Anfield set for
summer of change
By Ben Thornley - Liverpool Daily Post
In the context of both sides’ seasons, the
outcome of yesterday’s contest was as meaningless as
the Premier League’s fit and proper person test.
Liverpool fans, however, will hope that this 1-0 victory
will not be remembered for anything more significant than
Fernando Torres’ record-equalling strike in the coming
As the players embarked on the traditional lap of honour
which accompanies the final home game of the season, many
will already be aware that this was their last appearance in
red at this stadium.
Given the continued uncertainty behind the scenes at the
club, it is not entirely unconceivable that this could also
prove to be Rafael Benitez’s Anfield farewell.
Yet, with Benitez’s planning for next term already underway
– the Spaniard yesterday refused to elaborate further on the
club’s £10m bid for Gareth Barry – the portents are
certainly favourable. For the manager’s survival at least.
For others the future appears less clear. Benitez’s interest
in the Villa captain casts further doubt over Xabi Alonso,
who continues to be linked with a move away from Anfield
At least the Spain midfielder, a 74th minute substitute, was
given the opportunity to say his goodbyes to the ground he
has graced for the last four years – should this prove to be
his Anfield bow, of course.
Peter Crouch – the subject of an approach by Portsmouth last
week, John Arne Riise and Jermaine Pennant were not even
named among the substitutes. Intriguingly, nor were they
present on the parade around the pitch – the first during
Benitez’s reign that will not be proceeded by involvement in
an end of season showpiece.
No final, perhaps, but the progress made during this
troubled season should not be overlooked.
However, if Liverpool are to continue taking Crouch-sized
steps forward during the summer months, the ownership issue
must be resolved with haste and investment provided for
Benitez’s squad rebuilding.
One player around whom no ambiguity surrounds, Fernando
Torres, provided his manager with the most compelling of
arguments that he should again be backed with significant
funds in the close season.
In deciding this match with his 32nd strike of an incredible
debut term in English football, Torres also collected his
eighth consecutive home League goal, equalling Roger Hunt’s
record of eight in a row at Anfield.
And there can be no better illustration of why Benitez
should be allowed to compete at the top end of the transfer
market, rather than be forced to scramble around for free
transfers and bargains, than the contributions of Torres and
Andriy Voronin to this match. Although that may yet prove to
be a little harsh on the incoming Phillip Degen.
The Spain international’s performance was everything
Liverpool fans have come to expect from the club record
signing, all power, pace and panache.
And, most importantly, a delightfully taken goal – does he
score any other kind?
However, Voronin, who replaced Steven Gerrard on 78 minutes,
continues to look out of his depth at this level, a smart
throughball for his strike partner aside.
With Crouch, an unused substitute against Chelsea in
midweek, understandably unwilling to play second fiddle to
the likes of the Ukrainian, Benitez must look to secure a
top-class striker in the summer as back-up to Torres.
The right wing berth, too – as it seemingly has been since
his arrival – will also be a priority for the manager.
A move out to the flank may have revitalised Dirk Kuyt’s
season, but Liverpool need a specialist rather than a
makeshift winger, with Blackburn’s highly-rated David
Bentley thought to be among those under consideration for
It was, however, from a teasing right-sided centre that Kuyt
fashioned the first chance of the game on 20 minutes, which
his international colleague Ryan Babel headed just over
after arriving at the near post as Liverpool began to seize
control of the game.
Torres and Gerrard were both off target before the skipper
drew an eye-catching save from City keeper Joe Hart with a
curling effort on 32 minutes.
Babel, who grabbed a late consolation effort as Liverpool
exited the Champions League on Wednesday, again looked
lively on the left wing after shaking off the effects of Sun
Jihai’s reckless fourth-minute tackle.
He was involved in a flowing move on the left on 37 minutes,
playing a one-two with Torres before delivering a cross
which just evaded the head of Kuyt.
Liverpool began the second-half with more immediacy, with
Torres going close on 47 minutes after being fed by Steve
Gerrard’s intuitive throughball and Javier Mascherano
delighting the Kop with a jinking run and shot either side
of Elano hitting the upright.
Torres was not to be denied on 58 minutes, however, when a
City clearance deflected kindly off the chest of Kuyt into
his path. There was still much do however as he confronted a
terrified Richard Dunne on the edge of the penalty box.
A change of pace and a flurry of feet took him beyond the
lumbering centre-back – who may have improved since his
Everton days but still turns like a Mersey ferry – before
making light of a difficult angle with a confident finish.
Hart then pulled off a remarkable double stop, first denying
Kuyt from a stinging volley before saving an overhead kick
by Lucas from the rebound.
Kuyt then wasted another opportunity to double the hosts’
advantage, nodding over a fine right-wing cross from Sami
Hyypia of all people, before the Dutch striker was again
thwarted from another header by Hart.
City striker Benjani –perhaps the first Premier League
player ever to wear gloves in May – solicited a fine stop
from Pepe Reina with a stinging freekick shortly before
Torres failed with an attempted lob.
ready to apply final touches
Comment by Ben Blackmore - Setanta Sports
If you had taken any of the 43,074
Liverpool fans inside Anfield on Sunday and asked them to
script one match that encapsulates The Reds’ season, the 1-0
triumph over Manchester City would have been pretty
Liverpool 1-0 up, at home, Fernando Torres the goalscorer,
Liverpool creating and wasting a plethora of chances. The
only thing missing was a late equaliser for the visitors.
The Reds have dropped 15 points at home this season, eight
of which came against sides outside the ‘Big Four’, points
that would have put Liverpool three behind Manchester United
going into the final day of the season.
Of course football is a game of ‘ifs’, but it shows how
close The Reds are and how gigantic this summer is for Rafa
Benitez, a summer that - in my opinion - will see a bigger
change in Liverpool than any of the previous three close
seasons Benitez has overseen.
The Spaniard is such an obsessive in pursuit of perfection
that after a meal from his wife he probably tells her that
the pasta could have been improved if she had rotated the
penne for the tagliatelle, and if her pre-meal appetisers
had offered more ‘possibilities’.
Since taking over Liverpool four seasons ago, Benitez has
moulded a team that looks more and more like his Valencia
model by the day.
Liverpool are tough to beat, their defence robust, and if
Jose Reina keeps a clean sheet at Tottenham next week he is
guaranteed The Premier League’s Golden Glove for highest
number of clean sheets (currently 17).
The quartet of Daniel Agger, Jamie Carragher, Martin Skrtel
and Sami Hyypia means Benitez can forget about the heart of
Ahead of them Benitez now has players he trusts for the dual
anchor-man role in midfield – a system that defined his
Valencia team in the same way 4-3-3 defined Jose Mourinho’s
Furthest forward, the Liverpool boss has a world class
striker in Torres (the one thing he never had at Valencia),
a player who could match that level in Ryan Babel, and of
course he has Steven Gerrard.
So what can Liverpool fans expect this summer?...Answer: The
introduction of top quality ball players.
Look back at the Valencia side that destroyed Liverpool on
two occasions during the 2002/03 season. The attacking trio
behind the striker read: Vicente, Rufete, Pablo Aimar.
All gifted technicians on the football - not the
hard-working, defensively sound wide options that Liverpool
have so far coped with in the mould of Dirk Kuyt or Antonio
Supporting those wide players were the raiding figures of
Amedeo Carboni and Curro Torres, who played more as second
wingers than cautious full backs.
Other than Fabio Aurelio (and maybe Emiliano Insua),
Liverpool’s full backs are either defensive liabilities
(Riise and Arbeloa) or unable to fit the more flowing game
(Finnan) that Benitez produced at El Mestalla.
For me, Benitez has always wanted to utilise better
footballers. You only need look at the crop of technically
gifted youngsters that have just won the reserve title to
see his vision.
But now he has the money, the defensive platform, and the
spine to add the gloss.
I won’t suggest names, but I do believe Liverpool fans are
more likely to see a David Silva than a Mohamed Sissoko
entering the Melwood entrance door this summer.
They will be signings that radically change Liverpool from a
functional, defence-first outfit, to one that will possess
far greater creation next season.
Expect to hear less of Arsenal fans chanting “Liverpool,
BOOT the ball” from now on, and more of Liverpool fans
bouncing to “Fernando Torres, Liverpool’s number nine”.
hails 'fantastic' Torres
By Paul Hassall at Anfield - LFC Official Website
Rafael Benitez paid tribute to the
finishing qualities of Fernando Torres after the Spaniard
fired Liverpool to a 1-0 victory over Manchester City in our
final home match of the season.
The Reds boss was delighted to finish the club's Anfield
campaign with a win and was full of praise for the man
nicknamed El Nino, after he equalled Ruud Van Nistelrooy's
record of 23, for the most goals scored by a foreigner in
their first season in the Premier League.
"It was another good goal and all without penalties," said
"It's an amazing number of goals, fantastic for him,
fantastic for our supporters - for now and in the future."
The triumph was the perfect end to a week that saw the Reds'
hopes of a third Champions League final in just four seasons
ended by an extra-time defeat at Chelsea.
It means the club end the season empty-handed and while
there was no trophy to share with the fans on the post-match
lap of honour, Benitez felt it was still important for the
players to show their appreciation to the supporters.
"If you win the last game you must enjoy it with the
supporters," he said. "We were really disappointed after
Wednesday but we were very close.
"You cannot change these things so the only thing we can do
now is try and enjoy it and say thank you. The supporters
were amazing throughout the whole season; for the team and
especially for me so it's just to say thank you and try to
enjoy some minutes with them.
"I think we had a lot of chances today. During the summer we
will work on this and try to improve the squad, so maybe it
will be easier to try and take our chances next season."
Ahead of the match Benitez handed a first start of the
season to reserve left-back Emiliano Insua, and after the
Argentinean produced a composed display, the Reds boss was
keen to offer some encouraging words for the youngster.
"I think he did okay," continued Rafa.
"These kind of games are difficult to come into but against
a player with experience he was good. I told him not to go
forward so much as we have Ryan Babel on the left, who is a
very offensive player.
"But when he did go forward he was good and it is one of his
main attributes. Today he was good in defence, worked hard
and showed quality on the ball.
"We have some players very close to the first team. They
will need more experience but at least you know you can use
them if you need to and Insua is one of these players."
Benitez also offered some support to City boss Sven Goran
Eriksson, who he feels has done a good job in leading the
Blues to a top 10 finish.
"There supporters were supporting him which is positive,"
"He is doing a good job and the supporters were backing him.
He has experience, is a clever man and does not need advice
We handed Reds win
By Chris Burton - Sky Sports
Sven Goran Eriksson believes that
Manchester City's inability to keep the ball cost them dear
The Blues boss saw his side go down 1-0 away at Liverpool in
a game in which the visitors never looked like grabbing a
share of the spoils.
They squandered possession far too easily and were fortunate
not to be on the end of a heavier defeat after seeing their
opponents waste a number of gilt-edged opportunities.
Eriksson acknowledged that his side had not been good enough
on the day, but was pleased by the attitude on show from his
"I think we were very much in the game first-half," he told
"Then during 10-15 minutes in the second-half Liverpool
became very good and we gave away too many balls, and then
we came back.
"We are not on holidays yet and at least we tried for 90
minutes to create chances and equalise, which is good.
"Of course we gave it away and I think if you take away
corners and free-kicks every time they created a chance we
gave the ball away some seconds before.
"It's something we should avoid, but when you play Liverpool
away it's not easy."
With speculation continuing to suggest that Eriksson will be
shown the door at Eastlands over the summer, the Swede was
delighted to have received the backing of the away support
during the game on Merseyside.
"It's very nice that they appreciate what they see and what
they have seen during the season and they believe that the
team has a future," he said.
The former England manager refused to comment on his own
future, and insists that he remains focused on City's final
game of the season away at Middlesbrough next Sunday.
"The future for now is Middlesbrough away," he said.
"It's not good to talk before the season is finished, I am
responsible for this team I am the manager of the team and I
want time to have a go next Sunday.
"But we go to Middlesbrough with the right attitude.
Eriksson also believes that he has done a good job at City
this season, despite the criticism from club owner Thaksin
"I don't think we can be worse than ninth, and best eighth,
so I think it is good," he added.
"At a certain point I had a dream along with the fans and
the players that we could reach Europe.
"That's very difficult at this moment, impossible, but I
think the first year for a lot of the players has been a
another bit of history
Liverpool Daily Post
Fernando Torres wrote another piece of
history for himself with his 32nd goal of a stunning first
season in English football.
Only Cristiano Ronaldo has stood between Torres and the PFA
and Writers’ Footballer of the Year awards this week, and
yet another fine strike here underlined why.
The Spaniard has now scored in eight successive home league
games which equals Roger Hunt’s club record.
His 15th in his last 17 games shows the remarkable
consistency of the front-man.
The winner came in the 58th minute when he cruised past
Richard Dunne to beat Joe Hart with an angled drive.
Much of the game had been dominated by City fans venting
their anger at the likely sacking of their manager
Sven-Goran Eriksson, but it was Torres who again stole the
Liverpool’s final home match of the campaign ended with a
lap of honour, and Torres took much of the acclaim.
Boss Rafael Benitez also received his ovation. There will be
no Champions League final this season, but the Kop made it
clear that they don’t want to see their manager go the same
way as Eriksson.
Benitez made five changes from the side that lost at Chelsea
in the Champions League semi-final in midweek, with Steve
Finnan, Lucas, Sami Hyypia, Ryan Babel and youngster
Emiliano Insua coming in.
Out went Xabi Alonso, Martin Skrtel, Yossi Benayoun, Alvaro
Arbeloa and John Arne Riise.
And still Peter Crouch could not get a game, the lanky
striker did not even make the bench.
Troubled Manchester City - who have lost four of their last
five - recalled captain Richard Dunne, with Gelson Fernandes
dropping to the bench.
For Liverpool, this was just a game for pride with nothing
else now to play for with their European exit.
But for City, the game had taken on a whole new dimension.
The future of manager Sven-Goran Eriksson was all that
mattered to their fans packed into the Anfield road end.
With owner Thaksin Shinawatra hell-bent on sacking the
former England coach - seemingly against the wishes of
virtually everyone else at Eastlands - those fans sang his
name, hoisted ’Save our Sven’ banners and made it perfectly
clear who they were backing.
City fans even came up with an impressive version of a
famous Pink Floyd song as ’Thaksin, leave our Sven alone’
boomed across Anfield.
Eriksson waved obligingly, gave the thumbs up and bowed in
appreciation to supporters who do not understand how a rare
top half finish in the Premier League is not good enough.
And their team, who are believed to be upset by
developments, responded with a confident display. City were
quicker and sharper in the opening stages, Michael Johnson
and Stephen Ireland impressing in midfield.
Liverpool had plenty of possession, but initially created
nothing of substance, apart from a Babel header over.
Fernando Torres then saw an angled cross-shot skid just wide
on the far post, while Steven Gerrard - from 30-yards out -
had goalkeeper Joe Hart flying across his box.
Liverpool were now improving. And when Insua’s pass inside
to Gerrard found his captain 20-yards out, a swerving shot
forced Hart into an excellent save to his left.
After the break, only a fine interception from Vedran
Corluka stopped Gerrard taking advantage of a clever Torres
set-up, while Kuyt headed the resulting corner just wide.
Liverpool were much more positive now and Torres got away on
the left from a superb Gerrard pass, but guided his shot
just wide of the far post.
City responded with a fine Elano free-kick from 20-yards
that hit Jose Reina’s near post.
But in the 58th minute, Torres got his customary goal.
A poor Michael Ball clearance was headed back into the
Spanish international’s path, and he took on and beat Dunne
before he angled his finish across Hart and into the far
That goal meant Torres equalled the all-time Liverpool
record of scoring in eighth successive home league game.
Roger Hunt, in Division Two in 1961-62, is the only other
man to achieve the feat.
City then brought on ex-Liverpool midfielder Dietmar Hamann,
who was instrumental in their Champions League final victory
in 2005, for Elano and the German received a standing
ovation from the Anfield crowd.
Nery Castillo took over from Martin Petrov, with Liverpool
replacing Babel with Benayoun.
Alonso and Andriy Voronin both got a late run-out in place
of Lucas and Gerrard, but City made it clear this was not
over when Benjani blasted in a 25-yard free-kick that Reina
struggled to beat away.
City then sent on Javier Garrido for Darius Vassell. But
Torres was looking for more, and having the beating for pace
of Corluka and Dunne, he almost chipped Hart on the run.