Sunday, November 09, 2008

Match Report: LiverpooL 3 - 0 West Brom

Robbie Keane gave Rafael Benitez his 150th victory as Liverpool boss as the Anfield club moved back to the top of the Barclays Premier League.

Keane, who had managed to score only twice previously since his summer move from Tottenham - both in the Champions League - finally broke his league duck when he drove home from a Steven Gerrard pass in the 34th minute.

Keane's second came when he rounded Scott Carson a couple of minutes before the break and Alvaro Arbeloa added the gloss in injury time.

Liverpool have now beaten West Brom in their last 10 meetings and wiped away the memory of losing their unbeaten record at Spurs last weekend.

Fernando Torres made his return after a six-game absence with a hamstring injury, but initially only as far as the bench.

Benitez rested midfielder Xabi Alonso and brought in Yossi Benayoun as the only change from the side that drew with Atletico Madrid in the Champions League on Tuesday.

West Brom were without James Morrison from the side that drew with Blackburn last time out, Do-heon Kim coming into the team.

West Brom, who have not won at Anfield in 41 years, set out with a positive approach by opting for two strikers, Roman Bednar and Ishmael Miller.

They initially moved forward with confidence, but Liverpool had space down both flanks to exploit and slowly started to pull West Brom's defence apart.

Former Liverpool keeper Carson saved well from Gerrard and Keane, but although Albion were still abrasive up front, a home breakthrough was only a matter of time.

Daniel Agger's tackle halted Borja Valero in the act of shooting, before Jonas Olsson was booked for a foul on Dirk Kuyt after 18 minutes.

At this point West Brom were standing up well to Liverpool's quick passing moves, which frequently broke down around Keane, whose anticipation of balls into space was at times poor.

But Liverpool came close when Gerrard sent in Benayoun on the right. Carson did well to save the winger's shot, but the ball bounced up and onto the arm of Olsson before bouncing away for a corner. Referee Peter Walton ignored pleas for a penalty.

Four minutes later Liverpool did take the lead. This time Keane read Gerrard's run and pass into space to perfection and motored onto it to lift his shot over the diving Carson.

And it was Keane who grabbed another to silence the West Brom fans who had been abusing him because of his association with Wolves many years back.

His second came two minutes from the break when he latched onto a fine through ball from Fabio Aurelio after Liverpool had broken with devastating speed as they cleared an Albion corner.

Keane was in yards of space to round the on-rushing Carson before firing an angled drive into an empty net.

Such a situation would have deflated many sides, but Albion came forward with purpose and spirit in the second period.

Robert Koren saw a long-range shot held by Jose Reina and another drive go wide before Albion opted for two substitutions after 56 minutes.

Luke Moore and Filipe Teixeira came on for Bednar and Do-heon Kim.

Keane got away from Ryan Donk in the box after 60 minutes, but Carson was out quickly to take the ball off the Irishman's toes.

Liverpool sent on Ryan Babel for Albert Riera after 66 minutes, the home side having been too quick to start coasting to victory and West Brom still showing spirit.

Torres' arrival finally came after 71 minutes, in place of the disappointed Keane, who had been striving for a hat-trick.

Torres' was soon into the action, taking a Benayoun pass. A quick change of pace and a fierce low shot, saved by Carson, followed and the Spaniard was back in his stride.

Liverpool had to wait until the final minute for their third, when full-back Arbeloa cut in from the right to fire into the top corner.

Benitez: 'The Monkey On Robbie's Back Has Gone, Whatever That Means.'

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez has said that he always had faith in Robbie Keane, after the Republic of Irish international bagged a brace against the Baggies.

Former Tottenham Hotspur striker Robbie Keane is finally off the mark in the Premier League for new club Liverpool as he scored twice against West Bromwich Albion in the early evening kick-off at Anfield.

Alvaro Arbeloa added a third moments before the final whistle, and the resultant three points saw the Reds return to the top of the table.

Manager Rafa Benitez maintained his belief that Keane would always become a regular scorer for the title hopefuls, telling Sky Sports in his post-match interview:

"I have always wanted to support Robbie, he has been playing and contributing to our victories.

"I have had no doubts that he would start to score regularly for us. Robbie has told me he has got a monkey off his back, not an expression I had heard before.

"Robbie has game intelligence and he is always a threat to defenders. It was only a matter of time before he scored in the league," Rafa said.

"He is quick and can punish any mistakes that defenders make, and that is what he did."

Agger: Reds Need More Goals

Liverpool defender Daniel Agger has admitted his side must start converting their chances in front of goal if they are to have any chance of claiming silverware this season.

Rafael Benitez’s Liverpool were made to pay for their profligacy in front of goal last weekend as they slumped to a 2-1 defeat to Tottenham, despite largely dominating the game.

Speaking to the club’s official website, defender Daniel Agger admitted he was at a loss to explain the result at White Hart Lane. He said: “I don't think I can explain the defeat at Tottenham, but the result certainly wasn't good enough.”

The Danish defender confessed that his side had created enough chances to win the game but refused to blame anyone for the loss. Agger explained: “Against Spurs it wasn't just one or two chances, it was seven or eight, and they fell to different players. It was just one of those days.”

The Reds also spurned several opportunities in midweek against Atletico Madrid and Agger insisted Benitez’s men must improve, particularly in the Premier League.

“The League is so tight and there are so many games in a short space of time so you can't keep thinking about mistakes you have made. You have to carry on,” he admitted before adding, “But one thing that we have to remember is that if you don't score enough goals you don't win.”

The defender himself was guilty of missing opportunities against the Spanish side and he acknowledged he could have scored a hat-trick. He said: “To create those chances is obviously a good thing, but on a good day I could have scored three or even four goals."

Agger was also quick to warn his team mates that they must learn from their mistakes and admitted that they can’t afford to keep missing chances.

“We need to learn all the time and if we have lots of chances we need to take as many of them as we can,” he confessed before concluding, “Almost isn't good enough.”

Liverpool Will Not Offer Rafa Benitez The Five-Year Deal He Wants

Rafa Benitez will have to revise his contract demands if he is to secure a new deal from Liverpool's American owners.

The announcement from Tom Hicks and George Gillett that they are now ready to open talks to secure Benitez's future prompted the Spaniard to reveal that he wants a five-year agreement to be secured by the end of the month.

But while the American pair want to pacify both Benitez and the Liverpool fans - who want to see their ownership of the Anfield club come to an end - they will not sanction a contract that will expire in 2013.

Chief executive Rick Parry is expected to begin negotiations with Benitez's advisers this week.

But Liverpool will not be railroaded into bowing to their manager's insistence that a deal should be concluded by the end of November.

An Anfield insider said: "In American sports it is unusual for a coach to be given the kind of long-term contract Benitez is looking for.

"Such deals are normally extended by one or sometimes two more years and Rafa already has 18 months left on his current contract. There is obviously room for negotiation, but these things often take time."

Benitez revealed to Sunday Mirror Sport last week how a contract stand-off at Valencia prompted him to quit the Spanish club for Liverpool in 2004 just weeks after leading them to a La Liga and UEFA Cup double.

That prompted the two Americans to contact Benitez during the week with assurances about a new deal.

Rafa Benitez Gagged

Rafa Benitez will be gagged when he finally signs his new £5million-a-year deal.

Liverpool owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks have at last agreed to begin talks on the manager’s contract extension.

But they intend to add conditions to prevent further fall-outs between Benitez and the board.

Gillett, in particular, will demand a silence clause that bans the Spaniard from talking openly and honestly about the club’s policies.

In the past, Benitez’s frank assessment of Liverpool’s position has angered the Americans and almost led to his dismissal a year ago.

But they have come to realise Benitez is the man who can lead Liverpool to glory and that he deserves a new deal.

The owners’ decision to open talks symbolises a thawing of relations at Anfield.

Yet, with no timescale in place, it is possible that the Yanks will sell the club before Benitez gets a chance to pen terms, leaving him in limbo.

Hicks and Gillett are relaxed about allowing negotiations to continue for the rest of the season.

The Liverpool boss, however, is anxious for a swift resolution, saying he wants everything sorted “very, very quickly”.

He is hoping for a four- year deal worth £20m.

But last season, Hicks said he was looking to give the manager just a one-year extension.

The players cannot wait for their boss to secure his future.

Dirk Kuyt Is Crucial To Liverpool's Campaign

Dutchman Dirk Kuyt might not be your typical Anfield superstar but his presence in the Reds starting line-up may be one of the reasons Liverpool are flying high.

The son of a fisherman is proving to be a great catch for Rafa Benitez who snapped up the striker ahead of Premier League rivals two years ago.

And Liverpool certainly have more fun when the Blond Bombshell is on the pitch.

Hopes were high when the Liverpool striker was brought in from Feyenoord for around £9m in the summer of 2006.

Spaniard Fernando Morientes had been a flop, Peter Crouch was never in favour.

Kuyt bagged 12 Premier League goals in his first season and in doing so became the first player to hit double figures in the top flight under Benitez.

He's already passed his miserly return of three Premier League goals last year by scoring against Man City, Wigan twice and Spurs this season.

But those aren't the only stats that show what an impression Kuyt has made at Anfield - and that's why Rafa now wants to offer him a new contract.

When Kuyt plays, Liverpool are three times as likely to win, about half as likely to concede and on average pick up double the amount of points compared to when he's not there.

Rafa knows that and that's why the Liverpool boss continues to keep the Dutchman in his side, even if it's in the wide right role and not as a conventional front man.

Fernando Torres may have pushed Kuyt out of his natural position but the arrival of another Spaniard, Albert Riera, on the opposite wing, may have given him the space and balance that he and Liverpool need.

Liverpool have an abundance of wide men - Jermaine Pennant, Yossi Benayoun, Ryan Babel and now Kuyt - but out of all of them it's only Kuyt who has been an ever-present in the Premier League this season.

His bustling, energetic style makes him a fans' favourite - they always know he's trying.

That's why Rafa wanted him, and that's why it's better for Liverpool when Rafa plays him.

Atletico Madrid President Calls Steven Gerrard A Diver

Stevie Gerrard is a good enough actor to make it in Hollywood, claims Atletico Madrid president Enrique Cerezo.

The Liverpool skipper enraged the Spaniards by falling dramatically to win a late penalty in their Champions League draw on Tuesday.

And Cerezo, who is also an agent for film actors, said he would happily sign up the England midfielder as a client - especially for a remake of The Fall Guy.

"I would sign Gerrard to do a movie because he is a good actor," said Cerezo.

"It's a shame that we didn't qualify for the Champions League's last 16 as we lost the point we needed because of this penalty.

"We can be upset but that doesn't change anything."

Torres: I'd Return To Atletico

Liverpool striker Fernando Torres has not ruled out the possibility of returning to former club Atletico Madrid and complete some unfinished business, but he insists it will not happen any time soon.

Torres earned legendary status at Atletico before moving to Liverpool in 2007.

The 24-year-old Spain international said it was the right time to leave, but he would love to wear the red and white of Atletico again.

"I hope to experience many things still, but for me it is an exceptional club," said Torres.

"I don't know if I will retire there, but I would like to go back and finish some things that are left to do.

"When I was there I couldn't do any more, but I would like to go back."

He added: "Right now I have no plans to leave England. Not to Spain, not to Italy, not to another English club."

Torres has taken the Premier League by storm since leaving his homeland, scoring 33 goals in all competitions during his first season at Anfield.

That has put him in the running to win the Ballon d'Or as the European player of the year, although he does not believe he has much chance of taking that award.

"No. There is a clear favourite. I think there have been very few years when there has been someone who has done so much to deserve the award as Cristiano Ronaldo did last season," Torres added.

U-18s Crash To City Defeat

It was a bad day at the office for Liverpool Under-18s who crashed to a 4-1 defeat at Academy League leaders Manchester City on Saturday afternoon.

Hughie McAuley's second placed side went into the game without last weekend's hat-trick hero Nathan Eccleston who was nursing an injury, and fellow striker James Ellison was also ruled out with a knock.

Joe Kennedy scored a brilliant consolation goal for the Reds but McAuley's team were second best on the day.

"It wasn't a good game for us but we are honest enough to admit they were better than us," McAuley told

"For the first 20 minutes we were the better team. Alex Kacaniklic had a great chance but we couldn't score.

"Overall they were sharper than us. They passed the ball better and took their chances. They deserved to win and they had a better cutting edge in attack than we did.

"Joe scored a late goal three minutes from time with a rasper of a shot from 30-yards out. It was just a pity the goal didn't come earlier in the game.

"City are a good team but we have done well this season. We will bounce back and we will now look forward to the derby with Everton next Saturday."

Liverpool Under-18s team: Martin Hansen, Michael Scott, Christopher Buchtmann (Shane O'Connor 70), Conor Coady, Joe Kennedy, Andre Wisdom, David Amoo, Adam Pepper (Michael Roberts 65), Lauri Dalla Valle, Marvin Pourie, Alex Kacakniklic (Thomas Ince 50). Subs not used: Alex Cooper, Hakan Duyan.