Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hertha Berlin 0 - 0 LiverpooL

Andriy Voronin had a second-half penalty saved but Liverpool maintained their unbeaten record so far in pre-season with a draw against Hertha Berlin.

In front of 51,641 fans in Berlin's Olympic Stadium, Liverpool's starting line-up included just three players who could consider themselves first choice come the start of the season.

But they showed enough effort, fitness and strength - particularly at the back - to encourage boss Rafael Benitez.

This was very much the final dress rehearsal as far as Benitez was concerned.

The Anfield chief has been denied his big-hitters so far this pre-season and that has given the support cast their chance to shine.

He has discovered that in youngsters Stephen Darby, David Martin and Jay Spearing there is plenty of potential for the future, and all three would benefit from a spell now out on loan.

But Benitez will bring his squad back to Melwood on Tuesday and has a week of intense work before they fly to Spain for a friendly with Villarreal next Wednesday, followed by a demanding trip to face Rangers at Ibrox four days later.

Benitez will hope by then to have made headway on the possible deals involving Gareth Barry and Robbie Keane while welcoming back to training Liverpool's Spanish heroes Fernando Torres, Xabi Alonso, Jose Reina and Alvaro Arbeloa - all return to training at the end of the week.

By then decisions may well have been made over the futures of Jermaine Pennant, Andriy Voronin and Sebastian Leto.

They have all had plenty of chances over four friendlies so far, but the pace of preparation will hot up now with a Champions League qualifier three weeks away.

Liverpool will face that without Javier Mascherano, who is bound for the Olympics and played his last game for the club for a month in Berlin.

Along with Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger he showed how strong this central axis will be next term.

Elsewhere Spanish teenager Daniel Pacheco again showed clever flashes of talent and almost got on the end of an Emiliano Insua cross.

Hertha came closest in the first period with two efforts from full-back Sofian Chahed.

Liverpool changed their complete back-line at the break, Martin Skrtel, Sami Hyypia, Philipp Degen and Andrea Dossena taking over.

And the visitors should have scored after 49 minutes after Voronin was pulled down in the box by Kaka, who was tugging his shirt, but the Ukrainian striker saw his spot-kick saved by Christian Fiedler.

Cicero saw a downward header saved well by Diego Cavalieri, who was then replaced by Martin, with Jack Hobbs, Dirk Kuyt, Spearing and Yossi Benayoun all getting second-half run-outs.

Liverpool FC To Complete David N’Gog Deal

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez expects to seal a deal for teenage French forward David N’Gog today.

The club return to Melwood today after a three-match tour of Switzerland and Germany which concluded last night with a 0-0 draw against Hertha Berlin.

Although Liverpool extended their unbeaten run in pre-season to four games, a third victory could have been recorded had Andriy Voronin not seen his 50th-minute penalty saved by Christian Fiedler.

After the game, Benitez said: “We’re working hard. We have a young player and hopefully it will be done tomorrow, I think it will be positive.”

The manager was pleased with his team’s performance last night, saying: “We were well-organised and had an offensive mentality.

“We’ve got the Spanish players to come back and Fernando Torres will be one of them.

“We’ll see the difference once we’ve got these players and they show their quality.”

N’Gog is expected to cost £1.5m from Paris St Germain.

Rafa Benitez: Keane To Boost Liverpool's Strike Force

Rafa Benitez insisted he was working "very hard" to bring in a new striker after watching Liverpool fire blanks in Berlin's Olympic Stadium last night.

Andriy Voronin missed a second-half penalty as the Reds produced a limp performance which only served to highlight why Benitez must break the bank to bring in Spurs hot-shot Robbie Keane.

Without star players Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres, they rarely threatened Hertha Berlin and were fortunate to escape defeat against their Bundesliga hosts. Benitez, who has yet to secure Gareth Barry's signature from Aston Villa, said: "We are working hard to bring in new players.

"We will see what happens over the course of the next few days.

"There were several positives to take from the performance.

"Javier Mascherano played a full 90 minutes for the first time this summer while the work rate of the team was very good."

Liverpool were fortunate not to be trailing at the interval, German defender Sofian Chahed narrowly failing to beat Brazilian keeper Diego Cavalieri from 20 yards in the fifth minute.

Despite the absence of Gerrard and Torres, the impressive 74,500-capacity Olympic Stadium was still well populated. There was little to shout about, however, for the healthy sprinkling of Liverpool fans present among the 51,641 paying customers.

Liverpool Turn Their Attention To Olympic Row

Liverpool have turned their attention to a feud emerging between the Bundesliga and Fifa regarding their guidelines on releasing well known players for next month's Olympic Games.

The Bundesliga yesterday made it clear that they were prepared to test Fifa's resolve on the topic after a dispute over German side, Werder Bremen's midfielder Diego broke out, threatening to damage the 'goodwill' pact which would give famous players the opportunity to play in Beijing.

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez will start the new season without the services of Javier Mascherano as the Argentine will travel to Beijing. Liverpool will also be without Lucas Leiva and Ryan Babel playing for Brazil and the Netherlands, respectively.

Mascherano travels to the Olympics as one of Argentina's three players aged over 23 - he is there on the recommendation of Fifa who has encouraged all clubs to show goodwill towards the Olympic Games - there is no rule in place obligating Liverpool to release Mascherano.

Only players such as Babel and Leiza - both under 23 - can be compelled to join their national sides. With this rule in mind, Bremen have blocked Diego's request to compete in Beijing. On hearing of his club's decision, Diego is reported to have walked out of the training ground, and, without permission has flown to Paris to join the Brazil squad.

Bremen's sporting director has said that the matter will go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Should Diego be prevented from playing in Beijing, he has said he will abide by any decision taken by the CAS.

Brazilian players are said to be under more pressure than most to join up with their national sides as their head coach Dunga is under such scrutiny that poor results in China could see him sacked.

The football event in Beijing begins on August 6.

Yossi Eager To Prove His Worth

Yossi Benayoun believes he can improve upon an impressive first season with the Reds by becoming even more ruthless in front of goal during the 2008-09 campaign.

The Israel international is confident he has what it takes to prove his worth to boss Rafael Benitez and admits he is happy to play in any role for the team if it means he can help them go on to secures more silverware.

"I believe in myself and know what I can do," he told

"I think I had a good season last year, but I want to improve and score more goals. It's up to the manager - my job is to do what I can for the best of the team."

Benayoun, who appeared as a second-half substitute in the 0-0 draw with Hertha Berlin in the Olympiastadion last night, feels the stalemate with the German outfit was the Reds' most difficult pre-season clash so far and likened it more to a European night at Anfield than a friendly fixture.

"We've played against a good team who play good football and it's a good test for us," he said. "I'm sure we will improve and I'm sure we will be ready for the new season.

"It was similar to a European night because we saw a lot of supporters come out and we wanted to win. There weren't as many substitutions as you would expect because it was important to both teams. We had some good chances including the penalty but what can you say, it's only pre-season.

"I've felt good in the past few games. I didn't play too much against Hertha because I picked up a little bit of an injury in training but I still came on, and I think it did some good.

"Hopefully I will improve along with the rest of the team."

Reds' Spanish Armada Set To Return

Liverpool's Spanish contingent will be back in training at Melwood on Friday after their successful Euro 2008 campaign.

Fernando Torres, Pepe Reina, Xabi Alonso and Alvaro Arbeloa helped their country claim European Championship glory this summer, and were granted extended leave in order to recover from the tournament.

However, they are now set to join up with their domestic team-mates as the pre-season preparations hot up ahead of the new season.

Rafael Benitez is delighted to welcome the quartet back in to the fold, especially as he saw his side struggle for long periods during a 0-0 draw with Hertha Berlin on Tuesday.

"All the Spanish players will be back in training with us on Friday," he told the club's official website.

"Torres will be one of them and hopefully we will see the difference in our play because of the quality these players showed last season."

Benitez, who saw an Andriy Voronin penalty saved during the game against Hertha, still believes that there are plenty of positives which can be taken from their latest friendly encounter.

"Diego (Cavalieri) showed the quality he has with some good saves," said the Reds boss.

"I thought the game was played at a high tempo and both teams were working hard. We had chances and they did too, so a draw was probably a fair result.

"We made some mistakes but that is normal for pre-season. We also did some really good things.

"When you have four or five players who normally play not available it's not always easy to play at you highest level, but the young players have done well.

"The players have worked hard in the training camp and that is a positive for us."

Carra Hails Scouse Prospects

Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher has praised the efforts fellow scousers Jay Spearing and Stephen Darby on their pre-season tour of Europe.

Precious few local lads have successfully negotiated the step from the Liverpool reserves to the first-team in recent years – virtually none since Steven Gerrard, in fact.

Ormskirk-born Stephen Warnock threatened to break the mould but never managed to displace John Arne Riise – now of Roma – before being sold to Blackburn Rovers last year.

Carragher and Gerrard have thus been flying the banner for born and bred Liverpudlians at Anfield ever since Michael Owen’s departure for Real Madrid in 2004, but the Kop may have a few more scousers to cheer on before long.

Spearing and Darby were instrumental elements of the title-winning reserves team last season and have featured prominently during the Reds’ summer hit-outs in Switzerland and Germany.

And Carragher, who is known to take a great interest in the club’s youth prospects, believes both boys are capable of making the grade.

"All the young lads have done very well on this trip, especially Jay Spearing and Stephen Darby," he told Liverpool’s official website.

"Hopefully that will continue. They don't need any advice from me; they are doing very well at the moment."

Another impressive performer during the pre-season so far is Spanish youngster Daniel Pacheco, who has earned mass plaudits since arriving on Merseyside from Barcelona last summer.

"Daniel Pacheco has looked very sharp - he is a class player and we are delighted to have him," Carragher continued.

"Hopefully he can go on and do it this season but, as I say, he is still a young player - you shouldn't forget that. Hopefully he will be a Liverpool boy for years to come."