IF LIVERPOOL stand guilty of being a soft touch in recent seasons, Sunday’s Rotterdam ruck was maybe evidence of a new steely determination among the Anfield ranks.
A feisty friendly with Feyenoord boiled over a minute from time when Steven Gerrard and Royston Drenthe clashed to prompt a flare-up involving all 22 players.
In total, six of the nine players booked on the night were wearing Liverpool’s new black European away kit, with the visitors riled by some dubious officiating and an overly-physical Dutch outfit.
Gerrard was perhaps fortunate to only be cautioned for his part in the melee after shoving Theo Lucius in the face.
But the skipper reckons the competitive nature of the fixture was an ideal preparation for their Premier League opener at Aston Villa on Saturday.
“The game was exactly what you want a week before the start of the season,” said Gerrard.
“You want an intense, close game and we certainly got that and we’re now looking to the Premier League kick-off.
“We’re pleased with the way things have gone in pre-season, now we just want to get a good week’s training in and make sure that we get off to a flyer against Aston Villa on Saturday.
“We were the best side against Feyenoord without a doubt and were the only team that wanted to win the game. We put them under a lot of pressure in the second half and eventually the goal came.
“We can take a lot of positives from the match. There was a lot of good movement and some good attacking play.”
Liverpool regularly feature among the Premier League’s most disciplined teams, but Xabi Alonso – who was also booked at the weekend and actually accrued 13 yellow cards last season – sees nothing wrong in Benitez’s side standing up for themselves as they did in Rotterdam.
“Both teams wanted to win the game, they were in front of their own crowd and sometimes it’s good to feel that sense of competition,” said the Spaniard.
“It all adds to the preparation. It was a similar situation with the Ajax versus Arsenal game on Saturday, and shows the players are now ready for the start of the season.
“It was a good test for us. We always try to be aggressive, but that doesn’t mean kicking people or giving away silly fouls. You never want to get silly yellow cards, but if you show controlled aggression in your game it’s a good quality.
“When players have been together for a few years, you become more of a team and whenever a little problem arises, as it can do during the season, it’s good that everyone wants to show we’re all there for each other. We’re not an overly aggressive team, so no-one wants to go too far, of course.”
Alonso added: “Now we’re just looking forward to start of the Premiership next weekend.
“We should not look too far ahead this season, but think only about the next game every week and then see where that takes us.”