Saturday, April 14, 2012


Andy Carroll's late header sent Liverpool through to the FA Cup final as they came from behind to beat Everton at Wembley.
Nikica Jelavic took advantage of a mix-up between Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger to give Everton the lead midway through the first half - but an Everton defensive error just after the hour gave the Reds a route back to their second major Wembley final this season.
Sylvain Distin's backpass never carried the weight to reach Everton keeper Tim Howard and Luis Suarez was only too happy to take advantage to race through and score.
And with three minutes left Carroll - who had missed the easiest of chances early in the second half - glanced substitute Craig Bellamy's free-kick past Howard to give Liverpool the chance to add the FA Cup to the Carling Cup they won on penalties against Cardiff.
Liverpool last reached the FA Cup final in 2006 when they beat West Ham
Manager Kenny Dalglish has had his problems in the Premier League, with director of football Damien Comolli paying the price when he left the club on Thursday, but cup competitions have sustained Liverpool's season after heavy investment last summer.
And if Liverpool can claim another domestic trophy when they face either Chelsea or Tottenham at Wembley next month it will provide an answer to the Scot's critics.
For Everton manager David Moyes, who gave the dejected Distin a consoling pat as he left the Wembley pitch, this will be a moment of bitter disappointment as his side failed to produce the form they have displayed in recent weeks.
Liverpool were forced to field third-choice keeper Brad Jones with Pepe Reina and Alex Doni suspended but - the dangerous Jelavic apart - Everton were never able to apply enough pressure to test the Australian.
The minute's silence in memory of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster was perfectly observed before the match began, before both sides had early opportunities to gain the advantage.
Carroll found space in the Everton area to set up Jay Spearing, who took his time but fired well off target from 15 yards.
Everton's response was a free-kick from Leighton Baines that landed on the roof the net after Agger had clumsily hauled Jelavic to the ground.
It was the Blues who went ahead after 24 minutes thanks to a calamitous piece of defending from Liverpool involving Agger and Carragher.
The pair hesitated over a routine clearance, forcing Carragher to lash the ball against Tim Cahill and into the path of Jelavic, who scored with the composure that has become his trademark since his January move from Rangers.
Liverpool needed to move through the gears but Carroll was guilty of an astonishing miss just moments into the second half. The striker only appeared to have to make contact with Stewart Downing's cross to score but headed wide, to the obvious anguish of Dalglish.
Dalglish's side were applying most of the pressure, but it still took another defensive gift for Suarez to equalise after 62 minutes. Distin's backpass fell well short of Howard, leaving the Uruguayan to race clear and finish under pressure from John Heitinga.
Everton were deflated after the concession of such a cheap goal and Carroll almost put Liverpool ahead with 13 minutes left, pulling a shot inches wide from 18 yards.
Jelavic had been a constant threat and he was again the danger man with an angled drive that flew into the side-netting before a goalmouth scramble ended with Carroll again unable to apply the finishing touch.
Carroll's persistence was finally rewarded in the closing minutes.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012



Wigan gave their survival hopes a massive boost with a first-ever win at Anfield as Liverpool's desperate run of league form continued.
Shaun Maloney fired the visitors ahead from the spot but his goal was cancelled out by Luis Suarez, finishing crisply from Steven Gerrard's pass.
The Uruguayan had a goal disallowed for handball before Gary Caldwell stunned the home crowd with a neat finish.
The defeat was Liverpool's fifth in their last six Premier League games.
The scoreline, and alarmingly flat performance, will increase the pressure on manager Kenny Dalglish, who has constantly insisted that the club are making progress this season.

For Wigan and their manager Roberto Martinez, the victory was crucial to their chances of beating the drop, taking them level on points with 18th-placed QPR, within one point of safety.
The Latics refused to be overawed by their more celebrated opponents and were good value for just their second win in 14 league games.
After a cagey start, Wigan fashioned the first clear opening as Victor Moses cut in sharply from the right and worked space for a shot, but his effort was blocked by Martin Skrtel.
Liverpool dominated possession in the early stages but lacked any conviction or subtlety in the final third, their growing frustration encapsulated in an angry exchange between Luis Suarez and Stewart Downing.
After 26 minutes, the home side finally worked a chance as a Suarez flick put Downing into space inside the box, but his low strike fizzed past the post.
Moments later, Wigan were awarded a penalty as Liverpool failed to clear a free-kick and, when the ball was returned to the box, Skrtel was penalised for a high challenge on Moses.
After a delay for Moses to receive treatment, Maloney kept his composure to expertly tuck home his first goal for the club.
The goal sparked an improvement in Liverpool's play and Wigan goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi was the busiest man on the pitch for the remainder of the half.
First he dived to his left to save a curling Suarez shot from outside the area, and then he reacted sharply to keep out a deflected Gerrard drive.
Dalglish brought on Andy Carroll at half-time and the Reds were soon on level terms as Skrtel and Suarez worked some space on the right for Gerrard, who squared for the Uruguayan to finish neatly.
Shortly afterwards, Suarez was celebrating again after bundling home Skrtel's far post header.

But the goal was ruled out after referee Lee Mason consulted his assistant, replays appearing to confirm that the striker - who was booked - had used his hand to turn the ball in.
Having believed momentarily that they were ahead, Liverpool were soon behind as Wigan conjured a goal out of nothing.
James McCarthy's drive deflected off Jamie Carragher into the path of Caldwell, who turned inside Carroll and lashed past Pepe Reina.
A near-silent Anfield looked on in disbelief as a rag-tag Liverpool struggled to mount any sort of fightback.
Bereft of alternatives, Dalglish turned to 17-year-old winger Raheem Sterling, who replaced Dirk Kuyt to become the club's third youngest debutant.
But Liverpool's main tactic was to hoist long balls towards Carroll, an ineffective ploy until the giant striker's flick-on found Suarez, whose low drive was easily kept out by Al Habsi at his near post

Monday, March 19, 2012


Stewart Downing produced the most telling contribution of his Liverpool career to fire the Anfield club past Stoke and into the FA Cup semi-finals.
Luis Suarez gave the hosts the lead with a curling 20-yard strike after a one-two with Maxi Rodriguez.
But Peter Crouch's header from a corner earned Stoke a deserved equaliser.
The Reds picked up the pace and were rewarded when Downing drilled a shot past Thomas Sorensen to book a Wembley date with either Everton or Sunderland.
Liverpool's victory fully justified Kenny Dalglish's pre-match assertion that the club are making progress under his stewardship despite an inconsistent Premier League campaign.

And the Reds are now two Wembley wins away from a cup double in the Scot's first full season since returning to the club where he enjoyed success after success as a player and manager between 1977 and 1991.
Stoke, runners-up last season, fully deserved to be level at half-time after a combative display full of energy and purpose, but after Downing's intervention they never really looked likely to fashion an equaliser.
Liverpool's early attacks lacked finesse, with several final balls going astray until Suarez decided to take matters into his own hands.
Running with the ball towards the heart of the Stoke defence, he exchanged passes with Maxi and curled a delightful shot into the bottom corner.
Stoke responded with a sustained offensive on the Liverpool goal that swiftly produced an equaliser as Crouch shrugged off the attentions of Andy Carroll and headed a Matthew Etherington corner past Pepe Reina.
The home goalkeeper was booked for protesting in the aftermath, with replays showing that a goal-kick, rather than a corner, should have been awarded.
With Liverpool's passing devoid of the fluency that marked the recent home displays against Arsenal and Everton, Stoke came closest to taking the lead before half-time.
Dean Whitehead's slide-rule pass put Jonathan Walters in behind the Reds defence on the right but his powerful shot flew well wide of the near post.
Liverpool began the second half on the front foot as Gerrard tested Sorensen from long range and a Suarez header from a Downing free-kick fizzed across goal.
Then came Downing's moment, as he burst into the box from the right flank and, after benefiting from a deflection off Gerrard's heel, smashed a left-footed shot back across Sorensen and into the net.
Despite the introduction of fresh legs, Stoke struggled to cope with wave after wave of Liverpool attacks.
Substitute Dirk Kuyt stung the palms of Sorensen from long-range before Jay Spearing blazed over the bar from a promising position.
Substitute Cameron Jerome wasted Stoke's best opening when he raced beyond the Liverpool defence but hesitated, allowing Martin Kelly time to get back and block his shot.
Rory Delap's long throws caused one or two nervy moments during six minutes of added-time but the Liverpool defence, marshalled by Jamie Carragher, held on.

Friday, March 16, 2012


Steven Gerrard's hat-trick ensured there was no happy 10th anniversary for Everton manager David Moyes as Liverpool eased to a comfortable victory in the Merseyside derby at Anfield.
Gerrard scored in the first half and then twice more after the break - including one in the final minute - to earn Liverpool their biggest win against Everton in nine years and ensure Moyes remains without an away derby win in his decade in charge at Goodison Park.
It was also the first hat-trick in a Merseyside derby since Ian Rush scored four in the Reds' 5-0 win at Goodison Park in 1982, and the first at Anfield since Fred Howe achieved the feat for Liverpool in 1935.
The hosts never looked in any danger of a fourth successive Premier League defeat while Everton's much-changed side looked totally incapable of extending their unbeaten run in all competitions to 10 matches.
Gerrard produced contrasting finishes of delicate touch and power to prevent the visitors securing their first win at Anfield since 1999, a result that would have seen them leapfrog Kenny Dalglish's side in the Premier League table.
He was the inspiration, in tandem with Luis Suarez, for a Liverpool performance that carried the vibrancy and rhythm that has been missing from so many of their displays since the turn of the year, despite their Carling Cup victory.

Blues boss Moyes appeared to be aiming a glance in the direction of Saturday's FA Cup quarter-final at home to Sunderland with six changes that saw striker Nikica Jelavic, the match-winner against Tottenham, left on the bench along with captain Phil Neville, Tim Cahill, John Heitinga and Leon Osman.
Dalglish restored Gerrard to Liverpool's starting line-up and paired Andy Carroll with Suarez - then saw his captain and Uruguayan striker emerge as central figures in the opening 45 minutes. It took a fine fingertip save from visiting keeper Tim Howard to stop Gerrard as he surged into the area in the opening minutes and even better follow-up tackle from Jack Rodwell to block Jordan Henderson as he tried to turn in the rebound.
Everton's response came from their most creative area of the pitch as Leighton Baines fashioned an opening that Steven Pienaar drove wastefully high into The Kop.

Howard came to his side's rescue again to block from Suarez as he continued to pose problems with his movement and running.
Liverpool made the breakthrough 11 minutes before the interval, just as their neighbours had finally started to exert a measure of control. Gerrard, inevitably, was the man responsible.
Howard saved Martin Kelly's low shot but Gerrard collected the loose ball and had the vision and touch to lift his shot over Everton's keeper and a collection of retreating defenders into the net.
And any hopes Everton had of making a recovery nose-dived six minutes after the restart when Suarez weaved his way into the area and delivered an invitation Gerrard was never going to refuse as he thumped a finish high past Howard in front of an exultant Kop.

Liverpool scented further possibilities, with Carroll shooting just wide and the stretching Kelly only inches away from making a connection in the area with Howard exposed once more.
The visitors' threats had been isolated but Jose Enrique was forced to make a crucial clearance as Rodwell's shot rolled towards goal.
It was the signal for Moyes to send on Jelavic, Leon Osman and Royston Drenthe for Victor Anichebe, Seamus Coleman and Denis Stracqualursi. For Everton, however, there was too much ground to make up.
Moyes's men were reduced to damage limitation but Gerrard was determined to have the final word. And so it proved in the dying seconds, with Suarez once again the provider as he opened up the Blues defence before setting up Gerrard for a simple finish.
Attention will now turn to this weekend's FA Cup quarter-finals when Everton face Sunderland and Liverpool play Stoke. Moyes will hope his ploy of resting key personnel works as his revamped side was outplayed here with ease.


Liverpool's faltering league form continued as they were beaten by a determined and dogged Sunderland side.
After a forgettable first half, the Black Cats took the lead when a Fraizer Campbell shot rebounded off the post and keeper Pepe Reina's head, before Nicklas Bendtner side-footed in.

Liverpool brought on Steven Gerrard and Andy Carroll but to no avail.
Sunderland sat back and protected their lead against a Reds side which failed to come close to an equaliser.
Liverpool may have won the Carling Cup two weeks ago but a top-four place - and Champions League football - seems far from their grasp after just one league win from their last eight outings.
The gap between the Merseysiders in seventh position and fourth-placed Arsenal is now 10 points - while they are eight points closer to the bottom of the table than they are the top.
The victory moves Sunderland two points behind Liverpool - and ended a run of one point from nine going into the game.
Sunderland's pressure and positional discipline provided a tough challenge for a Reds side that rarely provided the guile and invention to show they were capable of breaking down their hosts.

Instead, Liverpool were drawn into a fractious affair against a Black Cats team which refused to allow them to get into any type of stride.
Both goalkeepers were hardly in action before Sunderland stopper Simon Mignolet was eventually tested.
The Belgian spread himself to block an acute-angled shot from Liverpool forward Luis Suarez, before palming over an inswinging Charlie Adam free-kick.
The defining moment of the match was then provided by Sunderland when Bendtner scored a winner typical of the bizarre nature of goals that seems to mark fixtures between the two sides.
Sunderland won at the Stadium of Light two seasons ago courtesy of a goal from Darren Bent that bounced off a beach ball, while Liverpool defeated Sunderland when they pounced on a free-kick by Michael Turner, which the defender said he had not taken in September 2010.

This time around Bendtner seized his chance after Campbell's shot had hit the post, rebounded on to Reina's head and then back on to the post before falling for the Sunderland striker to score.
The goal gave the home side something to protect and, despite missing key players Lee Cattermole, Stephane Sessegnon and Kieran Richardson, they managed to hold out.
The closest Liverpool came to an unlikely equaliser was when Gerrard hooked a cross back into the Sunderland box and Dirk Kuyt missed his header.


Robin van Persie's stoppage-time winner gave Arsenal a dramatic victory to leave Liverpool 10 points adrift of the Premier League's top four.
The Reds dominated early on but Dirk Kuyt had a penalty saved and both he and Luis Suarez fired against the post.
Liverpool finally took the lead when Laurent Koscielny sliced Jordan Henderson's cross into his own net. But Arsenal quickly levelled through Van Persie's header and won it late on when he volleyed home Alex Song's pass.

The Dutchman's lethal finishing was the difference between the teams and, as well as inflicting a first home defeat of the season on Liverpool, underlined just how costly the Reds' poor form in front of goal has been to their campaign.
Kenny Dalglish's side, fresh from their Carling Cup final victory, paraded that trophy before kick-off but their hopes of using it as a foundation for a push towards the Champions League places were to be frustrated.
In fact, the first half will have made familiar viewing for fans of both sides, with Arsenal often caught wide open at the back but Liverpool unable to make the most of the series of chances they created.
Stewart Downing wasted the Reds' best early opening, scuffing his shot completely from 30 yards after Wojciech Szczesny dashed out of his area to deny Suarez, only to head straight at the England winger with his goal unguarded.
Arsenal's porous defence appeared unable to cope with Suarez's guile in front of goal, and the Uruguayan was at the heart of the move that produced Liverpool's penalty after 19 minutes, exchanging passes with Kuyt before going to ground under a challenge from Szczesny.

Kuyt was given responsibility from the spot but could not beat the Polish keeper, who sprang to his right to keep out the penalty - the sixth Liverpool have missed this season - and recovered to push away Kuyt's follow-up too.
Liverpool did not have to wait much longer to take the lead, but it was perhaps telling that they needed Arsenal's help to find the net, Koscielny making a complete hash of his attempt to clear Henderson's cross.
Dalglish's men should have been further ahead within moments of the restart, when another neat build-up ended with Szczesny saving Henderson's low shot and Suarez firing the rebound against the post.
Liverpool could have been out of sight, but instead Arsenal were quickly level when Bacary Sagna sent over a peach of a cross for Van Persie to escape Jamie Carragher and head home at the near post.
The setback did not stop the home side coming forward and they were denied by the woodwork on a second occasion before the break - and the 21st time in total this season - when Kuyt met Charlie Adam's cross with a flicked finish that came back off the post.
A lengthy delay at the start of the second half - when Mikel Arteta suffered concussion and a jaw injury in an off-the-ball collision with Henderson - seemed to bring a halt to the Reds' momentum however.

Arsenal began creating more openings, with home keeper Pepe Reina reacting brilliantly to keep out a Theo Walcott snapshot that took a deflection off Martin Skrtel on its way through to goal.
But Liverpool still looked the most likely to win it, Martin Kelly wasting a glorious chance when he miscued at the far post from a delicious Kuyt cross.
So it was a big surprise when, at the start of nine minutes of stoppage time caused by Arteta's injury, Van Persie latched on to Song's lofted through ball and smashed home a first-time shot at Reina's near post.
That took Van Persie's tally to 30 goals for the season, including 25 in the league, and gave the Gunners' own hopes of finishing fourth a huge boost.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

CARDIFF 2 LIVERPOOL 2 (Liverpool win 3-2 on penalties)

Kenny Dalglish won the first silverware of his second spell as Liverpool manager after his side came through a compelling Carling Cup final to beat Cardiff City on penalties.
Anthony Gerrard missed the final kick of a dramatic penalty shoot-out to hand victory to the Merseysiders - their first trophy since the 2006 FA Cup - but it was a cruel way for the Welsh side to be beaten.

The Championship outfit took a surprise first-half lead through Joe Mason and defended valiantly, even after Martin Skrtel had levelled on the hour mark.
Dirk Kuyt thought he had won it for Liverpool with an instinctive extra-time finish, but Ben Turner bundled home at the death to force penalties.
Even then, Liverpool seemed determined to do things the hard way, with Steven Gerrard - Anthony's cousin - having his effort brilliantly saved by Tom Heaton, before Charlie Adam blasted over.
After Kenny Miller hit the post, Don Cowie sent Pepe Reina the wrong way to give the Bluebirds the advantage after two spot-kicks apiece.
But, while Kuyt, Stewart Downing and Glen Johnson all found the net, Cardiff missed two of their next three penalties, with Rudy Gestede also hitting the woodwork before Anthony Gerrard's miss proved decisive in handing Liverpool their eighth League Cup.
It means that, 13 months after he returned to the Anfield hotseat, Dalglish becomes only the seventh manager to win all three major competitions in England.

This triumph was one of the closest of his managerial career - and almost ruined their first visit to Wembley for 16 years.
Liverpool certainly started confidently enough, when Johnson hit the woodwork from their first attack.
After Steven Gerrard surged out of his own half, Johnson bent in a shot which beat Heaton but came back off the underside of the bar, with Gerrard firing the follow-up over.
Cardiff were being pegged back and, with Downing and Jordan Henderson seeing plenty of the ball, Liverpool aimed a succession of crosses towards Andy Carroll.
But, as has so often been the case this season, there was no end product to their attacks, and Cardiff began to find a foothold in the game.
The Bluebirds had already threatened through Miller, who ended a neat passing move by swivelling to blast over from the edge of the box, when Mason put them ahead in the 18th minute.
A poor defensive header by Skrtel was picked up by Kevin McNaughton and, from his pass, Miller set Mason free to power his low shot under the onrushing Reina.