Anfield's big three make Kop appeal

Rafael Benitez, Steven Gerrard and Sami Hyypia have appealed to the Kop to inspire a reprisal of Liverpool’s great European performances when Olympiacos visit Anfield next month for a critical Champions League match.

Rafael Benitez, Steven Gerrard and Sami Hyypia have appealed to the Kop to inspire a reprisal of Liverpool’s great European performances when Olympiacos visit Anfield next month for a critical Champions League match.

The manager, club captain and former skipper believe the crowd can propel Liverpool to the victory which it is imperative they achieve to stand a chance of reaching the knock-out stages.

Benitez has seen his squad ripped apart by injuries, and he will have to dig ever deeper into the club’s resources to find a strikeforce to face the Greek side.

A 1-0 defeat last night in Monaco, where the winning goal from Javier Saviola seemed to be preceded by a handball by the Argentinian, has left Liverpool’s chances of reaching the last 16 looking bleak.

The equation now dictates that Liverpool must win by 1-0 or by two clear goals to finish in the top two of Group D.

Benitez is set to be without strikers Djibril Cisse, Milan Baros and Luis Garcia, but he said: “It will be difficult but we can do it.

“At Anfield with our supporters behind us and the team playing well, we can achieve anything. We do not seem to be getting much luck at the moment, do we?”

And Gerrard backed up his manager, stating: “We can do it at Anfield, with the fans behind us.

“It was a bitter blow to lose the way we did in Monaco, but we can turn that around on our own ground.”

It was not only Garcia, employed as a winger last night, who returned from Monte Carlo in a sorry state.

His hamstring injury arrived early in the game, and later on his fellow Spaniard Josemi required 20 stitches in a head wound after an accidental collision.

Benitez admits that the disruption destroyed his game plan, saying: “We obviously were missing several players through injury and we decided to play with wingers and a target man.

“But when you lose one of the wingers after only a few minutes, you have to change everything you have planned.

“And then when you lose a full back in Josemi, it means you must change again and end up with Steve Finnan forced to full back and again no winger to help the target man.”

Defender Sami Hyypia was riled by the failure of the officials to spot Saviola’s handball last night.

Yet he too sees reason for optimism.

Hyypia said: “I do not know where this game is going because the referee said to me that he saw the handball but he felt the arm was close to the body.

“I don’t know about that, the ball was handled. If he had said to me that he did not see it then, fair enough, you can’t see everything. But he did not say that, it was a big disappointment to lose a game like that.

“We now know we need to win at home and that will get us through against Olympiacos. We can do it.

“We need to score early, we must go at them. It is what we did a couple of years ago in a similar situation when we needed to beat Roma. Hopefully we can do that again.”

The Roma match took place in March in 2002. It was Gerard Houllier’s first match back in charge after illness and the requisite 2-0 win was achieved through goals by Emile Heskey and Jari Litmanen.

“That was an unbelievable night, now it is up to us to give the fans enjoyment and the result they want again,” said Hyypia.

“The atmosphere was very good at that time, I remember the game well. I was very close to Emile Heskey when he scored and the stadium just exploded.

“Hopefully we can do that again. With that sort of support anything is achievable.”

Gerrard’s return from injury was the only plus point from last night.

He will require more games to build up his fitness, but by the date of the Olympiacos match – December 8 – he should be raring to go.

By that time, youngster Neil Mellor might also have bedded down in the team.

Making his first European start last night, Mellor often looked out of his depth, with his lack of pace all too obvious.

But Mellor said: “It was frustrating being up front on my own, a hard night’s work. It was unfortunate that it was a handball that decided the game.

“We were holding them, it was comfortable and then the referee does not see the incident or give us the decision. It changed the game, they win and now qualification for us is a lot more difficult.

“A point would have been a good result in the circumstances going into the last match with Olympiacos, and we are very disappointed with the way it happened.

“But we are at home now and Anfield can be crucial for us.

“I was delighted that the manager gave me my chance, I would have liked to see a bit more of the ball and been able to keep it in their half a bit longer.

“It’s difficult playing in the Champions League but it was good experience for me.”

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