Benitez seeks Nando solution
By Paul Walker - PA Sport
Rafael Benitez believes keeping Fernando Morientes on the
pitch is the only way to help the Spaniard out of his barren
The Liverpool boss stunned the Kop on Sunday by withdrawing
the impressive Peter Crouch from the 1-0 victory over
Manchester City, rather than the misfiring Morientes.
For the first time in Benitez's reign as Liverpool manager,
one of his decisions was booed by the home fans, who idolise
their manager but are running out of patience with Spain
He is in the middle of a wretched run that sees him
scoreless in his last 11 appearances for the European
But Benitez said: "He cannot solve the problem when he is
sitting on the bench."
The Spaniard used the same policy when Crouch was going
through his nightmare spell without hitting the net earlier
in the season, keeping him in the side despite derision from
Morientes, who has spent 14 unconvincing months at Anfield,
has managed just nine goals in 49 games for Liverpool. This
term he has hit just three league goals and six in 33 games
Benitez sees only one way to solve the crisis: "I was hoping
to see Morientes score, Crouch managed to get one in the cup
against Manchester United and it would have been good for
Fernando to also get on the scoresheet.
"It would have given him more confidence. But if you want to
see your strikers scoring goals you cannot leave them out.
"If you want to support one player then you need to keep him
on the pitch, taking him off does not achieve anything.
"Fernando is a good finisher. His career figures show that.
He has scored many goals wherever he has played.
"Now he needs more confidence. And if you want to give him
that then he needs to play, he cannot change the situation
when he is not on the pitch."
Liverpool's lack of goals is costing them second spot,
having drawn level with Manchester United but with a
hopelessly inferior goal difference. The victory over City
was their 10th 1-0 win of the campaign.
They have not scored more than one goal in a game since the
December 28 win at Everton.
Their success has been founded on 28 clean sheets, 12 at
home in the league and 18 away. Jose Reina has managed 24 of
those shut-outs with Liverpool conceding only five in 14
home league games.
Even Benitez is now showing signs of concern. He said: "I
decided to use Morientes and Crouch because they have a good
understanding. And they played well.
"They worked hard, created chances, they kept possession and
fed the ball to the midfielders and wingers, but the problem
is we need to score more. When that happens everyone will
have more confidence.
"It is becoming nervous for me too. The positive is another
victory, another clean sheet and another three points.
"But when you create as many chances as we are then you have
to score more goals.
"We put ourselves under pressure. When we do not score then
the players do not have confidence and lose the ball. It
makes it worse for the team.
"If you make mistakes you become more nervous and if you are
nervous you make more mistakes. It is a vicious circle.
"The only way to break this circle is to score more,
certainly the second goal when you go ahead.
"Fernando is playing really well outside the box. He is
keeping possession and passing well and he gives us good
"But inside the box we need to finish the chances, he needs
to be a little more selfish.
"We are now level with Manchester United, that is very
important and it keeps us going in the direction that we
"Also it has opened up a gap between ourselves and the teams
below, that brings us closer to achieving our targets."
For Manchester City chief Stuart Pearce the first target
must be to achieve better away results, having taken only
four points from 11 away league matches since early
He said: "We did not give them a good game, and too many did
not do a good shift for me. Morally they didn't want the
ball and didn't hold on to the ball.
"We did not believe enough and we did not get after
Liverpool enough, and our best spell was after we went down
to 10 men with (Joey) Barton sent off."
He added: "Everyone will view what we did as acceptable and
we have a ready made excuse, but that does not wash with me.
We were apprehensive with the ball. If you see things as a
manager, people have got to be told and it is how they
respond to that now."
Anfield shade suits Finnan
By Chris Bascombe - Liverpool Echo
Steve Finnan today admitted he's playing at the peak of
his game, but says he's happy to remain the 'unsung hero' of
Liverpool's mean defence.
Barely a week passes without some kind of tribute to the
right-back's powers of consistency, and the defender was on
form again as Liverpool moved level on points with
Manchester United yesterday.
Jamie Carragher recently tagged Finnan the best right-back
he's played with, while Rafa Benitez declared Finnan capable
of playing for any side in the world.
Finnan acknowledges the praise, but says he enjoys keeping
out of the limelight as most others take the credit.
"I don't mind that at all. I had the tag 'unsung hero' at
others clubs. It's nice to get some recognition but it's
more important to me the team is playing well and winning,"
said Finnan, after helping the Reds to a 1-0 win over
"I saw what the manager said about me over the weekend. It's
nice when you know he has confidence in you, but you can't
always take a lot of notice of what you read in the press
because it's easy to get complacent.
"I'm pleased with my form. I didn't think I had the greatest
game yesterday, but I feel we're all playing to a good
"Maybe I'm at a peak now. I'm touching 30 this season, which
a lot of people may not realise. But I'm still looking to
learn even more from the play-ers around me and the manager.
"Hopefully over the next few years I can win more trophies
and improve even more as a player."
Liverpool endured some anxious moments in the second half
against City, and nearly paid the price for missed chances
But Finnan takes comfort from the fact Liverpool are winning
games and still leaving room for improvement.
He said: "We work hard without the ball, have kept another
clean sheet, and when he had to, Pepe Reina made a good
"That shows everyone can be reasonably happy with their
"We did enough in difficult game. They're a tough team to
break down and had one or two chances in the second half.
"It leaves the game on edge winning 1-0 so often and not
getting that second goal, but if you look over recent games
they include wins over Manchester United and Arsenal. You're
happy to take a 1-0 win against them.
could have done
Analysis by David Prentice - Liverpool Echo
It is never absolutely clear whether Ian Wright is being
100 per cent serious. But there were plenty inside Anfield
yesterday who wished he was.
Shaun Wright-Phillips' stepdad - now a TV pundit - stood at
the top of the main staircase before yesterday's
frustration-fest, flanked by the goalscoring winger Jose
Mourinho has deemed surplus to requirements.
"I told you, you should have come here, not Chelsea," he
grinned at his lad, with enough of a smile to suggest he
was, sadly, only joking.
Any passing Liverpudlians within earshot desperately wished
it was anything but a joke.
Wright-Phillips was presumably present to watch his old
Manchester City team-mates. But it was the team he was
constantly linked with prior to his switch south which cried
out for his penetrative talents.
In a carbon copy of each of their last five matches
Liverpool controlled the play, dominated possession, just
about chiselled out enough opportunities to have won with
ease - then squandered all but one of them.
And, once again, wide right was a problem position.
Luis Garcia's woeful show in Lisbon, coupled with the injury
to Momo Sissoko and subsequent redeployment of Steven
Gerrard, meant that Jan Kromkamp was the latest recipient of
Liverpool's poisoned chalice.
If the Dutchman is the answer, then the question is
He was steady, occasionally tidy, but only once managed a
cross into the penalty area of any substance . . . after 58
Much of Liverpool's play was commendably impressive.
After three successive games against high class opposition
in front of baying, screaming audiences, there was always
going to be a dip in intensity for a Sunday start against
But Liverpool did enough, despite more misplaced passes than
you would expect to find at a Lib-Dem conference, to deserve
their win. They just had to rely on a solitary strike once
again to achieve it.
Harry Kewell's finish was excellent, Steven Gerrard's
approach play equally good - but the lack of ruthlessness
from Peter Crouch and the hapless Fernando Morientes
afterwards left Liverpool always looking vulnerable to
another Birmingham City-style giveaway.
If Georgios Samaras had shown as much accuracy with his
right boot as he did with his right shoulder every time he
aimed for Sami Hyypia's back, that may well have happened.
The frustration - so evident in Rafa Benitez's body language
afterwards - came because so much of Crouch and Morientes'
approach play had been excellent.
When Crouch was hauled off 15 minutes from time the Kop
Even the tannoy announcer paused, as he read out the
identity of the man to make way for Luis Garcia, as if to
say to himself "Is that right?"
Maybe Benitez hoped that if he leaves Morientes on the pitch
long enough he must eventually muster a goal. It doesn't
look likely, though.
Such was the shattered state of the Spaniard's confidence by
the end of the match that he was even dummying perfectly
acceptable goalscoring opportunities, rather than take the
chance of shooting . . . and missing.
Robbie Fowler will be available again next weekend, when
Charlton Athletic will offer a similar kind of challenge to
the one City offered yesterday.
Again, Liverpool will do enough outside the penalty box to
deserve to win.
Whether they do actually triumph will depend on whether
someone can provide the kind of finishing touch that Harry
Kewell provided yesterday.
Even more worryingly, however, is the fixture which comes up
just four days after Charlton's visit . . . because
Liverpool will need two goals to overcome Benfica.
And that's something they haven't managed for eight games
Wonder if anybody managed to have a word with Shaun
complaints from Pearce
By Alex Dunn - Sky Sports
Manchester City boss Stuart Pearce had no complaints
about his side's defeat at Liverpool or Joey Barton's
Harry Kewell's goal rendered City to an away defeat, which
also saw Barton sent off in the second period.
The combative midfielder saw red for two bookable offences,
with the second being for a nasty looking lunge on Sami
Pearce believes referee Dermot Gallagher was within his
rights to send off Barton, despite the fact the influential
midfielder made just two fouls all afternoon.
"I am a great believer in the fact that if a referee says
something is a foul, that's it. If he says it's a booking
you have to live with it,'' said Pearce.
"Dermot Gallagher is an honest man and gives the decisions
as he sees them. Maybe Joey needs to be a bit cuter, a bit
more clever with his tackles.
"We gave Liverpool too much respect early on even though we
did keep them quiet.
''They are not a free-scoring side but once they are in
front they are a very hard team to break down."
goals riles Rafa
Manager Rafael Benitez has revealed a sense of
frustration at Liverpool's goals shortage despite his side
moving level on points with second-placed Manchester United.
Liverpool are well behind United on goal difference and so
stay third in the Premiership, but they are now eight points
clear of fourth-placed Tottenham.
In terms of Champions League qualification, they also stand
11 points ahead of Blackburn in fifth.
Sunday's 1-0 win over Manchester City was Liverpool's third
such league scoreline on the trot, and Benitez said: "I am
not happy with the final scoreline, it was another 1-0 win
and another very important three points but I would like to
see us score more goals."
City were reduced to 10 men in the second half after Joey
Barton's red card, but Liverpool were unable to ram home the
advantage handed them by Harry Kewell's earlier strike.
"We certainly need to be able to finish games off when we do
go ahead. At the moment when it is only one goal you put
yourselves under too much pressure," said Benitez.
"And when teams go down to 10 men against us it is always
difficult, because they defend in a different way.
"We became nervous and they had chances, we were controlling
the game better with 11 men than with 10."
Benitez added: "We just couldn't score a second. (Peter)
Crouch, (Fernando) Morientes, (Steven) Gerrard, (John Arne)
Riise, (Jan) Kromkamp all should have taken chances to
finish the game.
"We reduced City to a few chances only, but we must start
making life easier for ourselves in such situations."
Benitez declared that both Xabi Alonso (blurred vision) and
Steven Gerrard (ankle) had not suffered serious problems
during the match and would this week both join up with their
international squads, Spain and England.
strike just enough
By Alex Dunn - Sky Sports
A fine finish from Harry Kewell was enough to secure
Liverpool a 1-0 over Manchester City, who played much of the
second half with ten men after Joey Barton saw red for two
Kewell's recent form has made him a favourite with a
previously skeptical Anfield faithful and it was was his
goal in the 40th minute that keeps Liverpool on course for
second spot, while Barton ensured he was first in the shower
just seven minutes after the break.
Liverpool started in a brisk fashion, immediately putting
City on the back foot with some crisp passing as they looked
to banish any lingering doubts that may have arisen from a
disappointing European excursion in midweek.
The returning Steven Gerrard stamped authority in the middle
of the field alongside his trusty deputy Xabi Alonso, as
City struggled to find any stranglehold on a contest that
never looked in their grasp in what was a dire first half
Gerrard’s setpieces caused Peter Crouch to arch his neck on
more than one occasion but Liverpool’s front pairing were
blunted all too easily by City’s backline.
Early promise soon rapidly slumped to become a stop-start
affair as Liverpool’s fading rhythm was disrupted further by
a clash of heads between Alonso and Barton that saw the
former receive ten stables to a deep wound and later, in the
30th minute, the Spanish schemer was forced off suffering
from double vision.
An advanced Sami Hyypia went close with a header from
Gerrard’s delivery before on a rare foray forward, Antoine
Sibierski sent a tepid volley wide.
If Liverpool were dominant in possession but struggling to
find a killer pass, City in comparison represented a side
that possessed neither quality nor passion in a somewhat
When the goal arrived it came courtesy of the rejuvenated
Kewell, who having exposed a gaping hole behind the
fit-again Danny Mills took Gerrard’s clipped pass in his
stride before unleashing an arrow of a finish from the angle
that flashed past David James.
The goal acted as a catalyst for the best period of the game
as Liverpool played with an added verve and were unfortunate
not to double their advantage when first Crouch had a header
cleared off the line from Mills, before Gerrard fired a ball
across goal that begged for a poacher’s finish. Again it was
not there for Liverpool.
The second period was everything the first was not; an open
rather than sterile affair that yielded chances for both
sides and saw Barton blot his recently clean copy book
infront of Sven Goran Eriksson.
Dietmar Hamman's perfectly weighted through-ball conjured
the first opportunity of note but Morientes' lethargic stab
at a shot was easily dealt before in the 51st minute,
Barton, perhaps in response to a rollicking one suspects
Stuart Pearce delivered at the interval, left his foot in
recklessly on Hyypia that meant a yellow card was produced
to add to one in the first half, for an equally robust
tackle on Daniel Agger.
Perversely, without their influential midfielder City
actually managed to create a couple of clear cut openings
with substitute Bradley Wright-Phillips testing Jose Reina
with a snapshot and then Georgios Samaras was left with his
head in his hands after woefully failing to do justice to
Kizito Musampa slide-rule pass that had played him in.
At the other end, Crouch was conducting a private contest
with James as he went close on three separate occasions. A
clever flick drifted narrowly wide from Kewell's cross, a
fine dipping volley brushed James' fingers before crashing
off the bar and finally, City's keeper raced off his line to
deny the bean-pole hit-man who enjoyed a fine second period
before being substituted.
Reina matched his opposite number with an agile tip over
from Trevor Sinclair's superb volley from the edge of the
area but it was Liverpool that overall were the better of
the two sides and in the final minute, John Arne Riise saw a
trademark hammer of strike end crash into James'
Another cleansheet for Liverpool, another game without a
goal from a striker but Rafa Benitez will be content enough
after collecting maximum spoils. Pearce will be seething.