Friday, December 26, 2008

Liverpool 3-0 Bolton

Liverpool defeated Bolton to end a sequence of three home draws and reclaim top spot in the Premier League.
The Reds took the lead through Albert Riera, who volleyed home beyond the near post direct from a corner.
Robbie Keane collected a Steven Gerrard pass and finished with his left foot to extend the home team's lead.
Keane then slotted home from eight yards to finish a sharp break that involved Xabi Alonso and Yossi Benayoun to take his team back above Chelsea.
Bolton had won three of their last four away fixtures but were very much second best against a team who had seen Luiz Felipe Scolari's outfit move above them with victory over West Brom earlier on Boxing Day.
However, with manager Rafa Benitez watching from the stands as he recovers from surgery on his kidney stones, Liverpool took the game to a Bolton side that arrived with the aim of stifling their opponents and fully deserved their victory.
In the opening minute Bolton had delivered a stark warning that despite playing five across midfield they would look to break forward and support lone striker Johan Elmander when in possession.
Kevin Nolan, a lifelong Liverpool supporter, ran on to Matthew Taylor's pass and tried to lift the ball over Pepe Reina towards the unmarked Ricardo Gardner at the far post.
But the Bolton skipper did not get enough purchase on the ball and Reina took a comfortable catch.
And from that moment Liverpool dominated possession, searching for a way through the congested Bolton defensive structure.
Keane and Riera shot wide, while Emiliano Insua volleyed at goal directly from a corner but was thwarted by Jussi Jaaskelainen, who also saved a Dirk Kuyt header.
Bolton boss Gary Megson resisted the urge to change his formation after the Reds broke the deadlock through Riera with what looked like a set move.
Liverpool continued to press, with Daniel Agger and Jamie Carragher both going close with long-range efforts before the break.
Bolton brought on Kevin Davies for Jlloyd Samuel at the start of the second-half but before the away team had the opportunity to impose themselves Keane had extended Liverpool's advantage.
Gerrard's superb slide-rule pass was controlled by the Republic of Ireland striker with his first touch and smashed home with his second.
Reina started the move that led to Liverpool's third, rolling the ball out to Alonso, who broke through the empty space in midfield.
The Spaniard picked out the run of Benayoun, who squared the ball for Keane to slot home his fifth Premier League goal of the season.
With Bolton forced to show more ambition, Liverpool found more space to exploit and teased and toyed their opponents.
In fact, Liverpool were so comfortable that skipper Gerrard was withdrawn after 73 minutes.
But Bolton did almost score a consolation when Ebi Smolarek collected a pass from Fabrice Muamba and shot past Reina but inches wide of the Liverpool goal.
Bolton keeper Jasskelainen made a great double save from Benayoun and David Ngog with the final action of the match.
The final whistle brought blessed relief to central defender Gary Cahill, who had picked up an injury but had to stay on the field as his team had already used all three substitutes.
Liverpool: Reina, Carragher, Hyypia, Agger, Insua, Benayoun, Gerrard (Leiva Lucas 73), Alonso, Riera (El Zhar 69), Keane, Kuyt (Ngog 76). Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Babel, Mascherano, Darby.
Booked: Agger.
Goals: Riera 26, Keane 53, 58.

Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Steinsson, Cahill, Andrew O'Brien, Samuel (Davies 46), Muamba, Nolan, McCann, Taylor (Riga 66), Gardner, Elmander (Smolarek 66). Subs Not Used: Al Habsi, Shittu, Basham, Obadeyi.
Booked: Nolan, Steinsson, McCann.
Att: 43,548
Ref: Alan Wiley (Staffordshire).

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Arsenal 1-1 Liverpool

Robbie Keane struck a stunning equaliser as Liverpool remained top of the Premier League and maintained an eight-point advantage over Arsenal.
Robin van Persie put Arsenal ahead after collecting a long pass from Samir Nasri that he brilliantly controlled before smashing home.
Keane's equaliser was equally spectacular, drilling home a long punt upfield on the half-volley.
Emmanuel Adebayor saw red in the second half after picking up a second yellow.
Liverpool had been on top at the time of Adebayor's 62nd-minute dismissal but the home team competed manfully after losing their Togo striker and were good value for their point.
The visitors could now lose top spot in the league if Chelsea defeat Everton on Monday, while Arsenal remain fifth in the table.
Arsenal skipper Cesc Fabregas said in the week before the game that defeat for his team would have effectively spelled the end of their title challenge.
Having drawn the fixture the Gunners remain in the hunt but an injury to Fabregas on the stroke of half-time does little to improve their prospects.
Rafael Benitez, whose team have already beaten Chelsea and Manchester United this season, missed the game as he recovers from surgery to remove kidney stones but the Liverpool boss did pick the team.
Keane, an unused substitute against Hull last weekend, returned as one of four changes from the team that drew with the Tigers.
Steven Gerrard played just behind the Irishman and the two combined after 10 minutes for the opening opportunity of the game. Keane looked to be yards offside as he collected a long ball but Gael Clichy had played him on and the striker laid the ball off to Gerrard, whose shot from 20 yards was saved by Manuel Almunia.
Arsenal took time to settle, struggling to play their fluent passing game. However, Adebayor forced a save from Pepe Reina with a header after he met Bacary Sagna's cross from the right.
And Van Persie put Arsenal ahead with a goal of individual brilliance.
Nasri, returning after injury, picked out the Dutch forward with a raking pass but Van Persie was closely marked by Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger as he brought the ball down on his chest.
Van Persie created a yard of space with his second touch and smashed the ball into the corner of the net with his third.
Clear-cut chances remained at a premium but it was another moment of brilliance that saw Keane equalise with his third Premier League goal of the season.
Arsenal had been troubled previously by long balls upfield and failed to deal with an optimistic punt over the top from Agger that Keane smashed home spectacularly on the half-volley.
Liverpool might have led at the break but Gerrard could not quite find the target after sliding in to meet a low cross from Kuyt, who then went close himself with a low shot across goal that Almunia did well to save.
And the half ended on a sour note for Arsenal when skipper Fabregas sustained a knee injury challenging Xabi Alonso for the ball and was replaced by Vassiriki Diaby.
Keane enjoys Liverpool strikeLeiva Lucas tested stand-in captain Almunia with a strike shortly after the resumption and the home team's travails worsened when Adebayor was dismissed.
The striker had his foot raised as he competed with Alvaro Arbeloa and caught the defender with his elbow as he spun, prompting referee Howard Webb to issue a second yellow card.
But Arsenal, who had struggled since the resumption, rallied after losing Adebayor and enjoyed a spell of pressure in and around the Liverpool box.
However, it was Liverpool who came close to a late winner, with a long-range strike from Agger narrowly missing the target and Nabil El Zhar heading wide.
Arsenal: Almunia, Sagna, Djourou, Gallas, Clichy, Denilson, Fabregas (Diaby 46), Song Billong, Nasri (Eboue 90), Adebayor, Van Persie. Subs Not Used: Fabianski, Vela, Ramsey, Silvestre, Wilshere.
Sent Off: Adebayor (62).
Booked: Adebayor, Van Persie, Sagna.
Goals: Van Persie 24.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Agger, Insua, Kuyt, Leiva Lucas (Ngog 88), Alonso, Riera (Babel 71), Gerrard, Keane (El Zhar 81). Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Hyypia, Benayoun, Plessis.
Booked: Keane, Carragher, Leiva Lucas.
Goals: Keane 42.

Att: 60,094
Ref: Howard Webb (S Yorkshire).

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Liverpool 2-2 Hull City

My hero, Steven Gerrard scored twice as league leaders Liverpool came back from two goals down against Hull in a match the Reds should have won after dominating.
Hull took a surprise lead when defender Paul McShane headed Marlon King's cross into the roof of the net.
A Jamie Carragher own goal then doubled Hull's lead before Gerrard's goals, both from six yards, levelled matters.
The Reds had the better of the second half, with a Sami Hyypia header hitting the post and Nabil El Zhar going close.
In the build-up to the match, Rafael Benitez predicted that Liverpool would have "an 80% possibility" of ending the season as champions if they were still leading the Premier League in three weeks.
That percentage will surely now have lowered after this draw, their third on the trot at Anfield following stalemates against West Ham and Stoke.
And Benitez's men could find themselves usurped by Chelsea at the top of the league should Luiz Felipe Scolari's men beat West Ham at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Three goals in the opening 25 minutes made for a pulsating start after Liverpool had started brightly, with Yossi Benayoun and Alvaro Arbeloa causing Hull problems on the right flank.
But, for all of the home side's slick passing, it was Hull who broke the deadlock when McShane rose above the hapless Andrea Dossena to head home.
Sam Ricketts was called into action to clear Dossena's left-wing cross away from Benayoun, who was waiting for a simple tap-in, before Anfield was stunned into silence as the visitors doubled their advantage.
Bernard Mendy got the better of Dossena on the right with a surging run into the box, and his subsequent cross across the face of the goal caused a disorientated Carragher to divert the ball into his own net.
As is so often the case, Gerrard came to Liverpool's rescue with two goals in 10 minutes.
Dirk Kuyt's cross from the right fell kindly to his captain who drilled the ball in with the outside of his boot.
And, in the 33rd minute, the impressive Benayoun hooked Kuyt's downward header towards Gerrard, who equalised with a rasping shot into the right corner.
Xabi Alonso, Kuyt and Albert Riera all had chances to give Liverpool the lead before the break, but Hull remained typically resolute.
Liverpool dominated the second half but lacked a cutting-edge in the final third as £20m summer signing Robbie Keane was left languishing on the bench.
Hyypia's header did beat Boaz Myhill only for the post to come to the goalkeeper's rescue.
Brown aggrieved at Anfield draw
In the 63rd minute, a fine last-gasp Michael Turner tackle prevented Benayoun from troubling Myhill before the Welshman was called into action to palm away Riera's menacing 25-yard drive. Liverpool brought on El Zhar and Ryan Babel as they searched for the winning goal, with the former forcing Myhill into great save low to his right.
And Hull, who had already won at Newcastle, Arsenal, Tottenham and West Brom this season, held on for the draw.
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez:"We started really well and we conceded two goals, two mistakes, but afterwards we showed character.
"We were too open. We know we've lost two points but you have to keep going. You cannot change things now."
Asked why he left Robbie Keane on the substitutes' bench as Liverpool went in search of the winner, Benitez added: "Using more people in the box is not a guarantee."
Hull manager Phil Brown: "Having gone 2-0 up to then concede two goals against them, I'm aggrieved to be honest.
"You need to get the rub of the green when you come to Anfield, possibly we didn't have that.
"I've nothing but admiration for the way we got something from the game in the face of a lot of pressure. We're hard to beat."
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Hyypia, Carragher, Dossena, Mascherano (Leiva Lucas 87), Alonso, Benayoun (El Zhar 74), Gerrard, Riera (Babel 82), Kuyt. Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Agger, Keane, Ngog.
Booked: El Zhar, Hyypia, Alonso.
Goals: Gerrard 24, 32.

Hull: Myhill, McShane (Marney 27), Zayatte, Turner, Ricketts, Mendy, Ashbee, Boateng (Halmosi 66), Geovanni, Barmby (Windass 77), King. Subs Not Used: Warner, Garcia, Cousin, Giannakopoulos.
Booked: McShane, Boateng, Marney.
Goals: McShane 12, Carragher 22 og.
Att: 43,835
Ref: Alan Wiley (Staffordshire).

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

PSV 1-3 Liverpool

Liverpool came from behind to beat PSV Eindhoven and qualify for the Champions League last 16 as winners of Group D.
PSV took the lead when Danko Lazovic poked in from close range after Javier Mascherano failed to clear a corner.
Ryan Babel equalised with a glancing header from Lucas Leiva's cross and Albert Riera put them ahead with a 25-yard drive that found the top corner.
PSV's Dirk Marcellis hit a post, before David Ngog latched on to Robbie Keane's
pass and slotted in to seal the win.
Liverpool's victory was reward for a much-improved performance after the interval.
It also gave manager Rafael Benitez his wish to claim top spot in the group, which means Liverpool will play the second leg of their last 16 match at Anfield.
Benitez had made clear before the match that it was important to achieve that, but he still sent out a team with seven changes from Saturday's win against Blackburn.
And unsurprisingly, there was little fluency about Liverpool's play early on, with only Riera looking bright and alert.
There was little to admire in PSV's work, either, as the Dutch side could do no more than match Liverpool's lethargic tempo.
Timmy Simons' drive was comfortably beaten away by Diego Cavalieri as the hosts finally got a shot in on goal.
With an absence of creativity and urgency it was hard to see where a goal might come from.
Yet PSV got themselves in front when Mascherano missed his header as he tried to clear a corner and the ball fell for Lazovic, who stroked the ball past Cavalieri.
Liverpool finally found some rhythm and David Ngog had a chance to equalise but headed straight at Andreas Isaksson.
There was no such profligacy from Babel in first-half injury time when his downward header bounced into the top corner to put Liverpool on level terms.
After the break, Liverpool pressed for another goal and they might have had one had Babel released Keane rather than opted to shoot.
But when the goal came, it arrived in emphatic style with the impressive Riera striking a magnificent shot from distance that flew into the top corner.
PSV responded and Marcellis struck the outside of the post from a tight angle.
But any hopes the Dutch side had of a comeback were dashed when Keane played an inch-perfect pass through to Ngog and he produced a composed low finish to score his first goal for Liverpool.
Liverpool might have won by an even greater margin but Lucas missed a good chance after Keane had again fashioned the opportunity.
PSV: Isaksson, Culina, Marcellis, Brechet, Salcido, Mendez (Manco 80), Simons, Dzsudzsak, Bakkal (Nijland 83), Lazovic, Amrabat (Koevermans 72).Subs Not Used: Cassio, Rodriguez, Pieters, Wuytens.
Booked: Simons, Mendez.
Goals: Lazovic 36.
Liverpool: Cavalieri, Arbeloa (Darby 69), Carragher (Kelly 81), Agger, Dossena, Mascherano, Leiva Lucas, Babel, Ngog, Riera (Spearing 76), Keane.Subs Not Used: Reina, Gerrard, Alonso, Benayoun.
Booked: Riera, Arbeloa, Dossena.
Goals: Babel 45, Riera 69, Ngog 77.

Att: 35,000
Ref: Nikolai Ivanov (Russia).

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Blackburn 1-3 Liverpool

Goals from Xabi Alonso, Yossi Benayoun and Steven Gerrard were enough to keep Liverpool top of the table and leave Blackburn without a league win in 10.
Stephen Warnock stopped Benayoun giving Liverpool the lead before Morten Gamst Pedersen fired against the crossbar.
After half-time Alonso sidefooted past Paul Robinson to open the scoring and Benayoun shot low to double the lead.
Roque Santa Cruz's header gave Rovers hope but Gerrard found an empty net after poor defending from the hosts.
Blackburn manager Paul Ince is likely to come under increased pressure after his side slumped to their fifth successive league defeat.
They sit second from bottom, just two points above West Brom, who have a game in hand.
Liverpool remain a point clear of Chelsea at the Premier League summit and boss Rafael Benitez will be delighted to return to winning ways following back-to-back goalless draws.
The Merseyside outfit dominated the opening exchanges as Blackburn portrayed all the hallmarks of a team desperately lacking in confidence.
The hosts' ball-retention was poor and they seemed bereft of ideas in the attacking third.
Liverpool looked to release wingers Benayoun and Ryan Babel at every opportunity and on 18 minutes Steven Gerrard sent Benayoun racing through on goal, only for Warnock to intervene with an outstanding challenge.
But Liverpool, lining up in a 4-5-1 formation with Robbie Keane dropped to the bench and Dirk Kuyt the lone striker, did not create another clear-cut chance in a half notable for the visitors' shortage of inspiration and cutting edge.
Blackburn grew in belief and were unfortunate not to take the lead when Pedersen's long-range strike on 27 minutes was expertly tipped onto the woodwork by Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina.
Reina was again called upon to save from Pedersen before half-time, this time palming a free-kick to safety, but the game became scrappy after the break.
The passing was, at times, woeful but Liverpool showed marginally more quality going forward and Robinson was forced to react well to repel Alonso's drive after 57 minutes.
Moments later Liverpool should have broken the deadlock but when Robinson spilled Gerrard's fierce strike, Benayoun could not follow up and Ryan Nelson scrambled the ball clear.
Blackburn were rocking and it came as no surprise when Alonso sidefooted past Robinson from just inside the penalty area.
The Spaniard pounced with a calm finish after Andre Ooijer, under pressure from Kuyt, had failed to deal with Gerrard's cross from the right and his fellow centre-half Christopher Samba was nowhere to be seen.
The Merseysiders could well have lost their lead on 75 minutes as Roque Santa Cruz rose to meet Ooijer's precise centre from the right but could not find the target with his header.
That miss proved coast because at the other end Benayoun collected Kuyt's pass on the right, skipped past Warnock's terrible attempted-tackle and lashed a low drive across goal and into Robinson's bottom right-hand corner.
In stoppage time Robinson, faced with Nabil El Zhar, was forced to rush his clearance and it fell to Albert Riera, who squared to Gerrard and the captain rounded off Liverpool's win.
Blackburn manager Paul Ince:"It was an exceptional performance. We have not got the three points but we have to take some positives from the game.
"It is always difficult against Liverpool but we matched them for long spells and that was pleasing.
"The scoreline was harsh and this might be the step we need to push on and get up the table."
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez:"We have shown we can manage the pressure. When you have a game like this, you know you might have problems.
"But we were more clinical than other days and that is important with the Christmas programme coming up.
"We are in a very good position so it is vital we play with confidence and that the players pass the ball well."
Blackburn: Robinson, Ooijer, Samba, Nelsen, Warnock, Emerton, Andrews, Kerimoglu (Vogel 84), Pedersen (McCarthy 81), Roque Santa Cruz, Derbyshire (Treacy 90).Subs Not Used: Brown, Villanueva, Simpson, Fowler.
Booked: Andrews, Warnock.
Goals: Roque Santa Cruz 86.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Hyypia, Insua, Benayoun (Riera 87), Mascherano (Leiva Lucas 83), Alonso, Babel (El Zhar 64), Gerrard, Kuyt.Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Dossena, Agger, Keane.
Booked: Babel, Arbeloa.
Goals: Alonso 69, Benayoun 79, Gerrard 90.

Att: 26,920
Ref: Andre Marriner (W Midlands).

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Torres not back until New Year

Fernando Torres will not play for Liverpool again this year as he struggles to recover from a recurring injury.
The 24-year-old is currently out of action having suffered his third hamstring injury of the season during Liverpool's 1-0 win over Marseille in the Champions League.
Initially, it was hoped Torres would be fit to return within two weeks, but after the player flew to Barcelona for a consultation with one of Spain's top muscle specialists, Rafael Benitez is now refusing to commit to a return date for the Spaniard.
The Liverpool manager has vowed that the club will do everything in their power to get to the root of Torres' ongoing problem.
Torres twice suffered hamstring problems while playing for Spain last year and he pulled up injured in just the third league game of the current Premier League campaign at Aston Villa.
Although he returned to form, scoring twice in each of the away wins at Everton and Manchester City, he again broke down while on international duty for Spain.
He has now missed five league games as well as the two Champions League ties against his former club, Atletico Madrid.
Liverpool have investigated the cause of Torres' injury problems extensively by looking at the player's training regime, with the minutiae of his lifestyle, his choice of footwear and the way he walks also being scrutinised.
Torres was joined on the trip to Spain by Liverpool's Brazilian left-back Fabio Aurelio who was also examined in a bid to clear up a recurring calf problem.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Liverpool 0-0 West Ham

Liverpool moved to the Premier League summit after a draw with West Ham - but they failed to produce a glittering advert for their title credentials on a night of frustration at Anfield.
Rafael Benitez's side needed only a point to edge ahead of Chelsea at the top of the table after the Londoners' home defeat against Arsenal.
It was duly achieved, but in unimpressive fashion in the face of a resilient defensive display from Gianfranco Zola's side.
Liverpool applied all the early pressure, with James Collins clearing off the line from Albert Riera early on and Carlton Cole doing the same from Sami Hyypia.
Craig Bellamy almost shocked Liverpool when he struck the post from long-range before the interval, but it needed Robert Green's magnificent save from Yossi Benayoun to keep West Ham on level terms after the break.
West Ham have still not won at Anfield for 45 years, but boss Zola will take great heart from a point built on sound defensive organisation.
Liverpool have the consolation of heading the Premier League pace-setters after another below-par performance, but they know they must produce better to maintain their position.
They predictably exerted all the early pressure and twice had penalty claims turned down as they appealed for handball against Herita Ilunga.
James Collins came to West Ham's rescue in the 13th minute, clearing off the line from Riera after keeper Green punched away a cross from Steven Gerrard.
And Hyypia should have given Liverpool the lead three minutes later, heading Gerrard's corner wastefully over the top when unmarked.
Carlton Cole then repeated Collins' defensive heroics when he cleared off the line from another Hyypia header after Durk Kuyt had turned on another Gerrard corner.
Liverpool continued to exert total control, and Gerrard shot into the side-netting after evading the attentions of Cole and Scott Parker.
West Ham had shown little ambition, but they broke the shackles to almost stun Liverpool nine minutes before the break when Anfield old boy Bellamy unleashed a 25-yard shot that hit the inside of the post with keeper Pepe Reina well beaten.
Liverpool had run out of steam as the half went on, with Matthew Upson prominent as West Ham's rearguard action gathered confidence.
But they created one more chance just before the interval when Green was forced to dive to clutch Kuyt's low header, although Upson appeared to be pushed as they challenged for Xabi Alonso's corner.
Green produced a stunning save to deny former West Ham star Benayoun after 55 minutes, diving high to his right to turn over a powerful rising drive after Collins diverted Gerrard's cross into the Israel international's path.
Robbie Keane had endured another night of frustration, and he once again suffered the indignity of being substituted when he was replaced by youngster David Ngog with 25 minutes left.
West Ham almost broke the deadlock seconds later when Bellamy's corner was met at the near post by Cole, who could only direct his header wide.
Liverpool mounted a typical late surge, but Green was once again defiant as he saved from Kuyt, while subsitute Ryan Babel was just off target from long range.
The final whistle was met with a chorus of jeers, evidence that while Liverpool may have gone top of the league, the mood at Anfield is one of disappointment.