Title talk worthless until May
By Chris Bascombe - Liverpool Echo
Sami Hyypia says Liverpool should stop being dragged into
premature title judgements and focus completely on ending
their away slump.
Every defeat or victory provokes a similar hysterical
reaction, with Liverpool dubbed challengers after a win and
no-hopers after a loss.
Hyypia is clearly sick of the hype and prefers a sense of
"Let's see where we are in May," said the Finn today.
"Within the club, of course we want to win the title, but
we've not been talking about it a lot because we've wanted
to focus on each game and make sure we play to our ability
in every match.
"The final step in building a side capable of winning the
league is always most difficult. Winning the Premiership is
tough and the expectations are high.
"They're high every season at Liverpool, but particularly
this time with everyone talking about the title.
"We should only be thinking about the next game, and come
the end people can judge us on the league table."
The Finn admits he's perplexed by Liverpool's current
vulnerability away from home, further exposed at Bolton at
"It's very frustrating, and it hurts me personally too
because I've played in the games against Everton away and
Bolton in which we've lost," he said.
"And yet I don't feel the other team actually had that many
chances to score. The opponents seem to be scoring from the
few chances they have. We can't be happy with these results.
It's hard to say how we can put it right other than working
harder and being concentrated on every situation.
"I felt confident everyone was doing their job on Saturday,
but then we've conceded goals from two situations.
"We have to remain positive and think if we only lose three
times in a season, it's not bad. The biggest mistake now
would be to start panicking and do something silly. We need
to keep our heads up because know what we're capable of and
need to show it."
Having returned to the line-up for the last two league
games, Hyypia says he's relishing his battle for places with
Daniel Agger and Jamie Carragher, and says there's no danger
of him giving up his established role without a fight.
He added: "Competition for places is good and when I get my
chance I try my best to make it difficult for the manager to
decide who he plays.
"Carra and Daniel are the same, and Gabriel Paletta is
waiting for his chance. It's a new situation for me, but I'm
alright with it. Let's talk again in May and how many games
I've played then.
"I appreciate every game I play for Liverpool, and no player
is ever going to like being on the bench, but Daniel has
played very well and Carra is one of our most important
players, so it's a healthy competition."
sick Reds are lacking nasty streak
By Ian Rush - Liverpool Echo
As Bolton claimed three points on Saturday, I couldn't
help seeing the similarities with the derby.
Until the first goal, Liverpool looked in control and in no
Once the home team went ahead, they were able to build on
their advantage far too comfortably and you neverfelt
Liverpool were going to save the game.
Teams like Bolton guarantee you a battle, and once you've
given them something to hold onto, it becomes twice as
There's no doubt the circumstances leading to the first goal
were crucial, but there's no point feeling sorry for
yourself when a bad decision goes against you.
You've got to knuckle down even more, fight harder and get
yourself back into the match. That's the area where I feel
Liverpool are still lacking.
Sometimes you've got to develop that nasty streak away.
Youknow what you're going to get at the Reebok, and you
can't just assume you'll win because you have more quality.
The first task is to win your individual battles. Once
you've established your authority over the guy playing
directly against you, the game takes shape and you'll make
your class tell.
All over the pitch, Bolton players were winning their
personal battles, so by the end, although you could say
Liverpool had some chances, at no point did you feel they
had Bolton in trouble.
I could sense a few heads drop in the second half, and yet
Istill felt if Liverpool could have raised their game they
could have got back into it.
Everyone is looking for a reason between the differences in
the home and away form, but there's no question it's harder
blending new players into your system when you're playing
It was similar a year ago. As soon as the new lads settled
down, we saw a huge improvement in results at home and away.
I'm sure it will be a similar story this time.
The positive thing is Liverpool are still only six points
behind the leaders, which is quite aresult given they've
already lost three times. It just goes to prove no-one is
running away with it.
A year ago, Liverpool would have been trailing by 12
already, which might have justified claims they were out of
With games at Highbury and Old Trafford coming up, things
can turn around quickly. But the away form is going to have
to improve, otherwise the downbeat assessments won't seem so
Benitez: We're not out yet
On the last day of September, Rafael Benitez was already
being confronted with unpalatable questions about
Liverpool's realistic championship chances.
For the Anfield boss it was hard to take after seeing his
side mugged by a system he detests, but nonetheless there
was little doubt that Bolton's ruthlessly effective style
warranted another famous victory for a glowing Sam
When the dust had settled on Big Sam's achievement,
commendable though it was on such limited resources against
Anfield's millions - something he was eager to point out,
the real question was all about Liverpool's viability as
genuine title challengers.
Bolton will not win the title and do not expect to. They are
all about staying in the top flight and maybe reaching
Europe. Allardyce has no real pretensions about anything
more, nor should he.
For Benitez it is wholly different. Liverpool have talked a
good game this summer about challenging Chelsea, but already
that is surely a lost cause.
Nobody has won the title in the Premiership years and lost
more than seven games - that was Blackburn in 1995. Six
times in the last eight seasons, the title has gone to a
side losing five or less.
Liverpool have now lost three of their first seven, and by
no stretch of the imagination are they going to lose just
three of their next 31.
Benitez tried to deflect the issue, but even he could not
The Spaniard said: "Now it is important to be calm and
believe it is too soon to make judgements about the title.
We can talk now about the problem, but two wins in a row
will put us back in a challenging position.
"This is a bad time with an international break now, but
afterwards we must keep winning our home games and start to
do the same away.
"This season will be different. The difference between the
top sides is not as big as before. Now there are also other
sides who can beat or take points from the top sides; Bolton
here, Aston Villa drawing with Chelsea.
"People will ask me now about the title, and our chances.
Maybe if we win two games in a row then the question will be
different in a couple of weeks.
"I am used to such questions, but for us we must wait and
see if we can get three points next time. I do not accept
that rotation and changing the team is the problem. I have
been told that Manchester United won the title once and Sir
Alex Ferguson changed the side 38 times."
Hardly convincing sentiments. Liverpool's position is not
being helped by a woeful away record of three defeats on the
trot and no goals scored.
Benitez again offers reasons without real conviction.
"Our away form is not the best. But we have faced good
teams, at Chelsea when we played really well, at Everton we
had more chances but conceded three. Now against Bolton, a
"Even facing Sheffield United first, the game was massive
for them after so long out of the top flight. Maybe if we
faced them now it would be different."
Next up for Liverpool is Blackburn plus Manchester United,
Aston Villa and Arsenal within weeks. Get past that little
lot without any more mishaps and maybe people will start
talking about titles again, but you sense that will not be
the case on this insipid form.
Rafa rues linesman's blunder
By Paul Eaton - LFC Offical Website
Rafael Benitez was left to rue an awful decision from the
linesman as his side went down to a 2-0 defeat at Bolton
The referee's assistant wrongly adjudged that Pepe Reina had
handled the ball outside his area and awarded a free kick on
the edge of the box which Gary Speed fired home after half
Ivan Campo headed a second goal early in the second half to
set the home side up for the three points as Liverpool went
down to their third away defeat of the season.
Benitez said: "It's clear that a mistake has been made. Pepe
let go of the ball inside the area and then kicked it
outside. The linesman was in a bad position. I knew at the
time it was a mistake but what can you do?
"Every week we can talk about incidents but nothing changes.
"Up until that point we were controlling almost everything,
apart from a couple of long throws which you expect here.
The first goal changed things and then we conceded the
second too soon in the second half.
"In the last twenty minutes we started losing second balls
and then playing too many long balls which don't do
Asked whether this defeat was a major setback to his side's
hopes of winning the title this season, the Liverpool boss
replied: "Maybe if we talk in a couple of weeks time it will
be a different situation.
"We have experience of dealing with these questions. We know
what was said when we lost two in a row earlier in the
season and then we won two games quickly to change things."
Sam beams after Reds win
By Chris Stanton - Sky Sports
Sam Allardyce hailed a job well done as his Bolton side
defeated Liverpool 2-0 at The Reebok Stadium.
A first half free kick from Gary Speed and a second half
header from Ivan Campo accounted for the disappointing
visitors, and Allardyce relished the win just as much as
last week's success at high-flying Portsmouth.
Paying tribute to a performance built on defensive grit,
Allardyce was gushing in his praise of his players.
"It's just as good [as Portsmouth] because this is one of
the big boys," Allardyce told Sky Sports 1. "It was a
performance of a team that's closed down, nullified and had
a game plan that's frustrated Liverpool for all of the game.
"What half chances they got, people were prepared to die to
stop the ball going in the back of the net.
"Our opportunities came, they were very few, but we've taken
them and that's crucial against Liverpool."
Allardyce admits his team were fortunate with the award
which led to his side's first goal - Reds goalkeeper Jose
Reina was adjudged to have handled outside the area, but
television replays proved Reina released the ball before
exiting the 18-yard box.
"We might have been a little bit fortunate with the free
kick but we've taken full advantage," added Allardyce.
"The second goal was crucial. A peach of a goal from Ivan
Campo and a great cross from Kevin Davies.
"That really put Liverpool on the back foot and our
defensive qualities as a team were outstanding today -
everyone at Bolton will have left with a smile on their
downs ragged Reds
By Chris Stanton - Sky Sports
Goals from Bolton's Gary Speed and Ivan Campo dispatched
a disjointed Liverpool side 2-0 at The Reebok Stadium.
With just one win in six visits to The Reebok prior to the
lunchtime kick off, Liverpool again found this part of
Lancashire an unhappy hunting ground as their bid to regain
ground lost in the title race stalled.
Rafa Benitez spoke pre-match of the need for strong
officiating, and though he would gripe with the award
leading to the first goal, his side's failure was down more
to his own team's lethargic performance coupled with the
doggedness of inhospitable hosts.
Ex-Reds misfits El Hadji Diouf and Nicolas Anelka prompted
intermittently for the hosts, but, as The Trotters came to
play second fiddle to the visitors for much of the half,
there was little indication of what was to come.
Nicky Hunt's touchline slip let in Craig Bellamy, but Tal
Ben Haim thwarted the danger, while Dirk Kuyt's header from
a Steven Gerrard free kick drew a parry from Jussi
A Bellamy cross was then cleared by Israeli Ben Haim and
Xabi Alonso's superb technical execution of a volley
deserved better than for the ball to strike the outside of
the left hand upright with Jaaskelainen well beaten.
Bolton had struggled to create headway for much of the first
half. But a generous free kick awarded against Jose Reina
for handball outside the area on 30 minutes provided the
tonic. Up stepped Speed to rifle home the ball from 20
yards, with the unsighted Reina floundering.
The effervescent 37-year-old was also on hand at the other
end to deny the marauding Jermaine Pennant from Bellamy's
deflected centre, while Gerrard twice caused Jaaskelainen
anxiety as the half drew to a close
Liverpool started the second period in determined mood, with
Benitez bringing on Peter Crouch for Kuyt, but, just as
Bolton had struck out of the blue in the first half, they
did likewise just six minutes into the second period.
Kevin Davies crossed from the right and the onrushing Campo
beat the standing Steve Finnan comfortably with his head to
double the lead via the underside of the crossbar.
Benitez, shuffling uncomfortably, made another change,
introducing Luis Garcia for Pennant, as his sense of
desperation reached palpable proportions.
Garcia exuded a greater threat as the pressure mounted on
the hosts, as Crouch slipped in the act of shooting, while
Alonso exhibited his prowess from distance.
Bellamy, deployed for the first hour of the match in an
ill-suited left wing slot, betrayed a lack of confidence in
failing to profit from a promising opening and not even
Gerrard, so often Liverpool's saviour, could rescue his
A forceful run from The Reds' captain ended with the ball
finding only the side netting, and Liverpool, who have now
picked up just one point from four away matches, knew the
game was up.
Not so Bolton - as the clock ticked down, the hosts' desire
for perspiration remained unsated, with the shifts of the
once disgruntled duo of Anelka and Diouf eclipsed only by
Davies, as Bolton recorded a fourth win in five matches -
form that Benitez's side are still aspiring to.