After The Match 


Liverpool-Manchester C 1-0 (0-0)     4.5.08                        PL
Goals: Torres (58)
Team: Reina, Finnan, Insua, Carragher, Hyypia, Lucas, Mascherano, Babel, Kuyt, Gerrard, Torres
Subs: Benayoun (Babel 68), Alonso (Lucas 74),
Voronin (Gerrard 78)
Not used: Itandje, Skrtel
Yellow: None
Red: None
Referee: M Halsey
Attendance: 43,074
Shots on target: 8-2
Shots off target: 10-1
Blocked shots: 7-2
Fouls conceded: 10-5
Corners: 12-5
Offsides: 5-1
Possession: 52.8-47.2
Yellow: 0-0

HEADLINES "For me, Benitez
has always wanted
to utilise better footballers."
Ben Blackmore,
Setanta Sports

0505: Anfield set for summer of change
0405: Perfectionist Benitez
ready to apply final touches

0405: Rafa hails 'fantastic' Torres
0405: Sven: We handed Reds win
0405: Torres writes another bit of history 


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 months.

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 this summer.

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 the role.

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.

Perfectionist Benitez
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 accurate.

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 his defence.

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 Chelsea.

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 Nunez.

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”.

Rafa 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 Benitez.

"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," added Rafa.

"He is doing a good job and the supporters were backing him. He has experience, is a clever man and does not need advice from me."

Sven: 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 at Anfield.

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 players.

"I think we were very much in the game first-half," he told Sky Sports.

"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 Shinawatra.

"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 good year."

Torres writes 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 show.

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 corner.

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.

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Thor Zakariassen ©