After The Match 


Liverpool-Cardiff 2-1 (0-0)        31.10.07      Carling Cup (4.r.)
Goals: El Zhar (48), Gerrard (66)          Purse (65)
Team: Itandje, Aurelio, Arbeloa, Carragher, Hobbs, Leto, El Zhar, Gerrard, Lucas, Babel, Crouch
Subs: Benayoun (Leto 63), Kewell (El Zhar 71),
Mascherano (Lucas 87)
Not used: Martin, Riise
Yellow: Lucas (84), Babel (90)       McNaughton (44)
Red: None
Referee: P Walton
Attendance: 41,789
Shots on target: 7-4
Shots off target: 11-2
Blocked shots: 3-2
Fouls conceded: 12-5
Corners: 5-6
Offsides: 0-1
Possession: 56.2-43.8
Yellow: 2-1
HEADLINES "It was Gerrard
that really killed us..."
       Dave Jones

0211: Calming week shows progress
0211: Hobbs is happy to take the earache at LFC
0111: Liverpool kids show promise
3110: Rafa reveals Gerrard rationale
3110: Gerrard the King on God's return

Calming week shows progress

Fan Scene
By Sam Johnstone - Liverpool Daily Post

We have all been waiting for a week of relative calm at Anfield for a while, and this week has been good in terms of both performances and the reactions from fans.

The Arsenal game was a good one as usual, and Arsene Wenger's side played some great football but I was just as impressed with the way the Liverpool side performed, particularly after all the vitriol aimed at the manager and his players over the preceding days.

We still may not be firing on all cylinders, but we looked the equal of the high-flying Gunners throughout.

The skipper's performance in particular showed that he's getting back to his best, and I was impressed with the way we altered our style after losing three key players to injury.

From the very start you could tell the lads were hungry for the points, and the opening salvos from Liverpool unnerved Arsenal.

A draw was probably a fair result, and one that we can build on for this weekend's clash against Blackburn.

We're still in contention, remain unbeaten, and they are the important things.

Even more impressive were the performances of the squad players against Cardiff

You might think that the stage was set for an upset following another emotional return for Robbie Fowler, but the performances of Jack Hobbs, Lucas and Nabil El Zhar were promising, and they did all that was required of them to beat a pumped-up Cardiff City side.

Hobbs looked assured at the back, and hopefully we'll see him break through to the first team soon.

We haven't had too many make the move from the Academy to the senior side over the last few years, but Hobbs seems to be one that the boss thinks can make it.

El Zhar stood out, of course, because of his wonderful strike to give Liverpool the lead.

The confidence he showed to take a pop from 30-odd yards was great to see, and he has done his claims for a regular Carling Cup position no harm at all.

There was still a bit of tactical naivety there, but the more he plays the better he'll understand his role.

There was a murmur around me in the Lower Centenary when the skipper's name was confirmed as a starter, but I couldn't understand the fuss.

I stupidly listened to 606 again, and the comments made by one particular caller struck me as ignorant beyond belief when he criticised Rafa for playing Gerrard.

When three of your central midfield players are out (Xabi and Javier are injured, and Momo had a virus) who else are you going to play?

Even if they were fit and available I still would have picked Stevie - he's working his way back into form, and needs games to do it.

He's that kind of player is Gerrard. He plays himself back in, and that's just what he's doing.

So all in all a positive week at last.

We're in the quarter-finals of the League Cup, are still in contention for the League and we should go into the return game with Besiktas with a bit more confidence.

There will still be a few dark days ahead, but if we can start building up a head of steam we are definitely going in the right direction.

Hobbs is happy to take
the earache at Liverpool FC

By Ian Doyle - Liverpool Daily Post

With a broken nose and a touch of earache, you might expect Jack Hobbs to be feeling a little disgruntled with life just now.

But the Liverpool youngster can barely contain his excitement after making his full debut in the 2-1 win over Cardiff City in their Carling Cup fourth round tie on Wednesday night.

The 19-year-old, whose only previous senior experience was as an injury-time substitute in the previous round at Reading, was paired alongside Jamie Carragher at the heart of defence as replacement for the rested Sami Hyypia.

And Hobbs’s performance up against strikers Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Robbie Fowler earned a ringing endorsement from the veteran Finn – and ringing ears from his central defensive colleague on the night.

“Jamie kept on at me all night, which is really good,” says Hobbs. “He dragged me into positions and guided me, which obviously makes life a lot easier on your debut.

“I might have a little bit of earache but it’s all good.”

Hobbs, who was signed from Lincoln City in August 2005, was back in training yesterday despite sustaining a broken nose during the game.

And of his debut, he adds: “It felt amazing but really surreal, especially in the second half when I could see the whole of the Kop. That was really special. I had a couple of glimpses up there and it was like nothing I’ve ever experienced.

“To be marking Robbie and Jimmy Floyd as well – they are two of the biggest names in the game. I really enjoyed it.”

Reserve team skipper Hobbs now hopes to be challenging the likes of Carragher, Hyypia and Daniel Agger for a first-team place.

“That’s the first one done but now I want to push on and get more,” he says. “I know I’ll have to be patient. Rafa has an idea of using his whole squad and you might get a chance when players need resting, like Hyypia here.

“I’ve just got to work and train really hard, but I do feel ready for top-flight action. This was a big test because it was my first competitive game for any senior side, and I’m not going to come up against a more experienced strikeforce than Robbie and Jimmy Floyd.

“I’m quietly confident in myself but I still want to try and get better every day.

“I really hope this could be the start for me at Liverpool. Playing in front of that crowd every other week would be amazing.”

Liverpool kids show promise


Liverpool's progress to the Carling Cup last eight came with the added pleasure for boss Rafael Benitez of seeing that his kids are alright.

Defender Jack Hobbs and midfielder Nabil El Zhar were hugely instrumental in the 2-1 defeat of brave Cardiff.

Hobbs, 19, made his full debut alongside the experienced Jamie Carragher, and coped well with Cardiff's veteran front pairing of Robbie Fowler and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.

While El Zhar, French-born but of Moroccan background, struck a stunning 25-yarder to help send Liverpool on their way into the last eight.

For Hobbs there was glowing praise from Liverpool's own veteran defender Sami Hyypia, who watched his young protege underline his growing promise.

Hyypia said: "He is better than me when I was his age, and he is not slow to carry the ball out of defence, perhaps something I do not do these days.

"It was a great start for Jack, and hopefully he now has many more games to go in his career at Liverpool.

"He is still young and has lots to learn, but he is willing to learn every day. Sometimes he asks for advice and I am more than willing to give it.

"His strength is his height, and I can see a lot of myself in him. He has similar qualities that I have, and this is not a bad start for him. If he keeps improving he can be one for the future here at Liverpool. "

El Zhar, 21, was born in Ales, France, and has played for the French youth side and Morocco's Under 20s.

The former St. Etienne youngster said: "It was a big dream to score in front of the Kop and now I am living that dream. I don't know if I have scored a better one than that and I hope it is the first of many in a Liverpool shirt.

"I don't have the words to describe the feeling when I scored, it was simply amazing. It happened so quickly.

"You have to forget about the big names you are playing with and try to show people what you can do. I hope I did that.

"But I now have to try to keep at this level. I must get up in the morning, go to training and continue working hard. I scored but I have got more work to do to play in this team. I have to keep my feet on the ground. All I've done is score - I haven't done anything in this team yet."

Wednesday's Carling Cup tie was El Zhar's first senior start of the season, adding to the three appearances he had notched up since joining in October 2006.

With Ryan Babel, Yossi Benayoun, fit-again Harry Kewell and Sebastian Leto battling it out for places on the wings, and with Jeremaine Pennant recovering from injury, El Zhar knows he may have to be patient for his next chance.

But he added: "I am better on the right wing because I'm right footed, but I also feel OK on the left and up front. I would play as a defender at the moment if it meant I played!

"I have to work hard and improve - and you can only improve when you play with the kind of players I did against Cardiff. I've just got to work hard for the reserves and try to prove to the boss that I'm ready to play some games this season. He (Benitez) said I will play some games if I work hard and prove what I can do."

Rafa reveals Gerrard rationale

By Paul Walker - PA Sport

Rafael Benitez revealed match-winner Steven Gerrard would not have played in Liverpool's Carling Cup victory over Cardiff if Mohamed Sissoko had not
been sick.

The Anfield boss had intended resting his skipper for tonight's fourth-round tie, but Sissoko - who had been ill ahead of Sunday's draw with Arsenal - had not recovered sufficiently to play against the Coca-Cola Championship side.

Benitez said: "I would have wanted really to leave Steven out of the match. But we have too many injuries and Momo was sick again, so he had to play.

"And in the end he was the one who scored the vital goal. Cardiff worked very hard and were always dangerous from set-pieces, and that is where their equaliser came from.

"But then Gerrard got through to score a typical goal. His form is coming back, as are his goals. That is three now in successive games."

Cardiff boss Dave Jones, a former Everton player who has a son in Liverpool's academy system, admitted it was only Gerrard's intervention that stopped his side producing a more memorable result.

Jones said: "It was Gerrard that really killed us - only he could have turned the game like that. So I'm going to have to get my son to duff him up in training!"

Liverpool took the lead through French youngster Nabil El Zhar with a stunning 20 yarder in the opening minutes of the second-half.

Darren Purse headed Cardiff level, but Gerrard stormed through to grab the winner while the Welsh hordes were still celebrating.

Benitez had walked onto the pitch at the end to embrace Robbie Fowler while the Kop roared the name of a man who is still there idol.

Benitez said: "I just wished him well - he was great for us when he came back to the club. He has left us all with great memories of a great player."

Gerrard the King on God's return

By Ben Blackmore - Setanta Sports

Robbie Fowler’s Anfield return ended in defeat as Steven Gerrard reaffirmed his status as the Kop King by leading Liverpool to a 2-1 Carling Cup victory over Cardiff.

Fowler showed glimpses of his fading genius in a gritty Cardiff display, but it was Gerrard who stood tall to drive Liverpool into the quarter finals after Darren Purse had cancelled out Nabil El Zhar’s stunning opener.

Kopites delved deep into their wardrobes to dust off their 'God' banners for their returning hero, who etched himself into Liverpool hearts with 183 goals in 369 appearances.

The League Cup was always Fowler’s competition whilst at Anfield, ever since he burst onto the scene with a magnificent five-goal haul against Fulham in his maiden season.

He left Merseyside for the second time with a total of 29 goals from 35 appearances in the competition, a record he has taken to Cardiff with two from two.

Rafa Benitez would have been fully aware of Fowler’s threat alongside Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink up front, and he responded by selecting Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard in his starting line-up.

Peter Crouch was given a rare start alongside Ryan Babel in attack, while long-term absentee Harry Kewell returned to the bench.

It took less than five minutes for Fowler to make his first telling impact on the game, forcing a full stretch save from Reds keeper Charles Itandje with a trademark curling free kick.

At the other end Liverpool’s attack lacked the intelligence and canny running of a Fowler-of-old, although Crouch and Babel did fashion a chance for the latter, who drove over.

Crouch was not short of a trick or two as he pulled many a long ball out of the air, and he almost provided an 11th-minute treat as he spun 360 degrees before driving just wide.

Liverpool were the more dangerous attacking threat, although not always by incisive passing, and Fabio Aurelio, Babel and Sebastian Leto all could have scored with fierce slashes at goal.

Cardiff were limited to just one other chance before the break, Paul Parry brushing aside any thoughts of Halloween to show he is not afraid of crosses by heading just wide at the back post.

There was no mistaking the dissatisfaction of the home support at the break, but that changed inside four minutes of the second half, and how. El Zhar decided he would join in the fancy dress theme by donning his Steven Gerrard cape to crash in a stunning 25-yarder to open his Liverpool account.

Moments later Gerrard himself burst behind the Cardiff defence, prompting memories of his golden chance in the 2007 Champions League final, and once again he failed to convert as hs left foot shot fell wide.

That seemed to draw a reaction from Cardiff, and within five minutes they were level. First, Joe Ledley forced a stunning one-handed save from Itandje, but the keeper could do nothing to keep out Darren Purse’s header moments later after he towered over Jamie Carragher.

The response of Liverpool’s fans was fantastic, and they were rewarded immediately as Gerrard played a superb one-two with Yossi Benayoun before driving the ball home for 2-1.

Suddenly there was a swagger to Liverpool's game as the excellent Benayoun and Gerrard controlled matters, prompting Benitez to hand Kewell a 20-minute run-out.

Liverpool could have made things more comfortable towards the end as Babel and Crouch wasted opportunities, opportunities Fowler might feel he would have taken as he waved goodbye to The Kop at the final whistle.

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Thor Zakariassen ©