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Anfield Reds :: Liverpool FC
Sunday, 17 October 2004
Gerrard Nearing Liverpool Return
Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard may be just three weeks away from a first-team return.

The England star broke a metatarsal bone in his foot against Manchester United in September and it was initially predicted that he would be missing for two months.

"Perhaps he's now three weeks away," said manager Rafa Benitez. "The injury needed time but when both Gerrard and Nunez return it will be like having two new signings.

"I have talked to Steve and he is now ahead of schedule."

Posted by anfieldreds at 12:50 PM BST
Morientes Targets Anfield Move
Real Madrid and Spain striker Fernando Morientes has made it clear he would consider a transfer to Liverpool when the January transfer window opens.

Rafael Benitez, Liverpool's Spanish manager, is believed to have wanted Morientes as part of the deal which saw Michael Owen move to the Bernabeu in the summer, so he is likely to be interested in Morientes' comments.
"The return to form of Owen can be excellent for Real, but it is also a new problem for me," said the 28-year-old who returned to Real Madrid for the current campaign after playing on loan for the whole of last season at Monaco, where he was a great success.

Morientes told the Daily Mirror newspaper: "Liverpool could be great option for January."

The striker is finding the first team opportunities at Real increasingly frustrating. His place in the packing order now appears to be behind Raul, Ronaldo and Owen.

"My situation at Real is not pleasant," he said. "If things continue like this I will have to think about leaving. I am tried of sitting on the bench.

"Liverpool is a club where any player would be happy to play. It is a club with a history of having great supporters, a good coach and now Spanish players."

Benitez has been encouraged by the comments of Morientes.

He said: "It was good to hear, because when a good player talks about a good club, it is good for us."

Posted by anfieldreds at 12:49 PM BST
End Of Away Jinx Pleases Benitez
Mood:  happy
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is hoping the Reds' first away win of the season will remove a psychological road block.

Benitez said: "For the next two weeks people won't be talking about how we have to win away from home, we've done that now."

Liverpool came from 2-0 down to win 4-2 at Fulham and Benitez said: "This will be a great game for our confidence.

"We played well in the first-half and had the game under control but gave away two goals."

Benitez made a significant half-time substitution, sending on Xavi Alonso who inspired Liverpool to victory.

It was Alonso who orchestrated Liverpool's fightback with the range, accuracy and vision of his passing.

Benitez said: "Alonzo is a good passer especially for the wingers and forwards.

"He played well within the team and this will give him more confidence."

Posted by anfieldreds at 12:45 PM BST
Friday, 5 March 2004
Marseille delight at Reds draw
Marseille coach Jose Anigo said that the players had expressed a desire to play Liverpool before the Uefa Cup fourth-round draw was made.

Anigo told his club's official website: "We had a little opinion poll this morning to see who we would like to play and about 90% voted for Liverpool.

"It's a real pleasure for me to discover English football at a stadium like Anfield.

"Being home for the second leg is certainly an advantage.

"It will be a festival for the fans but be careful. Just because I say 'festival' I don't mean 'we play, we lose and we go home'."

Anigo is looking forward to crossing swords with Liverpool's French manager Gerard Houllier.

"On a personal note it will ne nice to see Gerard Houllier again. I know his job is under threat at the moment but he is still a good coach.

"What impresses me most is their attack. With [Emile] Heskey, [Harry] Kewell and of course [Michael] Owen they are very fast.

"We will have to keep our defence on their toes."

Posted by anfieldreds at 1:47 PM GMT
Thursday, 4 March 2004
FT: Levski Sofia 2 Liverpool 4 (Agg: 2-6)
Liverpool surged into the last 16 of the Uefa Cup with a 4-2 victory at Levski Sofia - 6-2 on aggregate.Levski Sofia 2 Liverpool 4 (Agg: 2-6)

What Liverpool needed was a quick strike to deflate their hosts, and it came on six minutes from Steven Gerrard.

He anticipated a back pass from Ilian Stoyanov and raced into yards of space before rounding goalkeeper Dimitar Ivankov and sliding the ball home from an acute angle.

The visitors doubled their advantage five minutes later when Harry Kewell's angled ball from midfield was chased by Michael Owen.

The England striker sprung the offside trap and cruised into the box, before curling the ball past Ivankov with a perfect shot into the far corner.

But Levski fought back to level, determined to give their all in front of 40,000 of their countrymen.

The home side's first effort on goal eventually came on 25 minutes but Kostadin Vidolov's 20-yard free-kick sailed over the bar, after Steve Finnan fouled Sasha Simonovic.

But that inspired Sofia who worked the ball in from the left and Georgi Ivanov got the chance of a low drive across Chris Kirkland and inside the far post to pull a goal back.

Liverpool responded when Bruno Cheyrou's angled cross beat Ivankov - but also Owen at the far post.

But the Bulgarians were refusing to slip away quietly, and Georgi Chilikov took advantage of some sloppy defending to fire over from the edge of the box.

Then five minutes before the break Simonovic was given the space to smash home the equaliser from the edge of the box.

But Liverpool hit straight back when Dietmar Hamann rose to head home Gerrard's right wing corner - restoring the three-goal aggregate advantage.

Houllier's men almost sprung the offside trap twice at the start of the second half through Gerrard and Owen.

But there was plenty of defending to do with Ivanov and Chilikov more than difficult opponents for Sami Hyypia and Stephane Henchoz.

Kirkland twice had to dive at the feet of Ivanov as quick passing again splintered Liverpool's defence, with a concerned Houllier stalking the touchline at this stage.

But if there was still any fleeting doubt about the outcome, Hyypia ended it with a low header on 67 minutes from a Gerrard corner for Liverpool's fourth goal of the night.

Posted by anfieldreds at 12:11 AM GMT
Sunday, 29 February 2004
FT: Leeds 2 Liverpool 2
Leeds and Liverpool were forced to settle for a point after an enthralling 2-2 draw at Elland Road.

Gerard Houllier's side initially led through former Leeds star Harry Kewell, yet were made to come from behind during an all-action first half as Milan Baros cancelled out goals from Eirik Bakke and Mark Viduka.Leeds 2 Liverpool 2

Leeds, despite being unbeaten in their last three games from which they have taken five points, remain bottom of the table, yet their optimism is on the rise.

Kewell set up Michael Owen for a fifth-minute curler which clipped Gary Kelly, while the England international later flashed a drive over the bar before the former Leeds favourite silenced the boo boys.

After a toe-poked shot from 15 yards through the legs of Dominic Matteo which an alert Paul Robinson just managed to push away, Kewell struck in the 21st minute.

Play first switched from the left flank to the right, with Baros supplying Kewell who curled a sensational 20-yard left-foot shot beyond Robinson.

But within eight minutes Leeds were level as Didier Domi, Alan Smith and Jermaine Pennant all combined to set up Bakke for a flick past Chris Kirkland for his first league goal in 14 months.

Liverpool responded with Steven Gerrard setting up Baros for a towering close-range header which crashed against the bar before Leeds soon countered to take the lead.

A Robinson goal-kick was inadvertently headed on by Sami Hyypia to Smith who took the ball on his chest before volleying a pass into Viduka's stride for the striker to then loft his seventh of the season over Kirkland.

But four minutes before the break Liverpool were back on level terms as Baros weaved his way past Domi and Seth Johnson before firing a crisp 19-yard drive past Robinson.

Smith and Owen then exchanged chances throughout the second period, with the Leeds striker ending an incisive 52nd-minute move by flashing an acutely-angled drive past the far post by an inch.

Robinson and Kirkland again thwarted Owen and Smith soon after, before the latter appeared to have won the game for Leeds in the 73rd minute.

With a chance reminiscent of his equaliser in the 1-1 draw at Manchester United last week, Smith stole in front of Stephane Henchoz in meeting a clipped James Milner cross, only for his header to crash off the underside of the bar.

Robinson, in front of the watching Sven-Goran Eriksson, then produced the save of the game in the 87th minute as he was at full stretch to tip away a goal-bound Dietmar Hamann drive from 30 yards.

Although Leeds were under pressure in the closing stages, it was they who had the final chance to win the game in the second minute of injury time.

Domi met an inswinging Stephen McPhail corner with a powerful downward header, only for Jamie Carragher to clear off the line.

Posted by anfieldreds at 3:48 PM GMT
Friday, 27 February 2004
Liverpool 2 Levski Sofia 0
Liverpool eased the pressure on under-fire manager Gerard Houllier with a hard-fought 2-0 win over Levski Sofia in their Uefa Cup third round, first leg tie at Anfield on Thursday. Liverpool 2 Levski Sofia 0

Two second half goals in the space of three minutes by inspirational captain Steven Gerrad and Harry Kewell put the Reds in a commanding position ahead of next week's return in the Bulgarian capital.

For the tie Houllier reverted back to a midfield that included Danny Murphy, Milan Baros and Harry Kewell with flair players like Anthony Le Tallec, El-Hadji Diouf and Bruno Cheyrou consigned to the substitutes' bench.

The visitors, who included a host of Bulgarian national team players, took an impressive record of a single defeat in all competitions this season into the match.

And it was not hard to see why the Bulgarians have been so hard to break down as they packed their midfield and generally employed very defensive tactics with only Georgi Ivanov, their top scorer, committed forward, and Asen Bukarev man marking Steven Gerrard.

This made life very difficult for the Reds as they were denied space by being quickly closed down by the opposition.

Their best chance of the first half fell to Baros after 15 minutes when he rose at the far post to send a Murphy corner centimetres wide.

In contrast the Bulgarians looked threatening whenever they got forward and after a swift break in the 19th minute Golovskoy saw a 20-yard effort deflected inches wide with Chris Kirkland beaten.

With Kostadin Vidolov pulling the strings in midfield the visitors were looking increasingly dangerous forcing Liverpool to defend resolutely.

However, it all changed in the second period as the hosts finally found some inspiration.

The deadlock was finally broken on 67 minutes by Gerrard after Murphy's corner was played short to Kewell and then Steve Finnan. The Irishman's cross was nodded out by Bukarev but only as far as Gerrard who fired the ball into the bottom corner from the edge of the box.

Three minutes later Liverpool doubled their lead from another Murphy corner. Again played short to Kewell, the skilful Aussie somehow mustered up an angle 35 yards out before lashing a stunning shot into the far top corner of the net.

Levski responded with a host of substitutes but to no avail as Liverpool held firm, the Kop responding by singing Houllier's name as the game drew to an end.

Posted by anfieldreds at 2:04 AM GMT
Wednesday, 25 February 2004
Reds must find Euro force - Thommo
Liverpool assistant boss Phil Thompson has warned Uefa Cup opponents Levski Sofia they could face the "full force" of a Reds backlash.

It is back to the drawing board after a short rest for Liverpool, with the club's number two Thompson telling the players not to feel sorry for themselves and to pull their socks up to save their season.

Gerard Houllier's right-hand man admits that gloom has descended on Anfield but insists there is no time to let it settle with crucial games coming thick and fast.

The Reds must pick themselves up from the disappointment of losing at Portsmouth in the FA Cup on Sunday in time for Thursday's visit of Bulgarian side Levski Sofia.

Thompson said: "We're all very down and obviously everyone is very upset at going out of the cup.

"We gave the lads the day off on Monday to gather their thoughts. Sometimes it's good to have time to dwell on it so the lads have had 24 hours to reflect.

"But we have to stop feeling sorry for ourselves and saying this always seems to be happening. We have to find out the reason why and put it right - starting Thursday.

"We have to stay extremely positive and I hope it's going to be Levski who feel the full force of our reaction. We have had one too many of 'one of those days'."

Posted by anfieldreds at 2:09 PM GMT
Houllier must get tough with his flop stars
By Tommy Smith

Like so many fans, I was gutted with the result at Portsmouth.

But the Reds just did not perform when it mattered.

There was talk of them being under pressure, but that is a load of nonsense. were playing a Portsmouth side of AN Others.

Pressure comes when you have fought your way to the top of the league or through to a cup final and you know you are nearly there. Pressure comes when you are battling against relegation.

Pressure is not when you are miles away from the top and the bottom of the league.

1977, we won the league, then played badly and lost to Manchester United in the FA Cup final. We were told in no uncertain terms we had to perform to win the European Cup a few days later. That was pressure!

Liverpool should be fighting for first place in Premiership, but we are never going to be there with the current squad. We should still be in the Cup, but the players, again, were not good enough.

I believe Gerard Houllier thinks his players will perform, but he has too many poor ones.

He has been protecting his players for too long, and his excuses are wearing a bit thin.

Gerard stated that when some of his key players were back things would be different, but the situation has not improved much.

In the past, Liverpool had one or two really good players, and the rest may not have been as talented but they were proud to put on the red shirt and work their socks off to achieve success.

Now, the team has some top players, but not enough to carry the rest through.

When we played we had a plan and to hell with the opposition. Sometimes we lost, but we stuck to the system.

I just cannot see what the Houllier system is.

There are too many Anfield players in the comfort zone. More often than not, the manager feels his stars play well. You never hear him slagging off his players, but some o f them are not performing.

If you mollycoddle players, saying they are playing well, they will believe it.

Ultimately, it is the players who determine how successful a manager is.

Houllier needs to take action. If his ideas about the game do not change and he does not start winning games his job could be on the line - that will not be because of fans' displeasure with him, but because of the lack of success of some of his signings, like El-Hadji Diouf, Salif Diao, Bruno Cheyrou and Igor Biscan.

The next few months will be crucial. The Reds must finish fourth and do well in the UEFA Cup.

More disappointments will heap further pressure on Houllier and put a question mark on Michael Owen's future, too.

Posted by anfieldreds at 1:59 PM GMT
Liverpool vs Levski Sofia - Match Preview
European football returns to Anfield on Thursday night as PFC Levski Sofia from Bulgaria are the visitors in the first leg of the UEFA Cup 3rd round.

Both sides are unbeaten in the competition so far this season. Levski had to play a qualifying round against Atyrau of Kazakhstan, winning 4-1 away and 2-1 at home. Levski won both legs of the next round 1-0 away and 4-0 at home against H Ramat-Gan of Israel. They faced a much tougher task in round two, only going through on away goals against Slavia Prague. The first leg in Czechoslovakia ended 2-2 and the goalless draw in Bulgaria saw Levski through.

The player Liverpool will have to watch out for is forward Georgi Ivanov who has already scored 4 goals in the competition. The 25-year old averages over a goal every two games for the club and has one Championship medal and two National Cup winners medals to his collection.

Sofia currently stand second in the their national league and are three points behind the leaders Lokomotiv Plovdiv. Sofia have won their last six league games and are unbeaten in their last nine. They have only been beaten twice all season, both times by Plovdiv, once in the league and once in the National Cup. Sofia won 3-0 away at Vidima Rakovski last week in their latest league game to keep the pressure on the leaders.

Liverpool may need a goal or two in the first leg as Sofia have not tasted defeat at home since August 2003 when Dinamo Kiev won 1-0 in a qualifying round of The Champions League. They have since gone on a run of 24 games without losing on home soil.

If Sofia are on top of their game at the moment, then the opposite can be said of Liverpool. Dumped out of the FA Cup by Portsmouth on Sunday, the UEFA Cup is now the last chance of silverware this season.

This season's UEFA Cup has had an Eastern European flavour so far for Liverpool, Slovenia's Olimpija Ljubljana were despatched in the first round and Steaua Bucharest of Romania sent packing in the next round. Scoring goals has also been a problem for Liverpool in the competition so far, with only Michael Owen (2), Harry Kewell (2), Antony Le Tallec, Emile Heskey and Djimi Traore finding the net in the four games played.

It remains to be seen if Houllier continues with the five-man midfield or goes with two strikers now that Milan Baros is back. Florent Sinama-Pongolle was carried off on Monday night during a reserve outing and will be out for at least a week. Harry Kewell and Emile Heskey are both slight doubts for the game with ankle and back injuries. Chris Kirkland looks set to continue in goal. Senegal's El Hadji Diouf will return to the squad but his compatriot Salif Diao is out injured.

Posted by anfieldreds at 1:51 PM GMT

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