After The Match 


Wigan-Liverpool 0-1 (0-0)            29.9.07                           PL
Goals: Benayoun (75)
Team: Reina, Aurelio, Arbeloa, Hyypia, Carragher, Mascherano, Gerrard, Pennant, Riise, Kuyt, Torres
Subs: Benayoun (Aurelio 55), Voronin (Pennant 82),
Sissoko (Torres 83)
Not used: Itandje, Finnan
Yellow: Mascherano (73)     Brown (73),Melchiot (86)
Red: None
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Attendance: 24,311
Shots on target: 2-5
Shots off target: 5-6
Blocked shots: 3-9
Fouls conceded: 13-10
Corners: 5-6
Offsides: 4-3
Possession: 54.3-45.7
Yellow: 2-1

HEADLINES "...Yossi was good, it was perfect."
    Rafael Benitez

0210: Why Reina is key to Reds’ title bid
0110: Back on track - but Reds ride their luck
0110: Reina supreme as Reds equal record
3009: Benayoun support for bosses
3009: Benitez praises Benayoun impact
2909: Aurelio: Liverpool now digging in for victories
2909: Hutchings hurt by defeat
2909: Benayoun secures points for Reds

Why Reina is key to Reds’ title bid

By John Thompson - Liverpool Echo

Pepe Reina may be too modest to claim much credit for Liverpool’s best defensive start to a season
in 30 years.

But there is no doubting he has been a pivotal figure in keeping the opposition at bay time and again this season.

The Reds may have struggled for league goals in the last three matches but it is so important that they haven’t conceded any themselves.

A clean sheet undoubtedly gave them the platform to snatch all three points at Wigan on Saturday and if there is going to be a meaningful challenge for the title then first and foremost they’ve got to be really difficult to break down.

All the best sides are – and it’s terrific to see the number of shut-outs so far thisseason.

Reina is, of course, right to give credit to the players in front of him, starting with people like Dirk Kuyt who run their socks off every week trying to ensure opponents aren’t given the time and space they need to shape and build dangerous attacks.

It’s hard graft – I know from my own days at Liverpool how important it was for the defending to start from the front – but it was and it remains a crucial responsibility for forwards as well as for midfielders and the men at the back.

Reina himself has to be given enormous credit too and for me he is now one of the mainstays of this Liverpool team.

People may have wondered how he would fare after Jerzy Dudek left but he has never let anyone down. Far from it.

He may not be getting called into action that much at times during some games, such is the good work going on in front of him.

But he always looks alert whenever called upon and he is also a great shot stopper who manages the six-yard box with presence and authority.

What I also really like about him is his distribution. He is always racing to the edge of his box after receiving the ball, looking to get it forward early and swiftly build counter attacks. If there’s an option before him he will find it – his kicking and throwing really is first class.

But if there is nothing on for him he won’t take unecessary risks and isn’t afraid to stop and start the game again in a more routine manner.

Teams now know if they are going to beat Liverpool they’ve got to take their chances.

The good news is that not many chances are coming along. And even when they do they have still got one of the very best goal keepers in Europe to beat.

Back on track - but
Reds ride their luck

By James Pearce - Liverpool Echo

They say good things come to those who wait.

Liverpool had gone over four and a half hours without scoring in the Premiership when substitute Yossi Benayoun broke the drought at the JJB Stadium.

It was a moment of individual brilliance out of context with the rest of the afternoon's action.

Turning your way past Titus Bramble might not be anything to write home about but the manner in which the little Israeli created the opening and coolly finished was right out of the top drawer.

Benayoun's opportunities to impress have been limited since his £5million summer move from West Ham.

He has started just once in the Premiership but with Saturday's effort following hot on the heels of his stunning strike at Reading in the Carling Cup, he has certainly staked a claim for a greater role.

Benayoun's first league goal for the Reds demonstrated the guile and ruthlessness in the final third that has been sadly lacking in recent league games.

Until the deadlock was broken 15 minutes from time it had been another desperately frustrating afternoon.

Of course, had Fernando Torres brought his shooting boots, the points would have been wrapped up before the hour mark.

But it wasn't just a question of missed chances. Often careless in possession and wasteful in wide areas, the Reds too often surrendered the initiative and invited Wigan forward.

The Latics had failed to score in the four defeats they had suffered at the hands of Rafa Benitez's side since they made the step up to the Premiership.

They had also lost their previous 16 top flight meetings against the 'big four' but how that miserable run was extended, only Julius Aghahowa will know.

The Wigan striker was presented with a glorious chance to rescue a point in stoppage time but he somehow nodded wide from three yards.

It was a shocking miss from the Nigerian international, who has not scored since arriving from Shakhtar Donetsk back in January.

That only served to compound Wigan's misery after two harsh offside decisions.

The first saved Jamie Carragher's blushes after he appeared to hack down Aghahowa in the box and the second ensured Marcus Bent's effort was ruled out.

If Wigan had equalised at the death the Reds could have had few complaints. Chris Hutchings may have been most people's favourite to win the sack race when he succeeded Paul Jewell but the Wigan boss has put together a useful side playing decent football.

The tireless central midfield duo of Aussie Josip Skoko and Michael Brown never allowed Steven Gerrard or Javier Mascherano to stamp their authority on the game and facing the team he has supported all his life brought the best out of Jason Koumas.

The ex-Tranmere star spent seven years at Anfield in his youth, playing alongside the likes of Gerrard and Michael Owen. He may have blotted his copybook with one terrible misplaced pass which nearly proved costly, but he was a constant threat going forward.

It was Koumas' run and pin-point cross which should have led to a late equaliser.

While the Reds rode their luck at times defensively, up front they were wasteful. Hailed in midweek as the new Ian Rush after his Carling Cup heroics, Torres appeared strangely subdued.

The Spaniard could have a hat-trick inside half an hour but he scuffed his first chance, was foiled by former Reds keeper Chris Kirkland when clean through and then sent an acrobatic volley wide when he had time to take the ball down and pick his spot.

Thanks to Jermaine Pennant's vision and Benayoun's touch of class, those misses didn't prove costly.

Victory keeps the Reds in touch with the leaders and it's all a far cry from last season when Manchester United were disappearing over the horizon.

The four away trips to date have yielded 10 points, with only Gareth Barry's penalty for Aston Villa on the opening day having breached the Reds' rearguard.

Last season it was the end of December before Benitez was celebrating a third away league victory of the campaign.

Potential champions need to have the ability to grind out results when they are not at their best.

But if that long wait for the Premiership title is going to end next May then they are going to have to raise their game considerably.

Reina supreme as Reds equal record

By David Prentice - Liverpool Echo

Liverpool’s king of the clean sheets celebrated another defensive landmark today.

Pepe Reina’s fifth shut-out of the season equalled the club’s best defensive start to a season – set in 1977 – and the Reds keeper admitted the defensive resilience is sparking thoughts of a title challenge.

“To win away in these type of games permits you to fight for the title and be real contenders,” he said after Saturday’s 1-0 win at Wigan.

“But our mentality is to win game after game, not think about the target of the title. But, of course, it’s there in our minds.

“Our mentality should be to go week by week and win every game.”

Reina has still only been beaten from the penalty spot this season – in the Premier League and in Europe – but he insisted the credit should be shared around the team for their impressive defensive performances.

“We are very proud of that record, but we all defend together so it’s everyone’s record,” he explained.

“We have only conceded from penalties so far, which is important.

“It is something we can be proud of, but we must keep working in that way.“

The Reds’ back four has been more settled than other areas of the team, but Reina admits the defenders are as just as likely to be ‘rotated’.

“The defence has changed a lot as well as the other departments of the team,” he added. Steve Finnan and Arbeloa have played on the right, Riise, Arbeloa and Aurelio on the left, with Daniel and Sami in the centre. All of the players in our squad are good enough to play the same level and that’s important for us.

“We know that to win the most important thing is to keep clean sheets. Then we have possibilities to score with the quality of players we have here.”

Benayoun support for bosses

By Laura Slatcher - Sky Sports

Yossi Benayoun has leapt to the defence of two under-fire Premier League managers amid widespread criticism of the bosses.

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez has been highly criticised for his rotation policy, in particular his decision to leave Fernando Torres out of the starting team. The Spanish international was left on the bench for goalless draws against both Portsmouth and Birmingham.

Torres proved Benitez wrong when he started against Reading in the Carling Cup midweek, netting a hat-trick in their 4-2 victory.

Benayoun had started on the bench against Wigan on Saturday, but came on to settle the match, and he appreciates Benitez's thinking, saying he does not mind being left on the bench.

He said: "I knew before I came there would be big games I would sit out in the stand or on the bench.

"We know there has been a lot of talk about the rotation, but we don't listen to what the press say, we listen to our manager and we respect him."

The Israeli international has also defended Chelsea's manager Avram Grant after he took charge following Jose Mourinho's departure.

He played under Grant for the Israeli national team and believes he has the potential to bring success to Chelsea.

"He is a good manager. But I also understand the criticism because a big name in Mourinho went and nobody knows Avram Grant," said the Liverpool midfielder.

"But you have to be patient, give him a couple of months to prove himself, and if it's not good, then you can criticise.

"It's only the start for him. I believe in him and I am sure he will be successful there. I am sure Chelsea will play better with him, just give him time."

Benitez praises Benayoun impact


Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez hailed match-winner Yossi Benayoun as the perfect solution to his side's recent mini-crisis.

The Reds had slipped off top spot in the Premier League following goalless draws at Portsmouth and at home to Birmingham, prompting criticism of Benitez's infamous rotation policy.

But with their match at Wigan heading for a third 0-0 stalemate, substitute Benayoun produced a moment of quality to give Liverpool a much-needed 1-0 victory.

It was the Israel international's first league goal for the Reds since his £5 million move from West Ham in the summer.

Benayoun had come on as a 56th-minute replacement, and Benitez said: "I brought him here for these kind of games.

"When you are trying to find a solution, you need players of creativity and quality, and Yossi gives us that.

"I am not saying he will start every game on the bench, it's just that in this instance I wanted to do different things.

"Yossi played the other night (in the Carling Cup against Reading) and I needed fresh legs, so I started with (Jermaine) Pennant.

"We created some chances and you need to take them if you want an open game.

"Because we didn't we needed to bring on players with different skills and Yossi was good, it was perfect."

All the talk prior to the game had centred around whether Benitez would start with Fernando Torres, who scored a hat-trick in the 4-2 win at Reading after previously starting on the bench against Pompey and Birmingham.

Benitez opted to pair Torres up front with Dirk Kuyt from the outset at the JJB Stadium, and the Spain international had three chances before the break.

Aurelio: Liverpool now
digging in for victories


Fabio Aurelio believes Liverpool's victory at Wigan Athletic is proof they're prepared to dig in for three points.

He told "It was a difficult game because it was physical. They have a very strong team and play a lot of long balls. It wasn't always possible to pass the ball but the team worked hard and in the end we got a great result.

"We have to be able to mix things up. When it's possible to get the ball down, pass and show our quality, it's better for us, but we also have to be able to fight like we did today.

"We need to be as strong as the other teams and make sure we win even when we are not at our best."

The full-back, who started his second consecutive game after recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon, knows the pressure was on to pick up all three points against Wigan to keep pace with league leaders Arsenal.

"It's very important to keep our place right near the top of the table. We haven't done that in recent seasons because of bad starts."

Hutchings hurt by defeat

By Peter Fraser - Sky Sports

Wigan manager Chris Hutchings was left 'frustrated and disappointed' by his side's 1-0 defeat to Liverpool.

The Latics boss saw his side suffer their first Premier League defeat of the season at the JJB Stadium after Yossi Benayoun struck in the 75th minute to earn Liverpool the points.

However, Hutchings believes his side were worthy of a point after seeing Julius Aghahowa miss a golden chance in the dying minutes.

"I feel frustrated and disappointed," Hutchings told Sky Sports News.

"I thought we did exceptionally well today and it was a very good team performance and we are just disappointed with the result.

"Right at the death we had a great chance to equalise, but I am very, very pleased with the way that we played and it is only the result that went against us."

Hutchings though declined to comment on the possibility of an Aghahowa penalty appeal and Marcus Bent goal, which were both denied by questionable offside flags.

"I'll need to look at them," Hutchings added. "If we take that chance at the end we would have come away with a point.

"The other issues we will have to have a look at and deal with as we see it."

Benayoun secures points for Reds

Ireland On-Line

Yossi Benayoun ended Liverpool’s mini crisis as Wigan suffered a 17th defeat in 17 matches against the Premier League’s fabled ’big four’.

Liverpool had endured goalless draws in their previous two league games, sparking much criticism of boss Rafael Benitez’s rotation policy.

In the end it was substitute Benayoun, a £5million buy from West Ham in the summer, who netted a 75th minute winner for his first league goal for the Reds.

From Wigan’s perspective, it was another brave yet fruitless performance against one of the big boys as they have still to take a point off of Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United since they were promoted to the top flight in 2005.

At least this was a dramatic improvement on the corresponding fixture last season when they were 4-0 down at the interval.

On that occasion they were torn apart from the opening whistle, primarily due to the pace of former striker Craig Bellamy to which the Latics could find no answer.

There was no Bellamy this time around – sold to West Ham in the summer – but instead there was Fernando Torres, the club record £26million replacement.

There had been a great debate surrounding Torres in the build-up to this encounter due to Benitez’s continual rotation of his stars.

Torres had sat on the bench for the previous two league matches in which Liverpool had failed to score at Portsmouth and at home to Birmingham.

Benitez then handed the Spain international a start in the midweek Carling Cup tie at Reading, and he responded with a hat-trick.

That prompted speculation as to whether Benitez should play the 23-year-old from the off against Wigan, and he ultimately opted to pair him with Dirk Kuyt.

He had Liverpool’s three best chances in an opening 45 minutes in which goalkeeper Jose Reina was a virtual spectator.

That was due to Wigan being deprived of their two first-choice strikers, with Antoine Sibierski a late withdrawal with a hamstring problem, joining Emile Heskey on the sidelines.

That led to boss Chris Hutchings handing Julius Aghahowa his first start this season alongside Marcus Bent, and the lack of cohesion and understanding between the duo was alarming.

Appreciably, after Wigan had started brightly, Liverpool edged into the game with every minute that passed and after Jermaine Pennant and John Arne Riise had shots blocked, Torres took over.

His first effort in the 25th minute was scuffed after Kuyt had delightfully cushioned a downward header to a Pennant cross into his path, giving Kirkland a comfortable take.

His second on the half hour came after a woeful error from life-long Reds fan Jason Koumas who sprayed a pass along the halfway line directly to Kuyt.

The Holland forward immediately set Torres clear, and after outpacing Emmerson Boyce, he stabbed a shot goalwards that was blocked at point-blank range by Kirkland.

Wigan were then fortunate as the ricochet sprang off the Spaniard and rebounded inches past the left-hand post.

The spectacular followed from Torres two minutes later with a scissor kick that was just wide after rising to meet a right-wing ball from Alvaro Arbeloa, with Wigan’s defence nowhere.

But then after the break Torres went missing as Wigan played with a fierce determination to their game, in particular with Titus Bramble an immense presence in defence.

Bent did have the ball in the net in the 50th minute, but it was controversially ruled out, stifling his delight.

Aghahowa, running back when the ball was played in by Josip Skoko, was offside, but not Bent who was three yards on when the cross was delivered.

Koumas forced Reina into his only meaningful save of the game five minutes later, before a combination of Kirkland and Skoko denied Kuyt soon after.

As the game started to swing from end to end, an ungainly flick from Paul Scharner as he beat Reina to a Koumas ball over the top finished agonisingly wide.

Then after Gerrard had screamed a 25-yard drive narrowly past the right-hand post, the Reds finally broke the deadlock 15 minutes from time.

Benayoun, on for Fabio Aurelio in the 56th minute, had plenty of work to do in picking up the ball a few yards outside the Wigan area.

But with an innocuous flick he gave himself time and space before beating Kirkland with a low shot.

Wigan, though, should have taken a point, only for Aghahowa to bury a six-yard header to a Koumas cross inches wide in the first of three minutes of injury time.

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