UEFA Champions League – October 1st 2008 – Result
Liverpool 3 PSV Eindhoven 1
Liverpool goals: Kuyt 5, Keane 34, Gerrard 76
PSV goals: Koevermans 78
This Liverpool win over Dutch side PSV Eindhoven saw three important milestones passed. In Robbie Keane’s case it’s more of a starting post than a milestone, but he’s now got the monkey off his back – his words – after opening his account for the team he supported as a boy. Another player who supported the Reds as a child pass another personal milestone – captain Steven Gerrard got his hundredth Liverpool goal. And when Dutchman Dirk Kuyt opened the scoring on four minutes against his compatriots, it was the 100th time Liverpool had scored in this competition under Rafa Benitez.
Liverpool’s start to this season’s Champions League campaign is undoubtedly far better than how last season’s began. Although they would make it all the way through to the semi-finals, it started with one point out of nine in 2007, and Rafa is believed to have been on the verge of the sack right up until the night his side got their third win in three. Defeats to Marseille and Besiktas, alongside a draw against Porto, meant Liverpool looked unlikely to progress from Group A – but then they woke up. Those last three games brought them 16 goals, with only one conceded, and also saw them hit the ten-point mark.
Ten points is considered the target for sides who want to get past the group stages. Teams have gone through with a lower points total, and it’s just about possible to go out despite having those ten points, but ten points is the figure the coaches aim for. Liverpool are now four points away from that, and have four games in which to get them.
Next up for the Reds is the back-to-back games against Atlético Madrid, the first chance for Fernando Torres to play against his former club, the side he was a very young captain of. The money from the sale of Torres has helped them improve their overall squad, and they also got one of Liverpool’s Champions League legends, Luis Garcia as part of the package. Scorer of the goal Jose Mourinho still claims “never was”, Luis now wears number nine for Atletico, and assuming he’s selected he’ll get a warm welcome from the fans back at Anfield. Torres is hopeful of the same treatment when he returns to Madrid.
Those two matches were considered by most as the true tests of the group, and Atletico currently stand top on goal difference, meaning this early success isn’t an excuse to take it easy.
Dutch champions PSV are the only side in this group to have got here without having to play in a qualifier first, and certainly Liverpool wouldn’t have expected such an easy ride at Anfield. It’s dangerous to make predictions early in a season; ask any Liverpool fan who made positive predictions following Liverpool 6-0 hammering of Derby last season. But this Liverpool side do seem able to get results; they’ve played eleven games in all competitions so far, racking up eight wins and three draws. In some earlier games – particularly in the Champions League qualifiers – they seemed to ride their luck more than perform out of their skins, but in recent games their performances have been top quality.
Most of this success came when the £40m strikeforce was going through something of a drought. Before Saturday’s derby win Torres had scored once all season – in mid-August – and Keane was yet to score. With Torres getting a brace on Saturday – the first one courtesy of an excellent cross from Keane – and the Irishman opening his account in this match – courtesy of excellent work from Torres – it looks like the duo are now really getting started.
Dirk Kuyt was criticised by many last season, particularly in the first half of the season, but he ended the season with most of this critics happy to accept they were wrong. There has never been any dispute that he works hard, and that hard work has paid off to the extent that he seems able to make a difference regardless of where Rafa Benitez puts him. For the opener he just happened to be in the right place at the right time, hitting a saved Fernando Torres volley into the net four minutes into the game.
When Keane’s moment came half an hour later a question asked what seemed a long time ago was finally answered. He did the cartwheel and imaginary pistol thing. Whether he’ll continue to celebrate that way or not is another question, and one that will hopefully be answered on a very regular basis, but before he did his trademark gymnastics there was a look of delight on his face that said far more than the somersaults ever could. He’d scored in a Red shirt, the duck was broken. He said later: “I’ve got a monkey off my back. It’s been a few games and I wish it had happened a bit earlier, but it wasn’t to be.”
Expensive strikers are under pressure to score hat-tricks on their debuts these days, the media enjoying the chance to up the counter every time a forward ends another game without a goal. Keane has played well for the side, not least his assist for the Torres opener in the derby, and knew that the goals would come in the end too: “It’s always nice to get that first goal for a new club but I was not too worried about it. It was just other people talking about it. I believe in my own ability and know I’ll score goals. Hopefully I’ll score a lot more for this club.”
He said that winning the game was more of a priority than scoring, but considered himself unfortunate not to have opened his account earlier in the night: “The most important thing was getting the result and it was a good performance by the team. I felt I should have got a penalty in the first half when the defender clipped me but overall I have to be pleased.”
The goal itself was one he’d enjoy watching over and over again even if it wasn’t his first for Liverpool. Torres had worked his way into space, in the box, and crossed to Keane who found the net with a deceitful side-foot.
Keane also had words for the scorer of the third, his captain and friend Gerrard: “To score 100 goals for Liverpool is a fantastic achievement for anybody and especially a midfielder. Stevie has been absolutely phenomenal for this club and long may it continue.”
Gerrard’s 100 goals have included some important and some spectacular ones. With the scoreline as it was in this game his goal was never going to rank alongside those against Olympiakos, West Ham or AC Milan for importance; but it certainly went into his spectacular portfolio. A Liverpool free kick saw Fabio Aurelio shift the ball slightly for Gerrard, who left the keeper without a chance as he found the back of that of that Kop net yet again.
PSV’s consolation goal came out of the blue, Koevermans benefitting from a Liverpool side who had decided to relax. They didn’t relax again, and any remote hopes PSV had of getting something from the game were soon to die out.
Afterwards the Liverpool boss was quick to praise both his skipper Gerrard and his latest big signing Keane: “I was pleased for Robbie,” said Rafa. “He has worked so hard for us that he deserved to score. Now he has got his first European goal for us, I hope he will now score his first Premier League goal.”
For Rafa this is the first of many for Keane: “I know Robbie will score a lot more goals for us in the future, so this was just the first step for him.”
Someone who already has many is Gerrard, who Rafa predicts could double his haul for the Reds by the time he hangs his boots up: “For a midfielder to score 100 goals is very impressive. He is among the very best offensive midfield players anywhere. He is still young and he can maybe score 200 goals.”
Overall Rafa was delighted with the game: “It was almost the perfect night. It was a really good game for us with lots of positive things, a solid performance with balance and quality. Now we must keep on winning. This is a very good start for us – different maybe from last season when we did not start our group matches that well.”
Liverpool: 25 Reina, 17 Arbeloa, 37 Skrtel, 23 Carragher, 12 Aurelio, 18 Kuyt, 8 Gerrard (81 Babel), 14 Alonso, 11 Riera (68 Benayoun), 9 Torres, 7 Keane (75 Lucas)
Subs: 1 Cavalieri, 2 Dossena, 5 Agger, 15 Benayoun, 19 Babel, 20 Mascherano, 21 Lucas
PSV Eindhoven: 1 Isaksson, 2 Kromkamp, 6 Simons, 24 Marcellis yellow card, 3 Salcido, 13 Brechet (46 Pieters), 8 Mendez (76 Dzsudzsak), 15 Culina, 28 Bakkal, 11 Amrabat, 29 Wuytens (60 Koevermans)
Subs: 31 Cassio, 4 Rodriguez, 5 Zonneveld, 10 Koevermans, 14 Pieters, 16 Nijland, 22 Dzsudzsak
Booked: Marcellis 75
Stats: (Liverpool – PSV)
Possession: 50% – 50%
Shots on target: 7 – 2
Shots off target: 5 – 5
Corners: 3 – 1
Fouls: 7 – 13
Referee: Felix Brych