After The Match 


Liverpool-Manchester C 1-0 (0-0)       25.11.06                   PL
Goals: Gerrard (67)
Team: Reina, Finnan, Hyypia, Agger, Carragher, Garcia, Gerrard, Zenden, Riise, Crouch, Kuyt
Subs: Pennant (Garcia 59), Fowler (Crouch 65), Bellamy (Kuyt 89)
Not used: Dudek, Paletta
Yellow: Garcia (39), Carragher (64)             Thatcher (44)
Red: None
Referee: Rob Styles
Attendance: 44,081
Shots on target: 4-2
Shots off target: 6-4
Possession: 56-44
Fouls conceded: 10-22
Corners: 8-2
Offsides: 2-8
Yellow: 2-1
Red: 0-0
HEADLINES "...I hope
we will see more goals from Steven."
     Rafael Benitez

2711: Home comfort means top four matter of time
2711: Gerrard is just world's best, says Carragher
2611: Gerrard seeks top-four spot
2511: Rafa thrilled with Stevie goal
2511: Pearce rues lapse
2511: Gerrard goal sinks City

Home comfort means
top four matter of time

By Nick Smith - Daily Post

Here's a brave prediction - Liverpool to finish in the top four. Easily. It's one of the most depressing symptoms of modern-day progress that this position in the Premiership is now seen as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow to some clubs, satisfactory consolation to others.

But, with the exception of the two meeting at the other end of the M62 yesterday, it's respectfully valued by all. And although Liverpool held genuine hopes of much better before the season kicked off, the Champions League qualifying spots now have to be the initial target.

That's the bad news. The good news is that Liverpool shouldn't actually have to try too hard to achieve it.

Just keep doing what they're doing at Anfield, improve things slightly away (shouldn't be too difficult given the combination of tough fixtures and dire performances on the road so far) and the top four is a dead cert.

After all, they're only two points off it now despite that wretched away record, which has yielded neither a win nor an open-play goal all season.

So is the prediction really so brave? Well, if Saturday's visit of Manchester City is anything to go by, not really.

Okay, Liverpool aren't setting the world alight - but none of the perceived challengers to the 'big four' supremacy even look like they've got two stones to rub together to create a spark.

You know you're in for a fun afternoon when Stuart Pearce raises his arms above his head and claps enthusiastically as the ball rolls out for a goal-kick.

Not a goal-kick earned by Joey Barton firing a screamer inches over the bar or Bernardo Corradi glancing narrowly wide following a flowing move down the flank, you understand.

No, this was a goal-kick in favour of City, their manager clearly delighted that his defenders had the skill and poise to allow John Arne Riise's aimless and over-hit long ball run over the byline - inside the first 10 seconds.

Even for someone as demonstrative as Pearce it seemed an over-reaction.

Then again, he had just witnessed a scenario - a Liverpool attack coming to nothing - he would no doubt have been happy seeing repeated throughout the afternoon.

Pearce came to defend, crowd his opponents out and settle for a draw, with Micah Richards, England's great new right-back hope, pushed adventurously into the middle of midfield. Fair enough, it's his prerogative.

Almost worked too. It's just that if, before a game against Liverpool, you factor in that Steven Gerrard has the ammunition to destroy any midfield, five-man or not, then your own capacity to score has to be somewhat more sophisticated than sending Corradi up on his own.

It's been true of far better sides than City that have perished at Anfield this season - concede a goal and there's no Plan A - let alone Plan B - to get back into the game.

Every time Liverpool have scored at Anfield this season, their opponents haven't replied - except on one occasion, when Gabriel Agbonlahor netted for Aston Villa with his side already three goals down.

It's what happens when a coach containing a serious lack of attacking ambition, and in many cases just plain ability, rolls up to the Shankly Gates.

It's not that Rafael Benitez's side don't deserve credit for doing it, it's just that more often than not it's just a case of getting ahead then sitting back and seeing what sort of pressure will be thrown at them. More often than not, it doesn't amount to much.

All of which makes Liverpool's liking for a home fixture almost as routine as their hatred for hitting the road.

In the latter case, the worst (Manchester United Chelsea, Arsenal, Everton, Bolton) may be over, but with Wigan, Blackburn and Tottenham all waiting before the end of the year, don't expect forthcoming trips to be any kind of a relaxing weekend break.

But with things as comfortable at home as Saturday suggested, if Liverpool can make some inroads into that away-day hoodoo, the football authorities might as well just stick them in the top four automatically and have done
with it.

There's an old saying that the league table doesn't lie but at the moment, it's telling porkies on a compulsive basis to have Liverpool outside that 'coveted' bracket.

Gerrard is just world's
best, says Carragher

By Ian Doyle - Daily Post

Jamie Carragher believes Steven Gerrard is back on the path to becoming the best player in the world.

The Liverpool skipper netted the only goal midway through the second half to earn Rafael Benitez's side a hard-earned win over Manchester City on Saturday.

It was Gerrard's first league goal in seven months and his second of the week after his strike against PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League on Wednesday.

And Carragher reckons Gerrard, who delivered a man-of-the-match performance from central midfield at the weekend, reckons his teammate is again underlining his value.

"I think Stevie can be the best player in the world, and I am not just saying that because he is my mate or because he plays for Liverpool," said Carragher.

"I said last season that I would not swap him for Ronaldinho - who, like Kaka, is a great player - but I wouldn't swap him for Stevie. I do not think that by taking Steven Gerrard out of the team and putting one of those two in, they would make a bigger impact than him.

"He cannot do much more. He has won the player of the year, been the captain of a team that won the Champions League and has scored in the final of the Champions League, the FA Cup, the League Cup and the UEFA Cup.

"There's not a lot more he can do except get his hands on the Premiership title before he retires from Liverpool.

"He would get into any team in the world. If you were picking a world 11, he would get into it no problem."

While Gerrard scored 22 times for Liverpool last season, Saturday's goal was only his third of this campaign for his club.

But Carragher believes the Anfield captain should be judged on his all-round game and not just his goals.

Carragher said: "I thought that Stevie, not just for the goal, was outstanding and was by far our man of the match. Even in the first half when we found it tough, he was all over the pitch.

"There has been a lot of talk about him not scoring goals but it looks like he is back on the goal trail now. But he is a midfielder and should not be judged on just his goals but on his all-round game, and that's not been a problem.

"The problem is people have looked at his goals because of what he did last season and he should not be judged on that. He should be judged on whether he gets into double figures or not."

Liverpool's clean sheet was the sixth in their last seven games. And Carragher added: "We hope we're getting back to the form of last season, but there's nothing worse than talking about it and not doing it.

"We can judge that at the end of the season, but what we did last season will be difficult to achieve again.

"If we can get close to 25 clean sheets for the season, then that will be good. It is similar to strikers, they want a goal every other game and we should be looking for a clean sheet every two games."

Benitez's side have now lost just one in their last 11 outings in all competitions and could move into the top four with victory over Portsmouth at Anfield on Wednesday.

But Carragher said: "We are not going to get carried way. Everyone knows we have not had the greatest of starts in the Premiership, but we have been doing very well at home and we have another home game on Wednesday.

"The teams around us are quite close, so if we can get a good result on Wednesday and some of the teams around us drop points then that can put us closer to the top four.

"We did have difficult fixtures at the start of the season, but we are Liverpool and we should be a difficult fixture for the opposition.

"We are not hiding the fact that we are disappointed with those results but we have got to look forward now and the only positive is that a lot of those tough games are now out of the way."

Gerrard seeks top-four spot

ITV Football

Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard refused to rule out the title but he did admit that their main aim now is to guarantee a top four finish.

Gerrard looks back to his best following his Champions League finish against PSV Eindhoven and he followed that up with his first league goal this season to secure the win over Manchester City.

He said: "I am never going to say 'no' about the title, but you have to be realistic and our main aim is to get back into the top four.

"We have a lot of ground to make up, and teams like Manchester United, Chelsea and the others above us do not lose many points.

"We need to concentrate on what we are doing, get our away form right and see how quick we can reach the top four."

That away form is an embarrassment to the Reds and must be addressed, and quickly. But at home, unbeaten now in 23 league games, at least something of the real Liverpool is being seen.

But it is Gerrard's response to Benitez's words that is really impressive.

He said: "I am playing better and feeling better. I am back in the centre of midfield but that has nothing to do with the way things have been going for me.

"It is nothing to do with my position, it is all down to my shooting form, which has not been good enough. I have been working hard in training to get that right again.

"I hear what the manager is saying, and with his experience I have to take it on board. I can feel my form slowly coming back, I know I can play better and if I can find the higher level of form then I know the goals will come."

Benitez admits he is deliberately putting Gerrard under pressure, and he even felt the need to explain face to face to his captain what he had said in public.

"I have said things about Steven's game, that he can be better than he thinks and that he has so much more potential than maybe he thinks," said Benitez.

"I felt the need to speak to him after I had raised these things. He needed to hear it from me and know the reasons.

"He knows I have confidence in him. And he also knows that I will always put him under pressure because I know he can be one of the best players in the world."

Rafa thrilled with Stevie goal

By Alex Livie - Sky Sports

Rafa Benitez is hopeful Steven Gerrard's goal against Manchester City on Saturday will open the floodgates for his captain.

The midfield powerhouse netted his first Premiership goal since April as Liverpool ground out a 1-0 win.

The goal followed up an effort in the UEFA Champions League in midweek and Benitez hopes it can spark the midfielder into life.

"I think it is good for him," Benitez told Sky Sports News. "He scored in the Champions League and now in the Premier and I hope we will see more goals from Steven."

The win was Liverpool's sixth home success of the season and Benitez is hopeful they can start to replicate their Anfield form on their travels.

"The next game is Portsmouth at home so we will try to do the same and after that we have a game against Wigan away and I am sure if we can win against Portsmouth the team will gain more confidence and we will start winning.

"Our idea is to keep going and winning and in a few weeks look at our position in the table."

Pearce rues lapse

By Alex Livie - Sky Sports

Stuart Pearce was left to rue a sloppy piece of play as Manchester City slipped to a 1-0 defeat at Liverpool.

The visitors had done an excellent job of frustrating Liverpool for over an hour when Joey Barton gifted possession to The Reds and Steven Gerrard punished him with a clinical finish.

Pearce felt his players executed the plan to perfection, only to give away
a goal.

"I think they found it very difficult to break us down," Pearce told Sky Sports News. "They did not put in too many clear-cut efforts on our goal and we gifted them a goal to win the game and that's what frustrates us the most.

"I think right through from the front to the back we defended very well. We were organised, everything was going to plan if you like. We were coming into the game a little bit more and we got sucker-punched a little bit.

"If you get sloppy, especially with people like Gerrard around, you get punished and we did today.

"I am disappointed, I felt the players deserved to get something from the game."

Gerrard goal sinks City

By Alex Livie - Sky Sports

Steven Gerrard netted his first Premiership goal since April as Liverpool laboured to a 1-0 win over Manchester City.

In a game filled with disappointing play, Gerrard provided the one moment of class on 67 minutes as he rifled a low shot past Nicky Weaver to hand Liverpool their sixth home win from seven games.

City's away form has been dire and defeat at Anfield was their sixth on the road and leaves them too close to the relegation places for Stuart Pearce's liking.

The visitors should have been punished at Anfield inside ten minutes. Richard Dunne misjudged a hopeful long ball, allowing Dirk Kuyt to lay the ball into the path of Peter Crouch but the gangly front-man looked a striker low on confidence as he dallied before scooping his effort over the bar.

The game was slow to ignite, but Gerrard raised the decibel level on 19 minutes when firing just wide from 25 yards following a sloppy pass from Dunne.

City's first foray forward came on 21 minutes as Hatem Trabelsi galloped onto a clever pass from Claudio Reyna, but he only succeeded in slicing his effort wide of goal.

The visitors appeared to take some confidence from their first noteworthy attack as Bernardo Corradi worked some space in the box only to shoot wide.

The clearest chance of first half fell to Luis Garcia, but he contrived to drag his shot into the side netting after being found superbly by a raking ball from Sami Hyypia.

Liverpool exerted some early pressure on the City goal after the break with a series of corners, but they failed to take advantage and the game reverted to type - with the play littered with misplaced passes and sloppy control.

City emerged from their slumber on the hour as a lofted ball down the middle from Ben Thatcher caused panic in the Liverpool box. Darius Vassell and Micah Richards failed to get the ball down, but Corradi was able to get his shot away and he went close from the edge of the box.

Joey Barton was left aghast moments later as his driving run towards the Liverpool area was halted by a cynical trip from Steve Finnan, but referee Rob Styles inexplicably failed to award a free kick.

And Barton's fury was compounded minutes later as his sloppy pass allowed Liverpool to take the lead.

There appeared little danger when Barton picked up possession in his own half, but Kuyt intercepted his pass towards Sylvain Distin, the ball fell to Gerrard who strode forward before unleashing a drive into the bottom corner with unerring accuracy.

Hyypia was one of Liverpool's more creative players on the day and he came close to grabbing the goal his display merited when shooting firmly at Nicky Weaver with 15 minutes remaining.

City came close to pinching an unlikely leveller with five minutes remaining as substitute Georgios Samaras forced the previously untroubled Jose Reina to push his shot around the post, while the Spanish keeper had to gather a shot from Claudio Reyna from the resulting corner.

In truth, though, Liverpool were rarely tested as they claimed three points without ever finding their best form.

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Thor Zakariassen