Rafa praises debut boy Damien
By Jimmy Rice at the Emirates - LFC Official Website
Rafa Benitez was full of praise for
debutant Damien Plessis after watching his side come close
to a first ever victory at the Emirates.
The 20-year-old midfielder was a surprise inclusion against
Arsenal as Benitez made eight changes from Wednesday's
Champions League encounter.
Up against Cesc Fabregas, the Frenchman put in a composed
display to stake his claim for a regular place in the squad.
Benitez said: "Today was the debut for Damien Plessis. We
knew when we signed him that he was a good player. He's
played really well for the reserves, and to play as well as
he did today in this stadium, it shows we are going in the
The game also brought a recall for Peter Crouch, who scored
the Reds goal during a man-of-the-match display.
"Crouch played really well, as did Benayoun, Lucas and
Riise. A lot of players who don't normally play played
well," said Benitez.
"Arsene Wenger also kept some players for the second leg.
You could see some players were tired but the majority
played the game with a lot of passion.
"It was an open game at the end. We knew we had to work hard
and we did that for a long time. We were well organised and
scored a good goal.
"We could have lost because they had chances, but we could
have won because we had two or three opportunities as well.
"At the end I was a little bit disappointed because we could
have won. Torres, Gerrard and Riise had some attacks."
On the prospect of Crouch signing a new contract, the
Anfield boss said: "He is a very good professional, that's
why we've offered him a new contract. I have confidence. I
know he is happy here but I also know he wants to play. We
have offered the contract and now we need to wait.
"We are playing at the moment with one striker, but we've
played a lot of the season with two. We are a team that is
winning trophies and he can be an important part of that."
Next up for Liverpool is the third part of this week's
Arsenal trilogy, with the Gunners visiting Anfield on
Tuesday for the second leg of the Champions League
The first leg ended 1-1 three days ago, meaning the sides
have now been inseparable during 270 minutes of football
On what could ultimately separate the sides, Benitez said:
"We have confidence but we know they have quality and can
play well away from home.
"The small details can be the difference. A mistake or a
top-class player will be the difference between whether we
win or lose."
A goalless draw would be enough for the Reds to progress but
Benitez added: "It's very, very difficult to play for a 0-0.
I do not know how to do it!"
Last year's Champions League semi-final against Chelsea was
decided on penalties, a very real possibility this time
Not that Gerrard and co will be spending hours honing their
skills from 12 yards over the next few days.
"I don't believe too much in practicing penalties," Benitez
explained. "I am a believer in the heart and quality of the
players. We have some good players to take penalties. We
practiced before the Chelsea semi-final but not too much,
because when you are walking from the halfway line to the
box it is just about being calm.
"Sometimes an 18-year-old player can be really good,
sometimes a 31-year-old can be not so good.
"But I will try not to think about penalties. We will try to
use our experience during the game."
Wenger: Title tilt not over
Arsene Wenger insists Arsenal can still
win the Premier League title, despite suffering a 1-1 draw
with Liverpool at Emirates Stadium.
Both Gunners boss Wenger and his opposite number Rafa
Benitez made a number of changes following Wednesday's 1-1
draw in their UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg
clash and with next week's return meeting at Anfield in
Liverpool striker Peter Crouch gave Liverpool the lead at
the end of the first half, but Nicklas Bendtner levelled on
54 minutes to leave honours even and Arsenal trailing
Manchester United and Chelsea in the top-flight title race.
However, Wenger - who believes his side should have had a
penalty when Lucas Leiva appeared to pull back Cesc Fabregas
- is adamant Arsenal's battle for domestic silverware is far
"In my brain it is not over, because it is not over
mathematically," said Wenger.
"It depends on the results of the other teams. I said we
would need at least five wins and a draw.
"It is frustrating again because I feel we had a blatant
penalty again for a foul on Fabregas, which was not given.
You can see it well on television, it is 100 per cent
"We also had a chance in the last minute to kill the game
"It was a bit of repetition of Wednesday night. We had
problems starting the game, and then got into the game after
"Then just before half-time they got the goal and then they
defended for every ball in their half and you needed to get
back to score a second goal, which was possible.
"We had to throw everything forward and left ourselves open
a little on counter-attacks. That was the game basically."
thrilled to be
By Paul Eaton - LFC Official Website
Peter Crouch was delighted to celebrate
his return to first team action with a goal during the Reds'
1-1 draw with Arsenal at the Emirates.
Crouch opened the scoring with a well taken first half goal
before Nicklas Bendtner levelled for the Gunners after the
It means the Reds have increased their lead over Everton in
fourth place to six points while Arsenal have missed a
chance to seriously close the gap on Manchester United at
the top of the table.
"I thought it was a good performance today," said Crouch
after being named man of the match.
"We had a lot of players who hadn't played a lot of football
lately and when that happens it can go one of two ways. We
can give up or we can show what we're made of.
"Of course I was pleased with my goal. It's been a while and
I thought I'd be a bit rusty to be honest. It was nice to
score and to remind people that I'm still alive. I felt I
got into the game and really enjoyed it.
"I just want to play as much football as possible. It's
frustrating when you're not involved in the big games but I
was part of it today and hopefully I can play more games
between now and the end of the season."
earn draw at Arsenal
Arsenal were once again left frustrated by
Liverpool at Emirates Stadium as a 1-1 draw dealt a near
fatal blow to their fading Premier League title hopes.
Just three days after their European tie ended all square,
both teams were back to do battle for league points.
Each manager made several changes, no doubt with one eye on
next week’s second leg of their Champions League
quarter-final, but there was still more than enough talent
on display to make for an entertaining encounter.
Recalled striker Peter Crouch gave Liverpool the lead at the
end of the first half, with Nicklas Bendtner levelling on 53
However, with Manchester United, who play at Middlesbrough
tomorrow, still five points clear at the top of the table,
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger knew only victory would have kept
their slim hopes of the title alive.
The trip to Anfield on Tuesday night now takes on extra
significance if a season which promised so much is not to
end in disappointment.
Liverpool started well and Crouch soon tested Manuel
Almunia, letting fly from 25 yards and forcing the Arsenal
goalkeeper to make an acrobatic one-handed save to tip the
Crouch was involved again in the 17th minute, this time
slipping an expert pass inside the Arsenal backline.
John Arne Riise ran onto the ball but, with William Gallas
sliding in, the Norwegian lifted his 18-yard shot over the
It was proving to be something of a chess match, with both
teams happy to wait each other out and look for a quick
After 31 minutes, Liverpool broke down the right, with Yossi
Benayoun getting in on the overlap.
However, his angled drive flashed across goal.
It should, though, have been 1-0 when, after 35 minutes, the
Gunners broke quickly through Mathieu Flamini and Theo
The ball fell to Bendtner just inside the area but the
Dane’s first-time shot was weak and straight at a grateful
Arsenal were clean in on goal again when Emmanuel Eboue beat
the offside trap and got away down the right.
However, his low cutback towards Cesc Fabregas was cleared
by the retreating Martin Skrtel.
The home side were made to pay with three minutes left to
the break when Crouch put Liverpool ahead.
The England striker headed down a long clearance from keeper
Pepe Reina, which Benayoun flicked on.
Crouch collected the ball on his chest and turned inside
Arsenal captain William Gallas before drilling his shot into
the bottom corner from the edge of the area.
After 51 minutes, a run and deflected shot from Walcott led
to a corner for Arsenal.
Fabregas floated the ball over to Kolo Toure on the penalty
spot, but the defender sent his free header wide.
Former Gunner Jermaine Pennant was booked on 53 minutes for
bundling over Armand Traore as the full-back looked to get
away down the left and Arsenal were level from the resulting
Again Fabregas was the provider as he sent over a deep cross
into the six-yard box where Bendtner timed his run towards
the near post perfectly and powered a header into the net.
The relief around Emirates Stadium was clear as the Arsenal
faithful suddenly found their voice.
Leading scorer Emanuel Adebayor was sent on, replacing
full-back Justin Hoyte, for the final 33 minutes as the
Flamini tested Reina with a low, angled drive from the right
side of the area, which the Liverpool goalkeeper held well.
Traore was replaced by Gael Clichy for the last 18 minutes
before Almunia had to claw the ball away from under his own
bar following Riise’s left-wing cross.
Arsenal continued to press for a winner, but could have been
caught out only for substitute Andriy Voronin to fire over
from 10 yards.
Fernando Torres was introduced for the final 10 minutes, as
was Arsenal’s Alexander Hleb.
However, there was no way through for the home side, who had
to settle for a point, which you suspect will not be enough
to stay in the hunt for the title.