ANFIELD ONLINE MATCH REPORT
Peter Crouch's goal drought goes from bad to worse. It's now 19 games for club and country since he found the back of the net and you had to feel sorry for the giant striker as he toiled manfully to change his luck.
But he could not even score from the spot, Jamie Ashdown saving his first-half penalty before Bolo Zenden saved the day by heading home the rebound.
Liverpool though, with Crouch getting plenty of support from the home fans for his ceaseless work, cruised to victory with further goals from Djibril Cisse and Fernando Morientes.
Crouch got a sympathetic ovation from the Kop at the end and turned to spot his family in the main stand and raised both arms in despair. That he left the field with a broad smile on his face shows that he is not cracking under the pressure.
Neither are Liverpool. This was their fourth successive victory, without conceding a goal, and sets them up nicely for Wednesday's Champions League clash with Real Betis.
But it's not so good for Pompey boss Alain Perrin, under severe pressure now to keep his job.
With his own fans chanting "you don't know what you're doing," his time will surely soon be up at Fratton Park.
Rafael Benitez selected a team with last week's internationals and next Wednesday's Champions League clash with Real Betis in mind.
Xabi Alonso, Harry Kewell, Morientes and John Arne Riise - all involved in World Cup play-offs - were rested with Dietmar Hamann, Stephen Warnock, Bolo Zenden and Peter Crouch all playing after not being in the starting line-up for the last match at Aston Villa.
Portsmouth also made changes with Laurent Robert, Lomana Lualua, Andy O'Brien and John Viafara returning to the side beaten by Wigan last time out.
Liverpool reverted to a 4-4-2 formation with skipper Steven Gerrard back in the centre of midfield, with Zenden and Luis Garcia wide.
Getting the ball into the box was the clear message, with Crouch the obvious target. And after a Hamann shot was deflected wide, he almost broke his duck. Gerrard's corner fizzed into the area and Crouch met it firmly 12 yards out only to see Ashdown make a stunning reflex save with his left hand.
Luis Garcia at this point was little more than a passenger after taking a bang in the ribs. He was hobbling around when referee Peter Walton awarded a penalty on 22 minutes after Zenden had slipped the ball past Andy Griffin in the box and gone down when his run was blocked by the full back.
Up stepped a determined Crouch take the spotkick, but crucially he had to wait while Morientes replaced Luis Garcia. With the Kop willing him to score, Crouch saw his spot kick saved by Ashdown, but the ball bounced up for Zenden to rush in and head Liverpool into the lead.
With Pompey still angry with what had looked a soft spotkick, Liverpool needed to reshuffle with Cisse now out on the right and Morientes partnering Crouch in the centre.
Pompey were even more annoyed soon after when it looked like John Viafara was impeded by Warnock in the box but the official waved away appeals.
Ashdown then came to Portsmouth rescue again when he made another impressive save from a Morientes header before Viafara then went down again in the box as he raced for a Robert cross, again Warnock looking to have made contact with the big midfielder, but again referee Walton waved play on.
The luck was not with Pompey but Liverpool were in no mood for mercy and went further ahead on 39 minutes when Hamann's ball out to the right sent Cisse surging past Vignal and hitting a first time cross-cum-shot that soared over Ashdown and into the far corner of the net.
The Frenchman took the acclaim but the effort looked more of a cross than a genuine attempt to chip the keeper from that sort of acute angle.
Crouch tried an overhead kick, then mishit close in after Morientes had set him up before racing onto a back heel from the Spanish star only to see Ashdown producing a flying save from his ferocious 18 yarder.
Liverpool sent on Alonso for Cisse and Hamann got himself booked for a foul on Viafara before Steve Finnan reminded the Kop that the game was not over by clearing off the line from Brian Priske.
Perrin sent on Giannis Skopelitis for Richard Hughes but it made no difference to Liverpool's dominance.
If Crouch had not been able to break his own duck, he created the third for Morientes by soaring at the far post to head a Gerrard cross down for Sami Hyypia to get a touch before Morientes turned the ball home from close range.(Back to top)
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|Match Report filed: 19 November 2005|