line attackers, Harry Kewell, Djibril Cisse and Milan Baros and accepted there is plenty of work to do before an acceptable partnership will be formed.

On Kewell he said: "I am very happy with Harry, he is trying to do things. He had a leg-muscle problem which is why I decided to change him.

"He is a very important player and I am sure he will play better in the future. For me he can play left winger or as the second striker, he is an intelligent player."

Of his two strikers, Benitez promised more training-ground work.

He said: "We have talked about the movement of the forwards a lot, and we trained hard. Sometimes it was good but we do need to work more.

"We must learn in games like this that it is important to control the mind as well as the ball and to try to do the things we are working on in training sessions. It is our job to improve our level of performance.

"It is difficult to say what the players had in their minds. But for me, the first 25 minutes was fine but then it changed. We must learn. By the end of the season we will have had a lot of matches like this one.

"The problem was that when we won the first leg people thought it would be easy. But Graz were a good team, they had strikers who were always moving and they played with confidence."

The overall team performance made for a difficult full debut for promising 19-year-old right-sided midfielder Darren Potter.

He said: "The result was disappointing and the mood in the dressing room was one of relief at the end. It was a bit nervous late in the game when Graz pushed forward but thankfully we held on.

"It's great for the club to be back in the Champions League, and hopefully I can play a part in it. I'm not one to make predictions though and we will have to see what the future holds."

Benitez takes share of blame

Sporting Life

Rafael Benitez admitted his side looked "nervous" as they scraped past Graz AK and into the Champions League group stages with a 2-1 aggregate win.

Mario Tokic's long-range strike 10 minutes into the second period left the Reds clinging on and gave the Spanish coach an indication of how much work he has left to do at Anfield.

Benitez said: "For half an hour we played well but after that we didn't look good and lost a lot of possession.

"The most important thing is that we have qualified for the group stages and now have time to sort a few things out.

"When you win you learn, but when you lose you have to learn also. Perhaps the reasons were that we became nervous. We did not control the game and kept conceding the ball with easy passes.

"It meant we were always on the back foot and encouraging a good team to attack us. They were dangerous at the end and when they scored the nerves were worse.

"We didn't play well in attack or defence and we know now that we must work harder. It is not just a problem for one or two players but for the whole team and for me. We are all in this together, it is a problem for us all."

Meanwhile, Spanish referee Luis Medina Cantalejo could be in hot water with UEFA after he appeared to book Graz skipper Rene Aufhauser twice but failed to send him off.

In an amazing repeat of the Barry Ferguson situation during Saturday's Barclays Premiership game between Southampton and Blackburn, the official twice produced the yellow card to the Austria international in an amazing 10-minute second-half spell.

It looked as if he had booked Aufhauser in the 68th and 78th minute, both times for fouls on Steven Gerrard.

Afterwards a UEFA spokesman confirmed the match referee's observer would discuss the incidents with the referee and the fourth official.

The spokesman then said: "Under UEFA rules we are not able to comment at the moment, but a report will be sent to UEFA tomorrow for them to consider the incidents."

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez said afterwards: "Now we have qualified it was just a small mistake, no more."

Champions League after a huge scare

BBC Sport Online

Liverpool qualified for the Champions League group stage, but only after being given a huge scare by AK Graz.

The Austrian side went ahead early in the second half through Mario Tokic's superb strike, which crossed the line after hitting Jerzy Dudek's bar.

Late on Tokic's finishing was less assured when the defender volleyed high over the bar following a Graz corner.

Liverpool's best effort in a hugely disappointing performance was a first-half Steven Gerrard shot.

Having fielded the same starting line-up in their last three competitive games, Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez made three changes, selecting Salif Diao, Stephane Henchoz and Darren Potter.

It was a debut for the 19-year-old Potter, who in build and style resembles Steve McMananman.

Even when Liverpool went a goal down Benitez resisted the temptation to introduce the experience of Dietmar Hamann and Igor Biscan to steady the nerves of the four-time European Cup winners, opting to deploy two other youngsters Stephen Warnock and Florent Sinama Pongolle.

Hamann did eventually come on - in the 90th minute - helping Liverpool survive three minutes of stoppage time.

Despite the sell-out crowd, Liverpool were unable to find their rhythm throughout the game.

As ever Gerrard seemed to be everywhere, while Milan Baros and Djibril Cisse were full of running in attack.

But Liverpool were unable to create many clear-cut openings, the best an early free-kick involving Kewell and Gerrard.

The Graz defence had been expecting a cross into the area, but Kewell pulled the ball for Gerrard, whose shot went narrowly wide.

The Austrian side also threatened from set-pieces, notably just before the interval when Roland Kollmann almost touched the ball home.

Soon after the restart Graz took the lead, again capitalising on Liverpool's defensive uncertainity from a set-piece.

Following a corner Tokic picked up the ball on the edge of the penalty area, flicked it over Kewell's head and then struck a superb shot past Dudek.

Tokic's goal prompted Benitez to withdraw the ineffectual Kewell and replace him with Warnock.

Gerrard also began to raise his game and his cross from the left almost found Baros at the far post.

Baros and Cisse then combined smartly, but the ball arrived too quickly for the Frenchman and his volley was well over.

Potter's chip into the box then found Baros and Cisse lurking unmarked, but the Czech Republic striker missed his kick, while Cisse's bicycle kick was imperfectly executed.

With Anfield becoming more and more hushed as the game continued, Graz continued to probe with Dudek having to save a Kollmann header.

During the game Spanish referee Luis Medina Cantalejo looked to have booked Graz captain Reen Aufhauser twice, but just like Andy D'Urso at the weekend, the Spaniard failed to bring out his red card.

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Thor Zakariassen