After The Match 


Liverpool-Manchester U 0-1 (0-1)      16.12.07                    PL
Goals: Tevez (43)
Team: Reina, Arbeloa, Hyypia, Carragher, Riise, Benayoun, Gerrard, Mascherano, Kewell, Torres, Kuyt
Subs: Babel (Kewell 65), Crouch (Kuyt 73), Aurelio (Riise 80)
Not used: Itandje, Lucas
Yellow: Gerrard (33), Mascherano (63)
Evra (15), Anderson (33), Brown (36)
Red: None
Referee: Mark Halsey (Lancashire)
Attendance: 44,459
Shots on target: 4-2
Shots off target: 15-2
Blocked shots: 3-2
Fouls conceded: 14-15
Corners: 3-3
Offsides: 1-1
Possession: 57.4-42.6
Yellow: 2-3
a mistake for their goal..."

Rafael Benitez

1712: United show why Americans must listen to...
1712: Final ingredient in title recipe is still missing
1712: Hyypia refuses to throw towel in
1612: Another false dawn for Rafa's Reds
1612: Fergie: We deserved it
1612: Rafa: We are not out of the title race
1612: United hold Liverpool at bay 

United show why Americans
must listen to Benitez

By David Prentice - Liverpool Echo

There’s a culture existing in English football which suggests chairmen and directors don’t know what they’re doing.

It goes back decades. At least as far as 1956 when Len Shackleton famously wrote his autobiography and included a chapter headed: “The Average Director’s Knowledge of Football.” A blank page followed.

It’s a culture the majority of modern administrators have done little to dispel.

From Sam Longson, who famously drove Brian Clough out of Derby, Ken Bates, Agent Johnson, Peter Ridsdale and the muppets who run Tottenham, football chairmen have driven supporters of their clubs to distraction.

From T.V. Williams to John Smith through to the admirably supportive David Moores, they have boasted a succession of chairmen who accepted their pockets were deeper than their tactical knowledge, and backed the bosses they appointed.

It’s the atmosphere Tom Hicks and George Gillett have stepped into, and they can immediately strike a blow for the chairmen’s union by listening to their manager. So far, the signs haven’t been good.

By refusing to sanction further spending before December 16, they have pointed to a lack of understanding of their club’s strengths and weaknesses.

Sami Hyypia and Jamie Carragher have valiantly held the fort throughout Daniel Agger’s absence. But it would only have taken a yellow card for Carragher at Reading, or an overstretched hamstring for Hyypia in France, to leave Liverpool looking defensively threadbare at yesterday’s Anfield blockbuster.

Happily for the Reds they both came through to produce typically resilient displays yesterday.

But Rafa Benitez prides himself on the meticulousness of his planning.

Solutions to problems are found in the small details. And in the small detail yesterday United had the edge.

Benitez blamed luck for a defeat which was a photofit of almost every Liverpool-United clash under his tenure. The Reds controlled large chunks of the game, but United produced the quality when it mattered.

Look at the triangle which yielded the game’s only goal.

Giggs to Rooney to Tevez. 1-0.

Liverpool could hit back with Gerrard to Torres, but then the final high class piece of jigsaw is missing.

Dirk Kuyt was a £10m international class centre-forward.

Rooney, Anderson, Hargreaves each cost twice as much.

And Liverpool needed that gilding of class yesterday which costs big, big bucks.

If Liverpool are bridling at paying £17m for Mascherano, perhaps it should be pointed out that United substitute Michael Carrick cost more than that.

In a match of such monumental tension, such frenzied tackling, such frantic pressing, the side with the extra class was always likelier to prevail.

Liverpool had looked that side for 40 minutes, a period when John Arne Riise splendidly shackled Ronaldo, when Steven Gerrard was dictating play until collecting a stupid booking and when Edwin van der Sar was running around like an extra in a Benny Hill chase sequence, bouncing into his own defence.

But then Liverpool were just a fraction too slow in spotting United’s well worked corner routine and the points had gone begging . . . again.

Liverpool never looked as threatening in the second half, United’s ability to counter with dazzling speed always restricting the number of bodies the Reds could afford to throw forward.

Ryan Babel made a difference when he came on, but the talented but still inconsistent Dutchman is a top class player in the making.

United have the finished products which is why they prevailed once again.

Hopefully Tom and George will have listened to that argument no doubt put forward by Rafael Benitez last night – and will prove that there are football club chairmen who do know what they’re doing.

Final ingredient in title
recipe is still missing

By Nick Smith - Liverpool Daily Post

At least this one can’t be blamed on rotation. Rafael Benitez stuck with the same 11, the side that rose to the occasion so gloriously in Marseille five days earlier and pretty much the strongest line-up he has available at the moment.

So Anfield yesterday – at least before the manager met with the owners – wasn’t a place for ‘what ifs’ or ‘why didn’t he do this or that?’. No blame culture in the impending capital of culture.

Instead, harsh realities came to the fore, most notably the one that Liverpool still aren’t ready to genuinely challenge for the Premier League.

Okay, they are adhering to Benitez’s wishes to get closer – yesterday’s defeat left them nine points adrift of their opponents with a game in hand, while this time last year they were 13 in arrears from the same number played.

But Manchester United are also following their manager’s instructions to the letter, menacingly stalking Liverpool’s record haul of 18 titles and becoming increasingly difficult to shake off.

And once again yesterday, they showed what it takes to be champions.

This was nowhere near as one-sided as last season’s showdown, but Liverpool’s eventual defeat back in March made little impact on their ambitions.

So yesterday is more galling in a way.

While not creating as much sustained pressure on this occasion, the gap of 10 points to the leaders is proof of the heavier price Liverpool are paying for the inability of one of any of their own players to score against United in the league during Benitez’s reign.

A statistic only made all the more alarming by the fact that a visiting side looking some way short of their best form gave them such a ruthless lesson in the importance of making the most of opportunities.

Especially when you don’t create many.

As the hordes who made their way down the M62 yesterday morning were only too quick to point out after Carlos Tevez stabbed in a winner eerily similar to John O’Shea’s moment of glory in front of the Kop nine months ago: ‘That’s why we’re the champions’.

The fact that these two defeats are the only ones Liverpool have suffered in the Premier League on their own turf in well over two years is, of course, no consolation.

These are the games that really count, the indicators of progress.

And with just two points taken from the three home clashes against the rest of the so-called ‘big four’, coupled with the fact that they are behind Manchester City and level on points with Everton, Liverpool have made little in terms of the quest for number 19.

As already pointed out, Benitez played pretty much his best side but they just couldn’t find what Tevez did – a moment to elevate themselves the mediocrity.

Just like last year, the opportunities were there, thanks mainly to an eccentric Edwin van der Sar, who seemed hell bent on punching out his own players rather than the ball. But in front of him composure and confidence reigned, while Owen Hargreaves’s performance in the holding midfield role would have had Fabio Capello purring.

United simply knew exactly how to win this type of do-or-die encounter and Liverpool didn’t.

Something which will gnaw away at Benitez even when his side sweeps past lesser opponents as they have in the majority of games he has been in charge.

Even when he masterminds remarkable European nights, a habit he shows no sign of kicking if France last week is any evidence.

And even when he embarks on the next bout of squad strengthening because, whatever happens in January, in Fernando Torres he’s pretty much already got the best Tom Hicks and George Gillett can afford him.

So if Benitez is as keen to smooth out his relationship with that duo and secure his future at Anfield, the shortcomings in trying to overthrow United’s – and for that matter Arsenal’s current ascendancy is something he will just have to live with, unless the second half of the season somehow produces a dramatic shift in the Premier League’s balance of power.

And yesterday’s results emphatically prove which way that is tilting at the moment.

Hyypia refuses to throw towel in


Veteran Sami Hyypia has denied Liverpool are now facing mission impossible in the title race following Sunday's defeat by Manchester United.

The Reds started the campaign with high hopes of ending their 17-year championship drought and despite some inconsistent form on home soil were well placed to make their move until 10 days ago.

Although Rafael Benitez's side have secured a financially imperative place in the knock-out phase of the Champions League, the outstanding four-goal win in Marseille has been sandwiched by the loss of Liverpool's unbeaten Premier League record at Reading and yet another defeat to United at Anfield.

The latest loss against their fierce rivals - their fifth in six seasons - has left the Merseyside giants nine points behind United and 10 adrift of leaders Arsenal.

Admittedly, Liverpool do have a game in hand but, after picking up just two points in three meetings with their fellow 'Big Four' members this term, the evidence is not pointing towards the end of that long wait for a 19th title.

Nevertheless, Hyypia is refusing to be downcast.

The Finland star is convinced Liverpool proved they were United's equals.

And, while he accepts his team-mates have a lot to do in order to haul themselves back into contention, Hyypia believes they are up to the task.

"It is not the end of the world," he said. "Of course, if you think about 10 points it is quite a lot but I don't believe it is a major obstacle to clear and it is certainly not impossible.

"It would have been an important game to win but we didn't manage it, so we have to remained focused on each individual game and see where we are in May."

For the second season running, Liverpool were undone by a set piece, fatally failing to pick up Wayne Rooney on the edge of the area when Ryan Giggs took a corner and then leaving Carlos Tevez on his own too as he turned home the England striker's shot.

It is the kind of mistake that Benitez must eradicate if his team are to stand a chance of getting themselves back into the championship fight, although Hyypia feels there are plenty of positives to draw from the defeat as well.

"Manchester United achieved what they came for; a clean sheet and they also managed to sneak a goal," he said. "But there were lots of positives for us too."

The worry for Liverpool fans is that while Arsenal, Chelsea and, now, United have all been to Anfield, they are still to play away from home against any of their major rivals.

Hyypia acknowledges it is imperative to inflict some damage when the Merseysiders go on their travels and is optimistic they can do just that.

"Our away form has been better than the home form so I am confident we will get something out of those games away," he said.

"The matches against the other teams in the big four are very important. We have to catch them and we know for sure if we win those games our rivals cannot get any points."

Ironically, Liverpool face one of their major rivals on Wednesday when they visit Chelsea looking to book a place in the Carling Cup semi-finals.

The Reds have enjoyed plenty of success against the Londoners in cup combat over recent times, including two thrilling Champions League semi-final wins.

However, Hyypia accepts history will count for nothing at Stamford Bridge.

"I don't want to look at the records at all," he said. "Every game is different - we go there to win and do our best."

Another false dawn for Rafa's Reds

By Graham Shaw - TEAMtalk

TEAMtalk's Graham Shaw feels Liverpool's latest defeat to Manchester United shows exactly why they will not challenge for the Premier League.

Want to know why Liverpool haven't won the title in 17 years? Sunday afternoon had the answer in a nutshell.

Once again any dreams of finally ending that long wait were put into stark focus as they failed miserably on the big occasion.

Senor Rafa Benitez now has one solitary point from 21 against his team's most bitter rivals - reigning champions Manchester United. He also has just four wins from 21 against United, Arsenal and Chelsea. The games that really matter.

So any delusions of being ready to take what they perceive to be their rightful place on the throne can only be seen as flattery of the most deceptive kind.

In recent seasons Liverpool have been exposed as domestic football's equivalent of flat-track bullies, plenty good enough to crush inferior opposition but found wanting against the big guns.

In days gone by you could just about win a title by beating the rest, but now that just won't cut it.

In a Premier League where even one defeat can be catastrophic the mini-league between the "top four" is often now what decides who eventually takes the glory.

The infuriating thing for Tom, George and the Anfield faithful is that the script on Sunday afternoon was so predictable. Territorial advantage, domination in terms of efforts on goal - and yet still another damaging defeat.

Rafa's decision to start with Harry Kewell and Dirk Kuyt proved a disaster while Peter Crouch and Ryan Babel waited impatiently in the wings.

After years of being ravaged by injury Kewell doesn't have the pace or confidence to trouble a top-line defence. Babel on the other hand does.

Kuyt, while industrious and willing, doesn't have the guile or physical presence to cut it at the very top level. Crouch, at least, has the latter.

By the time he did introduce the pair of them it was too late, the writing was already on the wall.

Just as they did last March, Liverpool took their eye off the ball for one second - one fatal second.

Then it was John O'Shea profiting, this time it was Carlos Tevez. Déjà vu, groundhog day. It was all so strikingly similar.

You can't deny that Benitez has bought some top players to Anfield - nobody can deny the quality of the likes of Fernando Torres or Javier Mascherano.

But despite the big-money buys, and the local backbone and brilliance provided by Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, there still appears to be an ingredient missing.

In some cases that can be provided by just one man - just remember that Sir Alex Ferguson searched six long years for the promised land before stumbling across one Eric Cantona.

Not many managers get that long these days to come up with the goods, and the goods at Anfield right now is top spot in English football.

Yes Benitez delivered the Champions League amid those amazing scenes in Istanbul in the summer of 2005. But right now that seems a distant memory.

There was a time when Liverpool fans expected title glory, almost like a divine right. Now for some it must seem like an impossible dream.

Manchester United waited 26 years to return to the summit - Liverpool have now waited 17. The similarities are striking - the sporadic brilliance, infuriating inconsistency and ability to come up short when it really matters.

Fergie: We deserved it

By Peter Fraser - Sky Sports

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson believes his side have taken a massive step towards retaining their Premier League title following a 1-0 win over Liverpool at Anfield.

United notched the three points against their North West rivals on Grand Slam Sunday courtesy of a poacher's finish from Carlos Tevez on 43 minutes.

And Ferguson has acknowledged the importance of the win, which takes United nine points clear of Liverpool, and insists his side deserved the victory.

"It's a good result that's for sure," Ferguson told Sky Sports 1. "It's a marvellous day for us. A good result and a good team performance.

"We had to show a lot of discipline, but in terms of playing football we were the better team.

"It was a typical United-Liverpool game. The crowd create such a verve and flowing football is not an issue.

"It is about winning the game and certainly the moments when we did play football in the first half we were the better team.

"I said before the game that the games between the top sides were going to be important this year and that was an important win for us."

The victory takes United to top spot in the Premier League, but they could be overhauled if Arsenal defeat Chelsea in Sunday's late kick-off, and Ferguson believes his side are well on track for a title defence.

"At the moment we are top and we hope to stay there at the end of the day, but it is going to be a long struggle and fight through the season," Ferguson added.

"I've always said about December if we get to New Year's Day and if we can be top or just about there then we have an outstanding chance of retaining the title."

Rafa: We are not out of the title race

By Steve Hunter - LFC Official Website

Rafa Benitez refused to write off Liverpool's title chances after the 1-0 defeat to Manchester United.

A first half goal from Carlos Tevez earned United the three points and the victory took Sir Alex Ferguson's team nine points ahead of the Reds in the Premier League.

"It's too soon to say we are out of the title race because there is still a long way to go," claimed Benitez.

"It will be harder after this game but we have to keep going and think about our next game."

Commenting on the 1-0 defeat, Benitez didn't feel there was much between the two teams on the day.

"We didn't create that many chances and they didn't have many opportunities either," added the Reds boss.

"In the first half we create two good chances but we didn't take them, and they created one chance and scored. We made a mistake for their goal but you need to take your chances. If you do that you will be in a very good position."

United hold Liverpool at bay

For the second season running, a close-range goal in front of the Kop proved enough to give Manchester United victory over Liverpool at Anfield.

Whereas John O'Shea's goal in the corresponding fixture came in stoppage time and spurred United on to the title, this time the first half was nearing its end when Carlos Tevez struck.

And while the Argentina forward's effort will not prove decisive in the championship race at this early stage, it has left United nine points in front of their fierce north-west rivals, who, after suffering their first defeat at Reading last week, have now lost their unbeaten home record too.

It is not the ideal backdrop to Rafael Benitez's crunch meeting with co-owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks, although United, unbeaten in Premier League combat on this ground for six years now, will not care much about that.

Twelve months ago, Liverpool did everything but beat United, virtually battering their north-west rivals into submission before O'Shea popped up in the final minute to snatch victory. The home fans must have endured an uneasy feeling of deja vu as they watched the opening period unfold.

What incisive football was played amid a frenzied atmosphere was all theirs. The chances fell the way of the men in red too. Unfortunately, the shots were either off target or failed to beat a United defender stood on the line.

Liverpool's efforts were assisted by a rare faltering performance from Edwin van der Sar, who twice had his attempts to take what looked like routine catches hindered by his own players.

On the first occasion, the veteran Dutchman ran into a crowd of United defenders as he tried to collect a Steven Gerrard free-kick that had been deflected high into the air. Harry Kewell was on to the loose ball first but drove his volley straight at Anderson, who was still marshalling a post.

Fernando Torres, a man Ferguson tried to buy from Atletico Madrid on three separate occasions, should have finished off the rebound but, from six yards, nodded disappointingly wide.

Then, when Van der Sar came off worst in a collision with Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand's back header seemed destined to bounce into his own net until Patrice Evra raced back to clear.

Torres was off-target with a couple of efforts, as was
Sami Hyypia.

Yet, for all the pressure, it was United who took the lead two minutes before the break as the Liverpool defence fell apart following a Ryan Giggs corner.

After failing to pick up Wayne Rooney on the edge of the area, Alvaro Arbeloa then remained rooted to the goalline as Liverpool pushed up hoping for an offside as the ball fizzed into the box.

Tevez was actually behind Pepe Reina as he scooped home his eighth goal of the season but with Arbeloa behind him, it did not matter and the Argentina forward wheeled away in celebration, the ball hitting virtually the same spot O'Shea had found in March.

For a very brief moment, it appeared Torres would level within a minute of the re-start as the United defence opened up in front of the Spain international. The ball seemed to get stuck under his feet and before he could regain any momentum, Torres had been robbed.

It was the prelude for more sustained Liverpool pressure, which United countered by throwing their bodies in the way of anything vaguely threatening.

Ferdinand and Vidic were immense figures at the heart of the rearguard action, their efforts only made slightly easier by Dirk Kuyt's poor performance. The Dutchman was totally ineffective, his contribution paling in comparison to Torres, even though he was not having one of his better days.

Crouch's introduction gave the Red Devils' overworked defence another problem to counter and another substitute, Ryan Babel, almost took advantage of the extra space when he skimmed a shot agonisingly wide of Van der Sar's left post.

Babel injected more life into the Liverpool attack but it was Rooney who would have saved the visiting fans an anxious final 10 minutes if he had not turned Ronaldo's low cross wide from eight yards.

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