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