Sunday, 30 August 2009

Media Round-Up: Bolton 2 Liverpool 3

A slew of bad press has been thrown at Liverpool football club and especially its manager Rafael Benitez in the past seven days. Most of the criticism was aimed at the Reds boss who after saying: "clearly the team has to improve and it depends on the experienced players to take more responsibility," found himself reading headlines like: "After criticising Gerrard and Carragher, Rafa Benitez needs to learn what goes on in the dressing room stays in the dressing room." Incredibly some fans appear to have fallen for the media's slight of hand trick, judging by the radio phone in's.

Prior to the Bolton match, more myth making 'Benitez attacks Gerrard' articles were published. The Guardian said: "Steven Gerrard not in good enough form for Liverpool, says Rafael Benítez." The article goes on to say: "Benítez pointed to a lack of collective responsibility among his senior players after the home defeat to Aston Villa on Monday, but today went further, saying that Gerrard was not currently playing at his "best level". This story would normally invoke a certain amount of worry from fans fearing a manager and player had fallen out, until you actually read the quote from Rafa that created the headline. Benitez said:

"We have seen Steven playing really well for a while now," said Benítez. "He is one of our big names, a key player. He will continue to be that. He will know that he has played a couple of games that are not up to his best level. But because he so often plays really well, people maybe can see the difference."

Clearly certain journalists have set themselves an agenda of a Gerrard/ Benitez bust up and we can expect more of these style of headlines to come.

Yesterdays well earned win, following two Bolton goals which went against the direction of play has created a mixed response from some of the press, who were obviously disappointed by the Reds gaining three points.

The Guardian says:
"Steven Gerrard arrives late to rescue Liverpool against ten-man Bolton." The story goes on to proclaim: "Managerial criticism for Steven Gerrard is as rare as sunshine this barbecue summer and, after a week in which Rafael Benítez reminded him of his talismanic responsibilities, it was probably inevitable that the captain should spare Liverpool further blushes with an 83rd-minute winner to settle a match in which battling Bolton led twice."

"Bolton, who had failed to score in their opening two games, deservedly broke their duck and felt they would have had a point, at least, had they not lost Sean Davis after 55 minutes for the second of two yellow cards."

The Telegraph is not as disappointed as the Guardian following the victory.
"After a week of criticism from inside and out over his performances, Steven Gerrard volleyed Liverpool to a victory over Bolton which, for 14 days at least, will kick-start their season."

"After twice falling behind, carelessly, against limited, aggressive and at times overly combative opponents, Gerrard, his every step shadowed by Fabrice Muamba, shed his limpet for the briefest of moments to send a trademark thundering volley beyond the grasp of Jussi Jaaskelainen and the travelling red hordes into raptures."

“He showed again he is a key player for us,” said Benítez. “He can be a leader for the rest of the players with his commitment and his quality. But all the players wanted to improve today, Steven, Fernando Torres and a lot of others. They all had a great determination to win the game.”

The article goes on to say: "Sean Davis, booked in the first half for kicking the ball away, was dismissed 10 minutes after the break for a cynical trip on Lucas as the Brazilian midfielder surged forward."

"The former Portsmouth player did not take Alan Wiley’s decision well, blaming the Liverpool player for demanding a yellow card, but to no avail. His manager, similarly, admitted he had some “sympathy” for what was a justified, if rather silly dismissal."

"Yet again, Liverpool had limited their opposition to barely a sniff of the ball and yet again they had created a number of good, if not glaring, opportunities, all of which fell to Torres."

"The stage was set, and the script, delighting in its lack of originality, was clear. Gerrard had already hit the bar with a fearsome drive from Dirk Kuyt’s knock-down when Torres, less profligate now, showed his own ruthless streak, driving fiercely past Jaaskelainen after a flowing move inspired by his captain. Liverpool swarmed forward, threatening again and again, before Torres headed Johnson’s cross to Gerrard, on the penalty spot. Lights, camera, action!"

The Times says: "Steven Gerrard rescues Liverpool"
The article goes on to say: "NO BARBECUE summer, this, but still the smell of seared flesh at Anfield, some of it prime English beef. Rafa Benitez’s withering reference to Captain Untouchable, Steven Gerrard, that he “played a couple of games that are not up to his best level” after Monday’s home defeat by Aston Villa will have cautioned not just his midfielder but all his players that another deficient performance would not be tolerated."

"Significantly, the final whistle produced no delirium within the visiting contingent. Instead they quietly digested the good fortune that had deserted them on Monday. None more so than Gerrard."

"Gerrard again lacked the assertiveness that brands his performances. That was until Bolton’s reduction to 10 men allowed him freedom to roam."

Gerrard reflected wryly: “I knew Gary Megson would do that. He did it to me last year. He [Muamba] was my shadow for 40-50 minutes. I don’t like to see a man get sent off but fortunately that was in my favour, that gave me more space.”

The story goes on to say: "The contest turned on the Davis sending off nine minutes after the interval. Already cautioned, he caught Lucas’s heels and Alan Wiley had no alternative but to brandish a second yellow. Megson was not a happy man. “They control the ball, slow up and wait for the hit,” was how he viewed the foul. “We’ve got to start doing that. We’re not particularly cute at bending the rules.”

The article adds: "It was an afternoon when the fates smiled on Benitez. For once, he had no gripe with the officials. We have presumably heard the last of that summer whine."

The Independent says: "Gerrard's late winner makes point to Benitez."
"Perhaps Rafael Benitez should be critical of Steven Gerrard more often if his captain responds to such comments like this. With the scores locked 2-2 and Liverpool's title ambitions in danger of collapsing before the transfer window has even shut, Gerrard struck with a trademark finish from 16 yards to earn his side victory against 10-man Bolton."

"Outplayed by Tottenham and outfought against Villa, Liverpool arrived at the Reebok knowing they could be out of title contention with a third defeat in four games."

"Yet despite the scoreline, this was a far from convincing performance by Benitez's men. Only when Sean Davis was sent off for two bookable offences, with Liverpool trailing 2-1 with more than half an hour remaining, did they take a firm grip."

"Three points, a first away win of the season and a match-winning performance by Gerrard. "We can prepare for the next game and be a little bit more relaxed because of the result," the Liverpool manager said. "It was a difficult game and twice we had to come from behind. Today, all the players wanted to impress and do well. They knew we had to improve and do well."

"When Benitez decided to pay £17m to Portsmouth for Johnson, many thought he had overspent on a player who left Chelsea after failing to cement a regular spot. But the England full-back has proved to be one of the few consistent performers for Benitez so far this term and his equaliser, his second goal for the club, was a delight. This time it was the Bolton defence who were guilty of failing to stay awake. After struggling to clear a corner, the ball fell to Johnson who required just a couple of touches before finishing from 20 yards."

The Express says: "Gerrard saves Rafa's blushes as Reds come from behind to beat Bolton"
"The visitors had plenty of possession, but without making many clear-cut chances, Matt Taylor and Cohen working tirelessly in midfield, breaking up Liverpool’s flow."

"the visitors were made to fight desperately hard by a Bolton side who were down to 10 men for much of the second period."

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