Benitez delight at clinching
win despite making four changes
By James Pearce - Liverpool Echo
Rafa Benitez believes last night’s hard
fought 1-0 victory over Portsmouth highlighted the strength
of his Liverpool squad.
The Reds boss made four changes to the side which beat
Chelsea as he handed starting roles to Sami Hyypia, Jermaine
Pennant, Lucas Leiva and Ryan Babel.
Javier Mascherano, Robbie Keane, Albert Riera and Daniel
Agger were all rested, but the Reds were still able to
maintain their three point lead at the top of the Premier
League, courtesy of Steven Gerrard’s 76th minute penalty.
“After the victory against Chelsea getting three points
tonight was really important,” he said.
“The message is that we can change players and still win.
“Clearly, with another game at Tottenham in three days and
then the Champions League match against Atletico, we will
have to change players again.
“Today it was clear some different players could give us
“Keane and Riera had some problems and were also a bit
tired, so I wanted to protect them a little bit.”
The Reds struggled to break down a resolute Pompey
rearguard, but Benitez insisted he always had faith the
breakthrough would arrive.
“We knew it would be difficult because they are a good team
who were trying to impress their new manager,” he said.
“I think everybody could see they were defending well with
bodies behind the ball.
“It wasn’t easy to find space so we had to be very precise
with the final pass.
“In the first half we were very dominant, creating chances
and controlling the game.
“The second half was a little bit more open. We made changes
and tried to find other solutions, but I always had
confidence we would score.
“Towards the end we were a bit nervous when they were
playing long balls and we couldn’t get the second goal to
finish the game.
“Confidence is high but it’s a long race ahead. Our fans
have to enjoy our position and we will try to stay there.”
Tony Adams believes he will be a great fit
as Portsmouth manager after watching his men narrowly beaten
at Anfield on Wednesday night.
A stout rearguard action from Pompey only failed to get a
point as Papa Bouba Diop gave away a needless penalty late
on that Steven Gerrard converted for the win.
Portsmouth also had a couple of great chances to come away
with more than a point and Adams was disappointed to come
away with nothing from his first game in charge.
"We're extremely disappointed we didn't come away with
anything," said Adams.
"Funnily enough we had the two best chances of the match but
one moment of madness and we've come away with nothing - but
that's this league it's unforgiving.
"I'm not going to have a go at him (Diop) he's worked
extremely hard, they all have.
"We set our stall out to be hard to beat tonight and we'll
have to take it on the chin."
Adams was delighted with the commitment and hard work shown
by his players now that he has taken charge.
The new boss left Jermain Defoe on the bench until five
minutes from time, and he insisted that it was a tactical
decision he needed.
"As long as they give us that commitment every week then me
and this football club aren't going to go far wrong," Adams
"I saw him Jermain rubbing his calf and we've had some
beatings away form home at Manchester City and away at Braga
so we had to be stronger.
"I want J (Defoe) to be top scorer at this club and
challenging for top scorer in the league but also I'm
realistic and we are away at the team top of the table.
"Some decisions I will make will be tactical, some
emotional, and that one was tactical tonight. I've no
problem with J and I hope he scores lots of goals at this
As Adams comes to terms with being a Premiership manager, he
says that he is fully confident he can follow in Harry
"I've got a great bunch of players here at Portsmouth who
will work hard and who I trust.
"My feet are firmly on the floor, I'm a realist, but I think
this might work out.
"I think we'll be alright me and Portsmouth, I've got a
funny feeling - maybe I'm wrong and maybe it wont but I
think we'll be alright."
spot on for Reds
By Ben Blackmore - Setanta Sports
Liverpool remain three points clear at the
top of The Premier League after they huffed and puffed and
finally blew Portsmouth’s house down to win 1-0 at Anfield.
In a hugely one-sided affair, Papa Bouba Diop proved
Pompey’s villain and Liverpool’s hero with 14 minutes
remaining, needlessly handling inside the area to allow
Steven Gerrard to rattle home the match-winning penalty.
On Tony Adams' first official match in charge, Pompey fans
will hope the negative tactics employed at Anfield aren’t a
sign of things to come under his reign, as Jermain Defoe
remained on the bench until the 84th minute.
In fairness, Adams could have come away with a point had it
not been for Diop’s moment of madness, but on the flip side
Liverpool could have scored four or five.
Adams was clearly worried by the possibility of a Liverpool
onslaught after their victory at Chelsea, yet what The Kop
got was more of a slow-burner, a sparkler rather a rocket.
Make no mistake, The Reds had all the ball and territory,
but the presence of Lucas in midfield was shackling Xabi
Alonso’s creative opportunities, while Jermaine Pennant
flattered to deceive out wide.
Dirk Kuyt remains something of a changed figure though, and
he almost broke the deadlock in the 10th minute after a
swift one-two between Arbeloa and Pennant, fizzing in a
spearing 20-yarder that David James turned onto the post.
With Peter Crouch operating alone upon his return to
Anfield, Pompey had hardly come to Merseyside intent on
throwing the kitchen sink at Liverpool, and then going back
for the bathtub. However, they should have led on 26
minutes. Crouch laid off the initial ball to Sean Davis,
whose delicate dink into the middle found Papa Bouba Diop
totally unmarked. The big Senegalese rose, The Kop held its
breath, Jose Reina saved.
It was a let-off for Liverpool, whose major threat always
appeared to be Ryan Babel and Steven Gerrard, yet their best
football of the half did not arrive until five minutes
before the break.
First Kuyt rippled the side-netting from Gerrard’s reverse
pass, and then Gerrard himself brought the best out of David
James with a similar effort to the one from Kuyt that hit
Right on half time, Babel moved the ball to Kuyt, who
instantly flicked to Gerrard, who returned the ball
immediately in a sublime one-touch move, but Kuyt’s touch
let him down when a goal surely beckoned. From the follow-up
Arbeloa curled wide, and that was the half gone. 0-0.
Liverpool simply had to get behind the Pompey defence in the
second half, yet Gerrard looked the only man capable of
doing so, as he did five minutes after the interval, but his
magnificent volleyed cross drew plenty of admirers but no
takers as Kuyt failed to anticipate.
The skipper’s next cross would be met by the imperious blond
mop of Sami Hyypia, but the big Finn’s near post glance was
too meaty and the ball flew wide.
Benitez had seen enough, Pennant had contributed next to
nothing all night, Yossi Benayoun came on. Adams responded
in kind, off came Armand Traore for Croat Niko Kranjcar.
Pompey’s shape remained intact though, forcing Babel inside
to narrow Liverpool’s options. The one time he did burst
into the box from Kuyt’s lay-off, his left foot let him down
as the ball flew high into The Kop.
Babel looked on the brink of something all night, and his
next piece of acceleration opened the way for Alonso to
shoot, but this time there were no heroics like at Stamford
Bridge three days ago.
Suddenly it was all Liverpool though, Gerrard playing the
most sublime slide-rule pass you’ll ever see, but Benayoun
wanted too many touches as he bore down on James - Sylvain
Distin making the heroic block. Aurelio then stung the palms
of James from 25 yards, cries of anguish bellowed out of The
Kop. They were answered in seconds.
From the resulting corner, Papa Bouba Diop lost Sami Hyypia,
and out of pure desperation he decided to play volleyball
inside his own area…penalty. Gerrard is the man for big
moments, David James knew which way to dive but the velocity
was such that The Kop roared and so did Gerrard.
Now Pompey needed to break their overly defensive shackles,
yet still Defoe continued to get splinters on the bench.
With six minutes left, he was off his seat, because Pompey
should have levelled. Nadir Belhadj delivered the perfect
left wing cross, pace, whip, cunning, but somehow Diop
managed to miss his header when five yards from goal.
Liverpool win again...but they'll want to start making life
easier for themselves soon.