Wednesday, January 30, 2008

West Ham 1-0 Liverpool

Mark Noble's injury-time penalty gave West Ham a deserved victory over Liverpool at Upton Park.
Noble slotted the ball low past Pepe Reina with virtually the last kick of the match after Jamie Carragher had brought down Freddie Ljungberg.
Earlier, West Ham's Luis Boa Morte twice missed from six yards out while Xabi Alonso headed on to his own bar.
Lucas Leiva missed from eight yards for the Reds while Fernando Torres' shot was saved by Robert Green.
The result must have buoyed West Ham boss Alan Curbishley whose best-laid plans to frustrate Liverpool did not go awry.
Although the Reds had not won in the league for over a month they had beaten the Hammers in their last seven meetings.
But from the first whistle, the home side were intent to bring an end to their appalling record against the Merseysiders and even steal a win themselves.
They had the best two chances of the first 45 with Boa Morte blazing over from six yards and Alonso coming close to heading the ball into his own goal - the crossbar denying Curbishley's troops.
The closest Rafa Benitez's men came to grabbing the lead was inside the first 10 minutes when former West Ham player Yossi Benayoun burst into the area but fired his shot over the bar from eight yards.
Liverpool's multi-million pound strikeforce of Dirk Kuyt and Torres were often crowded out as soon as the ball arrived at their feet by the dynamic duo of Anton Ferdinand and Matthew Upson.
The defensive pair along with the rest of the backline and midfield worked tirelessly over the 90 minutes to deny playmakers Steven Gerrard and Alonso much time to weave their magic.
After the break, the visitors from Anfield should have been made to pay again for their lack of bite when Boa Morte received the ball on the edge of the six-yard area but completely mis-hit his effort embarrassingly wide.
That was enough for a bemused Benitez who brought on Leiva and Ryan Babel to insert some life into his side.
The Brazilian made a brief impression on the match, shooting narrowly wide from Torres' low right-wing cross, while Babel found Torres with a short pass only to see the Spaniard's effort saved low by Green - although it appeared to be heading wide.
The match was veering towards a draw until one of the stars of the show, Ljungberg, motored into the area only to have his ankle clipped by Carragher.
Referee Alan Wiley was left with a no-brainer and pointed to the spot.
England Under-21 star Noble, who had an exceptional match, was left with the pressure kick but showed no nerves to fire sweetly into Reina's left corner.
· West Ham boss Alan Curbishley: "It's tremendous - if you're going to get a penalty and score then it's a great time to do it.
"Week in and week out we've put in a lot of effort - the squad have a fantastic attitude and full credit goes to them.
"We've lost three games in the last 16 and that's gone unnoticed."
· Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez: "We had chances but couldn¿t take them.
"We started really well and in the second half we had a lot of possession and to lose following a counter attack in the final minute is disappointing.
"For them to score from a penalty so late on was terrible. We now need to think about the next game."
West Ham: Green, Neill, Ferdinand, Upson, McCartney, Ljungberg, Noble, Mullins, Bowyer (Ashton 58), Boa Morte (Etherington 59), Cole (Spector 81).Subs Not Used: Wright, Solano.
Goals: Noble 90 pen.
Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Aurelio, Benayoun (Babel 72), Gerrard, Alonso, Kewell (Lucas 61), Torres, Kuyt.Subs Not Used: Itandje, Crouch, Skrtel.
Booked: Aurelio, Torres, Alonso.
Att: 34,977
Ref: Alan Wiley (Staffordshire).

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Liverpool 5-2 Havant & W'looville

Liverpool had to come from behind twice to beat Havant & Waterlooville and reach the FA Cup fifth round.
Richard Pacquette's header put Havant ahead before Leiva Lucas equalised for Liverpool with a superb 25-yard curler.
Alfie Potter restored the part-timers' lead with a deflected effort, but Yossi Benayoun made it 2-2 from 15 yards.
Benayoun drove in just after the break and stroked home from a rebound to complete his hat-trick before Peter Crouch tapped in to make it 5-2.
Once they had moved into the lead, Liverpool finally looked like a team of millionaire professionals playing against non-league opposition.
But it was far from that way in the first half as Liverpool squandered possession and were harried into making mistakes as the Blue Square South side showed little sign of big-match nerves.
Yet the home side should have opened the scoring on three minutes when Jermaine Pennant outpaced his marker and delivered a perfect cross, but Benayoun somehow headed wide.
Havant, buoyed by their let-off, soon gave a warning to the Reds defence when Potter got himself in a good position and forced Martin Skrtel to make a block.
And three minutes later, the team 122 places beneath their hosts proved it was no empty threat as they took the lead from a set-piece.
Mo Harkin whipped in a corner and Pacquette headed the ball downwards, and wheeled away in celebration after seeing it bounce into the top corner.
Surely that would prove just a blip, and Liverpool would go on to dominate, but not so, as the Hampshire side snapped into the tackles, kept their discipline and their shape - and kept Liverpool at bay with relative ease.
Liverpool's passing continually went astray and a Havant side containing a van driver, a binman and a school caretaker started to look like they might just pull off one of the biggest Cup shocks of all time.
Indeed, Havant had a great chance to take a two-goal lead when the ball fell to Neil Sharp after a goalmouth scramble, but his volley was always rising.
Instead, the Reds were level when Lucas produced his side's first moment of genuine quality, curling in a brilliant effort as Havant stood off him.
Cue relief all around at Anfield - bar the 6,000 away fans - but it proved to be short-lived, lasting only four minutes.
Deservedly, Havant restored their lead when they capitalised on a mistake by Steve Finnan, whose misjudgement allowed the ball to reach Potter, whose shot went in off Skrtel.
Still Liverpool struggled to make an impact but then they created a chance that proved crucial to the outcome just before the interval.
Pennant threaded a pass through to Benayoun and he clipped the ball onto the left corner to ensure the score was all-square at half-time.
After the interval, Liverpool raised their game and took the lead for the first time in the match when Pennant crossed for Benayoun, who swivelled and unleashed a fierce shot which went in off the underside of the bar.
It seemed to settle Liverpool, and left the Hawks reflecting on what might have been.
And when Benayoun cracked in his third goal to put Liverpool 4-2 up after Ryan Babel's shot had been well saved, you could sense that Havant might struggle to keep the score down.
Benayoun was denied his fourth goal when his volley was saved superbly by Kevin Scriven as Liverpool finally began to dominate.
It would have been harsh on Havant had Liverpool gone on to record a huge victory.
And in fact, Havant almost made the score closer when Tom Jordan's header was acrobatically kept out by Charles Itandje.
But they did concede a fifth as Crouch tapped in, but Havant can be proud of an excellent display that certainly had the Premier League giants squirming.
Liverpool: Itandje, Finnan, Skrtel, Hyypia (Carragher 84), Riise, Pennant, Mascherano (Gerrard 87), Lucas, Benayoun (Kuyt 72), Crouch, Babel.Subs Not Used: Martin, Torres.
Goals: Lucas 27, Benayoun 44, 56, 59, Crouch 90.

Havant and W: Scriven, Smith, Jordan, Sharp, Warner (Taggart 40), Harkin, Wilkinson (Oatway 74), Collins, Potter, Pacquette (Slabber 57), Baptiste.Subs Not Used: Steven Gregory, Taylor.
Booked: Wilkinson.
Goals: Pacquette 8, Skrtel 31 og.
Att: 42,566
Ref: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire).

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Gerrard hits out at unstable Reds

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard says speculation over the club's ownership and the future of manager Rafa Benitez is affecting the players on the pitch.
Liverpool lie fifth in the Premier League after a 2-2 draw at home to Aston Villa and are 14 points adrift of Manchester United and Arsenal.
Gerrard said: "It's not just this week, it's been going on for some time and it's certainly not helping the players.
"I've got to be careful what I say, but it's certainly not helping the team."
Liverpool have come under intense media scrutiny in recent weeks after prolonged speculation over Benitez's future and the management direction of American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.
Last week, Hicks revealed he had poken to Jurgen Klinsmann in November about the possibility of taking over from Benitez, before the German agreed to become Bayern Munich's new coach at the start of next season.
The revelation followed a very public spat between Benitez and the Americans over the Spaniard's transfer policy.
BBC Sport understands Dubai Investment Capital is preparing a bid to buy the club from the American duo, who took charge less than a year ago.
Supporters at Anfield on Monday chanted and held up banners in support of Benitez, while also asking for Hicks and Gillett to sell the club to DIC.
Gerrard added: "We know what's going on, but as players you've got a job to do on the pitch and you try to put what's going on off the pitch to the back of your mind.
"But sometimes it's impossible, when it is every day."
Manager Benitez has refused to be drawn on speculation over his future since the Klinsmann revelation came to light earlier in January.
The Spaniard said: "If you win and you play well then obviously everyone is a lot happier and things are a lot easier.
"But I really don't have too much information, I just keep preparing for games and try to win every game.
"I am trying not to think about this."
The 2-2 draw with Villa was the sixth time Liverpool have been held at Anfield in the Premier League.
Apart from Portsmouth, no other team has drawn so many home games as Liverpool.
Liverpool fanzine editor John Mackin told BBC Sport the fans are united in wanting Hicks and Gillett to leave.
"The Americans have to go," said Mackin. "They've let everybody down associated with the club.
"They've let the manager down by not backing him publicly, they've gone behind his back and undermined his position and in doing so, they've embarrassed the supporters. "They've dragged the name of the club through the mud and made us a laughing stock."

Liverpool 2-2 Aston Villa

Peter Crouch earned Liverpool a draw against Aston Villa as the Reds failed to move back into the top four.
Reds fans held up banners throughout to show support for boss Rafa Benitez and criticise their American owners, though there was no mass protest as suggested.
They took the lead when Yossi Benayoun stabbed in at the second attempt, but Marlon Harewood's overhead kick and a Fabio Aurelio own goal put Villa ahead.
Substitute Crouch volleyed home with two minutes left to earn a point.
But the draw is another blow to the Anfield club's already slender title hopes and leaves them 14 points behind Manchester United and Arsenal - and two behind Everton, who are fourth.
Liverpool's future has been the subject of much speculation in recent days and some Reds fans were keen to vent their fury at the club's US owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.
Hicks' admission last week that the club spoke to Jurgen Klinsmann about the managerial position in November has enraged many supporters of Benitez.
There were plenty of banners backing the under-fire Spaniard and also asking for the Americans to sell the club to Dubai International Capital, which BBC Sport understands is considering making an offer to buy them out.
Liverpool and Benitez badly needed a win and after a scrappy opening they went ahead, the goal brilliantly created by Kuyt, who has come in for some criticism for his displays this season.
The Dutchman received a Steven Gerrard pass with his back to goal 18 yards out, turned and played the ball through to Benayoun in one movement and, after the Israeli's initial shot was blocked, he reacted quickest to turn in the rebound.
Villa's attacking threat was being curbed by their own failure to stay onside and they were nearly punished at the other end again when Kuyt neatly laid the ball off for Aurelio to rifle just wide from 15 yards.
The visitors were offering little, their midfield badly missing the drive of the injured Gareth Barry, the Villa captain sidelined for the first time this season due to a pelvic injury.
It seemed a matter of time before Liverpool doubled their lead, Harry Kewell forcing Stuart Taylor to save low down to his right and then Fernando Torres firing onto the roof of the net from the edge of the box.
But the introduction of Harewood for Craig Gardner proved a masterstroke from Villa boss Martin O'Neill and swung the game dramatically in the visitors' favour.
He almost set up a goal with a powerful run down the left, before Martin Laursen headed a free-kick back across goal and Harewood performed an overhead kick to beat Jose Reina and silence Anfield.
Two minutes later and Villa, unbelievably, were ahead as Olof Mellberg's shot from an Ashley Young cross took a wicked deflection off Aurelio and looped into the net.
Benitez brought on Ryan Babel and Crouch and the giant hitman rescued a draw when he ran on to Jamie Carragher's pass and smashed the ball past Taylor.

Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa (Skrtel 70), Carragher, Hyypia, Aurelio, Benayoun (Crouch 80), Mascherano, Gerrard, Kewell (Babel 74), Kuyt, Torres.Subs Not Used: Itandje, Alonso.
Booked: Arbeloa, Mascherano.
Goals: Benayoun 19, Crouch 88.

Aston Villa: Taylor, Mellberg, Laursen, Davies, Bouma, Gardner (Harewood 66), Petrov, Reo-Coker, Young, Carew (Knight 90), Agbonlahor.Subs Not Used: Sorensen, Cahill, Osbourne.
Booked: Laursen, Young.
Goals: Harewood 69, Aurelio 72 og.
Att: 42,590.
Ref: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Luton 1-1 Liverpool

Embattled Luton put in a superb display against a weakened Liverpool to earn an FA Cup third-round replay at Anfield on Tuesday week.
The League One side were the better team in the first-half but could not convert their pressure into goals.
But Peter Crouch's simple finish gave Liverpool a second-half lead under the gaze of England manager Fabio Capello.
Yet Luton fought on and were rewarded when John Arne Riise bundled into his own goal from Drew Talbot's cross.
With the debt-laden Hatters in administration and looking for a buyer, and with many players unpaid in recent months, this FA Cup tie was a chance to forget briefly their woes.
Yet within 30 seconds Ryan Babel jinked into the penalty area to shoot low and hard, forcing a superb stop from Luton keeper Dean Brill.
Luton quickly regrouped and rarely looked like a team languishing in the League One relegation zone as they took the game to Liverpool.
Their first chance came when Steve Finnan played David Edwards onside but, one-on-one, Liverpool keeper Charles Itandje made an impressive stop from the Luton forward.
The Reds, not looking their forceful best without Steven Gerrard, did create chances and Dirk Kuyt should have done better than sky the ball over the bar after a neat one-two with Crouch.
As the first-half wore on, Crouch got little chance to impress Capello with Luton stretching Liverpool all over the pitch and having the best of the possession.
The energetic Talbot was at the heart of their pressure but, finding himself in an inviting shooting position on 37 minutes after Steve Finnan's error, he screwed the ball lamely wide.
At half-time Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez tweaked his formation to a 4-3-3, pushing Babel closer to the front two and freeing Yossi Benayoun in midfield.
This change had an immediate impact as Xabi Alonso found Kuyt out on the right and his drilled cross-shot just evaded Babel at the back post.
Luton survived another scare moments later with Brill making a good reaction stop after Riise's drive was deflected across the path of his dive.
The Hatters had a glorious chance to make a breakthrough on 54 minutes with Darren Currie chipping a cross in, only for the unmarked Talbot to head over from three yards.
But calamitous Luton defending on 72 minutes let substitute Andriy Voronin break free and, though his shot was saved by Brill, Crouch fired home the rebound.
Minutes later Luton deservedly got their goal as the unremitting Talbot whipped in a cross from the left byeline and, under pressure from David Edwards, Riise bundled into his own goal.
Riise should have scored the winner soon after but flashed a left-foot shot narrowly wide of Brill's post and Edwards went close for Luton with a dipping volley.
Luton: Brill, Keane, Perry, Coyne, Goodall, Bell, Currie, Edwards, Spring, Talbot, Andrew.Subs Not Used: Hutchison, Jackson, Robinson, O'Leary, Furlong.
Goals: Riise 77 og.
Liverpool: Itandje, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Riise, Benayoun (El Zhar 86), Alonso, (Mascherano 74), Lucas, Babel (Voronin 70), Crouch, Kuyt.Subs Not Used: Martin, Hobbs.
Booked: Alonso, Riise, Hyypia

Goals: Crouch 74
Att: 10,226
Ref: Howard Webb (S Yorkshire).

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Liverpool 1-1 Wigan

Titus Bramble struck a late equaliser to take Wigan out of the Premier League relegation zone and further dent Liverpool's faltering title hopes.
Bramble struck with a 20-yard strike after a poor defensive clearance by Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard.
Fernando Torres had earlier put the home team ahead with a precise finish while Chris Kirkland made several excellent saves to deny Gerrard.
The result leaves Liverpool 12 points behind leaders Arsenal.
Rafael Benitez's team have a game in hand on the Gunners but their failure to win at Anfield against a team starting the match in the relegation zone does little for their title credentials.
Benitez selected Torres as the lone striker but introduced Peter Crouch and Dirk Kuyt shortly after Bramble's 80th-minute strike - a measure of the manager's desperation to collect all three points.
The Spaniard cut an animated and frustrated figure as the clock ticked down but counterpart Steve Bruce must have been delighted with his team's third away point of the season.
Bramble's strike was not only Wigan's first goal against the Reds in the top flight but also gave the Latics their first ever point off one of the 'big four' of Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea.
There seemed little hint of an equaliser after Torres's goal had finally warmed the crowd on a bitterly cold night at Anfield.
Torres had shown excellent link-up skills and his lay-off to Gerrard started the move that the Spaniard himself finished from Steve Finnan's square ball to put Liverpool ahead after 49 minutes.
There had been increasing signs of frustration from the stands and the goal seemed to ease the home side.
Gerrard almost doubled his team's advantage with a vicious free-kick that Kirkland did well to parry.
And Kirkland again foiled Gerrard after Bramble had equalised, first parrying a long-range strike and then smothering the follow-up.
Wigan went into the game having lost just one of their last four outings and were happy to compress the field of play, closing the space between the two defensive lines to try to stifle their opponents.
Michael Brown, as combative as always, almost stunned the home crowd with a well-struck half volley from 25 yards that narrowly missed Pepe Reina's goal after 19 minutes.
But after a slow start to the game Liverpool eventually found their way through the Wigan defence and forced a series of saves from former Reds keeper Kirkland.
Javier Mascherano tried to side-foot the ball home after collecting an intelligent return pass from Torres, who later played Gerrard through only for the skipper to make a poor contact with his shot.
Liverpool appealed for a penalty after Torres went down under pressure from Paul Scharner, while the Spain striker headed over from a Xabi Alonso free-kick before Torres put the home side in front.
· Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez on his team's title prospects:"We need to do almost everything perfect now but if you lose points like this it makes it more difficult.
"When you have chances you need to take them and finish the game.
"Now we need to think about the FA Cup against Luton, you cannot look at the whole season it is too long."
· Wigan boss Steve Bruce:"It gives everyone a huge lift. We were really disciplined and stuck to the game plan well.
"I have always liked Titus, he just needs a bit of confidence and he will only get better.
"It is always going to be difficult at Liverpool as they have world class players but for the last six weeks we have produced some good performances."
Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Arbeloa, Carragher, Aurelio, Pennant (Kuyt 86), Alonso, Mascherano (Crouch 84), Kewell (Benayoun 74), Gerrard, Torres.Subs Not Used: Itandje, Riise.
Booked: Mascherano, Torres.
Goals: Torres 49.

Wigan: Kirkland, Melchiot, Scharner, Bramble, Kilbane, Valencia, Landzaat, Brown, Taylor (Koumas 79), Heskey (Sibierski 84), Bent.Subs Not Used: Pollitt, Boyce, Olembe.
Booked: Scharner.
Goals: Bramble 80.
Att: 42,308
Ref: Steve Bennett (Kent).

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Man City 0-0 Liverpool

Manchester City survived a second-half onslaught to prevent Liverpool ending 2007 with three league wins in a row.
Fabio Aurelio came closest to scoring in a cagey first half, his long-range strike tipped over by City's Joe Hart.
Fernando Torres squandered two good chances and Hart palmed away a fierce effort from Yossi Benayoun as the Reds poured forward after the interval.
Dirk Kuyt had a glorious opportunity in the 87th minute but Hart and Richard Dunne combined to clear his header.
It meant Liverpool will go into the new year 10 points behind leaders Arsenal, with a game in hand.
Their previous clash against Manchester opposition, a 1-0 defeat by United, had finished with searching questions being asked about their title credentials.
This time they will be wondering how they failed to see off a City team that could not get close to the fluency they began the season with.
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez again shuffled his pack, making five changes to the team that stole three points at Derby in their last outing.
And with the hosts in the middle of an uncertain spell, following two successive draws in the league and a Carling Cup exit, both teams struggled to establish any attacking rhythm early on.
Indeed, considering the talent and reputations on display, the first quarter was surprisingly bereft of genuine quality.
The first shot on target arrived after 25 minutes - a Harry Kewell strike collected by Hart at the second attempt - but it appeared to spark the game briefly into life.
A brave block from Jamie Carragher in the box denied City's subdued playmaker Elano a clear opening and Michael Ball deflected Kuyt's effort wide at the other end.
Reds defender Aurelio then twice came close to embarrassing Hart with two long-range strikes: the first bounced just past the post, while the second was helped over by the England Under-21 keeper's fingertips.
The game needed perking up and Liverpool did their best to break the deadlock with a flurry of chances in the opening 20 minutes of the second half.
Aurelio surged down the left and his cross fell at the feet of Torres, who shot tamely at Hart, with a fourth goal in three Premier League games beckoning.
Steven Gerrard then played the Spanish striker through after Stephen Ireland gave away possession, only for Torres' effort to roll wide after squirting through Hart's legs.
Although City were being roared on by the majority of a record Eastlands crowd all the action was taking place in their goalmouth.
Gerrard, who had gone close with a free-kick, strode through acres of space and the ball was worked through to Benayoun before the Israeli international unleashed a stinging drive that Hart palmed behind.
City boss Sven-Goran Eriksson replaced the off-colour Elano with Rolando Bianchi in a bid to ignite his team into action but his defensive players continued to be overworked.
Liverpool fans and Benitez were fuming when Dunne appeared to haul down Torres with the in-form forward in full flight.
Torres was then booked for a challenge on Micah Richards and the visitors' frustration was complete when the ball was worked back into the box after an Aurelio corner.
With the goal gaping, Kuyt failed to get enough power on his header, Hart clawed it away and Dunne hacked away from under the bar.
· Manchester City manager Sven-Goran Eriksson:"I think we defended very well. It was a good game but there were not a lot of chances.
"I am happy with one point and happy with a clean sheet, which is good against Liverpool.
"We're not disappointed. When you play like we did against a team like Liverpool, you can't be disappointed. But I'm not 100% happy, because we wanted to win the game."
· Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez: "We're a bit frustrated. We had a lot of chances, played well and had lots of possession. I'm pleased with the team but disappointed with the result.
"We had enough chances to win against a good team who are difficult to beat at home, and the commitment of all the players was fantastic.
"A clean sheet when you are playing away from home is a good thing but after 17 attempts on goal, you think you must win."
Man City: Hart, Onuoha, Richards, Dunne, Ball, Ireland (Gelson 61), Hamann, Corluka, Petrov, Elano (Bianchi 70), Vassell (Geovanni 74).Subs Not Used: Isaksson, Garrido.
Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Arbeloa, Aurelio, Benayoun, Gerrard, Mascherano, Kewell (Babel 74), Torres, Kuyt.Subs Not Used: Itandje, Riise, Voronin, Alonso.
Booked: Torres.

Att: 47,321
Ref: Uriah Rennie (S Yorkshire).