Gerrard celebrating his scoring vs Blackburn.
Liverpool FC all geared up
for a battle to the bitter end
Comment by Ian Rush - Liverpool Echo
Better football last year, better at
grinding out result this year – Liverpool’s win over
Blackburn was not for the purists but its importance should
not be dismissed.
It was hard work but when you come up against a side like
Blackburn, the first thing that you must do is fight and it
was really encouraging to see Liverpool roll their sleeves
up and battle.
With Tottenham and Manchester City winning, we had no other
option but to do likewise to keep ourselves in the running
for fourth place; our two main rivals are refusing to go
away and the remainder of the season is going centre on
which team can hold their nerve.
There is some speculation that it will take a tally of
around 80 points to win the title, so what do you imagine it
will need to clinch the final Champions League spot? Looking
at it from this distance, with 10 games left, I’d say 68-70
points will be enough to achieve that goal, which
effectively means Liverpool need to win another seven times
before May 9.
With games against Chelsea and Manchester United impossible
to predict, you are working on the basis that we need to win
every other fixture to get to where we want to be.
Some will say that is too big an ask, that Liverpool have
struggled for consistency all year, but the signs against
Blackburn suggested Liverpool are going to be able to embark
on a winning spree. All the good football that was played at
Anfield came from men wearing Red shirts and it was great to
see Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres all linking to good
It was no coincidence that Steven and Fernando got on the
scoresheet and the longer they play together, the better
Liverpool will be on the run. As Jamie Carragher said after
the game, you have always got half a chance when your
special players are fit.
The way things stand, though, inevitably Liverpool are going
to have to keep churning out results under pressure, as the
majority of games they will play now will be on a Sunday.
Next week, of course, it is Monday night but that won’t be a
bad thing, as the international contingent will have a few
days extra to recover for Wigan.
And that means they will be in good shape if they need to
fight once more.
If you needed further proof as to why Pepe Reina will be
Liverpool’s Player of the Year, it arrived in the last
seconds on Sunday afternoon.
The save he made from Christopher Samba was quite incredible
- all the more so when you consider he was roughed up by
Blackburn’s over-excited players.
It’s all very well talking about Steven Gerrard and Fernando
Torres but they would be the first to acknowledge what role
Reina has played so far.
He deserved a clean sheet for his performance at the weekend
and I felt really sorry that he failed to keep Keith
Andrews’ penalty out.
But that won’t matter at the end of the season; if Liverpool
qualify for the Champions League, his save off Samba could
welcomes return of Torres
Liverpool vice-captain Jamie Carragher
hailed the “special” talents of Fernando Torres, expressing
hope the player would come through Spain’s midweek friendly
against France unscathed to spearhead the club’s bid for
Champions League football next season.
Torres marked his first start since January 13 with the
winning goal in the bruising 2-1 victory over Blackburn at
The Spain international has now scored 13 goals in 17
Barclays Premier League appearances and despite having
missed nearly six weeks after a knee operation he is still
the club’s top scorer.
Liverpool remain sixth, a point behind fourth-placed
Tottenham, but Carragher believes a fit Torres will give
them an extra dimension in their final 10 Barclays Premier
“Fernando has come back in and it goes without saying how
much we have missed him,” said the defender.
“He is still our top scorer, the kind of special player who
will make a difference.
“He’s a big, powerful lad, who is right up for the fight,
and he’s ideally suited to English football. That’s why he’s
done so well.
“It would be wrong to rely on just one man. After all, you
never know, he could come back injured off international
“Please God, that doesn’t happen, but he makes a big
difference and you can see we are a much better team when he
is with us.”
Just when it seemed Liverpool’s injury problems were over
they have had three defenders injured in the last four days.
Martin Skrtel has been ruled out for several weeks after
breaking a metatarsal in his right foot against Unirea
Urziceni on Thursday while Fabio Aurelio limped off with a
thigh injury against Blackburn and Daniel Agger’s knee
problem meant he left Anfield on crutches yesterday.
The good news is that right-back Glen Johnson’s recovery
from a knee injury could see him make his first appearance
since December 29 at Wigan a week today.
“Glen will be back soon, maybe in time for Wigan, and things
are looking a bit more rosy,” Carragher told the Liverpool
“You talk about having a squad but we’ve got our big players
all that matter at Anfield
Comment by Dominic King - Liverpool Echo
Three points gained, 90 minutes for
Fernando Torres and Sam Allardyce sent home in a huff; for
Rafa Benitez it was, clearly, a case of mission
When Blackburn Rovers come to town, the prospects of
witnessing a classic game of football are as realistic as
their manager – not someone who is familiar with the concept
of self-effacement – winning a shrinking violet competition.
It will never happen.
We have reached the stage of the season, though, where
classics are games not required; some, inevitably, will
throw their hands in the air and say Liverpool have a duty
to start playing with a swagger but all that matters now is
they keep their points tally ticking over.
So while Allardyce ranted and raved about how Blackburn
deserved to win as “they created the most chances”, Benitez
was able to afford himself a wry smile, as Liverpool kept
themselves in Champions League contention with a crucial
The day also started with a smile. For once, the Sunday
morning papers made for an amusing read, thanks primarily to
the latest claptrap spouted by Allardyce; it would have been
easy to take offence, had his claims not been so
Having had one crack at Benitez in Saturday’s editions –
suggesting he had copy the tactics he used at Bolton –
Allardyce’s lack of gumption in declaring that Liverpool
were to blame for nearly ruining El-Hadji Diouf’s career
almost took the breath away.
Liverpool to blame? Of course they were. It was entirely
Liverpool’s fault Diouf continually failed to report for
training on time, that he brought shame on the club by
spitting at an opposing fan and showed a wanton lack of
professionalism, wasn’t it?
Benitez has often found his transfer record called into
question but surely everyone would agree one of the best
pieces of business he has done was to get £4m for a player
who most Liverpool fans would have used their own petrol to
get him away.
That Diouf was once the possessor of one of the club’s most
sacred shirts will remain in the file titled ‘life’s great
travesties’ and it says everything about this foul character
that Cristiano Ronaldo would receive a warmer welcome from
the Kop. Well, probably.
Fortunately the current number nine is cut from a completely
different cloth and his return to the starting line-up
provided reassurance, particularly with Liverpool’s main
rivals for a top four place stating their intentions before
this contest had kicked-off.
If Liverpool are going to secure a spot in next season’s
Champions League – it might take as many as another seven
wins to achieve that goal – having Torres available to start
matches between now and May 9 is imperative.
Will it be possible? Every time a bruising central defender
or an overzealous full-back clatters into Torres, fingers
are clasped over eyes and prayers are offered to higher
places, hoping any damage he may have sustained isn’t
Inevitably, he took a buffeting here. As you would expect,
Allardyce’s tactics were primitive and Blackburn were
nothing but agricultural; all nasty, spiteful challenges,
pushes and shoves, they tried all they could to rough Torres
Happily, however, Torres can give as good as he gets and it
was inevitable he would exact retribution in the best
possible way, sliding in his 13th of the campaign with
aplomb just before half-time, after good work from Lucas and
That strike restored Liverpool’s lead and proved to be the
winner, after a Keith Andrews penalty – awarded when Jamie
Carragher inadvertently handled – had enabled Blackburn to
restore parity; one game back, one goal, three points.
That’s how important he is.
Mind you, if keeping Torres fit is essential, similar
sentiments apply to Steven Gerrard. He left the impression
in Bucharest on Thursday evening, both on and off the pitch,
that he was ready to start making up for lost time and
banish his lingering frustrations.
How it showed again yesterday. Liverpool did look a little
anxious in the opening exchanges, as Blackburn sought to
capitalise on any deficiencies and Nikola Kalinic went
closest to opening the scoring after a mistake by Lucas.
Yet, after seeing Tottenham and Manchester City win, Gerrard
was not in any mood for Liverpool to lose ground and he
started and finished the move on 19 minutes which gave
Benitez’s men the nerve-settling lead both they and the home
Seizing possession midway inside Blackburn’s half, he
exchanged passes with Yossi Benayoun and surged into the
area to receive the Israeli’s return ball, as Torres’
movement and presence created uncertainty. The finish,
predictably, was emphatic.
There is no point dwelling on ‘what ifs’ in football, as to
do so is an exercise in futility but, seeing Gerrard and
Torres combine, you cannot help but wonder how different the
table would have looked had they played, say another 10
games together this season.
“If Steven and Fernando play well they can score goals and
maybe they can be the difference,” said Benitez, who
delivered the put down of the season when saying Barcelona
should copy Blackburn’s style of play.
Should they dovetail as sweetly as they have done in the
past for the final 10 matches, then Liverpool will remain
strong contenders for the spot they crave but it must be
stressed that, as a team, there is still room for
Unable to find the goal that would have killed the contest
early in the second period, Liverpool found themselves
hemmed back as Blackburn propelled a succession of long
balls forward – and to think the FA were considering
Allardyce for the England job.
But the ploy almost paid off as deep into injury time,
Christopher Samba rose to meet a Vince Grella free-kick and
his header appeared destined for the bottom corner; that
was, until, the outstanding Pepe Reina stretched out a hand
and made a quite magnificent stop.
Cue sighs of relief all around. Two months ago, that header
would, in all probability, have sneaked in and left
Liverpool to launch more inquests but, perhaps, this is a
sign that things have turned.
All that is required now, then, is for the international
contingent to return unscathed; should that be case, Benitez
can really start plotting to accomplish the mission that
matters most – Liverpool’s return into the Champions League.
frustrated by Rovers
By Richard Bailey - Sky Sports
Rafa Benitez was left clearly frustrated
at Blackburn's robust style of play as his Liverpool side
recorded a narrow 2-1 win at Anfield on Sunday.
The Reds boss saw his side struggle at times against Sam
Allardyce's men but first-half goals from Steven Gerrard and
Fernando Torres either side of a penalty from Blackburn's
Keith Andrews gave the hosts all three points.
The win keeps Liverpool in sixth, just one point behind
Tottenham in that all important race for fourth spot with
both Spurs and Manchester City also recording wins at the
However Blackburn's behaviour, Pascal Chimbonda and Steven
N'Zonzi can both count themselves extremely lucky to have
escaped with yellow cards when red was perhaps more
appropriate, while El-Hadji Diouf was always walking a
disciplinary tightrope, left Benitez feeling rather
"We had to win and we won," he stated.
"We won and that is the most important thing. I don't know
but I was really surprised that it was just five (bookings
"It doesn't matter - we won.
"It is really important (the way to play) but sometimes we
cannot play football.
"Nzonzi was very clear, touching the face of Lucas, and the
rules are the rules.
"We have had four of five players with problems, bleeding,
and Maxi with stud (marks) in his abdomen. Interesting - but
Benitez, who had a strained relationship with Allardyce
before the match, continued and when asked whether the
referee Alan Wiley should have come down harder on the
visitors' behaviour the Spaniard replied, rather tongue in
cheek: "I think that everybody knows that his (Allardyce)
teams play great football under this manager.
"When you play these kind of games you have to win and we
did. I don't know if he (Allardyce) has had contact with
(referee chief) Keith Hackett maybe he should know.
"We try to do our talking on the pitch. If they are pleased
with the way they play under this manager it is their
"They have a style and they are a team that plays this way
under this manager. We won so they have to be thinking about
whether the style is good or not.
"Some people have to talk before the press conference or
after because it is more difficult for them to do a football
"I think it is a model for all the managers around the
world, their style of football, his behaviour.
"It is the perfect model for all the kids and I'm sure all
parents will enjoy this model and encourage their kids to be
"The style of football, I think, Barcelona are thinking of
Sam: We lack firepower
By Richard Bailey - Sky Sports
Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce bemoaned
his side's lack of firepower as his side lost 2-1 to
Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday.
Rovers enjoyed plenty of possession on Merseyside but failed
to capitalise on the numerous chances that they created.
Despite starting brightly the visitors went behind to a
Steven Gerrard opener on 20 minutes. Keith Andrews levelled
from the spot after Jamie Carragher had handled in the area
on 40 minutes but Rovers shot themselves in the foot four
minutes later when they allowed Fernando Torres to simply
The difference in finishing between the two sides was there
for all to see according to Allardyce but his team's
performance at least pleased their boss.
"If we had a goalscorer we would have won, it is that
simple," he said.
"Chances came and went and we didn't convert them and
unusually we had more chances than Liverpool today.
"But because we failed to convert them and they have Torres
and Gerrard, who are superb finishers and superb players,
and that is the difference and they made us pay and it is a
great shame for the players with the effort they put in and
the football they played and the chances they created.
"We can moan about the defending but the quality of their
players is what Liverpool are about and why they are at the
top of the league most seasons and we didn't have that, so
sadly we have not managed to get the result we deserve.
"Even at half-time when we were 2-1 down I felt we were
still going to get a result. Certainly we had enough of the
lion's share of the play in the second half to get that
equaliser but in front of goal we are not good enough at the
moment, especially away from home."
The game turned into a somewhat scrappy affair in the second
half with numerous Rovers players, notably Pascal Chimbonda
and Steven N'Zonzi, finding themselves lucky not to be sent
off as tempers flared. But Allardyce insists the Anfield
crowd influenced referee Alan Wiley's decisions.
"They are very, very good here at swaying people's decision
making process that's what the crowd are good at and the
Liverpool team for many, many years have been very, very
good at it," he pointed out.
"Our frustration is that we have been deemed to have
committed 25 fouls and five bookings and that is totally
against the run of play when you look at the other stats and
that is the disappointing thing for me."
Torres on target as Reds win
Liverpool striker Fernando Torres marked
his first start since January 13 by scoring the winner in an
ill-tempered 2-1 victory over Blackburn at Anfield.
The Spain international hit his 13th goal in 17 Barclays
Premier League appearances just before half-time, having
missed five weeks at the start of the year after a knee
Liverpool had gone ahead midway through the half through
Steven Gerrard only for Jamie Carragher's handball to allow
Keith Andrews to equalise from the penalty spot five minutes
before the interval.
With fellow top-four challengers Tottenham and Manchester
City both winning this weekend, it was imperative Rafael
Benitez's side maintained the pressure - and they managed to
grind out a win against combative opponents.
Before the match Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce, who has
never had a great relationship with Benitez, had said the
Spaniard's side played like his former club Bolton.
However, on this evidence - five Rovers players were booked
and they could easily have had Steven Nzonzi and Pascal
Chimbonda sent off - it was Rovers who lived up to
But it was the goalscoring return of Torres that will have
put a smile on Benitez's face as Liverpool scored for the
26th successive league game at Anfield and the 33rd in all
Surprisingly, the Spain international played no part in the
opening goal, which came from a swift and incisive move
started by Lucas on the halfway line.
The Brazilian picked out Gerrard who, after exchanging
passes with Dirk Kuyt and offloading to Yossi Benayoun,
continued his run into the penalty area to collect the
return ball, go past Samba and clip home a left-footed shot.
That was after Chris Samba, Martin Olsson and Morten Gamst
Pedersen had all had half-chances to put Blackburn ahead.
Liverpool, though, were indebted to Jose Reina in the 17th
minute as the goalkeeper made a good double save from
Pedersen, particularly the first shot which deflected off
On the half-hour Kuyt should have made it 2-0 from Gerrard's
corner but appeared to be surprised by the pace of the ball
and headed wide from three yards.
In the 38th minute Liverpool were forced into a change when
Fabio Aurelio limped off with what looked like a thigh
injury and was replaced by Emiliano Insua.
Two minutes later Rovers were gifted an equaliser when
Benayoun's weak clearance was played straight back into the
penalty area and, despite three Liverpool players
surrounding Kalinic, Carragher catastrophically went to
ground where the ball hit his hand.
Andrews fired home from the spot to put his side firmly back
in the game.
However, Liverpool went ahead again a minute before the
break when Samba could only poke the ball off Torres into
the path of Rodriguez, who crossed into the six-yard area
for the Spaniard to smash home.
Early in the second half Olsson was booked for handball in
the centre-circle before Nzonzi was lucky to escape with a
caution, having flattened Lucas with an aggressive push to
Pascal Chimbonda's first act, having come on for Olsson, was
to bring down Rodriguez as he threatened to cut into the
Daniel Agger headed Gerrard's whipped-in free-kick over at
the far post.
Chimbonda's second contribution was to carelessly give the
ball away to Kuyt, which eventually resulted in Robinson
having to tip Rodriguez's shot around the post.
Kalinic was next to go into referee Alan Wiley's book for
hacking down Mascherano from behind and, after several close
calls, former Liverpool forward El-Hadji Diouf was
eventually booked for bringing down Mascherano.
Referee Wiley and one of his linesmen somehow missed
Chimbonda, who had already been booked, thrusting his boot
into Rodriguez's chest as the Rovers defender rolled on the
Ryan Babel replaced Benayoun for the final 10 minutes but
with only a slender lead the pressure began to mount on the
Torres departed to a standing ovation with his work done but
in the knowledge he will have to continue to produce on a
regular basis if his club are to secure Champions League
football next season.