Saturday, August 30, 2008

Liverpool 1-0 S Liege (1-0 agg)

Liverpool scraped into the group stages of the Champions League courtesy of a 118th-minute goal from Dirk Kuyt against a valiant Standard Liege.
Kuyt sidefooted home at the far post to end a tortuous night for the Reds.
They survived two early scares when keeper Pepe Reina produced superb saves in palming away strikes from Dieudonne Mbokani and Marouane Fellaini.
Liverpool were denied a penalty in extra-time when Oguchi Onyewu brought down Nabil El Zhar before Kuyt's goal.
The result and timing of the goal was harsh on the Belgian champions, who had proved stubborn opponents for Liverpool.
The Reds had been fortunate to leave Liege with a goalless draw in the first leg and were expected to show an improvement on home territory.
But the visitors had other ideas as they were inspired rather than overwhelmed by the occasion and quickly caused the Anfield side problems.
Mbokani left fly from 22 yards and Reina, who saved a penalty in Belgium, had to smartly dive low to his right to turn the ball around his post.
The chance added to Liverpool's nerves and, after Robbie Keane poorly shot over, Liege continued to increase the sense of anxiety around Anfield.
Igor De Camargo missed a cross with an attempted shot but recovered to put the ball back in for Fellaini, whose steered volley was palmed away by Reina.
The Spanish keeper was again proving Liverpool's saviour and, despite Xabi Alonso curling an effort wide for the Reds, the pressure and pace of Liege had the home team looking shaky.
And the surge of confidence sweeping through the visitors was signalled when Marcos Camozzato angled an ambitious 35-yard half-volley wide.
Liverpool's lack of width was being exposed by the Belgian champions, who comfortably closed out the home side's attempted attacks through the middle.
When the Reds did have a sight on goal from a corner, Kuyt headed a far post header disappointingly wide just before the interval.
Liege sat back after the break and held Liverpool at bay as they hoped to catch the Merseysiders out on the counter-attack.
The game became a more cagey affair as the Reds continued to struggle to find a way through their resolute opponents.
Liverpool were then left breathing a sigh of relief when De Camargo sent a diving header just wide before the end of 90 minutes.
In extra-time, Alvaro Arbeloa had an audacious long range half-volley saved by keeper Rorys Aragon before Onyewu survived giving away a spot-kick.
Kuyt then struck, as penalties loomed, for a goal on his 100th appearance for the club to put them into Thursday's lucrative group stage draw.
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez:"We have to give credit to Kuyt because sometimes when he makes a mistake people highlight it.
"But you could see for the 120 minutes how hard he works and he is an amazing player for every team.
"He never hides and is the kind of player who is very important and he is a fantastic professional."
Standard Liege boss Laszlo Boloni: "We are very sad after that result. Over two matches we have been the best organised team and we deserved better than to lose like that in the final minutes.
"We have produced a high standard in both matches, and now I hope that can be continued in our league matches and the Uefa Cup.
"I sometimes wondered whether the referee was affected by the fact that we were playing a big team. I felt we should have had a couple of penalties.
"But in the end we created a lot of good situations in both matches and did not make use of them."
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Skrtel, Aurelio, Kuyt, Gerrard, Alonso, Benayoun (Babel 61), Keane (El Zhar 83), Torres (Plessis 120).Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Dossena, Agger, Spearing.
Goals: Kuyt 118.

Standard Liege: Aragon, Camozzato, Onyewu, Sarr, Dante, Dalmat (Jovanovic 86), Fellaini, Defour (Nicaise 118), Witsel, De Camargo (Toama 101), Mbokani.Subs Not Used: Devriendt, Goreux, Mikulic, Ingrao.
Booked: Sarr, De Camargo, Dante.
Att: 43,889
Ref: Massimo Busacca (Switzerland).

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Liverpool 2-1 Middlesbrough

Steven Gerrard smashed in a 90th-minute drive as Liverpool came from behind to beat Middlesbrough at Anfield.
Striker Mido came off the bench to put the visitors ahead with a low, 30-yard drive on 70 minutes and it seemed his side were heading for victory.
But Jamie Carragher's drive from the edge of the box flew in off Boro's Emmanuel Pogatetz to give Liverpool an equaliser 16 minutes later.
And in stoppage time, Gerrard lashed in an angled shot to snatch the points.

A combination of dogged defending and discipline had kept the home side at bay and when Mido put them in front they looked on their way to their first victory at Anfield for 23 years.
But a slice of bad luck and a lapse in concentration enabled Liverpool managed to make it back-to-back wins in their opening two Premier League games for the first time under manager Rafael Benitez.
Few would have predicted it after a first half which saw Liverpool struggle to break down their opponents and barely threaten young keeper Ross Turnbull, who was drafted in after Brad Jones was injured in the warm-up.
Turnbull comfortably beat away an early Dirk Kuyt drive, but was then helped out by a number of last-ditch tackles and blocks that frustrated Liverpool.
Robbie Keane mis-kicked from the edge of the box when should have done much better, while at the other end Boro's Andrew Taylor fizzed in a volley which was heading for the top corner until Pepe Reina tipped it over the bar.
After the break, the pattern was much the same, with Boro keeping their shape and trying to hit Liverpool on the counter-attack.

It looked like their their tactics were spot-on when Mido scored with a peach of a shot to put them in front.
Unsurprisingly, Boro then looked to sit back on their advantage and though Liverpool had more space in which to come forward, they did not look dangerous.
But then it all changed, and from an unexpected source, as Carragher tried his luck from the edge of the box and while his luck was good, Pogatez's was not and the ball flew in off the unfortunate defender.
With the scores level, it was inevitable that Boro were going to have to withstand a Liverpool assault in the final minutes to go home with anything from the game.
As time ran out, it seemed they had done enough but a long ball clipped over the top by Xabi Alonso broke to Gerrard and he arrowed a fierce shot into the top corner to snatch the win for his side.
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez:"I was very pleased with the first 15 minutes, but after that we did not play well. Then they scored and we had to throw people forward.
Last season we drew far too many games at Anfield. But this time we have sent out a message that in such situations we can win the game. We have winners here."
Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate: "That was hard to take. The players are heartbroken in the dressing room. We deserved more, we certainly deserved a point.
"Their equaliser was a freak, and we should have been able to see out the game even at 1-1.
"But I have told them that they can leave Anfield with their heads high."
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa (El Zhar 83), Carragher, Skrtel, Dossena (Aurelio 75), Kuyt, Gerrard, Alonso, Benayoun (Babel 65), Keane, Torres.Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Agger, Ngog, Plessis.
Booked: Arbeloa, Keane.
Goals: Pogatetz 86 og, Gerrard 90.
Middlesbrough: Turnbull, Wheater, Huth, Pogatetz, Taylor (Hoyte 75), Aliadiere, O'Neil, Shawky, Downing, Alves (Mido 60), Sanli (Digard 87).Subs Not Used: Emnes, Adam Johnson, Williams.
Booked: Mido.
Goals: Mido 70.
Att: 43,168
Ref: Mike Riley (Yorkshire).
BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Liverpool's Torres 7.08 (on 90 minutes).

Liverpool Track Dane Sensation Jorgensen

Liverpool are looking to Denmark again for fresh talent with Mathias Jorgensen on Rafa Benitez's radar.
Jakob Friis-Hansen, who is set to be appointed as The Reds' scout in the area, has revealed that Benitez is keeping tabs on the progress of the FC Copenhagen midfielder.
"I have previously advised Liverpool over two Danes, with Daniel Agger and Nicola Savic, both of whom they purchased and are almost too happy with," said Friis-Hansen to
"I gave them Mathias Jorgensen's name a long time ago and Liverpool are wild about him. They are keeping very good track of him.
"Liverpool see him as a very promising youngster, like I do, and clearly just like a player who will play for the Danish national team for many years to come."
Meanwhile 14-year-old Dane Marcus Sondergaard is training with the Anfield club's academy.
"It is a great dream that is coming true," the teenager told Ekstra Bladet, but he will not be allowed to move until his 16th birthday.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Gerrard wants Barry at Liverpool

Steven Gerrard has said he is "desperate" for Aston Villa midfielder Gareth Barry to join him at Liverpool.
Barry, who is expected to lead England against Trinidad & Tobago on Sunday, will talk about his future after he returns from international duty.
"I want Gareth Barry to become a Liverpool player. I am desperate for us to sign him," said Gerrard.
"He's a good player. I want Liverpool to be as strong as possible and Gareth Barry will certainly make us stronger."
Gerrard's comments are likely to rile Villa manager Martin O'Neill who has already criticised Liverpool's handling of the situation.
O'Neill is determined to keep hold of his captain and earlier this month claimed Liverpool's £10m cash plus player bid undervalued the midfielder.
But Gerrard, a good friend of the 27-year-old, believed Barry, who has two years remaining on his contract, needed to play Champions League football.
"Gareth Barry is someone who will improve Liverpool. We can't be disrespectful to Villa. He is still their player and we will see what happens," said Gerrard.
"Naturally, they are going to try and keep hold of him, and rightly so because he is one of their star men. He has been a fantastic servant for them over many years.
"I know all about Gareth, I am good friends with him off the pitch and I am desperate for us to sign him.
"You talk about improving the team, the starting XI and the squad, and Gareth will certainly help Liverpool to become a better team.
"It is easy to play with good players. I've been asked a lot of questions this season about Fernando Torres and the simple answer is 'it's easier playing with quality players' - and Gareth comes into that category."
Barry has only ever played for Villa and is due a testimonial, having signed professional forms with the club in February 1998.
Gerrard added: "I am sure Gareth will find it hard to leave Villa. He has been fantastic for them but, in football, sometimes opportunities come along where you can better your career.
"I think Gareth is 27 now and he needs to play Champions League football. In my opinion, he needs that now.
"I've enjoyed playing with him for England. He is quite an easy player to play with. He keeps it simple, he is easy to read and I certainly enjoy playing with him because I've got a good relationship on and off the pitch."

Sunderland 0-1 Liverpool

Spanish striker Fernando Torres struck a brilliant late winner as Liverpool made hard work of beating Sunderland.
Torres collected a Xabi Alonso pass, turned into space and rifled home a sensational drive into Craig Gordon's bottom right-hand corner from 25 yards.
Sunderland did not deserve to lose and Daryl Murphy headed their best chance straight at goalkeeper Pepe Reina.
Gordon saved from Yossi Benayoun and debutant Robbie Keane unintentionally blocked Torres' shot before his winner.
After a turbulent couple of weeks for Liverpool which led to speculation in Saturday's newspapers boss Rafa Benitez might quit the club, it was a much-needed early season boost for the Reds.
Benitez has been frustrated over their failed attempts to sign Aston Villa's Gareth Barry and they could only draw 0-0 against Standard Liege on Wednesday in their Champions League third qualifying round first-leg match.
But Torres' brilliant late finish gives them the perfect start to the league season and takes the pressure off Benitez, who reiterated his commitment to the club before the game. With summer signing Keane making his league debut up front alongside Torres, much was expected from Liverpool's £46m strikeforce.
But Keane failed to sparkle throughout and he was taken off six minutes before Torres' late strike.
It was Sunderland who created the best chances in a first half devoid of great quality, with El-Hadji Diouf in lively form on his debut against his old employers.
Diouf latched on to Sami Hyypia's weak back header early on, but Jamie Carragher managed to avert the danger just in the nick of time.
Soon after, Diouf sent over a lovely cross from the left that was begging to be headed in, but Murphy could only nod straight at Reina.
Liverpool slowly began to assert themselves in midfield and as Steven Gerrard saw more of the ball, so their threat grew.
The Reds wanted a penalty when Benayoun was felled in the box by Pascal Chimbonda, but referee Alan Wiley had already blown for Nyron Nosworthy's trip on Gerrard outside the box and the captain's free-kick flew straight into the wall.
Sunderland began the second half better and Murphy scampered away down the left and put in a fine cross for Diouf, but the Senegalese failed to connect properly with his left-foot shot.
But Liverpool were enjoying more possession and despite their ineffective new forward partnership, they did begin to put concerted pressure on the hosts.
Benayoun forced Gordon to save low down to his right, before Keane got in the way of a Torres shot after Dirk Kuyt's effort had been deflected and saved by Gordon.
Alonso then tried an audacious shot from fully 60 yards that flew over Gordon's head and would have beaten the Black Cats keeper had it not been a foot wide of his left-hand post.
Just when it looked as though the game would peter out into a draw, up stepped Torres to turn and fire in from 25 yards to stun the home crowd.
· Sunderland manager Roy Keane:"We tired in the last 15 to 20 minutes - which is something I should take responsibility for. We should have had some tougher games in pre-season.
"For all the hard work, the number of goals scored in the last 15 minutes is huge - and the other 75 minutes goes out of the window.
"It was just one moment - that's all we're talking about - but that's the beauty of the Premier League. I can't complain, because I've been on the other side of it."
· Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez:"You could see the team was really focused. We want to concentrate on winning, and the best news for our supporters is to win games.
"In the first half, they were attacking; the second half, we were on top and attacking - and continued until the end.
"We had chances. Torres is a key player and he can change games. For the team, it's really important to have these sorts of players."
Sunderland: Gordon, Chimbonda, Nosworthy, Collins, Bardsley, Malbranque (Edwards 73), Tainio (Whitehead 57), Reid, Richardson, Diouf (Chopra 81), Murphy.Subs Not Used: Ward, Leadbitter, Higginbotham, Stokes.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Hyypia, Dossena, Kuyt, Gerrard, Plessis (Alonso 46), Benayoun (Aurelio 81), Keane (El Zhar 77), Torres.Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Agger, Ngog, Skrtel.
Booked: Arbeloa, El Zhar.
Goals: Torres 83.
Att: 43,259.
Ref: Alan Wiley (Staffordshire).

Liverpool boss claims “it will be different at home” against Standard Liege: Is it too early to rely on the Anfield advantage in this critical season?

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez has a lot of respect for first-team keeper Pepe Reina. However, after watching him save Liverpool’s blushes yesterday, the Spanish manager can now credit his keeper as well with helping him keep his dignity in the press room for another day. The 0-0 draw against the Belgian side Standard Liege means Liverpool head back to the fortress of Anfield with a distinct advantage that Benitez feels will carry them into the group stage of the tournament.
Benitez said: ‘It will be different at Anfield, where we are expected to win and we will have our own fans behind us. Liege had their very noisy fans for the first leg.’ (Daily Mail)
It will indeed be difficult for Liege to get anything out of their second leg visit to Merseyside; however, if you take a deeper look at Rafa’s comments, you have to wonder if the goateed-one is already becoming too reliant on the home advantage before the League season even starts. Last year the club ranked fourth out of the top four teams in the Premier League with a mere 24 goals away from Anfield — a number that will surely not get it done if they expect to contend past December. If Rafa and his new squad want to have a legitimate shot then they need to get a ruthless streak going away from home.
You can blame the lackadaisical play yesterday on a majority of the squad on the lack of time the first-team squad have spent together on the pitch this season. But if we’re using yesterday’s game as an example of how Liverpool are going to play away this year, then there’s no possible way that type of football will garner a Premier League title.
Rafa needs to let the squad loose a bit more in away matches, because defensive football can only get you so far. And when you’re goal is a Premier League title, that means taking some risks away from the home fortress.

Standard Liege 0-0 Liverpool

Liverpool escaped with a draw after being dominated by Standard Liege in the first leg of their Champions League third qualifying round tie.
Liege's Marouane Fellaini had an early header that hit the inside of the post but was deemed not to have crossed the line before keeper Pepe Reina cleared.
Reina then saved a Dante Bonfim penalty as Liege spurned another chance.
The Reds were poor and Igor De Camargo put a free header wide as Liege were left to rue their profligacy.
In contrast, Liverpool will have breathed a collective sigh of relief after the game as they looked rusty and clearly struggled to make the step up from pre-season to a competitive game.
They lacked urgency and sharpness and a committed Liege - backed by a vociferous home crowd - quickly took advantage of their lacklustre rivals.
Liege may argue that Fellaini's early attempted header, which appeared to have come off his shoulder, went over the line but the call was too tight to be sure.
In truth, the midfielder should have done better as he rose unmarked to meet the set-piece before the home side had an even better chance to go in front.
The Belgians were awarded a penalty after Reds left-back Andrea Dossena was punished for blocking a cross with his arm, despite the offence appearing to be just outside the box.
Dante's spot-kick was too close to Reina and the keeper, who is renowned for being a specialist penalty stopper, saved with his body as he dived low to his right.
The visitors began to gradually find their feet as Liege took a breather after their energetic start and Liverpool struggled to half-time without another further mishaps.
But the break and any instructions from Reds boss Rafael Benitez did not help Liverpool's form as Liege continued to overpower the Premier League side.
De Camargo had a sight on goal for Liege when he latched on to a pull back from the byeline, only to strike his shot tamely and allow Liverpool to clear the danger.
The Liege striker had an even better chance shortly afterwards when he had a free header from Dante's cross but put his effort agonisingly just wide.
The Reds were missing skipper Steven Gerrard from their starting line-up because of a thigh injury but he was forced to come on to help their struggles.
He curled a free-kick narrowly over the crossbar as he immediately got involved and, even though Liverpool were second best, they go into the second leg on the week commencing 25 August still level.
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez:"We were not playing well. The only positive thing you can take is that we didn't concede a goal.
"We know we have to win at Anfield and have confidence we can. We will have had more games and more players.
"There were a lot of things that we were not doing well and everyone is upset that it was a bad performance."
Standard Liege coach Laszlo Boloni:"Liverpool maybe came here asleep and not expecting this sort of game.
"Maybe, though, we have woken them up for the second leg, which will be much harder for us.
"We felt that if we did not lose this first leg, we would still be in with a chance. We know, though, that we still have to score and that could be the problem.
"But I want to praise my team. They attacked Liverpool from the start and when their goalkeeper pulled the ball back from behind the line, maybe the referee was asleep too."
Standard Liege: Aragon, Dante, Dalmat, Defour, Mbokani, De Camargo, Mikulic (Nicaise 90), Camozzato, Sarr, Fellaini, Witsel.Subs Not Used: Devriendt, Goreux, Toama, Benko, Ingrao, Dembele.
Booked: Camozzato, Mikulic.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Dossena, Carragher, Agger, Alonso, Plessis, Benayoun, Kuyt (El Zhar 83), Keane (Gerrard 67), Torres.Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Hyypia, Voronin, Pennant, Insua.
Booked: Alonso.
Att: 25,000
Ref: Tom Ovrebo (Norway).

Kuyt and Benayoun stay – Benitez

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez insists that Dirk Kuyt and Yossi Benayoun will not leave the club this summer.
Dutch forward Kuyt, 28, is a target for German club Hamburg while Benitez admits Roma are interested in midfielder Benayoun, also 28.
But Benitez, after meeting with both players on Thursday, said: "Neither of them will be leaving.
"I have no more news about Yossi - he will be staying. [And] I am really pleased with Kuyt. He will be staying."
It had been suggested that the Anfield boss would let both go in order to finance a deal for Aston Villa midfielder Gareth Barry.
Liverpool have had a number of bids rejected for the England international, the latest of which was believed to be just short of Villa's £18m valuation.
But Benitez has made it clear he still considers Kuyt and Benayoun part of his plans.
"I have talked to Yossi and told him I want to keep him. He is a player with quality and has shown that during pre-season," he said.
"I also talked with Dirk Kuyt this morning. I am really pleased with him."
Liverpool signed Dutch international Kuyt from Feyenoord in August 2006 in a £10m deal while Israel's national captain Benayoun joined from West Ham in July 2007 for £5m.
At present Benitez seems no nearer to concluding a deal to bring Barry to Anfield, though Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill gave the green light to the deal - if the terms are right for Villa - at the weekend.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Liverpool BEATS Rangers 4-0

Youngster David Ngog guided Liverpool to a 4-0 win over a Glasgow Rangers side at Ibrox on Saturday afternoon

The other goal scorers were Fernando Torres, Xabi Alonso and Yossi Benayoun. After two boring pre-season matches, finally we got to see some thrilling action.
Keane and Torres partnered up top for just about 45 minutes, but both of them showed good technique and were also aware of each other to link up well on several occasions.
On 23 minutes, Liverpool took the lead as Damien Plessis’ long-distance hit was spilled by ‘Gers keeper Allan McGregor with Torres on there to tap home his first strike of pre-season.
Diego Cavalieri was also impressive at the other end would two good stops. However, he was outdone by Nacho Novo, who went round him, only for left back Andrea Dossena to clear of the line.
Liverpool made five changes at the break with Carragher, Torres, Skrtel, Arbeloa and Plessis coming off and Hyypia, Ngog, Alonso, Darby and Agger entering.
Just when Rangers were about to score, Ngog scored a cracker. The French youngster took made it 2-0 on 56 minutes, turning his man one way and the other to score a brilliant goal.
With that, the Reds made some more changes with Insua, Nemeth, Spearing replacing Gerrard, Kuyt and Keane.
On 58 minutes, Insua burst down the left, finding Nemeth whose shot was blocked, and Benayoun was there at the back post to score.
Then it became 4-0 after Alonso converted a penalty on the 70th, when Nemeth was brough down by Christian Dailly.

Rafa Benitez pleased with Fernando Torres-Robbie Keane strike force

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez declared himself pleased with the first outing of new strike force Fernando Torres and Robbie Keane after the Merseyside club cruised to a 4-0 win over Rangers in their challenge match at Ibrox.
Keane, who cost Liverpool £20million when he moved from Tottenham last week, linked well with the Spaniard in a first half which Liverpool bossed for long spells.
Torres gave the visitors the interval lead from close range after Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor had fumbled a long-range drive from French youngster Damien Plessis.
After both sides made five substitutions each at half-time, with Torres staying inside, 19-year-old striker David Ngog struck from the edge of the box for his first goal since signing from Paris St Germain before Yossi Benayoun made it three at the far post on the hour.
More substitutions followed before Xabi Alonso slotted the fourth from the penalty spot after Ibrox defender Kirk Broadfoot had clumsily pulled down Krisztian Nemeth in the box.
Benitez, who declined to comment on the continuing speculation about Aston Villa midfielder Gareth Barry coming to Anfield, was pleased with the way his front two led his side to an easy victory.
"Both players showed good movement and so did (Steven) Gerrard," he said.
"Dirk Kuyt and Yossi Benayoun were coming inside so I felt we had five offensive players, very clever and with quality so we were a threat all the time.
"Keane is very clever and he worked hard. He is very happy here and hopefully we will see a lot of good movement and also goals from him.
"Gerrard, Torres and Keane playing together was one of the keys to keeping possession.
"But I feel we have some good players in the team, different players with different qualities and a good mentality."
Despite the scoreline, Benitez, who also straight-batted questions about the continual booing of Keane by the home fans due to the former Spurs player being a Republic of Ireland international, insisted the Ibrox side offered a difficult challenge.
He said: "The first half was okay but in the second half they needed to go forward in front of their supporters.
"We had more space and we scored the second goal on the counter-attack.
"But from the start of the game we wanted to impress and we wanted to win.
"We worked hard, had plenty of possession and wanted to keep a high tempo with the ball.
"We scored once and had one or two problems near the end of the first half but we controlled it.
"In the second half, with the game more open, it was easier for us to keep the high tempo."