Thursday, October 30, 2008

Liverpool 1-0 Portsmouth

Steven Gerrard's 76th-minute penalty kept Liverpool clear at the top of the table with victory over Portsmouth.
Gerrard scored after Papa Bouba Diop undid his side's resolute performance by handling a corner in Pompey boss Tony Adams's first game in charge.
Until then, Dirk Kuyt's shot against the post was the closest Liverpool had come to a goal.
Yossi Benayoun was also denied for the home side after a last-ditch Sylvain Distin tackle before Gerrard's winner.
Pompey belatedly pushed forward in search of an equaliser after the goal but Liverpool held on for a win to stay three points clear at the top of the table.
However, it was a close call for the Reds after manager Rafael Benitez had made four changes from the side that beat Chelsea on Sunday.
Portsmouth were clearly intent on stifling Liverpool as Adams employed Peter Crouch as a lone striker, dropping striker Jermain Defoe to the bench and playing with a five-man midfield.
The tactic appeared vulnerable as Liverpool's early passing and movement showed an intent which suggested the home side would earn a breakthrough.
A diagonal Kuyt shot was palmed against the post by former Reds keeper David James, while an unmarked Lucas Leiva headed over from a Fabio Aurelio corner which was just too high for him.
But Pompey survived the early scares and had a chance to stun the Anfield side against the run of play.
Bouba Diop had stolen in between Liverpool's two centre-backs and had a free header from a Sean Davis cross but struck his effort tamely and straight at keeper Jose Reina from six yards.
Liverpool heeded the warning and again began to assert their authority as they probed patiently for an opening.
Kuyt put a shot into the side-netting, a Gerrard strike was parried by James before being cleared and Alvaro Arbeloa sent a curling strike just wide - but a goal continued to elude the home side.
The longer the game progressed the more Pompey justified Adams's tactics as the visitors continued to hold the Reds at bay.
But there was also more urgency in the Reds' play and Kuyt should have done better but mistimed a header from a promising position 12 yards out.
Benayoun was later put clean through but Kaboul's sliding tackle diverted the Israeli midfielder's effort wide.
It appeared Liverpool would have to settle for a draw but they were rewarded for their perseverance.
Bouba Diop needlessly handballed a corner and allowed Gerrard to secure a hard-fought win, despite a late John Utaka header going wide.
Portsmouth manager Tony Adams:"I made sure we were tough to beat but unfortunately one moment of madness cost us.
"I'm certainly not going to have a go at Bouba Diop as he has worked his socks off."
He added: "I'm very pleased (with our play) but it we come away with nothing. I thought we deserved something."
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez:"We knew it would be difficult.
"Always when there is a new manager players want to impress. We had our chances but you have to score."
The Reds are top of the Premier League and he added: "Confidence is high but there's long way to go."
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Hyypia, Carragher, Aurelio, Pennant (Benayoun 63), Alonso, Leiva Lucas, Babel (Riera 71), Gerrard (Keane 90), Kuyt.Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Dossena, Agger, Mascherano.
Goals: Gerrard 76 pen.

Portsmouth: James, Pamarot, Kaboul, Distin, Belhadj, Utaka (Defoe 85), Davis, Diop, Diarra (Hughes 80), Armand Traore (Kranjcar 64), Crouch.Subs Not Used: Ashdown, Kanu, Mvuemba, Hreidarsson.
Booked: Diarra, Diop.
Att: 43,378
Ref: Steve Tanner (Somerset).

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Chelsea 0-1 Liverpool

Liverpool demonstrated their growing title credentials by ending Chelsea's 86-game unbeaten run in the Premier League at Stamford Bridge and moving three points clear at the top of the table.
Xabi Alonso's deflected 10th-minute goal gave Liverpool victory and shattered a Chelsea sequence stretching back to February 2004 on home turf.
It was a deserved triumph for Rafael Benitez's side achieved without Fernando Torres and the first setback for the reign of Luiz Felipe Scolari at Chelsea.
Chelsea enjoyed long periods of possession, but Liverpool never flinched and could have doubled their victory margin had Alonso's second-half free-kick not hit an upright.
Ashley Cole missed Chelsea's best chance after the break, allowing Liverpool to record a victory which is of huge significance in terms of their confidence and self-belief.
If this game was a measure of Liverpool's ability to finally mount a serious title challenge, then they will have left west London in the knowledge that they now appear to have the ability to finally challenge Chelsea and Manchester United in domestic battle.
Chelsea simply ran out of ideas in the face of a red wall of defensive resistance, with Liverpool's defence led magnificently by Jamie Carragher impenetrable.
Scolari's side opened with a surge of confidence, but took a real knock when Alonso gave Liverpool the lead.
He latched on to a half-clearance, and while his effort carried little power, a deflection off Jose Bosingwa was enough to wrong-foot Petr Cech.
The rest of the opening period was a tale of Chelsea dominating possession but Liverpool were superbly organised and carried an ever-present threat of a second goal on the break.
Steven Gerrard almost provided it after 23 minutes with a dipping effort from 25 yards that required the fingertips of Cech to turn it to safety.
Javier Mascherano was offering Liverpool's defence fierce protection, and an atmosphere of frustration was growing around Stamford Bridge.
But Deco almost provided the equaliser nine minutes before the interval when Gerrard lost possession, and the Portugal midfielder advanced before sending a left-foot shot inches wide.
Chelsea may have enjoyed territorial superiority in the first 45 minutes, but the resilience Liverpool have demonstrated throughout this season ensured keeper Pepe Reina had not had any serious work to do.
Liverpool's increasing confidence was demonstrated at the start of the second half, with Gerrard pushed into a more advanced role in support of Robbie Keane.
There was a moment of anxiety for Reina after 54 minutes when he brought down Florent Malouda as he raced into the area, but the linesman's flag had already been raised.
It was Malouda's final contribution as Scolari made a double change, sending on substitutes Franco di Santo and Juliano Belletti, with Salomon Kalou also taken off.
Liverpool sent on Ryan Babel for Keane and they came within inches of doubling their advantage after 61 minutes.
Alonso's low free-kick left Cech motionless, but for Liverpool it agonisingly struck the base of the post and stayed out.
Cole, having already been booked, ran the risk of a red card with a needless foul on Babel, but the foolish intervention of Mascherano in an attempt to ensure he was sent off ended with a yellow card for the Argentine.
Liverpool had applied pressure points to Chelsea all over the pitch, and as the clock ticked down on their formidable home record, some of the calm and order that had characterised their play had disappeared.
But they fashioned their best chance of the game after 72 minutes, only for Cole to slice hopelessly wide when Di Santo knocked Frank Lampard's cross into his path.
Carragher defended heroically to block Deco, but Babel then showed his threat with a rising drive that was just inches away.
Chelsea pressed in the closing stages, but never in any convincing fashion on another day when Liverpool confirmed their growing stature.
Chelsea: Cech, Bosingwa (Sinclair 84), Carvalho, Terry, Ashley Cole, Mikel, Kalou (Di Santo 58), Deco, Lampard, Malouda (Belletti 58), Anelka. Subs Not Used: Cudicini, Ivanovic, Ferreira, Alex. Booked: Malouda, Ashley Cole, Deco.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Agger, Aurelio, Alonso, Mascherano, Kuyt (Leiva Lucas 88), Gerrard, Riera (Hyypia 90), Keane (Babel 60). Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Dossena, Benayoun, Pennant.
Booked: Arbeloa, Gerrard, Mascherano.
Goals: Alonso 10.

Att: 41,705
Ref: Howard Webb (S Yorkshire).

Friday, October 24, 2008

Atletico Madrid 1-1 Liverpool

Liverpool had to settle for a draw after Simao Sabrosa's late equaliser rescued a point for Atletico Madrid.
Robbie Keane's cool finish from a suspiciously offside position gave the visitors the lead in the 14th minute.
Liverpool's Yossi Benayoun and Atletico's Maniche then both had goals contentiously ruled out for offside after the break.
But Simao, who had a shot turned on to the post by goalkeeper Pepe Reina, drove home after 83 minutes.
Liverpool dominated the first half but did not make the most of their supremacy, and in the end were grateful for a point after being forced on to the back foot for most of the second period.
And Liverpool left Spain with an injury worry over goalscorer Keane after he limped off early in the second half with a groin injury.
It is a headache for boss Rafael Benitez ahead of Sunday's game at Chelsea, with Fernando Torres already struggling with a hamstring problem.
Benitez surprisingly left in-form Dirk Kuyt on the bench and played Keane as a lone striker - but it was a decision that reaped rewards with a priceless early strike.
Steven Gerrard was the creator with a trademark through ball, which the Republic of Ireland striker took in his stride before calmly sliding a finish beyond Atletico keeper Leo Franco.
Replays suggested Keane was offside - and it was not to be the only contentious decision of the game.
Liverpool exercised almost total domination in the early exchanges, with Xabi Alonso shooting over and Keane wasting a glorious chance after 22 minutes when he tried to over-elaborate in front of goal from Gerrard's cross and failed to make any contact.
Diego Forlan finally fashioned a chance for Atletico five minutes before the interval with a shot on the turn that flashed just wide with Reina beaten.
Liverpool suffered a blow seven minutes after the break when Keane limped off to be replaced by Kuyt. It also co-incided with Atletico's best spell following the half-time introduction of the exciting Sergio Aguero.
Atletico were desperately unlucky not to equalise after 55 minutes when Maniche's fine finish was ruled out by a linesman's flag, even though he was clearly onside, although Benayoun appeared to suffer a similar injustice moments earlier.
Liverpool were then thankful to keeper Reina when his fingertips diverted Simao's shot on to an upright.
The visitors were starting to look jaded, and Benitez replaced captain Gerrard with the pace of Ryan Babel on the hour.
But just as it looked like they had weathered the storm, Atletico drew level with seven minutes left.
Jamie Carragher misjudged a long ball to let Forlan in, and he found Simao, who drove a top-class finish across Reina into the bottom corner.
Atletico were scenting victory, and Reina had to be alert to turn a drive from Miguel over the top.
But Babel wasted a glorious opportunity to snatch the win for Liverpool after 88 minutes, when he somehow headed Kuyt's cross wide with the goal at his mercy.
It was the final chance of the game - with the draw leaving both clubs still in a perfect position to qualify for the knockout phase.
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez"You have to finish when you have the chances. We were trying to find the perfect pass. We were in their final third and all we were doing was passing it.
"We were playing well and we had control until we got to the final third. We tried to be too precise, tried to give the perfect pass and didn't finish when we should have done.
"We have one more point now and it's not a bad position to be in, but if you concede after 83 minutes then you have to be disappointed.
"I'm happy with the game we played in the first half and to start the second. I'm disappointed with the chances we had to finish the game and didn't take though."
Atletico Madrid: Franco, Seitaridis, Perea, Dominguez, Antonio Lopez, Camacho (Raul Garcia 72), Maniche, Luis Garcia (Aguero 46), Simao, Forlan, Sinama Pongolle (Miguel 75). Subs Not Used: Bernabe, Pernia, Heitinga, Paulo Assuncao.
Booked: Maniche.
Goals: Simao 83.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Agger, Dossena, Mascherano, Alonso (Leiva Lucas 75), Benayoun, Gerrard (Babel 61), Riera, Keane (Kuyt 53).Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Aurelio, Pennant, Darby.
Booked: Riera, Arbeloa.

Goals: Keane 14.
Att: 44,500
Ref: Claus Bo Larsen (Denmark).

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Liverpool 3-2 Wigan

Dirk Kuyt's scissor-kick five minutes from time gave Liverpool all three points against 10-man Wigan in a pulsating game at Anfield.
Amr Zaki gave the visitors the lead after a mistake from Daniel Agger, but Kuyt fired Liverpool level.
On the stroke of half-time Zaki scored a spectacular overhead-kick to restore Wigan's lead, before Antonio Valencia was sent off for two bookable offences.
The home side hit back through Albert Riera, before Kuyt's late winner.
The result is harsh on a Wigan side who, until Valencia's sending off, looked good value for at least a point.
Wigan played with great confidence and, with the inspirational Zaki up front, they regularly troubled the Liverpool defence.
Even without the injured Emile Heskey, missing with a back problem, Liverpool struggled to cope with Wigan's movement, pace and greater desire.
In contrast Liverpool, missing striker Fernando Torres, appeared disjointed and struggled to create meaningful attacks.
Olivier Kapo, playing in a front three alongside Zaki and Daniel de Ridder, was the first to test Pepe Reina as his low left-foot shot was turned away by the Liverpool goalkeeper.
Robbie Keane curled wide as Liverpool started to feel their way into the game, but a minute later Zaki gave his side the lead after a horrendous error by Agger.
The Danish defender received the ball from Reina on the edge of his own area, but he was far too casual in possession and the Egyptian striker was on hand to rob the ball before coolly slotting home.

Agger made amends 10 minutes later as he drove forward from defence, exchanged passes with Andrea Dossena and cut the ball back for Kuyt to fire home.
Suddenly the confidence returned to Liverpool's play and Kuyt nearly grabbed a second as he unleashed a rasping shot from 20 yards that Chris Kirkland somehow managed to tip onto the crossbar.
But they were stung on the stroke of half-time as Zaki met Valencia's cross with a brilliant acrobatic effort that gave Reina no chance.
After the break Liverpool started to turn the screw and Lee Cattermole was on hand to clear Agger's header back across goal with Keane lurking at the far post.
Kuyt was then denied again by Kirkland from six yards as the home side struggled to break Wigan's resistance.
However, when Valencia was given his marching orders, the game swung in Liverpool's favour.
The Ecuador international was shown a yellow card for failing to retreat 10 yards as Gerrard lined up a free-kick and just a minute later he was on his way down the tunnel for a reckless tackle on Xabi Alonso.
Liverpool immediately looked to make their man advantage count and Alonso saw his shot from 25 yards deflected wide by Titus Bramble, before Riera drew them level with a right-footed shot from 20 yards.
It was the Spaniard's first goal in a Liverpool shirt, but Liverpool were not done yet.
They sensed victory as Wigan began to tire and Kuyt sealed the win with his fourth goal in three games.
He met Jermaine Pennant's pin-point cross with a flying volley that hit the ground before flying over the despairing dive of Kirkland.
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez:"I think that we were attacking, controlling and creating chances so we were in control of the second half.
"We didn't start well and they started really well.
"After conceding the goal the team was a little bit nervous but when we scored the first goal, we were again in the game and were controlling.
"We then concede the second goal when we were playing better."
Wigan manager Steve Bruce on Antonio Valencia's sending off:"Every decision that was contentious was given to Liverpool.
"Every little decision went their way. The first yellow card, he doesn't deserve a yellow card, the second one is arguable.
"That was the decisive moment in the match because up until then we were coping admirably and were arguably the best team."
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa (Benayoun 79), Carragher, Agger, Dossena (El Zhar 78), Pennant, Gerrard, Alonso, Riera, Keane (Hyypia 90), Kuyt.Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Leiva Lucas, Insua, Ngog.
Booked: Dossena.
Goals: Kuyt 37, Riera 80, Kuyt 85.

Wigan: Kirkland, Melchiot, Scharner, Bramble, Figueroa, Valencia, Cattermole, Palacios (Koumas 90), Kapo (Brown 82), De Ridder (Kilbane 79), Zaki.Subs Not Used: Pollitt, Taylor, Boyce, Camara.
Sent Off: Valencia (75).
Booked: Valencia.
Goals: Zaki 29, 45.
Att: 43,868
Ref: Alan Wiley (Staffordshire).

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Man City 2-3 Liverpool

Dirk Kuyt scored an injury-time winner as Liverpool came back from two goals down to beat 10-man Manchester City.
Stephen Ireland lashed in a shot to put City ahead and Javier Garrido curled a 22-yard free-kick into the top corner to extend the home side's lead.
But Fernando Torres sidefooted home and, after City's Pablo Zabaleta was sent off for a tackle on Xabi Alonso, headed in to level for the visitors.
Kuyt dramatically decided the game late on when he slotted in at the far post.
Liverpool showed plenty of character and belief in completing a battling comeback which will only have served to enhance their title credentials.
The game was a match up between a City side who were the highest scorers in the Premier League before the encounter, while the Reds had the top-flight's meanest defence.
And they produced an action-packed match with plenty of drama.
In the opening skirmishes, Reds left-winger Albert Riera caused plenty of problems for ex-club City.
Riera had a low well-struck shot from an acute angle saved by Joe Hart before he weaved and wriggled his way into space and put in a low cross for Kuyt.
The Dutchman sidefooted over with his left-foot from six yards and City responded by taking the lead.
Wright-Phillips crossed for Jo and, after Alonso nicked the ball away from him before he could shoot, the City winger managed to pull back another cross back for Robinho.
The Brazilian was challenged by Alvaro Arbeloa and the loose ball fell to Ireland to power home the opener.
The goal put a spring in City's play and they knocked the Reds out of their stride with a mixture of flair and hard work.
City were rewarded with a second when Riera fouled Wright-Phillips and Garrido curled in a left-footed free-kick past the despairing dive of Reina.
Liverpool must have been on the end of some harsh half-time words from manager Rafael Benitez because they came out with an increased desire after the break.
The visitors quickly pulled one back when Torres sidefooted in Arbeloa's cross, but City would have restored their two-goal advantage if Robinho had not fluffed a glorious chance.
Torres was then guilty of missing an equally gilt-edged chance to Robinho's when he struck an effort over from point-blank range after Robbie Keane's ball across City's six-yard box.
The Reds suffered a setback when centre-back Martin Skrtel buckled under his standing leg and was stretchered off.
Liverpool - also down to 10-men as they had made their three substitutions - stunned the Manchester City faithful when Kuyt slotted in the winner after a Torres shot had found its way to him.
It was Kuyt's first goal in the top-flight since last November and maintained Liverpool's unbeaten start to the season as they stayed joint top of the Premier League with Chelsea.
Manchester City boss Mark Hughes: "We played really well in the first half and deserved our lead," he said. "The sending off has changed the game and made it even more difficult for us.
"Overall, we have to take the positives out of it. In the first half, it was as good as we have played this season."
He added: "It's a harsh lesson and we will have to learn from it."
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez:"We have some experience after Istanbul (when we beat AC Milan after being 3-0 down) and other games.
"The main thing for me was the belief of the players until the end.
"In the second half we were on top. We changed the mentality and approach. We knew we were giving them too much space so we tried to press them.
"Kuyt is one of our key players. His work-rate is amazing and I think that is why the supporters love him."
Frankly this is one of the best Liverpool performance especially in the second-half.
Man City: Hart, Zabaleta, Dunne, Richards, Garrido, Wright-Phillips, Ireland, Kompany, Elano (Petrov 85), Robinho (Evans 80), Jo (Fernandes 70).Subs Not Used: Schmeichel, Hamann, Ben-Haim, Sturridge.
Sent Off: Zabaleta (67).
Booked: Dunne.
Goals: Ireland 19, Garrido 41.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Skrtel, Aurelio (Dossena 70), Mascherano (Keane 71), Kuyt, Gerrard, Alonso, Riera (Benayoun 81), Torres.Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Agger, Babel, Leiva Lucas.
Booked: Arbeloa.
Goals: Torres 55, 73, Kuyt 90.
Att: 47,280
Ref: Peter Walton (Northamptonshire).

Friday, October 3, 2008

Liverpool 3-1 PSV

Robbie Keane's first goal since his £20.3m move from Tottenham helped Liverpool ease to victory over PSV Eindhoven in Champions League Group D.
Dirk Kuyt put the Reds ahead after four minutes, following up after Andreas Isaksson saved Fernando Torres' volley.
Keane made it 2-0 before half-time when he hooked home Torres' bouncing cross.
Steven Gerrard wrapped up the win with a ferocious free-kick - his 100th goal for Liverpool - before Danny Koevermans bundled home a consolation for PSV.
There are sure to be sterner tests ahead for Liverpool in Europe this season than the visit of the Dutch champions but Reds boss Rafa Benitez has plenty of reasons to be satisfied after his side's convincing display.
PSV clearly came to Anfield with the intention of frustrating their hosts but their hopes of implementing that plan only lasted untol Kuyt broke the deadlock.

CLBVisiting keeper Isaksson did well to deny Torres, who had ghosted in unmarked to meet Steven Gerrard's cross, but he should have done better with Kuyt's shot which span out of his grasp and into the top corner.
From then on it was hard to see how Huub Stevens' side were going to emulate Stoke City, the only side to deny the Reds victory at Anfield this season.
PSV persevered with five men across the back - which at least kept Liverpool quiet immediately after they had scored - but with Nordin Amrabat on his own up front they were restricted to long-range efforts in their search for an equaliser.

Liverpool, meanwhile, continued to look menacing and, even before his goal, Keane might have had a penalty when he was tripped in the area by Carlos Salcido.
Torres was next to threaten, rising unmarked to head a Fabio Aurelio corner wide, and it was fitting that he was involved in Liverpool's second goal on 34 minutes.
Much has been made of the potential potency of Torres' partnership with Keane but the common consensus is that it will be the Republic of Ireland international who will be creating chances for his Spanish team-mate.
The opposite was the case here, with Torres combining well with Kuyt on the right before sending over an inviting cross that Keane despatched past the helpless Isaksson to end his Liverpool goal-drought in his 11th game for the Reds.
Aside from his fruitless spell with Inter Milan, Keane has never had to wait this long for his first goal for a club and the relief in his trademark tumbling celebration was obvious.

Steven Gerrard lets fly with the free-kick for his 100th Liverpool goalPSV, to their credit, continued to work hard and Otman Bakkal and Amrabat both sent shots skidding wide of Pepe Reina's goal.
But Liverpool were still more than comfortable and Torres should have made it 3-0 when he ran on to Jan Kromkamp's sloppy backpass only to see his attempted flick drift wide.
The third goal did arrive on 74 minutes, courtesy of Gerrard, who marked his century of Reds goals with an absolute scorcher.
Gerrard, so often Liverpool's saviour in the past, has scored many more crucial goals for his club but few have been better strikes than his free-kick, which left Isaksson with no chance.
That should have capped a fine night for the Anfield faithful but instead it was PSV who had the final word, Koevermans meeting a deep cross and getting enough on the ball to beat Reina.
The end result was never in doubt, however, and Liverpool will head into back-to-back fixtures with Atletico Madrid in a strong position to qualify for the knock-out stages.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Skrtel, Carragher, Aurelio, Kuyt, Gerrard (Babel 81), Alonso, Riera (Benayoun 68), Torres, Keane (Leiva Lucas 75).Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Dossena, Agger, Mascherano.
Goals: Kuyt 5, Keane 34, Gerrard 76.
PSV: Isaksson, Kromkamp, Simons, Marcellis, Salcido, Brechet (Pieters 46), Mendez (Dzsudzsak 76), Culina, Bakkal, Amrabat, Wuytens (Koevermans 60).Subs Not Used: Cassio, Rodriguez, Zonneveld, Nijland.
Booked: Marcellis.
Goals: Koevermans 78.
Att: 41,097
Ref: Felix Brych (Germany).