Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Benitez Wants To Be Realistic

Rafa Benitez is refusing to look any further ahead than Liverpool's next game as he hopes his side experience a change in fortunes.

The Reds drew 2-2 with Birmingham at Anfield on Monday night to leave them 11 points adrift of Premier League leaders Chelsea.

Benitez's men had already been ruled out of the title race by some critics, but the Spaniard has always remained adamant that his side were contenders.

However, the former Valencia boss has now played down his team's dreams of league silverware, while also calling for realism as Liverpool aim to end a disappointing run of results.

He said: "We have to be realistic and think what our target is now. For me it is just the next game, the next point to see whether we can climb a little higher in the table.

"Then you never know what can happen. We did win six games in a row, if we did that again everything would be different.

"The main thing now is to get players fit, and see who we have available for the next game after the international break.

"We will then wait for some months to pass and see whether we can win some games in succession. That is all I am looking at now."

Benitez added: "People keep discussing our bad run, but previously we won six on the trot and we have beaten Manchester United.

"It is a question of keeping going. I would be really worried if we were not playing well and not winning. But I can see that we are beginning to play better, it is a question of luck now.

"Maybe people think that I am angry about all this. But when I see the players working so hard, trying to change our situation, there is nothing more to say to them, they are doing all they can.

"This is the only way to change our situation. To keep working hard and play well, and I believe we did play well against Birmingham."

Liverpool Full-Back Emiliano Insua Insists Title Challenge Is Not Over

Liverpool full-back Emiliano Insua claims the Reds can still be crowned Premier League champions this season, but results must improve soon if that aspiration is to be fulfilled.

Despite dominating for large parts of the game, Liverpool could only manage a 2-2 draw against Birmingham City at Anfield on Monday night, a result that leaves Rafael Benitez's side sitting outside the top four and a full 11 points behind leaders Chelsea.

The draw will prove a bitter pill to swallow for Reds supporters, especially when considering the nature of David Ngog's controversial dive to earn a penalty for the equaliser, although Insua is remaining upbeat.

"Right now we are a little bit far [behind] but you have to keep going and everything can change," he told Sky Sports News.

The Argentine pointed to a run of form that last season saw Liverpool finish just two points behind eventual champions Manchester United; form that he hopes can be replicated.

"Last season we were ten points behind and we finished two points [behind], so we have to keep going and winning games is the most important thing."

Liverpool Will Take It One Game At A Time - Rafael Benitez

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has explained that his side will take things one game at a time as they look to overcome a miserable run of results - the latest being a 2-2 draw against Birmingham City at Anfield.

The Reds are enduring their worst spell in decades, as they have only one victory from nine outings in all competitions. Furthermore, star striker Fernando Torres heads a lengthy injury list that shows no signs of shortening.

"I think that for the last three weeks to a month, it's been the same," Benitez is quoted on as saying.

"We only think about one game at a time so I can't talk about anything else, just three points, so I won't talk about the table or positions.

"We won six games in a row before and when we were under pressure we won against Manchester United, playing really well, and the character has been fantastic but we couldn't achieve the three points against Birmingham."

The Merseysiders take on Manchester City at home after the international break.

Johnson - Reds Record Awful

Glen Johnson believes Liverpool must stick together to bring an 'awful' sequence of results to an end.

The Reds had to come from 2-1 down to hold Birmingham to a draw on Monday night in a match at Anfield they were firm favourites to win.

Rafa Benitez's men have picked up just one victory in their last nine matches in all competitions, while they remain 11 points adrift of Premier League leaders Chelsea and are in danger of being knocked out of the UEFA Champions League.

Johnson admits that such a run is simply not good enough but he is refusing to panic and insists Liverpool can turn the situation around if they approach future challenges with the right attitude.

"The record sounds awful and it is awful for a club like Liverpool. But things like this happen in football. You stick together and keep fighting," said the right-back.

"We have seen in the league that everyone can beat everyone; if someone had told you at the start of the season that we'd win one in nine, you'd have laughed your head off.

"We will just look to get as many points as we can as quickly as possible then have a look at the end of the season and see where we are."

Benitez still has a number of fitness concerns following the clash with Birmingham but Johnson maintains there were positives to take from the performance if not the result.

"Unfortunately we have picked up a couple more injuries but the sooner we get the lads back together the better it will be for everyone," said Johnson, who provided an attacking threat on his return from a calf problem.

"I am one of the worst when it comes to being injured. I can barely watch when that happens and all you want to do is help out.

"You just have to listen to your body. I have had a problem with my groin and torn my calf. It has been very frustrating but now I am looking to get going properly."

On the draw with Birmingham, Johnson said: "We want to be winning these games and I felt we did more than enough to take three points but it just wasn't meant to be.

"You could say we could have dealt with the first (Birmingham goal) better but (Cameron) Jerome has hit the strike of his life for their second goal.

"We had chances, we dominated the game and you can see everyone was working for the cause. It's just one of those times for us at the minute and we just need to keep working.

"As long as we keep showing the togetherness and passion that we did here, then I am sure we will come through with a smile on our face."

James Ellison On Target As Liverpool FC Under-18s Bounce Back From Derby Defeat

James Ellison fired the winner as Liverpool under-18s bounced back from their derby defeat to beat Crewe Alexandra 1-0 at the Kirkby Academy.

Rodolfo Borrell’s side provided a positive response to last week’s 2-0 home defeat to Everton. The only downside was that their dominance wasn’t reflected in the final scoreline. But thankfully Ellison’s first-half strike was enough to claim all three points against the Railwaymen on Saturday.

Liverpool almost took the lead within the first five minutes, but Andre Wisdom failed to connect with a right-wing corner.

Borrell’s side made much of the running throughout but they were thankful to goalkeeper Deale Chamberlain, who saved superbly from Mike Koral to make sure they didn’t fall behind early on. While on 20 minutes Cheyenne Dunkley was just wide for the visitors.

Liverpool, though, always held the upper hand and they confirmed their superiority when taking the lead just before the half-hour mark. Wisdom’s cross was turned in from close range by Ellison.

Crewe almost levelled just before half-time but John Stephen’s shot went just wide.

Liverpool failed to fashion too many clear chances despite dominating possession, but on the hour Stephen Sama was just off target with a header following Tom Ince’s free-kick.

The home side continued to press forward and substitute Michael Ngoo hit the bar, while Jack Robinson had another effort ruled out for offside.

Despite continuing to press forward Liverpool had to settle for just Ellison’s strike, but are happy to have hit back following last week’s loss.

Liverpool will aim to build on the win over Crewe when they travel to face Wolverhampton Wanderers this Saturday (kick-off 11.30am).

They are now up to fifth in the Group C table and are eight points off leaders Blackburn Rovers and just three behind second-placed Manchester United.

Injury Problems Mount For Troubled Boss Benitez

Rafael Benitez will be a relieved man that the international break has finally arrived, hopeful that some of his injured players will return to fitness ahead of a crucial clash against Manchester City at Anfield on November 21.

Liverpool suffered more injury woe in the disappointing 2-2 draw at home to Birmingham City on Monday, with Albert Riera and Yossi Benayoun both forced off.

Riera has suffered a stop-start season for the Reds, with his appearance against Blues being his first in a Liverpool shirt for over a month with a hamstring injury. The Spain international suffered a recurrance of the problem when stretching for a ball in the box and faces weeks on the sidelines.

More troublesome to Benitez is the injury suffered to Benayoun, one of the few bright spots this season and a player who has done much to try and fill the void left by Steven Gerrard. Benayoun also injured his hamstring late in the game and must be extremely doubtful to face City.

Fernando Torres, who declared himself unfit to face Birmingham, is also rated no better than doubtful to make a game which, if Liverpool were to lose, could have long-term implications on their ability to qualify for the Champions League next season.

Gerrard, although looking well short of match fitness, made a huge difference after being introduced for Riera just before half-time and, after a further two weeks of training and treatment, he should improve for the City game.

And Denmark defender Daniel Agger has withdrawn from November friendlies against South Korea and the United States with a back injury.

Liverpool face a hugely testing week once the international break is over.

Three days after facing City, Liverpool must travel to Hungary to play Debrecen in a must-win Champions League game which would be rendered meaningless by a Fiorentina win over Lyon in the other group game that night. Then, the following Sunday, comes the Merseyside derby at Everton's Goodison Park home.

Benitez hopes the international break has come at the right time, but is taking nothing for granted. He told the club's official website: "I will tell you after the break because every time we lose one or two players. I'm touching wood.

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez Rules Out Fernando Torres Operation

Rafael Benitez is unsure when Liverpool striker Fernando Torres will recover from his problematic groin injury but has said the Spaniard does not need surgery.

Torres missed Liverpool's 2-2 draw with Birmingham last night with Benitez confirming afterwards that he remains a doubt for their next game against Manchester City on Nov 21.

"Torres had no confidence and said he couldn't play (against Birmingham), so we started the treatment yesterday," Benitez said.

"He has to work with the physios and try to improve and be ready. We are not talking about an operation at this moment.

"I don't know if he will be ready for Man City."

David Ngog And Liverpool Caught In ‘Cheat’ Row

Birmingham City left Anfield seething with injustice last night after being denied victory over Liverpool because of a controversial penalty won by David Ngog, who they accused of “an embarrassing case of cheating”.

Liverpool were trailing when Ngog went down in the penalty area under a challenge by Lee Carsley. It appeared that no contact had been made but Peter Walton, the referee, awarded a penalty. Steven Gerrard scored from the spot to secure a 2-2 draw, to the outrage of Carsley and Alex McLeish, the Birmingham manager.

“I was absolutely nowhere near him,” an enraged Carsley said. “It’s a joke. I knew I didn’t touch him and I said to the referee to book me or send me off, it would have made me feel better. I’m sure he [Ngog] has got a family, well if I went home having done that, I’d be embarrassed. You’re supposed to be teaching your kids an example and that is just an embarrassing case of cheating.

“But the lad’s taken a chance and got his team a point so I’m sure they’ll be patting him on the back.”

Even Rafael Benítez did not attempt to protect his player after Ngog admitted that it probably was not a penalty. But the Liverpool manager claimed that the result was a fair one even if the manner in which it was earned was not.

“It was a pity to score from a penalty that maybe wasn’t a penalty but we deserved to score more goals in the second half,” Benítez said. “It could be a dive, but it wasn’t a penalty. But we have had a lot of situations this year that have gone against us, and this was one for us from a game where we deserved more. It’s important to be honest about these things.

“If it’s clear, then it is clear. Sometimes you have to accept it. We were attacking and attacking and deserved to win, but maybe it wasn’t a penalty. I haven’t seen the replay. I asked David and he said maybe it wasn’t a penalty.”

The draw leaves Liverpool with only one win from their past nine matches and 11 points behind Chelsea, the Barclays Premier League leaders. Their form will do little to relieve the pressure on Benítez.

Ngog had earlier given Liverpool the lead only for Birmingham to storm in front thanks to goals from Christian Benítez and Cameron Jerome, but the penalty incident was the big talking point long after the final whistle.

McLeish said the final scoreline left a sour taste in his mouth.

He also claimed that Walton will acknowledge that he made a mistake in awarding the controversial penalty once he has had the opportunity to watch the game again.

“It is a great point and I’d have taken that before the game but circumstances in the game change your outlook and I feel we were unlucky not to get three,” McLeish said. “It is a clear dive by Ngog and he’s won his team a penalty. It has happened for centuries and we have to take it on the chin.

“He [Peter Walton] is a top referee but he didn’t get that one right and I’m sure when he looks at it again he’ll see that Ngog dived. It was a terrific dive. Lee didn’t touch him. Lee dived in and when you dive in you are always at risk but there was no contact.

“Sometimes there is a debate over a penalty when there is contact but there was none here. It was not even close to being a penalty. We had to weather a storm, Gerrard hit a post and had a few late runs into the box but I thought my team and my defenders were awesome. It was backs to the wall but I didn’t feel we were going to lose a goal.

“Maybe I’ll look back on it tomorrow and think we’ll never have a better chance of getting three points at Anfield. The pressure Liverpool put on means they’ll claim they deserved at least a draw but you also need luck and it seems the bigger clubs get more over a season.”