Monday, October 26, 2009

Match Report: LiverpooL 2 - 0 Manchester United

Fernando Torres and substitute David Ngog left Manchester United reeling as Liverpool brilliantly halted their four-game losing streak.

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez had said prior to the game that one win would change everything, and what a result his team delivered to ease the pressure on the Spaniard.

The champions were eventually beaten after a stunning performance of defiance that followed days of the worst crisis Liverpool have suffered in decades.

If the critics were to be believed, boss Benitez was for the chop, Liverpool were all washed up and facing financial ruin.

Well not after this cracking Premier League battle. Liverpool restored their pride with a victory over, for them, the best victims possible.

Torres forced his injured frame through the game and grabbed his ninth goal of the campaign midway through the second half to get Liverpool really firing.

Ngog hit the second in stoppage-time, with the match at boiling point. United had by that stage lost defender Nemanja Vidic to his third red card in successive matches against Liverpool.

Javier Mascherano saw red too, but it was Liverpool who inflicted the second league defeat of the season on United to restore faith among their worried fans.

As expected, Steven Gerrard missed the match with a groin problem, but Wayne Rooney recovered from a calf injury to play for the champions.

Liverpool had Torres and Glen Johnson back after both missed the Champions League defeat to Lyon on Tuesday, while United also had Ryan Giggs, Patrice Evra and Michael Carrick back in their starting line-up. Michael Owen, facing his former club, started on the bench and on his introduction received a punishing reception from the fans who once worshipped him.

United's supporters made the most of Liverpool's recent misfortune. Beach balls, Eric Cantona masks and insulting banners were smuggled into the away section.

The banner that hurt most, no doubt, was "You told us to come back when we'd won 18 titles...well, we're back".

Watching on were co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, sitting side by side in the directors' box, but not in the exposed front row.

The atmosphere was electric, the noise deafening, as Liverpool set about trying to restore their battered reputation.

Evra was booked after two trips on Torres in as many minutes, and from the free-kick Fabio Aurelio sent in a curled effort that Edwin van der Sar clawed away. It went straight to Dirk Kuyt, whose follow-up was also saved by his Dutch countryman.

Then Lucas robbed Paul Scholes and gave Kuyt another chance, this one guided wide of the far post.

Rooney, who had seen one effort disallowed for offside, rose to met an Antonio Valencia cross, but his header was held low to his right by Jose Reina.

United had better possession and hit Liverpool with pace and slick movement, but Van der Sar was again needed to plunge to his right to keep out an Aurelio header from Yossi Benayoun's cross.

Then Dimitar Berbatov was booked for a trip on Lucas, with the game finely balanced as the half ended.

Kuyt should have scored early in the second period when he was played in by Johnson, but he chose to pass rather than blast an angled effort, and the chance was lost.

Then Benayoun's touch sent Torres away on the right, but his lack of genuine pace following his groin problem did not see him shake off Rio Ferdinand, and again the opening went begging.

It then needed a block from Johnson on the far post to keep out Rooney's header from Giggs' free-kick.

But Liverpool were growing in confidence and they grabbed the lead after 65 minutes. Benayoun's pass sent Torres beyond Ferdinand, onside only by inches.

The Spaniard was not going to be denied this time. He held off the England centre-back and lashed a shot into the roof of the net. The roof almost came off Anfield too.

Mascherano was booked for a foul on Evra before Anfield had its first sight of Owen in a United shirt as he came on for Berbatov and Nani replaced Scholes after 74 minutes.

Owen's arrival was greeted with jeers and chants of "Where were you in Istanbul?" as well as "Once a Manc, never a Red".

Vidic was booked for a foul on Torres, and then after 80 minutes Torres could run no more and Ngog took his place.

Valencia saw a cross-shot clip the Liverpool bar and Owen was searching for any inch of space. He almost had a chance when he chased a throughball, only to be hauled down by his good friend Jamie Carragher. The Liverpool skipper was booked.

With just a minute of normal time left, Vidic pulled down Kuyt as the Dutchman raced into an empty half. Red followed a second yellow, and the Serbian was sent off for the third successive game against Liverpool.

Three minutes into added time Mascherano was also sent off for a challenge on Van der Sar, the Argentinian's second yellow-card offence.

Then came the killer blow to United. Liverpool broke from deep defence, Lucas delayed his pass to sent Ngog away on his own and the striker slid the second past Van der Sar. Anfield, and Benitez, could finally celebrate.

Liverpool Manager Rafa Benitez Thanks Players & Fans

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez was pleased with how his players responded to their recent difficulties as they defeated Manchester United 2-0 this afternoon.

“The players they show good character and the fans behind the players were the twelfth man,” Benitez told Sky Sports.

“I think the passion, the attitude, the character and also some good play some times but especially the mentality, everybody working together from the beginning and we won,” he continued.

“The players they answer a lot of questions and that is the most important thing.”

Benitez maintained that his side are still taking it one game at a time but revealed he was satisfied with the board room support he received before the game.

“One game at a time so we are just thinking about the next game,” the Reds manager explained.

“I'm really pleased because Christian Purslow is supporting me and at the end of the day, supporting the team.

“We have to keep going, we cannot be too excited today. We have to be for a while and we cannot be too excited because we have another game on Wednesday.”

Benitez felt his side answered their critics today.

“For me the team is better than people think going forward and that is the character and the quality that we have so it is just a question of to have a little bit of luck and show this character in any game.”

The Liverpool manager said he had retained faith in his side despite their recent poor results and knew they had to wait for a piece of good fortune to turn things around.

“I was just trying to be focused on my job. I knew that the only way to change things in football is to win games so we have to prepare the game properly and we were doing this before.”

On the Mascherano dismissal, Benitez was focused on seeing the game out and claimed he didn't see the incident.

“I haven't seen it so I can't say because Javier was at the end and we were thinking about how to control the game so I couldn't see the sending off.”

Liverpool's Gamble On "80 Percent" Torres Pays Off

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez's gamble to play an "80 percent" fit Fernando Torres paid off when the Spaniard got the first goal in a 2-0 win over Manchester United in the Premier League on Sunday.

Torres was still troubled by a groin injury that needed a pain-killing injection and Benitez, seeking to silence the home fans' boos after four consecutive defeats in all competitions, only decided to risk him a few hours before kick-off.

It proved an inspired move as the Spain striker held off Rio Ferdinand to put Liverpool ahead in the 65th minute before David Ngog added a second in stoppage time.

"It was a difficult decision on Torres because he has not been training," Benitez told reporters.

"You could see at times that he was not fresh but sometimes an 80 percent Fernando can make all the difference."

Benitez, under increasing pressure after league defeats by Chelsea and Sunderland and Champions League losses to Fiorentina and Olympique Lyon, said his players had answered their critics.

"The passion, attitude and character of my players was the difference," he said. "Everybody worked together from the beginning and the players answered a lot of questions today.

"We showed this team is better than people think. It was just a question of getting a little bit of luck, then the character would shine through.

"We needed to win for the confidence. I think it will be a big boost for the team and the fans. Hopefully, we can use this to kick-start our season."

Torres also stressed the importance of the victory.

"It's a massive win for us," he said. "We showed that when we play as a team and work hard, we can trouble anybody. Now we have to keep working together as a unit."

United manager Alex Ferguson was upset Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher was not sent off for bringing down Michael Owen as the substitute threatened to break clear late in the game.

"The controversial one that people will be talking about was when he (Carragher) brought down Michael Owen. It would have been difficult for them if he had gone off," he said.

Carragher disagreed, saying: "I thought he brought me down. I don't think I should have been sent off."

Alex Ferguson Attacks Anfield Ref Andre Marriner After Liverpool Defeat

Sir Alex Ferguson believes his Manchester United side did not get a fair crack of the whip from referee Andre Marriner at Anfield.

Nemanja Vidic was sent off for two yellow cards and Ferguson questioned a number of the official's decisions as they slumped to their first defeat in 12 games in all competitions as Liverpool triumphed 2-0.

Goals from Fernando Torres and David Ngog ended Liverpool's run of four successive losses and eased the pressure on manager Rafael Benitez.

While Ferguson thought Liverpool deserved to win, he claimed that Marriner was swayed by the home crowd.

He felt Vidic was unlucky to be red-carded, that home defender Jamie Carragher should have been dismissed and Michael Carrick was denied a penalty.

Ferguson said: "It is very difficult atmosphere here. There was a wounded animal aspect to the game and it was something we did not overcome.

"I think it affected our players and it affected the referee. There were so many controversial things that happened we have to feel aggrieved at some of them.

"The Vidic booking was the worst decision. It is a foul, fine. But the player has played on, he won the second ball and knocked it for a throw in and got booked. It put Nemanja under pressure.

"The most controversial decision was Carragher bringing down Michael Owen. He was clear through.

"The laws of the game were altered to prevent professional fouls of that nature and if Carragher goes off, he is their best player and their captain. It would have been a different game. They would have been under pressure.

"The referee was only four or five yards from it and he cannot use a covering defender as an excuse. Michael was clean through. With Michael's pace he is going to get away from him."

Ferguson was also incensed United were not awarded a spot-kick for a Carragher challenge on Michael Carrick.

"He has gone right over the top of the ball, " said the United boss. "If it is outside of the box it is a free-kick and maybe a yellow card.

"But it was inside the box and the referee was only six yards from it. It was another bad decision."

Ferguson did, however, conceded Liverpool were worthy winners.

"Liverpool were the better team and I am not taking anything away from them at all," he said.

"They deserved to win the game as it was a disappointing performance from us. We were not good enough."

Torres opened the scoring in the 65th minute with his ninth goal of the season and Ngog sealed the victory in stoppage time.

United remain two points adrift of Chelsea at the top of the table and Ferguson insists they will recover.

He added: "Part of the challenge is to get over disappointments. Last season we lost at home 4-1 to Liverpool which was a travesty but we went on to win the league."

Liverpool Managing Director Confirms Rafael Benitez's Job Is Safe

Liverpool managing director Christian Purslow has backed under-fire boss Rafael Benitez and insisted the Reds will not fire the Spaniard even if they fail to win the Premier League.

Benitez has come under pressure in recent weeks after the Merseysiders suffered four defeats in a row and face Manchester United at Anfield today in desperate need of a win to avoid slipping 10 points behind their bitter rivals.

All of which has led to speculation that a defeat today could put the Liverpool manager’s job at risk, but, speaking to The Guardian, Purslow insists this is not the case.

“The most important aspect of the football club I was involved in in my first week in the job was securing Rafa for another five years. You only have to look at the Premiership era and our two major competitors in the last 10 to 12 years to see the benefits of longevity,” explained the club’s managing director.

"Liverpool Football Club is on a long-term journey and that journey is to be the most successful club, firstly in our country and secondly in the world, and you don't do that by worrying about short-term results. You do that by having long-term plans centring on the people and the strategy. Rafa Benítez is absolutely central to that plan.

"The core of the team which won 86 points last season remains intact with some excellent additions, so I have every reason to believe we can perform at that level this season over the season.”

When asked by the broadsheet whether he could guarantee Benítez's position even if the club did not win the league, he answered simply: "Yes I would."

Purslow also went on to reveal that striker Fernando Torres was also central to the club’s plans and that he expected the Spaniard to stay at the club for the rest of his career.

“Fernando signed an extension to his contract this summer. He has a five-year contract. He is a crucial leader in our team,” he added.

“He loves Liverpool Football Club. He has been fantastic around the place. Fernando Torres and Liverpool Football Club go together and I believe they will go together for the length of his career.”

Rafael Benitez Should Have Signed Gareth Barry Instead Of Glen Johnson - Gary Lineker

England legend Gary Lineker has proclaimed that Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez made a mistake during the summer by signing Glen Johnson, when he should have opted to bring in Gareth Barry instead.

The current Manchester City midfielder was being chased by the Spaniard, as the boss intended to edge out Xabi Alonso to lure the Englishman into being a part of the 'Rafalution'.

"I know the modern-day manager doesn’t publicly admit mistakes but Benitez must regret letting Barry walk straight into City’s arms this summer after chasing him so enthusiastically the previous year," Lineker said in his column for the Mail on Sunday.

"Barry is just what Liverpool need right now and it must be galling for Benitez that he’ll be in Mark Hughes’s team today and not his.

"It puzzles me why Barry did not end up at Anfield and I can only assume Benitez had the finances to sign either Glen Johnson or Barry and chose the wrong option."

Liverpool Fans Stage Protest Against Club Owners Tom Hicks & George Gillett

Thousands of Liverpool fans gathered in protest against club owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett before the blockbuster game against Manchester United at Anfield on Sunday.

The army of supporters gathered at the Liverpool Supporters Club on Lower Breck Road and marched to the Albert pub outside the Kop in order to urge Hicks and Gillett to sell the club, as they attributed to the club's nosedive on and off the pitch to the American co-owners.

The Merseyside club has accumulated a huge amount of debt, and four consecutive losses on the pitch has translated to the Reds' worst run in over two decades.

The fans chanted: "What do we want? Yanks out. When do we want it? Now."

Rafael Benitez's charges are currently playing catch-up in the Premier League as well as in the group stage on the Champions League, as they recently succumbed to a 2-1 defeat to Olympique Lyonnais at Anfield.

Liverpool Insiders Fear Fernando Torres May Quit Anfield

Liverpool fear another season of failure could spark Fernando Torres' departure from Anfield.

Nobody doubts the brilliant Spaniard's commitment to the Anfield cause. But since arriving from Atletico Madrid in a £20 million move 28 months ago even Torres' goal-scoring brilliance has not inspired the Reds to lift a trophy.

There is mounting concern that another barren campaign will prompt the striker's advisers to start pressing for a move to a more successful club.

That would be a body-blow to the Anfield cause. A club insider said: "Fernando is a great lad and a fantastic player. We don't worry about his attitude but the issue will be if rival clubs start making it clear to his advisers that he can win more by joining them.

"He's hungry for success. We don't want to lose him."

Torres has scored 46 goals in 64 games for Liverpool. He is idolised by Liverpool fans and acknowledged as one of the world's finest strikers.

He also signed a new contract at Liverpool in August that ties him to the Anfield cause until 2013. But any hint that he is unfulfilled by life at Liverpool would be seized on by major rivals.

So far in his career the only club honour he's won is the Spanish Second Division title in 2002.

Mascherano In Rafa Bash

Javier Mascherano has further rocked the listing Anfield boat this morning by snubbing a new contract.

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez, already on the ropes after four straight defeats, has always believed the Argentine midfielder would join his golden list of long-term stars.

Skipper Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres, Pepe Reina, Dirk Kuyt, Daniel Agger and Yossi Benayoun were all secured on bumper summer deals. Mascherano, 25, is strongly linked with Barcelona. And that is a real worry for Benitez, as he hoped that his South American playmaker would be another one to commit his long-term future to the Anfield cause.

But Mascherano has no wish to join the elite list, a huge blow to Benitez hours before facing Man United today.

Benitez is willing to shower Mascherano with riches in line with Liverpool’s other superstars. Mascherano, currently on around £60,000 a week, will be guaranteed a £30,000-a-week increase if he signs a new deal.

But Mascherano says the cash is of no interest to him, leaving Benitez and the fans deeply concerned that the Argentinian could be the next big name exiting Anfield, following Xabi Alonso’s departure to Real Madrid.

Asked about possible talks over a new deal, Mascherano said: “I have never asked for a new contract.

“I already have a contract with Liverpool. I don’t play football for the money. I play for me to win. Obviously I will not play for free. But at this moment the money is not the most important thing for me. I have talked with Rafa over the summer but nothing has happened.

“I’m here. I play for Liverpool and I will try to give my best.

“I am a professional and I have to think about Liverpool.” Mascherano’s stance casts further doubts over his future at Anfield but he is still keen to silence talk about a move to Barcelona.

He added: “I don’t want to talk any more about Barcelona. I try to give my best to Liverpool.

“Sometimes you have good form. Sometimes you are not in good form. But I will continue working to do my best.

“I am very relaxed about my situation because I know I go to training every day and give my best for the club.”

Barcelona Will Return For Liverpool Midfielder Javier Mascherano In 2010

Barcelona will re-ignite their interest in Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano this summer, as speculation over the Argentine’s future continues to grow.

The Blaugrana were heavily linked with Mascherano during the close season, and it is reported that preliminary talks began over a possible move to the Camp Nou.

The Albicelestes international remained at Anfield but as of yet no contract extension has been offered to the 25-year old.

Sky Sports reports that Mascherano has previously stated his desire to join Argentina colleague Lionel Messi in Spain, but that his comments may have been to ensure an improved contract with Liverpool.

The defensive midfielder recently refuted the claims, with the News of the World reporting that he said, “I have never asked for a new contract, I already have a contract with Liverpool, and I do not play for the money.

“I play for me and to win things, obviously I will not play for free but why should I?”

Rafa Benitez is keen to tie Mascherano to the club on a long-term deal, but with Liverpool reportedly ready to offload some of their first-team squad to raise funds for new additions, a bid from the Spanish giants may be too good to refuse.