Thursday, March 06, 2008

LiverpooL 4 - 0 West Ham United

Fernando Torres swept Liverpool back into the top four of the Premier League, on a night when the Kop made it clear they wanted the club's American owners to leave Anfield.

Torres, the shining light of Liverpool's season, became only the fourth player in the club's history to score hat-tricks in successive home matches.

But despite moving above city rivals Everton, the dark cloud of the war for control of the club was never far away at Anfield on Wednesday night.

Before and at half-time fans all around the ground sung and chanted their anger at the American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

Fortunately Rafael Benitez's players - and Torres in particular - gave the supporters something to take their minds off the behind-the-scenes turmoil.

The Spanish striker was declared fit despite missing training all week with a stomach bug, while John Arne Riise and Alvaro Arbeloa came in at the expense of Fabio Aurelio and Sami Hyypia, following Sunday's win at Bolton.

Julien Faubert, suffering with an ankle injury following Claude Makelele's tackle in Chelsea's 4-0 win at Upton Park on Saturday, missed out for the visitors - Nolberto Solano took his place.

Liverpool were on the attack from the start, with West Ham prepared to concede space and leave Carlton Cole on his own up front.

The visitors had a half chance when Robert Green's clearance was nodded down by Cole and only half-hit at Jose Reina by Mark Noble.

But Liverpool were more decisive and Torres put them ahead after eight minutes, having already sent a header just over from Dirk Kuyt's knock-down.

The Reds took the lead when Kuyt's low cross from the right was volleyed fiercely past Green by Torres from 12 yards.

West Ham should have equalised after 13 minutes when Luis Boa Morte was played in on the left, but from a tight angle his shot was hooked over his own bar by Arbeloa.

Liverpool were always a threat out wide, and West Ham struggled to deal with the resulting crosses.

The same applied to corners and after 29 minutes Steven Gerrard fired one in from the left which Martin Skrtel, arriving fast at the near post, headed onto the roof of the net.

Seven minutes later Ryan Babel fashioned a cross from the left and Gerrard's close-range effort was superbly turned round a post by Green at full-stretch.

Cole was booked after 39 minutes when his flaying elbow caught Xabi Alonso on the head, while West Ham survived at the back until the break.

The Hammers continued to live dangerously after the break and only a fine save from Green stopped Babel after Gerrard had cleverly played the Dutchman into the box.

The hosts got their second goal on the hour - with Kuyt again the provider.

The Dutchman's chipped cross from the left enabled Torres to neatly lift a header into the top corner from six yards.

West Ham's own fans started to chant for an extra striker, declared their own side "boring" and subjected Alan Curbishley's men to chants of: "It's just like watching Charlton."

Liverpool sent on Yossi Benayoun for Kuyt after 62 minutes, with West Ham replacing the injured Matthew Upson with Jonathan Spector.

Torres saw a diving header hit a post, with Green scrambling to pick up the ball as it rolled across the six-yard box.

The visiting fans finally got their two strikers when Bobby Zamora and Dean Ashton replaced Solano and Cole - but it was too late.

Torres completed his hat-trick after 80 minutes when he took a knockdown from Riise to sidestep his way into the six-yard box before rolling the ball past Green.

The Spaniard's goal tally now reads 24 in 33 matches - 12 of them coming from his last 11 games.

Gerrard capped the win two minutes later, blasting home the fourth goal with a blistering drive from outside the box, as Liverpool eased back above Everton in the table.

Rafa Benitez: Liverpool Finding Form At Just The Right Time

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez believes his side are finding their form at a “crucial” point in the season after they ignored boardroom turmoil to regain fourth place in the Barclays Premier League.

The Reds moved above rivals Everton last night with a 4-0 win over West Ham and Benitez could manage a smile at last after a match.

For 90 minutes, Liverpool’s in-form stars gave their fans something else to think about rather than the takeover battle, which now seems to have reached stalemate.

West Ham boss Alan Curbishley admitted he had been forced into a near-crisis meeting in the dressing room with his team after their second four-goal drubbing in five days.

Benitez had Fernando Torres to thank as the Spaniard climbed from his sick-bed to grab his second successive home hat-trick, the first time a Liverpool player has done that in 62 years.

That took Torres’ total for the season to 24 in 33 games, while Steven Gerrard weighed in with his 18th of the campaign.

Now Liverpool must continue in this vein at home to Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle on Saturday to send themselves into next Tuesday’s Champions League trip to Inter Milan full of confidence.

Benitez said: “It is good that we are running into form at a crucial time of the season.

“We are playing well as a team, working as a team, that is the difference in our play now.”

He added: “Torres is in great form and he is on fire. Everyone has confidence now that we will score.”

Liverpool have now won three league games on the trot, and Benitez said: “It is now in our own hands whether we qualify for the Champions League.

“But we need to win at home to Newcastle on Saturday so we can then turn our attention to Inter Milan in the Champions League next week high on confidence.”

West Ham boss Alan Curbishley was fuming afterwards, saying: “We made no impression on Liverpool in any area of the pitch.

“We have had two tough games against Chelsea and now Liverpool, and made no impression on either side. I expected it to be hard, but I did not expect it to be like this.

“But this is the first four days of our season that we have let ourselves down. These last two performances have not been good enough, so now we have to go to Tottenham on Sunday and get back on track.”

He added: “I heard our fans voicing their disapproval, they think that playing 4-5-1 is negative. But that is how Liverpool played tonight, even if they had top players who could change a game.

“A lot depends on the players that we have available and what suits them. We have been missing so many of our signings through injury, this is the best way for us to play.

“But we had a meeting in the dressing room, not a crisis one, but we needed to say that this cannot continue.”

Fernando Torres Will Help Liverpool Keep Fourth Place, Says Rafa Benitez

Rafael Benitez feels Fernando Torres’s soaring confidence will help them achieve their goals this season.

The Spaniard has 24 goals in all competitions for Liverpool this season following last night’s hat-trick in the 4-0 demolition of West Ham.

It was Liverpool’s fourth win in five Premier League games since they lost away to the Hammers at the end of January and took them back into fourth place.

Torres, who shook off a bout of sickness to take part in the game, also scored three in the previous league game at Anfield, the 3-2 victory over Middlesbrough. And Benitez is convinced that his current form will help inspire his team-mates to qualification for the Champions League – and progress to the quarter-finals in this year’s competition.

“Torres is on fire and that is the difference because everyone has confidence that we will score,” said Benitez, whose side take a 2-0 first-leg lead to Inter Milan next week following Saturday’s home league game with Newcastle United.

“If he continues scoring he will always be a threat but if the defenders are thinking about him other players, like Ryan (Babel) or Stevie (Gerrard), can make an impact.“

And we are creating different situations now so you see different types of goals – that is his quality but it also says a lot about the quality of the players.”

The manager also feels that Liverpool are in their best form since the opening weeks of the campaign. They went above Everton into fourth on goal difference with last night’s win, which was their game in hand, and will go three points clear if they overcome Newcastle.

Their Merseyside rivals will then be the team with a game less, which will be played on Sunday at Sunderland, but Liverpool’s destiny is still in their own hands.

“We have confidence now,” added Benitez. “We started really well this season and played really well in some Champions League games but in this crucial period of the season we are playing well and with confidence.

“You could see the team working as a team and working hard and that is the difference for me.

“It’s important for us because we were talking about our one game in hand so when you see those three points in the table it’s much better for the confidence so it depends on us now.

“If we can beat Newcastle we can approach the game with Inter with a lot of confidence. But we have that now anyway because we are playing really well so that’s important for the rest of the season – but we must beat Newcastle on Saturday.”

Benitez revealed that he wasn’t tempted to rest Torres despite his far from ideal build-up to the game.

But he did have Peter Crouch ready to come on seconds before he completed his third hat-trick of the season nine minutes from the end.

“I was waiting with Crouch and told him to be ready and then Fernando went and scored his third,” said Benitez.

“Maybe he was thinking, ‘just in case it’s me coming off I’ll push harder’.”

Javier Mascherano emerged from the game as Liverpool’s only injury concern with a dead leg, although Xabi Alonso played the second half with a bandage on his head after Carlton Cole headed him instead of the ball.

Meanwhile, West Ham manager Alan Curbishley was despondent as his side slumped to their second four-goal defeat in four days after Chelsea inflicted similar agony at the weekend.

He said: “We made no impression on Liverpool in any area of the pitch. We have played two top sides and knew they would be tough, but we’ve let ourselves down. The last two performances just haven’t been good enough. We’re in no man’s land at the moment.”

DIC and George Gillett At Deadlock Over Liverpool FC Deal

The ownership of Liverpool FC last night remained uncertain after talks between Dubai International Capital (DIC) and co-owner George Gillett reached a deadlock.

DIC had not managed to persuade Gillett to sell his 50% stake with a revised bid that would have given him a profit of at least £40m.

The Daily Post understands DIC and Gillett remain on “cordial” terms but talks have now stopped, although the bid remains on the table. The size of the profit Gillet is now being offered varies between £40m and £80m according to different sources.

Those close to DIC suggest the bid would allow Gillett to walk away from the club with an £80m profit, but sources in the Gillett camp argue it is nearer £40m.

“There is a desire on DIC’s part to conclude the deal or move on quick-ly. But there is no immediate pros-pect of a deal,” said a source.

It is understood Gillett is holding out for more money, but DIC have made it clear there is no more.

The latest offer Gillett is now contemplating marks a vast improvement on DIC’s original bid.

Tom Hicks, who owns the other 50% of the club, is still sticking to his guns that he wants to become a majority shareholder in the club.

Fans showed their opposition to US ownership of the club at last night’s game against West Ham.

Les Lawson, secretary of the official supporters association, said: “As far as Liverpool supporters are concerned, they want Hicks and Gillett out. They should do us all a favour and walk away.”