After The Match 


Liverpool-Wigan 1-1 (0-0)         2.1. 08                               PL
Goals: Torres (49)         Bramble (80)
Team: Reina, Finnan, Aurelio, Arbeloa, Carragher, Mascherano, Alonso, Gerrard, Pennant, Kewell, Torres
Subs: Benayoun (Kewell 75), Crouch (Mascherano 85),
Kuyt (Pennant 87)
Not used: Itandje, Riise
Yellow: Mascherano (78)            Scharner (59)
Red: None
Referee: Steve Bennett
Attendance: 42,3087
Shots on target: 8-1
Shots off target: 6-6
Blocked shots: 3-0
Fouls conceded: 13-16
Corners: 4-1
Offsides: 3-4
Possession: 69.7-30.3
Yellow: 1-1
HEADLINES "Sometimes you need
a bit of luck."

Rafael Benitez

0401: Puzzled Rafa can't work it out
0301: Finnan: We’re blowing title dreams
0301: Rafa defends team selection
0201: Bruce: We deserved it
0201: Rafa rues missed chances
0201: Lacklustre Liverpool lose ground on top three

Puzzled Rafa can't work it out

Sporting Life

Rafael Benitez can't work out why Liverpool's home form is hurting their faltering title bid.

The Reds slipped up again at Anfield on Wednesday night, allowing Wigan to leave with a point courtesy of a late equaliser from Titus Bramble.

And they've now won just four of 10 Premier League home games this season.

Tha latest Merseyside slip left Benitez and co 12 points behind leaders Arsenal at the end of the normally key Christmas period.

And the frustrated Spaniard is at a loss when it comes to finding the solution.

"It is difficult to explain why our home form is not good," he told the club's official website.

"We are controlling all the games, we are passing the ball well, controlling almost everything. But we pay for one mistake.

"There is no need to analyse the four holiday games. We deserved to beat Manchester City, we deserved to win against Wigan, while we beat Portsmouth and Derby.

"But we have lost four points in these games and it has meant the gap is bigger.

"There is no point being too critical of performances. We know we were much better than City and Wigan but we know we need to win, that is simple."

Finnan: We’re blowing title dreams

By Tony Barrett - Liverpool Echo

Steve Finnan today admitted Liverpool’s title challenge is being undermined by a failure to turn
their dominance into victories.

The Reds endured another frustrating game at Anfield last night as they wasted a number of opportunities in a 1-1 draw with lowly Wigan.

It was the second Premiership match in succession in which Liverpool have dropped points despite being the better side after Sunday’s goal less draw with Man City and Finnan – who set up Fernando Torres’ goal – was left hugely disappointed that their superiority again went unrewarded.

“No disrespect to Wigan but if you want to challenge for the title then you need to be winning games like this,” he said.

“We had taken the lead as well and we thought we were going to go on and win the game.

“The goal we scored was a good one and it is obviously frustrating and really disappointing that we didn’t win.

“The first goal is always important, especially when a team sits back a lot because it can be hard to break them down.

“So when you get that first goal you think you will go on from there but we didn’t do that and they came back into the game.

“After Titus (Bramble) scored we had one or two chances but we didn’t really look like we were going to score and overall it is disappointing.

“We have players who are capable of scoring goals but sometimes they just don’t go in and it was the same against Man City but we definitely have the players there.”

Despite seeing another two points dropped, Finann refused to rule Liverpool out of the title race – although he did admit it would be difficult for them to win it from 12 points behind leaders Arsenal, albeit with a game in hand.

He said: “Hopefully we can but I suppose we say that all the time.

“We’ve slipped up at home and it is going to be really difficult but we’ve got to look to the 18 games we’ve got left and try to do our best.”

Rafa defends team selection

By Al Campbell - LFC Online

Rafael Benitez has defended his decision to play one up front last night.

Benitez played Fernando Torres as a lone striker in last night's home game against lowly Wigan. The Reds were then held to a feeble 1-1 draw. After the game the Liverpool boss defended his team selection.

"If you analyse the game, they were playing long balls and trying to win the second ball, whereas we were moving the ball and you could see Pennant, Kewell, Torres and Gerrard involved in all the attacks," said Benitez.

"I am really disappointed because it's another game where we needed a little bit of luck. We had plenty of possession and chances, and you need to take those chances.

"The other team just defended, then got a free kick and won the second ball, and they've got a draw.

"We were trying to play with wingers really wide and Gerrard getting into the box. We wanted to spread the other team. If you play with more strikers but the other team is really deep, maybe it is more difficult. We wanted to create space."

Bruce: We deserved it

Sky Sports

Steve Bruce believes Wigan's 1-1 result against Liverpool will give everyone at the club a huge lift in their battle to avoid the drop.

A second goal in as many matches for Titus Bramble cancelled out Fernando Torres' opener and earned The Latics a first ever point against one of the 'big four'.

It also maintained Bruce's excellent record against Reds boss Rafa Benitez - he has never been beaten in the Premier League by the Spaniard.

The former Birmingham boss felt his players got what they deserved for their efforts, particularly after the disappointment of losing at home to Aston Villa at the weekend.

"It gives everybody a huge lift," he told Sky Sports. "If everybody stays fit then we have got an outstanding chance (of staying up).

"I believed we deserved something on Saturday against Aston Villa and tonight I think we deserved what we got out of it.

"You're always going to come to Liverpool and find it a bit difficult. They've got world class players who can play in any team across Europe, so you have to come here and have a bit of belief.

"Full credit to the players; for the last six weeks they've produced some really good performances. To get a point at Liverpool is really nice."

Bruce also praised scorer Bramble, who rifled home from the edge of the area with 10 minutes to go after Liverpool had failed to clear a free-kick.

The defender has proved an excellent acquisition and his current manager is just glad he's finally got him in his squad after he tried, and failed, to sign him this summer while in charge at Birmingham.

"I've always liked him as a player," Bruce admitted. "I tried to get him in the summer (when I was at Birmingham).

"I think he just needs a bit of confidence. People forget he's only 23 or 24, and he'll only get better."

Rafa rues missed chances

Sky Sports

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez was a frustrated man after seeing his side held to a 1-1 draw at Anfield
by struggling Wigan.

Titus Bramble's late equaliser means The Reds slip below Manchester City to fifth in the table, 12 points behind league leaders Arsenal.

It had all looked so good for Benitez and the home fans when Fernando Torres opened the scoring in the 49th minute.

However, their inability to improve on such a slender lead came back to haunt them when Bramble rammed home from the edge of the area with 10 minutes to play.

"It was frustrating," the Spaniard told Sky Sports after seeing his side held to a draw for the second successive match.

"When you have chances you need to take them and finish these types of games. They had just one chance in the second half and get a draw.

"We tried to play wide and create the space for Torres and I thought we were creating enough for scoring a second goal and finish the game."

The Spaniard added: "Sometimes you need a bit of luck."

Despite the sizeable gap to top spot after a second successive league draw, Benitez unsurprisingly refused to rule his team out of the title race just yet.

Instead the former Valencia boss maintained his policy of looking ahead to the next game - an FA Cup third tie away at Luton Town on Sunday.

"You know that we need to do nearly everything perfect," he admitted.

"If you lose points like today, it is more difficult.

"I think we need now to think about the FA Cup now and then think about the next game. The season is very long."

Lacklustre Liverpool
lose ground on top three

Evening Echo

Liverpool’s slim title hopes were all-but extinguished after they were held to a 1-1 draw by struggling Wigan at Anfield.

The draw, coupled with Manchester City’s win at Newcastle, dropped Rafael Benitez’s side to fifth in the Barclays Premier League and left them trailing leaders Arsenal by 12 points with a match in hand.

Striker Fernando Torres had put the home side ahead in the 49th minute but they could not find the important second goal and Titus Bramble smashed in an 80th-minute equaliser.

Wigan boss Steve Bruce has long had the Indian sign over Benitez and now he has managed to frustrate the Liverpool boss twice in the same season at Anfield with different clubs.

Bruce never lost a league match to Benitez while he was at former club Birmingham and earlier this season he engineered a draw for Blues at Anfield and he achieved a similar result on his return.

Winger Jermaine Pennant made his Liverpool comeback after being out since October with a fractured right leg, while Yossi Benayoun and Dirk Kuyt were rested to the bench, with Xabi Alonso also returning.

Wigan made one change from the side that lost at home to Aston Villa last time out, former Liverpool striker Emile Heskey returned from injury with Antoine Sibierski dropping to the bench.

The visitors’ game plan was pretty obvious, putting every one behind the ball in their own half when Liverpool had possession, which was almost continuously in the opening period.

Heskey and Marcus Bent were quick to break and after spinning the ball around between themselves for long spells it was the loss of possession by the hosts, and a ball up to the big England striker, that forced Jose Reina into a swift run to the edge of the box to punch hurriedly away.

Liverpool were painfully slow in their build-up and the nearest they got in the opening stages was when Torres was judged fractionally offside when he got away to beat Chris Kirkland after 13 minutes.

Wigan were quick to make use of set-pieces and when a corner was not cleared Michael Brown lashed as 20-yard shot just wide of a post.

Kirkland saved well after 21 minutes when Javier Mascherano exchanged passes with Torres before rolling in a low shot.

From then on until the break it was Liverpool who were frustrated as they searched for openings, with Torres lifting a pass into the box only for Gerrard’s snap-shot to be held by Kirkland.

Crosses from Pennant, Steve Finnan and Steven Gerrard all caused problems but without any end product.

Torres then saw a flicked header just clear the crossbar after a 25-yard Alonso free-kick, before the Spain striker set up Gerrard for a right-foot shot which he pulled wide of the far post.

The breakthrough for Liverpool came soon after the break when Finnan committed himself to attack to disrupt Wigan’s back-line.

After 49 minutes he found Gerrard on the right and kept running for the return, which arrived perfectly for him to cross first-time to allow Torres to tuck the ball inside Kirkland’s left-hand post.

Paul Scharner was booked after 58 minutes for a foul on Mascherano and when Gerrard fired in a fierce free-kick Kirkland spilled it and the Argentinian almost got on the end of the slip.

Scharner’s late intervention stopped Torres adding another after a clever flick, before Kirkland saved well to his left from a Gerrard drive.

Liverpool needed the cushion of a second goal and Torres’ cross-field ball presented Harry Kewell with a chance but he blasted inches over from 30 yards.

It was the Australian’s last involvement as he was replaced by Benayoun after 73 minutes.

Mascherano was booked for a foul on Bent as Wigan broke quickly from defence and before the free-kick Wigan sent on Jason Koumas for Ryan Taylor.

But when the set-piece was lifted into the box Gerrard failed to get the ball away properly and when it fell to defender Bramble he lashed a shot past Reina for his second goal in as many matches.

Gerrard tried to make amends, firing a low shot at Kirkland that was pushed out with the Liverpool captain just failing to reach the rebound.

Liverpool sent on Peter Crouch and Dirk Kuyt for Mascherano and Pennant but they could not force a winner.

backbutton.gif (1697 bytes)

Thor Zakariassen ©