FOOTBALL: Baros Secures Reds Win, but Can He Silence His Doubters? LIVERPOOL 3 Baros 23 Pen, 45, 90 Pen CRYSTAL PALACE 2 Kolkka 45, Hughes 52

Daily Post (Liverpool, England), November 15, 2004 | Go to article overview

FOOTBALL: Baros Secures Reds Win, but Can He Silence His Doubters? LIVERPOOL 3 Baros 23 Pen, 45, 90 Pen CRYSTAL PALACE 2 Kolkka 45, Hughes 52


Byline: IAN DOYLE at Anfield

MENTION the name Milan Baros among Liverpool supporters and it tends to prompt the kind of debate usually the preserve of theplayers' tunnel at Old Trafford. To some, he is the single-minded, crowdpleasing, goals coring striker the Reds need. To others, he's an exasperating presence whose reticence to pass borders on the pathological and renders him a liability. And to a few, he's an annoyance who likes to fall to ground too easily.

Certainly, there can be few Liverpool players of recent vintage with the ability to provoke such passionate discourse.

And all the above parties were left with moments to ponder on Saturday after Baros inspired a lack lustre home side to a much-needed victory over Crystal Palace with his first career hat-trick, thanks to two penalties and a free-kick which he himself had earned.

That's 10 goals in 18 games so far this season for the Czech striker, whose exploits on the international stage -- and the form which made him the top scorer at Euro 2004 during the summer -- are at last now being replicated at club level.

It further cemented his place as an Anfield crowd favourite, but his display again raised questions over his suitability to the style of play Rafael Benitez is attempting to enforce on his Liverpool side -- not least from Benitez himself. And while it does seem churlish to criticise a player who was far and away the most outstanding performer on the field, Baros would be wise to heed the words of caution emanating from his manager.

That tendency to put his head down and not be aware of his team-mates continues to infuriate, and better defences than Palace's will no doubt be content to guide Baros towards dead ends and away from goal, where his dribbling and direct running poses much less threat.

Efficiency and teamwork are bedrocks of Benitez's philosophy, and with a little more wit and canny decision-making Baros could harness his talents and pace to even more devastating effect, and with it perhaps ensure a place as a key component in the Spaniard's future thinking.

Baros was simply too good on Saturday for a Palace defence that ultimately paid the price for resorting to foul means to stop the marauding forward.

The first goal of his memorable hat-trick came midway through the first half. A fine Reds move culminated with Xabi Alonso's ball forward being back heeled by Dietmar Hamann into the path of Baros, who burst into the area only to be fouled by Mikele Leigertwood. A clear penalty, Baros sent the pyjama-panted Palace goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly the wrong way from the spot.

The second came on the stroke of half-time, seconds after Palace had unexpectedly equalised. Baros was decked on the halfway line by a late challenge from Palace goals corer Joonas Kolkka -- who was booked for imitating what he thought was a dive from the Liverpool man. The Czech was on hand to force the ball home from six yards out after Alonso's clever set-piece delivery was volleyed across goal by Harry Kewell.

In between, Baros was unfortunate not to be awarded another penalty when he was felled from behind by Emmerson Boyce following a neat piece of skill, but he was not to be denied again in the final minute.

Palace possession was broken up and as Liverpool stormed forward in search of the winner, Kewell slipped a neat pass through to Baros who drew the challenge of Tony Popovic to earn another stonewall penalty.

Resisting the advances of his team-mates to take the spot-kick, Baros assumed responsibility and showed great temperament in firing home past Kiraly, despite the goalkeeper getting a hand to the ball. Relief and delight merged as the striker gleefully celebrated in front of the Kop with the kind of exuberance that these days merits a booking.

With Djibril Cisse injured and experienced striking options in short supply at least until January, Benitez has little option but to turn to Baros as his solitary senior striker. …

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FOOTBALL: Baros Secures Reds Win, but Can He Silence His Doubters? LIVERPOOL 3 Baros 23 Pen, 45, 90 Pen CRYSTAL PALACE 2 Kolkka 45, Hughes 52
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