Thursday, April 10, 2008

Torres On Mission To Moscow

Goal machine Fernando Torres is dreaming of Moscow glory as Liverpool march on in the Champions League.

Torres netted for the 29th time in what is a truly remarkable debut season in English football to help secure Tuesday night's dramatic 4-2 quarter-final second leg win over Arsenal.

And the 24-year-old is confident Liverpool can come out on top of yet another semi-final showdown with Chelsea later this month.

Torres arrived at Anfield last summer having never played in Europe for his boyhood club Atletico Madrid. Now he has bagged five goals in Liverpool's ride into the last four.

The Spaniard said: "This was the greatest night of my career so far. My dream now is to get to the final, it is what I have always wanted.

"And the fact that I am enjoying myself here in Liverpool makes it even more important.

"Yes we can get to the Moscow final in May. The two league games we have had with Chelsea this season were both draws, very close. We know we can do it."

He added: "I came to Liverpool for nights and games like this. It is hard to believe, the emotion, the fans, the high-tempo, everything about this is what I wanted and expected.

"It was a good game, I'm sure, for the people watching. And Arsenal are a fine side and played some very nice football. But we are in the semi-finals, which is what matters.

"We knew Arsenal would be difficult and Chelsea would be waiting. We needed to win and win well. It was difficult but we had worked hard all week with our preperation for the game and everything was worthwhile in the end.

"Maybe when Arsenal made it 2-2 I felt we were out. It was so near the end, five minutes away.

"But the magical place that Anfield is got us through. The fans were tremendous, but we had to play with our heads, not just our hearts.

"We had the believe, and we got two more goals in those final minutes to prove it. Liverpool is special, a special place, special fans, special city and a special team."

Life on Merseyside could not be better for Torres, already a Kop folk hero in the mould of Kevin Keegan, Kenny Dalglish and Ian Rush.

He said: "I'm so happy to be playing for Liverpool and to be living in this city. We do this for the supporters, and we aim to get to the final for them.

"Chelsea will be difficult, but the same as playing Arsenal, really. It is another English league side and it will be physical and a strong match.

"Now we have two games to get to the final. We have drawn with them twice in the league this season, so that means it will be very tight.

"We have two targets, to finish in the top four and to win the Champions League. We are getting to the final a step at a time, and we also must keep going in the league, too, to make sure we qualify for next season.

"I do not have any more personal targets, I am just doing my job to score goals. That is what I do.

"Everything was wonderful, all the work, the team play, the goals, everything. And to beat a great side like Arsenal, what a night.

"It was a very happy day for us."

Midfielder Javier Mascherano, currently suspended from domestic matches but able to play in Europe, could be heading for his second Champions League final in a year after his controversial arrival in English football.

He said: "Against Arsenal it was a good win and we will enjoy this moment because we know how difficult winning at this level is, so we are very happy now.

"The quarter-finals were two very difficult matches. In the first 20 minutes here we were no good, bad, but we came back well.

"They could play how they wanted to, but after Sami Hyypia's goal it was very good for us and the game changed then.

"In the second half, we could play how we wanted to and score how we wanted to.

"As for me, I know I made a mistake against Manchester United with the red card, so now I will try to concentrate on the Champions League.

"For this week, it has been the only competition in which I have been allowed to play in."

Hopeful Liverpool Fans Already Booking Flights To Moscow

Liverpool FC’s famous Champions League victory over Arsenal on Tuesday night has hopeful fans already dreaming of reaching the final in Moscow.

But if the club do manage to overcome Chelsea in the semi-final, fans travelling to Russia for the May 21 final are certain to be considerably out of pocket.

The cost of flights to Moscow that week are already more than £500 in places, with operators predicting them to possibly triple in price once the Final line-up is confirmed on April 30.

Fans may also struggle to find cheap accommodation in the city recently named as the most expensive in the world. Fans should also be aware that no-one can enter the Russian Federation without a visa.

This visa takes eight-10 working days, costs £45 and must include an official tourism document supplied by a travel agent or hotel, indicating where the fans will be staying.

A member of the Russian Consulate in London said they had already received a deluge of enquiries from Liverpool fans.

She said: “It’s been very busy, but fans need to allow time to get their visa back and must include all the paperwork and a passport photograph.”

Liverpool still have to beat Chelsea over two legs, which could lead to an all-English final against Manchester United, and no doubt a major security headache for Uefa.

A quick browse of the main internet hotel sites showed a number of the centrally located hotels in Moscow were already completely booked out for the night of the May 21.

Current prices for two and three star hotels average between £100 and £190 for a three night stay.

But as fans wait with baited breath to see if Liverpool can get to another European Cup Final, some have already booked their flights.

A number of fans on the Red and White Kop forum last night said they had snapped up cheap flights and were prepared to lose the money if Chelsea go through.

Without tempting fate, fans can expect to pay £21.12 for a three-course dinner, £1.69 for a coffee and up to £4 for a pint of Western beer.

Visas take eight to 10 working days, cost £45 and must be accompanied by an official tourism voucher

This voucher, supplied by Russian (British) travel agent or must be included in the application and be signed and stamped.

A Tourist Acceptance Confirmation, written in Russian from an authorised Russian travel agency or a hotel must also be included.

The Confirmation must contain the agency’s reference number and registration number.

More information at or on 0207-499-10-29.

Flights aren’t available direct from Liverpool John Lennon, although operators including BMI, Lufthansa, Czech Airlines and Air France fly from Manchester and Leeds.

Flights currently available from Manchester to Moscow start from £250 return with BMI, but travel agents are warning the cost could triple on April 30 when the final line-up is decided. Expedia currently has flights for around £400 return from Manchester with Lufthansa going out on May 20 and returning May 22.

Czech Airlines offer £420 returns for the same date, and Air France £550.

BMI from Leeds Bradford on the May 20, returning May 23 currently has flights for £373.20.

Compared with a six-hour flight time, a train ticket from London across Europe currently comes in at £336, taking just under 73 hours.

Add either the cost of an average £60 return Liverpool to London train ticket or take National Express with fares from £8 each way.

This option takes the Eurostar to Brussels, high speed train to Cologne, sleeper train to Moscow, spending two nights aboard crossing Poland and Belerus.

The adventurous and hardcore fan with a reliable vehicle might also consider driving the 2,038 miles to Moscow.

Based on calculations of a 10-year-old Vauxhall Corsa, with a 1.4 engine, this would cost £266 in petrol.

Crouch Hints At Anfield Stay

Liverpool striker Peter Crouch has hinted more regular action could persuade him to stay at Anfield.

The England international had admitted earlier in the week that he was considering his future on Merseyside after struggling to force his way in to Rafa Benitez's starting XI.

But Benitez insists he wants the giant forward to sign a new long-term deal with the club and handed Crouch a starting role in the epic UEFA Champions League victory over Arsenal.

Crouch had been part of much-changed first XI for the Premier League match at Emirates Stadium on Saturday and proved his worth with Liverpool's goal in the 1-1 draw.

He then started alongside star striker Fernando Torres in the 4-2 quarter-final second leg triumph which set up yet another semi-final date with Chelsea.

Now the former Aston Villa and Portsmouth forward is hoping to play a key role as the Reds bid to secure a sixth European crown.
Crouch told the Daily Star: "To be honest it was a surprise to be playing. But this was a big, big game and I've obviously proved to Rafa that I can play in them.

"The manager has played me in a massive game and I've got to take confidence from that.

"At the minute, it's not about me being unhappy or whatever. I have to pull together and be part of a team that has a chance of getting to the Champions League Final.

"The week ended fantastically for me. Everyone knows I haven't started nearly enough as I would have liked.

"But I've played in the last two now and hopefully I've done enough to continue in that role."

Liverpool Fans Eye Takeover Talks

The fans' group hoping to buy Liverpool Football Club says it is preparing to approach the club's US owners in an attempt to discuss its intentions.

Share Liverpool FC wants to buy the club through 100,000 fans paying £5,000 each for a club share.

It now says it has £60m definitely pledged, and a potential further £55m from fans showing "strong interest".

The US businessmen who own the club, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, have become unpopular with many fans

The pair bought the football club in early 2007, but have reportedly fallen out.

Terms of the takeover mean that each can block any move by the other to sell their holding without the other's specific approval.

Dubai International Capital has recently revived its interest in the club but to take control, it must buy all of one man's shares along with at least some of the other man's.

"We have got to approach the current owners, that is what we have to do now," Rogan Taylor, who is spearheading Share Liverpool FC, told the BBC.

"I can't say how, or through whom, at present, but we will be approaching them to try and set up talks, and let them know our intentions".

He said that since the fan website was launched there had been a flurry of activity - with contact from more than 200 countries.

"Our initial website was a marketing tool to check the level of interest out there," he said.

We have been overwhelmed by the response, and now we have to keep things moving forward quickly."

As well as those expressing a "definite" and "strong" interest in making an investment, there are 13,000 other would-be backers who say they cannot raise £5,000.

"We will be contacting them about possible group memberships, where fans and family come together to buy one share, and have a nominated shareholder they all agree on," Mr Taylor said.

Share Liverpool has set up a steering committee - made up of people with legal, business, accountancy and other commercial experience - to formulate a constitution setting out the way forward.

A company is being formed as an "industrial and provident society" structure, Mr Taylor said.

And after talks with the Financial Services Authority, the set-up is close to being ratified.

"The constitution is designed to deliver a non-profit making structure, and a means of electing an executive board, which would run the company for four years." Mr Taylor said.

While the board would be the club executive, there would also be a fan parliament of 100 delegates to scrutinise the board's actions.

"Fans will not be able to say what cheques are written, or which players are bought and sold," Mr Taylor added.

"The board will have executive control for hiring and firing, buying and selling, lending and spending."

Any borrowing to build a new stadium for Liverpool FC would be done against future revenues a new stadium would bring, such Arsenal did to finance its Emirates Stadium move.

Mr Taylor added that other regulatory issues needed to be overcome, partly because the group is asking fans in so many overseas countries to send money.

Meanwhile a fighting fund has been established, and the website is being reconstructed to become "more sophisticated" in preparation for future moves.

"What has been going on at the club, regardless of who owns it, is a vivid illustration of the pattern of ownership in the UK," Mr Taylor said.

"Great clubs, established social institutions, are being traded on the global capital markets, with no knowledge of the clubs.

"Fans offer everlasting support and should be given the chance now to own an everlasting share."

Frojdfeldt Stands By Penalty Call

Referee Peter Frojdfeldt is in "no doubt" he was right to award Liverpool a penalty against Arsenal on Tuesday.

Frojdfeldt pointed to the spot in the 85th minute of the Champions League second-leg clash when Kolo Toure and Ryan Babel came together.

Steven Gerrard then dispatched the spot-kick past goalkeeper Manuel Almunia to set the Reds on their way to the last four of the competition.

Gunners boss Arsene Wenger expressed his disappointment at the decision, labelling it "dodgy", but Frojdfeldt has backed his call.

He told The Mirror: "I have no doubt it was a penalty. He pulled his shirt and the only ones complaining were the Arsenal players, who were complaining at Toure.

"It was a very fair game in a high tempo. The atmosphere was fantastic. I'm satisfied with both mine and my assistants' work."