Liver­pool lifted by Riera fac­tor claims Hyypia

Daily Express - - FOOTBALL: BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE - By Paul Joyce

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

winning.”

OP­TI­MIST: Sami Hyypia feels this could be a sea­son to cel­e­brate

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