Reaction to Reds 3-1 victory over Magpies

Liverpool’s win over Newcastle yesterday showed how important they feel it is to push for second place until it’s either achieved or impossible. Eight goals in two games show they’ve found their scoring boots again, and although they’ve now got two games in hand they are just two points behind Manchester United. Manager Rafael Benítez was delighted that his team had come out victorious: “I am very, very happy because it was a difficult game and we played well, scored goals and could have won by a lot more than 3-1 in the end.”

The Reds boss used a formation he’s not used before, with three centre-backs keeping Newcastle’s chances down to a minimum. Jan Kromkamp and Stephen Warnock were outstanding as wing-backs rather than conventional full-backs, and Rafa was pleased with how the system worked. He says the change to the system was done with Tomorrow’s FA Cup quarter-final match at Birmingham in mind, coming just two days after this league match: “We’re also thinking about the FA Cup. After the sending off we were in control of the game and there were two saves by their keeper at the end. We’ve not been doing anything different but we changed the system. It’s a possibility to keep the system for the Birmingham match because it was good.”

Liverpool’s troubles in front of goal look to be over now, although that’s said in the hope it wasn’t spoken too soon. For Rafa, the confidence previously missing for his strikers is back, and that is the most important change: “It’s important for the team to have more confidence – the strikers are good and if you create chances you can score.”

Djibril Cisse scored a penalty, awarded after Jean-Alain Boumsong
committed what was deemed a professional foul on Peter Crouch. Boumsong
took an age to leave the field in front of the Gallowgate End after his
red card, but despite the delay Cisse scored the penalty with some
style. His relief was clearly evident – until that point he was the
only Reds striker without a goal this year – and he finally got the
chance to show off the message he’s had under his shirt for the last
few weeks. After scoring he ran too look for the cameras to lift his
shirt and send his message of love to his wife and their children. The
referee took this as an over-elaborate celebration and booked him for
it. The Gallowgate were clearly unhappy at the scoreline but Cisse got
the brunt of the unhappiness. He was booed every time he got the ball,
and when he got a corner he foolishly gestured to the Newcastle fans as
if to say, “Carry on booing, I don’t care”. Cisse should not have done
this of course, and his team-mates had to remind him of his
responsibilities. The referee joined in to remind him of what he was
doing wrong, but it would have been harsh for Cisse to get two yellows
for the two incidents.  Benítez was asked immediately after the game
for his views on Cisse’s gestures. He says he couldn’t actually see
what was going on but he was concerned: “I have not seen it, but I was
worried. I told him to be calm and under control because we had to play
football. I haven’t seen it or heard about it, but I prefer to talk
about football and forget other things. I have not spoken to him since
the final whistle. I cannot comment further until I have looked again
at what happened.” The FA would be changing their own rules if they
chose to take action against Cisse now, as the referee saw the incident
and chose not to act:

Rafa says that Boumsong’s sending off didn’t turn the game, because
they were already winning when it happened: “The sending-off was not
too important because the team was winning when it was eleven v eleven.
We were creating chances and playing well so it wasn’t as if it was a
turning point. As a supporter you must be delighted. If you want to win
titles you need a good squad. We played a new system and I’m pleased
with the way the team adapted. They proved they are good players.”

Kromkamp’s performance had Liverpool fans scratching their heads all
the more at how Rafael Benítez had managed to pull off his move to
Anfield. To swap the ineffective Josemi for Kromkamp, without adding
any cash to the deal, was a masterstroke. The other wing-back was
Warnock and he seemed to have responded to both his midweek goal and
also the speculation that Rafa has a Brazilian left-back lined up. “We
used three centre-backs and had Warnock and Kromkamp as wing backs and
it worked very well. The movement of Kewell caused problems for
Newcastle and we started the game very well.”

Rafa saw Crouch, Morientes and Fowler get on the scoresheet on
Wednesday, and then Crouch and Cisse did the same yesterday. He says it
leaves him something to think about for the Birmingham game: “It is
really important for the team to see the strikers scoring goals and it
has given me a good problem for the next game. They will have more
confidence for the coming games. Peter Crouch showed why we signed him
as he scored a good goal, kept the ball and won headers. For the
English league it’s very important to have a player like him.”

Rafa hates to think too far ahead in terms of fixtures, but says it
would be an achievement to finish second: “It was important to win and
our idea is the same and that is to win one game at a time, keep going
and keep closing the gap on Manchester United.  It’s important to
finish second and if we continue to win games it’s still possible.”

This season’s FA Cup quarter finals are all being played on consecutive
nights throughout this week.  Rafa couldn’t see why Liverpool had to be
given their game on the Tuesday rather than the Wednesday or Thursday
considering they had to play on the Sunday: “It’s crazy that we have
another game in two days and I don’t understand it, but it’s a very
important game against Birmingham in the FA Cup and that it why it is
so important to have a good squad. You simply cannot play a big
competition like the FA Cup within two days with the same players. The
rules say you must play with your strongest line-up, but my strongest
team will all be tired.”

The scorer of one and maker of the other two, Peter Crouch, was happy
again: “It was good; we did most of the work in the first half. It’s
pleasing, we scored five last week and three today so it’s good. We’ve
always been playing well and getting results but it’s nice to kill
teams off and the last couple of days we’ve managed to do that. We
could have gone on to score more.”

Newcastle’s caretaker-manager Glenn Roeder wouldn’t blame Boumsong for
the defeat, but said the £8million Graeme Souness signing was
desperately unhappy: “It goes without saying he’s very upset – who
wouldn’t be? There isn’t a footballer that wouldn’t be upset with what
led up to the penalty and what led up to the sending off. He didn’t
make enough contact with what appeared to be a simple clearance and the
ball evaded him.”