Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Liverpool 3-2 Middlesbrough

Fernando Torres grabbed a hat-trick as Liverpool came back from a goal down to beat Middlesbrough and move fourth.
The Reds went behind when Tuncay Sanli headed in from six yards before Julio Arca's mistake let Torres around keeper Mark Schwarzer to slot in and level.
Torres rifled in from 22 yards and side-footed in a third after Schwarzer rushed out of his goal without success.
Stewart Downing poked in a shot for Boro but the Reds held on with the help of Jeremie Aliadiere being red-carded.
The win was only Liverpool's second in the top flight since the turn of the year and came after a poor start when they quickly went behind following some terrible defending.
Boro striker Tuncay timed his run perfectly to move unmarked through Liverpool's flimsy offside trap and nod in Downing's free-kick.
The visitors have been an improving side in recent months and, while they showed plenty of energy in closing the Reds down, they also threatened with some promising attacking play.
Only a last-ditch Alvaro Arbeloa tackle on Boro striker Aliadiere stopped him breaking clear on the Reds goal.
But Liverpool were gifted an equaliser when midfielder Arca's header back towards his own goal went straight into the path of Torres and he capitalised on the error by equalising.
Torres added a second in as many minutes when he gathered the ball and powered a low shot into the bottom corner.
Boro refused to let the double blow change the way they played in an open game but had Tuncay booked when he put a cross into the net with the top of his arm.
Gary O'Neil shot wide against a Liverpool side that looked dangerous when going forward but uncertain at the back with the suspended Jamie Carragher missing.
Middlesbrough attacked with a purpose but were undone by defensive mistakes.
A long cross-field Liverpool pass brought Schwarzer rushing out of his goal to the edge of the box but Torres got to the ball ahead of him and central defender David Wheater before side-footing into an empty net.
Downing beautifully controlled and cut into the Liverpool box from the left late on before slotting a shot through the legs of keeper Pepe Reina to haul his side back to 3-2.
Aliadiere then was sent-off for Boro after lightly slapping Javier Mascherano, who appeared to provoke him by raising a hand to the striker's face.
The dismissal all but ended Boro's attempts to get a late equaliser as Liverpool held on for victory.
· Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez on striker Fernado Torres' hat-trick:"Fernando was really aware and ready and scored when they made mistakes.
"He has scored 21 goals this season which is really good in his first season with the club and he is enjoying his time here.
"It was an important game for us after our Champions League game.
"But we are now in the top four and we have a game in hand so we are in a good position."
· Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate:"It shows the progress that we have made because we are disappointed not to have got something out of the game.
"We win and lose together and that is why we have been on such a good run.
"We have pushed a top side on their own turf right to the end.
"We had the belief coming here that we could get something out of the game and we nearly did."
Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Arbeloa, Hyypia, Aurelio, Kuyt (Riise 73), Lucas, Mascherano, Babel (Benayoun 62), Gerrard, Torres (Crouch 90).Subs Not Used: Martin, Skrtel.
Booked: Reina, Finnan.
Goals: Torres 28, 29, 61.
Middlesbrough: Schwarzer, Young, Wheater, Grounds, Pogatetz, O'Neil (Mido 59), Rochemback, Arca, Downing, Aliadiere, Sanli (Alves 69).Subs Not Used: Turnbull, Boateng, Hines.
Sent Off: Aliadiere (85).
Booked: Aliadiere, Sanli, Wheater, Rochemback, Young.
Goals: Sanli 9, Downing 83.
Att: 43,612
Ref: Lee Mason (Lancashire).

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Liverpool 2-0 Inter Milan

Liverpool left it late to take control of their Champions League tie against 10-man Inter Milan and ease the pressure on manager Rafael Benitez.
Marco Materazzi harshly saw red on the half hour for two clumsy challenges on Fernando Torres, but Inter held firm.
Torres forced a superb save from Julio Cesar, while Patrick Vieira was lucky not to concede a penalty for handball.
But Dirk Kuyt eased home nerves with a deflected shot on 85 minutes and Steven Gerrard's firm drive sealed a fine win.
It was a frantic finale for Liverpool, who had looked like being frustrated by a stoic Inter defensive display that had been led by the awesome Ivan Cordoba.
Instead Benitez, who has been feeling the heat all season from American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, was able to put his off-the-field problems and Saturday's FA Cup exit to Barnsley behind him.
And while the Spaniard might not be the mastermind Liverpool crave at domestic level, his record in Europe is far more impressive and the Anfield faithful gave him a rousing reception.
Similarly, Benitez's players started with an enthusiasm that suggested they were desperate to do their bit for the boss and Inter were rocked onto the back foot from the off.
Jamie Carragher had an early shout for a penalty denied when his shot struck Cordoba on the arm and Sami Hyypia then forced keeper Julio Cesar to tip over with a firm header.
But, despite the hosts' endeavour, chances were few and far between and the game was pretty balanced when Materazzi was controversially sent off.
Having already been booked for clipping Torres's heels, the Italian received a second yellow card for another clumsy tackle on the Spaniard - but it looked a harsh decision.
If the Anfield faithful were expecting a rousing end to the half, though, they were to be disappointed and when Gerrard got behind the defence late in the half only to see his cross cleared with not one Liverpool player in the box, it highlighted their lack of first-half ambition.
Benitez clearly had the away goal ruling in mind but Inter rarely looked like troubling that as they had their very first shot on goal - wide - on 49 minutes, before they reverted to a more defensive 4-4-1 formation.
It did not have the desired effect and Torres had a great chance when he ran through on goal, only for keeper Cesar to finger-tip his shot wide.
All of a sudden Liverpool were full of urgency and minutes after Hyypia had headed over from six yards, Vieira was fortunate to get away with a blatant handball on Gerrard's cross.
Peter Crouch was introduced as Benitez pressed for a winner and the frontman lashed a half-volley wide before forcing a great block from Maxwell.
It looked like turning into another frustrating match at Anfield - where Liverpool have been held or beaten nine times this season - but it turned on its head right at the end.
Kuyt finally broke the deadlock when he collected Jermaine Pennant's cross and lashed into the roof of the net via a deflection.
And as if that was not enough, Gerrard drove forward and drove into the far corner with an excellent shot from 25 yards to send the home masses into frenzy.
It was the first defeat in exactly five months for Inter and Liverpool will now be firm favourites to reach the quarter-finals when they defend a two-goal lead at the San Siro.
Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Aurelio, Gerrard, Mascherano, Lucas (Crouch 64), Babel (Pennant 72), Kuyt, Torres.Subs Not Used: Itandje, Riise, Benayoun, Alonso, Arbeloa.
Goals: Kuyt 85, Gerrard 90.

Inter Milan: Julio Cesar, Maicon, Cordoba (Burdisso 75), Materazzi, Chivu, Zanetti, Stankovic, Cambiasso, Maxwell, Cruz (Vieira 55), Ibrahimovic.Subs Not Used: Toldo, Figo, Crespo, Maniche, Suazo.
Sent Off: Materazzi (30).
Booked: Chivu, Materazzi.
Att: 41,999
Ref: Frank De Bleeckere (Belgium).
BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Liverpool's Javier Mascherano 7.27 (on 90 minutes).

Liverpool 1-2 Barnsley

Barnsley sent Liverpool crashing out of the FA Cup thanks to Brian Howard's dramatic injury-time winner at Anfield.
Ryan Babel set up Dirk Kuyt to put the Reds ahead and only some super saves by Luke Steele kept Barnsley in the game.
The Tykes levelled when Stephen Foster headed home Martin Devaney's cross and, although Liverpool poured forward, they could not beat Steele on his debut.
Harry Kewell hit the bar for the home side before Howard's low shot into the bottom corner won it for Barnsley.
Liverpool had already been held by Luton Town of League One in the Cup this season and also had to come from behind twice against non-league Havant & Waterlooville in the previous round.
But the way Rafa Benitez's men started this game did not suggest they would suffer any sort of shock result against Simon Davey's side, who are in the bottom half of the Championship.
The home side had all the early possession and Peter Crouch forced an early save out of Steele after Yossi Benayoun had teed him up in the area.
Steele, only signed on an emergency loan from West Brom on Thursday because Barnsley's other keepers were injured or ineligible, was fast becoming a thorn in Liverpool's side.
He made two more stops in quick succession, saving acrobatically from Xabi Alonso and collecting Babel's low shot.
The former Manchester United goalkeeper was finally beaten on 32 minutes when Babel pulled the ball back for Kuyt, who took a touch before burying his shot into the back of the net.
But Steele also did brilliantly to keep out a Crouch header on the stroke of half-time and Barnsley capitalised when they equalised out of nowhere after the interval.
Devaney produced the cross of his life from out wide on the right and Foster rose highest to nod the ball past the flailing figure of Charles Itandje, who could only help it into the net.
The Barnsley defence was soon back under pressure with Bobby Hassell and Foster clearing a Benayoun shot off the line before Howard's block kept out Crouch's follow-up.
And Liverpool threw everything at the visitors, forcing Steele into another smart stop from Benayoun before he tipped a Lucas header on to the bar.
There was drama at the other end too when Itandje somehow escaped without being penalised after colliding with Kayode Odejayi as he chased down a long ball on the edge of the Liverpool penalty area.
But Liverpool were still looking like the only winners and the visitors were defending desperately when Kewell saw his rasping shot hit the bar late on.
There was still time for one last Barnsley attack, however, and Howard made it count.
The Tykes captain felt he should have had a penalty after being caught by Sami Hypia but picked himself up to collect the ball on the edge of the area before firing into the bottom corner to clinch a famous victory.
Liverpool: Itandje, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Riise, Benayoun, Lucas (Gerrard 75), Alonso, Babel (Kewell 69), Kuyt, Crouch. Subs Not Used: Martin, Pennant, Arbeloa.
Booked: Alonso, Carragher.
Goals: Kuyt 32.

Barnsley: Steele, Hassell, Souza, Foster, Kozluk (Van Homoet 60), Devaney, De Silva, Howard, Leon (Campbell-Ryce 71), Ferenczi, Nardiello (Odejayi 55). Subs Not Used: Coulson, Togwell.
Booked: Van Homoet.
Goals: Foster 57, Howard 90.
Att: 42,449
Ref: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire).
BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Barnsley's Luke Steele 8.55 (on 90 minutes).

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Chelsea 0-0 Liverpool

Chelsea and Liverpool fought out a gritty goalless draw at Stamford Bridge which did little for the differing aspirations of either side.
The visitors, missing the injured Fernando Torres in attack, had the best of the first half with Peter Crouch shooting just wide on 18 minutes.
Yet Chelsea were unlucky not to be given a first-half penalty when Javier Mascherano skidded into Joe Cole.
Liverpool now lie fifth and Chelsea sit five points behind leaders Arsenal.
Following Manchester City's shock defeat of Manchester United earlier in the afternoon, this match took on extra importance for both teams - clearly reflected in the early frenetic pace.
Liverpool, suffering from poor form and desperate for a win, started brightly with talismanic captain Steven Gerrard roaming menacingly behind Dirk Kuyt and Crouch.
The first real chance came on 18 minutes when Crouch headed down John Arne Riise's high ball on the edge of the box and, after receiving a return pass from Ryan Babel, dragged a shot just wide of Peter Cech's post.
Seconds later Gerrard battled his way to the right byeline and curled in a half-volleyed cross but Crouch, with his momentum taking him backwards, could only head weakly into Cech's arms.
Yet Chelsea, who were looking to exploit the opportunity to close the gap on second-placed United to a single point, could easily have been awarded a penalty on 24 minutes.
Lurking near the corner flag, Ashley Cole fed Joe Cole who danced into the box but when Javier Mascherano skidded in recklessly to up-end the Chelsea forward, referee Mike Riley waved away the Stamford Bridge appeals.
Relieved, Liverpool continued to press forward and Crouch could only head wide tentatively after Kuyt had drifted out to the right wing to put in a back-post cross.
Despite being the better side, Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez must have been rueing the absence of injured top scorer Torres as the teams trooped in goalless at half-time.
Both teams came out in determined mood for the second period but as the intensity increased, the quality of play suffered.
Frank Lampard, returning to the heart of Chelsea's midfield after injury, had little impact as he sought to turn the tide and was replaced by Jon Mikel Obi with 20 minutes left.
Liverpool also made a change at that point with Babel being replaced by Jermaine Pennant - but still goalmouth chances remained scarce and niggly fouls ever-present.
Chelsea, however, did get a sight of goal on 82 minutes when Ashley Cole cushioned a pass into Michael Ballack's path but the onrushing German pushed his volley wide.
No further chances were created and the match ended with Liverpool failing to register their first goal at Stamford Bridge under Benitez, and Chelsea looking less than satisfied.
Chelsea: Cech, Belletti, Carvalho, Alex, Ashley Cole, Ballack, Makelele, Lampard (Obi 71), Wright-Phillips (Malouda 64), Anelka, Joe Cole (Pizarro 86).Subs Not Used: Cudicini, Ben-Haim.
Booked: Belletti, Carvalho, Alex.
Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Skrtel, Riise, Gerrard, Mascherano, Lucas, Babel (Pennant 71), Crouch, Kuyt. Subs Not Used: Itandje, Kewell, Benayoun, San Jose Dominguez.
Booked: Babel, Riise.

Att: 41,788
Ref: Mike Riley (Yorkshire).

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Liverpool 3-0 Sunderland

Goals from Peter Crouch, Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard secured Liverpool's first Premier League win since Boxing Day.
The hosts, who had the better of a woeful first half, took the lead when Crouch headed Jamie Carragher's cross past Craig Gordan in Sunderland's goal.
Torres added a second when he collected Crouch's flick and drilled home.
Sunderland had two penalty shouts turned down before Liverpool were awarded one, which Gerrard dispatched.
With his side trailing leaders Arsenal by 20 points before kick-off, Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez knew there could be no margin for error.
The Spaniard made five changes to the side which lost at West Ham in midweek but that seemed to unbalance the team early on.
Lucas Leiva, deployed on the left of midfield, looked particularly uncomfortable as Liverpool relied solely on Gerrard and Torres for any sort of attacking inspiration.
That played into the hands of Sunderland, who tended to double up on both players, and the visitors were seldom troubled.
Roy Keane's men showed little inclination to attack, however, allowing Liverpool to spend long periods camped in their half.
It took 38 minutes for either side to muster an opportunity of any note, Jermaine Pennant beating Daryl Murphy and crossing for Torres to head straight at Gordon.
That was the only attempt on target in a dour first half. The home fans, who staged a 15-minute protest at the club's American owners after the match, were far from happy.
To their relief, Liverpool played with greater urgency after the break and it was not long before they were rewarded.
Carragher produced an excellent cross to the back post and Crouch rose above Phil Bardsley to head past Gordon.
Crouch was denied a second when his acrobatic volley was well saved, before Bardsley cleared his header off the line from Gerrard's corner.
Sunderland were having difficulty coping with a rejuvinated Liverpool, and when Crouch put Torres through with a neat header the Spanish striker made no mistake with a low finish to Gordon's right.
On 73 minutes Carragher appeared to block Murphy's shot with an arm, only for referee Rob Styles to reject Sunderland's protests.
The Wearsiders, still without an away victory this season, had another appeal turned down when Javier Mascherano's high foot connected with Liam Millar's shoulder, while Roy O'Donovan poked over from close range.
To rub salt in their wounds, Styles pointed to the spot after Pennant went down under Nyron Nosworthy's challenge two minutes from the end and Gerrard forced the ball home via Gordon's right hand.
· Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez:"I want to say thank you to the supporters, when we needed them they were behind the team.
"Today we knew it could be a tough game so we needed to keep going. Our supporters were waiting and we started the second half well. They were behind us and it was a massive difference.
"As soon as we scored the first goal the game was open. When you have your confidence low it is important to win, so there are a lot of positive things today."
· Sunderland manager Roy Keane on his side's two penalty appeals:"We felt they were penalties. But I didn't feel we were going to get those decisions today.
"I don't want it to sound like sour grapes but on another day I think they might been given our way.
"How we are going to do this season will depend on our home form. Anything we got today would have been a big bonus."
Liverpool: Reina, Carragher, Hyypia, Skrtel, Aurelio (Finnan 46), Pennant, Gerrard, Mascherano, Lucas (Benayoun 61), Crouch (Kuyt 83), Torres. Subs Not Used: Itandje, Babel.
Booked: Finnan.
Goals: Crouch 57, Torres 69, Gerrard 89 pen.
Sunderland: Gordon, Bardsley, Nosworthy, Evans, Collins, Chopra (Waghorn 83), Whitehead, Miller, Richardson (Prica 7), Murphy, Jones, Prica (O'Donovan 55). Subs Not Used: Fulop, McShane.
Booked: Miller, Gordon.
Att: 43,244
Ref: Rob Styles (Hampshire).