Result and reaction: Newcastle 0 Liverpool 3

Barclays Premier League – 24th November 2007: Result

Newcastle 0 Liverpool 3

Liverpool’s players and fans showed their support for manager Rafael Benitez in a convincing win at a hostile St James’s Park.
The hostility was aimed at Steven Gerrard initially, the Newcastle supporters booing him every time he got the ball, seemingly due to his part in England’s midweek defeat against Croatia. But Gerrard – under a manager with much more ability – was man of the match today, and soon the hostility from the home fans was aimed at “Fat” Sam Allardyce. Cries of “You don’t know what you’re doing” rang around the ground, his substitutes and substitutions were booed, and when for large parts of the game the Newcastle fans were silent, the sarcastic chants from Liverpool fans were recommending the chewing gum fanatic for the England job.

Throughout the game the manager’s name was sung, with Liverpool supporters sending as best a message as they can – for now – that they want the owners to start showing Rafa some respect and some honesty.

The scoring was opened after 28 minutes when Gerrard hit a sublime strike after Lucas tapped the free-kick his way. Fernando Torres was brilliant – except for his finishing – and could have had at least four goals. The first of those chances came when he hit the post from outside the box, of a goal left open by Shay Given. Given had come out of his area to try and block the ball, which he did – with his arm. He escaped any punishment at all, no free-kick, no red card, no goal from Torres.

Dirk Kuyt’s goal came without him knowing too much about how it happened, the ball went in off his thighs from a Sami Hyypia headed flick just seconds after the restart. Gerrard set that up with his corner and it was he who also set up Ryan Babel’s on sixty-six minutes, playing a brilliant one-two with the Dutchman after a great passing phase of the game from the Reds.

After the game Gerrard was asked if he felt it was a comfortable victory: “Yes it was quite comfortable. We started the game really bright, we scored quite early and then we controlled the ninety minutes. We’re a bit disappointed not to win more convincingly.”
Inevitably he was asked if noticed the booing from the Newcastle supporters in the wake of England’s Euro 2008 exit: “Yes of course, me and all the other England lads have got to take the criticism. It’s as simple as that. We’ve let the country down by not qualifying. From now until we get it right we’re going to take a lot more criticism, but I’m old enough and experienced enough to know that I’ve got to get on with it, play through it.”

Gerrard’s ready to put his England misery to one side now, he’s back in the Red shirt and that’s what he’s concentrating on: “Now I’m with Liverpool I’ll give it everything I’ve got. I’ve got some big games with Liverpool, I’ve got to try and put the England stuff under the carpet for the time being, try and play well for Liverpool and then and when we join back up for England the players have got to give the country a reaction, and hopefully I’ll be a part of that.”

He was pleased with his goal, which he knew straight away he’d hit just right: “It was a good strike – I’ve had a lot of shots today but I caught that one nice and it’s gone in. I knew quite early when it left my foot it was going in.” He was speaking to Sky Sports and about to be awarded their prize for man of the match, but he didn’t want to be the centre of attention: “The most important thing was the three points to stay in touch with the top. It was a good team performance it wasn’t about individuals we could have had a lot more.”
Then he was asked if “you” had been written off to soon, and he laughed as he answered: “Me or the team? If people want to write us off that’s up to them that’s out of our control. What we know is that we’ve got to keep winning. There’s some very good teams in this league; to stay in touch with them you’ve got to keep winning and go on runs, especially over the Christmas period. You’ve got to stay consistent if you want to stay in it and we’re aware of that.”

Rafael Benitez was no doubt delighted with a win so soon after his row with the owners had become public. So, was he pleased? “You must be pleased: to win nil-three away, playing as well as we played today, I am pleased,” he said. “It could have been more, but I am really pleased.”

And what pleased him most?: “The mentality of the players, the commitment, the passing, the chances we were creating; a lot of things.”
Liverpool’s away form has been much better than their home form, Rafa was asked why: “We are trying to play more or less the same at home and away. The difference is the other team goes higher so we have more space away, and at home they go deeper and it’s more difficult.”

Liverpool went third after the win, catching up their game in hand on those they leapfrogged, although theirs was the first fixture of the weekend. Rafa said: “It’s important for us to keep the team in the top of the table we are unbeaten so I think we are in a very good position.”

Then came the question everybody was waiting for. What happened on Thursday with the owners? Much calmer now than he was earlier in the week, he explained what he’d been trying say to Hicks and Gillett: “I think that they don’t understand what it means – the transfer window in Europe, it’s another…” He broke off, trying to think of the words. “When you sign a player he needs to settle down so I think it’s the same situation – they need to understand how difficult it is to sign players, and when you have possibilities now – players that are free – you must do it or you will lose the players. So I was trying to explain and they said, ‘keep calm’, and I will try to keep focussed on winning games for my supporters.”
Does Rafa think this is serious? He said he didn’t think so: “No i think it is not serious. I am sure if they understand what it means – the market – and what it means – the football – here in Europe they will understand we are trying to do the best for the football club.” Do they need to sort out their differences soon? “Yeah, clearly,” he said, smiling.

Sam Allardyce eventually gave his views to Newcastle’s official website, saying of the abuse he got from his own supporters: “It’s only what you expect and they are well within their rights to show their disapproval. I wouldn’t expect anything else. They’ve paid their money to come and see a game of football and they have no alternative but to show their disapproval. It changes on results, though. Two games ago it was great, and two games later it’s a disaster. But I see it as a blip which we have to put right.”

He blamed the result on injuries to defenders, saying: “We had to protect the defenders as much as we could, we couldn’t leave a back four like that exposed today. But in the end that happened. We went chasing the game and left so many gaps for Liverpool to exploit.”

Newcastle: 1 Given, 20 Geremi, 21 Beye, 4 Rozehnal, 3 Jose Enrique (2 Carr, 78), 17 Smith, 22 Butt, 5 Emre (7 Barton, 51), 14 N’Zogbia (16 Milner, 59), 36 Viduka, 9 Martins
Unused subs: 13 Harper, 30 Edgar
Bookings: Butt 60, Beye 87, Smith 90

Liverpool: 25 Reina, 3 Finnan, 23 Carragher, 4 Hyypia, 17 Arbeloa, 8 Gerrard (15 Crouch, 80), 21 Lucas, 22 Sissoko, 7 Kewell (19 Babel, 58), 9 Torres, 18 Kuyt (6 Riise, 76)
Unused subs: 30 Itandje, 20 Mascherano
Goals: Gerrard 28, Kuyt 45, Babel 66
Bookings: Sissoko 79

Stats: (Newcastle – Liverpool)
Possession: 39% – 61%
Shots on target:
2 – 11
Shots off target: 4 – 6
0 – 9
13 – 11

Referee: Alan Wiley

Reds v Newcastle: Kewell and Torres start.

Liverpool’s best coach in many years has chosen as strong a line-up as he can for today’s league clash with Newcastle. Back in the starting line-up are Fernando Torres and Harry Kewell, with Steven Gerrard set to line up on the right. Momo Sissoko has Lucas alongside him in the centre of midfield. Joining Torres up front is Dirk Kuyt, with Peter Crouch on the bench.

Javier Mascherano isn’t in the starting line, after being away on international duty during the week he only got back to Merseyside yesterday so wasn’t considered fit enough to start the game. That could be something to get used to though, the current Liverpool owners unwilling to even talk about what the coach, player and supporters want – making his loan move permanent.

Daniel Agger still wasn’t ready to return for the Reds, so Sami Hyypia lines up alongside Jamie Carragher.

Rafa Benitez has concentrated on training and coaching this team.

Opposite number Sam Allardyce has had run-ins with Rafa in the past, as the Spanish coach has been shocked at the phyical nature of the teams put out by Allardyce at Bolton. There’s no Michael Owen for the Geordies, but Martins and Viduka are capable of causing problems for the Reds.

Teams: Continue reading Reds v Newcastle: Kewell and Torres start.

Hicks: Shut up Rafa

Liverpool co-owner Tom Hicks has spoken out again against Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez, causing further turmoil and uncertainty just as the Reds embark on an important run of games.

Yesterday Hicks and his fellow owner George Gillett got their views across in what was termed a “joint statement”, and now today Hicks has spoken exclusively to the Liverpool Echo to have another go at the manager.

Hicks told the paper: “After the Champions League final in Athens, Rafa made certain demands of us and we responded to those demands in the summer. We brought in some good players and spent more money than has ever been spent before at this club.”

When Hicks says more money has been spent than ever before, he doesn’t qualify that with the amount of money that came in from sales, nor does he mention the increases in TV money and the fact that Liverpool’s prize money was better last season than it has been for most seasons. Continue reading Hicks: Shut up Rafa

Rafa needs to know where he stands

When Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez does his press conferences at Melwood, more often than not there are two separate conferences held – one for the TV and radio, one for the printed media. Yesterday he spoke to the TV before the papers.

Video coverage of Rafa’s TV conference has been shown on LFC TV, the club’s channel, and on Sky Sports News, as well as being widely distributed around the internet. In the TV press conference Rafa was clearly not quite himself, but did answer a number of questions. It was when speaking to the media that he closed up completely, clearly not in the mood to answer questions. Here’s a transcript of that conference:

Press: Do you know how much you will have to spend from the American owners in January?
Rafa: As always I am focused on training and coaching my team. Continue reading Rafa needs to know where he stands

Absent owners could lose Mascherano

Just a few short days ago Reds boss Rafael Benitez was talking about his love of Liverpool Football Club after he’d been linked with a move to Bayern Munich: “I heard about the rumours at the weekend, and it is always flattering to be linked with other big clubs – because it must mean you are doing something right. But even if I was approached I would tell whichever club it was that I am really happy with my club, my squad, my supporters and my city. There are still many things which I want to do here, so I am planning on being here for a long time.”

Rafa no doubt still does love the club, the squad, the supporters and the city – but how he feels about the owners of the club, George Gillet and Tom Hicks, is surely somewhat different given today’s events.

He’s already voiced concerns about the new regime since they took over, complaining in the summer about a lack of action or urgency in getting transfer negotiations moving forward. He was also forced to rethink his plans after the American duo clarified the situation about the budget he was to be given – much lower than he’d been expecting after earlier talks with the pair. Continue reading Absent owners could lose Mascherano

Angry Rafa told to wait by co-owners

There could be trouble brewing at Anfield.

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez is rumoured to have had an argument with the new owners, who have – again according to rumours – told him that as the team coach he should concentrate on coaching.

Liverpool Echo journalist Tony Barratt described Rafa as being “clearly in a bad mood” at the ten-minute press-conference today, saying that the manager brushed questions off with “the same cryptic answer”. For example, regarding England’s performance last night, he said: “I prefer to concentrate on training and coaching my team.” Then when asked about Newcastle’s threat this weekend, in similar fashion Rafa responded: “I am focusing on coaching and training my team.” Continue reading Angry Rafa told to wait by co-owners

Reina ready for Healy

Northern Ireland’s David Healy is determined to upset Pepe Reina tonight if the Liverpool keeper gets a rare start for Spain in the Euro 2008 qualifier in the Canaries.

Spain have already qualified for the finals, but a win for Northern Ireland could see them qualify too, something they probably never thought possible when the campaign started. And if rumours are true, the players could be in for big money if they do win: “I heard from Howard Wells the bonus is up to £1.5million – I’m just waiting for confirmation! It’s not about the bonus though – it’s about the chance to play in a major finals. You go away on holiday and watch World Cups and European Championships on television. It would be nice to be there for a change in Austria and Switzerland. That’s the aim.” Continue reading Reina ready for Healy

Bayern deny Rafa interest

Rafa Benitez dismissed yesterday any links between him and Bayern Munich, saying he was happy to stay at Anfield. Today Bayern have claimed they weren’t interested in the first place. General Manager Uli Hoeness said: “We’ve spoken neither to Liverpool nor to Benitez.”

Bayern’s current coach Ottmar Hitzfeld is out of contract at the end of the season and up until now was looking likely to leave. But in the wake of these rumours Bayern say they’ll speak to their coach during their winter break about a new deal. Hoeness said: “I’m a very good friend of Ottmar Hitzfeld and I’ve given him my word that he’s the first person we’ll talk to in the winter break. If our talks are successful, we’ll have no need to talk to anyone else. If there’s no result, we’ll start thinking about another coach, but until we’ve talked to Ottmar in the winter break, you can take it there’s nothing to any of the rumours.”

The story broke over the weekend, with Rafa saying yesterday that despite being flattered he was happy with the whole package at Liverpool: “I heard about the rumours at the weekend and it is always flattering to be linked with other big clubs because it must mean you are doing something right – but even if I was approached I would tell whichever club it was that I am really happy with my club, my squad, my supporters and my city.”

Kuyt becomes latest Reds burglary victim

Liverpool forward Dirk Kuyt has been burgled whilst away on international duty. This is the sixth time a Liverpool player has been burgled since the summer of last year.

Kuyt was away on international duty with Holland, when his Woolton home was burgled. Merseyside Police have confirmed that they are investigating a burglary there. Continue reading Kuyt becomes latest Reds burglary victim

Rafa says he’s staying at Anfield

Talk in the press over the weekend that Rafa Benitez would soon be going to Germany was soon quickly dismissed today by Rafael Benitez. The German side are looking for their next coach and Rafa Benitez was a name mentioned in reports. But even if they want him – and nobody says they do – they can’t have him, says the Spaniard.

Speaking to the Liverpool Echo, Rafa explained that although flattered, he was happy at Anfield: “I heard about the rumours at the weekend,” he said, “and it is always flattering to be linked with other big clubs because it must mean you are doing something right, but even if I was approached I would tell whichever club it was that I am really happy with my club, my squad, my supporters and my city.”

These links surface regularly, but Rafa has a long-term plan in mind for the Reds, and he’s for from finished with it: “There are still many things which I want to do here so I am planning on being here for a long time.”

His long-term assistant Paco Ayestaran could be in a new club soon. Rafa and he had a difference of opinion earlier in the season which saw Paco leave his post. Liverpool have actually put him on gardening leave rather than allow him to join a rival club immediately, but now according to reports in Spain he’s being lined up by three different clubs – Barcelona, Valencia and Real Sociedad. Barcelona are third in the table, which as ever seems to be causing panic, and the reports claim that they feel they are in desperate need of a fitness coach. It’s a similar role that Valencia need to fill to assist coach Ronald Koeman. Meanwhile Sociedad are about to be taken over by a Hong Kong investment group and it’s reported that Paco would be their choice as Sporting Director.

Former Liverpool midfielder and reserve coach Sammy Lee was with Rafael Benitez at the Halliwell Jones stadium recently for a Liverpool reserve game, prompting more speculation that he’ll be back at Anfield soon as Rafa’s new assistant.