After The Match 


Manch C-Liverpool 0-1 (0-0)     26.11.05                           PL
Goals: Riise (60)
Team: Reina, Finnan, Hyypia, Carragher, Warnock, Gerrard, Hamann, Sissoko, Riise, Cisse, Crouch
Subs: Kewell (Cisse 50), Garcia (Riise 76), Morientes (Crouch 80)
Not used: Dudek, Potter
Yellow: Cisse (45), Crouch (65)
Red: None
Referee: Alan Wiley
Attendance: 47,105
Shots on target: 1-2
Shots off target: 2-1
Possession: 45-55
Fouls conceded: 13-16
Corners: 6-4
Yellow: 0-2



HEADLINES "We played well and controlled most of
the game."
     Rafael Benitez

2811: Cisse under the microscope
2811: Only more progress can satisfy Benitez
2811: New 'crushing machine' built by Benitez
2611: Rafa pleased with win
2611: Riise wins it for Reds



Cisse under the microscope

Sporting Life

Djibril Cisse's immediate future at Liverpool will come under close scrutiny following his performance and behaviour at Manchester City on Saturday.

The Frenchman was replaced by Harry Kewell five minutes into the second half of Liverpool's 1-0 victory at Manchester City.

But it is Cisse's attitude to that substitution, as much as his lacklustre display at the City of Manchester Stadium, that will concern boss Rafael Benitez.

Cisse, who was reported to have said last week that there was a "Pop Idol" elimination contest taking place at Anfield among the strikers over who may be sold in January, slowly strolled off the Eastlands pitch with a look of surprise on his face.

He walked straight past Benitez but when he got to the bench behind the manager he slowly shook his head to register his disapproval.

Benitez's shrug afterwards when questioned on Cisse's attitude underlined that the Spaniard is only interested in the collective team ethic, and he said: "In the first half we used the pace of Cisse with Crouch winning the ball and after the break we changed it and had Kewell in a deeper role and that caused their defenders plenty of problems.

"Cisse was disappointed when he came off, but it is normal for players to feel that way."

But there had also been annoyance from some of his colleagues in that first period.

First skipper Steven Gerrard played a pass into the inside left channel, but threw his hands in the air in frustration as Cisse made little attempt
to chase it.

Then Peter Crouch cushioned a lay-off for Cisse in the box, but the feeble flick of the Frenchman's right boot failed to trouble David James.

The only time Cisse showed any sort of passion was when he was booked by referee Alan Wiley for some arm-waving dissent.

But it was the movement and control in possession of Kewell that clearly pleased Benitez, with the Australian employed in a deep role supporting Crouch.

As a result, Cisse's place in the starting line-up could come under threat at Sunderland on Wednesday, where a fifth straight league win could take Liverpool up to fourth place in the table.

Liverpool, unbeaten in six games and with six successive clean sheets, are currently the Premiership's form club and Benitez has already stressed the importance of maintaining their performance level first against City and then at Sunderland and home to Wigan on Saturday.

And whereas Crouch continues to have the support of his manager because his all-round team play and effort is key to Benitez's tactical plan, the manager will not be impressed by another public display of frustration from Cisse.

The 24-year-old striker has hardly endeared himself to the Liverpool hierarchy with his reported comments last week.

He said: "In January there will be a kind of elimination process process. I would say along the lines of Pop Idol or Fame Academy.

"We are having to live with the expectation that an extra forward will probably arrive during the transfer window and that will mean more players competing for the same position. It is natural that the manager would want to improve the squad but it may not mean good news for everyone."

Marseille are long-term admirers of Cisse, and made noises last week that they would still be prepared to rescue the striker.

But their reported interest at the weekend in Auxerre's Zimbabwean striker Benjani suggests they are looking for a cheaper option.

But Benitez, if he could get 10million for Cisse, may well be prepared to boost his transfer budget.

He has attempted to beat Fiorentina to sign Spartak Moscow's Serbian centre half Nemanja Vidic with a 4.5mmillion bid and is believed to be prepared to sell Chris Kirkland - currently on loan at West Brom - for 4million.

Ajax's South African midfielder Steven Pienaar and Portsmouth's young midfield star Gary O'Neill have both been linked with Liverpool along with Valencia's Italian striker Marco Di Vaio.

But Benitez is believed to be considering Fulham's Steed Malbranque and Benfica's Simao Sabrosa, who almost joined in the summer.

Although Benitez has been told he has money to spend, picking up 14million in addition for Cisse and Kirkland would be a tempting option.

Only more progress can satisfy Benitez

By Ian Doyle - Daily Post

It's possible to ascertain a measure of Rafael Benitez's exacting standards from his response when asked for a progress report on his improving Liverpool team.

Reigning champions of Europe and through to the last 16 of this season's competition with a game to spare, three successive Premiership victories and five consecutive clean sheets would probably be ample achievement for most managers.

Yet for Benitez, this current Liverpool side is not even three-quarters towards what he would regard as being the finished article.

Such is the level of expectation from the self-confessed perfectionist, who will send his team out at the City of Manchester Stadium this afternoon seeking further signs for encouragement following their recent impressive form.

"We are still far away from what I want it to be," says Benitez.. "In my first season we did very well in the Champions League but we needed to improve in the Premiership.

"We are now in the last 16 of the Champions League after a good performance and we are now doing much better in the Premier-ship. The team is more solid, consistent and we are keeping more clean sheets and scoring more goals.

"We are better than last season and closer to my idea but as a manager you can never be satisfied. Last season we were 60% of what I wanted and this season we are maybe at 70%.

"We can still improve in all areas. We talk about how well the defence is playing but it can do better, why not? And in attack, we are doing better but we can still score more goals.

"Having said that, I am happy with how the team is playing. We are more consistent. But I am a perfectionist and while it is impossible, we must try and find the perfect team."

Of course, the foundation for any successful team comes from being difficult to beat, and 14 clean sheets in 24 competitive games this season suggests Benitez has started to engender that particular quality into his players.

Last season European success came at the expense of domestic progress, the last-gasp defeat at Manchester City - coming immediately after the 2-1 Champions League quarter-final victory over Juventus - a prime example of such a shortcoming.

Now, however, with new signings and greater experience, Liverpool are beginning to cope with the demands of chasing honours on two major fronts.

"It was hard last season to cope with Europe and the Premier League all at once," says Benitez..

"I hope we have learned and can use the squad in a way to approach each game with a different team but just as strong.

"Then if we had three games in eight days it was difficult. Now we have something similar in this spell; Real Betis, Manchester City and then Sunderland in eight days.

"Let's see how we cope with that, and then we will know if we have improved. The most important thing this season is how we have started to play better in more than one competition at the same time."

With European football assured into the New Year, Benitez can now turn his attentions to improving Liverpool's Premiership standing. After today's visit to Eastlands, the Anfield side travel to Sunderland in midweek and entertain Wigan Athletic and Middlesbrough before departing for Tokyo and the World Club Championship.

And as well as elevating his team up the table, the manager is aware continued progress will strengthen his hand when the transfer window opens in January.

"We know that it is really important before the transfer window opens to win a lot of games and to stay as close as possible to the top of the table," says Benitez,, who has already lodged a 4.5million bid for Serbia international centre-back Nemanja Vidic and retains an interest in Benfica's right-winger Sabrosa Simao.

"We already have one advantage in that we are in the last 16 of the Champions League and that will interest players who might want to come here.

"We are a big club anyway and we are very attractive for most players, but it will make it easier to sign players if we are further up the table."

New 'crushing machine' built by Benitez

By Paul Walker - Daily Post Correspondent

Rafael Benitez is never a man to shout things from the rooftops, but his Liverpool are beginning to take on ominous look as they ease their way up the Premier League.

Conservative, diligent, hard grafting are all plaudits that used to be applied to Benitez and his respected, if never really loved Valencia, who gained the unflattering title of the 'crushing machine' in Spain.

They were rarely pretty to watch. Cue this emerging Liverpool who are starting to set records that are music to manager Benitez's ears.

They may lack the silk of Arsenal or the steel of Chelsea, but six games unbeaten - six clean sheets and four successive league wins - is starting to say that Liverpool are on the move.

Benitez said: "We have a balance, we are defending much better than last season. The problem will be for us to maintain this level throughout the season.

"It is the most consistent the team has played under me.

"Last season it was difficult to win away games or keep clean sheets, but we are more consistent and teams find it difficult to make chances against us."

Nine clean sheets in the first 12 league games of a season is already an all-time club record, while six games unbeaten is Benitez's best run in England. And on his 50th Premiership game, the fact that Liverpool have already achieved 16 clean sheets in 25 games, compared to just 18 in 60 last season, says everything.

Benitez said: "The defence was compact and strong throughout. We are on a good run and that means the players have more confidence in what they are doing.

"But they must understand how we have arrived at this point, and that has been because everyone is working very hard and doing the right things in possession and when we haven't got the ball. They must remember.

"It took me three years to build Valencia's team, that was easier for me because it was in my country.

"This Liverpool team has been growing. Each day I learn more and the players also know more about what I want and when I say something to them now they understand much better. Not because of the language, but because they understand more how I want them to play."

He added: "It took a long time to create my Valencia team. They knew exactly what was wanted in every game, but it takes time to create that again."

City manager Stuart Pearce said: "They are European champions and are ahead of us on knowhow even if it pains me to say so.

"We were facing a side with great pedigree and experience and when they got their noses in front they made it very difficult. Liverpool are at a higher level. Against 70% of the Premier League, playing like that we would have won."

Rafa pleased with win

By Paul Higham - Sky Sports

Rafa Benitez was pleased with a hard-fought Liverpool victory at Manchester City.

The Reds got the better of a scrappy game to win 1-0 thanks to John Arne Riise's second half strike, in what was the only piece of quality throughout the 90 minutes.

Benitez is trying to build his side on a strong defence and the fact Liverpool have not conceded in six games tells its own story.

The Spanish coach knew his men would face a tough test against Stuart Pearce's side, and was happy with the three points.

"It was a difficult game against a good team who is playing well," said Benitez.

"We played well and controlled most of the game.

"The idea was to control the game in the first half and then later on continue to go forward and make the break.

"We knew that Harry (Kewell) would be good for us in the second half and we could use him.

"We are trying to be stronger in defence and after that go forward and score and at the moment we are getting the right balance."

Benitez refuses to give up on Peter Crouch after the lanky striker again failed to find the target.

"We were delighted with Crouch because he played well and contributed to the team.

"We would like him to score but as long as he plays well I am ok."

Riise wins it for Reds

By Paul Higham - Sky Sports

Liverpool earned their fourth Premiership win in-a-row with a scrappy 1-0 victory at Manchester City.

A poor game at The City of Manchester Stadium was not pretty on the eye at all, and it was not surprising that the one real moment of quality settled the argument in favour of the visitors.

Rafa Benitez's side bagged the three points courtesy of John Arne Riise's thumping finish from the edge of the box just after the hour mark, and City rarely looked like clawing their way back into the match.

The game never really got going in the opening half and the first chance did not appear until after 15 minutes, when Darius Vassell headed wide from Kiki Musampa's cross.

Liverpool tried to get their passing game going and did force a couple of corners after some decent possession, but they could not find a shot on goal.

Pepe Reina got away with misjudging a free kick from the left when he was able to gather Sylvain Distin's header after missing the original cross.

Djibril Cisse latched on to Peter Crouch's flick on 26 minutes, but the Frenchman opted for a weak effort with the outside of his right foot when a swing with the left peg was clearly called for.

The best chance of the half came just a minute before the interval when Steven Gerrard bulldozed his way into the box on the left before cutting inside and curling a shot just wide of the post.

The second half was a similar story as neither side could find any sort of rhythm at all, with the two keepers hardly being tested.

That was until the 61st minute when Liverpool produced the first moment of real quality with Riise playing a neat one-two with Gerrard before firing a powerful drive past David James from the edge of the box.

City tried to rouse a response, as The Reds began to fall back and defend their lead, but all the home side could muster was a couple of corners.

Liverpool had to defend some late pressure from Stuart Pearce's side but Reina never really had a save to make as the visitors held on for the win.

The Reds have now won their last two away games in The Premiership, and have now not conceded a goal in their last six games in all competitions, while City only have one point from their last three games.

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Thor Zakariassen