Rafa happy if Pennant keeps trying

Liverpool winger Jermaine Pennant is not having the best of times right now. Unrest is growing amongst fans that the player signed from Birmingham in the summer is not delivering the goods. Last night booing could be heard as he was substituted late on, and the usual voices on the usual phone-ins were, as usual, disgusted with him; Pennant has replaced Reina as the latest scapegoat for dropped points, and the more he hears this the worse his confidence gets.

Liverpool boss Rafa Benítez ended up paying £6.5m for him in the summer, in a deal that could rise to £8m if certain conditions are met, so he obviously sees a lot more in him than most of those fans. Earlier in the season Pennant was often overlooked as Rafa picked Steven Gerrard for the role on the right side of midfield, and those who don't agree with rotation will say that this sent out a negative message to Pennant, hitting his confidence from the start. His confidence problems aren't helped, some say, by the fact he’s a life-long Liverpool supporter – he knows from his heart how high the expectations are.

Rafael Benítez won’t persevere with him for ever, but he will give him as many chances as he thinks he needs. He’s trying to get Pennant to build his confidence up by doing things the simple way. He said after the game last night: “We told Pennant to be confident, to get in his crosses and to beat defenders. I think he was trying really hard, I was pleased with that, but when you cannot do it then you must play it simple, do things in a simple way, get crosses in and hope the forwards can reach them.”

Rafa says that Pennant’s crossing was good last night and that he was doing his bit, but it was the forwards who were letting the side down: “He was getting in plenty of good crosses but sometimes the forwards were not up in support. He continued trying which gives us an option in the wide areas. As long as he keeps trying and working I am happy, but the moment he becomes afraid to try things then he will not improve. He must keep going and trying to do the right things.”

Liverpool were forced through injuries to play centre-back Jamie Carragher in midfield last night, a decision Rafa preferred to the alternative, playing youngster Danny Guthrie in that role. Guthrie did get an appearance late on – in place of winger Pennant – but isn’t likely to get another chance this weekend. Rafa’s hoping to be able to rush Xabi Alonso back into action instead: “Maybe Xabi will be available but also we have to check if we have any new injuries today.”

Of Carragher’s performance in that holding role, Rafa said: “It's a difficult game for a holding midfielder when the opposition are always behind the ball. The idea was for Jamie to keep the ball and move the ball and he was doing his job well. I felt we had more problems in the wide areas and we needed to get in the box.”

Continue reading Rafa happy if Pennant keeps trying

Prem Result / Reaction: Liverpool 0 Portsmouth 0

Barclays Premiership – Result.


0 – 0



25 Reina
3 Finnan
4 Hyypia
5 Agger
6 Riise
16 Pennant  (35
Guthrie 84)
8 Gerrard
23 Carragher
10 Luis Garcia (42 El Zhar 72)
15 Crouch (9 Fowler 61)
18 Kuyt

1 James
11 Pamarot
2 Primus
23 Campbell
14 Taylor
7 Thompson
30 Pedro Mendes (6 Fernandes 69)
26 O'Neil
22 Hughes
19 Kranjcar (5 O'Brien 90)
25 Mwaruwari (27 Kanu 82)
1 Dudek
9 Fowler
29 Paletta
35 Guthrie
42 El Zhar



15 Ashdown
5 O'Brien
6 Fernandes
17 Koroman
27 Kanu
Carragher 52
Pennant 70

Hughes 75
Thompson 76
Pamarot 90
Manager Rafael
Benitez :
"They were time-wasting from the first minute their goalkeeper
was taking time walking across his area for goal kicks from very early on.
The referee only put on two minutes in the first half and five in the second
but there was a lot more. In the end it is down to the referee to book
players. I depends on the referee if you can stop those things."

"In the first half we had control and possession but in
the second period with all that time-wasting we got nervous and started
making mistakes. When you work as hard as we did and you cannot score you
must be disappointed.

"You cannot say anything to the players as they tried
everything but they broke up the game all the time." 

On Craig Bellamy's
not guilty verdict earlier in the day:
"It is important now for him to
get back here and to focus on his football. It has been tough for him but now
I believe we will see him more relaxed and scoring goals."

Manager Harry
"I wouldn't know what time-wasting was. I would never tell a
team of mine to do that in fact I kept shouting at our full back Noe Pamarot
not to take so much time at throws because he would get himself booked. And
that is what happened in the end. Surely no one is saying we came to Anfield
to time-waste for 90 minutes that would be ridiculous.

"We defended very well and deserved what we got. I had no
option but to play one striker up front because of our injuries Liverpool do
it away from home so do Bolton but it is not
something I would do by choice but needs must."

Goalkeeper David
James (ex-Red):
"It's the first time I've got anything on my return so I
am delighted. We were very strong defensively and I didn't have a great deal
much to do and it was a thoroughly deserved point. We stuck to our game-plan.
I know it wouldn't have been the greatest game for Liverpool
fans too watch but we couldn't afford to be gung-ho."



Referee: Alan



Continue reading Prem Result / Reaction: Liverpool 0 Portsmouth 0

Bellamy cleared of assault charges

Liverpool striker Craig Bellamy was this afternoon cleared of assault on two women at a Cardiff nightclub.

Bellamy, 27, was facing a charge of common assault, against Sophie Palmer and Holly Smith. They had claimed they were assaulted in Cardiff's "No 10" nightclub in February, when Bellamy was a Blackburn player.

The District Judge John Charles ruled that the charges should be dismissed, the main reason being that the evidence provided by the prosecution was not consistent. Announcing his ruling, Judge Charles said: "It was inconsistent to convict you with the serious discrepancies in the prosecution case and the two charges are dismissed."

Bellamy was in court alongside his friend, 52-year-old Franklin Lynch from Barry in South Wales, who had been accused of assault against Holly Smith. He was also cleared.

Bellamy had already been left out of the squad for tonight's match against Portsmouth as the case had gone on longer than expected.

Continue reading Bellamy cleared of assault charges

And then there was one – Zenden latest midfield casualty

Liverpool FC have just about run out of central midfielders, with the news that Bolo Zenden has become the latest one to join the growing casualty list at the club. Liverpool had been hoping to keep the news quiet for now ahead of the clash against Portsmouth at Anfield tomorrow night, but the story spread from the Dutch media that Zenden was out of action.

Zenden suffered a knee injury in the win over Manchester City at the weekend, and although he did finish that game this injury is feared serious enough to keep him out for as long as six weeks. This injury is said again to be knee ligament damage, but isn’t thought to be related to the cruciate ligament damaged he suffered a year ago. That injury kept him out for the remainder of that season.

The first-choice central-midfield pairing of Momo Sissoko and Xabi Alonso are already out of action, meaning that Zenden had been lining up in the middle with Gerrard, who’d been moved from his infamous right-midfield position. Momo isn’t going to be available again until the New Year after undergoing shoulder surgery, and Xabi is not expected to be able to figure in either of the next two Liverpool games after sustaining an injury last week in the Champions League.

Rafa is now faced with having to either play someone out of position or to use one of the youngsters in the game tomorrow night against Portsmouth. If it’s a youngster he goes for then it could be Danny Guthrie, but it seems more likely that Rafa will go for big match experience. Jamie Carragher or Daniel Agger could be pushed forward into midfield. A possible candidate for the central role normally might have been John Arne Riise who has played centrally for his country in the past, but he’s just about the only fit left-sided player at the club right now, so he’s not likely to be able to move infield.

One thing highly unlikely to happen is for Rafa to recall Salif Diao from his loan spell at Stoke City. Liverpool are short on numbers, but Salif is not part of any plans of any description for Rafa. The game against Portsmouth is very significant for Liverpool in that they would move above their opponents, currently fourth, if they won.

Continue reading And then there was one – Zenden latest midfield casualty

Reds sign defender Insua

Confirmation has come today from various news sources that Liverpool have signed 17-year-old Argentinean defender Emiliano Insua from Boca Juniors.

Left-back Emiliano was at Anfield last week to watch the Champions League win over PSV Eindhoven, and the reports say he is now a Red – subject to international clearance. Some of the reports are saying that Liverpool have signed him on a loan initially which becomes a permanent deal later, but this is purely to get round the transfer window rules.

Liverpool FC themselves are yet to confirm the news.

Emiliano is a member of the Argentina Under-20 squad and is said to be good enough that he might actually be pushing for a first team place before the end of this season.

Meanwhile Liverpool have been linked to Italian goalkeeper Marco Amelia after he claimed Liverpool had been showing interest in him. He said Liverpool were just one English side looking at him. Talking to Italian media, he said that talks with his club owner Aldo Spinelli over a new contract have been put on hold until the re-opening of the transfer window: "There are several English clubs interested in me, especially Liverpool. I have agreed with Spinelli to renew my contract but we have postponed the meeting until the new year."

Amelia is out of contract at the end of the season meaning he is free to discuss summer moves from the New Year onwards, under the terms of the Bosman ruling. Jerzy Dudek is also in the same situation with his Liverpool contract, meaning that Liverpool will be potentially looking for a replacement for him for next season. Scott Carson has been sent on loan this season to pick up experience rather than kick his heels on the bench, if he doesn't do the same next season though he'll be the number two to Pepe Reina.

Continue reading Reds sign defender Insua

Carra’s confidence booster to team-mates

Liverpool defender and all-round hero Jamie Carragher has been dishing out the praise to two of his team mates who both need the praise, but for different reasons. New boy Daniel Agger has been steadily finding himself picked more and more this season as he seems to be heading towards becoming the permanent replacement for Sami Hyypia. Carra knows that Agger’s excellent performances won’t be harmed by some encouragement from the vice-captain. At the other end of the spectrum is Carra’s fellow scouser and fellow academy graduate, captain Steven Gerrard. A fully-fit and fully-on song Steven Gerrard is good enough to almost give the team an extra man, but his confidence has suffered this season. Carra know that Gerrard’s goal on Saturday, his first in the league, will be the first of many if Gerrard can keep his confidence levels on a high.

So Jamie spoke of how much he’s enjoyed seeing Dane Daniel settle in at the club: “Daniel Agger has come in and done superbly. It’s a tough position because it’s a bit like a goalkeeper in that if you make a mistake it’s probably going to go into the back of the net, so the way he has been playing has been superb. Ever since he has come in he has looked like a typical Liverpool centre-back, going back to the days of Mark Lawrenson and Alan Hansen, and he is very good on the ball.”

Carra’s hopeful that Agger can emulate Jockey and Lawro in other ways too, and he’s not talking about TV punditry: “Hopefully it won't just be about playing like them, and he can win the trophies they won as well!”

Next on Carra’s praise list then was the captain. And Carra had some very high praise for the Reds number 8: “I think Stevie can be the best player in the world, and I am not just saying that because he is my mate or because he plays for Liverpool. I said last season that I wouldn’t swap him for Ronaldinho – who, like Kaka, is a great player – but I wouldn't swap him for Stevie. I do not think that by taking Steven Gerrard out of the team and putting one of those two in, they would make a bigger impact than him.”

High praise indeed, especially when you consider how much time Carra spends studying football from all over the world. He says that Gerrard’s impact couldn’t be any greater: “He cannot do much more. He has won the player of the year, been the captain of a team that won the Champions League and has scored in the final of the Champions League, the FA Cup, the League Cup and the UEFA Cup. There's not a lot more he can do except get his hands on the Premiership title before he retires from Liverpool. He would get into any team in the world. If you were picking a world 11, he would get into it no problem.”

Liverpool fans are hoping Gerrard gets to lift a Premiership title or two well before he retires, but some awful results away from home this season mean it’s looking like being at least another 18 months before that happens. At home, though, Liverpool are hard to beat, especially now that Gerrard is getting back to his old self again: “I thought that Stevie, not just for the goal, was outstanding and was by far our man of the match. Even in the first half when we found it tough, he was all over the pitch. There has been a lot of talk about him not scoring goals but it looks like he is back on the goal trail now. But he is a midfielder and should not be judged on just his goals but on his all-round game, and that's not been a problem.”

As well as praising Agger and Gerrard, Carra also looked to find some words of encouragement for the team as a whole. He’s now hopeful that they are back to the level they were at last season: “We hope we're getting back to the form of last season, but there's nothing worse than talking about it and not doing it. We can judge that at the end of the season, but what we did last season will be difficult to achieve again.”

Saturday’s win of course included another clean sheet, and that’s what Carra says his colleagues at the back are judged on, and he revealed his target in that respect: “If we can get close to 25 clean sheets for the season, then that will be good. It is similar to strikers, they want a goal every other game and we should be looking for a clean sheet every two games.”

Liverpool’s position in the table is deceiving in that they are in ninth place, but are actually just three points from third. They host fourth-placed Portsmouth on Wednesday and would be able to get into the top four if they win against the team from the South coast. Carra is aware of the importance of that game on Wednesday and how a win would boost confidence: “Everyone knows we’ve not had the greatest of starts in the Premiership, but we’ve been doing very well at home and we’ve another home game on Wednesday. The teams around us are quite close, so if we can get a good result on Wednesday and some of the teams around us drop points then that can put us closer to the top four.”

As for the excuse (or reason, however you prefer to put it), that Liverpool’s fixture list has given them all the tough games in the first half of the season, Carra has an answer to that: “We did have difficult fixtures at the start of the season, but we are Liverpool and we should be a difficult fixture for the opposition. We’re disappointed with those results but we’ve got to look forward now and the only positive is that a lot of those tough games are now out of the way.”

Continue reading Carra’s confidence booster to team-mates

Joy for parents as Michael Shields is moved to Wigan

Liverpool supporter Michael Shields was yesterday transferred to Hindley Prison in Wigan. The prison is said to house both and adult and young offenders in different wings. Michael was transferred to the UK from Bulgaria on Thursday, initially to Wandsworth according to most reports. However it was then reported yesterday that he’d actually been taken straight to Feltham Young Offenders' Institution, not Wandsworth, for assessments on where he should be taken next. And to the delight of his parents, he was taken to a place just 20 miles from his home.

Michael went to Bulgaria on a holiday in May 2005, with the intention of using it as means to get to Turkey to see the Reds take part in their first European Cup final in 20 years. He did get to Turkey to see the Reds lift the famous trophy, but then a nightmare faced him in the following days. He was accused of the attempted murder of a barman, Martin Georgiev, who had been badly injured when he had a paving slab dropped on his head. There is no doubt that this was a brutal attack, and the Bulgarian authorities were desperate that someone should pay for it. Not necessarily the right person though, and they seemed to decide that Michael was the one they wanted before they’d made any attempts at a thorough investigation. Michael is said to have been forced to attend an identity parade where nobody else in the line-up looked anything like him, yet those asked to do the identifying had been reminded that they were looking for someone fitting Michael’s description. In fact not only were they told of the description, Michael had been handcuffed to a radiator in full view of those who had been asked to identify him too. No forensic evidence was used in the trial. Michael is innocent, yet the authorities in Bulgaria are still working on a system that seems hundreds of years out of date. All they seem to want is to have someone go down for the crime; it doesn’t matter if the real criminal is walking free. Graham Sankey could well be that real criminal, after he made a confession that he was responsible for the attack and not Michael. He refused to go to Bulgaria to face the music though, and later changed his story. It took under two months for the questionable justice system in Bulgaria to give Michael the conviction for attempted murder.

Michael is now 20 and his parents have been through hell this past 18 months. Last night they were on local TV news in the North West and the delight on their faces was a joy to see after seeing them suffer so much. It’s the first time I’ve seen any images at all of them smiling.

The joy is only that Michael can now be visited by them without great expense. He still needs to be freed; his innocence still needs to be proved. Solicitors for the family have lodged an appeal in the European Court of Human Rights. His mother is delighted though that she’ll be allowed to see him today in Wigan, just half an hour away if the traffic’s good.  She said yesterday: “Michael shouldn't be in jail at all because he is innocent, but it is better to be in jail in Wigan than in Bulgaria, or even down in London. I spoke to him this afternoon and he was in good spirits. He told me he was fine, and he's looking forward to us visiting him tomorrow.”

As well as fighting for him to be freed, campaigners are also working on getting his sentence reduced by having British law applied to the length of the sentence rather than Bulgarian law. The family haven’t yet been told by the Home Office which system will be used. Under Bulgarian law he would be released three years before the end of his ten-year sentence. Under British rules he could be out on parole after half his sentence, which would be in another three-and-a-half years.
Labour leader, Councillor Joe Anderson, is leading the campaign for Michael and said of the possibility that the British system could be implemented: “An agreement needs to be reached between UK and Bulgarian authorities. Michael did not receive a fair trial abroad and we want that taken into consideration.”

Michael’s father, Michael Shields senior, also said they were in the dark about how long he would have to stay in prison: “We are still unsure what sentence he has to serve.”

The real hope though is that the bid in the European courts is successful, and there’s also a feeling that the UK government could use its powers to fast-track the appeal through the system. Michael’s local MP, Louise Ellman, confirmed that the fight for justice goes on: “We won't give up in the long fight to get Michael's sentence overturned.”

Continue reading Joy for parents as Michael Shields is moved to Wigan

Reds short on numbers for Didi’s return

Former Liverpool midfielder Didi Hamann comes back “home” to Anfield tomorrow at a time when we could do with him being back in our squad. An injury crisis has hit Liverpool, mainly in the midfield department, and Didi – himself just back from injury – would have been a certain starter tomorrow had he remained a Red in the summer.

Momo Sissoko is out for three months after his shoulder injury sustained in the recent league cup match against Birmingham, and his fellow central midfielder Xabi Alonso has now joined him. Xabi will be out for around 12 days with a knee injury.

The absence of those two first-choice central midfielders means Steven Gerrard has to move infield to his preferred position, as does Bolo Zenden. Both of the two left-sided midfielders signed in the summer by Rafael Benítez are also out though – Mark Gonzalez is out for three weeks after tearing his hamstring on Wednesday joining Fabio Aurelio. The right-winger signed in the summer, Jermaine Pennant has to go through a late fitness test after also being stretchered off on Wednesday.

Harry Kewell is still out with his long-term problems and the chance to move John Arne Riise further forward isn’t there because Stephen Warnock has just undergone groin surgery and won’t be playing for at least another two weeks.

With all this going on, it’s no surprise that the squad for tomorrow includes some of the youngsters – Guthrie, Hammill and Peltier – and Rafa may be forced to use one or two of them. Craig Bellamy is expected to be in the sixteen despite having to attend his court case this week.

As for Didi, he says his Anfield return may just bring a lump to his throat. He said: “It will be emotional. I went to the Galatasaray match earlier this season when I said hello to a few people, but that's the only time I've been back. A part of me feels like I still belong there. I was there a long time and had some wonderful memories. Part of me is still Liverpool and I hope I get a nice reception.”
If Didi doesn’t get a good reception there’s a lot of supporters who should consider finding another team to support, the German midfielder’s contribution at Anfield deserves a hero’s welcome. Didi says he’s surprised how badly his former side have been in the first half of the season: “I'm surprised at how they've started, because I really thought they would be genuine title contenders this season. I didn't think they'd be so many points behind the top two, which is really down to their away record, although they’ve had their five or six toughest away trips already.”
He says that he can see the Reds pulling back up the table before the season ends: “I still think they will finish top three. We put together a run of nine or 10 wins last season and they are capable of doing it again.”
Hamann will be glad that Liverpool are in the middle of this injury crisis, in the hope it makes the job of dealing with the skipper a little easier: “If Stevie's on his game he's hard to stop. With his pace, passing and shooting he can take any defence apart. We have to defend as a team and help each other out, because if you let yourself get one against one with him you're in trouble.”
And can “The Kaiser” give his team mates any tips on how to stop Gerrard? “I can't really,” he says, “There's nothing I can really tell them they don't already know, except that it will be tough!”

Kick-off tomorrow is a rare 3pm. The referee will be Rob Styles, who awarded Liverpool a penalty in the season’s opener against Sheffield United in August. He booked Sissoko and the now-departed Kromkamp that day, the only Reds league game he’s officiated on this season. Tomorrow will be the first City league game he’s taken charge of this term.

Continue reading Reds short on numbers for Didi’s return

CL result and reaction: Liverpool 2 PSV 0

Champions League. Result 




Gerrard 65
Crouch 89

25 Reina
3 Finnan
23 Carragher
5 Agger
6 Riise
16 Pennant (Bellamy, 78)
8 Gerrard
14 Alonso (Zenden
, 21)
11 Gonzalez (Luis
Garcia, 36)
15 Crouch
18 Kuyt


1 Gomes
2 Kromkamp
14 Da Costa
4 Alex
23 Salcido
11 Mendez (Beerens, 81)
6 Simons
22 Feher (Tardelli, 68)
20 Afellay
17 Farfan
10 Kone

1 Dudek
4 Hyypia
9 Fowler
10 Luis Garcia
17 Bellamy
29 Paletta
32 Zenden


21 Moens
3 Reiziger
8 Cocu
18 Addo
19 Lamey
26 Tardelli
33 Beerens

Manager Rafael Benítez: "We are really pleased with the victory
and it is good for it was good for the players, the fans and the whole club
but unfortunately we have some injuries with Mark Gonzalez the more serious. Gonzalez
will be out for at least two weeks with his hamstring which is a blow for us.
Xabi has a dead leg and Pennant has spasms in his hamstring so we will have
to see how he is.

"To lose three
players with injuries is a high price. It made it a very hard match to
manage, when you see players being taken off like that  it does limit what you can do as a manager.  We found ourselves having to use Luis
Garcia, who was not 100% fit after being out for three weeks with a calf
injury. Bolo Zenden too was forced into the game without any warm-up because
the injuries happened so quickly.

"We played very
professionally, and Steven (Gerrard) had a fine game. He scored another goal
and it was good to see him playing with such confidence, the whole team were
happy to see that.


Manager Ronald
"The quality of Gerrard was outstanding, it was an excellent
midfield performance and was something we could not match. We did not do too
badly, we did not give away possession but our build up play from the back
let us down. We have dangerous players up front but if we do not get the ball
to them properly, we will not score goals. A lot of our play was really
sloppy, if you do that you do not create much up front. 

(Speaking about the decision to leave out Phillip Cocu just
before the match with a fever) :
"We were not prepared to risk him because of
the important games we have coming up. It would have been good to have won at
Anfield, but playing away to Liverpool is very different to playing
Galatasaray and Bordeaux
on their own grounds.

"We know we have qualified, but we still want to end the
group with a victory against Bordeaux
in our last match, that would send us into the winter in good spirits."

Full-back Jan Kromkamp:

Domenico Messina


Continue reading CL result and reaction: Liverpool 2 PSV 0

CL Confirmed teams: Reds v PSV

25 Reina, 3 Finnan, 23 Carragher, 5 Agger, 6 Riise, 16 Pennant,  8 Gerrard, 14 Alonso, 11 Gonzalez, 15 Crouch, 18 Kuyt
Subs: 1 Dudek, 4 Hyypia, 9 Fowler, 10 Luis Garcia, 17 Bellamy, 29 Paletta, 32 Zenden

PSV: 1 Gomes, 2 Kromkamp, 14 Da Costa, 4 Alex, 23 Salcido, 11 Mendez, 6 Simons, 22 Feher, 20 Afellay, 17 Farfan, 10 Kone
Subs: 21 Moens, 3 Reiziger, 8 Cocu, 18 Addo, 19 Lamey, 26 Tardelli, 33 Beerens

Referee: Domenico Messina

Continue reading CL Confirmed teams: Reds v PSV