Johnson celebrating his goal with Mascherano.
Liverpool FC can cope
with end-of-season pressure
Comment by Mark Lawrenson - Daily Post
Even when Liverpool turn on the style and
record such a convincing triumph as they did against
Sunderland on Sunday, there’s still that element of
The joy is soon tinged with a bit of regret, based on what
might have been.
When you see Liverpool take a team from outside the top
bracket apart like that, you know you’re watching the real
The Liverpool that are a top four side, that do go all out
on the attack – it’s the way it should be.
But it’s not the way it has been for much of this campaign,
one that has been very average and left us in a position we
should not be in.
Even watching a good performance like the one on Sunday,
it’s clear to see where it has gone wrong.
When we have our best players available and playing well, we
are a good side. But the problem is we haven’t got any
So while it’s all very well bemoaning the amount of games
Fernando Torres has missed through injury, the fact is the
lack of decent striking cover has made that time on the
sidelines completely wasted.
But the main thing is, he is fit now, scoring goals and – if
the evidence of the Sunderland victory is anything to go by
– he is in a team that is playing to his strengths.
Which is essential to this Liverpool side in the final six
games of the season as they chase this top four spot.
It is out of their hands, granted. But can their main rivals
Manchester City and Tottenham handle the pressure?
I have my doubts, especially when you look at the fixture
list and see that Liverpool have comfortably the easiest
Birmingham away this weekend will be no picnic but there
isn’t much else to worry them.
And if you think the final home game of the season against
Chelsea is a tough one, imagine being Carlo Ancelotti’s
team, going for the title and having to travel to face one
of the most formidable current home records?
It’s eight straight wins at Anfield since the FA Cup defeat
to Reading and if that momentum can be maintained then
there’s no reason why Liverpool shouldn’t believe they can
end the season with a maximum haul.
They did it this time last year when they had the matter of
a Premier League title race to endure and kept the pressure
on Manchester United every time.
But City and Spurs are no United when it comes to holding
your nerve closing out a campaign.
They haven’t been there and done it – Liverpool have.
Approach every game like they did on Sunday and I wouldn’t
bet against them doing it again.
wins Kuyt praise
BBC Sport Online
Dirk Kuyt believes Premier League life is
easier for Liverpool with Fernando Torres fit and firing.
Torres scored a goal in each half during Sunday's 3-0 win
against Sunderland to help keep alive the Reds' hopes of
finishing in the top four.
Kuty told BBC Radio Merseyside: "He's scoring some great
goals and playing really well.
"That's what we like to see from him and that's very
important and makes football for this team a lot easier."
He added: "Not only today but since he's come back from his
injury he's done a great job for the team."
With the win over the Black Cats, Liverpool are four points
behind Tottenham in the race for fourth place and that all
important Champions League spot.
The 29-year-old believes the Reds can secure fourth but he
knows there is more hard work ahead.
"We have to try and we have to push," he continued.
"We are behind and we also know it's going to be hard but
the only thing we can do is win our own games and that is
why we we're happy with the result today.
"We have to keep going from here. Fernando in this form and
also the team is playing better hopefully we'll have a
Torres shows Liverpool FC fans
a glimpse of what might have been
Comment by David Randles - Liverpool Echo
Even the Sunderland fans applauded when
Fernando Torres was substituted.
Perhaps it was with relief as much as respect.
With his 19th and 20th goals of the season, Torres displayed
once again exactly what Liverpool have lacked in his absence
throughout a campaign that has desperately needed his
They say Manchester United are not the same team without
That may be true but at least they have the odd
multi-million pound replacement to come in and deputise.
Sadly, Liverpool don’t.
While Robbie Keane has never been replaced, it is too much
to ask David Ngog to stand in for Torres on his own.
Now, with seven goals in Torres’ last four games, this is
the kind of form that can help fire Liverpool back into the
His double against Sunderland moved him to fourth in the
Premier League scoring charts with 18 for the season.
It’s an incredible tally for a player who has missed large
chunks of the campaign through injury.
It’s also a tally that leaves you pondering ‘if only’.
If only the Spanish striker had been fit for most of the
season there is a good chance the Reds would be looking
higher up the table than digging in for a scrap to the
finishing line for fourth.
Regardless of yesterday’s result, mention of Liverpool and
Sunderland from this season will always conjure thoughts of
big red beach balls.
According to the Kop, the only thing that resembled one
inside Anfield yesterday was Steve Bruce’s head.
The Sunderland manager had the good grace to join in the
joke afterwards while highlighting what he described as ‘a
Torres and Gerrard masterclass’.
It was at the Stadium of Light in October that Gerrard and
Torres were both missing from the squad for the first time
in the league since the Spaniard joined the club in 2007.
Little did we know it, but that was to be a precedent for
much of what would follow.
It is little coincidence that, with Gerrard and Torres
struggling for fitness, Liverpool’s season truly began to
hit the skids after that 1-0 defeat.
Yesterday was only the 13th time since then that the pair
have lined up together.
While Torres will grab the headlines for two goals of the
highest distinction, Gerrard was somewhere near his
marauding best yesterday too.
The first half in particular saw the captain everywhere.
One minute he was on the left supporting Ryan Babel, the
next he was popping up on the right, linking with Maxi
Rodriguez, before dropping deeper to pull the strings
through the middle.
There’s an argument that says Gerrard is at his most
dangerous from here. Rafa Benitez will point to the goals
he’s scored playing further up the pitch.
Either way, it’s a nice dilemma to have and one that, with
Torres leading the line, can reap rewards whichever way they
Gerrard reflected last week on his own form this season,
admitting that he hasn’t always been at the races.
That may be so, but the words of his manager come closer to
explaining why Liverpool have struggled to emulate last
year’s title challenge.
“Always you expect big things from your important players
and then the other players follow them,” said Benitez.
“But sometimes the other players have to lead and that is
the way it must be if you want to be a strong team.”
As Benitez says, it is up to the rest to stand up and be
counted to compensate for any shortfall in the performance
That hasn’t happened often enough this season and results
have suffered accordingly.
This isn’t to say Liverpool are a one-man team though.
That tired accusation fell flat when people started
bemoaning the impact of Xabi Alonso’s departure.
But there is a heavy reliance on Gerrard and Torres to turn
Against Sunderland there were positives all over the pitch
With Dirk Kuyt looking to address his own dip in form, the
Dutchman was at his industrious best while Maxi Rodriguez
showed signs of why he is valued so highly in his homeland.
Javier Mascherano continued to perform to the level you
would expect from a player who is about to commit his future
to the club, and Ryan Babel is enjoying a new lease of life.
Add to this another clean sheet, plus Glen Johnson’s
goalscoring exploits, and that strong finish to the end of
the season that Gerrard talked about may already be under
Glen: Dressing room believes
By Jimmy Rice - LFC Official Website
Glen Johnson hailed the 'togetherness and
belief' within the dressing room following a comfortable 3-0
win over Sunderland on Sunday.
The full-back chipped in with the second goal while Fernando
Torres took his tally for the season to 20 with a memorable
The scoreline keeps Liverpool well in the hunt for fourth
spot, though Tottenham still have a game in hand on top of
their four-point lead.
Johnson said: "The belief is there - if it wasn't it'd be
pointless playing. The lads are sticking close together with
the staff, everyone's pulling together. I think we can do
Liverpool can take heart from the fact Spurs still have to
face Man City, Man United, Chelsea and Arsenal - not that
Johnson is dwelling on the fixture list.
"It's not something we've been thinking about," he said.
"We're trying to take each game as it comes and trying to
pick up three points in every game.
"We also know goal difference could be vital for us at the
end of the season, so we're looking to keep as many clean
sheets as we can and keep chipping in with goals."
Johnson's third strike of the season came with his left
"It's something I've always been comfortable doing, coming
inside and shooting on my left," said the England man. "I'm
happy with the way it came off here."
with impressive Liverpool
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez felt the
hard work his side had been putting in over the last few
weeks paid dividends in the 3-0 win over Sunderland at
Two goals from Fernando Torres, taking his tally to seven in
four matches and 18 in 21 Barclays Premier League
appearances, either side of Glen Johnson's deflected strike
secured an eighth successive home league win.
What was more impressive, however, was the opening 45
minutes in which Liverpool destroyed Sunderland with a
high-tempo, attacking passing game not seen all season.
It would not have flattered the Reds had they been six goals
to the good at half-time instead of the 2-0 scoreline they
had to settle for.
Centre-back Daniel Agger had three good chances, Maxi
Rodriguez's near-post header was tipped over by goalkeeper
Craig Gordon while Torres also hit the post and then bundled
the rebound wide.
It left the always difficult to please Benitez more than
satisfied as he felt it justified his much-criticised
"Always you try to do your best and play a bit better," he
"But today we started with a really high tempo, passing the
ball well and scoring an early goal always helps," he said.
"With the same tactics we scored more goals than anyone in
the Premier League last year and more goals in anyone in
England two years ago.
"It is a question sometimes of accuracy, pass completion or
just a little bit of luck."
Benitez paid tribute to the quality of Torres' strikes but
the exacting manager stressed his star striker could still
"It (the first) is one of Fernando's better goals but also,
with the second one, sometimes it is not just a good strike
but to do the right thing at the right moment," he added.
"For me both goals were good."
A return to top goalscoring form will no doubt have pleased
Torres, who missed five weeks of the season after a knee
operation in January, but he has continually stressed that
the club need investment in players to keep him happy.
Benitez said his - and his players' - main concern was to
secure Champions League qualification.
"At this moment the main thing for all of us is to try to
play well and win games and we will be closer to the top
four," added the Reds boss.
"We know we have to keep going. You can see the players have
confidence and if we play at this level we will win more
games for sure.
"That is the best way for the manager, the staff and players
to move forward so we will try.
"We are working behind the scenes to improve things for the
future but now it is best to concentrate on football."
Torres: Reds are full of confidence
Fernando Torres claims Liverpool have hit
form at the right time following the 3-0 win over Sunderland
as they chase a Champions League spot.
Torres scored twice in Liverpool's 3-0 win over Sunderland
at Anfield to put them within four points of fourth-placed
The Spain striker told Sky Sports: "You can see the team is
different to the first part of the season, now we have
confidence and we know we can beat anyone.
"We have to win all our games until the end of the season
and wait for the other results, but we are going the right
"We are much better in the last part of the season and now
we have six games to play and we have to be as strong away
as we are at home."
Torres' first goal was a stunning strike into the top corner
but he did not agree that it was the best he had ever
"I think I have scored some better than that - and hopefully
the best are still to come," he added.
Glen Johnson struck the second for the Reds and the England
defender echoed Torres, saying: "The belief is there -
everyone is pulling together and we are confident we can do
We were outplayed
Steve Bruce conceded his Sunderland side
were very much second best after watching them fall to a 3-0
loss to Liverpool.
The Black Cats have enjoyed an upturn in form of late to
ease fears of the drop but looked out-of-sorts as they were
comfortably beaten at Anfield.
A brilliant brace from Fernando Torres and a deflected drive
from Glen Johnson did the damage as Liverpool cruised from
the moment their Spanish striker gave them a third minute
Bruce admits his players could not get even close to
Liverpool's top performers, with Jose Reina largely a
bystander in the home goal.
While in no doubt Liverpool were excellent on the day, Bruce
also believes his players underperformed throughout.
Bruce told Sky Sports: "Sometimes you are well and truly
beaten and in the first half in particular Torres and Steven
Gerrard gave a masterclass and sometimes you just have to
say 'well done'.
"It's hard to take but today Liverpool were just far too
good for us, though I would expect more resilience and us to
put up more of a fight than that.
"The way we started was disappointing, we should have been
better out of the traps and made it far too easy for them.
"They were far better than us and we couldn't get to grips
stars in Reds rout
Liverpool underlined their intent not to
hand over fourth place without a fight as they played some
wonderfully expansive football in beating Sunderland 3-0 at
Fernando Torres was the star as a pair of stunning goals
sandwiched an effort from Glen Johnson to move Liverpool to
within four points of Tottenham.
The defensive shackles that have afflicted Liverpool so
often this season were banished from the off as an
attack-minded line-up tore about a Sunderland outfit which
has enjoyed a mini-renaissance of late, but was badly out of
sorts on Merseyside.
Liverpool needed just three minutes to pierce Sunderland's
backline as Torres demonstrated what might have been had he
not struggled with niggling knocks for much of the campaign.
There was nothing pretty about Jose Reina's assist as he
launched the ball into Sunderland territory but thereafter
there was much to admire. Torres cut inside Michael Turner
and from the right edge of Sunderland's box arrowed a
missile past Craig Gordon into the top corner.
The Scot did not have a prayer and were it not for a string
of excellent saves Liverpool would have chalked up an even
more commanding victory, as Torres struck the base of a post
and Maxi Rodriguez was denied by a stunning tip over. Daniel
Agger alone could have bagged an unlikely first-half
hat-trick from set-pieces.
It was left to fellow defender Johnson to show him how to do
it just past the half hour mark as his strike from the edge
off the box came off Turner to leave Gordon stranded.
If Torres' first goal was special his second, after the
break, was arguably even better as he conjured the most
impudent of finishes to dink past Gordon after being fed by
the buccaneering Johnson.
For Liverpool this was an eighth successive home league win,
their best run at Anfield since winning eight in a row
towards the end of the 2007/08 season.
More importantly it kept Rafa Benitez's side within range of
Spurs, whose win over Portsmouth on Saturday cranked up the
pressure in the race for fourth.
Liverpool responded accordingly and within 55 seconds
defender Agger smashed a left-footed volley straight at
goalkeeper Gordon after Dirk Kuyt had flicked on Steven
That the Denmark centre-back had a further two good
goalscoring opportunities before half-time gave an
indication of how dominant Liverpool were.
However, when it comes to goalscoring there are few to equal
Torres and his third-minute strike was a piece of individual
Goalkeeper Jose Reina picked him out wide on the left
touchline and he dribbled inside Turner to curl a shot over
Gordon and perfectly into the far top corner.
In what was the best 45 minutes of football in Liverpool's
season, Javier Mascherano had two long-range shots, one
headed clear by Kieran Richardson and the other skewed wide,
while Torres was just off target with a near-post effort
following intricate passing between Rodriguez and Gerrard.
Ball retention, the pace of the passes, and the general
attacking intent made for an exhilarating half.
More chances came and went as Gerrard's run and shot in the
penalty area ended in a deflection behind and Rodriguez's
near-post header from his captain's corner was superbly
tipped over by Gordon.
Had Liverpool been 5-0 up after 30 minutes it would not have
flattered them, but they had to settle for just the two
goals at the interval.
The second came from Johnson in the 32nd minute when
Gerrard's inswinging corner was only cleared to the edge of
the penalty area and the defender touched the ball inside on
to his left foot and unleashed a shot which took a slight
deflection off Turner to beat Gordon.
Torres hit a post and then bundled the rebound wide before
the break as Sunderland almost imploded under the pressure.
Liverpool's biggest problem in the second half was the
expectation on them to reproduce the football they had
displayed before the break. While it did not reach those
heights, they were hardly troubled.
Ryan Babel fired well over after Gerrard's driving run from
halfway while Torres had an eight-yard shot blocked by Paulo
da Silva, on at half-time for Lee Cattermole.
But the Spain international was not to be denied much longer
and on the hour he scored his second goal, which was as
simple as his first was brilliant.
Babel's far-post cross to Rodriguez dropped to Johnson who
slipped a pass inside where Torres spun on the penalty spot
to turn the ball past Gordon.
Alberto Aquilani replaced Kuyt with 20 minutes to go, with
Torres making way for David Ngog to another standing ovation
12 minutes from time.
Richardson probably went closest to scoring for Sunderland
when he flashed a left-footed shot just wide of Reina's
Gerrard's removal for winger Nabil El Zhar late on signalled
that Benitez was more interested in saving his players for
Thursday's Europa League quarter-final against Benfica in
What the Liverpool players must now prove in their remaining
six league matches is that this performance was not a
If they can, then Benitez's guarantee of fourth place may
yet hold good.