Benitez backs Fowler to fire
Rafael Benitez is backing Robbie Fowler to fire in all
competitions after the striker moved second in Liverpool's
all-time League Cup scorers.
Fowler, 31, notched his 28th goal in the competition when he
chipped in against Reading on Wednesday, one strike clear of
Kop legend Kenny Dalglish but still trailing Ian Rush by 20.
It was the striker's second of the season and his seventh
since returning to the club from Manchester City last
season, although his impressive ratio has been hindered by
fitness and Benitez's rotation policy.
When he chipped in for the opener at Anfield on Wednesday,
he showed a glimpse of what he could offer Benitez when
Liverpool look to get their Premiership title bid back on
track on Saturday against Aston Villa, who boast an unbeaten
"We know Robbie's record is amazing," Benitez said. "As we
did against Reading, if we create a lot of chances he can
score goals. If you have quality you can score goals in all
Fowler sparked a glut of three goals for the hosts in the
Carling Cup third-round tie against the Royals, but
Liverpool eventually were forced to hold on for a 4-3 win.
However, it was not just Fowler's goal which impressed his
manager, the veteran also hit a couple of efforts just wide
then set up Peter Crouch for Liverpool's fourth.
"He played well," said Benitez of Fowler. "I always say the
same thing, he has game intelligence and quality.
"He is a very good finisher and it was a fantastic goal."
Fowler's strike was also his first goal in the competition
since the 2001 final against Birmingham, who Liverpool have
drawn to play in the last 16.
to fire reminder to Rafa
By Chris Bascombe - Liverpool Echo
Robbie Fowler hopes his stunning goalscoring comeback
will be enough to force his way into Rafa Benitez's
Premiership plans this weekend.
But despite reaching another Kop milestone, the striker
admits he's known since his emotional return to the club he
has to be realistic about his first team prospects.
Fowler struck a superb opener in the dramatic 4-3 win over
Reading, and at the very least he's virtually confirmed his
place for the fourth round tie away to Birmingham.
However, with Aston Villa arriving at Anfield this weekend,
and Craig Bellamy still struggling with a calf injury,
Fowler's league ambitions must have improved.
Although it's clear Fowler is desperate to featureinevery
fixture, he insists he's no complaints about his role in
"I don't know what to expect this weekend," said Fowler
today. "Obviously I hope I'll be involved, but it's not me
who decides these things. Apart from the first 30 or 40
minutes last night, I thought I did well, and all I can hope
is the manager liked what he saw.
"The manager has explained the situation to me, and I
totally understand the position.
"I said when I came back I just wanted to enjoy every minute
I get playing for Liverpool, and I'd be happy being involved
as much as I can be. That's the way I feel.
"I've always been confident I'll score goals given the
chance, and it was an important one last night because it
gave us the stepping stone we needed to get the results.
"Once we got the first, it calmed us all down and we played
well to get to 4-1.
"It's an important competition fora lot of us because the
longer we're in it the more first team opportunities we'll
Fowler reached another significant landmark with his goal
last night, beating Kenny Dalglish on Anfield's all-time
league cup goalscoring list with his 28th in just 33 ties.
"When I scored last season to go past him in the overall
list, Kenny was the first on the phone to me to sayhow
gutted he was," joked Fowler.
"I didn't realise I'd gone past him again on another list,
so I'll have upset him again. Seriously though, I know Kenny
will be pleased for me and I'm sure he'll be phoning me or
texting me to congratulate me again."
emotions for Benitez
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez was delighted with the
four-goal haul against Reading but admitted his side had
lessons to learn after allowing their opponents to set up a
Benitez's men held on for a 4-3 victory in the Carling Cup
third-round tie at Anfield, but they appeared to be cruising
after establishing a three-goal lead with a glut of goals
either side of half-time.
Andre Bikey gave the visitors hope before Peter Crouch
restored the cushion, only for Leroy Lita's strike and a
far-post header from Shane Long to set up an intense ending.
"At the end of the day it is a cup tie and we are in the
next round," Benitez said.
"There are a lot of positive things, we scored four goals
and all of them were fantastic goals, there were young
players playing at Anfield which is also very positive.
"We need to learn because we conceded three goals and need
to manage the game in another way.
"To score four goals and to create good chances is really
Robbie Fowler was named captain and opened the scoring in
the 44th minute with a chipped finish after Jermaine Pennant
played him through.
"It was a fantastic goal," Benitez said.
John Arne Riise doubled the lead with a volley from the edge
of the area before Gabriel Paletta glanced in a header to
establish Liverpool's lead.
After the goals towards the end of the clash, Benitez was
pleased extra-time was not required.
"When you play against a team who works as hard as they
worked, you are more elated, you enjoy it more," he said.
"We were under pressure. After scoring the fourth goal we
thought it was finished, but in the last minutes we were
again under pressure."
Reading assistant boss Kevin Dillon admitted he did not want
to see the game go to extra-time, but was pleased with his
Dillon said: "We had a couple of chances to get back in it
and we could have snatched a draw at the end, but I was
quite pleased we didn't.
"We've got a big game on Saturday and a long trip back and
I'm sure Mr Benitez was thinking the same about extra-time.
"So I was pleased with the performance but not with the
"We went 3-0 down but kept playing and kept passing, Glen
Little was creating problems and our set-pieces caused them
Reds survive Reading fightback
By Tony Curtis - Sky Sports
Three goals in a five-minute spell either side of half
time helped Liverpool stutter through against Reading at
However, they had to survive a late fright as The Royals
threatened to turn the game on its head in the final 15
The tie had failed to spark into life during a turgid first
40 minutes, with both sides failing to make the most of
However, first-half strikes from Robbie Fowler and John Arne
Riise, followed by Gabriel Paletta's debut goal just after
the interval seemed to have put the game out of sight.
Even Andre Bikey's header with 15 minutes left looked like
little more than a consolation effort as Peter Crouch
restored Liverpool's three-goal advantage with a fine
However, late strikes from Leroy Lita and Shane Long ensured
the home fans had to endure a nervy final few minutes.
The late flurry of goals was in stark contrast to the first
half when both sides had been wasteful in the final third.
Mohamed Sissoko saw his near-post effort well blocked by
Graham Stack after 13 minutes, while at the other end Ulises
De la Cruz's piledriver was straight at Jose Reina.
Then on the half-hour, Boudewijn Zenden saw his long-range
effort tipped wide by Stack.
However, Fowler suddenly sparked the game in to life just
before the interval. Having gone close with an acrobatic
effort, he found the target when he raced between Brynjar
Gunnarsson and John Halls to latch on to Jermaine Pennant's
perfectly weighted pass to chip the ball over Stack.
The 31-year-old front-man then had a hand in the second when
he laid the ball off for Riise to let fly from the left of
the box. Stack may have been able to parry the first effort,
but he stood no chance as Riise rifled home the rebound.
The second half saw Liverpool quickly out of the blocks,
with Paletta heading Pennant's corner past a stranded Stack
just three minutes after the interval.
However, hopes of a comfortable end to the game vanished as
Reading hit back in a frantic finale, with Bikey setting The
Royals on their way when he headed Glen Little's free-kick
And although Crouch made it 4-1 with a quality finish after
a one-two with Fowler, Lita then scrambled the ball home
from Stephen Hunt's pass.
And as the nerves got to the home side, Long was allowed the
freedom of Anfield to head in Little's teasing cross with
six minutes left.
Instead of closing up shop, Liverpool continued to attack
and although Zenden hit bar, this tactic left gaps at the
back. But all Reading could manage was a couple of scrambled
half-chances before a huge sigh of relief met referee Peter
Walton's full-time whistle.