After The Match 


Liverpool-Man City 1-0 (1-0)           26.02.06                      PL
Goals: Kewell (40)
Team: Reina, Finnan, Hyypia, Agger, Riise, Kromkamp, Gerrard, Alonso, Kewell, Crouch, Morientes
Subs: Hamann (Alonso 31), Garcia (Crouch 75), Traore (Kewell 85)
Not used: Dudek, Cisse
Yellow: Barton (30)
Red: Barton (52)
Referee: Dermot Gallagher
Attendance: 44,121
Shots on target: 7-2
Shots off target: 7-3
Possession: 62.3-37.7
Fouls conceded: 5-16
Corners: 12-2
Offsides: 2-1
Yellow: 0-1


HEADLINES "We became nervous and they had chances..."
    Rafael Benitez

2702: Benitez seeks Nando solution
2702: Anfield shade suits Finnan
2702: How Reds could have done with Wright turn
2602: No complaints from Pearce
2602: Lack of goals riles Rafa
2602: Kewell strike just enough

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 spell.

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 international Morientes.

He is in the middle of a wretched run that sees him scoreless in his last 11 appearances for the European champions.

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 critics.

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 overall.

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 options.

"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 want.

"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 September.

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 Manchester City.

"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 level.

"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 yet again.

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 save.

"That shows everyone can be reasonably happy with their performance.

"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.

How Reds could have done
with Wright turn

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 seriously flawed.

He was steady, occasionally tidy, but only once managed a cross into the penalty area of any substance . . . after 58 minutes.

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 Manchester City.

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 booed.

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 now.

Wonder if anybody managed to have a word with Shaun Wright-Phillips yesterday?

No 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 dismissal.

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 Hyypia.

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."

Lack of 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.

Kewell 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 bookable offences.

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 performance.

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 abject display.

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' side-netting.

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.

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