Rafa: We must show character
Rafael Benitez has demanded his stunned
Liverpool stars "show their character" in a spell of matches
that could define their season.
As the Spanish coach surveyed the wreckage of a disastrous
Champions League defeat by Marseille in front of a bemused
Anfield, he knows a season that started with high
expectations could soon be in total disarray.
Sunday sees the visit of Spurs in the Premier League,
followed by a trip to neighbours Everton and the visit of
impressive leaders Arsenal on October 28.
Sandwiched between the Everton and Gunners matches is their
next Champions League trip to Istanbul and a clash with
A tough trip to Blackburn and the Besiktas return are
Liverpool's opening games in November.
No wonder Benitez insisted: "We must improve, we must show
our character now.
"We know we have to do better. We showed character to get a
draw against Porto when we did not play well, and we showed
character to win at Wigan last weekend in a hard match.
"Now we must show character against Tottenham. That is our
first priority after the Marseille result."
Benitez's tinkering with his squad again took the brunt of
the criticism after the French side turned an impressive
display into a well-deserved victory thanks to Mathieu
Valbuena's late winner.
Benitez opted for youngster Sebastian Leto on the left,
refused to take off a woefully out-of-touch Mohamed Sissoko,
while giving Peter Crouch the opportunity to justify his
claims his form has suffered because of the manager's
The Anfield chief has now made a staggering 62 changes to
his side over 12 matches this term, and has used 34
Compare that with Sir Alex Ferguson's changes this term at
Manchester United and the difference is remarkable.
Before the United chief made wholesale alternations for the
Carling Cup defeat by Coventry, and then a complete change
back to his senior men for the next league match, he had
made a total of just 12 changes to his side in eight
But Benitez will not be moved on his rotation policy.
He said: "It is not the changes, it is big players not
And he defended Leto and Sissoko, saying: "I chose Leto
because he had been training well and he had played well in
the Carling Cup on the left with Fabio Aurelio.
"I wanted to give him his chance because he had shown he was
a player who could beat opponents with pace.
"But for me it is not right to talk about only one player,
the whole team played badly.
"It is difficult to explain how a team of talented players
like ours could give the ball away so much.
"Marseille played well, they pressed us hard and worked
well. But we should have been able to create chances behind
teams who attack and press like that.
"But we did not create any clear chances. We did have the
options, but just failed to take advantage and you do not
win if you do not create openings."
He added: "I decided not to change Momo Sissoko. I wanted to
substitute Leto to try something different and then I wanted
to change the strikers, but had to alter my thinking because
Aurelio had picked up an injury and had to come off.
"I was more concerned with doing different things up front,
but it was a very bad day for everyone. I prefer not to
point the finger at any one player. The whole team played
Benitez made no excuses for the dire display, saying: "We
did not deserve anything. From the beginning, the team did
not play well. We were giving the ball away, losing second
balls and not winning possession up front.
"It is very difficult to win a game like that. It was worse
than in Porto in our first group match.
"Out there, particularly in the second-half, the team was
well organised and showed character. This time, maybe with
some anxiety because we were playing at home, many things
"We were trying to do too much, to do everything and we
needed to be calm and do the things that we would usually
Liverpool must now return to the city of their fifth
European Cup triumph two seasons ago to save this campaign.
Third in Group A and five points behind Marseille, with
Porto second on four points, the Merseysiders have to win
against Besiktas on October 24.
Benitez said: "We are now going to have to win an away game,
certainly the next away game with Besiktas.
"We need points quickly. There has been talk of us needing
10 or 12 points to qualify. Forget all this, we must
concentrate first on winning the next group match.
"That is the situation, not what may happen later in the
Time for a men only
inquest as Liverpool falter
By John Thompson - Liverpool Echo
When a side containing Bruno Cheyrou’s
brother give you a footballing lesson, you know it’s been a
Hence there is probably more a sense of shock than outrage
around today at what was probably Liverpool’s worst home
performance during more than 40 years in Europe.
The anger will follow in spades from many supporters, of
course. But in the aftermath of a woeful display at Anfield
last night, it probably won’t do much good.
At least not judging by the expression on the ashen face of
a furious Rafael Benitez during his post match press
conference last night.
If Benitez wasn’t waiting at the school gates this morning,
cane in hand, to display his deep displeasure to his pupils
- including his star turns as well as his new boys - then
something is palpably wrong.
You can criticise the manager and debate rotation all you
like, but a side with Reina, Carragher, Hyypia, Gerrard,
Sissoko, Torres and Crouch at its spine should be miles
better than this, whatever else is or isn’t going on around
And Benitez more than anyone is entitled to feel badly let
down by the majority of the players he sent out last night.
Quite where you begin to analyse this most un-Liverpool like
display against a team they were expected to demolish, it’s
hard to know. Virtually everything went wrong.
But after the opening five minutes in which Marseille’s
terriers tore around the pitch closing down the Reds, it was
suggested to former Anfield iron man Tommy Smith as he sat
in the press box that perhaps one of his famous old ‘Welcome
to Anfield’ tackles might be required. Just to remind
Marseille of where they were and who they were up against.
Instead, Liverpool timidly and unforgivably threw down a
welcome mat. And got trodden into the ground over 90 minutes
of barely believable haplessness.
Just over a month ago, a rampant Liverpool team were hitting
Derby County for six, inviting widespread predictions of
Worried Liverpool fans will today hope the optimistic
hyperbole that followed that display will prove as evidently
misplaced as today’s predictions of doom and gloom might be
But what’s most important is that the manager and the
players are today given a bit of time and space to sort out
this sudden slump in form and performance, rather than face
a sustained tirade of abuse and ridicule.
Give Marseille credit. Their terrific display, tactically
crafted and inspired by new boss Eric Gerets, was probably
the most unexpectedly impressive since Dinamo Tblisi came to
Anfield in 1979 and cruelly left with a 2-1 defeat to their
In the return leg, the little known Georgians humiliated
Liverpool by three goals to nil and dumped them out of the
European Cup in the first round.
Later that season, a side that contained Kenny Dalglish,
Alan Hansen and Graeme Souness collected yet another League
Championship trophy, and Tblisi were consigned to Anfield’s
history books as a very bad dream.
Liverpool supporters will hope that’s what will become of
this episode in a season so far of bewildering uncertainty
for their side.
But if that’s to be the case, then Liverpool cannot turn in
one more performance even approaching the awfulness of last
Never mind the players Benitez rested or selected. Never
mind his tactics or his substitutions. Never mind the fact
that at times his worried defenders drifted so deep that any
further and they’d have needed oxygen tanks on their backs.
No, the most worrying aspect of all was that at times it
looked as if Liverpool lacked heart and belief - and with it
the stomach for a battle that was taken to them but never
So shut the doors, lock down the windows, put your fingers
in your ears and hope that Benitez, his staff and players
conduct a thorough, honest, men-only inquest today.
And between them all quickly come up with solutions to
ensure that a season of Anfield hope doesn’t somehow turn to
Sissoko scoffs at crisis talk
By Laurent Picard - Setanta Sports
Liverpool midfielder Mohamed Sissoko has
declared that despite The Reds’ defeat against Marseille in
the Champions League, the Premier League club are not in
French side Marseille broke Liverpool’s 12-game unbeaten run
thanks to Mathieu Valbuena’s stunning goal, as The Reds
threw in one of their worst performances for some time.
Mali international Sissoko reckons his side are not at their
best but the former Valencia ace is remaining calm as he
thinks Rafa Benitez’s boys will bounce back in the near
“We have not played a good game,” Sissoko told L’Equipe.
“We have not been aggressive, have not stolen the ball so
the result could not have been different. It is a logical
result. Marseille have been able to threaten us. They were
hungrier than us.
“We are not playing good football, but there is no crisis at
Liverpool. We are not worried. We are professionals and
sometimes have to experience bad moments.
“It is up to us to work and rise again.”
After a draw and a defeat in their group, Sissoko feels The
Reds have to win their next game if they are to remain in
the hunt for qualification.
“We have no choice,” he added. “We have to win the remaining
games. It starts with a victory at Besiktas.”
Marseille delighted with ‘historical’ win
By Laurent Picard - Setanta Sports
Marseille winger Mathieu Valbuena has
revealed his pride at having scored the only goal in the 1-0
win against Liverpool at Anfield on Wednesday.
L’OM saved French football’s honour this week after Lyon’s
humiliation against Rangers, as the Provence side won their
second consecutive Champions League game.
Erik Gerets’ side are top of their group and the Belgian
could not have dreamt of a better start after replacing
Albert Emon last week. The Ligue 1 outfit are 16th in the
domestic league but victory at Anfield’s could be the
launchpad for their season.
“I am delighted for the club and for myself,” Valbuena told
“It has been my first Champions League start. It is a
prestigious competition. We experienced great moments and
finally won. I am so happy.
“I felt so much joy on the goal so I went to celebrate it
with the fans.
“I am happy for them, for my family and for people who have
believed in me like [chairman] Pape Diouf or [sporting
director] Jose Anigo, who is the one that came to take me.
“It is an intense and immense joy. I scored but we have to
remind everybody that it has been about collectiveness and
everybody fought from the keeper to the striker. We have
been together, that was the most important.”
Gerets added:” I have a lot of respect for the fans that
came on Wednesday evening. I dedicate the victory to them
and they must be proud when they come back home.
“At times I felt like we were playing at home and not away.”
Liverpool FC taught French
lesson as visitors turn tables
Comment by Chris Beesley - Liverpool Daily Post
Liverpool supporters hoped that their days
of bemoaning Frenchmen at Anfield were over but many painful
memories resurfaced in last night’s Champions League Group A
encounter last night.
However, instead of shouting at substandard Gallic imports
struggling in red shirts as happened too many times during
Gerard Houllier’s reign, it was the lively displays of
Olympique Marseille’s winners that left them scratching
Although Liverpool’s first continental manager Houllier led
the club to a UEFA, FA and League Cup treble in 2001, it was
ultimately an inability to secure a domestic title that cost
him his job at Anfield.
A large chunk of that failing is attributed to a series of
players acquired from the French League who, for one reason
or another, failed to cut it in the Premier League.
Like a scarred war veteran, Anfield’s pitchside master of
ceremonies even had a flashback to those dark days when
naming the sides. The crowd was initially informed that the
Cheyrou in the visitors’ line-up was the infamous Anfield
misfit Bruno but the man on the microphone quickly corrected
himself to point out that it was in fact his brother Benoit,
presumably to great relief all-round.
Another such signing, former £14million record buy Djibril
Cisse, whose move to Anfield was orchestrated by Houllier
before his Liverpool exit, wasn’t even named in the starting
line-up by Marseille and was left to watch the first 70
minutes of the match from the bench while Dutchman Boudewijn
Zenden was welcomed back to his old club from the start.
Both players were given warm receptions by the home fans
though and now that they don’t have to endure his
frustrating tendencies to impersonate a headless chicken
week-in, week-out, there is obviously a great deal of
affection for what the former Auxerre star did achieve
during his two seasons in a red jersey.
For all his faults though, Cisse can always point to an
impressive scoring ratio at Liverpool and the fact that he
netted in three winning cup finals despite suffering a
career-threatening injury with the club and supporters will
never forget that.
Having reached two Champions League finals over the past
three seasons there is always a danger that Rafael Benitez’s
side could become over complacent throughout the group
stages of this competition and start to feel they’ve cracked
club football’s elite tournament.
While Benitez would no doubt argue that this will never be
the case, a certain amount of urgency seemed to be lacking
in some home players.
In days gone by, you’d have expected a French side in a
European tie at Anfield to sit back and play a tight
defensive formation at a slow pace while the hosts came at
them with pace and power, surging forward to roar of the
Yet for long periods last night, Marseille turned the tables
on Liverpool as they marauded with regularity towards Pepe
Reina’s goal and eventually found their breakthrough thanks
to Mathieu Valbeuena.
Aided by a zippy surface caused by a pre-match downpour in
L4, the visitors, inspired by Algerian pocket dynamo Karim
Ziani, took the game to the home side and twice had the ball
in the net in front of the Kop before half-time only to be
denied on both occasions by a linesman’s flag.
You’d have thought that replacing fans’ favourite Franck
Ribery on Marseille’s right wing would be a tough act to
follow for the diminutive wide man but new coach Eric
Gerets, himself a European Cup winner with PSV Eindhoven in
1988, will be pleased that he seems to have inherited a
ready-made replacement for the French World Cup star who
joined German giants Bayern Munich in the summer.
Former Belgian international Gerets had an illustrious
playing career which took him to AC Milan, Liverpool’s
opponents in both the 2005 and 2007 Champions League finals,
and although he has only just taken over at the Stade
Velodrome-based outfit who have had a slow start in the
French League, he already seems to be bringing the best out
of his players.
Benitez has yet to get the best out of rookie Sebastian Leto
who endured a curtailed evening to forget before being
hauled off seven minutes into the second half following a
collection of wayward passes. While he’s been brought to
Anfield as ‘one for the future’, you don’t often have the
luxury of an extended honeymoon period at a club with
Liverpool’s levels of expectations and the Argentinian will
have to work hard on his game if he hopes to avoid becoming
a long-haired Mark Gonzalez.
If Houllier’s guilty pleasure was Senegalese World Cup
performers then Benitez might have to be wary of South
American wingers becoming his Achilles heel.
After hitting Derby County for six, Liverpool have now
failed to score in consecutive home games and while Benitez
admitted he found Birmingham’s approach frustrating in the
last Premier League encounter at Anfield, there was no
meekness on this occasion from Marseille’s cavaliers.
You can’t have it both ways and Liverpool are going to have
to learn to break down both attacking and defensive units
who come to Anfield if they’re going to succeed at home and
abroad in a season which potentially promises so much for
Rafa: Everything went wrong
By Peter Fraser - Sky Sports
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez insists
'everything was wrong' in his side's UEFA Champions League
defeat to Marseille.
The French outfit secured a 1-0 win at Anfield courtesy of
Mathieu Valbuena's 77nd minute strike to stun a lacklustre
However, the result was no more than Marseille deserved and
Benitez acknowledges that Liverpool were not good enough as
they crashed to their first defeat of the season.
"We couldn't create many chances," Benitez told Sky Sports.
"We were not controlling the middle.
"After we conceded we created some chances at the end, but
everything was wrong.
"You must give them (Marseille) credit because they were
working hard, were well organised and were pressing and we
were giving the ball away.
"We knew it could be like this with the players they have
with pace and ability.
"We were trying to change players and trying to change
positions. We were trying, but really the team was playing
However, Benitez - who made five changes to last weekend's
1-0 Premier League victory over Wigan - refused to blame his
much publicised rotation policy for the defeat.
"No," said the Spanish tactician when asked whether
shuffling his pack had an influence on the result.
"We are talking about big names before and we had some big
names, but it's not a problem. The team was not good
Jamie: We're still confident
By Jimmy Rice - LFC Official Website
Jamie Carragher remains confident
Liverpool will progress from Group A despite admitting he
and his teammates deserved to lose against Marseille.
The Reds lost 1-0 at Anfield on Wednesday night, but with
four games remaining the club's vice-captain insists it's
not yet time to panic.
"We've got to be confident," Carra told Liverpoolfc.tv.
"We've got a big, strong squad and the players have proved
over the last few years that we are very good in this
competition, so we will still have the confidence.
"We know it will be difficult but it's up to us now to show
the character and the quality to go through.
"We are making it tough for ourselves but there's still four
games in which we can get enough points.
"We didn't play well tonight, we weren't at our best and
credit to Marseille because they played well. They deserved
"Towards the end was probably the only time we put them
Rafa Benitez's side have just one point from two games in
this season's Champions League – and Carra admits it's hard
to fathom what's going wrong.
"I don't know what's going wrong in Europe at the moment,
because we're doing well in the league and Carling Cup. It's
difficult to put your finger on it.
"We've got a big game now on Sunday and we want to go out on
a win before the international break."
as Marseille claim win
Liverpool lost their unbeaten record this
season and saw their Champions League dreams take a beating
after a 1-0 home defeat by Marseille.
Marseille, despite terrible domestic form, have now won both
their opening Group A matches and appear likely to qualify
for the knockout stages.
The French club's winner came from the night's best player,
midfielder Mathieu Valbuena with 13 minutes left - but their
superiority should have been rewarded a lot earlier.
Porto's win in Turkey against Besiktas makes Liverpool's
quest for qualification that bit harder.
Liverpool could not afford to repeat the slow start they
produced in Porto in their opening game - but they were
again slow out of the blocks.
Marseille, clearly intent on impressing new coach Erik
Gerets in his first match in control of the French side,
made Liverpool look slow and way off the pace.
The visitors' midfield of Valbuena, Benoit Cheyrou and Karim
Ziani dominated, with skipper Lorik Cana effortlessly
controlling play from the holding role.
Liverpool were constantly ambushed in possession, or just
gave the ball away. They looked a yard slower at almost
everything in a very worrying first half.
With Mohamed Sissoko let down by his passing and skipper
Steven Gerrard forced to do the running of several of his
team-mates, it was a miracle that Liverpool were still level
at the break.
Marseille were almost ahead early on when Ziani robbed Fabio
Aurelio and set up Mamadou Niang in the box, the resulting
shot cannoning away off Jose Reina's knee.
Gerrard was booked for a tackle on Cheyrou before Niang
missed a clear volley from Taye Taiwo's deep cross.
Former Liverpool man Boudewijn Zenden was effective on the
left, neatly moving into space inside.
Sebastian Leto, preferred on the left to John Arne Riise and
Ryan Babel, started competitively but was soon being swept
aside as Marseille continually surged forward, Valbuena a
Marseille, who have only managed one domestic victory this
season, looked a totally different side to the one which had
performed badly enough to cost Albert Emon his job as coach
It took Benitez just five minutes of the second half to
replace Leto with Riise, Sissoko having already been booked
for a foul on Valbuena.
It was not much better elsewhere in Liverpool's ranks, and
when Valbuena's clever turn exposed Jamie Carragher, the
Anfield defender was the next to be booked for hauling back
the elusive playmaker.
Benitez was a picture of annoyance on the line, and when he
opted to bring on Voronin, he changed his mind about who was
to come off.
First it was Fernando Torres, and then after a quick
rethink, Aurelio was replaced.
At the same time Marseille brought off Niang and replaced
him with Djibril Cisse, who got a warm reception from the
Dirk Kuyt was next into the fray for Liverpool, taking over
from Peter Crouch, who had made little impact even if the
amount of decent possession he was afforded was minimal.
Eventually Marseille got the goal they deserved - and it
followed squandered possession by Sissoko in the 77th
The ball was quickly moved by Zenden to Valbuena, who saw
his 20-yard shot crack against the angle of the bar and post
on its way into the net.
Marseille surprisingly took off Valbuena on 83 minutes,
sending on Wilson Oruma.
When Zenden limped off with three minutes left, Salim
Arrache taking over, Marseille were within touching distance
of a historic victory.
Gail Givet had barely given Torres a yard all night, and it
says something for the efforts of Liverpool's forwards that
it was Sami Hyypia who had their best two efforts before
Yossi Benayoun saw a low header pushed away by Steve
Mandanda in injury-time.
Torres then hit a post after Gerrard had stormed through to
cause chaos in the Marseille box.
But the French clung on and Liverpool just did not deserve
anything from this, all their best efforts coming in four
minutes of injury-time.