Friday, February 06, 2009

Lucas Says Sorry To Liverpool After Seeing Red Against Everton

Lucas Leiva started Liverpool's FA Cup fourth round replay against Everton, but he did not finish it.

The young midfielder was sent off in the second half after picking a second booking, leaving his side a man short as the game ground into added extra-time.

Toffees youngster Dan Gosling grabbed the winner in the 119th minute, thus ending the Reds' hopes of adding another domestic knock-out title to their haul.

And Lucas has apologised for letting down his team-mates, who were already reeling from the early withdrawal of injured skipper Steven Gerrard.

“I was very sad to have left my colleagues. I have learned my lesson from this. The dressing room was very down after the defeat, especially with how we lost the game,” he said, according to The Sun.

The result at Goodison Park not only ended Liverpool's cup run, it also meant they were unable to beat their Merseyside rivals in any of their three encounters over the past few weeks.

But Lucas added, “We may have tasted defeat but from what I have seen in the recent derbies Everton are not better than us. We have more things to concentrate on, like the Champions League.”

Robbie Keane Had Enough Chances To Shine At Liverpool - Alan Hansen

New Football Pools pundit Alan Hansen talks exclusively to about Wednesday's Merseyside derby - and whether Robbie Keane would have made a difference to the outcome.

Alan Hansen was a colossus on the pitch for Liverpool and Scotland, becoming a true Anfield legend and collecting a host of medals in a glittering playing career. And since hanging up his boots he's become a giant of football punditry too, renowned for his forthright views and analyses which are eagerly anticipated by millions of viewers of BBC TV's Match of the Day every week.

Hansen watched the latest Merseyside derby, in which Everton prevailed 1-0 against Liverpool to knock the Reds out of the FA Cup, and praised the decision-making of Toffees' boss David Moyes and the tenacity of his team. Hansen isn't convinced Robbie Keane would have turned things in the Reds' favour - or that the dismissal of Leiva Lucas greatly affected the outcome.

"The Merseyside derby was not one of the best games to watch in terms of entertainment, but the FA Cup is all about getting a result and that’s exactly what Everton got. All credit must go to David Moyes for this win as the Blues are having a fantastic season. Liverpool have been receiving all the accolades and plaudits for leading the League for most of the season but Everton have gone about their business quietly but are on a terrific run despite a relatively small squad," said Hansen.

"Moyes' decision to throw on youngsters Dan Gosling and Jack Rodwell with Liverpool down to 10 men following the dismissal of Lucas proved a very brave one. The lad Gosling then goes on to score the winner so it worked out perfectly. I must admit the way things were going this one looked a certainty for penalties as it was such a tight match even with Liverpool a man light. There was really nothing between the teams over the 90 minutes and extra time, but that’s football.

"Rafa Benitez is receiving a lot of stick at the moment particularly with the sale of Robbie Keane to Tottenham. The press have been quick to suggest Robbie could have made a big impact on the game last night and he wasn’t given a fair crack of the whip, but the simple truth of the matter is that the lad came to Liverpool and didn’t play well.

"People will argue that Robbie didn’t have the chance to impress and was played out of position but he had numerous chances to score goals in a Liverpool shirt and he didn’t take them. If you look at his record, Robbie did start a lot of matches. OK, some may have been up front on his own which isn’t his best position, but he had lots of opportunities to score and for some reason or another, he failed to convert them. A record of just five League goals for a £20 million striker is not good, so you have to say his move was a failure.

"OK, so six months is not a long time to settle into a new club but that’s modern day football for you. I have no doubts he’ll go back to Tottenham and do well as he’s a hero down there and a very good player, it just didn’t work out for him at Liverpool. Was Rafa wrong to sell him without getting a replacement in? Well to be fair the lad hardly played in the last five or so games and was not even in the squad so there was no real point in keeping him though now a hell of a lot rests on the shoulders of Fernando Torres and his fitness.

"Once again Torres didn’t have the best of games but that’s all down to the injuries he’s suffered with this season. Last season when the Spaniard was one-on-one with a defender he flew past them but his game is based on his pace and hamstring injuries take their toll on that. If he’d had an ankle or knee injury it wouldn’t be such a problem but the hamstring really affects a player so it will take him time to get back to his best though he looked far sharper against Chelsea. Liverpool have Dirk Kuyt and Ryan Babel who can play up front, but winning the title is all about strength in depth - which is something [Manchester] United have in abundance.

"Will the confidence gained from the win over Chelsea be affected by last night’s defeat? I don’t think so personally, the cup is a whole different thing to the league and Liverpool will bounce back strongly with a good chance of three points at Portsmouth at the weekend.

"Much has been made of [Leiva] Lucas’ sending-off last night changing the game, but although I think the lad had the intention of winning the ball when he stuck his leg out, Lescott was charging forward and though the contact was minimal, by the letter of the law he had to go. In all honesty it didn’t really make much difference to the outcome of the match as extra-time looked a certainty with neither side creating much. I don’t go along with the theory that Everton were too aggressive, either, as watching from the stand I felt that the actual game was quite subdued and not as frantic and fast as a normal Merseyside derby.

"Liverpool need to come back strongly and will definitely miss Steven Gerrard but all credit must go to Everton and David Moyes as they deserve a good cup run for their recent performances."

David Amoo Sends Liverpool Through To Last Eight Of FA Youth Cup

David Amoo put Liverpool Youth team through to the quarter-finals of the FA Youth Cup as just like the first team they beat Chelsea, this time 1-0, at Anfield last night.

The Stamford Bridge youngsters, who had won at Old Trafford 3-2 in the third round, couldn’t repeat the trick at Anfield and for the second time in five days the Blues returned back to London on the end of a defeat.

It is the third time in the last seven years Liverpool have knocked Chelsea out of the Youth Cup and the last time Liverpool went on to win the trophy in 2007. They will now welcome Bolton Wanderers to Anfield in a last-eight tie later this month.

With assistant manager Sammy Lee and first-team players Jamie Carragher and Sami Hyypia watching on coach Hugh McAuley was happy with the hard-fought victory. He said: “It was a fantastic effort from everybody and it needed to be because Chelsea are a good team with good players. They move the ball quickly and we had to respond to that. I thought the effort was absolutely first class throughout.

“Having taken the lead I thought we had one or two good opportunities to score more goals. We didn’t so you are always holding on to 1-0. With good players against you, you need to be alive and alert. The biggest problem for me was keeping hold of the ball at vital times. Our possession was not as good as what it needed to be. But we probably had the better chances towards the end of the game. We have got a lot of work to do and we will continue to do that and be ready for the next game.”

He added: “It is Bolton next, another game at Anfield for the boys. Bolton are a good team and we play them regularly. It is also an opportunity for them to come to Anfield. We need to be ready and prepared to do well.

“It is quite nerve-wracking for a lot of young players – the first time playing at Anfield – and I thought our lads did tremendously well. There is a lot we have to work on. But it is difficult for players being under the spotlight with the crowd and the senior management there. But by and large they handled it well. They will have learned from it, got more experience and be better in that part of the game next time against Bolton.”

Liverpool’s Spanish centre-back Daniel Ayala looked solid at the heart of the defence alongside captain Joe Kennedy. The Spaniard had been forced out of the shoot-out victory over Bristol Rovers in the fourth round following an injury in the warm-up. But the duo kept the tricky Chelsea attack in check with a solid display.

Tom Ince, with father Paul also watching on, screwed a low shot and Finnish forward Lauri Dalla Valle had another effort from 20 yards saved by Chelsea’s German keeper Niclas Heimann early on.

Former Millwall youngster Amoo had looked lively in those early stages with his direct running. And he opened the scoring on 18 minutes, but from a header. He had won a corner when his cross was headed behind. Steven Irwin’s delivery was palmed out by Heimann, and from Pepper’s cross Amoo rose to head down into the Kop goal.

Amoo fired just wide after 26 minutes, after profiting from a mistake by Jeffrey Bruma Van Homoet. Bruma Van Homoet tried to make amends and saw his shot turned around by Liverpool’s Australian keeper Dean Bouzanis. The Aussie also beat away Dan Philliskirk’s rasping shot.

Chelsea had the ball in the net on the hour. Bouzanis pushed away Rohan Ince’s 20-yard drive, and although French starlet Gael Kakuta fired in the rebound, he was clearly in an offside position when the first effort was struck.

Liverpool also saw an effort ruled out seven minutes later. Dalla Valle’s snapshot from Amoo’s flick-on was disallowed as the Finn was marginally offside.

With the game switching from end to end late on Ince and Amoo fired wide, while the latter saw another effort saved by Heimann.

While at the other end Borini headed over from close range, but Liverpool held out to continue in their bid for a third FA Youth Cup success in the last four years.

Xabi Alonso: Rafa Benitez In ‘Tug Of War’ At Liverpool

Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso is mindful that an ongoing ‘tug of war’ between manager Rafa Benitez and American co-owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks does not impact on performances on the pitch.

Benitez is seeking assurances over his remit, particularly in the area of transfers in which he wants complete control, before he signs a new contract.

“The owners and Rafa seem to be involved in a tug of war,” said Alonso.

“Even if they are trying to resolve it for the better of the club, there is no question in my mind when you have the right man for the job, securing his continuity is important.

“We’ve been through our bad moments but constant change, or change for the sake of it, isn’t a good thing at a club like this.

“It’s a subject between Rafa and the owners and the team must not let it affect us at any cost but my personal bet is Rafa will stay with Liverpool.

“When he came here, Liverpool had a massive history but they had lost competitiveness compared to the other European greats - and had spent a long time without winning major trophies.

“From his arrival to now, you can feel the progress and that he’s put Liverpool back where they once were - among Europe’s greats and aspiring to win everything we enter.”

The ongoing dispute between manager and owners is adding to a sense of unease at Anfield as the club attempt to win their first league title since 1990.

Though Liverpool remain just two points behind Manchester United, their form since the New Year has been unconvincing and, after being knocked out of the FA Cup by Everton, they have now lost Steven Gerrard to injury for the next three weeks.

Gerrard will also miss England’s friendly match against Spain on Wednesday.

The midfielder’s absence will be a huge concern for Liverpool as they make the awkward trip to Fratton Park to play Portsmouth on Saturday.

Benitez said: “He is an important player for us. It is always more difficult to play without him.

“But you can’t change things so it is better to concentrate on the next game.”

Liverpool Must Act Now To Save Season, Says Kenny Dalglish

Kenny Dalglish is calling on Liverpool to "get our house in order" after a traumatic few weeks for the club.

The club have endured a torrid time since boss Rafa Benitez launched his rant at Sir Alex Ferguson and they have won just one of their last six games.

They have blown an eight-point lead in the title race to trail Manchester United by two points and have played a game more.

Benitez's behaviour has become more erratic and he has argued with the board over his contract, criticised them for not moving quicker to tie down Daniel Agger, and banned journalists.

His gamble on selling Robbie Keane backfired within 48 hours as Liverpool crashed out of the FA Cup to Everton and Steven Gerrard has been ruled out for three weeks with a torn hamstring.

Dalglish, who was manager when Liverpool last won the title in 1990, is dismayed at watching his beloved club slide.

The Anfield legend fears their showdown with Manchester United on March 14 will be meaningless if they do not start turning draws into victories.

"We've had a mixed bag of results recently with a number of frustrating draws being followed by a wonderful victory over Chelsea then the Cup defeat," said Dalglish.

"The league table doesn't look as healthy as it did this time last month.

"It's going to be a massive game when we go to Old Trafford and we're going to need to win there.

But before that we have to make sure we pick up as many points as possible.

"All we can do is get our own house in order and if we do that between now and when we go to United, then that's all anyone can ask. If they drop points between now and then it's a bonus, but to collect that bonus in full we have to win our matches."

Liverpool have dropped valuable points in draws with Stoke (twice), Fulham, Wigan, Hull and West Ham and Dalglish feels this has undone all the hard work in beating Chelsea and United.

"The disappointment is that for years we've been saying we need better results against the big teams and, although we've managed that this season, we've let ourselves down with results against teams we'd definitely be favourites to beat," he said.

"We've taken 10 points from 12 so far against our title rivals, but haven't capitalised on those results in some other matches."

Dalglish suspects one or two players took victory for granted against those lesser teams.

"I did think people were getting a bit too carried away after our results over Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal earlier in the season," he said.

"They were looking at our fixtures saying we'd be picking up three points here, there and everywhere.

"That doesn't happen in football and it proves every single game in this league is difficult."

Former Liverpool Ace McManaman: We Can Cope Without Steven Gerrard

Likeable Liverpool lad Steve "Macca" McManaman believes the club will do just fine without their talismanic captain.

Liverpool fans were today rocked by the news that 'captain fantastic' Steven Gerrard had suffered a hamstring tear and would consequently be sidelined for three weeks.

It was a rare sight to see the Liverpool man be subbed off in the first half, in an away ground, to a round of raucous mock-applause, but that is precisely the reception that Evertonians gave the Red chief at Goodison Park.

Former Liverpool winger Steve McManaman - himself a tormentor of opposition defences, arriving in attack from midfield after no doubt embarking on a dazzling dribbling run - believes the club will not lament his absence for too long, and today wrote on his Setanta blog:

"Liverpool have dodged a bullet on Stevie Gerrard’s injury. It looks like he’ll only miss two games, which is a lot better than first feared – it could have been six, seven, eight weeks.

"I can see him being okay to face Real Madrid on February 25. Usually these predicted injury lay-offs err on the side of caution, so if they’ve said three weeks, it’ll be more like two weeks to 17 days. I can see him playing in such a big game in the Bernabeu," the former Real Madrid midfielder said.

"Any longer period would have been a huge blow. Liverpool certainly felt the loss when Stevie Gerrard went off at Everton - it was like a goal to the Everton fans – they knew what it meant, he’s the man who makes Fernando Torres tick."

If the injury means Gerrard is sidelined for longer than initially expected, Macca believes 'Pool could suffer, as they lack midfielders that manufacture attacks.

"Liverpool haven’t got an awful lot of creative players right now. All the fans are saying they need another right midfielder, another left midfielder...but certainly when Stevie G goes off – he’s the one real creative player they’ve got.

"Gerrard is Liverpool’s main man. You wonder if it would have been worse if Torres had got injured, but Liverpool have coped without Torres all season."

He continued by adding that he hopes that Liverpool do not crumble, after turning such a crucial corner with the last-gasp win over Chelsea.

"The main thing is they’re not playing United or Chelsea in those two weeks. They’ve got a crumbling Portsmouth team, and then they’ve got a home game against Manchester City.

"Portsmouth are slipping down the league and then, even without Gerrard, Liverpool will be favourites at home to City. The injury won’t help but I think they’ll be okay in those two fixtures," he concluded.

Rafa Admits Gerrard Concern

Rafa Benitez is hoping Liverpool can keep their title challenge on track without injured captain Steven Gerrard.

Reds star Gerrard has been ruled out of action for three weeks after picking up a hamstring injury in Wednesday's FA Cup replay defeat to Everton.

It means Gerrard will miss this weekend's trip to Portsmouth and Benitez concedes it will tough at Fratton Park without the midfield dynamo.

"He is an important player for us. It is always more difficult to play without him," said Benitez.

"You can't change things so it is better to concentrate on the next game.

"We have some problems with injuries and Portsmouth will be tough so we need players with fresh legs."

Benitez hopes their exit from the FA Cup could prove to be a blessing in disguise as they target success in the Premier League and UEFA Champions League.

"We are out of the cup so maybe we will have more time and the players will not play too many games so will be ready for the Champions League and Premier League," added Benitez.

"We are in a very good position and we need to win against Portsmouth and keep going."

Meanwhile, Dirk Kuyt has called on the players to bounce back from their FA Cup disappointment by taking all three points against Portsmouth.

"We have lost one of our targets but we still have two more to go for because we are still in the Champions League and we are fighting for the Premier League title, so we cannot afford to be too downhearted," said Kuyt.

"The key now is how we react to this defeat.

"The positive thing from our point of view is that on the two other occasions we have lost games this season we managed to come back in the weeks that followed. That is what we must do now."

Gerrard Injury Could Hand United The Title, Say Kennedy

Liverpool legend Alan Kennedy reckons Steven Gerrard's injury nightmare will hand arch-rivals Manchester United the Premier League title.

With Gerrard ruled out for up to three weeks after limping out of the FA Cup defeat at Everton and Fernando Torres struggling for fitness, Liverpool's attacking options have been severely dented.

And former European Cup winner Kennedy reckons Benitez's willingness to offload Robbie Keane and Gerrard's unfortunate setback have left the Reds lightweight and unable to challenge for their first league title in 19 years.

"It's a very difficult time for the club and the players right now," said Kennedy. "Liverpool are going to struggle because they don't have the strength in depth of Manchester United or Chelsea and that's the problem.

"Obviously Steven Gerrard's injury doesn't help now that he's out with a hamstring problem. He's going to be out for at least three weeks and you can't rush him back.

"Manchester United are running away with the league in some ways if they win their game but Liverpool are still in there.

"The problem is that they sold Robbie Keane who would have probably played in the next few games.

"Gerrard's out injured, Torres is struggling for fitness and they're both key players.

"Liverpool struggled to create any real chances against Everton but they've got to look forward to Portsmouth on Saturday."

Steven Gerrard Out For Three Weeks

Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard will be out for three weeks after the club confirmed he suffered a hamstring tear during Wednesday night’s FA Cup defeat at Everton.

The 28-year-old limped off 16 minutes into the Reds’ fourth-round replay at Goodison Park and is now a doubt for the club’s next two Barclays Premier League match against Portsmouth and Manchester City.

A club spokesman told "A scan today has confirmed a tear in the hamstring of Steven’s left leg. He will be out of action for about three weeks."

Gerrard may also miss the first leg of Liverpool's Champions League last-16 tie with Real Madrid, which is due to take place at the Bernabeu on February 25.

The news comes as a big disappointment for Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez, who has come under fire from fans and sections of the media for selling striker Robbie Keane to Tottenham on transfer deadline day for around £12million.

Benitez did not have time to bring in a replacement for the Republic of Ireland striker, and Gerrard’s absence will further weaken the Spaniard’s attacking options as Liverpool look to close the two-point gap on league leaders Manchester United, who have a game in hand.

The Liverpool captain will also miss England’s international friendly against Spain next Wednesday.