Cissé's broken leg intensifies Benitez's striker shortage

Blackburn Rovers 2 - Liverpool 2
Click to follow
The Independent Football

The striker shortage that has threatened from the outset to critically undermine Liverpool's season may be about to deal a fatal wound to their Champions' League ambitions following Djibril Cissé's misfortune at Ewood Park.

The striker shortage that has threatened from the outset to critically undermine Liverpool's season may be about to deal a fatal wound to their Champions' League ambitions following Djibril Cissé's misfortune at Ewood Park.

The 23-year-old will miss the remainder of the season after suffering a double leg break on Saturday, turning shortage into crisis for Rafael Benitez's team. Ewood is not a happy ground for Liverpool, who lost Milan Baros with a broken ankle and Jamie Carragher with a broken leg there last season. Now they are likely to face Deportivo la Coruña on Wednesday - a match Benitez really needs to win to keep alive his hopes of progressing beyond the first phase - with only two front men, Baros and the unproven Neil Mellor, fit and available. The 20-year-old, Florent Sinama-Pongolle, missed Saturday's match with calf and shin injuries.

How Benitez must wish he had Michael Owen limbering up at Melwood this morning. He has been linked with Real Madrid's Fernando Morientes and Miguel Mista, both of whom have played for him before, but nothing can happen on that front until January.

In the meantime, two weeks after being held to a frustrating draw by Deportivo at Anfield, Benitez is acutely aware that his first trip to his homeland since taking over at Liverpool must realistically end in victory.

At a stadium where the home side has lost six times in 30 Champions' League games, however, that looks a mightily difficult proposition.

"We know how difficult it is to go there," Benitez said. "I found it difficult to get results there with Valencia, but so did Real Madrid, everybody does.

"But the only thought in our mind is taking the three points."

At least the erratic Baros is in a degree of form. Always a threat to a Blackburn defence that has leaked goals heavily of late, Baros scored Liverpool's second equaliser, his seventh goal this season.

Saturday's result, however, gave more satisfaction to Blackburn's Mark Hughes than to Benitez. John Arne Riise gave Liverpool an early lead but poor defending allowed Jay Bothroyd to equalise and Brett Emerton to put Blackburn ahead before half-time. On both occasions Paul Dickov, 32 today, made key contributions.

"We were taking on one of the better sides in the league and we did not look out of place," Hughes said. "We were excellent from start to finish."

Hughes had only sympathy for Cissé, whose injury was sustained in a blameless tangle with Blackburn's young defender, Jay McEveley. Fears that the damage could be as severe as that which ended the career of Coventry's David Busst in 1996 may prove unfounded, but the young Frenchman still faces a long rehabilitation.

Goals: Riise (7) 0-1; Bothroyd (16) 1-1; Emerton (45) 2-1; Baros (54) 2-2.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Friedel; Neill, Short, Johansson, McEveley; Reid, Tugay, Ferguson, Emerton; Dickov, Bothroyd (Stead 65). Substitutes not used: Flitcroft, Enkelman (gk), Djorkaeff, Todd.

Liverpool (4-4-2): Kirkland; Josemi, Carragher, Hyypia, Traoré; Finnan (Kewell 55), Hamann (Diao 81), Alonso, Riise; Baros, Cissé (Luis Garcia 38). Substitutes not used: Dudek (gk), Warnock.

Referee: R Styles (Hampshire).

Booked: Blackburn: Tugay, Stead. Liverpool: Josemi.

Man of the match: Dickov.

Attendance: 26,314.

Broken dreams: Reds' Ewood jinx

Djibril Cissé's broken leg was the third serious injury to befall Liverpool at Ewood Park in consecutive Premiership matches. In September 2003, Liverpool's 3-1 victory was marred by Milan Baros's broken ankle in the second minute. A late tackle from Lucas Neill 11 minutes later broke Jamie Carragher's leg. The Blackburn player was sent off.

Comments