Calming week shows progress
By Sam Johnstone - Liverpool Daily Post
We have all been waiting for a week of
relative calm at Anfield for a while, and this week has been
good in terms of both performances and the reactions from
The Arsenal game was a good one as usual, and Arsene
Wenger's side played some great football but I was just as
impressed with the way the Liverpool side performed,
particularly after all the vitriol aimed at the manager and
his players over the preceding days.
We still may not be firing on all cylinders, but we looked
the equal of the high-flying Gunners throughout.
The skipper's performance in particular showed that he's
getting back to his best, and I was impressed with the way
we altered our style after losing three key players to
From the very start you could tell the lads were hungry for
the points, and the opening salvos from Liverpool unnerved
A draw was probably a fair result, and one that we can build
on for this weekend's clash against Blackburn.
We're still in contention, remain unbeaten, and they are the
Even more impressive were the performances of the squad
players against Cardiff
You might think that the stage was set for an upset
following another emotional return for Robbie Fowler, but
the performances of Jack Hobbs, Lucas and Nabil El Zhar were
promising, and they did all that was required of them to
beat a pumped-up Cardiff City side.
Hobbs looked assured at the back, and hopefully we'll see
him break through to the first team soon.
We haven't had too many make the move from the Academy to
the senior side over the last few years, but Hobbs seems to
be one that the boss thinks can make it.
El Zhar stood out, of course, because of his wonderful
strike to give Liverpool the lead.
The confidence he showed to take a pop from 30-odd yards was
great to see, and he has done his claims for a regular
Carling Cup position no harm at all.
There was still a bit of tactical naivety there, but the
more he plays the better he'll understand his role.
There was a murmur around me in the Lower Centenary when the
skipper's name was confirmed as a starter, but I couldn't
understand the fuss.
I stupidly listened to 606 again, and the comments made by
one particular caller struck me as ignorant beyond belief
when he criticised Rafa for playing Gerrard.
When three of your central midfield players are out (Xabi
and Javier are injured, and Momo had a virus) who else are
you going to play?
Even if they were fit and available I still would have
picked Stevie - he's working his way back into form, and
needs games to do it.
He's that kind of player is Gerrard. He plays himself back
in, and that's just what he's doing.
So all in all a positive week at last.
We're in the quarter-finals of the League Cup, are still in
contention for the League and we should go into the return
game with Besiktas with a bit more confidence.
There will still be a few dark days ahead, but if we can
start building up a head of steam we are definitely going in
the right direction.
Hobbs is happy to take
the earache at Liverpool FC
By Ian Doyle - Liverpool Daily Post
With a broken nose and a touch of earache,
you might expect Jack Hobbs to be feeling a little
disgruntled with life just now.
But the Liverpool youngster can barely contain his
excitement after making his full debut in the 2-1 win over
Cardiff City in their Carling Cup fourth round tie on
The 19-year-old, whose only previous senior experience was
as an injury-time substitute in the previous round at
Reading, was paired alongside Jamie Carragher at the heart
of defence as replacement for the rested Sami Hyypia.
And Hobbs’s performance up against strikers Jimmy Floyd
Hasselbaink and Robbie Fowler earned a ringing endorsement
from the veteran Finn – and ringing ears from his central
defensive colleague on the night.
“Jamie kept on at me all night, which is really good,” says
Hobbs. “He dragged me into positions and guided me, which
obviously makes life a lot easier on your debut.
“I might have a little bit of earache but it’s all good.”
Hobbs, who was signed from Lincoln City in August 2005, was
back in training yesterday despite sustaining a broken nose
during the game.
And of his debut, he adds: “It felt amazing but really
surreal, especially in the second half when I could see the
whole of the Kop. That was really special. I had a couple of
glimpses up there and it was like nothing I’ve ever
“To be marking Robbie and Jimmy Floyd as well – they are two
of the biggest names in the game. I really enjoyed it.”
Reserve team skipper Hobbs now hopes to be challenging the
likes of Carragher, Hyypia and Daniel Agger for a first-team
“That’s the first one done but now I want to push on and get
more,” he says. “I know I’ll have to be patient. Rafa has an
idea of using his whole squad and you might get a chance
when players need resting, like Hyypia here.
“I’ve just got to work and train really hard, but I do feel
ready for top-flight action. This was a big test because it
was my first competitive game for any senior side, and I’m
not going to come up against a more experienced strikeforce
than Robbie and Jimmy Floyd.
“I’m quietly confident in myself but I still want to try and
get better every day.
“I really hope this could be the start for me at Liverpool.
Playing in front of that crowd every other week would be
Liverpool kids show promise
Liverpool's progress to the Carling Cup
last eight came with the added pleasure for boss Rafael
Benitez of seeing that his kids are alright.
Defender Jack Hobbs and midfielder Nabil El Zhar were hugely
instrumental in the 2-1 defeat of brave Cardiff.
Hobbs, 19, made his full debut alongside the experienced
Jamie Carragher, and coped well with Cardiff's veteran front
pairing of Robbie Fowler and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.
While El Zhar, French-born but of Moroccan background,
struck a stunning 25-yarder to help send Liverpool on their
way into the last eight.
For Hobbs there was glowing praise from Liverpool's own
veteran defender Sami Hyypia, who watched his young protege
underline his growing promise.
Hyypia said: "He is better than me when I was his age, and
he is not slow to carry the ball out of defence, perhaps
something I do not do these days.
"It was a great start for Jack, and hopefully he now has
many more games to go in his career at Liverpool.
"He is still young and has lots to learn, but he is willing
to learn every day. Sometimes he asks for advice and I am
more than willing to give it.
"His strength is his height, and I can see a lot of myself
in him. He has similar qualities that I have, and this is
not a bad start for him. If he keeps improving he can be one
for the future here at Liverpool. "
El Zhar, 21, was born in Ales, France, and has played for
the French youth side and Morocco's Under 20s.
The former St. Etienne youngster said: "It was a big dream
to score in front of the Kop and now I am living that dream.
I don't know if I have scored a better one than that and I
hope it is the first of many in a Liverpool shirt.
"I don't have the words to describe the feeling when I
scored, it was simply amazing. It happened so quickly.
"You have to forget about the big names you are playing with
and try to show people what you can do. I hope I did that.
"But I now have to try to keep at this level. I must get up
in the morning, go to training and continue working hard. I
scored but I have got more work to do to play in this team.
I have to keep my feet on the ground. All I've done is score
- I haven't done anything in this team yet."
Wednesday's Carling Cup tie was El Zhar's first senior start
of the season, adding to the three appearances he had
notched up since joining in October 2006.
With Ryan Babel, Yossi Benayoun, fit-again Harry Kewell and
Sebastian Leto battling it out for places on the wings, and
with Jeremaine Pennant recovering from injury, El Zhar knows
he may have to be patient for his next chance.
But he added: "I am better on the right wing because I'm
right footed, but I also feel OK on the left and up front. I
would play as a defender at the moment if it meant I played!
"I have to work hard and improve - and you can only improve
when you play with the kind of players I did against
Cardiff. I've just got to work hard for the reserves and try
to prove to the boss that I'm ready to play some games this
season. He (Benitez) said I will play some games if I work
hard and prove what I can do."
Rafa reveals Gerrard rationale
By Paul Walker - PA Sport
Rafael Benitez revealed match-winner Steven Gerrard would
not have played in Liverpool's Carling Cup victory over
Cardiff if Mohamed Sissoko had not
The Anfield boss had intended resting his skipper for
tonight's fourth-round tie, but Sissoko - who had been ill
ahead of Sunday's draw with Arsenal - had not recovered
sufficiently to play against the Coca-Cola Championship
Benitez said: "I would have wanted really to leave Steven
out of the match. But we have too many injuries and Momo was
sick again, so he had to play.
"And in the end he was the one who scored the vital goal.
Cardiff worked very hard and were always dangerous from
set-pieces, and that is where their equaliser came from.
"But then Gerrard got through to score a typical goal. His
form is coming back, as are his goals. That is three now in
Cardiff boss Dave Jones, a former Everton player who has
a son in Liverpool's academy system, admitted it was only
Gerrard's intervention that stopped his side producing a
more memorable result.
Jones said: "It was Gerrard that really killed us - only he
could have turned the game like that. So I'm going to have
to get my son to duff him up in training!"
Liverpool took the lead through French youngster Nabil El
Zhar with a stunning 20 yarder in the opening minutes of the
Darren Purse headed Cardiff level, but Gerrard stormed
through to grab the winner while the Welsh hordes were still
Benitez had walked onto the pitch at the end to embrace
Robbie Fowler while the Kop roared the name of a man who is
still there idol.
Benitez said: "I just wished him well - he was great for us
when he came back to the club. He has left us all with great
memories of a great player."
Gerrard the King
on God's return
By Ben Blackmore - Setanta Sports
Robbie Fowler’s Anfield return ended in defeat as Steven
Gerrard reaffirmed his status as the Kop King by leading
Liverpool to a 2-1 Carling Cup victory over Cardiff.
Fowler showed glimpses of his fading genius in a gritty
Cardiff display, but it was Gerrard who stood tall to drive
Liverpool into the quarter finals after Darren Purse had
cancelled out Nabil El Zhar’s stunning opener.
Kopites delved deep into their wardrobes to dust off their
'God' banners for their returning hero, who etched himself
into Liverpool hearts with 183 goals in 369 appearances.
The League Cup was always Fowler’s competition whilst at
Anfield, ever since he burst onto the scene with a
magnificent five-goal haul against Fulham in his maiden
He left Merseyside for the second time with a total of 29
goals from 35 appearances in the competition, a record he
has taken to Cardiff with two from two.
Rafa Benitez would have been fully aware of Fowler’s threat
alongside Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink up front, and he responded
by selecting Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard in his
Peter Crouch was given a rare start alongside Ryan Babel in
attack, while long-term absentee Harry Kewell returned to
It took less than five minutes for Fowler to make his first
telling impact on the game, forcing a full stretch save from
Reds keeper Charles Itandje with a trademark curling free
At the other end Liverpool’s attack lacked the intelligence
and canny running of a Fowler-of-old, although Crouch and
Babel did fashion a chance for the latter, who drove over.
Crouch was not short of a trick or two as he pulled many a
long ball out of the air, and he almost provided an
11th-minute treat as he spun 360 degrees before driving just
Liverpool were the more dangerous attacking threat, although
not always by incisive passing, and Fabio Aurelio, Babel and
Sebastian Leto all could have scored with fierce slashes at
Cardiff were limited to just one other chance before the
break, Paul Parry brushing aside any thoughts of Halloween
to show he is not afraid of crosses by heading just wide at
the back post.
There was no mistaking the dissatisfaction of the home
support at the break, but that changed inside four minutes
of the second half, and how. El Zhar decided he would join
in the fancy dress theme by donning his Steven Gerrard cape
to crash in a stunning 25-yarder to open his Liverpool
Moments later Gerrard himself burst behind the Cardiff
defence, prompting memories of his golden chance in the 2007
Champions League final, and once again he failed to convert
as hs left foot shot fell wide.
That seemed to draw a reaction from Cardiff, and within five
minutes they were level. First, Joe Ledley forced a stunning
one-handed save from Itandje, but the keeper could do
nothing to keep out Darren Purse’s header moments later
after he towered over Jamie Carragher.
The response of Liverpool’s fans was fantastic, and they
were rewarded immediately as Gerrard played a superb one-two
with Yossi Benayoun before driving the ball home for 2-1.
Suddenly there was a swagger to Liverpool's game as the
excellent Benayoun and Gerrard controlled matters, prompting
Benitez to hand Kewell a 20-minute run-out.
Liverpool could have made things more comfortable towards
the end as Babel and Crouch wasted opportunities,
opportunities Fowler might feel he would have taken as he
waved goodbye to The Kop at the final whistle.