Saturday, April 28, 2007

Fighting In Europe And Fighting For Europe

Pompey vs Reds Preview

One's fighting for a place in Europe next season. While another team is fighting for survival in Europe's elite football competition currently.

It's certainly an intriguing fixture as both teams are looking to consolidate their places in the league. Although Liverpool has theoretically booked a place in the competition next year, coming third always sounds better than fourth.

But with the impending second leg of the Champions League semi finals, expect changes.

I won't be surprise to see the likes of Sissoko, Hyypia and even Paletta starting as Rafa Benitez will tinker once again and rest players for a more important second leg next week. With that under par performance, perhaps it could also serve as a warning to the players to stop being complacent and maybe give them some time to reflect on their woeful performance.

Both teams are in great league form with the Reds unbeaten in 6 while opponents are finding it hard to break down Portsmouth due to David James' recent heroics. The former Liverpool goalkeeper, who's often touted as 'Calamity James' and 'vampire' (because he's scared of crosses), broke the league record of clean sheets last week against Aston Villa.

With Newcastle and ManYoo defeated at Fratton Park, it's certainly not the best place to get all three points for the Reds. With an eye on the second leg, will Liverpool be distracted? Or will their class prevail and dent Portsmouth hope of Europe?

Drogballs' Prediction: Portsmouth 1-2 Liverpool. More like an optimistic guess than a realistic one. Portsmouth will be a tough opposition and David James could prove to be the difference. (Actually, I predict a 1-1 draw :p )

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Chelsea Love Triangle!

When being asked for the best looking team mate at Chelsea, there were mixed views. But the key here is that awkward silence just after the interviewer fired the questions. It's like a taboo to talk about such topic while some laugh it off, thinking it was a wind up.

Just watch for Ashley Cole's answer.

Remember Their Names

Young Reds Win 2nd Consecutive FA Youth Cup

Hansen, Roberts, Spearing, Threlfall, Darby, Burns, Ryan, Woodward, Putterill, Flynn, Lindfield, Ajdarevic, Irwin, Barnett, Mimms, Highdale, Parsonage.

These are just some names you might need to remember. Because they might just be our future Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher. For the second consecutive season, the Liverpool youth team have once again lifted the FA Youth Cup trophy and done us proud.

They might not all be making the grade and break into the Liverpool squad but it's definitely a night to remember from the kids, whom some of them have been born and bred scouse and together for the past 10 years.

Credit to Steve Heighway, who is in charge of the Academy and is responsible for grooming and watching after the likes of Michael Owen, David Thompson, Robbie Fowler and Steve McManaman, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher.

And the Heighway men marched on.

As a long servant for the club, Heighway has definitely gave his best to Liverpool and yesterday, he openly admitted that he'll not be at the post 2 weeks from now. Probably due to differences in ideology with boss, Rafa Benitez, or even retiring from football totally. The win was for him.

A fatherly figure to the youngsters, who easily turn astray and influenced, he deserve all credit and his eye for talent is never doubted. His last words was certainly an encouraging one for all Liverpool fans as he said 'Jay Spearing is gonna make it to the first team, no doubt'.

Perhaps he sees something in captain, Spearing, like he did on Carragher. Not the best built footballers out there, Spearing certainly does inspire confidence and a great leader on the pitch. He does remind me of our dear ol' Sammy Lee, who's short, stout but yet a brilliant footballer.

With our American co-owner, Tom Hicks, in the stands, he'll now rest assured with the future of the club as the youths does prove that they're probably the best bunch in the land.

Despite trailing 2-1 to Man Utd at Anfield, the Reds (yellow) went to Old Trafford, full of confidence and with the help of a ridiculous rule of 'no away goals', Liverpool triumphed on penalties just like their seniors did last year in Cardiff and 2005 at Istanbul.

Certainly a mold of future Liverpool stars with a stroke of luck and some inspired performers.

Without star goalkeeper, Martin Hansen, Dave Roberts took over his glove and was perhaps one of the heroes of the night with some vital stops and penalty saves.

With the Liverpool first team losing to Chelsea previously, it certainly bring a little joy to the Anfield faithful and perhaps, they should look to their juniors for some inspiration next Tuesday.

Trailing Chelsea 1-0, bringing the tie back to Anfield might help and could the Reds overturn the deficit and go on to Athens? It's going to be an uphill task but how many comebacks have we mustered over the past 3 seasons? If we did it before, let's do it again!

It's brilliant to win the FA Youth Cup certainly,


Thursday, April 26, 2007

Advantage Chelsea

Cole Gives Chelsea The First Leg Lead

UEFA Champions League
Semi Finals 1st Leg

Chelsea 1 - 0 LIVERPOOL

CHE - J. Cole (29min);

The Reds visiting fans were singing about how they dream about going to Athens. But after that sort of below par performance from Liverpool at Stamford Bridge, They should stop dreaming because reality has hit.

Joe Cole's goal was all that separates the two sides but the result certainly flattered Liverpool and it beggars belief as to how it was only 1-0. Liverpool's performance was nothing but asking for a royal thrashing by the Blues and it was the brilliant form of Pepe Reina that salvaged some pride for Liverpool.

Liverpool should not look back at this game and get demoralized but rather, use it as a catalyst for a better second leg performance. Because last night, they were woeful and this is not what we expect from a team that have reached the semi finals.

Rafa surprisingly gave a start to Dutch winger, Bolo Zenden, and with Steve Finnan failing to recover from his neck injury, Alvaro Arbeloa was in place for him while Riise reverts back to left back.

With Rafa's intention clear before the game, which is to win it, he might have made a mistake and cost Liverpool the game.

With our defence being so solid and compact for most part of the season, it fell apart last night and Chelsea at times, tore it to shreds. The midfielders left so much space in front of them and the defenders were left exposed.

And Chelsea's insistence to play long ball to Drogba certainly didn't help and it caused havoc. It was a nightmare scenario for an inexperienced player such as Daniel Agger, who was constantly beaten in the air and out-muscled.

And that was how Chelsea got the lead.

It was a counter attack started off by Ricardo Carvalho back in his own half and his through-ball found Drogba, who out-sprinted Agger before turning him and laid the ball for Joe Cole to fire into the net.

Liverpool presented Chelsea chance after chance in the first half and it can be described as miraculous as to how the score was only 1-0 at half time. The usually solid Liverpool backline was shaky while there was nothing to show for in front.

Liverpool will have to thank Reina for keeping the score down to one as he pulled off a couple of vital saves while given little protection from his defenders.

But the goalkeeper in the other end of the field, Petr Cech, also made a wonderful save to stop Steven Gerrard from scoring an all important away goal. His half volley was heading towards the bottom corner but Cech brilliantly parried it away.

Despite being outplayed and outmaneuvered byt Chelsea throughout the whole game, it was very lucky for Liverpool to only go down by a goal to nil.

It's still possible for Liverpool to go through but they'll have to turn up the heat at Anfield and score two goals. Another point of note, if their defence puts up another similar performance next week, start dreaming of next season instead.

Tactical Viewpoint:

I'm not some master tactician but I personally thought Rafa got his tactics wrong this time round. I understand the need to get a positive result away from Stamford Bridge but it backfired spectacularly.

We started with two strikers, Kuyt and Bellamy, hoping they can cause trouble to the Chelsea backline but they were particularly ineffective while our usually solid backline was constantly tormented by Drogba and Cole.

So we were impotent upfront while can't hold it at the back. Now that's disaster.

Finnan's injury gave Rafa some selection headache as I believe Riise would've played on the left wing instead of Zenden and Arbeloa to the left if the Irish right back was available.

Zenden's appearance did take me by surprise and certainly did Chelsea. But he did nothing of note throughout the whole game and that's the price you pay for a Bosman signing, I guess. His job was to hound Paulo Ferreira, whom we all agree to be the weakest link in Chelsea. But once he got past him, his crosses were often either blocked or hit the first man.

His insistence to go down the bye-line was certainly frustrating as there were a few times when he should've released the ball earlier into the box but was too slow and the covering defenders were able to recover.

Gerrard's position was another problem last night as he was drifting around the pitch without aim last night. Supposedly played as a right winger, he was found on the left and most often, in the middle as well. That certainly suffocated Alonso off any space in the middle while vacated the right flank for Arbeloa.

Bellamy started but seriously, where was he? He dropped so deep at times that he looks as if he's playing in the midfield while Kuyt too, formed up a 6 men midfield that threatened f*** all.

Since we've played Bellamy, why not drift him into the left to support Zenden and provide some width? Until he was substituted for Crouch, I didn't even notice he was on the pitch.

And why not play Pennant on the left and take off Zenden since we're chasing for the game? It was until the 82min before we introduced Pennant. Like as if it's going to make a difference?

It was a dire performance and if this is the sort of performance they're going to give in the semi finals, might as well just go out rather than embarrass ourselves in the finals and expect Gerrard to do his magic every single time.

But the good thing was it's only 1-0. It's still possible.


For more goals and highlights, visit !

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Calm Before The Storm....Not...

With the Champions League semi finals kicking off in just under 2 hours, the war of words between the managers of both the camps failed to cease. In fact, it was even more intense than the previous few days with Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho, coming up with his usual verbal diarrhea.

Bullets wheezing past the heads of people after both fired parting shots at each other, claiming the other team being the 'favourites' of the tie and all these psychological 'warfare' is turning into a farce.

Even so, Mourinho managed to come up with the best quote of all, that Liverpool are not a big club under Rafa Benitez. Brilliant.

Whatever it is, tonight is the first half of the ultimate grudge match. Even without the verbal melee of Benitez and Mourinho, one could already sense the tension building and even though it's already the 14th times this two sides meet in 3 seasons, Chelsea will not forget all the pain that were inflicted by Liverpool, especially in high profile games like the semi finals 2 years ago and the FA Cup semi finals last season.

All in their mouth might be the rejection that this is a perfect chance to revenge for what happened but it is not likely that they will want to go all out to kill of Liverpool's only chance for a silverware.

But they'll have to do without the suspended Michael Essien and perhaps even midfield general, Michael Ballack. Portguese centre half, Ricardo Carvalho is a doubt for this game and also what is affecting the squad is that some players have got yellow cards with their name and might have a chance of missing the second leg if they're not careful.

Liverpool, meanwhile, doesn't have any major concerns in terms of injuries or suspension as they look to make it to the second Champions League final in 3 seasons. With two comfortable back to back wins in their hands, they should be ready for this tough game.

Expect an edgy and slow start to the match as it'll resemble a chess match most probably. Both sides will look to shore up their backline and not as little mistakes as possible.

Bring it on, now!

Rooney's Late Winner Gives United The Edge

UEFA Champions League
Semi Finals 1st Leg

Man Utd 3 - 2 AC Milan

MU - Ronaldo (5min), Rooney (59min, 90min);
AC - Kaka (22min, 37min);

Match Highlights:

With the newspapers and the press hyping up the 'battle of the wonderkids' prior to the game, who are supposedly Ronaldo of ManYoo and Kaka of AC Milan, the 'forgotten' wonderkid of England, Wayne Rooney, scored a late winner like a warning to the rest to not forget about him and his exceptional talents.

For too long, he failed to perform at the highest level in club football, which is the Champions League and before United faced Roma previously in the quarter finals, Rooney failed to score in the competition for 3 whole years.

But with the confidence and belief flooding back in Rooney, he has now scored 5 goals in his last 3 appearances in the Champions League and how important were they? The away goal in Roma gave United the saving grace and they managed to built on that away goal with a 7-1 thumping.

And last night, Rooney might have scored the goal that become the decider of the tie or in someway, giving ManYoo the slight advantage going into the second leg in San Siro.

With ManYoo losing a hell lot of key players such as Rio Ferdinand and Gary Neville, they had to make do with a makeshift defensive unit consisting of Brown and Heinze, who didn't have the experience working with each other until last night. O'Shea was on the right while Evra recovered in time to make it into the squad.

With a defence like this, many neutrals are favouring the Italians as they believe that their attack will tear ManYoo apart while they experience will take them to where Roma can't. They're half right there, because there defence still couldn't cope with ManYoo's attack.

In a somewhat surprising manner, ManYoo took the lead in as early as the sixth minute. Dida, once again exposing his own flaws, came out of his line for Giggs' corner and was caught totally in no man's land. Ronaldo's free header hit his shoulder instead and the hapless Brazilian could only see the ball sailing into the net.

It was a poor start for Milan as they lost concentration far too early in the game but Kaka turned on style to turn the tide against United with an twinkle of an eye. One would wonder how would Milan do without Kaka as the playmaker plays an extremely influential role in the team.

Experienced Dutch midfielder, Clarence Seedorf, sends a inch perfect pass into the path of Kaka, who outpaced Brown and Heinze before firing it past a stranded van der Sar. It caught the ManYoo defence asleep but can't really fault the defenders as Kaka was virtually unstoppable in this instance.

But the next time round, Heinze and Evra will have to shoulder the majority of the blame as their comical defending allowed Kaka to score his second of the game and marked a major dent in United's chance of going into the finals.

As Kaka appeared down the right, he flicked the ball over the on rushing Heinze, who had a torrid time dealing with the Brazilian and his effort was stopped in it's track by his own player. Evra made a mistake that baffles everyone after he jumped and got in the way of Heinze while Kaka waved past the duo before slotting the ball past van der Sar in the calmest of fashion.

Man Utd continued to lose ground while Ronaldo wasn't at his influential best. Scholes was annonymous while the rest were pretty much kept quiet under the old guards of Maldini and Nesta.

Turning point of the game came and it was the injury of Italian midfield destroyer, Gennaro Gattuso, who was stretched off. After he was taken off, Milan lost their shape totally and it highlighted the importance of Gattuso within the team.

Without him, Pirlo was horribly exposed and then, United took the initiative and ran rings round their midfield. Scholes began to appear in the limelight while Ronaldo and Giggs looked more involved.

While Milan were still threatening down the other end of the pitch with counter attacks, United carried out one of the sneak attacks themselves and Rooney was at the end of the move with a composed finish. With the Milan box filled up with defenders, Scholes took a deft touch and lifted the ball into Rooney's path. It was a simple yet clinical move that puts United back in the driving seat.

But the biggest surprise came when Rooney fired home the winner in the last minute of the game. It was yet another brilliant finish from the English striker as Dida left his near post uncovered. Giggs' lay off found Rooney and the striker didn't even take a glance at the goal before firing it.

That goal could very well be the decider of the tie although it's still too early to conclude. But it was a goal of great importance as now, they'll believe that they can do the job at the San Siro with at least a goal cushion.

Our Secret Admirer Revealed

The player in the above picture is none other than Fernando Torres, captain of Athletico Madrid. What a way to hide your true feelings, huh! Too bad he's a little over-rated......

Monday, April 23, 2007

No Qualms About The PFA Awards...

But The Team of the Year Looks Dodgy

Seriously, is there an uglier photo of Ronaldo than this?

Nevermind, that's beside the point. The Professional Footballer's Association has announced their winner for this season's Player of the Year and also Young Player of the Year.

Surprise, surprise! It's Ronaldo who earned the accolades and got the distinctive 'double' and the only player to do it since Andy 'What a hit, son!' Gray back in 1977.

What happened to Andy Gray after winning the double isn't a cause for concern here but I must admit that the Portugese winger deserves the awards and the it's a recognition for the player whom was made a devil by majority of the English fans, who still make him the scapegoat of their own problems and their inevitable exit from the World Cup last summer.

Despite all the pressure and speculations, Ronaldo rose above all expectation and turned into a wonderful player this season. He has certainly matured in terms of his overall techniques and was a much better team player than he was last season.

So often last season that he was called a player with all tricks and flicks but no finish product. He silenced all critics with a wonderful haul of 21 goals so far this season and still have time to add to the tally.

Whether he'll continue to shine in the Premiership next season is still a doubt but this season, he deserves it.

But when it comes to the team of the year, I have my doubts on whether the players actually watch some football or just pick the players from the team at the top of the table. Let's see:

PFA Team of the Year:

PFA Premier League Team of the Year 2007 - Edwin van der Sar, Gary Neville, Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra (all Man Utd); Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Cristiano Ronaldo (all Man Utd) & Steven Gerrard (Liverpool); Didier Drogba (Chelsea) & Dimitar Berbatov (Tottenham)

8 out of 11 players are from ManYoo and boy, why not just the team PFA Manchester United Team of the Year instead? I'm not bitter and think that none of them should be in the team because I personally loathe them but some of the names inside aren't the best in terms of performance.

Patrice Evra?! Are you having a laugh? A few decent performance and Evra is suddenly the best left back in the league? Gary Neville? Van der Sar? Rio Ferdinand? Seriously? And Steven Gerrard?

Why not let me do the honour in naming MY best eleven players of the league this season.

Goalkeeper: David James (Portsmouth)
Despite being an England reject, James has certainly lived up to his expectation and broke a new league record with the number of clean sheets during his career. Despite a couple of comical cockups, his performance has been consistent and is it any wonder why Portsmouth have the second best defensive record outside the top 4?

Left-back: Joleon Lescott (Everton)
A steal for only 2.5million GBP, he excelled despite being played out of position at the left back slot. He fitted into the Everton team so wonderfully and had a great partnership with Joseph Yobo before being shifted to the left to cover the spot left empty by Alex Pistone and Nuno Valente.

Centre Back: Nemanja Vidic (ManYoo)
Deserves his spot in the team and formed a formidable partnership with Rio Ferdinand in the heart of the defence. Tough tackling and rugged, he has adapted to the pace of the English game well.

Centre Back: Ricardo Carvalho (Chelsea)
Often away from the limelight perhaps due to his partner being a media darling in England, he has been the pillar of Chelsea's defence and when John Terry was absent through injury, he made a step forward and even had a couple of important goals in his belt.

Right-back: Steve Finnan (Liverpool)
Despite that slump in his form earlier this season, he has picked up brilliantly and is back to claim his title of 'Mr. Consistency'. With the arrival of Alvaro Arbeloa, he had to be at his best and is currently Liverpool's best player in terms of statistics from Opta and the best defender in the league.

Left Wing: Ryan Giggs (ManYoo)
Okay, he plays in central midfield as well but the Welsh winger has been reborn after being doubted as too old and no longer have the speed to terrorise down the left flank. He has turned into an intelligent playmaker with an eye for the killer ball and a scorer of some great free kicks.

Central Midfield: Michael Essien (Chelsea)
Played all around the pitch except up front, he has became the utility man of Chelsea this season and has excelled everywhere he played. Energetic and tenacious, the Ghanaian midfielder has become such an asset for Chelsea and his performance merits a place within the team of the year.

Central Midfield: Paul Scholes (ManYoo)
Another reason why ManYoo has been so good this season. Their players who looked past it and lost their 'legs' suddenly found their hunger and their experience being vital for United's title charge. Still score some crucial goals and didn't lose that playmaking skills over the years. But he still needs to watch his discipline and learn how to tackle.

Right Midfield: Ronaldo (ManYoo)
See above.

Striker: Dimitar Berbatov (Spurs)
A newcomer and performed exceptionally well. His built suits the hustle and bustle of the Premiership and already found his scoring touch in his first season in the league. Consistent performer and if he could improve on his 'away form', he'll be hard to hang on for Spurs.

Striker: Benni McCarthy (Blackburn)
The man who scores so many goals yet nobody knows him. One of the most underrated players in the league despite performing exceptionally well. Just like Berbatov, it's his first season in the Premiership and he was initially bought in to replace the outgoing Craig Bellamy. But they didn't expect him to come this good....pleasant surprise for Mark Hughes, most definitely!

Drogballs' Weekly Thoughts

Yoonited Stumbles.....

What an odd weekend it proved to be, with ManYoo faltering at home to a chronically inconsistent Middlesbrough side.

With the Champions League semi final against AC Milan looming, Sir Alex rested Ryan Giggs ahead of the game and low and behold, they turn up with an uninspiring performance against the Midlands team.

Under fire for being utterly useless recently, Kieran Richardson helped United to the lead which was down to some slack defending on Boro's part and also Rooney's composure.

But Sir Alex might have made a monumental mistake after he failed to haul off Rio Ferdinand despite the defender struggling with a thigh injury he picked up previously. The injury caused Ferdinand to struggle and was unable to track Mark Viduka minutes later, who scored from a diving header at van der Saar's near post.

You'd expect United to come back strongly and scoot away with 3 points easily but surprisingly, Middlesbrough held on and got an important point away from home and did Jose Mourinho's Chelsea a big favour.

And now Alex Ferguson will have to contempt with the mounting injury problems that has suddenly hit the United squad over the last couple of weeks. With Gary Neville and Nemanja Vidic already out, losing Rio is a huge blow to their Champions League endeavour and might have serious implication on their title aspiration.

Might be so near yet so far for United.....But Jose's men didn't do enough....

Chelsea Blew The Chance To Close The Gap

It has been so predictable over the past few weekends that Chelsea will go away from each game, winning 1-0, doing just enough to get all 3 points.

But it all came to a screeching halt after Newcastle became the first team this season to produce a goal-less draw with Chelsea.

St. James' Park has never really been a happy hunting ground for Chelsea and with United faltering on Saturday, the ball was in Chelsea's court.

But Jose's men crumbled under pressure and turned up with an uninspiring and lacklustre performance against the Magpies.

In all likeness, the two title contenders have an upcoming semi final match to look forward to and both of them looked distracted, more so for Chelsea, who were listless and was also constantly caught out by Newcastle's counter attack.

The wing-back position has been such a headache for Jose this season and this match continued to underline the problem with Chelsea. Paulo Ferreira, Lassana Diara, Geremi and Michael Essien all played at the right back slot and none has made the position his.

Wayne Bridge, who started ahead of Ashley Cole, struggled with the pace of Kieron Dyer while Michael Ballack sustained an injury after clashing with Titus Bramble.

Aside from the performance, it was also not without controversies and Jose Mourinho will most likely be punished for his rantings against the referee, who turned down a couple of penalty claims from his side.

He was not without a point but once again it feels like a pot calling the kettle black because there are so many penalty claims over the past seasons where it was so obvious but were waved away by so many referees.

It all balanced up, Jose. Just shut up.

With Chelsea looking so unlike themselves and so insipid, Rafa Benitez should be quietly confident that his Reds will be able to once again, defeat Chelsea and march into another cup finals.

Watford Relegated While The Rest Continues To Struggle

The Hornets are officially the first team to dropped out of the Premiership this season despite a 1-1 draw with Manchester City this weekend.

Although they're haven't move out of the drop zone since earlier this season, they have showed great character and one couldn't really find much fault of them despite finishing last.

They're unlucky to lose their key man, Marlon King, to a long term injury and that was a huge blow to Aidy Boothroyd and his team. The man who almost singlehandedly brough Watford to the Premiership wasn't able to join up with his team mate up until last week but it was already too late.

With limited resources and players who aren't up to the standards, Watford struggled throughout but what is admirable about them is they never gave up and self destruct. Despite being a certainty for the drop, they didn't let their heads drop and continued to give their best.

Their best performance was perhaps, the one against Portsmouth where they defeated them 3-1. One thing is for certain that is it won't be long before we know who'll be joining them next season.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Rafa Hails 'Perfect Day'

Kuyt Double Secures Champions League Spot For Next Season

English Premiership

LIVERPOOL 2 - 0 Wigan

LIV - Kuyt (30min, 68min);

Match Highlights:

A fine double strike from Dirk Kuyt ensured Liverpool's place in yet another season in Europe's elite football competition, the Champions League, and third place seemed all but secured while nearest rival, Arsenal, stumbled at White Hart Lane.

With the semi finals just over 3 days away, Rafa Benitez's men are in here to find a morale booster ahead of the match at Stamford Bridge and the Dutchman duly obliged with two goals that beat a deflated Wigan side.

A shadow of their former self compared to the Wigan last season, they came to Anfield knowing that all they could do is to limit the damage that will be inflicted upon on them by the men in red.

Dragged mercilessly into the mire of relegation, Wigan tried all they could to keep the score down and didn't really have the intention to get anything out of Anfield although they did have a golden chance to equalise in the second half. But Reina, who played his 100th game for Liverpool, was all that stood between Wigan's salvation and devastation.

The home side, under the management of Rafa Benitez, are used to changes week in, week out regarding the starting line up and this game isn't an exception. Biggest surprise is captain, Steven Gerrard, was left on the bench and missed his first league game this season. Zenden was his replacement in the middle of the park.

Perhaps with some thoughts on the match ahead at Chelsea, Rafa rested some other key players and with the lead comfortable at two late in the second half, he even took off Jamie Carragher and gave him a rest.

Dirk Kuyt got Liverpool in the lead at the half hour mark after a brilliant Jermaine Pennant cross was met with his head. Wigan goalkeeper, John Filan, committed himself but missed the ball completely and all the striker needed to do was to stick the ball into the back of the empty net.

But with Liverpool being their usual efficient and cautious style, were not pressing Wigan hard and showed little urgency. With Rafa's preaching of effectiveness, focus and caution, Liverpool didn't throw everything in and you'll expect them to save some energy for the more important game in midweek.

Chances were presented to Liverpool on a couple of occasions in the second half but they were unable to finish it. Gonzalez had a pot shot on goal saved and then Dirk Kuyt fired just wide.

But the Dutch striker didn't take long before he added a second. With the introduction of Craig Bellamy into the front line, Liverpool looked more lively and Rafa injected pace into the attack, which was up against an aging Arjan de Zueew.

Bellamy's down the left was supported by Riise, who then intricately flicked the ball back into the path of Bellamy. Matt Jackson did well to intercept the ball but it fell kindly to Kuyt, who turned the experience De Zueew before slotting it into the bottom corner.

He could've had his hat trick if only he met with Gonzalez's cross with more power right at the 90 minute mark.

But it was marked as a perfect day by Rafa Benitez, who thought that it was an efficient and professional performance from Liverpool. It has become such a practice by the team in red in recent times that they looked like a machine.

Performance wise, just like a machine, you'd expect nothing more and nothing less. Although it could've been better and they could've taken advantage of the home ground and imposed themselves more.

But two goals was enough to see out the continue struggle for the Champions League spot and as Rafa mentioned, they could now focus on the semi finals and prepare without having to worry about the domestic front.

Now, bring on Chelsea!

For more goals and highlights, visit !