Sunday, October 21, 2007

Gerrard Accused Over Red Card

Steven Gerrard was accused of getting Everton's Tony Hibbert sent off after Liverpool snatched an injury-time winner in one of the most controversial Merseyside derbies.

Everton manager David Moyes was furious with the England captain, and with referee Mark Clattenburg for a series of decisions that reduced the hosts to nine men and allowed Dirk Kuyt, only booked for a dreadful tackle, to score two second-half penalties in Liverpool's 2-1 victory.

Moyes was convinced Gerrard had influenced the referee into giving Hibbert a red card after the Everton defender had brought him down in the box for the equalising penalty in the 54th minute.

'The referee pulled out a yellow card for Tony Hibbert and not a red one until the captain [Gerrard] went over and spoke to him, so maybe he has changed his mind,' said an angry Moyes. 'I think the penalty kick itself was debatable. Ours in the last minute was not debatable.'

In a clear barb at Clattenburg, Moyes added: 'The truth is if you didn't see it, maybe you shouldn't be out there doing the job.'

Everton also argued that Kuyt should not have been on the field to score his goals after a crazy 'kung fu' lunge at Phil Neville produced only a caution.

And the home side were visibly incensed when they were not awarded a penalty themselves in the final seconds after Jamie Carragher wrestled Joleon Lescott to the ground.

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez, relieved to end a run of three successive draws in the Premier League, backed Clattenburg's decisions and controversially claimed Lescott had dived for his late penalty appeal.

'In England you don't like to see players diving,' said Benitez, who joined his players as they gathered in front of the Liverpool fans to celebrate after the final whistle. But Benitez's accusation brought an angry retort from Moyes.

He said: 'It was not a dive, that is for sure. I think Joleon Lescott would probably be the last person to dive. I think he was just too strong for Carragher and Jamie had to pull him to the ground.'

To complete Everton's sense of injustice, it was Kuyt who scored again from the spot after Neville handled a shot by substitute Lucas and was shown a red card.

Everton felt Kuyt should have been ordered off for his foul on Neville in the 63rd minute.

Moyes said: 'We had a directive that a two-footed tackle off the ground was a sending-off offence. There was four feet of space below Kuyt when he jumped off the ground two-footed. And he goes on to score the winning goal.'

Benitez, whose priority is to lead Liverpool to their first title since 1990, sprang a surprise by taking off Gerrard after 72 minutes.

He said: 'We needed to play with our heads and not our hearts.'

Kuyt Plays Down Derby Tackle

Liverpool striker Dirk Kuyt insists there was no malice involved in what looked to be a horror challenge on Phil Neville in the Merseyside derby on Saturday.

Merseyside derbies are always fiery affairs, and Saturday’s was no different, Everton ending the game with nine men and Liverpool being lucky to finish with eleven.

Dirk Kuyt was just a few inches away from receiving his marching orders after a two-footed lunge towards Phil Neville.

Luckily for the Dutchman, no contact was made, however referee Mark Clattenburg issued a yellow card for the dangerously play.

Kuyt himself claimed: "People saw the TV and said my booking looks bad. But I was just trying to make a tackle and I did not want to touch the player, and I didn't.

"Maybe I was a bit lucky, but I never had any intention of trying to hit the player, it was a yellow card and I accept that."

Everton's veteran defender Alan Stubbs, who led the condemnation of the challenge afterwards, was not convinced.

Stubbs said: "That was a two-footed lunge. If a player leaves the ground with both feet, that's a red card, and he gets a yellow.

"In the laws of the game if a player goes in with two feet and makes a lunge, and that is what it was, it's a red.

"If Phil (Neville) hadn't been so honest he could have been rolling around and trying to get him sent off. It's a two-footed tackle and that's a red card offence."

Benitez Expects Duo To Be Fit

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez is confident Xabi Alonso and Fernando Torres will be ready for this week's Champions League showdown with Besiktas in Turkey.

The pair were left out of Saturday's derby victory at Everton.

But Benitez said afterwards: "They were both very, very close to playing. It would have been a risk I was not prepared to take to play them against Everton.

"I would now expect them to be in serious contention against Besiktas when we go to Istanbul (on Wednesday). I will watch them in training and make my decision after that."

The confidence boost of a controversial 2-1 win at Goodison Park has come at just the right time for Liverpool, after a worrying spell had seen them win just two of their previous seven games.

Benitez said: "That victory will do us a lot of good for the Istanbul trip and then next weekend's home game with Arsenal."

The Spaniard has happy memories of Istanbul, not just because of Liverpool's Champions League Final victory there two years ago.

While in charge of Valencia, Benitez masterminded a UEFA Cup victory at Besiktas in the season that saw his Spanish club won the trophy.

He said: "I have won there before, so I have no fears about them; it can be done again."

The Group D match with bottom club Besiktas has become a must-win game, after Liverpool picked up just one point from their opening two matches against Porto and Marseille.

Benitez initially suggested 10 points should see the Reds into the knockout stages.

That seems a long way off now, and he concedes "We now have to win one, maybe two away matches."

That puts intense pressure on Liverpool with only four matches left to avoid slipping from being finalists last season to UEFA Cup competitors this time around.

It is accepted that visiting clubs to Galatasaray and Fenerbahce in Istanbul face a torrid time from the local fans - and the city's 'third club' have an equally fearsome reputation.

The warning for Liverpool comes from Porto's Serbian defender Milan Stepanov, who knows Turkish football from his time with Trabzonspor.

Stepanov was part of the Porto side that salvaged a very fortunate 1-0 victory at Besiktas in the last round of Champions League matches.

He said: "Before the game at Besiktas, I told everyone about the crowd - but nobody really believed me.

"After the game, they said 'We never expected such an atmosphere'.

"After the first 45 minutes, our coach told us to relax and play our game - because we were not ourselves in the first half. I can say that God gave us the points in the last minute."

Besiktas have lost both their first two matches in the group and know that only a win over Liverpool will keep them in the competition.

Their French midfielder Edouard Cisse, who spent the 2002-03 season at West Ham, believes: "If we can continue to play like we did against Porto, we still might have a chance."

"That game (against Porto) showed our supporters that our team still has hope for the coming games.

"We played well. We are not giving up yet."

Besiktas will play the match with the added problem of their coach Ertugrul Saglam banned from the touchline.

He has been handed a one-match touchline ban by UEFA's disciplinary body after being sent off against Porto.

Everton 1 - 2 LiverpooL

Liverpool staged a dramatic comeback with two Dirk Kuyt penalties to claim a famous victory in the Merseyside derby.

Liverpool had been humiliated 3-0 in the same fixture last season but claimed revenge as Everton pair Tony Hibbert and Phil Neville were sent off, with the home side denied a late penalty claim.

Both Everton dismissals were for incidents that produced Liverpool's second-half penalties. Hibbert brought down Steven Gerrard in the box and Neville handled on the line.

Dirk Kuyt was coolness personified as he drilled home the spot-kicks to produce a victory that will do much for Liverpool's sagging confidence.

Everton had deservedly led at the break with a Sami Hyypia own goal, but after being reduced to 10 men for much of the second period - the second red card coming in the final seconds - they could not hang on for a draw.

There was no Tim Cahill, no Fernando Torres and no Xabi Alonso despite all the speculation that these injured stars would play.

Everton boss David Moyes went for Neville and Phil Jagielka in central midfield and left James McFadden on the bench.

Liverpool opted for Kuyt and Andriy Voronin in attack while Gerrard started on the right.

Liverpool had the early edge. Gerrard almost got on the end of a cross-field ball, dropping over Hibbert's head on the Everton right.

Liverpool exploited that same space on five minutes, when Yossi Benayoun broke down the flank and set up Voronin for a snap shot that Tim Howard half stopped before clutching the ball away from Kuyt.

But when Everton got their set-plays working, they caused problems. A couple of free-kicks and a corner were not cleared well and from one cross back in from Leon Osman, Alan Stubbs saw a header drop wide of a post.

Corners and free-kicks, swirling into the near post, were a constant source of danger as Victor Anichebe saw one header flash wide.

The Reds did hit back a minute later when John Arne Riise's 25-yard free-kick was deflected just wide.

But Everton's aerial threat was soon to produce a goal on 38 minutes. A Mikel Arteta corner was half-cleared, Alan Stubbs turning to hook it back into the danger area where Jagielka attempted to get in a shot.

But the ball eventually cannoned off Hyypia's boot high onto the net for an own goal.

After the break Joleon Lescott, fresh from his England debut, was a threat on the left along with Arteta.

Osman, Neville and Jagielka in midfield pressed quick and hard and Liverpool were again on the back foot. But from a Benayoun ball out of defence, Liverpool gained a lifeline.

Gerrard set off down the left channel, stretching into Everton's half with Hibbert in pursuit.

The full-back was always a yard behind and when the pair reached the box the defender clipped Gerrard from behind and referee Mark Clattenburg instantly awarded a penalty on 53 minutes.

The official showed Hibbert the red card before Kuyt stepped up to drill home the spot kick.

Everton could have had a penalty themselves when Steve Finnan manhandled Lescott in the box soon after, ahead of a Kuyt break that set up Riise for a shot over the bar.

Howard blocked a Voronin shot and Kuyt headed the rebound over the top, Liverpool searching for the second. But Everton were still coming forward.

Kuyt was booked for a flying lunge at Neville, and Yakubu saw a 30-yarder shot go wide. Liverpool replaced Benayoun with Ryan Babel on 68 minutes.

Benitez then took a very brave decision on 71 minutes to replace Gerrard with young Brazilian midfielder Lucas Leiva.

The Liverpool skipper looked surprised, but trotted off to allow Lucas into central midfield and Voronin moving to the left.

But it was Lucas' fine ball that sent Voronin away on the left, only to scuff his shot wide. On 77 minutes McFadden came on for Yakubu.

Jermaine Pennant came on for Mohamed Sissoko before Jamie Carragher and McFadden were booked following a tussle on the ground.

Neville was then sent off on 89 minutes for handling a Lucas shot on the line, providing Kuyt with his second penalty.

Everton finished the game complaining to Clattenburg that they should have had a last-ditch penalty for Carragher pulling down Lescott.

He refused their claim and the official was booed off after being surrounded by home players.