Thursday, January 29, 2009

Match Report: Wigan Athletic 1 - 1 LiverpooL

Liverpool's inability to convert possession into goals returned to haunt them as they conceded an 83rd-minute equaliser at Wigan - which severely dented the Reds' Premier League title ambitions.

For the fourth successive match, Rafael Benitez's side failed to capitalise on their domination - and had only Yossi Benayoun's 41st-minute effort to show for their efforts.

It proved not to be enough when Brazil midfielder Lucas Leiva's senseless, rash challenge on Jason Koumas allowed Mido - signed on loan from Middlesbrough last week - to convert the penalty.

With Chelsea beating Middlesbrough, Liverpool dropped to third in the table - two points behind leaders Manchester United, having played one match more, and only one point ahead of fourth-placed Aston Villa.

The tone was set in the second minute when Steven Gerrard curled in a left-wing free-kick to the near post. But Lucas managed to get in the way of Fernando Torres, and the ball bounced to safety.

The same combination almost brought a goal in the 13th minute, Gerrard crossing from the left with Torres' glancing header beating Pollitt but rebounding back off the far post - across the goal to safety.

As was the case on Sunday, Liverpool were enjoying huge amounts of possession - but it was in areas which were not really threatening to the hosts.

Torres, who had scored once in nine injury-interrupted matches, was looking sharper - and from a Jamie Carragher long ball, he controlled on his chest and unleashed a shot on the turn which was a few feet wide of Pollitt's left-hand post.

When Liverpool did cut open the defence, Benayoun's final pass let him down. The Israel international had dummied to allow Ryan Babel to play the ball in behind - but when he got to the byline he failed to pick out Torres or Gerrard.

Lucas' 22-yard shot was even worse, scuffing wide after Gerrard had teed him up with the defence backing off.

Wigan did not win their first corner until the 34th minute - when the unmarked Emmerson Boyce, clearly offside but with no flag, headed wide.

The home fans were screaming for a penalty when Paul Scharner fell under pressure from Aurelio, but referee Phil Dowd was not interested.

In the 38th minute Babel cut inside and unleashed a shot which Pollitt failed to hold. But fortunately for him, it did not drop to an opponent - and the danger was cleared.

Claims for a Martin Skrtel handball, which looked accidental, a few moments later were waved away by Dowd.

Liverpool promptly went straight down the other end and scored in the 41st minute.

Javier Mascherano's defence-splitting pass looked to be too heavy for Benayoun. But he rounded Pollitt and squeezed in a shot, which clipped the near post from the narrowest of angles.

The first action of the second half saw Maynor Figueroa booked for bringing down Benayoun. Fabio Aurelio curled the 25-yard free-kick straight at Pollitt.

Wigan's goalkeeper had to be alert to tip over Mascherano's right-wing cross under his bar, but Liverpool's short-corner routine broke down.

After a scrappy 15 minutes, Liverpool slipped back into their patient passing game - by which time Wigan manager Steve Bruce had seen enough and sent on Jason Koumas for Daniel de Ridder.

Benayoun should have either made or scored the second in the 65th minute when he turned left-back Figueroa inside out twice but delayed his final pass from inside the six-yard box - and the ball was hacked clear.

With 20 minutes to go, Benitez replaced Torres with Albert Riera - meaning Babel was given the chance to play up front. Yet there was still no sign of Robbie Keane - back in the squad after being dropped for Sunday's FA Cup Merseyside derby - getting a run.

Gerrard had a chance to score the second after bursting into the right side of the area, but his shot across goal was wide of the far post.

Benitez's second substitution was to send on Dirk Kuyt for Benayoun. Bruce responded by giving Colombian striker Huge Rodallega his debut.

But with nine minutes to go, Lucas crazily clipped Koumas in the penalty area - and Mido sent Jose Reina the wrong way from the spot.

Keane was finally given his chance immediately after that when he replaced Gerrard but could not produce a response to his manager's decision to leave him out at the weekend.

It could have been much worse for the visitors as Rodallega, who received international clearance only just over an hour before kick-off, hit the bar with an injury-time free-kick.

Benitez Insists Liverpool Can Win Title

Defiant Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez insists they can still win the Premier League despite the 1-1 draw at Wigan.

Yossi Benayoun gave Liverpool a half-time lead at the JJB Stadium but Mido equalised from the penalty spot on his debut.

Benitez reacted by replacing his talisman Steven Gerrard with Robbie Keane but Wigan almost won the match in injury-time when Hugo Rodallega curled a free-kick against the Liverpool crossbar.

Benitez said: "When you are top of the table you know that every single game is really important so when you lose two points you have to be disappointed.

"If we play like we played in the first half we can beat anyone.

"All the games will be important until the end of the season. It depends on the other teams too but we have to try to play well and try to win."

If Liverpool had held on to beat Wigan, they would have been level with Manchester United at the top of the Premier League.

But they are two points behind, level with Chelsea, and united have a game in hand on both clubs.

Liverpool and Chelsea meet on Sunday at Anfield.

Rafael Benitez: I Don't Know What Is Happening At Liverpool

Liverpool conceded more ground in the title race last night, drawing 1-1 with Wigan Athletic after Mido's late penalty cancelled out Yossi Benayoun's opener.

The result has seen the Anfield giants slip to third in the Premier League, two points behind leaders Manchester United and seven goals' difference adrift of second-placed Chelsea.

Rafael Benitez's men are yet to record any league win in 2009, after starting the year with a handy lead, and the Spanish tactician aired his frustration with a signature set of cryptic utterances.

"I don’t know what is happening. Actually I do know, but I can’t say anything about it. It is just crazy," he told the press after the Wigan game.

"You can’t control what you can’t change. It could be like this for years.

"[Man United manager] Alex Ferguson has been here for 22 years and you can see what it means when you have been here for so long.

"The past three games have something in common I don’t like."

Reds Fans On Liverpool's Latest Title Woes

Ian Richardson from Rock Ferry said: Once again a resilient Liverpool side looked ike they would go yet another game unbeaten.

Unfortunately they also looked like they wouldn’t be winning another game either.

The Anfield draw specialists were once again in evidence last night at Wigan. This time though it could be one draw too many in our faltering title challenge.

Yes we may still only be within two points of the leaders but so too are Chelsea and Aston Villa, two teams who are currently grinding out results.

That’s something Liverpool have to get back into the habit of, and fast. Once again it was a sloppy late goal after a bright first half in which they created chances including Yossi Benayoun’s clever finish. But they came out for the second half looking tired and devoid of ideas.

Paul Anderson from Orrell Park said: Last night was the latest addition to the catalogue of draws we have notched up in recent weeks.

Combining the inability to break sides down with the lack of passion to hold on to any lead we have obtained leaves us likely to come away with one point instead of three.

Lucas Leiva looks to be trying his hardest to justify taking the scapegoat title from John Arne Riise, as the boo boys nod agreement at yet another inept performance.

The hunger is not there and the midfield is unbelievably weak. Kuyt, Babel, Benayoun and Reira have all left a lot to be desired the past few weeks.

January has not been kind, a series of draws along with the transfer kitty being locked away from the manager means the players available need to stand up and be counted. The danger is that all to soon this could be another silverware free season.

Robert Gillies from Aigburth said: Liverpool FC is leaking credibility from every pore. The poison from the boardroom fills the national sport and business pages most days. Remember that the club is only six months from being repossessed by the bank!

Draws at Stoke and Wigan have resulted from the manager’s conservatism and over-estimation of the opposition. It is not necessary to have two holding players in midfield and rest star players against this standard of team. The draws – home and away – will cost us the title this year, not results against the other top teams.

At Wigan we had the typical passive first half with the ball being surrendered far too cheaply.

Our forwards give lesser teams too much time to get organised. We are at least two class fullbacks and wide men from being title winners.

Paul O'Leary from Allerton said: We are throwing any chance of the title away. Another poor performance, another draw, the loss of another two points, and tactics that are baffling to put it mildly.

What is happening to Liverpool FC?

It’s bad enough having the ownership saga going on off the field, but with several of our stars out of form and doubts over Daniel Agger and Robbie Keane’s futures, it’s getting as bad on the football front.

The Wigan result was indicative of the general downturn in what is becoming the ‘norm’ performance. We needed a show of power, creativity and goals. What happened? Rafa Benitez plays two "holding" midfielders in Lucas and Mascherano, and an out of form Babel.

The next two games will make or break the season domestically. If results aren’t good, we might just be chasing a Champions League dream.

Yossi Benayoun: We Can Get Out Of This Rut

Yossi Benayoun believes Liverpool have the talent and the belief to emerge from a mini slump which has seen them drop 14 points in their last ten league games.

Last night’s disappointing 1-1 draw at Wigan was Liverpool’s latest setback and and Rafa Benitez’s side have now dropped to third place in the Premier League, two points behind leaders Manchester United, who also have a game in hand.

But a defiant Benayoun, who gave the Reds the lead with a coolly-taken first half strike, reckons hard work will take Liverpool back to the kind of form which took them to the top of the league earlier this season.

The Israeli said: “Of course we are disappointed, particularly because we were leading 1-0 with just a few minutes to go.

“All we can do is keep on working hard to try and turn things round.

“We have drawn our last four games in a row so we have to try and play better and also try to finish games off when we are winning 1-0.

“We have big players like Stevie, like Carra and like Torres and I am sure that we will turn things around because we have the quality to do so.

“We will do it, I am sure.”

Liverpool were again not at their best against Steve Bruce’s side and they paid a high price for their below-par performance when Mido equalised from the penalty spot with just seven minutes remaining.

Benayoun says a failure to kill teams off is currently costing Liverpool heavily and he knows that the Reds need to get back to winning ways immediately if they are to sustain their title challenge.

“Again we were ahead and we wanted to get a second but the goal didn’t come,” he added.

“We do have creative players and everyone tries to give 100%, but sometimes it is not enough.

“Again we had a little bit of luck go against us when Fernando’s header came back off the post and from one counter attack they have got a penalty – this is football sometimes, if you don’t get the second goal your opponents can always score towards the end.

“We expected to win these games and to be on top of the league but we have made things more difficult for ourselves.

“Man United are now top by two points and they also have a game in hand.

“Chelsea is a very important game for us and we have to start winning if we want to have a chance of winning the league.”

Month Of Misery Could Cost Liverpool The Premier League Title

Rafael Benitez will be glad to see the back of January. The problems off the pitch, the public spats with Sir Alex Ferguson and his board, his captain’s court appearance and his own contract problems have transferred on to it. The only team Liverpool have beaten this year are Preston, in the FA Cup.

Were it not for one moment of sheer lunacy from Brazilian midfielder Lucas, it would all have been very different. Ahead through Yossi Benayoun, Liverpool looked on course to wake oday level on points with Manchester United. At such moments are titles won and lost.

Where he should have stood his ground and shepherded Jason Koumas to the byline, Lucas stuck a leg out in the box. Phil Dowd blew his whistle, Mido duly converted the penalty. Two more points dropped, more ground lost, third in the league. A month ago, Liverpool had never been closer to their first championship for 19 years. Now it is as far away as ever.

Between now and Sunday, Benitez will hope to iron out as many of his problems as possible. Tom Hicks flies in to sort out the contract, Robbie Keane, restored to the bench but only allowed to play for eight minutes, will have stayed or gone. Then Chelsea, now ahead of Benitez’s side on goal difference and recovering their shattered confidence, visit Anfield. It never rains but it pours, and it is starting to show.

“It was a crazy game in the second half,” said Benitez. “We controlled the game in the first half and could have scored two or three –goals, but the second half we lost control and it was crazy. But I cannot control that craziness, so I am calm. It might be crazy against Chelsea on Sunday, I do not know. Maybe it will be crazy for years.”

Asked if he was referring to his players, Benitez insisted they were fine. He did not wish to comment on Wigan or the performance of referee Dowd. An oblique reference to Ferguson – “he has been here 22 years and you can see how things are” – suggests Rafa has either been watching the box set of Lost or was suggesting the nefarious hand of the Manchester United manager as explanation for his team’s shortcomings.

What craziness he meant is unclear, but Liverpool will need to get to the heart of the mystery before Chelsea arrive.

There is a lingering suspicion among the Anfield faithful that this will be a season of what ifs. What if Benitez had not launched his attack on Ferguson? What if his contract had been sorted out? What if Liverpool had one more goal threat?

Add to that a few more from the JJB. What if Benitez had replaced Fernando Torres, with 25 minutes to play, with Keane and not Albert Riera? What if he had brought him on for Benayoun? What if he had left Steven Gerrard on and introduced the Irishman when Wigan equalised? What if Liverpool did not look so nervous?

Nerves or not, they did enough to win this game. Wigan, decimated by injuries to Antonio Valencia, Chris Kirkland and Titus Bramble, as well as the sales of Emile Heskey and Wilson Palacios, offered little. But the mark of champions is not winning when playing badly but finishing teams off. Liverpool do not, yet, have it in them.

The early signs were positive. Torres flicked a header against a post from Gerrard’s left-wing cross, and Benayoun would have tapped in had he not been too busy celebrating. From a Jamie Carragher long ball, Torres held off Paul Scharner, swivelled and sent a volley just wide. Only a last-ditch Mario Melchiot lunge stopped Torres converting Benayoun’s cut back. Ryan Babel fired straight at Mike Pollitt.

They got their reward through Benayoun, slipped through by a clever through ball from Javier Mascherano and rounding Pollitt to finish from the acutest of angles. Benayoun is not exactly a fans’ favourite at Anfield, but he has something which Riera, Dirk Kuyt and Babel sometimes lack: ideas.

That was exactly what Liverpool ran out of in the second half, one mazy run from Benayoun smothered by Pollitt apart. Wigan sensed their visitors’ nerves, their aimlessness, and they pounced. First, Lucas tripped Koumas and Mido drew the hosts level from 12 yards. Then substitute Hugo Rodallega rattled the bar with a 30-yard free kick.

“We had a right good go, like we always do,” said Bruce. “It’s been a difficult January, but that’s what happens at Wigan. We buy players like Hugo who dream of using this club as a platform to come and be a success in the Premier League like the other lads. But then the big boys come and nick your players. It happens. You have to be realistic.”

Bruce, though, did offer one crumb of comfort to his strained opposite number. “Titles aren’t won in January,” he added. Very true but Benitez may find they can be lost then.

Spirited Fightback Pleases Hughie McAuley

Liverpool under-18s coach Hughie McAuley praised his side’s character after they battled back to earn a point at home to Manchester City.

The Reds fell behind after just three minutes against the Premier Academy League leaders but levelled before the break courtesy of Lauri Dalla Valle’s goal.

Dalla Valle and Nathan Eccleston both had chances to win it in the second half, while at the other end the Reds were indebted to a couple of fine stops from goalkeeper Martin Hansen.

McAuley said: “We started slowly and paid the price when we conceded a bad goal. We had a free-kick on the edge of their area but they broke away and scored.

“We let them have too much possession early on and struggled to get control.

“We changed things around and pushed Nathan Eccleston further forward alongside Lauri. That helped us to get back in the game and after that we were more of a threat.

“We had some decent chances in the second half but we couldn’t put them away and to be fair our keeper also had to make some good saves.

“It could have gone either way and in the end a draw was probably a fair result.

“They beat us 4-1 earlier in the season but this time we were much better and the lads gave a good account of themselves.

“It’s the start of a big run of games for us as this Saturday it’s Everton away and then the FA Youth Cup tie with Chelsea the following Thursday.”

The Reds had to play the final 10 minutes with 10 men after striker Eccleston was sent off after picking up a second yellow card.

“Nathan is always full of endeavour and I think the two challenges looked a lot worse than they were,” McAuley added.

“There was nothing malicious in either of them but in this day and age they were both bookable offences and I had no complaints.”

There was a recall to the Academy side for Swedish midfielder Astrit Ajdarevic, who returned to the club after a trial at Blackburn Rovers.

The 18-year-old has been told he won’t be offered a deal when his current contract expires this summer and is still looking for a new club.

McAuley said: “Astrit needed a game, but he’s going to find his opportunities limited here as we’ve got young lads like Michael Roberts and Alex Cooper in that position. They need games.

“The change of manager at Blackburn ended his opportunities there so he still needs to get himself sorted out. He’s probably going to be moving on before too long.”

Meanwhile, Liverpool reserves boss Gary Ablett is backing Spaniard Francisco Duran to bounce back from his latest injury setback.

The 20-year-old midfielder has been ruled out for six months with a cruciate ligament injury he suffered in training.

Duran has already had two separate spells on the sidelines with damage to his right knee since he signed from Malaga in January 2007.

Ablett said: “We’ve had some really bad news with Francisco damaging his cruciate, this time on his left knee.

“It was something really innocuous in training and as soon as he went down we saw the pain in his face and we feared the worst. He has had an operation and will be out for six months at least.

“Mentally, the boy is as strong a kid as you will ever meet in terms of what he’s been through, and we are all doing our best to keep the lad going.

“Fran is probably as technically a gifted a player as we have in the reserve squad and it’s unfortunate he’s had these injuries.”

Kraft Rubbishes Rumours Of £270m Liverpool Investment While Keane's Spurs Return Is Mooted

American billionaire Robert Kraft has no intention of bidding for a stake in Liverpool, despite reports that he was ready to offer £270million for George Gillett's 50 per cent share.

The paper and packaging tycoon was prepared to lend his expertise to Liverpool's new stadium plans, prior to Gillett and Tom Hicks assuming control, but has never expressed a wish to buy into the club.

Though linked yesterday with a move for Gillett's holding, he has always maintained he has enough to contend with, as owner of American football team New England Patriots and Major League Soccer's New England Revolution.

Robbie Keane's proposed move back to White Hart Lane on Monday night fell through because Tottenham flatly refused to include winger Aaron Lennon in any deal.

Sportsmail revealed how close Keane came to rejoining Tottenham after lengthy negotiations were called off, due to Rafa Benitez failing to land the player he asked for in part exchange.

Lennon was the target for the Liverpool manager, but Tottenham counterpart Harry Redknapp refused to sanction the winger's departure, much as he wanted Keane to help spearhead his side's fight to steer clear of relegation.

Keane's Liverpool future remains in doubt, but it now seems unlikely agreement could be reached with Tottenham before the January window shuts at 5pm on Monday.

Building New Career Child’s Play For Ex-Liverpool Star Rob Jones

Nearly a decade has past since Rob Jones’ world was turned upside down.

In the summer of 1999, the Liverpool defender was forced to hang up his boots after admitting defeat in his battle to overcome a serious knee injury.

At the age of 27 a player widely regarded as one of the best right-backs in Premier League history should have been in his prime, but instead he was facing up to life away from football.

It was a shattering blow for the boyhood Reds fan and one which took him a while to bounce back from.

“The first six months were really tough,” he said. “You never think something like that will happen to you and when I finished playing it was difficult to take.

“Some players in that position spend all their time down the pub and their life goes downhill. But I was lucky to have a good family behind me.

“My wife gave me a kick up the backside and told me to stop moping around.

“I soon realised it wasn’t the end of the world and there’s more to life than football. You have to get on with it and things have worked out well.”

Over the past decade Jones, who lives in Warrington, has made the transition from footballer to successful businessmen.

In 2001, together with wife Sue, he launched the Kids Academy Nursery Group and the company has gone from strength to strength.

“My wife had always been interested in childcare and after I finished playing she went to college to learn more about it,” he said.

“I went looking for properties and found one in Stockton Heath. Everything fell into place. We set up a nursery and it was very successful.

“We ended up selling that and with the money we were able to open more nurseries.

“We’ve now got four nursery schools and we’re also launching two adult care homes.

“At the start, I was hands on, but now my wife deals with the day to day running. I’m always there to help out but a lot of my time is spent looking after our three kids.”

Jones has also launched a comeback of sorts with the Liverpool Legends side.

“I’m off to Norway this weekend and it’s always great to see the lads again,” said the 37-year-old. “Manchester United are also sending a team over so it should be a good occasion.

“I try to get to the gym a few times a week to strengthen the knee and it’s been holding up okay. The games aren’t that competitive and I can just about manage half an hour each way. The knee swells up a bit, but it’s worth it.”

Jones enjoyed a remarkable rise up the ranks after Liverpool boss Graeme Souness spotted him playing for Crewe in October 1991.

He was signed for £300,000 and made his Reds debut 48 hours later in a goalless draw against Manchester United at Old Trafford.

The following February he was handed his England bow against France and in May helped Liverpool clinch the FA Cup with a 2-0 win over Sunderland at Wembley.

“It was an unbelievable time for me,” he said. “I remember playing for Crewe on the Wednesday and Souness was at the game with chief scout Tom Saunders.

“They were there to watch a lad called Steve Walters, who had played for England Schoolboys.

“Next thing, I got a phone call on the Thursday from Crewe boss Dario Gradi to say Souness wanted to see me at Melwood on Friday. I was shocked.

“That weekend I should have been playing Darlington away in the old Third Division, but instead I played for Liverpool at Old Trafford.

“In the space of a few months I went from Crewe to playing for Liverpool, England and winning the FA Cup.

“I had some great days in football but nothing beats the day I signed for Liverpool. I supported the club as a kid and my granddad, Bill, played for the club in the 1940s and 50s.

“To realise that dream was a massive achievement.”

Jones continued to be a regular after Roy Evans took over from Souness in 1994 and he played in the League Cup final victory over Bolton a year later.

However, his injury problems started to mount. Shin splints had kept him out of Euro 92 and he missed Euro 96 on home soil with a cracked vertebra.

The back injury sidelined him for most of the following season and when he returned he was plagued by a persistent knee problem.

The last of his 243 appearances for the Reds was at Chelsea in April 1998.

After his contract expired in 1999, he went on trial to West Ham, but after playing just one Intertoto Cup match he had to pack it in.

Jones said: “I didn’t want to finish and kept on trying, hoping the next operation would finally sort it.

“I gave up counting how many operations I had but in the end I had to accept it wasn’t to be.

“It was an injury to my patella tendon and the problem kept coming back.

“They can do amazing things with cruciates these days but this is an injury that surgeons still can’t seem to put right.

“Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Owen Hargreaves have had the same problem. If it flares up they struggle to get the inflammation down and the knee just gets weaker and weaker.”

After retiring, Jones initially found it tough going back to Anfield, but recently his love for the Reds has been rekindled.

“I didn’t really go for a couple of years,” he revealed. “I just didn’t enjoy it. I loved playing but when I was there watching I always wished I was still out there.

“But my son Declan, who is seven, plays for a junior team and about 18 months ago he asked me to start taking him to matches.

“He’s seen a couple of my old games on LFC TV but I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet that I played for the club. He looks a bit confused when people stop me for an autograph because to him I’m just dad.

“I took him to the FA Cup game against Everton last weekend and now I get back to Anfield whenever I can. It’s always good to see old friends and catch up with people.”

Jones is happy with his lot and resists the temptation to wonder what might have been.

“It is weird to think it’s been 10 years since I played – at 37 some people are just coming to the end of their careers,” he added.

“These days I never look back. You’ve got to look on the bright side and I enjoyed my time at Liverpool. I achieved quite a lot in a short space of time and I’m proud of that.”

Andrea Dossena Aims To Prove He’s The Real Deal At Liverpool

The last time Liverpool faced Wigan, Andrea Dossena was endeavouring to convince Anfield regulars that he was worthy of a place in Rafa Benitez’s side.

Three months on, last night’s opponents was the same and so is the challenge facing the Italian defender who is yet to make Liverpool’s left back position his own.

A combination of the usual problems associated with settling into a new style of football in a new country, poor form and the odd niggling injury has left many questioning Dossena’s value to the Reds but the man himself is happy enough to allow his manager to determine when he does and doesn’t play.

“I feel good at the moment because I have now recovered from my injury and I want to play,” said the 28-year-old.

“But that will be up to the boss because he makes the decisions.”

With Emiliano Insua still away on international duty with the Argentina under-20s side, the Reds boss had a straight choice to make between Dossena and Brazilian Fabio Aurelio for the Reds left back spot in last night’s Premier League clash with Steve Bruce’s side.

As ever, Benitez is non-committal on whose name will feature on the team sheet he hands in at the JJB Stadium an hour before kick off but he is more than happy to allow the defensive duo to fight it out for a place in his own team.

“Emiliano had been doing well for us and I know people were saying that we were losing something with him going away.

“But we have a lot of confidence in Fabio and Andrea and both players can now compete for the position.”

In a bid to prove that he should win the battle, Dossena has been putting in extra hours at Liverpool’s Melwood training ground in the hope that it will help lift his levels of both fitness and form.

“Like every player, I always want to improve,” said the Italian international.

“To do this you must work hard every day in training and that is why I have been doing some extra work at Melwood.

“I want to improve my level and I think that things are getting better now.

“I have been doing extra running and work in the gym as well as other things that are open to all of the team. I have been staying after training to do this.

“Also, the manager has been helping me by focusing on the details which I need to improve.”

Last Sunday, Dossena enjoyed one of his best outings in a red shirt to date as he slotted in at full back with little fuss.

He was undoubtedly assisted by the fact that visitors Everton did not put too much pressure on Liverpool’s defence but equally the former Udinese man played his part in a team performance which was an improvement on recent displays against the Blues and Stoke.

As far as Dossena is concerned, the experience of being involved in a Merseyside derby at Anfield – even one that Liverpool failed to win – was “beautiful” and now he is hoping that the victory which evaded them against their neighbours will come at Wigan.

“We tried everything to get the win that everyone wanted so badly,” he said.

“We went forward every time we had the chance and we had a lot of shots but we were not able to get the winning goal.

“But this is the nature of football – sometimes you do not get the result that you deserve.

“It was a very beautiful occasion though and it is very special to be able to play in matches of this kind.

“The atmosphere was fantastic and it would only have been better for me if we had managed to win the game.

“Now we have to take the positives from the derby into our next game against Wigan.

Like everyone else at Anfield, Dossena is adamant that Liverpool’s forthcoming replay against the Blues must not become a distraction from their Premier League aspirations.

Having drawn their last three league games, the Reds have allowed Manchester United to take the initiative and Dossena knows Liverpool must now show their mettle if they are to maintain their challenge.

He added: “Because we have to play Everton again in a replay there will be a lot of talk about that game but we have other games before then and we must focus on them.

“Wigan will be tough opponents so we cannot be distracted from this challenge because it will become even more difficult for us if we are.

“We are Liverpool and we want to win – this is the same for every single game.”