This summer could be
Liverpool FC's most important ever
Liverpool Daily Post
This summer could prove to be the most
important in Liverpool FC’s history. The off-the-field
issues that have yet to be resolved are potentially so
important that they could make even the decision over Rafael
Benitez’s contract of secondary importance.
On the pitch, Saturday’s 2-0 defeat to relegation-threatened
Middlesbrough was a bizarre way to end a bizarre week.
There had been the rumours that Rafael Benitez was about to
leave Anfield but for now he insists he’s staying.
Amongst all this there was the terrific 1-0 win at Real
Madrid in the Champions League but then it emerged that
long-serving chief executive Rick Parry is to quit the club
in the summer.
Obviously none of us know the finer details of all the ins
and outs when it comes to running the club but it seems to
me that Parry’s position had become untenable with co-owner
I also don’t see how Parry’s relationship with Benitez could
ever have been the same after his knowledge of the infamous
meeting with Jurgen Klinsmann.
When it comes to the subject of trust, the Spaniard might be
thinking ‘What else don’t I know?’ – after all we all know
how much Benitez likes to control everything.
It all seems such a mess behind the scenes but the situation
could become even more serious this summer after Parry
Hicks and Gillett have been given until the end of July to
re-finance the loan they used to finance their purchase of
the club and as it stands there’s no guarantee that they’ll
be able to make this payment.
If the bank forecloses them and takes control of Liverpool
FC off them then who knows what might happen.
The bank might decide to sell the club for considerably less
than what the Americans are looking to get and it could even
be a chance for the fans to get their club back.
I’ll never know what Rafael Benitez was thinking when he
decided to go with Martin Skrtel at right-back at
Middlesbrough on Saturday.
Okay Alvaro Arbeloa was injured but why not move Jamie
Carragher across, he’s played in that position to good
effect on many occasions down the years.
When Carragher does play at right-back he’s great when he’s
up against someone and he gets close and likes the
As far as I’m aware Skrtel has never played in that position
before, certainly not for Liverpool and I felt sorry for him
because he looked like as fish out of water and just got
worse and worse.
Skrtel was put up against Stewart Downing and when you’re
playing Gareth Southgate’s side then it’s more or less a
case of if you stop Downing you stop Middlesbrough.
After the win in Madrid it was a downer to go from a real
high to a real low.
With Manchester United playing in the Carling Cup Final this
was also a chance to put some pressure on them but instead
they’ll just be laughing.
After looking like the team to beat from August to December,
Liverpool’s title challenge seems to have fallen apart.
We’re back to square one when it comes to messing about with
Dossena and Lucas came in against Manchester City and are
clearly not good enough while after looking like a proper
player Riera has been taken out and put back in and it looks
like it’s messed with his head.
Mark Lawrenson was talking to CHRISTOPHER BEESLEY
rues Boro defeat
Liverpool defender Fabio Aurelio admitted
the weekend defeat by Middlesbrough was a missed opportunity
in the title race.
The Reds slumped to only their second defeat in the Premier
League this season after Middlesbrough recorded a 2-0
victory at the Riverside.
The defeat means Liverpool remain seven points behind
leaders Manchester United having played a game more with
their title hopes hanging by a thread.
Aurelio admits the players were disappointed with the manner
of the defeat at Middlesbrough and has called on his
team-mates to get back to winning ways against Sunderland on
"We are very disappointed because we felt we had enough
chances to win the game in the first half," Aurelio told the
club's official website.
"We lost a great opportunity to try to get closer to
Manchester United but we must bounce back now and beat
Sunderland at Anfield on Tuesday night.
"I thought we started really well. We kept the ball and had
good opportunities but we couldn't score. When that happens
there is always the chance the opposition can score.
"Unfortunately we conceded a goal from a corner, which was
hard to take. In the second half we didn't create as many
chances but we still had some good opportunities.
"Middlesbrough got every man behind the ball and made it
difficult for us. They scored the second goal from a
counter-attack when we lost the ball. That was
"We will still keep on fighting because we know in football
that anything can happen. We won't give up and we will now
try to win every game."
blown title race
By Ian Doyle - Daily Post
Middlesbrough defender David Wheater
believes Liverpool lost their chance of winning the Premier
League title with defeat at Riverside.
An own goal from Xabi Alonso and a second-half strike by
Tuncay Sanli sent Rafael Benitez’s side tumbling to a 2-0
loss on Saturday.
The defeat, only Liverpool’s second in 27 league games this
season, means the Anfield outfit remain seven points adrift
of champions Manchester United having played a game more.
Liverpool have also dropped down to third after being
surpassed by Chelsea on goal difference.
And Middlesbrough centre-back Wheater has pinpointed
Tuncay’s 63rd-minute effort as the point of no return for
the championship aspirations of Benitez’s side.
“When we scored our second their heads dropped a bit,” he
said. “Then we were on top. They were expecting to win but
we came out for the second half really well, something we
have not been doing.
“You could almost say when we scored our second goal that it
was the moment they lost the title.
“It’s Manchester United all the way, most people know that.
They will push them but they won’t win it.”
Middlesbrough will be assured Premier
League football next season if they can repeat their display
against Liverpool week-in, week-out, according to Matt Le
Gareth Southgate's side secured a precious league victory
thanks to Xabi Alonso's own goal and a Tuncay Sanli strike,
putting a massive dent in Liverpool's fading title
aspirations in the process.
To make matters worse Steven Gerrard limped off late on -
albeit possibly with cramp - leaving Le Tissier to reflect:
"Pretty much everything went wrong for Liverpool to be
honest, although they started the game pretty well in all
"They had two or three good chances early on; Brad Jones
made a couple of decent saves but as soon as they went a
goal down there just didn't seem to be the belief that they
could get back into it.
"There was a big turning point for me just after half-time;
Nabil El Zhar had a fantastic chance. Gerrard inevitably
created it by pulling the ball back and El Zhar's only 10
yards out on his left foot and he's managed to scoop it over
"From that point on Middlesbrough seemed to grow in belief.
They got the second goal. Tuncay took it well after Jeremie
Aliadiere did really good work down the right-hand side.
"At 2-0 Gerrard got injured, Kuyt had one decent chance
where the ball was squared across by Gerrard again that he
should have scored but that was it. As soon as Gerrard went
off there was not an ounce of creativity in the side and
they looked bereft of any ideas going forward."
Le Tissier felt that Liverpool - so impressive in
Wednesday's 1-0 Champions League victory over Real Madrid
when Yossi Benayoun scored the winner - were hampered by "a
couple of strange decisions".
"Martin Skrtel does not look like a right-back to me in any
way, shape or form," he said. "I'm not quite sure what he
was doing playing there.
"He looked out of his depth and Stewart Downing down the
left-hand side gave him a torrid time. It was one of the
best games I've seen Downing have for a long time. And the
guy who scored the winning goal in Madrid gets left on the
But the day belonged to Boro and, although they are hovering
precariously above the relegation zone, Le Tissier does not
fear for their long-term future providing their standards
"If they do that every week, they will survive," he said.
"Ok, they had a little bit of luck to get going with the own
goal; if Gareth had been working on that in training fair
play to him!
"But once they got their noses in front they did defend like
the proverbial beavers."
Rafa: Title more difficult now
By Jimmy Rice at the Riverside - LFC Official Website
Rafa Benitez refused to call time on the
title race after the 2-0 defeat to Middlesbrough - but
admitted the Premier League was now Manchester United's
The Reds slumped to only their second league defeat of the
season after Tuncay added to a Xabi Alonso own goal.
A victory for Chelsea over Wigan means Liverpool now sit
third in the Premier League, seven points behind Alex
Ferguson's front runners.
Benitez said: "Before the game it was difficult and after it
is more difficult. We will see against Sunderland and try to
improve but it depends on United now.
"If you want to stay at the top of the table you have to
"I will not say too much because for me it's clear that in
the first 20 minutes we created five chances and you have to
take chances if you want to win.
"We had some problems and injures - some players were tired
but we had chances. We were in control for the first 30
minutes. Middlesbrough did well in the second half."
Liverpool's day got worse on 77 minutes when the returning
Steven Gerrard had to be withdrawn after picking up a knock.
However, Benitez revealed afterwards that the injury was
unlikely to keep him out of Tuesday's visit of Sunderland.
"He had cramps. I don't think it will be serious," said the
dent Reds title hopes
By Toby Davis - Setanta Sports
Struggling Middlesbrough hammered a
nine-inch nail into Liverpool’s title challenge coffin with
a remarkable 2-0 victory at The Riverside.
The Reds may have beaten Real Madrid in midweek, but they
were humbled in spectacular fashion on Teesside, effectively
wrapping up the Premier League trophy and handing it to
Xabi Alonso put through his own net to hand Boro the lead in
the first half while Tuncay Sanli put the game to bed with a
composed finish in the second.
The win was Boro's first in The Premier League for 14 games,
lifting them out of the relegation zone in the process, no
doubt coming as a welcome relief to boss Gareth Soutgate.
But the scoreline perhaps flattered Boro as Rafa Benitez’s
side dominated from start to finish – and were it not for
some woeful finishing - The Reds could well have come out on
Nabil El Zhar missed a gilt-edged chance to find the net
early in the second half, but Dirk Kuyt came up with a
viable candidate for miss of the season when he missed his
kick from five yards with the goal gaping.
Victory at the Bernabeu in midweek should have strengthened
the Liverpool manager’s stranglehold on the club. After all,
if you cannot sleep soundly after adding to a catalogue of
great European nights, with victory in the backyard of
arguably the world’s biggest club, then it is time to reach
for the Night Nurse.
But if reports are to be believed, the Liverpool boss is
still lingering around the threshold of the Anfield exit
door, with some quarters of the Anfield support and maybe
even some within the boardroom, unconvinced he is the man to
deliver the Holy Grail, The Premier League. This result will
certainly not help his cause.
While the Liverpool boss has undoubtedly created a European
powerhouse, his current side seem all too often and all too
easily frustrated on home soil.
The patience and resilience that brings success on the
continent seem insufficient qualities to deliver a Premier
League title and the secret formula that enables a side to
break down an opponent who has decided to defend in numbers
was certainly absent at The Riverside.
The Reds had a string of half chances in the first half that
they were unable to convert with El Zhar, Ryan Babel, Steven
Gerrard and Kuyt all guilty of failing to find the target.
El Zhar, enjoying a rare chance to impress from the start,
exchanged passes with Dirk Kuyt on eight minutes, but could
not beat Brad Jones when through on goal.
While six minutes later and it was Kuyt who fluffed an
opportunity to open the scoring, unable to keep his shot
below the bar after a cross from Fabio Aurelio found him
unmarked in the box.
When Babel added his name to the list of Liverpool players
to miss good chances 15 minutes in, there would have been a
sense of déjà vu among the travelling support.
And after Steven Gerrard failed to squeeze a shot past Jones
from a tight angle on the half hour, it seemed almost
inevitable that Boro would take the lead.
The goal duly arrived barely a minute later in a cruel and
unfortunate manner. An innocuous corner from the right hit
Alonso on the knee and bobbled past Jose Reina with a sigh
No doubt Benitez impressed upon his players at half time the
need to convert their chances. Sadly for the Spaniard, El
Zhar was not listening.
Within two minutes of the restart the Moroccan had wasted
the best chance Liverpool could have hoped for. It was one
of those that Harry Redknapp’s wife would have tucked away.
Steven Gerrard, perhaps lacking a bit of vim and vigour
after his injury lay-off, burst into the box and cut the
ball back to El Zhar. It was the footballing equivalent of
sticking the ball on a plate, slapping a napkin on his lap
and inviting him to tuck in. But El Zhar declined the
opportunity to gobble up the chance and somehow skied his
effort over the bar.
If El Zhar wanted a lesson in how to put the ball in the
back of the net, he got it on 62 minutes when Tuncay doubled
Jeremie Aliadiere broke down the right at pace and crossed
into the middle where Tuncay was waiting completely unmarked
12 yards from goal. The striker controlled calmly and placed
a composed finish neatly past Reina into the bottom corner.
Boro were in control, but still looked vulnerable and if it
were not for Kuyt’s shocking mis-kick from five yards, their
advantage would have been reduced to the solitary goal.
Gerrard charged into the penalty area and pulled the ball
back across the face of goal only for Kuyt to hopelessly
fail from five yards. It simply was not going to be
Marlon King can feel a touch hard done-by that he did not
add to the 2-0 score-line, drawing a good save from Reina on
72 minutes before putting the ball in the back of the net at
the death only to see his effort ruled out for offside.
For Benitez the result perhaps underlines his side's
fallibility in The Premier League. They have, after all,
failed to secure wins in games they should do all too often
this season. For Southgate, it was the perfect end to a
great week after Wednesday's FA Cup success.