truths go on show
Comment by David Prentice - Liverpool Echo
He might have taken a European record from
him last night, but Rafa Benitez was happy to share some of
Bill Shankly’s homespun philosophy.
“Football is a simple game, complicated by idiots,” was one
of the Scottish bard’s most famous pronouncements.
And Benitez kept it brutally simple last night.
“If we want to win, we will have to play better than we did
against Fulham here on Saturday,” he wrote in his programme
They did. But it was a close run thing.
Liverpool’s passing was appalling . . . again.
Possession was squandered with a reckless regularity,
promising moves broke down time and again – and Marseille
were invited to build up a head of steam which resulted in a
very nervous last half-hour.
But, as they have done several times already this season,
Liverpool did just enough.
The difference, as it so often is, was Steven Gerrard.
The skipper kicked off his own programme column by
declaring: “We can’t afford too many afternoons at Anfield
like the one we had last Saturday.”
He was referring to the level of performance against Fulham.
But equally he might have meant that Liverpool can’t afford
too many afternoons – or evenings – with their skipper on
Because even when his attempts to force a breakthrough broke
down, they were usually through trying something inventive
and ambitious – like the sublime control on the edge of
Marseille’s penalty area, instantly killing a ball which had
dropped from beyond the Centenary Stand roof, followed by a
The fact it went straight to nobody was pretty much
indicative of Liverpool’s entire evening.
But Gerrard did start and finish the 23rd minute move which
ensured qualification for the knockout stages – and left
Marseille nursing a severe case of what might have been.
With Bakari Kone – a striker sporting more bandages than
Boris Karloff managed in The Mummy – Hatem Ben Arfa and
Mamadou Niang, running positively and penetratingly at a
stretched Reds rearguard, Liverpool needed Pepe Reina to be
at his most alert.
Happily the goalkeeper was, but there were too many other
uncharacteristically sloppy performances from men in Red.
Once again the relief came from their happy knack of still
managing to grind out a victory despite the display. It
won't have gone unnoticed at Anfield that Chelsea struggled
once again themselves, and failed to win their match.
Sadly Andrea Dossena’s comical cameo was in character with
the way his Anfield career has started, but at least his
interventions weren’t costly – one reckless lunge falling
inches short of conceding a penalty.
At least the 1-0 win ensured that Liverpool can now leave
some of their key players on the sidelines when they go to
Eindhoven early next month, because the last group game is
now a dead rubber.
But when there’s something at stake, the Reds must have men
like Steven Gerrard in the line-up.
Another Shankly observation was that Liverpool usually won
trophies because they had the best players.
That’s why Liverpool won last night, even though most of
those players failed to spark.
Rafa: Winning was all-important
By Joe Curran - LFC Official Website
Rafael Benitez insisted that winning was
all that mattered after the Reds booked their place in the
knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League with a narrow
1-0 win over Marseille at Anfield.
The Reds boss admitted his side had not performed to their
full potential, but after a nervy display against the French
outfit, he was relieved to get the three points.
"It was a difficult game, but at the end of the day we won
and that is the main thing," said Benitez.
"I think the game was a bit strange because we scored a goal
and then they were attacking, and we could only play on the
"We played open against a team who have pace and ability -
this is always a problem.
"They needed to attack and had three strikers. They also had
one or two players between the lines, so to control five
players with pace and ability isn't always easy.
"We knew before the game that they have food players and we
were not controlling the game or keeping the ball - the game
was too open and they had too much space. They were always a
"We were trying to play Torres in with the final pass too
quickly sometimes, and that is something we have to analyse.
But the main thing today was to win and qualify, so we are
"Clearly we need to improve our possession - we need to keep
the ball better and were giving it away too easily."
Steven Gerrard scored his fifth Champions League goal of the
season to become joint-top scorer in the competition with
Barcelona's Lionel Messi, and Benitez revealed he was happy
with his skipper's match-winning contribution.
"We know that Gerrard is an attacking midfielder with a very
attacking mentality so he can score goals. He is very
important player for us and his goal proved it."
with Euro progress
By Paul Eaton - LFC Official Website
Steven Gerrard insists Liverpool are
determined to win Group D after securing their place in the
last sixteen of the Champions League with victory over
The Reds will definitely be in the competition when the draw
for the knock-out phase is made, but they must wait until
after the final round of matches to discover if they will
qualify as group winners ahead of Atletico Madrid.
The Spanish side top the group on goal difference, but must
play their final game away in Marseille while Liverpool
travel to take on PSV Eindhoven.
Gerrard admits it was a job well done against the French
side, but accepts there were perhaps too many nervy moments
in the second period as Eric Geret's side chased an
"It was nervy but it was a job well done," said the skipper.
"We wanted the three points and a clean sheet and we got it.
We lost control in the second half and there are a lot of
things that need looking at.
"Marseille deserve credit because they were organised. We
knew it would be difficult because they are fighting to stay
in the competition. But we stuck together, defended well and
hopefully in the next couple of days people will forget the
second half performance and see that we have qualified.
"We know what we have to do in PSV on the last day. We have
been there before and won so we have a lot of confidence. We
want to win this group because I think it's important going
into the last sixteen. There are no easy games in this
competition, but if you want any kind of advantage then you
want to win the group.
"We are good away from home in Europe and now we have to go
and prove it again."
Steven Gerrard's first-half header helped
Liverpool beat Marseille 1-0 to book their place in the
knockout stages of the Champions League.
The Reds skipper, back in the team after recovering from a
groin injury, netted the winner at Anfield after 23 minutes
to add to the two goals he scored against the French side
earlier in the competition.
The goal was Gerrard's fifth in five Champions League games
this season and makes him the tournament's top scorer this
term. But more importantly it books the Reds' place in the
last 16 of the competition for the fifth successive season.
Rafa Benitez's side made a bright start, but were unable to
find a way past a stubborn Marseille rearguard until Dirk
Kuyt's 22nd-minute header forced a smart low save from Steve
Mandana in the visitors' goal.
But a minute later he was powerless to prevent Gerrard's
bullet header flying past him from 12 yards after Xabi
Alonso's terrific deep right-wing cross picked him out at
the back post.
But Marseille twice came close to levelling matters 10
minutes before half-time when first Taye Taiwo unleashed a
powerful 25-yard free-kick which almost caught Jose Reina by
surprise but was pushed out at the expense of a corner. From
the resulting flag-kick, Ronald Zubar headed wide from six
yards after the Spanish keeper came out and flapped at the
Albert Riera then forced a smart low save from Mandana as
the half drew to a close with the Reds again on the attack.
But it was the visitors who came out the more hungry as the
second half got underway with Zubar again heading wide at
the back post and Mamadou Niang then failing to make the
most of two opportunities in front of goal.
Marseille were coming more and more into the game and it
took a fantastic one-handed save from Reina to keep out
Hatem Ben Arfa's fierce left-footed free-kick from the edge
of the area. Andrea Dossena then made an excellent block to
prevent Niang's goal-bound effort from reaching Reina.
The French side continued to search for a leveller but were
unable to find a way through as Liverpool secured their
place in the next stage with a match to spare alongside
Atletico Madrid, who were 2-1 winners over PSV.