Wednesday 21st July 2004 (7.45pm)
The Racecourse Ground, Wrexham

Djibril Cisse makes his Reds debut

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Benitez record: Played 1 Won 1
MATCH REPORT - Wrexham 1-2 Liverpool

» Goals

Hector Sam 19
Le Tallac 23
Le Tallac 78

» Match Report

A goal in each half from French youngster Anthony Le Tallec gave Rafael Benitez a winning start to his new Anfield regime in Liverpool's first friendly of the pre-season.

The new coach used 21 players in a match watched by 14,978 - raising £160,000 for cash-strapped Wrexham in the process - as he eased himself into the Liverpool hot-seat.

Djibril Cisse made his debut in the first half when Hector Sam put Wrexham ahead, before Le Tallec turned things around.

Cisse went off at half-time and a virtually new Liverpool side took over, with Florent Sinama-Pongolle's pace and trickery the key to what was a low-key friendly win.

The Merseysiders will now fly to the USA to continue their pre-season preparations.

Wrexham are not quite in the same league, having flown back from a tournament on the Isle of Man, where they played, and now returning to play again on Friday,

But they gave a good account of themselves in a match watched by 14,979 and raising £160,000 for the cash-strapped Welsh club.

Benitez opted not to bring any of his Euro 2004 stars to the Racecourse, and that meant Owen was not on show despite firm claims that he wanted to play in this first Liverpool friendly of the season.

The Spanish coach clearly wanted to see the fringe men, players he had already said would have something to prove to him.

Igor Biscan played in midfield along with young John Welsh, Le Tallec featured up front and French central defender Carl Medjani was also given a run.

Wrexham looked quicker and more assured and pushed forward through Darren Ferguson's promptings.

Twice Sami Hyypia had to snuff out decent chances for Welsh international Chris Llewellyn and on 20 minutes the Welsh club took the lead.

Ferguson's ball in from the left was headed on by the giant Dennis Lawrence and Sam belted the ball high into the net from close range.

That clearly woke Liverpool up and they were level four minutes later when Biscan's 20-yard shot was touched onto a post by Andy Dibble at full stretch, but the veteran keeper could do nothing to stop Le Tallec tapping home the rebound.

Cisse, too, started to show his class with a juggling act and overhead kick followed almost instantly by a curling effort with the outside of his foot that just cleared the far post. He then unleashed a 25-yarder from a tapped free-kick that Dibble held to his right.

But there was still hesitancy in Liverpool's defence and Brian Carey almost put Wrexham ahead again when he lunged in at a Ferguson corner undetected, to lift a shot over the bar from 12 yards.

Then Simon Spender sliced wide after tenacious work from Sam left him unmarked in the box.

The new Spanish coaching regime was soon evident with the players doing a half-time warm down round the pitch and the rest of the squad being put through their paces by Benitez's staff.

And Benitez made 10 half-time substitutions, only Le Tallec surviving as some of the youngsters were given a chance. By contrast Wrexham just replaced Steve Roberts with Shaun Pejic.

And Liverpool opened with Sinama-Pongolle breaking through only to be thwarted by Dibble's dive at his feet.

The little French ace then went on a high-speed run through the heart of the Wrexham defence before shooting wide. His next involvement was to set up Robbie Foy for a shot Dibble saved.

Sinama-Pongolle should have scored when he clipped a close-range effort over, but his 75th-minute run set up the second for his countryman Le Tallec.

Sinama-Pongolle cut through at high speed and slipped a neat pass to his left for Le Tallec to clip into the far corner.

Ferguson almost levelled with a dipping 20-yard free kick with five minutes left, but the ball just cleared the bar.

Press Association

» Teams

Liverpool (1st Half) Kirkland, Finnan, Traore, Hyypia, Medjani, Biscan, Welsh, Murphy, Cisse, Kewell, Le Tallec.

Liverpool (2nd Half) Dudek, Diao, Whitbread, Warnock, Riise, Raven, Potter, Pongolle, Otsemobor, Foy, Le Tallec.

Att: 14,978

Ref: n/a

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The Daily Mirror

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Match Report filed: 21st July 2004