After The Match 


Liverpool-Marseille 0-1 (0-0)        3.10.07                            CL
Goals: Valbuena (77)
Team: Reina, Finnan, Aurelio, Carragher, Hyypia, Sissoko, Gerrard, Benayoun, Leto, Torres, Crouch
Subs: Riise (Leto 52), Voronin (Aurelio 70), Kuyt (Crouch 75)
Not used: Itandje, Arbeloa, Babel, Mascherano
Yellow: Gerrard (19, Sissoko (51), Carragher (64)
Red: None
Referee: Konrad Plautz
Attendance: 43,000
Shots on target: 2-7
Shots off target: 6-8
Blocked shots: 5-0
Fouls conceded: 16-12
Corners: 7-4
Offsides: 3-5
Possession: 46.2-53.8
Yellow: 3-0
HEADLINES "We are making it tough for ourselves..."
Jamie Carragher

0410: Rafa: We must show character
0410: Time for a men only inquest as Liverpool falter
0410: Sissoko scoffs at crisis talk
0410: Marseille delighted with ‘historical’ win
0410: Liverpool FC taught French lesson as visitors...
0410: Rafa: Everything went wrong
0310: Jamie: We're still confident
0310: Reds stunned as Marseille claim win  

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 Besiktas.

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 rotation policy.

The Anfield chief has now made a staggering 62 changes to his side over 12 matches this term, and has used 34 substitutes.

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 matches.

But Benitez will not be moved on his rotation policy.

He said: "It is not the changes, it is big players not playing well."

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 badly."

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 were wrong.

"We were trying to do too much, to do everything and we needed to be calm and do the things that we would usually have done."

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 group."

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 bad night.

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 them.

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 title glory.

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 too.

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 name.

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 night’s farrago.

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 joined.

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 heartache.

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 crisis.

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 future.

“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 L’OM’s website.

“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 their heads.

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 Kop.

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 them.

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 Liverpool.

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 bad."

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 enough."

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 "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 to win.

"Towards the end was probably the only time we put them under pressure."

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."

Reds stunned 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 constant threat.

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 last month.

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 Anfield fans.

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 minute.

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.

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