Aldridge: Let’s see more of
Crouch and Torres combo
By John Aldridge - Liverpool Echo
On Wednesday night, Liverpool faced a very
strong European side at Anfield in the form of Porto.
It was tight and it was nip and tuck at 1-1 and there was a
time when the game could have gone either way.
But then Rafa Benitez made a couple of substitutions, with
Peter Crouch and Harry Kewell coming on and, all of a
sudden, everything changed and Liverpool ended up running
out comfortable winners.
You have to give Rafa all the credit in the world for the
substitutions he made because they really did change the
But, for me, I think the way Liverpool went on to score
three more goals against a side which doesn’t normally
concede goals shows just how important Crouch is.
I’ve been banging on all season about how I think Crouch and
Torres is Liverpool’s best partnership up front and I’d love
to see them being given a run of games together.
I know Rafa likes to play Voronin or Kuyt in behind Torres
but, to me, we just look a much greater threat and much more
likely to score when he goes with Crouch.
Crouch’s goals per minute ratio must be incredible because
he’s not playing every game and when he is involved it tends
to be as a substitute but he’s still scoring plenty.
The goal he got on Wednesday night was a perfect example of
what he can do. Some defences just don’t know how to cope
with him because of his height and they become so confused
that he ends up scoring a free header from the edge of the
six yard box.
So whenever I look at Liverpool’s striking options I keep on
coming to the same conclusions – Crouch and Torres are
definitely the best bet.
Just forget the absurd
idea of sacking Rafa Benitez
Comment by David Prentice - Liverpool Echo
The Kop spoke loudly and eloquently. Rafa
Benitez was more understated, but just as sincere in his
Now it’s time we had one last statement from Liverpool’s
owners, to put a line under this very un-Liverpool like
Sports journalists are often accused of watching a totally
different game to the one in front of them.
So I must be guilty as charged.
Because while I’ve had my eyes wide open over the past eight
days, I’m afraid I still appear to have missed something.
Rafael Benitez on the brink of the sack? The whole notion is
absurd, especially at a football club as solid, as
traditional, as eminently sensible as Liverpool.
And the 40,000 supporters who have signed an online petition
supporting their manager, the fans who delivered an
emotional and clear message of support at Anfield last
night, and those who staged a protest march from the Sandon
Hotel before the match, also seem to find the situation
It’s not difficult to see why.
Liverpool have a manager who has guided them to two
Champions League finals in three seasons, winning one of
them; he has also claimed an FA Cup, seen his team run out
in a Carling Cup final, lifted a Super Cup and is still
unbeaten in this season’s Premier League.
He has also given his side a fighting chance of qualifying
for the knockout stages of this season’s Champions League
with last night’s defeat of Porto, a win which had as much
to do with the changes elicited from the dug-out as it did
Fernando Torres’ brilliance.
Rafa Benitez won’t win the Premier League this season, but
he could close the gap to a margin not seen since Gerard
Houllier got within seven points of the Gunners in 2002.
And that’s just on the pitch. Off it Benitez has developed a
remarkable bond with supporters.
That bond is based on results.
Benitez is an engaging, affable individual – but a lack of
fluency in English makes it difficult for him to convey that
He is not a demonstrative touchline boss either.
While Jose Mourinho will play to the gallery with manic
celebrations and rebukes to away fans, Benitez will “work on
solutions to why my team is not controlling the middle of
the park” – like he did last night.
That bond has grown because Liverpool fans trust him with
their football club.
He may take liberties, like leaving Torres out of home
games, signing players like Josemi and Pellegrino, and
treating the FA Cup with an almost dismissive contempt.
But he gets results.
And that’s something surely Tom Hicks and George Gillett
Sure, Benitez spoke out of turn last week with his childish
focus on coaching and training.
But it was a wholly understandable reaction.
Perhaps I’m old fashioned.
But I share the view of the greatest Liverpool manager of
“At a football club, there’s a holy trinity – the players,
the manager and the supporters. Directors don’t come into
it. They are only there to sign the cheques,” said Bill
It’s not the job of directors, club owners, chief executives
or any other officials to weigh up the pros and cons of
That’s the job of the man with the football background –
because he will rise or fall by those signings.
If those owners don’t trust their managers’ judgement,
that’s a different story. Then it’s time to get rid. It’s as
stark and as simple as that.
But if they believe their manager still has what it takes to
bring their club success, they must back him as much as club
coffers will allow.
This appears to be a struggle for influence at Liverpool
And it reminds me of an uncomfortable situation I worked
through a decade ago.
Claus Eftevaag never played a single match for Everton.
Yet his name is woven into the historical fabric of the
And I’m worried that he might have a modern incarnation in
AC Milan defender Kakha Kaladze.
Joe Royle was blocked from signing the Norwegian journeyman
by his chairman, Peter Johnson, and Everton lost the last
manager to bring silverware to Goodison Park.
Ironically, Royle always believed that had Johnson’s
right-hand man, Cliff Finch, not been out of the country
that week he would have sat the warring parties down, talked
some sense into them, and a crisis which damaged Everton
Football Club would have been averted.
Liverpool have a man who can act as peacemaker in this
Chief executive Rick Parry is close to the American owners
and is in the ideal position to talk sense into all parties
Because losing Rafa Benitez now, in January, or even beyond,
would not be beneficial to Liverpool Football Club.
The Kop delivered its message last night.
Rafa Benitez offered his response.
Now it’s time for the Americans to make their own statement
of support – unless their minds have already been made up.
Torres hails 'great' Benitez
By Tony Barrett - Liverpool Echo
Fernando Torres today praised the
Liverpool fans for their show of solidarity with Rafa
Benitez against Porto last night and hailed his manager as a
The Spanish striker scored twice in Liverpool's 4-1 win over
Porto, a victory which means the Reds will qualify for the
knockout stages of the Champions League if they beat
Marseille in France in a fortnight.
Torres said: "We knew we had to win and the way the match
was turning out with the score 1-1 we were finding it hard
to find a clear way to their goal. But at the end, after the
substitutions were made, the team found a way and we scored
three more goals.
"This is Liverpool, and when things go our away we have a
lot of firepower.
"The atmosphere was amazing.
“For many reasons, because all that was going on this week
with Rafa, and the people here really get behind the team
when we need their backing most.
"They really support you as much as they can and that is a
gift for all of us.
"It was great for those that had never enjoyed a night like
this before and especially for Benitez because we’ve seen
that the supporters are really behind him.
"I think Benitez is more than a manager.
“He’s one of the greats in their history and people feel
that way about him and they show it.
"And we all had an idea that he’s somewhat special here but,
honestly, what I saw at Anfield tonight was really
"I’m really impressed at how much he’s loved by the people,
above anything else, even the players.
"I feel their affection, the support for my team-mates and
with each passing day I’m feeling more of a part of this and
happier with everything and at the end of the day those
things are reflected on the pitch."
is world class
By Ian Dixon - Goal.com
Jamie Carragher believes that Fernando Torres is one of
the best strikers in the world and could become the
goalscorer that the club have been looking for.
The Reds' defender has been very impressed witht the
Spaniard since his arrival from Atlético de Madrid in the
summer and thinks his pace and strength are his main assets.
Torres netted twice in Liverpool's Champions League triumph
over Porto on Wednesday and now has ten goals in his first
16 appearances for the Merseyside outfit.
"He is a world-class striker and he's probably up there with
anyone now in striking terms. I only have to mark him in
training, thankfully," Carragher told Liverpoolfc.tv.
"It's raw pace and strength that he's got and that will
cause defences problems.
"It was a big relief when he got the second goal because
when it's 1-1 anything can happen. It was a great goal by
Fernando, showing what a top player he is. It was a great
performance from him. He's been outstanding all season but
he's done it in the Champions League and in a big pressure
game like that.
"He looks like becoming the 20-goal a season striker we've
been crying out for but it's not just that, it's the work he
puts in. He puts himself about and I think people appreciate
the graft he puts in. Even if he doesn't score he makes it
really tough for defenders.
"He's a great lad as well but as long as he's scoring goals
it doesn't matter what he is!"
Carragher then reflected on Liverpool's chances of
qualifying for the next round of the Champions League as
they have now have to go to Marseille and win.
"When we came into the competition we probably wouldn't have
liked to be in this position but, after the start we made,
we're delighted to be going there with it in our own hands,"
"We realise it's going to be very difficult. We played there
a few years ago in the UEFA Cup and we know the atmosphere.
It will be a great game to play in, so hopefully we will get
the right result now.
"We've got to have confidence in the players that we have.
Marseille have got good players too and they proved that at
Anfield. With our experience, and the way we have played
over the last few years in Europe, we have got to be
"We're Liverpool, we have good players, so we don't have to
Mission to Marseille
John Aldridge told Sky Sports News that Liverpool have
the big-game experience to win in Marseille and qualify for
the knock-out stages of the Champions League.
Following Liverpool's 4-1 win over Porto on Wednesday night,
Aldridge is confident that his former team can get the win
in France in the final match of Group A that would see them
"They still have an awful lot of work to do," said Aldridge,
"but Liverpool are cock-a-hoop at the moment.
"Marseille have had a couple of bad results and hopefully
that would have dented their confidence."
Marseille were beaten 2-1 by Besiktas which leaves them just
ahead of Liverpool in second spot on goal difference.
And Aldo is sure that Rafa Benitez and his team will get the
win they need at the Stade Vellodrome.
"We've been to a lot more intimidating places and come away
with a win, ie, Barcelona last year at the Nou Camp. That
will put them in good stead to go to Marseille and get that
all important win."
Aldridge was pleased with the team's performance against
"We're on a good run of form in adversity maybe, but I think
Rafa Benitez will be pretty pleased this morning.
"The team last night played very well - we went off the boil
for about 20 minutes before half-time and 15 minutes after
the break but in between they were superb - we played some
really good, flowing football.
"I thought Peter Crouch when he came on was absolutely
fantastic and Fernando Torres - what a great player he is."
And Aldridge has given his support to Benitez, who certainly
has the backing of the Anfield faithful.
"I think the fans support for Rafa was to be expected after
all the hullabaloo that's gone on.
"I don't think the Americans will be too happy - it wasn't a
parade as such, it was just a backing for the manager. The
fans want him to stay, he's done a great job and now they
want him to continue doing the job.
"He's put the foundations in place to perhaps take us on the
win the Premier League along with the Champions League."
Steven Gerrard grabbed the third goal - his 23rd goal in
European football as he overtook Michael Owen's record - and
Aldridge paid tribute to Liverpool's skipper.
"Well it goes without saying, Gerrard is Mr. Liverpool at
times and to achieve that record - to beat one of the
greatest goalscorers that Liverpool have had at such a young
age is marvellous. And he will score a lot more, that's for
Benitez maps out Reds future
By Chris Stanton - Setanta Sports
Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez believes he
will come to an agreement with the club’s owners Tom Hicks
and George Gillett over his future role.
Relations between the two parties soured last week after
Benitez was told, now infamously, by the American owners to
‘focus on coaching the team’ rather than discussing the
club's transfer policy.
Benitez considered the comments an affront but Liverpool’s
victory over Porto on Wednesday witnessed overwhelming
scenes of support for the Spaniard from The Reds'
Benitez said: “I don’t have any personal problems with the
owners. We were talking about the future of the club, not
personal problems. So I wasn’t angry, just surprised a
little with the situation because I was trying to improve my
“Ok, maybe I need to wait, but I don’t need to go back to go
forward. I was just trying to do my best for my club – and I
don’t have any problems with George and Tom.
“We need to talk more. People said the problem is my ego.
But it’s not my ego, it’s my responsibility. I need to take
care of my team and my squad and my club – and that means
planning for the future.
“It would be easy for me to stay here doing nothing and
drawing my wages at the end of the month. But I want to do
my best for the club. I want to be involved and I think they
“People have said winning will strengthen my position but I
don’t think I need to strengthen my position.”
state their case
may be too late
Comment by Nick Smith - Liverpool Daily Post
As usual when the Kop is involved on
European nights, the message couldn’t have been any more
emphatic and inspiring.
But whether it’s effective is another matter entirely.
Because, all in all, it doesn’t tell anyone anything they
didn’t know already.
Rafael Benitez, the man who brought the European Cup to
Anfield for a fifth time and leads them into December still
unbeaten in the quest for the Holy Grail of title number 19
and still very much in the Champions League after last
night’s demolition of Porto, is adored by the supporters and
they want him to stay. News just in.
Something that must have been obvious to Tom Hicks and
George Gillett long before word of last night’s events got
back to them.
But where was the marauding, menacing mass of banners back
in February when the American owners sealed their takeover?
Being dyed red and rolled out as carpets mostly.
Of course not all Liverpool supporters welcomed the
Americans so warmly amid that all-too-common apprehension
and fear of the unknown.
But Gillett and Hicks arrived to fund the future and
spearhead the move to the new stadium – and there weren’t
too many protest rallies blocking the gates of Stanley Park
Their relationship with the manager is in sharp focus now
but when the takeover dawned, it was an issue blurred by the
bigger picture. When they were still quizzed about it in
their first, and so far only, official Press conference they
did their best to display a united front despite not
appearing to have discussed the playing side with Benitez in
any fine detail.
And while they insisted they would all be reading from the
same hymn sheet, there was still the niggling suggestion
they’d be singing different tunes before long.
The warning signs were there from day one, one day when the
American duo were certainly on the same wavelength.
“We want to match Chelsea in winning not spending. It’s not
just about spending money,” said Gillett.
“Teams who try to spend to win just by itself usually don’t.
It takes a combination of other things,” followed Hicks.
Just two soundbites that summed up their attitude to an
over-reliance on the transfer market.
And 10 months and a £20million net outlay later – plus the
tentative approach to this January’s window – proves that
nobody can accuse them of wavering from that philosophy.
It’s one that didn’t seem to bother Benitez when they took
over and even the rocky road that lay ahead in the aftermath
of the Champions League final defeat was soon smoothed over
by the Spaniard’s desired summer of strengthening coming to
Only now, when it becomes clear that their policy is
jeopardising Benitez’s position at the club do the Americans
find the tide turning against them.
‘As always we are focusing on supporting our manager’ read
one banner almost half the width of the Kop.
But the intensity with which this task was carried out last
night hints at the genuine fear generated by the past week’s
descent into civil war.
A fear that the disharmony will soon spread through to the
players and disrupt the promise of the domestic campaign.
A fear that Hicks, in particular, hasn’t got where he is
without a ruthless streak and a refusal to back down when he
thinks he’s right.
A fear that Benitez’s insistence that he wants to stay and
fulfil all his managerial ambitions with Liverpool will only
happen if his employers allow him to do it his way.
And a fear that the most important voice of all, the fans’,
will get lost when the final say is delivered.
This was hinted at in another message spelt out in red and
white and delivered directly across the Atlantic: ‘You are
the custodians, but it’s our club. Rafa stays.’
And Liverpool is, of course, the supporters’ club
emotionally and historically.
But financially, it’s Gillett and Hicks scribbling their
names at the bottom of the cheques.
Their right to do this was handed to them with far less
opposition than they will face if they can’t re-establish
their working relationship with the manager.
But that fact remains, they were on a collision course from
the very beginning.
And, rousing as last night’s show of solidarity behind
Benitez was, it could all have come too late.
rubbishes rift rumours
By Peter Fraser - Sky Sports
Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez insists he
does not want to quit Anfield after guiding his side to a
4-1 UEFA Champions League victory over Porto.
A Fernando Torres brace and goals from Steven Gerrard and
Peter Crouch were enough to cancel out a Lisandro Lopez
header and ensure Liverpool travel to Marseille in two
weeks' time for their final group game knowing that another
win would book a place in this season's knock-out stages.
However, the match was overshadowed by the reported bust-up
between Benitez and the club's American-based owners Tom
Hicks and George Gillett, which has cast doubt over the
Spaniard's future with Liverpool.
The Liverpool supporters, though, made their appreciation of
Benitez evident during the match at Anfield and the Reds
boss insists he is also happy on Merseyside.
"I am really proud to be here and I say thank you because
they (the fans) know that I want to stay and fight for my
club," Benitez told Sky Sports 2.
"I don't have any personal problem with the owners or with
anyone. I just try to improve everything and they also want
the best for the club. We will talk and try to go forward
"I want to say thank you to the fans after their support for
today. Today is for them."
Meanwhile, Benitez recognises that his team were in a
difficult contest against Porto, but he remains confident
that Liverpool can qualify for the knock-out stages after
Besiktas' 2-1 win over Marseille ensured all Group A teams
still harbour hopes of qualification.
"It was a very tough game against a very good team with
quality and ability," Benitez added.
"We were a little bit under pressure, but when we scored the
second goal it was a little bit easier, but it was always
against a very good team.
"They were always pressing and so it was difficult to pass
the ball and we gave the ball away a couple of times and
were a little bit nervous.
"We had confidence. We needed to win three games in a row.
We have won two and everyone can go forward."
keeps Reds alive
Fernando Torres' double kept Liverpool's
hopes of Champions League progress alive with a hard-fought
4-1 victory over FC Porto at Anfield.
The Reds' European survival fight will now go right down to
the wire with victory in their final game against Marseille
now required following their four-goal blast on Wednesday.
As a statement of support for under-pressure coach Rafael
Benitez it was a pretty conclusive effort both on and off
the pitch as Torres' double saw the Reds through a
potentially difficult night after Lisandro Lopez had
levelled for the Portuguese outfit.
It means the planned meeting between Benitez and co-owners
George Gillett and Tom Hicks immediately after the Anfield
encounter with Manchester United on December 16 will take
place just six days after Liverpool's European fate is
decided in the Stade Velodrome.
And, if the Kop have their way, win or lose Benitez will be
hanging around, in their eyes the clear winner after an
unseemly stand-off that has developed between the popular
Spaniard and the men who run the club.
With his name being chanted from all corners of the ground,
Benitez emerged from the tunnel, acknowledged the support,
then immediately pointed to the pitch as if to ensure their
fervour was directed towards his team.
The Kop heeded to an extent in that they maintained the
atmosphere until Torres opened the scoring.
But most of their songs made it perfectly clear they saw
Benitez, who has led them to two Champions League Finals
without getting close to ending a near 20-year title
drought, as the long-term future.
For Benitez, the requirement is two-fold; keep winning
matches and prove his previous expenditure has been worth
Already, the £26million paid to Atletico Madrid for Torres
looks like a shrewd deal.
The opener tonight, a firm downward header after Steven
Gerrard had picked him out, completely unmarked, with a
right-wing corner, was his ninth goal in 16 games for
Liverpool, although strangely his first in Europe.
Such a statistic begs an obvious question over why Benitez
has repeatedly left him out of his starting line-up.
The answer is in the Spaniard's cherished, if controversial,
rotation policy, which Benitez is convinced will bear fruit
come the spring.
For the period around Torres' goal, it all looked entirely
The Spain forward might have scored already but Helton got
behind his powerful 20-yard drive and Andriy Voronin was
also making a nuisance of himself as the Porto defence
Everything changed just after the half hour mark though as
Liverpool's passing suddenly became sloppy and Porto seized
Alvaro Arbeloa completely misread the flight of Przemyslaw
Kazmierczak's cross and as it drifted over the full-back's
head, Lopez arrived with perfect timing to power home.
Gerrard and the previously excellent Javier Mascherano
became hesitant and but for half an inch, Liverpool would
have been behind as the excellent Lucho Gonzalez lifted a
sublime pass to Lopez whose flicked finish bounced
agonisingly wide of Pepe Reina's goal.
Marek Cech then saw his piledriver flick off Mascherano and
fly just over with Reina beaten.
The interval at least allowed Benitez to generate some
self-belief into his players, which had the desired effect
as Liverpool attacked with some gusto immediately after the
Yossi Benayoun had a gilt-edged chance to relieve the
pressure when he was set up by Torres, who himself had been
found by Reina's amazingly accurate 70-yard clearance.
All it needed was a firm strike. Instead, Benayoun scuffed
his shot which bobbled horrendously wide.
The miss induced even more nervousness in Liverpool ranks,
which only the arrival of Harry Kewell alleviated.
Helton then cut out Mascherano's low cross in unconventional
feet-first fashion as Ryan Babel closed in.
A close thing it may have been but it was enough to raise
the rafters once more.
Kewell went close twice, Sami Hyypia had a shot blocked and
Milan Stepanov booted Babel's curling effort off the line.
It needed a master craftsman to unpick the Porto defence.
Thankfully for Liverpool, in Torres they had one.
And, after collecting Arbeloa's through ball, the
23-year-old retained the calmest head in the stadium to
For the first time Porto's heads dropped, their spirit
deflated by the knowledge they have another chance to go
through against Besiktas in a fortnight.
Liverpool ploughed on regardless and when Stepanov handled
Gerrard's free-kick, the Reds skipper ignored the fact
Torres was on a hat-trick to stroke home the spot-kick
Substitute Peter Crouch added a fourth three minutes from
"Rafa's going nowhere" chanted the Kop as he shook every
player by the hand and then left the pitch on his own with
the support of the crowd ringing in his ears.
Benitez will hope they get their wish.