After The Match 


Liverpool-Fulham 2-0 (0-0)     10.11.07                                PL
Goals: Torres (81), Gerrard (85 pen)
Team: Reina, Arbeloa, Aurelio, Carragher, Hyypia, Gerrard, Benayoun, Riise, Mascherano, Voronin, Crouch
Subs: Babel (Riise 63), Torres (Voronin 71),
Lucas (Mascherano 81)
Not used: Martin, Finnan
Yellow: Murphy (54), Dempsey (64)
Red: None
Referee: Steve Tanner (Somerset)
Attendance: 43,073
Shots on target: 11-3
Shots off target: 9-3
Blocked shots: 3-1
Fouls conceded: 9-13
Corners: 8-2
Offsides: 5-3
Possession: 66.4-33.6
Yellow: 0-2
HEADLINES "It was good
to see Fernando come back and score
a really
good goal."

     Rafael Benitez

1311: Rotation policy used too soon
1211: Rafa hails Reina role
1211: Benitez may at last have found his finest XI
1111: Torres makes the difference
1011: Rafa hails Torres strike
1011: Crouch praises Cottagers defence
1011: Liverpool late show downs Fulham 


Rotation policy used too soon

By Mark Lawrenson - Liverpool Daily Post

What happened at Anfield on Saturday proves Liverpool have a strong squad.

But it’s a shame that they will soon enter a phase of the season where they will have to use it.

Manchester United and Arsenal, on the other hand, don’t. They can save their best line-ups for picking up Premier League points, safe in the knowledge that they have already qualified for the Champions League knockout stages.

Liverpool don’t have that luxury, but I reckon they would have if they had played pretty much their best starting XI in every game so far.

I always think rotation shouldn’t kick in until March or April, by which time you can let the circumstances of the season dictate which side you pick.

But from August to December you worry about August to December. Send out your best players all the time and, like Arsenal and United, it’s happy days.

Rafael Benitez will be glad he has the strength in depth to help him win those final two group games in the Champions League and Liverpool have it in them to join their rivals in the last 16.

But whether they can keep pace with them in the Premier League during this vital forthcoming period is another matter entirely.

Rafa hails Reina role

By Tom Kell - Setanta Sports

Substitute Fernando Torres was widely recognised as the man who changed the game during Liverpool’s 2-0 win over Fulham on Saturday, but manager Rafa Benitez feels the contribution of keeper Jose Reina should not go unheralded.

Torres came off the bench and scored Liverpool’s first, but it was Reina’s quick thinking and precise ball that allowed his fellow Spaniard to prevent another Liverpool stalemate.

Reina also pulled off a fine save to deny former Anfield midfielder Danny Murphy from giving The Cottagers a first-half lead and, in doing so, took his record to seven Premier League clean sheets in twelve games this season.

“Reina is a goalkeeper with real game intelligence,” said Benitez. “He can read the game and play the kind of balls he delivered to Torres.

“He can play these passes to strikers if the strikers move for the ball. A modern goalkeeper needs to be able to read the game like this. That is the difference.

“You can save 100 balls, but if you don’t do something more you will be a good goalkeeper – not a top-class goalkeeper.”

Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard was also keen to praise Reina for his role in Torres’ goal ten minutes from time.

“He’s a quality goalie. It was probably his assist – he doesn’t just kick it upfield, he also passes it out at the back.”

Benitez may at last
have found his finest XI

By Nick Smith - Liverpool Daily Post

Like anyone who kicks a habit, the lesson of ‘all things in moderation’ is a valuable one to learn. And so it could now prove for Rafael Benitez, who fell off the rotation wagon on Saturday but dusted himself off to make the subtle changes that brought a first home Premier League win for more than two months.

The Liverpool manager has spent the best part of three years altering his line-ups from game to game. In that time he has only named consecutive starting XIs once and even that seemed to only be to deny his harshest critics the satisfaction of pointing out that he had reached a century of successive bouts of team-tweaking.

But on Saturday he stuck to the side that destroyed Besiktas and tinkering with it during the game instead of before ultimately paid rich dividends.

Admittedly that’s not difficult when you have Fernando Torres to bring on – but keeping it simple is something Benitez hasn’t always been able to grasp when judging how best to shuffle his pack.

Despite a certain phone-in presenter not appreciating the shambles that was Torres’s last hasty return from injury against Arsenal two weeks ago, his introduction was perfectly timed both as insurance against a repeat of a similar lapse and in terms of the way the game was heading.

In short, a fifth draw in six Premier League games at Anfield, debilitating to the hopes of even a side still unbeaten in mid-November.

To that end, it’s no problem whatsoever that Liverpool had to rely on Torres to breakdown Lawrie Sanchez’s battlers – all successful title-chasing operations need a Plan B. And when it works so emphatically, there really is nothing to worry about. After all, Fulham are no Besiktas.

Granted, they’re certainly not six goals better them but no matter how dire their distribution is when they get possession, no struggling side in the Premier League ever gives in to the pathetic extent the Turks did on Tuesday.

Anyone expecting Liverpool to pick up that baton with a smooth changeover was always going to be disappointed.

True to form, Fulham, just like their coach Dave Beasant’s curly mop, refused to budge. Easing a class act like Torres on for the final stages instead of overloading his workload by rushing him back in from the start, meant the stage was perfectly set for the Spaniard.

Sanchez insisted his ‘soft’ shot for the opening goal was a miss-hit but that’s classic beaten-manager nonsense. When Dirk Kuyt received the ball in those inside-right areas at Blackburn a week ago, he desperately looked for help from his team-mates instead of haring towards goals and his indecision wrecked those situations.

No such danger when Torres had a similar one as another evening ebbed towards more frustrating stalemate. His exploitation of the opportunity was one a Setanta scheduler mapping out the Christmas rotas would have been proud of – like all match-winning goalscorers, his instinct ruled out all other options apart from scoring.

One shift inside and casual placement inside the near post beyond a stationary (and superbly in-form) goalkeeper later, it was pretty much game over given the ineptitude of the opponents at the other end.

Torres’s overall presence had already made that 81st-minute deadlock-breaker something of an inevitability and fellow substitute Ryan Babel didn’t exactly allow them to put their feet up in front of the fire on an unforgiving wintry night either.

Far clumsier and altogether less convincing than Torres the Dutchman may be but, unlike Sky’s one-and-three-quarter hour Champions League pre-amble, there’s never a dull moment.

He played Peter Crouch in for the clinching penalty and in that moment underlined how Benitez had on this occasion got his team changes just right – the impact players arriving on cue to deliver the all-important three points.

Of course, such an outcome at home to Fulham should be routine and the fact that it wasn’t is one to ponder during the next irritating two-week break.

But at least Benitez can spend it wondering if the side he finished Saturday’s game with might finally have provided him with the elusive nugget of information his encyclopaedic football knowledge has been missing. The identity of his best XI.

Torres makes the difference

By Paul Walker - PA Sport

Fernando Torres was the expensive difference for Liverpool as they claimed a critical victory over Fulham and maintained their unbeaten league record.

Anfield chief Rafael Benitez purred over the influence of his big-money signing saying: "That's what you get for the fee."

For Fulham boss Lawrie Sanchez similar sentiments came through gritted teeth as he saw the second chance in his career to cut Liverpool down to size swept from his grasp.

Back in 1988, it was Sanchez's header that gave little Wimbledon the FA Cup at Liverpool's expense, arguably the greatest cup final shock of modern times.

How the Dons gloated over that. The long-ball boys, then from south London, had destroyed England's most successful club.

This time around Sanchez's systems and style have barely changed, and Fulham sweated and toiled at Anfield to bring Liverpool within minutes of another setback.

Had the hosts not won this one, the critics would have been written off their title dreams - and they would have been right.

But £20million Torres arrived from the bench to change all that. He scored a sublime goal of quality, movement, touch and clever finishing.

Benitez was also able to throw on Ryan Babel, £11million, and Lucas, £5million, in that dramatic conclusion and Sanchez and his men could not cope.

Sanchez then, surprisingly, claimed Torres' goal was mishit and a soft effort. He also, rightly, insisted that the blatant trip on Peter Crouch that produced Steven Gerrard's even later penalty, was outside the box.

Then Sanchez really revealed his inner-most feelings, with a half-joke that only he failed to laugh at.

Sanchez said: "It wasn't working for them. That is why they brought on three substitutes. One at £25m, one at £11m and one at £5m. There should be cap on the price of players you can bring on, maybe no more than £20m of players.

"Liverpool brought a bit of talent off the bench and it changed the game. I actually felt that Torres mis-hit his final shot, it was a soft goal to concede.

"As for the penalty, it wasn't in the box, it wasn't a penalty."

TV replays showed Sanchez was right about that, but Crouch felt it was so blatant that morally Liverpool deserved the spot-kick.

He said: "When Fernando came on he gave us something a little bit different. The penalty was borderline but I was almost through on goal, so it is a goalscoring chance."

As for Sanchez's comments on Torres, even if he got the fee a touch wrong, the more you see the goal to more outstanding it is.

Liverpool even used the long-ball game that has been an integral part of Sanchez's career as a player and manager at club and international level.

Torres took a 60-yard Jose Reina punt out of the air in one sweet movement of his chest, controlled it perfectly with his next touch and then cut Fulham open with pace, movement and a deft touch inside the near post. Soft it was not.

But maybe seeing Liverpool use the long-ball art so well, grated just a little on Sanchez, plus the fact that Benitez has riches Sanchez can only dream of.

Benitez said: "With Torres' quality, and Babel the same, that was the difference.

"I have the problem of leaving top players in the stand or putting them on the bench. But it is a good problem, Fernando came on and scored a fine goal.

"But Fernando's job is to score goals, I only said 'well done' to the whole team, they are all the same."

And Benitez revealed also that he had delayed Torres' return from a second adductor muscle injury because he did not really believe the striker's claims that he was fully fit.

Torres broke down in his original comeback against Arsenal, and now Benitez clearly thinks twice when he is assured everything is fine!

He said: "Fernando was OK to play. But I needed to be sure. For the Arsenal game, after he had been out for some weeks, he said to me that he was fully fit, he wasn't. Very soon into the game that was clear.

"Then in midweek against Besiktas he again assured me he was fit. But I was not sure.

"He said he was 100 per cent ready but I did not believe that. This time I watched him train and I knew he was fit."

And Benitez, after his 200th game in charge, added: "If we want to be contenders, we must win many games in a row. Fernando's goal was very good, real quality. But when we signed him we knew he can do things like this.

"Goals like that are what you pay big money for, it was great quality and showed tremendous skill. It is what you expect from a player of his value."

Rafa hails Torres strike

By Paul Hassall at Anfield - LFC Official Website

Rafa Benitez praised the impact of Fernando Torres after the striker came off the bench to fire Liverpool to a late victory over Fulham.

The Reds had endured an evening of frustration until the Spain international broke the deadlock on 81 minutes and Benitez admitted it was always in his mind to bring his compatriot on if they needed a goal.

"It was good to see Fernando come back and score a really good goal," said Benitez.

"It was good for him and good for us. But the other strikers did a good job too. Okay in this case it was Fernando who scored but Voronin had three or four good chances and I was pleased with them.

"The idea was to keep him (Torres) on the bench and if we needed something we knew he was there and the supporters would always be behind him."

Steven Gerrard sealed a 2-0 victory with a penalty five minutes from time but Benitez admitted that although he was confident they would eventually make the breakthrough, the Reds had struggled to break Lawrie Sanchez's side down.

"I had confidence but we had some problems because we were pushing forward and it left spaces in the midfield," he said.

"We had some chances but the problem was that they were very compact and we were trying to move the ball and attack in the wide areas because it is not easy playing between the lines.

"We had to be patient but we made a lot of chances and I am pleased that we scored two goals and won the game."

Crouch praises Cottagers defence


Peter Crouch was thankful Liverpool finally got the breakthrough they deserved on the way to a 2-0 Premier League win over Fulham at Anfield.

Liverpool had to wait until the 81st minute before substitute Fernando Torres put them in front and on the way to a victory which has put them up to fourth in the table.

The Reds' England forward Crouch was through on goal when he was brought down for a penalty converted by Steven Gerrard for the second goal - and he later reflected on a hard-earned three points.

"We were always on top. But they defended really well, and it was hard to break them down - so credit to them," said Crouch.

"Thankfully, we got the goal - and I think we would have had a few more if we had gone on much longer."

The arrival of Torres made the difference for Liverpool, and Crouch added: "We have a lot of quality in the squad, and I thought all the boys did well today.

"But when Fernando came on, he gave us a little bit different."

As for the penalty, Crouch conceded the foul was close to the edge of the penalty area - but probably just inside.

"It is borderline - but I am almost through on goal, so it is a goalscoring chance," he said.

Liverpool late show downs Fulham

By John Sinnott - BBC Sport Online

Fernando Torres' superb individual goal and a Steven Gerrard penalty pushed Liverpool up to fourth as Fulham again imploded in the last 10 minutes.

Torres twisted and turned to get the better of Aaron Hughes, before beating goalkeeper Antti Niemi with a low shot.

Peter Crouch, who hit the bar with a first-half header, won the penalty when he was fouled by Carlos Bocanegra and Gerrard's spot-kick was unstoppable.

Niemi was superb for Fulham in goal, making a series of top-class saves.

During midweek Liverpool had thrashed Besiktas 8-0 in the Champions League, but Fulham proved less accommodating as Rafa Benitez named an unchanged side for the first time in over a year.

Prior to Saturday's game, Liverpool had drawn four home games and for 80 minutes Fulham looked they might be another side to come away from Anfield with a point.

But not for the first time this season Fulham, who now have conceded goals in the last 10 times seven times this season, failed to last the course.

Deploying David Healy and Shefki Kuqi in attack, Fulham tried to get their midfield players to support them as quickly as possible in the early stages of the game.

Kuqi's aerial presence caused Liverpool problems, while former Reds midfielder Danny Murphy tried his luck with a couple of long-range efforts.

Kuqi worked tirelessly for Fulham, tracking back to help out his defenders.

And Fulham's defensive organisation ensured Liverpool struggled to create clear chances in an even first half, ensuring Niemi had only one real save to make in the opening period from Sami Hyypia's shot.

Andriy Voronin briefly unsettled the Fuham defence when he emerged unmarked at the far post, but after controlling the ball on his chest he misplaced his pass.

Even so Liverpool were unlucky not to go in at the interval ahead when Crouch's looping header bounced off the bar.

Just after the restart Crouch headed the ball down to Voronin, but the Ukrainian forward's shot was comfortably gathered by Niemi.

On 55 minutes the Fulham keeper had an altogehter less comfortable moment when he was momentarily deceived by Fabio Aurelio's free-kick, before recovering to make the save.

Soon afterwards Niemi had to push the ball over the bar from Voronin's rising shot, though Voronin was to completely miss his kick when Liverpool's next chance arrived.

Niemi's best save of the game came from Yossi's Benayoun's chip which looked goalbound before the Finn got one hand to the ball and pushed it past the post.

Benayoun had an influential game for Liverpool and a clever pass released Voronin, but the Ukrainian's shot flashed past the post.

On came Ryan Babel and Torres and the Spanish striker's arrival proved decisive.

Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina played a part in Torres' goal, his huge kick finding his Spanish compatriot deep in the Fulham half.

Torres' tricky bamboozled Hughes and having created space the former Atletico Madrid beat Niemi with a low shot inside the near post.

Crouch was then tripped by Bocanegra and Gerrard's powerful penalty gave Niemi no chance.

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