Monday, December 03, 2007

Rafa Hails Torres And Claims: We Will Be Close

Liverpool kept up their push for the title after another stunning show by Fernando Torres.

And boss Rafa Benitez is confident his men will stay in the hunt after crushing Bolton at Anfield yesterday to move up to third in the table.

"In the last three years we were too far behind, this year we are closer and we have a better squad," said Benitez. "I have confidence, but we need to see where we are at the end of January. We'll play a lot of games and we have some problems with injuries. If we don't make mistakes we will be close."

He added: "The team is playing well, we weren't fantastic but it's a good win.

"It's also important we don't have just one striker scoring 20 goals a season - we need others with 15."

Sami Hyypia, Torres, Steven Gerrard and substitute Ryan Babel swept aside Bolton but the win was marred when Jamie Carragher was flattened by Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina for the second time this season.

Carragher went off with damaged ribs after his team-mate clattered into him as they attempted to clear the ball.

A similar incident at Sunderland put Carragher out for three matches with an identical injury.

Benitez must wait to find out if he has cracked ribs but could see the funny side as he said: "I think Pepe is going to kill Carra or finish his career one day."

Liverpool could afford to laugh at the collision as Nicolas Anelka failed to take advantage of the mix-up and somehow contrived to miss an open goal with Bolton just 1-0 down.

Wanderers boss Gary Megson was unhappy with his side's display. "We didn't play well or compete anywhere near the level we did against Manchester United," he said. "We must do that every time and make that game the standard."

We'd Follow Benitez Out The Door, Warns Torres

Liverpool star Fernando Torres has warned the club’s owners that they risk a players’ revolt if their ongoing feud with Rafa Benitez results in the Spaniard’s dismissal.

The Reds faithful have already made their support for the manager very clear both ahead of and during last week’s Champions League triumph against Porto, and now ‘El Nino’ has left no doubt as to where the allegiance of the players lies.

“He cannot leave. The fans have given their verdict and it was clear,” said Torres, who continued his rich vein of form in front of goal with a stylish second during the 4-0 drubbing of Bolton Sunday.

“Benitez has created a team of people who are indebted to him. It’s certain if he goes many players will think about their futures.

“Benitez is not just another manager. He created a team and put his faith in players that owe him a lot.”

The manager himself refused to be drawn out his love-hate relationship with the club’s American owners during the post-match press conference. He did speak out in praise of his young striking sensation, however, while at the same time warning against Torres-dependence.

“Yes, it is great to have a striker who can give you 20 goals a season but it is easier for defenders if he is the only man they have to worry about.

“You also need others who will give you 15 and players who can score important goals — and we have that.

“We scored four today but it could easily have been more.”

Carragher To Be Fit For Reading

Liverpool stalwart Jamie Carragher is expected to be fit for this weekend's trip to Reading despite picking up a rib injury on Saturday.

The defender was injured in a collision with goalkeeper Pepe Reina against Bolton Wanderers, which resulted in Nicolas Anelka's astonishing miss with the goal at his mercy.

Carragher was substituted early in the second half to be replaced by debutant Jack Hobbs, a product of the Anfield youth system.

But some fans had expressed reservations about the youngster starting in Saturday's Premier League fixture, which might have been necessary due to the Reds' current injury crisis in defence.

However manager Rafael Benitez has confirmed that Carragher is likely to shake off the problem in time for the journey south to Berkshire.

"Carra took a knock in the ribs when he collided with Pepe but I do not think it was that serious," the Spaniard told the club's official website.

"I'd expect him to be fit for the Reading game."

Veteran Sami Hyypia also played in the centre of defence against the Trotters yesterday and may be required to continue in the role with a number of players still on the sidelines.

Daniel Agger is expected to make a comeback in the next few weeks, while full-back Steve Finnan also missed the Bolton game with a calf problem but is likely to return against the Royals.

LiverpooL 4 - 0 Bolton

Liverpool maintained their unbeaten Barclays Premier League record, made it five successive wins and continued to rattle in the goals.

After demolishing Bolton, they have scored 21 goals in that five-game run to move into third place in the table, a point behind Chelsea with a game in hand.

In a week that has seen boss Rafael Benitez seemingly settle his public dispute with the club's American owners, his side have been in tip-top form.

Four goals against Porto and four against a dispirited Bolton has dispelled any lingering doubts about Benitez's side.

From Besiktas to Bolton over the past weeks there is now a list of people who have learned to their cost that if there is trouble in the corridors of power at Anfield, it ends when the players walk on to the pitch.

Goals from Sami Hyypia and Fernando Torres - his 11th in 17 games - had Liverpool in command at the break and a Steven Gerrard penalty sealed what was a comfortable victory before Ryan Babel tapped in the fourth.

Bolton had gone five games unbeaten under new boss Gary Megson, but despite a initially defiant display, they were eventually brushed aside.

Bolton made four changes from the side that produced their best display of the season in beating Manchester United last weekend. Jlloyd Samuel, Gary Speed, Gavin McCann and Lubomir Michalik all returned in a team that included two former Liverpool strikers, Nicolas Anelka and El-Hadji Diouf.

Bolton started with Kevin Davies, usually a striker, on the right of midfield, but moving in to support Anelka when the Trotters broke out.

And that ploy caused Liverpool more than a few problems.

Initially, Bolton were under pressure as Harry Kewell and Yossi Benayoun ran at their defence. Ricardo Gardner had to kick away from an open goal from Peter Crouch, and then Jussi Jaaskelainen needed to be alert to scoop away a Torres close range effort after Benayoun's run.

Bolton come into their own at set-pieces, and when a Diouf corner was flicked on by Abdoulaye Meite right in front of Jose Reina, the ball was hastily cleared.

Diouf was booked on 11 minutes for a nasty tackle into Alvaro Arbeloa's ankle with the ball long gone. And it was Liverpool who went ahead from a set-piece of their own.

Gerrard's 16th minute free-kick was flicked into the bottom corner by Hyypia.

Crouch, with a header over from Gerrard's corner and then Kewell with a snap shot that flew wide threatened to increase the lead, but generally Bolton were working very hard to stop Liverpool's build-up from the back.

Anelka and Diouf were always capable of causing problems for Liverpool's defence, while Campo, Speed and Gavin McCann battled to regain possession.

Torres saw a cross-shot go wide of the far post, but at the other end Davies got away into space on the right to fire in a fierce low shot that Arbeloa hooked away from a gaping net.

And on 38 minutes, Anelka should have equalised. Reina and Jamie Carragher collided on the edge of the box, and the ball ran for the Frenchman on the right of the six-yard box.

But somehow he managed to miss an open goal from 12 yards, putting his effort into the side netting. And Bolton were to regret that clanger.

A minute from the break, Torres eased Liverpool's tensions with a stunning goal. Gerrard's 35-yard, inch-perfect through ball, sent Torres into the box to clip his 12th goal of the season over Jaaskelainen.

Gerrard surged into the box and saw a fierce drive deflected by Jaaskelainen four minutes into the second-half, and a minute later Carragher was replaced by teenager Jack Hobbs, who made his league debut. Carragher had been hurt in that first-half collision with Reina.

But on 54 minutes Gerrard did beat Jaaskelainen, this time from the spot. Peter Crouch looked to be impeded by both Meite and Michalik as he went for a Gerrard cross.

Referee Steve Bennett pointed to the spot and Gerrard drilled the penalty home.

Reina saved from an Anelka snap-shot on 59 minutes but all hope had gone for the Trotters.

Campo was booked for a foul on Benayoun on the edge of the box and Torres almost scored again when he surged in from the right, beat three men and chipped the ball over the far angle.

Stelios Giannakopoulos replaced Diouf on 65 minutes, and a minute later Babel took over from Kewell for Liverpool.

Dirk Kuyt replaced Torres on 76 minutes, and the Dutchman helped Gerrard set up Babel for the fourth with six minutes left.

Meite headed a Babel effort off the line soon after as Bolton were reduced to praying for the final whistle.