Carra: We need to sort our results out

Liverpool’s Saturday defeat at Fulham has been described as a “big setback” by defender Jamie Carragher. It was Liverpool’s fourth away game of the season, and their first defeat. They are still to record their first away win, and even allowing for games in hand their 13th place is disappointing after the glory of Istanbul. Something is just not clicking in the domestic fixtures for Rafael Benitez, and he needs to find out soon just what it is. Even if Liverpool won their two games in hand on most teams around them, the Reds would still be 12 points off top spot. More worryingly is the fact that the Reds are only six points above bottom-of-the-table Everton, with just one game in hand.

Saturday’s result hurt Carra as much as it hurt any supporter. Standing in again as skipper in the absence of Steven Gerrard, Carra was obviously upset after the game. He said: “It’s a big setback for us, with all due respect to them, where they are in the division we should be beating them.”

For Liverpool to become a top-four team again, they need to show in the English League the spirit they show in the Champions League. There are stats that show Liverpool don’t play well in England after European games as Carra says: “I am sure all the European stuff will get dragged out again about how we never play well the weekend after a Champions League tie. We always seem to have problems after European games. I think it’s something like 15 times on the spin that we haven’t won after a European game.” Liverpool seem to play poorly in the league after international fixtures too, but it’s not as if they win all their other league games. The Reds are struggling in the league, and if they carry on at this rate they’ll not have any Champions League football to worry about next season.

Carra doesn’t buy the idea that the players have less interest and desire in winning domestic honours, saying: “We don’t just want to do well in Europe. We want to do well in all the competitions we are involved in. It’s a good job we are doing well in Europe at the moment because it would be really depressing if we weren’t doing well there, either. In the league, we are not building on our European Cup victory like everyone hoped we would at the moment.”

Jamie pointed out early in the season that he felt Liverpool would not be challenging for the title this season, but in return the headline-writers twisted his words to make it sound like he was giving up before he’d started. He was being realistic, as the start to the season has shown: “Some people expected us to go on and win our own league after last season and I got a bit of stick early on for saying I thought that we might come up a bit short. But I felt that Chelsea were too far ahead in terms of quality for us to catch them this season and I still feel we should be aiming to break into the top three. We need to sort our results out quickly if we are going to do that.”

The chance of a top-three finish is certainly possible for the Reds if they start to perform to their abilities – Arsenal are ahead of Liverpool by six points and have played one game more. Man United are eight ahead and have also played one game more.

Reds boss Rafa Benitez believes that Liverpool did enough to win the game, and they might have done had Fulham not been forced to put former Reds keeper Tony Warner into the nets in the second half. Rafa says that he knows how to deal with this mini-crisis: “I have experience of this kind of situation before, so I know how to change – by working hard and trying to play as hard as possible. We have good players. We created so many chances in the second half and normally you would score, but the goal-keeper was the best.”

Another stat that is often wheeled out is how Liverpool do poorly in London. Well that’s where they’ll be off to again tomorrow when they play Crystal Palace in the League Cup, then there’s a visit from London side West Ham this coming weekend. Rafa says the Reds are thinking of the League Cup match first: “Now is the time to be positive, we cannot change this game and we need now to think about Crystal Palace. How can we think about West Ham if we have a game before? We must think about Crystal Palace first, it’s simple. I am not talking about priorities – we have a game on Tuesday, and then we must think about Saturday.”

Continue reading Carra: We need to sort our results out

Palace looking forward to facing the Reds

After defeat in the capital on Saturday against Fulham, Liverpool now have to contend with a bogey team from last season – Crystal Palace. Palace weren’t an easy team for the Reds to face last season – Palace almost got a point at Anfield before going down 3-2, but took all the points when hosting the soon-to-be European Champions when they won 1-0 at Selhurst Park.

With this in mind, Reds boss Rafael Benitez says he’ll be fielding a strong team. Rafa has increased the number of players he classes as first team players for this season’s extended campaign, and says that the team he puts out will be strong and respectful of the abilities of Palace. Speaking to the official LFC site, Rafa said: "We have some options for this match. We have a lot of competitions to play for and this year we have more players in the first team squad. We will go to Crystal Palace with a strong team, that is the idea."

Liverpool’s defeat yesterday came after the Reds were unable to find the back of the net with the chances they made. A similar problem existed in last weekend’s league win over Blackburn, with scores of chances created and only one of them put away. Palace meanwhile are finding better fortune in that department, and yesterday’s 2-0 league win saw them go fifth in the Championship. Yesterday’s hero for Palace was Clinton Morrison, signed for £2million in the summer and the scorer of one and creator of the other yesterday. The Palace boss, Iain Dowie, was delighted with the performance of the former Birmingham City star: "Clinton was outstanding today and he did everything. His running was great, he works so hard and the finish for the goal was first class. He’s a real asset and I’m so glad that we have him here. Other teams were interested in getting him but I was always confident of getting him."

Liverpool will need to be wary of him next week, even more so because of the fact that Morrison is now playing for the team he’s always supported. Dowie said: "He’s a big Palace fan and so is his mum and I think that if I hadn’t got him she would have gone bananas."

Palace had lost during the week to Brighton, and were getting some stick from the fans. That soon changed and by the time the game finished they were desperately looking forward to meeting the Reds according to Dowie: "The crowd were a little bit edgy today but they soon settled down and now we look forward to Liverpool in the Carling Cup."

Continue reading Palace looking forward to facing the Reds

Fulham 2 Liverpool 0 – Reaction

Rafael Benitez didn’t believe Liverpool played badly overall but that once again it’s the lack of the final product that’s causing problems: "We controlled the first half but the problem is we were losing 1-0 at half-time. I thought we did very well in the second half and the best player on the pitch was Fulham’s substitute goalkeeper." Rafa may not have realised it, but that substitute goalkeeper was once understudy to David James at Anfield – Tony Warner. Rafa then indirectly lamented Liverpool’s late failures in the summer transfer window: "Our problem at the moment is that we are not scoring enough goals. And if you don’t score goals and concede then you lose the game." Rafa said in another interview: "The result is not good. They created maybe two chances and scored two goals. We created a lot of chances and didn’t score." Have Liverpool missed the player they nearly lost in the summer? Rafa says he’s wasn’t quite ready to play: "Gerrard was almost fit. Two days ago he was training, but yesterday he felt something again."

Chris Coleman dedicated the victory to Fulham’s most famous player, the recently departed Johnny Haynes: "It was a special day for us because we were paying tribute to a Fulham legend and a football legend. It was great to round it off with two great goals and a wonderful display. I’m thrilled with the players. Liverpool had a lot of possession, but we were patient and when we attacked we did so with purpose."

Liverpool have not had much good fortune against London clubs recently, and with a trip to Crystal Palace in the League Cup on Tuesday followed by next week’s visit of West Ham in the League, the Reds need to find a way to overcome this problem and soon.
Continue reading Fulham 2 Liverpool 0 – Reaction

Premiership Result: Fulham 2 Liverpool 0

Saturday October 22nd 2005
FA Barclays Premiership


C John 30, L Boa Morte 90
2 – 0
(1 – 0)
M Crossley (63 T Warner) , M Volz, A Goma, C Bocanegra, N Jensen (69 L Rosenior) , S Malbranque, P Diop, C Jensen, L Boa Morte, A Elrich (76 B McBride) , C John
Subs: H Helguson, L Rosenior, Z Rehman, B McBride, T Warner

J Reina, G Josemi, J Carragher, S Hyypia, D Traore (59 S Luis Garcia) , M Sissoko, X Alonso, J Riise, H Kewell (76 P Crouch) , D Cisse, F Morientes
Subs: S Luis Garcia, P Crouch, D Hamann, S Carson, S Warnock

Referee: M Atkinson Bookings: G Josemi 53, M Sissoko 86

Continue reading Premiership Result: Fulham 2 Liverpool 0

Reds agree Gonzales deal – subject to red tape

Rafa Benitez will be delighted to hear that Rick Parry has sewn up a permanent deal for Mark Gonzales – subject to his aquisition of a work permit.

The Chilean winger was due to sign for the Reds on a season-long loan deal during the close-season, but the decision then not to allow him a work permit meant the deal couldn’t go through. It was felt at the time that the reason for the refusal may have been due to the deal being unusually structured. Gonzales was injured and not expected to play until around now, which is why Liverpool agreed the deal would start with a loan. Had Gonzales proved his fitness over that season then Liverpool would have turned the deal into a permanent one.

Now though it seems Liverpool have seen enough of the player’s recovery to set the permanent deal up. It will not be able to go ahead until the transfer window is opened in the winter, but the agreements are all in place according to Liverpool FC’s website. A spokesman explained the deal: "Following the player’s knee injury, the original intention was to take him on loan with an option to make the deal permanent. As Mark is recovering well, a loan deal is no longer an issue and we have agreed a long term contract to bring him to Anfield."

The only possible snag will be the player getting the clearance to play in the UK. The spokesman said: "However, he will only play for Liverpool once he obtains either a work permit or European passport."

Continue reading Reds agree Gonzales deal – subject to red tape

Rafa: We are close to qualification now

Rafael Benitez was delighted tonight with Djibril Cisse’s winner for Liverpool, and the manager was also pleased with the number of chances created by the Reds – if a little disappointed they didn’t take more of them.

Liverpool remain level on points with Chelsea at the top of Group G, with Chelsea ahead on goal difference. Cisse’s goal on 20 minutes tonight was enough to give Liverpool the three points.

Rafa said after the game: "Djib did very well. It was a good goal, the keeper had no chance, and it’s good for him to keep scoring. The fact that the goal came from a set-piece was extra pleasing and we must do this more often."

Rafa was asked whether Cisse would be given a chance to make it three goals in three starts this weekend, but with Crouch and Morientes waiting in the wings he says he needs to look at his options first: "It’s good to have lots of options now Cisse is starting to score goals, but I’ll have a think about our team before selecting a side for Saturday." The game also saw a return to action for Harry Kewell, used as a late substitute for Cisse, who’d been playing alone up front, just ahead of Luis Garcia.

Rafa was pleased overall, even if Anderlecht did get more chances than they should have done: "I’m very happy with the performance. Anderlecht have good players and play quality football. But it is important to win and to be strong in defence. It was a difficult game. We created a lot of chances and always wanted to be positive. I think we had 18 shots in total, but couldn’t score a second goal that would have killed them off."

Anderlecht’s attacking play in the second half should have given the Reds the chance to finish the game off, but in the end there was a feeling that the European Champions were holding on for the points. Rafa said the second half was difficult: "We controlled the first half but it was more open than I wanted in the second half as their short passing style was difficult to control. Anderlecht played some good football going forward."

The boss was glad to see Liverpool stay level with Chelsea, and feels qualification for the knockout stage is much closer now: "Overall though it was a really good result. If we win our home games we should qualify for the next stage, and maybe one more win will be enough for us now to qualify." The next match is in two weeks, when Anderlecht visit Anfield.

Continue reading Rafa: We are close to qualification now

Rafa says Cisse may start in Belgium

Reds coach Rafael Benitez says he’s likely to start tomorrow night’s Champions League match against Anderlecht with Djibril Cisse on the field.

Cisse was subject of speculation during the summer about a move away from Anfield, and this was renewed last week after he made comments saying he was unhappy at being left on the bench. Rafa made comments last week to reinforce his view that he will rotate players for the good of the club as a whole, even more so in this extended season. Once the international duties were over though both Djibs and Rafa have claimed there is no problem with their relationship, which they describe as "professional". Cisse made his return to the starting line-up on Saturday, scoring a good goal from a set-piece.

Now Rafa sees the chance to use Cisse’s pace against Anderlecht, who are still to pick up a point in Group G. The boss said: "Anderlecht know they must win to have any chance of qualifying and they realise this could be their last chance. If they attack high up the pitch, we will have chances to exploit and maybe Cisse will start."

Cisse may not start of course – Rafa only said "maybe" – but Rafa reiterated that this shouldn’t cause a problem to the French striker either way. "There was a lot of talk about our relationship," said Rafa, "Our relationship is a professional one. We have no problems. If he works hard for the team he can play more games, but it depends also on his team mates."

As Rafa points out though, Liverpool have a few strikers available when they’re all fit. Neil Mellor is well on the way back to full fitness and has been told privately by the boss that he’s definitely part of his plans. He’ll then be able to join up with Cisse and three other strikers in the fight for a starting place. Rafa says the competition will be good for him as the manager, but makes things harder for Cisse: "If Fernando Morientes plays well, or Peter Crouch or Florent Simana Pongelle then it would be more difficult for him, and better for me because competition is always good for the team. He’s a good professional. He’s working and trying to play and I must decide on things."

As Rafa says, when all five strikers are available, someone is always going to be disappointed: "When you have a lot of strikers you have to make decisions. It’s impossible to say a striker will play all the games."

Benitez also pointed out that although Anderlecht are still without a point, it doesn’t mean they will be an easy team to overcome: "If you look at the players they have in their team, it’s clear that they are not a bad team. They have a lot of quality to choose from and they attack with pace."

Rafa hopes he’s found their weaknesses, but he’s also hoping he’s been able to prepare for their strengths: "They certainly play some nice football but sometimes when they go forward, they leave some space open at the back. I’ve watched their game against Real Betis and they created a couple of clear openings before Betis scored. They will want to win and so do we so it could be a very exciting game of football to look forward to."

* Blackburn’s defender Zurab Khizanishvili, sent off by Mark Halsey at Anfield on Saturday, has won an appeal against the decision. The sending off was for bringing down Djibril Cisse, which in the opinion of the referee at the time had prevented a goalscoring opportunity. He’d have been suspended for the next game but now the FA disciplinary hearing has overturned the decision he’s free to face Birmingham at the weekend.
Continue reading Rafa says Cisse may start in Belgium

Bolo pleased with his performance

Liverpool’s summer signing Boudewijn Zenden says his latest appearance for the Reds may have been his best so far for us. Against Blackburn on Saturday the Dutch midfielder was unlucky to just miss out on a goal when his excellent free-kick hit the bar. Zenden says he’s desperate to open his account for the European Champions: "It was very close and I’m very eager to get my first goal for the club. Saturday was the closest I’ve been and I’m still looking forward to getting off the mark."

Zenden was signed to give Liverpool width, but was never intended by Rafa Benitez to playing in every game. At Middlesbrough last season he spent more time playing centrally, but competition at Anfield is much stronger in that part of the field. The rotation system employed by Rafa – important to the Reds with so many games to play in this extended season – is something Bolo isn’t used to.

Speaking yesterday, Zenden said of Saturday’s victory: "Maybe it was my best game for Liverpool so far. It’s not always easy to be in and out of the team, but that’s how the manager works and it’s up to the players how they adapt. There are four competitions to compete for and he wants to make sure everyone is fit."

He continued: "I was pleased to be on the teamsheet. I thought I had a good game – I was allowed to play in the middle more and support the strikers and I think we caused a lot of problems." Zenden revealed that it was a tactical change early in the game that allowed him to play a more central role: "We decided to start off in a 4-4-2 formation but then after a few minutes change to a 3-3-2-2."

With the imminent return to fitness of Aussie winger Harry Kewell, Zenden is going to find himself with some direct competition. Kewell’s best position is out wide, but he also like a more central role if it’s offered to him. Zenden says playing further infield is his favoured position: "I was pleased because I like to get forward and in the middle you’re more involved and you are always around the ball."

Regardless of this, Zenden will be happy to get as many games under his belt as possible this season for the Reds. Bolo’s near-miss free-kick came from the professional foul that saw Zurab Khizanishvilli sent off – which in turn had come from Bolo’s pass to Djibril Cisse. Creating goalscoring opportunities isn’t something Zenden feels Liverpool are having problems with – it’s putting them away that’s been the problem so far: "We do create but we’re not getting the goals. The biggest problem is when you don’t create. If you have to rely on set-pieces it’s a problem, but in modern football a lot of goals come from set-plays. We are getting the chances and I’m confident we will get the goals from open play, but in the end the most important thing is getting any type of goals. What you want is three points and if you can get more goals that’s great for the fans."

Zenden says he shares Cisse’s delight at getting the goal after a week of speculation about the relationship with the boss: "Whenever there is a break there is a lot of things written in the paper so it’s good for him to get the goal."
Continue reading Bolo pleased with his performance

Ex-red Xavier suspended over failed drug test

Whispers over the weekend that a former Liverpool player was about to be revealed as failing a drugs test proved true this afternoon when Middlesbrough revealed that the player in question was Portugese defender Abel Xavier.

Xavier had been signed for Liverpool by ex-boss Gerrard Houllier. Like many Gerard Houllier signings, his contract lasted longer than his time in the side and he spent a lot of time out on loan before he finally went off Liverpool’s books. He played for Everton prior to becoming a Liverpool player.

Middlesbrough released the following statement on their official website:

"MIDDLESBROUGH FC have today confirmed that Abel Xavier was drug-tested in accordance with UEFA rules following the club’s UEFA Cup tie against Xanthi on September 29 and his urine sample has returned positive.

FIFA, the football world’s governing body, has subsequently suspended the 32-year-old defender from all competitions pending the outcome of a disciplinary investigation.

Middlesbrough FC does not feel it is in a position to make any further comment at this time.

Middlesbrough FC understands that Abel Xavier will be making a press statement tomorrow morning."

Although the actual details of the substance found have yet to be officially revealed, we have been led to believe that they were performance-enhancing rather than recreational. It’s also believed that the player still has another sample awaiting testing, but if this also confirms the presence of drugs then he will almost certainly be given a worldwide ban. If the drugs are steroids, then the ban is likely to be for two years, meaning that the 32-year-old has probably played his last professional game.

Continue reading Ex-red Xavier suspended over failed drug test