Monday, February 11, 2008

Campo - Reds Saved Torres

Bolton's Ivan Campo believes Atletico Madrid were in danger of damaging Fernando Torres.

Torres has been in outstanding form since last summer's £26.5million move to Liverpool, scoring 18 goals so far this season.

Campo believes Atletico relied to heavily on Torres, and in turn, too much pressure was heaped on the 23-year-old.

But the Bolton midfielder feels that Torres' switch to Anfield will assist him in becoming a much better player.

He told AS: "Nobody shared the role of leader with him at Atletico, the pressure of such an important club. Such a young person is not ready to take so much pressure.

"In England he has calm, confidence and a team which plays for him. At Atletico they wanted him to do so many things that they could have damaged him.

"Having to give so much really takes it out of you."

Campo also believes that there is more respect for players in English football, compared to Spain.

"For a player in England respect is the most important thing. People always demand you play well, but they do so respectfully," he continued.

"What I've experienced here in England does not happen in Spain. There is no respect at a personal nor professional level."

Rafa Rues Missed Chances

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez was 'disappointed' not to claim victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

The encounter ended in a 0-0 stalemate, with both teams struggling to create clear-cut chances throughout the 90 minutes.

The Reds just edged the game in terms of opportunities, and Benitez feels his side were unfortunate not to come away with three points.

"Yes [we could have won this game]. We controlled the first half and had chances. We are disappointed, but it is not easy to get a point here," he told Sky Sports 1.

"They didn't have too many chances. I think we defended really well."

Benitez's side currently sit fifth in the Premier League table, but have a game in hand over the sides vying for fourth place.

And the Spaniard insists his men are taking things one game at a time, rather than focusing on claiming fourth spot.

"We have one game in hand so we need to get three points in the next game and try to be in the fourth position. Then we will try to progress," Benitez added.

Torres On The Comeback Trail

Top scorer Fernando Torres is set to return to action with Liverpool in next Saturday's FA Cup fifth round tie against Barnsley.

The Spaniard missed Sunday's 0-0 draw at Chelsea after sustaining a hamstring injury on international duty last week.

However, Reds boss Rafael Benitez revealed the 23-year-old's injury is not too severe and hinted he could be back for next week's Anfield tie.

'Maybe Fernando will be available for the weekend against Barnsley,' Benitez admitted. 'We will have to see.

'We have time now and the physios are working really hard with him. He is very optimistic so I think he could be available for the weekend.'

Even if Torres misses the game with the Tykes, it now seems more than likely he will be fit for the Champions League last-16 first leg tie with Inter Milan at Anfield the following Tuesday.

We Could Have Secured A Win, Insists Peter Crouch

Peter Crouch admits Liverpool missed a chance to gain only their second victory in 23 visits to Stamford Bridge yesterday.

Rafael Benitez’s side produced a gritty performance to gain a goalless draw at championship-chasing Chelsea.

The visitors were the better side, particularly during the first half in which Crouch had a clutch of chances to score Liverpool’s first goal at the stadium under Benitez.

And the striker said: “A couple of half-chances came my way, and maybe the one on my left foot could have been better. If I hit the target then I think it would have gone in.

“It was a good battle out there, we matched them and in the end we were the better side.

“We are still a way behind at the top, but we proved today that we’ll keep going until the end.”

Jamie Carragher was an impressive performer at the heart of a Liverpool defence that kept a second successive clean sheet.

But the centre-back was also disappointed to have not come away with all three points.

“It was very tight,” he said. “We’ve had a few nil-nils here in the past because both teams have good defences and so it proved again.

“We shaded the game and maybe could have nicked it, so I’m a little disappointed because we had a couple of chances.

“Realistically we’re out of the title race now. Arsenal and Manchester United have set the pace and we now have to show respect to Aston Villa and Manchester City because we are in a right battle to get fourth place with them.”

Meanwhile, Chelsea coach Avram Grant wrote off Liverpool’s title hopes after watching his side stutter to a goalless draw.

Grant believes that Liverpool’s Premier League hopes are now in tatters and said: “I think after this game it will be very difficult for them to fight for the title. They are too many points from the first team.”

Grant was adamant that referee Mike Riley made a mistake when he failed to award Chelsea a penalty for Javier Mascherano’s challenge on Joe Cole in the first-half.

But Michael Ballack’s glaring miss 10 minutes from time also played a part in Chelsea’s inability to end the stalemate.

He said: “We are not happy. We want to win every game but especially at home. If we don’t win we are disappointed.

“You could say it is a missed opportunity, but it is not easy to play against Liverpool. They are a very tactical team. They don’t give you much space to play. In the first half we didn’t play quickly so it was much easier for them.

“We were better in the second-half but we missed a big chance at the end. It was a penalty when I saw it at the time and now I’ve seen it on TV, it was a 100% penalty.

“He is a good referee but he has made a mistake. It has happened.”

Chelsea 0 - 0 LiverpooL

Chelsea failed to turn up the heat on Premier League title rivals Manchester United and Arsenal as they stumbled to a goalless draw against Liverpool at Stamford Bridge.

The Blues had been boosted by Manchester United's defeat at the hands of Manchester City earlier in the day and although the draw enabled them to increase their unbeaten home league sequence to 76 games, the Londoners may yet come to rue their inability to put Liverpool's season to the sword.

A disappointing game, littered with sloppy passing and dominated at either end by uncompromising defences, provided for a forgettable stalemate.

Avram Grant's side had been lifted by the return of midfielder Frank Lampard but his contribution was to end in the second half with the England international clearly not fully match-fit.

Chelsea's early fire soon burnt itself out and it was Liverpool who began to dominate proceedings.

Yet their final ball into the danger area left a lot to be desired with England's Steven Gerrard the main culprit.

But a cross from Steve Finnan in the 14th minute did allow the giant frame of Peter Crouch to head wide of the target from six yards.

It was the gangly Crouch who should have put the visitors in front in the 17th minute when he combined cleverly with Ryan Babel before driving a low left-foot drive wide of Petr Cech's upright.

Two minutes later a run down the right flank by the energetic Gerrard saw his cross find Crouch unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box. But the England striker could not direct his free header wide of Cech.

Chelsea thought they should have been awarded a penalty in the 26th minute when Joe Cole was up-ended in the area but referee Mike Riley waved away their appeals.

A cross from Liverpool's Gerrard in the 33rd minute was only half-cleared by Ricardo Carvalho and Chelsea were lucky to see a follow-up shot from Lucas deflected to safety.

The visitors were now enjoying a greater share of possession but were finding it difficult to engineer a clear-cut scoring opportunity.

Crouch was a continual threat in the air and he should have at least hit the target when he got on the end of a cross from Dirk Kuyt in the 37th minute.

The move was again sparked by a pass from Gerrard who was now beginning to stamp his authority on the midfield.

Chelsea were still a threat on the break though and Nicolas Anelka won a corner when a speculative 20-yard effort was deflected wide by John Arne Riise.

Five minutes before the interval Babel became the second player to enter Riley's notebook when he committed the same handball offence that had brought Juliano Belletti his yellow card earlier in the half.

A free-kick from Belletti seconds before the interval almost brought Chelsea the reward of a goal but Riise managed to head the behind for a corner.

Chelsea were much better after the restart and Claude Makelele, not known for his goalscoring prowess, was predictably well off-target with a long-range effort in the 50th minute.

His passing is far superior and moments later the Frenchman sent fellow countryman Anelka clear on the Chelsea left. But the former Anfield favourite's low cross eluded everyone in the penalty area.

Chelsea were finding it difficult to break down a Liverpool defence that steadfastly refused to buckle and it required more than the energetic enthusiasm of the lone Anelka to unlock the Reds.

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez was concerned that momentum of the game was swinging into Chelsea's favour and his frustration was compounded by a booking for Riise who wrestled Lampard to the ground in the 62nd minute.

It was clear Anelka required some help if Chelsea were to break the deadlock and Grant, in keeping with his penchant for attacking football, opted to introduce Florent Malouda into the fray in place of Shaun Wright-Phillips two minutes later.

A mistake by Gerrard, who was caught in possession by Makelele, almost allowed Cole to punish the Reds but his cross was headed away for a corner by Finnan.

Moments later it was the visitors who caused problems for the home side but a quick break ended with Crouch's inability to finish off a cross from Babel.

Michael Ballack almost snatched a late winner 10 minutes from the end but his volley fell just inches wide of Jose Reina's left-hand upright.

Chelsea will welcome back Didier Drogba, Michael Essien and Salomon Kalou in time for their next outing against Huddersfield in the FA Cup and given the lack of a cutting edge against Liverpool, the end of the African Nations Cup could not have come a moment sooner.