Liverpool lifted by Riera factor claims Hyypia
SAMI HYYPIA is better placed than most to pass judgment on Liverpool’s championship prospects, having witnessed more false dawns at Anfield than he cares to remember.
Yet, as he approaches a decade of unstinting service on Merseyside, veteran defender Hyypia detects something different about his team-mates that he believes can underpin their pursuit of that elusive first title since 1990.
If the victories over Manchester United and Chelsea this season have dispelled the myth that Liverpool are reliant solely upon stars such as Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres for inspiration, then Hyypia also points to the strength of character Rafa Benitez’s side has displayed during an unbeaten start to the season as further cause for optimism.
“The difference from the previous seasons I have been here is that in the summer we made some good signings that have settled very well straight away into the team,” said Hyypia, in reference to the instant impact Spanish winger Albert Riera has had since signing from Espanyol.
“We also have a lot of competition for places, which is something we haven’t maybe had as much of in past seasons.
“And this season maybe we are a bit stronger mentally, too. You only have to look at the way in which we have won some games to see that. Every year, it seems to be becoming more and more difficult to be on top, what with the other teams strengthening their squads. But so far, so good and hopefully we can keep on going as we have done.”
The victory over Portsmouth on Wednesday has underlined Liverpool’s determination that this will be their season, having spent too many recent campaigns watching the title race reach a breathless conclusion from afar.
It was a win which owed more to patience and perseverance than the panache they displayed at Stamford Bridge last Sunday in shattering Chelsea’s 86-match unbeaten home run, but illustrated a versatility that was amply rewarded with Gerrard’s late spot-kick.
“The result is always more important than how you play. At the beginning of the season there were some games in which we didn’t perform brilliantly, but we got the result,” said Hyypia, a runner-up to Arsenal during Gerard Houllier’s reign in 2002.
“If come May we are at the top of the league, then nobody will remember that we played bad football at the beginning of the season. They’ll just remember that we kept on getting the points, and the result is more important than how you get it.
“It was important to keep the momentum going after our win at Chelsea. After the win over United, we played Stoke and everybody expected us to win, but we slipped up by being held to a goalless draw. So we had to make sure we didn’t allow it to happen again on Wednesday.
“It is still early days so we will keep our feet on the ground and take it game by game, put in the performances and just try to keep
OPTIMIST: Sami Hyypia feels this could be a season to celebrate