Monday, April 21, 2008

Fulham 0-2 Liverpool

Goals from Jermaine Pennant and Peter Crouch saw Liverpool put a major dent in Fulham's survival hopes.
Pennant gave the Reds the lead against the run of play when he was put through by Lucas Leiva and he took Kasey Keller by surprise with a powerful early shot.
He then turned provider to set up Crouch to score with a low drive.
Fulham were restricted to mostly half chances, with midfielder Danny Murphy going closest with a shot denied by Pepe Reina's legs.
Victory strengthened Liverpool's grip on fourth place - they are now eight points clear of Everton with three games left - but Fulham are five points adrift of safety and staring relegation in the face.
Reds manager Rafael Benitez caused a storm a year ago by naming a weakened side that lost at Craven Cottage and went a long way to keeping Fulham in the top flight.
With a Champions League semi-final again occupying his mind, he made eight changes.
And after 10 minutes he looked like he might be incurring the wrath of more relegation strugglers as his new-look side were second best.
But Fulham were unable to carve out a goalscoring chance and their mini spell of dominance was pegged back by Pennant's growing influence.
He produced an inch-perfect cross for Crouch to stoop and head just off target before he broke the deadlock with a goal created by Andriy Voronin and Lucas.
Lucas played the final ball through to Pennant, who shot powerfully from the edge of the area and Keller could only watch it fly into the net.
Fulham had chances to level before half-time but Brede Hangeland headed past the post and Brian McBride fluffed his volley from a punt forward by Keller.
At the other end Liverpool could and should have added to their advantage as their new-look side started to find their feet with some crisp passing moves.
The lively Pennant was frequently involved and he crossed for John Arne Riise only to see his effort cleared by Paul Stalteri with Keller stranded.
There were further chances for Voronin and Yossi Benayoun and it was looking only a matter of time before Liverpool had the points sewn up.
Clint Dempsey, who got the winner in the controversial fixture last season, almost upset the apple cart when he twice went close with headers but he lacked direction on both occasions.
Liverpool earned some breathing space with a second goal with 20 minutes remaining.
Fittingly, it was created by Pennant, who slipped the ball in for Crouch to run on to.
The big striker was given time and space to fire in a low shot, but even then Keller should have perhaps done better than deflect the ball in off his legs and into the net.
Danny Murphy could have caused his old club some difficult moments but his shot was kept out by a smart block by Reina.
Fulham kept plugging away until the bitter end with Dempsey seeing an effort deflected just past the post in injury-time.
But Liverpool's biggest worries were keeping their players fit for the game against Chelsea, with Sami Hyypia withdrawn at half-time with a head injury and Javier Mascherano hobbling off.
• Fulham manager Roy Hodgson:
"We matched them quite well but once they got their first goal we were chasing the game and when they got the second goal it put us out of contention.
We can retain hope of staying up. The task gets harder because we have not recovered any points on the teams above us and we have lost another game and another opportunity.
"We have given a good account of ourselves but we do not have anything to show for it."
• Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez:
"I picked a team I believed could win the match. We now need just one more point to ensure fourth place in the league, even if Everton win all their remaining games.
"We can completely focus on the game against Chelsea now. We've talked a lot about boardroom matters for a long time but for now I just want to speak about football, if that's possible.
"Javier Mascherano took three knocks but I think he will be okay."
Fulham: Keller, Stalteri, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky, Davies, Bullard, Murphy (Andreasen 78), Dempsey, Healy (Nevland 76), McBride (Kamara 81).Subs Not Used: Warner, Bocanegra.
Booked: Healy.
Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Skrtel, Hyypia (Carragher 46), Riise, Pennant, Lucas, Mascherano (Alonso 72), Benayoun, Voronin (Aurelio 82), Crouch.Subs Not Used: Itandje, Torres.
Goals: Pennant 17, Crouch 70.

Att: 25,311.
Ref: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire).

Friday, April 18, 2008

Liverpool 3-1 Blackburn

Fernando Torres scored his 30th goal of the season as Liverpool outfought Blackburn to strengthen their grip on fourth place in the Premier League.
Steven Gerrard, who had a penalty appeal turned down after he was clipped by Brad Friedel, broke the deadlock with a cool finish in the second half.
Torres met Gerrard's deep cross with a precise header to make it 2-0 before Andrei Voronin slid home a third.
Roque Santa Cruz hooked in a late reply for Blackburn, who were well beaten.
Rafa Benitez's side are now five points clear of fifth-placed Everton with four league games to go.
Liverpool are also into the semi-finals of the Champions League after Tuesday's dramatic win over Arsenal but their achievements on the pitch this season are in danger of being overshadowed by the ongoing boardroom wrangling at Anfield.
The latest salvo in the dispute between co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett saw Hicks call for the resignation of chief executive Rick Parry this week.
Benitez had urged his players to ignore the off-field shenanigans and focus on football, and he will have been pleased with their reaction here, particularly in the second half.
Blackburn cannot be aggrieved with the final outcome but they will point to an early strike by Jason Roberts, wrongly ruled out for offside when he was level with Martin Skrtel, as proof the result could have been very different.
But Liverpool also felt key decisions went against them before the break, and Gerrard, as usual, was heavily involved.
He felt he should have had a penalty when Rovers keeper Friedel indisputably made contact with the Reds skipper, who had won the race for a ball inside the area.
Referee Alan Wiley waved Liverpool's claims away, however, and also ignored Christopher Samba's shove on Gerrard as they chased a bouncing ball on the edge of the box soon afterwards.
Gerrard pounded his fist into the wet Anfield turf in frustration and that decision was probably playing on his mind seconds later when he badly miscued in front of goal after Dirk Kuyt had teed him up.
Torres and Kuyt also both went close with headers, while only some alert goalkeeping by Friedel stopped the Spaniard from nipping in to intercept Steven Reid's poor backpass.
But it took until the hour mark for Liverpool to make their pressure tell - and fittingly it was Gerrard who broke the deadlock.
Santa Cruz gave the ball away and Gerrard exchanged passes with Lucas, burst past Samba into the box and coolly slotted home.
Blackburn, belatedly, came forward but were left frustrated by another Wiley decision, this time to only book Skrtel who had hauled down Roberts as he broke clear on goal.
A red card would have given Blackburn hope but instead it was Liverpool who quickly wrapped things up with two more goals which both came courtesy of some poor defending.
Torres met Gerrard's cross at the far post to beat Friedel with a superb header before substitute Voronin got in on the act to tuck away Riise's cross from close range.
Wiley also turned down another penalty appeal from Gerrard, who on this occasion clearly went to ground too easily under pressure from Samba.
Blackburn did manage to get on the scoresheet before the end, Santa Cruz firing home after Skrtel failed to clear, but Liverpool's victory was not in doubt.
· Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez:"We knew that it would be tough so we needed to keep going, keep working.
"At half-time we told them to keep playing football because we knew we could score but also we knew it could be difficult.
"The understanding between Gerrard and Torres was, at the end, the key."
· Blackburn manager Mark Hughes:"We are disappointed with the goals we conceded. We were victims of over-playing.
"Our downfall was misplaced passes in dangerous areas. Liverpool have some quality players and they were able to pick us off.
"The first goal was key. We should not have conceded two more but Liverpool probably deserved the win."
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Skrtel, Aurelio, Lucas, Alonso (Riise 88), Kuyt, Gerrard, Babel (Benayoun 59), Torres (Voronin 85). Subs Not Used: Itandje, Hyypia.
Booked: Skrtel.

Goals: Gerrard 60, Torres 82, Voronin 90.
Blackburn: Friedel, Emerton, Samba, Nelsen, Warnock, Bentley, Vogel (Dunn 73), Reid, Pedersen (McCarthy 73), Santa Cruz, Roberts. Subs Not Used: Brown, Ooijer, Mokoena.
Goals: Santa Cruz 90.
Att: 43,283
Ref: Alan Wiley (Staffordshire).

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Liverpool 4-2 Arsenal (agg 5-3)

Liverpool set up another Champions League semi-final with Chelsea after a stunning late win over Arsenal.
Abou Diaby put Arsenal into an early lead but Sami Hyypia lost Phillipe Senderos to head an equaliser.
Fernando Torres looked to have settled it when he scored in the top corner, but a superb Theo Walcott run allowed Emmanuel Adebayor to tap in for Arsenal
But Kolo Toure fouled Ryan Babel and Gerrard held his nerve from the spot, before Babel broke to add a fourth.
It was an extraordinary end to yet another wonderful European tie at Anfield.
The two sides, who have faced each other three times in six days, saved their best for last in a game that was full of drama from start to finish.
Both teams played as if their season was on the line and it resulted in a pulsating cup tie.
Arsenal looked like they had a new lease of life from the side that started the 1-1 draw so lethargically at the weekend and it was little surprise when they went in front through Diaby, on his return to the side.
He burst into the box to get on the end of Hleb's pass and drove in a low shot that Pepe Reina could only help into the net.
The goal seemed to energise Arsenal further and it was Liverpool who were beginning to look jaded.
But the Gunners were made to pay after half an hour when Senderos was caught flat footed and Hyypia had the freedom of the Anfield penalty box to head past Cesc Fabregas and in off the post.
It was Liverpool's turn to have the upper hand and the home side eventually pressed home their dominance midway through the second half.
Rafa Benitez's decision to partner Peter Crouch with Torres had looked like a tactical blunder in the early stages, but it was a pairing that was to combine for their second goal.
Crouch's flick was latched onto by Torres, who turned and shot in an instant to send the Kop into delirium.
Adebayor was just off target with a desperate lunge from Emmanuel Eboue's cross but Arsenal looked increasingly on the ropes.
However, Walcott's introduction revitalised the Gunners, as he beat six Liverpool defenders during a magical run from inside his own half before squaring for Adebayor to sidefoot home.
Liverpool are nothing if not resilient though, and immediately went down the other end where substitute Babel was adjudged to have been brought down by Toure.
Gerrard made no mistake from the spot, firing into the top corner with just four minutes left on the clock.
An Arsenal response at that stage would have been enough to send them through on away goals.
But as they threw men forward Babel raced clear to slot home a fourth - and perhaps ease the pain of a contentious penalty decision.
It was a cruel exit for Arsenal but there was no denying it was Liverpool's night.
They will face Chelsea in the final four for the third time in four years when the two sides meet on the week beginning 21 April and 28 April.
Liverpool: Reina, Carragher, Skrtel, Hyypia, Aurelio, Gerrard, Alonso, Mascherano, Kuyt (Arbeloa 90), Torres (Riise 87), Crouch (Babel 78).Subs Not Used: Itandje, Voronin, Benayoun, Lucas.
Goals: Hyypia 30, Torres 69, Gerrard 86 pen, Babel 90.

Arsenal: Almunia, Toure, Gallas, Senderos, Clichy, Eboue (Walcott 72), Flamini (Silva 42), Fabregas, Diaby (Van Persie 72), Hleb, Adebayor.Subs Not Used: Lehmann, Song Billong, Bendtner, Justin Hoyte.
Booked: Senderos, Toure.
Goals: Diaby 13, Adebayor 84.
Att: 41,985
Ref: Peter Frojdfeldt (Sweden).

Arsenal 1-1 Liverpool

Liverpool have the advantage after holding Arsenal to a draw in the Champions League quarter-final, first leg at The Emirates.
Emmanuel Adebayor headed Arsenal in front in powerful fashion from Robin van Persie's cross after 23 minutes.
Arsenal's lead lasted only three minutes before Steven Gerrard set up Dirk Kuyt to score from close range.
The Gunners had a clear penalty appeal turned down after the break when Kuyt hauled back Alexander Hleb in the area.
Arsenal were the better side over the 90 minutes but Liverpool will hope the trademark Anfield atmosphere will help them into the semi-final for the second successive year after Kuyt's crucial away goal.
But the tie remains in the balance and Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger will believe his side showed enough to suggest they can also grab a goal at Anfield next Tuesday.
Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina gave his side an early scare when an ill-judged dash from his goal resulted in him missing Cesc Fabregas's through ball but he recovered to block Adebayor.
Abedayor's strike partner Van Persie wasted a glorious opportunity after 20 minutes when he was picked out by Mathieu Flamini's through ball but he lifted a left-foot volley over the bar.
There was no escape for Liverpool when Arsenal took a deserved lead three minutes later through Adebayor.
Van Persie worked a short corner routine with Fabregas and crossed for Adebayor, who rose to head home, with Sami Hyypia hopelessly flat-footed and Reina helpless.
The home side's lead lasted only three minutes when Gerrard took advantage of some feeble challenges to drive into the area and cross for Kuyt to bundle home from inside the six-yard box.
Arsenal boss Wenger was forced into a change for the second half, when Theo Walcott came on to replace the injury-cursed Van Persie, who had suffered a left thigh problem in the closing stages of the first period.
And they almost had a bigger problem after 47 minutes but keeper Manuel Almunia saved well low down from Kuyt after Arsenal had failed to clear Gerrard's free-kick.
But Walcott gave the Gunners hope when he cut inside and unleashed a drive from 25 yards that flew just wide.
It prompted Liverpool into a change after 57 minutes when Yossi Benayoun was sent on for the disappointing Ryan Babel.
Arsenal had picked up the pace and Martin Skrtel needed to be well placed to smuggle Emmanuel Eboue's shot off the line.
Liverpool had an amazing escape after 65 minutes when Kuyt clearly dragged Hleb back by the arm as he raced into the area but Arsenal were understandably furious when Dutch referee Pieter Vink ignored their appeals.
Substitute Nicklas Bendtner then unwittingly cleared a Fabregas shot off the line but he had already been ruled offside.
Arsenal: Almunia, Toure, Gallas, Senderos, Clichy, Eboue (Bendtner 67), Flamini, Fabregas, Hleb, Van Persie (Walcott 46), Adebayor.Subs Not Used: Lehmann, Diaby, Song Billong, Silva, Justin Hoyte.
Goals: Adebayor 23.
Liverpool: Reina, Carragher, Skrtel, Hyypia, Aurelio, Mascherano, Alonso (Lucas 76), Kuyt, Gerrard, Babel (Benayoun 57), Torres (Voronin 85). Subs Not Used: Itandje, Riise, Crouch, Arbeloa.
Goals: Kuyt 26.
Att: 60,041
Ref: Pieter Vink (Holland).