Hyypia set on Wembley final debut

Liverpool defender targets place in Carling Cup final after Reds see off battling Crewe at Anfield
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The Independent Online

The Liverpool defender Sami Hyypia has one eye on a first appearance at Wembley after he helped the Reds secure a place in the last 16 of the Carling Cup. The 34-year-old put in an assured performance at the heart of Liverpool's defence as they ran out 2-1 winners over Crewe at Anfield.

Daniel Agger and Lucas got on the scoresheet but the margin of victory should have been greater for Rafael Benitez's side, who were let down by poor finishing and some superb saves by Crewe goalkeeper Steve Collis. Hyypia, who captained the side against Crewe, won the trophy in 2001 and 2003 and was a finalist in 2005 but all of the games were played at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

He said: "I have not played at Wembley so for me personally, to go there and get a game would be great. Crewe made it difficult but that's what you are always going to get against a lower division side – they fight until the end and that's what happened. Maybe we could have played a bit better in the second half but it was a tough match and in the end we have to be happy to go through.

"It was a good battle and I'm happy because maybe the League Cup is a competition in which I will play, so I'm very happy we got through to the next round and hopefully it will mean another game for me."

Finland international Hyypia was impressed with central defensive partner Agger and midfielder Lucas with both players giving Benitez a reminder of their abilities ahead of the Merseyside derby at the weekend. "It was a great goal from Daniel, everybody knows he can strike the ball well and it was a perfect effort," Hyypia added. "It's good if you can score from every department on the pitch – that's very important. Lucas scored a good goal too and hopefully it will give him confidence for the future."

Jermaine Pennant is hopeful he can force his way back into contention for a regular place in Liverpool's starting line-up after an impressive performance. Pennant was a constant menace on the right flank and delivered the cross for Lucas to score the winner. The 25-year-old winger had been linked with a move away from Anfield before the transfer window closed but is now determined to fight for his place.

Pennant said: "It is very frustrating to know that you've been such a big part of the team and all of a sudden you are in the shadows but that's the manager's choice and you just have to get on with it. If you get your chance you have to make the most of it and when teams come to Anfield it's their cup final so it can be difficult.

"We have got a lot of strength in the squad which is why it is so hard to get in the team so I'll keep plugging away and see what happens. It was nice to play a game. It gives us another chance to play another game and if the draw is good we can go further."

Rafael Benitez confirmed that Philipp Degen was withdrawn after he broke two ribs in the match and was replaced by Jamie Carragher. Benitez also admitted he was pleased to give the emerging talents of Emiliano Insua, Nabil El Zhar and Damien Plessis a chance to shine at Anfield.

"It was good to see some young players and it is important for their confidence," Benitez said. "Clearly to see how the young players do against stronger players is very important and also to see how they perform against these types of teams. I think that we have a lot of young players who did well today – their work-rate was good. They competed really well, it was a good test and it also allows us to rest some of the senior players."

The former Liverpool youth team defender Danny O'Donnell lined up for Crewe and was ecstatic to finally play in a "serious" fixture at Anfield. The 22-year-old never made a competitive first-team appearance for the Reds and moved to Gresty Road initially on loan in August 2006 before the move was made permanent four months later.

"It was an awesome night – from the final whistle and having 'You'll Never Walk Alone' sung by a packed Kop, to the way we played was brilliant," O'Donnell said. "It was nice for me to see some old faces and I thought I did quite well, especially when you see the calibre of players we were up against.

"I must admit the heart raced a bit when I saw [Fernando] Torres coming on and then Robbie Keane. They are top-quality players and to play against them is something I will never forget. Now we have to get our feet quickly on the floor and we start preparing for Bristol Rovers this weekend. We have got to take the positives from this game and start to grind out some clean sheets in the league."

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