Thursday, October 02, 2008

Match Report: LiverpooL 3 - 1 PSV Eindhoven

Steven Gerrard grabbed his 100th Liverpool goal to leave his side with their Champions League destiny in their own hands after a convincing Group D victory at Anfield.

Back-to-back games with Atletico Madrid now follow, and after the Spanish side's win over Marseille, those matches will almost certainly decide who wins the group.

Liverpool have won their first two group matches for the first time, and cruised to victory.

Robbie Keane scored his first goal for the club after 11 blank games since his £20million move from Tottenham, and Gerrard smashed home the third to grab his century of Liverpool goals.

And Dirk Kuyt got in on the act with his 10th goal in 16 Champions League games for the club.

But frankly, Liverpool never got out of second gear against the outclassed Dutch champions.

Benitez recalled Fabio Aurelio to left-back in place of Andrea Dossena, the only change from the side that won the Merseyside derby at Everton on Saturday.

It meant Javier Mascherano was left on the bench - despite recovering from a calf injury - for the manager's 250th game in control at Anfield.

PSV made three changes from side that beat Eredivisie bottom club Volendam at the weekend, with striker Danny Koevermans sacrificed for extra defensive strength.

Nordin Amrabat, Jason Culina and Otman Bakkal came into a side that included former Liverpool defender Jan Kromkamp.

With their side previously unbeaten this term, it was no surprise that there was an air of expectation around Anfield, and after four minutes the Kop got the start they wanted.

Gerrard's first corner, from the right, was met by a Fernando Torres first-time shot. He was criminally unmarked with Jeremie Brechet hopelessly adrift of his prey.

Somehow Andreas Isaksson blocked the Spaniard's effort, only for Dirk Kuyt to ram home the rebound from 10 yards.

Xabi Alonso tried another of his trademark 60-yard efforts, with Isaksson having to back-track to catch the ball, before Keane had a good penalty shout turned down when he was caught by Carlos Salcido.

Kuyt tested Isaksson again, this time with a 20-yard effort on the turn that the former Manchester City goalkeeper held low to his left.

Torres then headed wide from an Aurelio corner, before setting up Keane for his first Liverpool goal.

It came after 34 minutes when Kuyt's hard work sent Torres away down the right. When the low cross arrived in the box, it was met by Keane first-time, his shot speeding into the far bottom corner of the net.

Anfield erupted, Keane having finally netted on his 11th appearance for the club. His joy was obvious as he was mobbed by his colleagues.

PSV needed to do better after the break to rescue some pride. They brought on young defender Erik Peters for Jeremie Brechet, and at last started to come forward with some conviction.

Bakkal saw a 25-yard shot fizz just wide, before Salcido's tackle on Torres sent the Spaniard spinning to the turf, and a hush fell over the stadium until he struggled painfully to his feet.

Amrabat, who had battled away bravely on his own in attack, then unleashed a fierce 20-yard effort which thudded just wide.

Torres should have ended the debate after 65 minutes when Kromkamp's wayward pass put him clear - but his flick past Isaksson drifted inches wide of the far post.

The game was seemingly meandering to an inevitable conclusion, with Yossi Benayoun now on for Riera.

Gerrard was the next to try his luck, lifting a shot over from just outside the box, before Lucas replaced Keane.

Dirk Marcellis was booked for a foul on Torres, and that paved the way for Gerrard to grab his 100th goal for Liverpool after 75 minutes, smashing a fierce 25-yarder past Isaksson, to the acclaim of the Kop.

But PSV hit back three minutes later, when substitute Balazs Dzsudzsak crossed from the right.

The ball cleared Jamie Carragher to allow Koevermans to get to it ahead of Skrtel, and he headed past Jose Reina from 10 yards.

Ryan Babel replaced Gerrard with nine minutes to go - and the Reds comfortably saw out the closing stages of the match.

Unfashionable Dirk Kuyt Winning Over His Liverpool Critics

David Moores has probably been too busy beating himself up over his decision to sell his beloved Liverpool to a couple of cowboys to remember some of the better things he did for the club during his 16-year stay as chairman.

Moores is known to be deeply upset by the manner in which Liverpool’s name has been dragged through the mud under the ownership of Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr, but while the danger is that he will be remembered — however harshly — as the man who sold a great institution, offering to dig his hands deep into his pockets to fund the £9 million signing of Dirk Kuyt was one of his more sensible decisions.

It has not always seemed that way. Kuyt is about as unfashionable as a player at a top-four club could be, the one who is easy to malign or target when things are not going well, the one whose name children will usually decide against having printed on the back of their replica shirts when it is far more glamorous — and acceptable in the eyes of schoolfriends — to plump for Torres or Gerrard.

But where once the gushing assessment of Kuyt’s qualities that Rafael Benítez delivered during the build-up to last night’s Champions League match against PSV Eindhoven would once have invited scepticism, the Dutchman is winning round his critics. There is still some doubt as to whether Benítez signed Kuyt from Feyenoord principally as a goalscorer or simply a stopgap as he waited for someone better to come along.

Having scored 116 goals in the four seasons before his move to Liverpool, Kuyt had pedigree as a striker, although if PSV are anything to go by, maybe we should no longer read too much into success in the Eredivisie in the Netherlands. Instead, Kuyt’s reincarnation as a right winger has owed everything to a remarkable work ethic and a willingness to sacrifice himself for the greater good of the team.

Rumours abound that Kuyt may leave Merseyside soon, with Hamburg one of the clubs eager to secure his services, but his loss to Liverpool would be more keenly felt than many might believe. He will never dazzle on the right flank as Cristiano Ronaldo does for Manchester United, but there are few more consistent performers in Benítez’s team than the 28-year-old and while the goals may be harder to come by now than they were in the Netherlands, he retains an ability to score at important junctures, as he did against Standard Liège in qualifying for the Champions League group phase and again last night.

Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard stole the headlines but Kuyt, understated as he is, would probably not have it any other way.

Stevie, Robbie And Rafa On Landmark Goals

Liverpool obtained six points from six in the Champions League with an impressive 3-1 over PSV at Anfield. Robbie Keane scored his first goal for the club while Steven Gerrard scored his 100th on a landmark night for the Reds.

Steven Gerrard finally broke his 99 duck for Liverpool after failing to score in his last two outings. To his brace in Marseille, he added another strike tonight - a stunning 74mph effort from 25 yards into the Kop.

The Liverpool captain was quick to shrug off the significance of his ton-goal and instead paid tribute to his colleagues and declare his happiness with the result. While thanking the team's supporters, he eyed more major silverware for the Reds.

He told Sky Sports: "It's fantastic for me but we came to win the game and to get in the driving seat in the group.

"It's always a fantastic feeling scoring in front of the Kop and it's nice to say 'thank you' for their support over the years."

"If you win matches and play well your belief grows and we are very confident we can win. There's a good bond off the pitch and we're all in it together.

"But we've won nothing. It's a good start but it's important to put silverware on table this year - we've gone two years without."

Robbie Keane went 10 games without a goal for Liverpool, but got off the mark tonight with a half-volley that had him spinning cartwheels. He is pleased to have scored, but is not overly concerned with its significance, and hopes it is the first of many.

He said: "It's great. I've got a monkey off my back, it's been a few games. It's always nice to get the first goal but I wasn't too worried about it, it was just people talking. I hope I score a lot more for this club."

Steven Gerrard Tells Liverpool: Now Let's Get Silverware

Steven Gerrard scored his 100th goal for Liverpool in tonight’s 3-1 Champions League romp against PSV Eindhoven and then demanded his team back up their fine start to the season with silverware.

Gerrard blasted in a 25-yard free-kick to reach his landmark and claim the Reds’ third, after strikes from Dirk Kuyt and Robbie Keane - his first for the club - put them in control. Danny Koevermans struck a late consolation for the beleaguered visitors.

Liverpool now have a perfect six points in Group D and have made their best start to a Premier League season - but Gerrard shrugged off talk of his personal achievements to call for his team-mates to continue their rampant form.

“It’s fantastic for me but we came to win the game and to get in the driving seat in the group,” he told Sky Sports.

“It’s always a fantastic feeling scoring in front of the Kop and it’s nice to say ’thank you’ for their support over the years.”

The Reds skipper added: “If you win matches and play well your belief grows and we are very confident we can win. There’s a good bond off the pitch and we’re all in it together.

“But we’ve won nothing. It’s a good start but it’s important to put silverware on table this year - we’ve gone two years without.”

Keane was delighted to score his first goal for the Reds in his 11th match, but insisted he had not been overly concerned by his drought.

“It’s great. I’ve got a monkey off my back, it’s been a few games,” the striker told Sky Sports.

“It’s always nice to get the first goal but I wasn’t too worried about it, it was just people talking.

“I hope I score a lot more for this club.”

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez was thrilled to see Gerrard reach his century of goals and then insisted the 28-year-old could conceivably double his tally.

“Going forward he is one of the best midfielders in the world,” he said.

“Today, (he got his) 100th goal, he is still young and can maybe score 200.”

Benitez: Reds Nearly There

Rafael Benitez believes if Liverpool win in his home city of Madrid in their next Champions League group match on October 22 they will have one foot in the knockout stage.

The Liverpool manager thinks one more point after that will see them qualify from Group D after watching his side secure a convincing 3-1 victory over out-classed Dutch champions PSV Eindhoven at Anfield Wednesday night.

The Spaniard said: "We have four games left in the group now, and we know from experience that you must fight to the bitter end. But I believe that 10 points will now be enough to see us into the next stage. We will try to win our next match away to Atletico Madrid, and then maybe just one more point will do."

Benitez hailed Liverpool's best-ever start to a group stage campaign. Coming after the opening win in Marseille last month, this is the first time Liverpool have taken a six-point maximum from their opening two matches at this stage.

With Atletico Madrid's win against Marseille, Liverpool and the Spanish club are now in a very strong position at the head of the group to both reach the knockout stage.

Benitez saw Robbie Keane score his first goal for the club, and skipper Steven Gerrard his 100th, after Dirk Kuyt had opened the scoring, before substitute Danny Koevermans grabbed a late consolation for the visitors.

Benitez said: "It was almost the perfect night. It was a really good game for us with lots of positive things, a solid performance with balance and quality.

"Now we must keep on winning. This is a very good start for us, different maybe from last season when we did not start our group matches that well.

"I was pleased for Robbie Keane. Now he has got his first European goal for us, I hope he will now score his first Premier League goal. I know Robbie will score a lot more goals for us in the future, so this was just the first step for him.

"I was pleased also for Steven Gerrard. For a midfielder to score 100 goals is very impressive. He is amongst the very best offensive midfield players anywhere."

Former 'Pool Defender Claims Reds Can Go All The Way

Dutch defender Jan Kromkamp has confirmed his belief that former club Liverpool have the necessary credentials to re-claim the Champions League at the end of the season.

Dutch full back Jan Kromkamp kitted out for Liverpool in 2006 under Rafa Benitez but failed to establish himself in the first team and moved onto PSV Eindhoven whom the Reds hosted in the group stage of the Champions League on Wednesday evening.

Kromkamp maintains that he always believed that his former club could win any competition they entered, and that the Champions League might once again be theirs this season.

"They certainly have the quality. In fact, even when I was at Liverpool I believed they were capable of winning anything they took part in," Kromkamp is quoted by the BBC as saying.

"Having watched them a few times on TV this season, I can see their confidence is high and they are certainly able to win both the major tournaments."

"They have quality and are very strong. It is hard to find a weakness because they have been a big club in Europe for several years now. We know they have a strong defence and are difficult to break down, but we will try," the 28-year old added.

"I believe Steven Gerrard is one of the best players in the world and Liverpool have strength in every position. This is going to be a difficult game for us."

Redknapp Rubbishes Pennant Talk

Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp has rubbished speculation he is considering a January move for Liverpool winger Jermaine Pennant.

The former Birmingham star has struggled to make an impact at Anfield since arriving in a £6.7million deal in 2006 and he has fallen out of favor this season.

Pennant made a late substitute appearance in last weekend's Merseyside derby victory over Everton, but prior to that his only outing this term was in the Carling Cup against Crewe earlier in September.

A lack of first-team football has seen Pennant linked with pastures new and Portsmouth have been rumoured to be keeping tabs on the 25-year-old.

But Redknapp insists that he has not yet considered transfer targets, telling The News: "I like Pennant. He's a good player, a great crosser of the ball and he's definitely got quality.

"But I can't say I have thought about signing him. In fact, I have not thought about anybody really, to be honest.

"The transfer window has just closed and the next one isn't open until January, other signings are not really in my thoughts this early.

"As far as I'm concerned, I have got my squad here, players I'm happy with.

"I just need to get on with it now. It's like any transfer, I'll see how we are going closer to the time and if we need something.

"You never know, you may get an injury in a certain position, something might need freshening up.

"I've got to see if everything is going okay. If everybody is doing well it's not a problem and I won't need to bring in anyone at all.

"But at the moment I'm not even thinking about that."

Liverpool Players Make Rotation A Thing Of The Past For Rafa Benitez

RAFA BENITEZ today admitted it is becoming increasingly difficult to rotate his side – because so many of his star players are “on fire”.

The Reds boss is keen to maintain Liverpool’s flying start to the season and believes the momentum they are picking up can be kept going in both Premier League and Champions League, starting with last night’s showdown with PSV Eindhoven at Anfield.

This time last season the Reds boss made wholesale changes to his starting line-up for the first home game of the Champions League group stages – and suffered a damaging defeat by Marseille which left his side playing catch-up to qualify for the knockout rounds.

Last night Dutch champions PSV Eindhoven came to Anfield having already lost their opening match heavily at home to Atletico Madrid.

But Benitez intends to send out his big guns and try to wrap up the group quickly.

“We have the experience of last season,” he admitted “I won’t make many changes. If some players are on fire, maybe it is a good moment to keep them playing.

“Normally we try to check how the players are physically, mentally and also how the team is tactically – and then we decide whether we will change more or less players.

“But now we are in a good position so I do not think that I will change too many.”

Benitez has picked the same starting eleven for Liverpool’s last two league games against Stoke and Everton and his policy of sticking with a side that is performing well has even left the likes of Daniel Agger and Ryan Babel regularly kicking their heels on the subs bench.

The return of Javier Mascherano and Yossi Benayoun from injury adds to the Liverpool manager’s selection headache as he now has a full squad to pick from. But Benitez insists that if he does make changes it won’t be many.

He added: “When some players are playing well, but are tired, you say ‘okay maybe we will have to keep them in.’ But then you play them, they are tired and you have to change them in a game!

“You never know. If you win, you can say ‘okay fantastic decision,’ but I don’t think I will change too many players.

“When we were analysing things this week we knew we had four days between the Everton match and this one and four days between this match and the Manchester City game. Three days is not enough, four days is better.”

Agger, Babel and Mascherano are pushing hardest for a recall along with Brazilian Fabio Aurelio, who is challenging Andrea Dossena for the left back spot.

Benitez added: will tell whoever he selects tonight that it is vitally important that they are focused 100%.

“Every match is important, but now, when you are playing well and people are really happy, it’s more important to concentrate and be focused.

“It’s totally different to the other times we have played them. It will be more or less the same style of football with players of pace and quality and ability, but it will be different because they have a new manager and different players.” “PSV will be more dangerous because they have lost their opening game. They are a good counter-attacking team. They have a new manager and different players.