After The Match 


Liverpool-Fulham 0-0                11.4.10                              PL
Team: Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Kyrgiakos, Agger, Mascherano, Aquilani, Babel, Maxi, Gerrard, Ngog
Subs: Kuyt (Aquilani 65), Benayoun (Babel 71), Pacheco (Ngog 78)
Not used: Cavalieri, Lucas, Degen, Ayala
Yellow: Carragher (27)            Greening (18), Murphy (71), Duff (87)
Red: None
Referee: Andre Marriner
Attendance: 42,331
Shots on target: 7-1
Shots off target: 10-0
Blocked shots: 9-2
Fouls conceded: 8-19
Corners: 10-1
Offsides: 2-0
Possession: 64.8-35.2
Yellow: 1-3

HEADLINES "As a manager you have to believe and support
your team."

Rafael Benitez
1304: Liverpool facing £100m
          cost of Euro failure

1204: Fat lady is waiting to sing her song
          for Liverpool FC Champions League hopes

1104: Torres to see specialist over knee injury
1104: Hodgson hails Fulham heroics
1104: Benitez accepts Liverpool position
1104: Fulham foil Liverpool CL hopes

Liverpool facing £100m
cost of Euro failure

By Tim Rich - Irish Independent

Concession speeches are never easy and, as he explained that the Champions League was now virtually a lost cause, Rafael Benitez's voice was hoarse and cracked. His mood was not made any easier by a Danish journalist's attempts to quiz him on the life and times of Daniel Agger while he was doing it.

In the wake of a strangely low-key goalless draw against Fulham in the Anfield sunshine, the Liverpool manager's thoughts would have turned to the lost glory rather than the lost revenue that failure to qualify for the Champions League entails -- anything up to £45m.

But it will have a significant impact on the sale of the club and in deciding Benitez's own future. Although Liverpool's owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, have appointed Barclays Capital and will appoint a new chairman, Martin Broughton from British Airways, to oversee the sale of the club, they have been told that they are now unlikely to get £500m for Liverpool and the eventual figure may be closer to £400m.

"The impact of not being in the Champions League is enormous -- it is around £30m off the bottom line, more if you get to the later stages," said Professor Chris Brady, the dean of the BPP Business School, who specialises in football finance.

"It is absolutely prime non-commercial revenue and you get it in hard cash. I was hearing this morning that they (Hicks and Gillett) were valuing the club at £600m. I would suggest that is unrealistic by £100m and the price could come down further than that.

"If you take over a club not in the Champions League, you might need to spend anything up to £100m to get them back up there. The club still needs a new stadium that would cost around £350m. The total investment needed to take over Liverpool and run it properly would be £900m to £1bn."

At the weekend, Benitez, who was still publicly confident about re-qualification for the Champions League, suggested that Liverpool needed a minimum investment of £60m on at least three players to regain their competitive edge.

The relationship between the size of a club's wage bill and success is a well-known correlation and Liverpool's is only the fifth biggest in the Premier League. Benitez alleged that Peter Crouch was able to substantially increase his salary by moving to Tottenham and any takeover would have to come with an implicit understanding that this wage bill would have to rise.

The club's bankers, the Royal Bank of Scotland and Wachovia, have now all but agreed to give Hicks and Gillett another six months to pay back £100m of the £237m they have borrowed against the club, a sum that was due to be repaid in July. However, although many on the Kop would welcome the departure of the owners, any takeover would put Benitez's job in peril -- and not just because billionaire owners like Roman Abramovich at Chelsea and Abu Dhabi United at Manchester City showed themselves all too ready to dispense with the managers they inherited.

Yesterday, Liverpool's vice-captain, Jamie Carragher, pointed out that if they do fail to qualify for the Champions League, the principal reason would be the club's away form, which he compared to that of Wolves. That is ultimately Benitez's responsibility.

"One of the chief reasons for not getting rid of Benitez is that you would have to pay up the majority of a five-year contract," said Professor Brady. "Giving him and his back-room staff a £10-15m pay-off might be a substantial obstacle to the current owners.

"But if you have paid £500m for Liverpool and may have to invest another £500m, then paying off Rafa Benitez suddenly becomes peanuts."

Three years ago, Hicks and Gillett paid £174m for the Merseyside club, which had a debt of £44m. If they sell for £500m, they will still make a profit of £30m -- not a bad return for three years' work, even with all that bad feeling from the Kop.

Fat lady is waiting to sing her song
for Liverpool FC Champions League hopes

Comment by Dave Randles - Liverpool Echo

It's not over until the fat lady sings. On a glorious day at Anfield it was as though the Weather Girls were waiting in limbo with a few of their larger sisters in tow.

As each passing goal from Eastlands filtered through, the spark in Liverpool’s play that continued from where it was left against Benfica gradually fizzled out.

After starting so brightly, the game ended with a whimper.

Rafa Benitez didn’t quite wave his white handkerchief afterwards. The submission in his voice suggested it might not be long.

In Spain, the ritual signifies a dissatisfaction with the effort of the players.

But that couldn’t be levelled at Liverpool yesterday.

As the only team that tried to win the game, it is a crying shame they didn’t turn one point into three.

For all their dominance and possession, particularly in the first half when chance after chance went begging, the Reds simply couldn’t find a way through Fulham’s stubborn resistance.

That is to take nothing away from the Cottagers however.

While the participants in the half-time penalty shoot-out presented more threat to the Kop end goal than the visitors mustered after the break, this is a Fulham side that has failed to win on their league travels since the opening day of the season.

To say that was at Fratton Park would add weight to the argument had Liverpool not floundered there to the now relegated FA Cup finalists.

When the inquest begins it will find that Liverpool’s failings this season have been on the road.

It is the exact opposite of last year when home form scuppered the club's title hopes.

It is something that only adds to the frustration felt by all those concerned.

Fulham manager Roy Hodgson set his stall out to prevent Liverpool from scoring rather than encourage his team to do so. His tactics got the desired effect.

Yes, they rode their luck at times but, in what was their 55th game of a season that began in earnest on the penultimate day of July in the Intertoto Cup, perhaps Fulham deserve the rub of the green at this stage of the most gruelling campaign in the club's history.

With little over 25 minutes remaining, Hodgson decided to substitute his top scorer.

Unlike his opposite number’s decision to do likewise at Birmingham last weekend, you’re unlikely to here much more of Bobby Zamora’s withdrawal.

The change did tell is everything about Fulham’s mindset however.

At this stage of the season it all comes down to differing aspirations.

While a 2-1 win over Wigan last weekend saw Fulham limp over the 40-point finishing line, they have earned the right to bask in the achievement of reaching the semi-finals of the Europa League in what is only their second continental campaign.

In dong so they have also earned the right to relax a little.

With that in mind, much of the pre-match gossip predicted wholesale changes by Hodgson.

Instead the Fulham boss avoided the wrath of the FA by making just two alterations to the side that beat Wolfsburg in Germany to set up the prospect of an all-English final against you know who.

It was Liverpool who were forced to take more severe action with four changes from the side that swept past Benfica here.

Fernando Torres, of course, was the greatest loss.

How Benitez must have been tempted to say ‘I told you so’ when he revealed the striker had undergone a scan on his knee while his teammates were banging their heads against another brick wall.

It wasn’t for the want of trying that Liverpool failed to turn one point into three though.

In short, their best wasn’t good enough and here within lies the problem facing the club.

Benitez claimed at the weekend it will take a £60 million summer spend to transform the team’s fortunes.

The way things are you wonder whether he has £6m at his disposal.

When forced to make changes to a winning team there are no guarantees that those coming in can reproduce the same exacting standards of his first choice side.

On paper, you would back the eleven that started yesterday to beat a Fulham team blighted by such profound travel sickness.

The fans will just hope the latest reports of large scale and, more importantly, long term investment finally come to fruition.

Torres to see specialist
over knee injury


Liverpool striker Fernando Torres is to visit a specialist to assess his knee injury.

The Reds top scorer was forced to miss Sunday afternoon's goalless Barclays Premier League draw with Fulham because of the problem.

It is a worrying development for the Reds, who had hoped the Spain international's discomfort was not serious.

Torres, 26, was sidelined for a month after a knee operation in January.

Manager Rafael Benitez said on Sunday evening: "He has a problem with his knee and has gone to see a specialist. We are waiting for news.

"We don't know really, it depends on the specialists tomorrow.

"He had a problem before and we were trying to protect him."

Benitez attracted howls of derision when he controversially substituted Torres with 25 minutes remaining at Birmingham last week with
the score 1-1.

But the manager insisted the player was tired and needed ice treatment on his knee.

Torres recovered sufficiently to play, and score twice, in Thursday's Europa League quarter-final win over Benfica but again left the field early.

Liverpool are next in action when they face West Ham at Anfield a week on Monday.

They then face Torres' former club Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final three days later.

Hodgson hails Fulham heroics

By Danny Wright - Sky Sports

Fulham manager Roy Hodgson was more than happy with the way his team battled to a richly-deserved point in their 0-0 draw at Liverpool.

The Cottagers were outplayed for the entire match and barely registered a chance of their own, yet they put in a superb defensive performance to frustrate Rafa Benitez's team.

Liverpool had looked like finally breaking through in the second-half, however Fulham defied the expected fatigue from Thursday's Europa League victory over Wolfsburg to hold firm and grind out a point.

Hodgson was forced into making changes prior to the trip to Merseyside as Zoltan Gera and Simon Davies sat out with injury, and he was delighted with the way his team adapted to the challenge posed by the Reds.

He told Sky Sports: "I'm certainly delighted with a point and I am pleased with the performance, although it fell far short of what I think we're actually capable of doing.

"I think given the fact we've had the home matches against Wolfsburg, Wigan and then the away matches against Wolfsburg and now to Liverpool - those four matches in the space of eight or nine days is going to take its toll.

"Especially when you lose a couple of players of the quality of Gera and Davies and you put in players who haven't played for a long time.

"Erik Nevland and Jonathan Greening haven't actually played for several months now in the first team so to come in and have to give a performance at Anfield, it was a tough ask for them.

"But I was pretty pleased with the way we stood up and were counted. We were under a lot of pressure between long periods of the game but we managed to keep the shots coming from long distance.

"I think the team now has a good understanding tactically of what they need to do to be a good team defensively."

Fulham have a notoriously poor record on the road, winning just once away all season, but their performance at Anfield ensured they capped off a memorable week.

They returned from Germany with a 1-0 win to secure a semi-final berth in the Europa League, as did Liverpool, although it was Fulham that looked the better of the two silverware hopefuls.

Liverpool were without Fernando Torres and struggled to find a way past the stout visiting backline, who were marshalled superbly by Brede Hangeland and Aaron Hughes.

And Hodgson praised the way his team stood up to the onslaught given the quality he felt Benitez's side possessed in their ranks.

He added: "You're certainly tested to the limit when you play teams of Liverpool's quality because they're not only good tactically, they're very, very good individually and technically.

"Even when you've got your tactics and the shape of your team right it doesn't guarantee you winning the ball back because they've got so much skill they can deal with that and ask other questions of you.

"They asked a lot of questions of us but I've got to say I thought the team worked harder and stood up and we've got to be proud. We still realise we are who we are but also realise they're aren't many teams that come to Anfield and get results.

"We've done it, even though we've had to sweat a bit of blood to get there, and we've got to be pretty happy with that."

Benitez accepts
Liverpool position

Football 365

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has all but conceded his side's hopes of finishing in the Barclays Premier League top four are over.

Benitez's side fell six points behind fourth-placed Manchester City - having played a game more - as they were held to a frustrating goalless draw by Fulham at Anfield.

With just four games remaining, Benitez accepts he is now unlikely to deliver on his "guarantee" of securing a Champions League qualifying position.

The Spaniard said: "It is not in our hands, it depends on the other teams and the difference is too much now, maybe.

"We have to keep going because it is always important to do your best and try to finish as high as possible.

"We will try to win the rest of the games and try to win the Europa League."

Benitez was asked whether he regretted his assertion he could guarantee fourth place but avoided the question.

He said: "It will now be very difficult, we have to be realistic.

"As a manager you have to believe and support your team. We have to keep going."

Liverpool will now turn their attention to the Europa League - both winning it and making sure they at least finish seventh to qualify for it again if not.

The Reds face Atletico Madrid in the semi-finals later this month.

This encounter could yet prove a dress rehearsal for the final with Fulham also through to the last four.

Benitez will hope to find a cutting edge if so, as his team dominated and created numerous chances without managing to break through.

They badly missed top scorer Fernando Torres - missing with a knee injury - but also found Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer in top form.

Benitez said: "I am disappointed because I feel that we had plenty of possession.

"We had good chances and it is a game that is normally 1-0 or 2-0, but we couldn't score."

Benitez felt Fulham should have been reduced to 10 men after 35 minutes when Jonathan Greening, already booked, blatantly blocked a Glen Johnson run.

"I will not say too much," Benitez said. "We still deserved to win with 11 players but it is very clear."

Fulham foil Liverpool CL hopes

By Danny Wright - Sky Sports

Fulham put in a superb rear-guard action to inflict a severe dent on Liverpool's hopes of attaining a Champions League place by earning a richly deserved 0-0 draw at Anfield.

Without the injured Fernando Torres, Liverpool lacked the cutting edge needed to unlock a well-drilled Fulham outfit that defended stoutly in the face of the home side's onslaught, and they were left to rue two dropped points in their chase for a top four spot.

Rafa Benitez's team dominated the opening half and their best chance came when Ryan Babel floated a ball into the channel for the Maxi Rodriguez, who took the ball down beautifully before forcing a smart save from Mark Schwarzer.

The Australian had to be at his best again moments after as Javier Mascherano drove a shot towards the top corner, which the keeper did well to claw away as his side held firm going into the interval.

The barrage on the Fulham goal continued in the second period, however a Babel strike - turned behind by the impressive Schwarzer - was all they had to show for their dominance and Roy Hodgson's side left with a draw that capped off an impressive week following their progression into the Europa League semi-finals.

Dominated possession
The Reds had numerous opportunities to beat their fellow Europa League semi-finalists but drew a blank.

They also came up against a goalkeeper in good form in Schwarzer, who produced a number of saves including a fine stop from a powerful Babel drive.

Torres scored twice in Thursday's stunning victory over Benfica but left the field early to rest a knee injury.

Manager Benitez had expected the striker to be fit but he failed to even make the bench.

Dirk Kuyt and Lucas - Liverpool's other two scorers on Thursday - also had to make do with places among the substitutes along with Yossi Benayoun as Benitez made four changes.

David Ngog, Alberto Aquilani, Maxi Rodriguez and Babel were the men to come in but none made the difference against a resolute Fulham side.

Liverpool dominated possession throughout and Jose Reina, fresh from signing a new six-year contract, barely had a shot to save.

Yet their dependence on Torres was again all too evident. Fulham were able to boast their leading scorer and hero of their European run,

Bobby Zamora, following a fitness test on an Achilles injury, but the England World Cup hopeful endured a quiet afternoon.

The Reds should have taken the lead with just three minutes on the clock after Babel won a corner.

Steven Gerrard swung the ball in from the left and it was headed back towards goal by Daniel Agger after touching a Fulham defender.

It fell invitingly for Babel inside the six-yard box but the Dutchman failed to make any connection with a volley.

Gerrard created a chance for Ngog with a superb crossfield ball into the area but the Frenchman had to stretch and volleyed wide.

The tone for most of the afternoon was set with Liverpool much the livelier side but meeting continual frustration in the final third.

Another good move by Liverpool saw Gerrard pull back a Glen Johnson cross for Aquilani, who then flicked the ball up and attempted an overhead kick but Schwarzer saved comfortably.

Moments later Rodriguez took the ball down in the area to shoot but Schwarzer blocked.

Babel then delivered a good cross for Aquilani but the Italian headed over.

Mascherano tested Schwarzer with a powerful 30-yard drive just after the half-hour but the Australian saved well to his right.

Greening, already booked, was fortunate to escape a second yellow card for blocking Johnson 10 minutes before half-time as Liverpool continued to dominate without breaking through.

Liverpool pressed on and created three good chances for Aquilani after the break but the former Roma midfielder was unable to take any of them.

The first he scuffed weakly at Schwarzer before winning a corner with a shot the keeper palmed over the bar.

The ball came to him again soon after but this time he sliced wide from 25 yards.

Fulham spent large spells defending on the edge of their own area as Liverpool continued to push but they did so manfully, getting plenty of players behind the ball.

Gerrard got in a shot on target but Aaron Hughes blocked and Daniel Agger volleyed wide.

Schwarzer also seemed unbeatable, producing a brilliant save low to his right to keep put a fierce drive from Babel, cutting inside from the left.

Liverpool attempted to freshen up their attack by introducing Kuyt and Benayoun midway through the second half while Fulham withdrew the isolated figure of Zamora.

Kuyt was straight into the action and picked out Sotirios Kyrgiakos with a good cross only for the Greek to head over.

Another substitute, Daniel Pacheco, also had a powerful effort blocked. Time ran out for Liverpool and, not for the first time this season, their supporters left frustrated.

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