Pepe and Stevie want performances to continue improving

Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina went into the records books recently for being the quickest ever Reds keeper to keep fifty clean sheets – and he wants to thank his team mates for helping him to achieve it.

Reina hit the 50 mark against Sunderland in the club’s 3-0 win just before the international break, surpassing a record previously held by Ray Clemence and was of course pleased with the achievement: “It’s nice to reach these kinds of numbers,” he told the Liverpool Echo. “I am very proud, but, as I’ve said many times, it’s not just down to me. The whole of the team defends and the back four have been in good form in the three years I’ve been here. So, I have to say thanks to them and all of my team-mates throughout the three years, because without them it wouldn’t have been possible. Now I look forward to another 50.”

He got the first clean sheet of that next fifty against Chelsea on Sunday, although he was a spectator for much of the game. This was pleasing for Pepe, especially with Chelsea’s home record and the Reds recent disappointing run: “We played really well and created some chances, and a draw is always a good result at Stamford Bridge. It’s always difficult to beat them down there – I think it’s been four years since anyone did that. It’s a difficult stadium against a really top side, so we have to be really happy about the score and some of the things we did during the game.”

Liverpool’s away record has been slightly better than their home record, where points have been dropped due to lapses of concentration allowing the opposition to score against the run of play: “Now we have to get victories and results as good as this at Anfield,” said Reina. “”We have to keep playing like this, with a solid defence and creating chances in attack. It is not easy to beat any team, and obviously when teams come to Anfield it’s difficult as well because they defend properly with eight, nine or ten men behind the ball. It’s difficult to open the scoring but we have to keep trying.”

It must be as frustrating for Reina as it is for supporters to see the side control the game and dominate proceedings, yet fail to put chances away. The Reds have performed well in many of the games they’ve failed to win, but missed chances have seen them drop points and become a team fighting for fourth place rather than being in contention for the title. The complete mess made by Tom Hicks and George Gillett of the running of the club amidst lies, broken promises, undermining of the manager and transfer investment way below what was both expected and needed hasn’t helped either, with morale dropping to its lowest point since Rafa Benítez became manager. Fourth place is far from certain, but for the next two games at least it can be forgotten, with the Reds playing host to Barnsley in the FA Cup on Saturday, and then a home Champions League tie in midweek. Reina said: “We have an important game now in the cup and after that Inter Milan. It’s becoming interesting.”

Club captain Steven Gerrard spoke of the need for the club to keep the momentum going now that they seem to have once again picked up some confidence. There’s no room for complacency: “We’re facing a big challenge to finish in the top four and we’ve got to forget about the title and focus on fighting for fourth place. There are a lot of teams around us who are in good form and playing well. It’s important that we don’t let our standards drop.”

The draw against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge was certainly very creditable, the hosts never really looking like threatening Pepe Reina’s goal, save for one theatrical fall in the penalty area. Gerrard was happy to see improvements from some of his team-mates and felt the Reds could have got all three points: “Chelsea was definitely a big improvement on how we’ve played of late. We looked more solid defensively and I thought we were the better side over the 90 minutes and if anyone was going to win it was us. Certain players who have had a bit of criticism of late performed really well and I think it was a good team performance against a side that have been playing very well lately.”

He continued: “There are definitely a lot of positives to take out of the game. We controlled the majority of it and it felt as if we could have snatched it.”

Fernando Torres could be back for the FA Cup game on Saturday, his absence on Sunday quite possibly the difference between the draw and the win. Rafa said earlier in the week: “Maybe Torres can be available for the weekend. We have the physios working really hard with him and he is very optimistic.”