Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Aston Villa 0 - 1 Liverpool

Fernando Torres scored in the 93rd minute to give Liverpool a dramatic late victory over Aston Villa.
The Reds' season of frustration looked set to continue as Villa produced a spirited display in snowy conditions.
Steven Gerrard went close, Pepe Reina denied Stewart Downing and Gabriel Agbonlahor, and John Carew headed wide.
A draw beckoned but Torres raced on to a ricochet and slotted in, setting a record for reaching 50 league goals for Liverpool in the fewest appearances.
The Spaniard strike provided a pulsating end to a disappointing encounter and Liverpool's joy at snatching a morale-boosting three points was clear for all to see.
Torres will dominate the headlines having notched 50 goals in 72 Premier League matches, but much of the credit should go to Pepe Reina, who kept his team in contention with a couple of magnificent saves.
He helped Liverpool to only their sixth win from 19 matches in all competitions, which lifts them above Birmingham into seventh, four points behind fourth-placed Tottenham and two adrift of Villa.
Martin O'Neill's men drop down to sixth having conceded more goals than Manchester City and they are entitled to feel totally deflated by their last-gasp defeat.
The sense of importance surrounding the match was heightened by the knowledge that a win for either side would boost their top-four aspirations.
And there was little to choose between them during a cautious opening period that saw both teams zip the ball around with confidence and work hard for an early breakthrough.
Alberto Aquilani was handed his second start in four days at the heart of Liverpool's 4-4-1-1 formation and the Italian midfielder linked well with Gerrard and Torres.
Gerrard came close to opening the scoring when he collected a Torres pass and curled a dipping first-time strike towards goal, only for a back-tracking Brad Friedel to tip it over the bar.
For all their effort, Villa's desire to prise open the Liverpool defence was undermined by a lack of creativity in midfield.
With Ashley Young suspended, the recently impressive James Milner was deployed on the left of a 4-4-2 system and the Englishman struggled to assert his authority on proceedings.
The hosts had to wait 24 minutes for their first shot on target - Milner drove tamely at Reina - but they were gifted an opening on the half-hour.
Milner hoisted a corner to the back post where a completely unmarked Downing saw a smashed volley expertly saved from point-blank range by the arm of Reina.
At the other end, Liverpool felt they should have been awarded a penalty for a mis-timed tackle by Richard Dunne on Dirk Kuyt, but referee Lee Probert waved away their appeals.
Amid bitterly cold conditions and heavy snowfall, the players deserved credit for the general quality of the first half - but the same could not be said about much of the second.
Despite Liverpool having lost four of their previous six away league games, Villa strikers Agbonlahor and Carew posed little threat to the visitors' back four.
That said, the hosts' midfield became sloppy as the match wore on, starving their front men of service and allowing Liverpool to push forward at every opportunity.
But the Anfield club could not translate their dominance into goalscoring chances and Torres looked particularly off-form.
The game was in desperate need of a goal and the breakthrough might have arrived when Agbonlahor capitalised on Jamie Carragher's slip to race clear, but his low effort was turned behind by Reina.
Moments later, Carew glanced a header just wide of the far post from Milner's corner and Villa had a penalty shout rejected when Emiliano Insua appeared to head the ball on to his arm.
When the fourth official indicated four minutes of injury time it was Villa who seemed most likely to go on and snatch a last-gasp winner.
But the hosts carelessly relinquished possession and after a ricochet put Torres clean though on goal, the 25-year-old made no mistake with a crisp finish into the bottom corner.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Liverpool 2 - 0 Wolverhampton

Liverpool's players handed boss Rafael Benitez a welcome Christmas tonic with a battling win against 10-man Wolves.
The hosts were poor throughout but forced their way into the game after Wolves controversially had Stephen Ward sent off for two yellow cards.
The numerical advantage allowed Steven Gerrard to powerfully head home an Emiliano Insua cross after the break.
Yossi Benayoun doubled the lead with a deflected effort from close range to hand the hosts an unconvincing victory.
Liverpool went into the match having won just two of their previous eight league games and in the unusual position of being mid-table at the mid-way point of the season.
And while fans will not be convinced they have turned the corner after another stuttering display, the cheers around at Anfield at the final whistle will at least offer Benitez some festive cheer.
Wolves were the better side at times and manager Mick McCarthy will surely point to the dismissal of Ward as the turning point.
Referee Andre Marriner showed the defender a second yellow card - but only after being surrounded by Liverpool players for incorrectly cautioning Christophe Berra.
McCarthy had clearly fancied his side's chances of causing an upset by fielding a full-strength team - a very different approach to Wolves' recent outing against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
But the decision to field an attacking 4-4-2 formation allowed Liverpool to take control of the game in the early stages.
The visitors were fortunate Glen Johnson scooped a shot wide after finding space down the right while Fernando Torres, showing no sign of his long-standing groin injury, then tested Marcus Hahnemann after wriggling free in the inside left channel.
Alberto Aquilani, finally making his first Premier League start, looked comfortable in possession but some ill-advised flicks in and around the box tested the patience of an increasingly nervous Anfield crowd.
And Wolves, inspired by their fine recent form in the league, pushed forward and began to create chances of their own.
Nenad Milijas forced Pepe Reina into action from a free-kick before Kevin Doyle put a sharp header wide from only three yards out.
And the hosts' promising start had well and truly faded by the time Kevin Foley failed to control in the box after being left completely unmarked as the tension and frustration around a freezing Anfield increased still further.
But Wolves' hopes were dealt a blow when Ward was sent off early in the second half in chaotic circumstances.
The left-back, already cautioned for a tug on Benayoun, was eventually shown a second yellow card for a foul on Lucas - but not before referee Marriner incorrectly penalised Berra for the offence.
Liverpool's players crowded round the official to highlight his error and after consultation with his assistant, Marriner altered his decision and sent Ward off.

The incident appeared to galvanise the Reds and they soon took the lead when Insua's teasing cross was met in dominant fashion by home captain Gerrard, leaving Hahnemann with no chance.
Any result still seemed possible as gaps appeared all over the field, however, until Benayoun made it 2-0 midway through the second half.
Another fine cross, this time from Fabio Aurelio, found its way to the Israeli and his shot took a cruel deflection off Karl Henry and looped into the net.
From that point on there was no way back for Wolves but McCarthy can take a raft of positives from another impressive display. Liverpool fans will be thankful of the points but their side are still a shadow of the team that sat top of the Premier League on Boxing Day last season.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Liverpool 2 - 1 Wigan

Liverpool relieved the pressure on manager Rafael Benitez with a morale-boosting victory over Wigan.
David Ngog's glanced header put the Reds ahead, although Liverpool missed several chances to add to their lead.
Jason Scotland volleyed against the crossbar for Wigan as he almost punished Liverpool's profligacy.
Fernando Torres tapped in at the second attempt to seal the win before Charles N'Zogbia scored an injury-time consolation strike for the visitors.
The victory was only Liverpool's fourth in the last 16 games and whether this will be a false dawn like the other wins remains to be seen.
But they moved up to sixth in the league courtesy of a much-needed three points and also marked a special occasion for the club with a determined performance.
Liverpool were celebrating the 50th anniversary since former manager Bill Shankly took over at the club and earned legendary status during nearly 15 years in charge.
Shankly took the club from the old second division - the current Championship - and won three league titles, two FA Cups and a Uefa Cup as he kick-started a golden era in the club's history which saw the Reds go on to dominate in English football and in Europe.
Those memories are in stark contrast to the present team's struggles this season, although the Reds quickly took control against Wigan.
Liverpool were rewarded with a goal after nine minutes when Ngog glanced in a header from Fabio Aurelio's angled cross after ex-Reds keeper Chris Kirkland failed to punch the ball away.
But the Reds are fragile at the back and would have conceded an immediate equaliser had Paul Scharner been more precise with a free header which he could only steer straight at keeper Pepe Reina.
Benitez had insisted beforehand his players were better than their Champions League exit and lowly league position suggested and they were trying to back up his words with actions.
Ngog pulled a ball back for fellow striker Dirk Kuyt and he struck a true close-range shot which Kirkland did well to fend away for a corner.
Then with Wigan clinging on at times, French forward Ngog pounced and angled a drive wide of the far post, yet Liverpool could not get a second goal to give them some breathing space.
Kuyt had a shot blocked following a goalmouth scramble before he got on the end of another Ngog cross only to see his volley brilliantly tipped over by Kirkland.
Liverpool let a lead slip in their 2-1 defeat by Arsenal on Sunday and, even though they showed little sign of capitulating in similar fashion, the home contingent were becoming anxious as the Reds tried to add to their slender lead.
Agger missed a header from a Steven Gerrard corner to add to their supporters worries and those concerns almost turned to despair when Scotland somehow missed a glorious chance.
Wigan deserved something at Anfield - Martinez
Reina failed to punch away a free-kick as he went up with Scharner and Hugo Rodallega, and when the ball fell for Scotland, he could only volley against the crossbar from eight yards.
Wigan kept Liverpool on their guard moments later as Rodallega had a free header blocked but Torres finally relieved the pressure when he scored on his 100th appearance for Liverpool.
He burst clear on the Wigan goal, rounded keeper Kirkland and, despite his initial shot being blocked by Titus Bramble, the Spanish striker picked up the loose ball and tapped in for his 61st goal for the Merseysiders.
N'Zogbia cut across the Liverpool box and fired in a low strike with two minutes to go but the home side held on.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Liverpool 1 - 2 Arsenal

A dissapointing night again for Liverpool FC and it's that Russian man again that is the hero for the opponents! Andrey Arshavin was Liverpool's tormentor again as Arsenal secured a vital win at Anfield to close the gap on Premier League pacesetters Chelsea and Manchester United.
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger insists his side can still have a big say on the title race - but his bold claims looked in danger of backfiring as Dirk Kuyt gave Liverpool a deserved interval lead.
Liverpool's £18m full-back Glen Johnson, who suffered a torrid afternoon, unwittingly handed Arsenal a route back into the game when he turned Samir Nasri's cross past Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina five minutes after half-time.
And the visitors, who were uncharacteristically off the pace in the opening period, were ahead after 58 minutes with a moment of genius that Arshavin is making his Anfield trademark.
The Russian, who scored four goals in four attempts in a dramatic 4-4 draw at Anfield last season, struck in stunning fashion, controlling brilliantly before firing a thunderous shot high past Reina.

Arshavin's magic totally deflated the hosts who, despite having big guns Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Alberto Aquilani on the pitch in the closing stages, barely mounted any meaningful response as Arsenal closed out the victory with ease.
The result does further damage to boss Rafael Benitez's public guarantee that Liverpool will definitely finish in the top four, with Anfield totally subdued at the final whistle as Arsenal dealt comfortably with a succession of aimless long balls.
Arsenal's emotions were in sharp contrast at the final whistle as they responded to an angry half-time team talk from Wenger and celebrated a victory that leaves them only six points behind leaders Chelsea with a game in hand.
Liverpool were able to pair Gerrard and Torres together for the first time since early October as the Spain striker started after making an appearance as substitute in midweek against Fiorentina.
Aquilani made the reverse journey as he returned to the bench after making his full debut in the midweek Champions League defeat - a decision that left the Italian still waiting to make his full Premier League debut after his £20m summer move from Roma.
Torres' return gave Liverpool's attack an extra air of menace in a first half they dominated, exerting almost complete superiority over Arsenal as the Gunners delivered a desperately poor display.
Gerrard served up the perfect opportunity for Torres to mark his return with a goal after 11 minutes when he laid an inviting pass into his path in the penalty area, but Manuel Almunia read the striker's intentions and saved low down.
Liverpool's captain - and indeed the rest of Anfield - was infuriated when referee Howard Webb ignored what looked highly presentable penalty claims as he fell under challenge from William Gallas.
Gerrard received a measure of criticism for going to ground too easily in the area at Blackburn last Saturday, but he had a clear case here.
Kuyt gave Liverpool the lead they deserved five minutes before the interval, and Arsenal keeper Almunia must take a large share of the responsibility. He failed to deal with Aurelio's free-kick under pressure from Lucas, and Kuyt steered home the loose ball.
Arsenal needed a moment of inspiration or a slice of good fortune to ignite a lifeless display, and salvation arrived in the shape of the latter five minutes after the break.
Nasri's cross looked to be posing no serious threat, but a slight touch off Jamie Carragher wrong-footed Johnson, who bundled the ball past Reina.
There was nothing fortunate about the brilliant finish from Arshavin that put Arsenal ahead eight minutes later, taking a perfect first touch before lashing a finish high past the motionless Reina.
It prompted Benitez into making a change after 65 minutes, sending on Aquilani for Javier Mascherano in an attempt to provide an extra touch of creativity in midfield.
Aquilani's arrival failed to provide any spark, and Arsenal were never under serious pressure as they cruised to victory.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Liverpool 1 - 2 Fiorentina

Again, it's a dissapointing night for Liverpool FC with the late goal. Nevertheless, regardless of the result, Liverpool FC is already out of the Champions Legue. Sob! Sob!
Liverpool's disappointing Champions League campaign ended in miserable fashion, with Alberto Gilardino's last-gasp goal giving Fiorentina victory.
Rafa Benitez's side already knew they could not progress from Group E, while their opponents had already qualified.
Yossi Benayoun headed the Reds in front when he met Steven Gerrard's free-kick.
But Martin Jorgensen levelled with a low shot and Gilardino ensured his side topped the group when he turned in a Juan Vargos cross in injury time.
It was the third time the Reds had conceded a late goal in Europe this season, after doing so in both their matches against Lyon, and again they paid a heavy price for a defensive lapse.
But, in truth, Liverpool were unlucky to lose and it was probably of greater significance to their fans that £20m midfielder Alberto Aquilani made his first start and Fernando Torres, who played the last 30 minutes, returned to action after more than a month out.
That duo will hope to play a big part in the remainder of Liverpool's season - starting with Sunday's crunch Premier League encounter with Arsenal.
Understandably, Benitez had one eye on that game against the Gunners and, judging from the subdued atmosphere, so did the majority of the Anfield crowd.
Fiorentina, who sewed the seeds of Liverpool's Champions League exit with a stunning win in Italy at the end of September, were also short of inspiration early on - with their crippling injury list a mitigating factor.
So, most of the focus in the first half was on Aquilani, who arrived from Roma in August with a big reputation and price-tag, but until now had only played 22 minutes of first-team football from the bench because of injury.
The 25-year-old Italian international showed plenty of neat touches early on, as well as a willingness to tackle when he won the ball from Lorenzo De Silvestri and set Andrea Dossena free down the left.
Aquilani was also covering a lot of ground but he could not provide much in the way of creativity in the final third, something the entire Liverpool side were sorely lacking - despite enjoying most of the possession.
Fiorentina had the first meaningful efforts on goal, with Diego Cavalieri tipping over De Silvestri's bullet header before pushing away Riccardo Montolivo's scuffed volley from the resulting corner.
But it was Liverpool who took the lead just before half-time when Gerrard fired in a free-kick from the right and Benayoun found space to flick it past Sebastien Frey.
Fiorentina came out with more purpose after the break and immediately put Cavalieri under pressure when he struggled to deal with Gianluca Comotto's whipped cross under pressure from Gilardino.
Liverpool might have extended their lead with a carbon copy of their first goal when Gerrard fizzed in another free-kick from the right - but this time it eluded Daniel Agger, who threw himself at the ball but could not make contact.
Instead, the visitors were quickly level when Jorgensen rifled a powerful shot into the bottom corner after good work by Gilardino on the edge of the box.
Daniel Pacheco replaced Aquilani after 76 minutes and, with his first touch, fired in a low shot that was pushed wide by Frey.
At long last the game burst into life, with both sides pushing forward for the win.
It was the visitors who got it, with Vargas stealing the ball off Liverpool's rookie defender Stephen Darby and crossing for Gilardino to slot home from close range.
Fiorentina march into the last 16 of the Champions League, while Liverpool's next European game will be in the last 32 of the Europa League in February.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Blackburn 0 - 0 Liverpool

What a boring match to watch and it ended up with goalless. Liverpool's hopes of a top-four finish suffered a further setback as Blackburn produced a resolute defensive display to hold the Reds to a goalless draw.
After a dour first half, Blackburn's Franco di Santo and Nikola Kalinic both hesitated when played through on goal.
Steven Gerrard had chances to break the deadlock and a penalty shout turned on his 500th appearance for Liverpool.
And they should have won it late on, but David Ngog could only turn Glen Johnson's cross on to the bar.
The result, allied to victories for Aston Villa and Manchester City in the evening match against Chelsea, dropped Rafael Benitez's side to seventh in the table.
But Blackburn were good value for their point, which keeps them 12th and extends a run of just two home defeats in 25 home games since Sam Allardyce took charge.
Rovers came into the game buoyed by Wednesday's Carling Cup quarter-final victory over Chelsea.
They were also boosted by the return to work of Allardyce following heart surgery.
But despite featuring four changes from the side that beat the Blues on penalties, they looked slightly off the pace early on as a number of passes went astray and Liverpool enjoyed plenty of possession.
Although the visitors were without Fernando Torres for a fifth successive game, Gerrard was fit to make his landmark appearance against the club he faced on his debut in November 1998.
In Torres's absence, Dirk Kuyt was deployed as the lone striker with Gerrard, Yossi Benayoun and Albert Riera providing support. But, of that quartet, only Gerrard looked even remotely dangerous in the opening exchanges.
Blackburn draw delights returning Allardyce
Well-organised and physically imposing, Blackburn's back four repelled everything Liverpool had to throw at them and gradually their midfield and attack began to grow in confidence.
A couple of mistimed tackles by Daniel Agger gave Blackburn free-kicks in promising positions on the right but both set-pieces were comfortably repelled.
Gerrard almost broke clear when he capitalised on a sloppy piece of control by Pascal Chimbonda but then lost out to Christopher Samba, while at the other end Samba headed straight at Pepe Reina from an unmarked position.
The best chance of an error-strewn half fell to Gerrard, who received possession from Riera on the left, opened his body and attempted to place his shot into the far corner, only for Samba to deflect the ball behind.
Samba was again on hand to deny Gerrard with a perfectly-timed sliding tackle at the start of the second half and, moments later, Blackburn might have taken the lead.
Benitez frustrated with draw
Di Santo was released by Steven N'Zonzi but seemed surprised that he had not been flagged offside, delayed and enabled Jamie Carragher to get back with a covering challenge before he could shoot.
Fortunately for all, the tempo increased after the break and Gerrard fizzed a drive straight at Paul Robinson before having a penalty shout rejected after a coming together with N'Zonzi.
The arrival of Ngog in place of Riera gave Liverpool greater presence up front and the Frenchman ought to have opened the scoring when Glen Johnson burst to the byeline and squared from the right.
Ngog came storming into the six-yard box but, faced with an open goal, contrived to shin the ball against the crossbar, with Kuyt's follow-up diverted to safety.
Blackburn threatened sporadically on the counter-attack - Benni McCarthy and Vince Grella drilled wide before Kalinic tentatively prodded wide when one-on-one with Reina.
Gerrard assumed a growing influence on proceedings but Liverpool lacked the finishing touch that Torres so often provides and were forced to settle for a point.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Everton 0 - 2 Liverpool

Liverpool took the honours in the Merseyside derby as Javier Mascherano's deflected first-half shot and Dirk Kuyt's late strike gave them victory at Everton.
The home side dominated for long periods but paid the price for failing to turn possession into goals as Liverpool took full advantage of their rare moments of attacking threat.
Mascherano enjoyed a huge slice of luck as Liverpool opened the scoring after only 12 minutes when his 25-yard shot ricocheted off Joseph Yobo's leg and flew beyond Everton keeper Tim Howard.
And Yobo was at fault when the Reds wrapped up the points with 10 minutes remaining. Steven Gerrard retrieved his sliced penalty area clearance, and when Howard could not hold Albert Riera's powerful effort Kuyt was perfectly placed to turn in the rebound.
In between Everton were left to rue their own carelessness in front of goal and the heroics of Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina as a traumatic week at Goodison Park - with the proposed move to a new stadium in Kirkby rejected by the government - ended with the pain of defeat in the 212th Merseyside derby.
Everton's £10m Russian winger Diniyar Bilyaletdinov scuffed an effort wide from just eight yards with only Reina to beat just after Mascherano's goal.
Jo, playing as Everton's lone front man, twice had the ball in the net as Everton kept Liverpool under constant pressure in the first half, but both goals were rightly ruled out for offside by referee Alan Wiley.
And the crucial moment came when Reina made a stunning double stop after 70 minutes, saving brilliantly from Tim Cahill's header and then recovering instantly to block Marouane Fellaini from the rebound when he looked certain to equalise.
Kuyt then added insult to injury with the second as Liverpool put some gloss on a disappointing week after their Champions League exit.
For all Everton's defiance, they now have only one win in 11 games and face the real prospect of a season of struggle after the riches of fifth place in the Premier League and an FA Cup Final appearance last term.
Rafael Benitez's side were poor for much of a frantic encounter, but victory was the only item on his agenda as he seeks to push Liverpool back into the top four and he will be delighted with the win, no matter how it was achieved.
Everton boss David Moyes produced a surprise in his line-up when Jo got the nod ahead of Louis Saha and Yakubu, who were named on the bench. Saha has been struggling with a calf injury and Yakubu is on his way back from a serious Achilles tendon problem, and their inability to start presented a major problem for Moyes.
And yet Jo emerged as a central figure in an eventful first half dominated by Everton, but one which ended with Liverpool taking the lead.
It came in fortuitous circumstances after 12 minutes, when Mascherano's speculative long-range effort took a crucial touch off Yobo and flew tantalisingly out of the reach of Howard.
Everton responded with real spirit to their ill-fortune and Bilyaletdinov was guilty of a wasting a glorious opportunity to restore equality, sweeping a half-hit effort wide with the goal at his mercy as Liverpool struggled to defend a throw-in.
Jo then thought he had drawn Everton level when he turned home a finish as Everton continued to press, but Fellaini was clearly in an offside position and Goodison Park's celebrations were cut short.
South African Steven Pienaar was comfortably the most composed player on the pitch amid a typically frenetic derby atmosphere, and he was at the heart of all the good things Everton were doing.
But Liverpool almost broke the shackles to double their lead five minutes before the interval when Emiliano Insua arrived on the end of Glen Johnson's cross, but his header brought a fine reflex save from Howard.
Everton had the ball in the net again on the stroke of half-time, again through Jo, but the Brazilian was in an obvious offside position as he stood directly in front of Reina.
Reina had an anxious moment after 57 minutes when he allowed a powerful shot from Pienaar to slip through his grasp, but he was able to recover before the ball slid over the line.
Everton boss Moyes finally introduced Saha for Jo with 25 minutes left in the hope that the striker's undoubted class could overcome his lack of fitness.
Liverpool were unable to pose any sustained attacking threat to Everton, and they were grateful to Reina for a fine double save that kept them on terms with 20 minutes remaining.
Cahill's header from John Heitinga's free-kick looked bound for the bottom corner until Reina dived to his left to save before recovering to block the follow-up effort from Fellaini.
Liverpool made a double change as they attempted to close out what had been an anxious afternoon, sending on Yossi Benayoun and Riera for David Ngog and Fabio Aurelio.
The move reaped rewards as Riera fired in the shot that was too hot for Howard to handle, allowing the lurking Kuyt to pounce from six yards and seal Liverpool's victory.
Riera almost added a third for Liverpool when his shot was saved by Howard - but that would have been cruel on Everton who matched their rivals and more for long spells.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Debrecen 0 - 1 Liverpool


Liverpool limped out of the Champions League despite victory over Debrecen as Fiorentina beat Lyon in the other Group E match to seal a place in the last 16.
Rafael Benitez's side knew only a win would give them any hope of reaching the knockout stages, and David Ngog clipped in early to secure the victory.
But it was a tame display from the Reds that typified their recent poor form.
Debrecen even had chances to draw, but in the end it mattered little and the Reds now drop into the Europa League.
It is the first time the 2005 champions have missed out on the knockout stages since the 2002-2003 season, but they can have little complaint.
The damage to their Champions League campaign had been done long before the game in Hungary, with defeats by Fiorentina and Lyon ensuring they needed a huge turnaround in the final two fixtures to make the last 16.
Even so, Liverpool's laboured victory over a side lying sixth in the Hungarian league only served to underline just how out of sorts the Mersersiders are this season.
Coming into the match with only one win in their previous 10 matches, it was perhaps to be expected that they would be somewhat nervous.
They could hardly have hoped for a better start, as Fabio Aurelio's cross found Jamie Carragher at the back post, and the defender's header across goal was bundled in by Ngog from close range.
But despite almost completely dominating the ball, it did not settle the Reds as Benitez may have hoped and an oddly disjointed display rarely set the pulse racing.
Dirk Kuyt should have done better when he failed to make contact with a Gerrard cross and Ngog brought a flying save out of Vukasin Poleksic with a 20-yard curling snap-shot.
However, Liverpool's lack of conviction in the final third, combined with news of Juan Vargas's penalty goal for Fiorentina in the other Group E match which was announced over the stadium's public address system, allowed Debrecen to gradually abandon their defensive approach and grow in confidence as the match wore on.
The best of their chances fell to Gergely Rudolf, who headed Laszlo Bodnar's fabulous cross wide when unmarked from eight yards out.
And only a smart block from Carragher prevented the same striker striding clear of the defence from Zoltan Szelesi's through-ball midway through the second half.
Liverpool were still dominating, and Gerrard forced a superb block by Norbert Meszaros when he was set clear by Lucas's pass.
But a distinct lack of zip and self belief betrayed their approach, and Rudolf forced a smart stop from Pepe Reina at the other end when his cross-come-shot flew towards the top corner, while Adamo Coulibaly almost snatched Debrecen's first ever Champions League point with a late snap-shot.
The game petered out, with Liverpool's eyes and ears immediately drawn to the result of Fiorentina's match against Lyon.
The news soon filtered through that the Italians had won 1-0, with many Reds players watching the final stages of the match on a television in the tunnel.
And the Merseysiders' mood will not be helped by the knowledge that the last time they dropped out of the Champions League after the group stages, they went on to finish fifth in the Premier League.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Liverpool 2 - 2 Birmingham

Again my idol, Steven Gerrard comes to the rescue where he's a constant threat since he comes in.
A controversial penalty by Steven Gerrard salvaged a draw for Liverpool as their faltering season continued against Birmingham at Anfield.
Gerrard scored from the spot to make it 2-2 after David Ngog had appeared to dive over a Lee Carsley tackle.
Ngog had earlier put the Reds ahead when he smashed in a far-post volley but Christian Benitez levelled when he nodded in a well-worked set piece.
Cameron Jerome's 30-yard strike shocked the Reds before Gerrard's equaliser.
Birmingham were angered by referee Peter Walton's penalty decision as Carsley did not seem to have made any contact with Ngog.
But despite a half-fit Gerrard, who had only come on because of an injury to Albert Riera, slotting in from 12 yards the result will only heap further pressure on Reds manager Rafael Benitez.
It was a game Liverpool were expected to win to quell the unrest at Anfield but, instead, leaves the Reds flailing in seventh in the Premier League.
Liverpool's defensive solidity has been their strength during Benitez's reign but the foundations he has laid have been on rocky ground this season and again undermined their play.
The home side had taken a patient and calm approach to the match before gradually raising the tempo and taking the lead.
Glen Johnson was having plenty of joy down the right flank and, after weaving between two defenders, he pulled the ball back for Ngog, whose initial shot was saved by Joe Hart.
Hart scampered across his goal to fend away Dirk Kuyt's follow-up but the Blues keeper had no chance when Riera crossed to the far post for Ngog to smash a left-foot volley into the roof of the net.
The Reds were in control, only to let their weakness in defence allow the visitors back into a game they rarely looked like making an impact on.
Former Everton midfielder James McFadden swung a Blues free-kick to the far post and, after being headed on by Roger Johnson and Scott Dann, Christian Benitez nodded in from close range.
The goal gave Birmingham encouragement and the visitors had an extra air of belief about them as they repelled some concerted Liverpool pressure with the home side looking to re-establish their grip on the game.
Hart tipped over a 25-yard strike from Javier Mascherano before the Blues defence cleared a tamely-struck Lucas Leiva side-footed shot off the line.
Liverpool brought Gerrard on when Riera went off with a hamstring problem but their unfit captain could do little as the visitors took the lead in spectacular fashion.
Jerome controlled Dann's headed ball forward, fended off the irritation of Mascherano and unleashed a thunderous shot which dipped over keeper Reina.
The Reds piled on the pressure in response and it almost paid off, only for Gerrard to head a Johnson cross against the outside of the post from eight yards.
Birmingham defended in numbers with an admirable bravery which saw the particularly impressive centre-backs Dann and Roger Johnson flinging their bodies at crosses and shots to keep the home side at bay.
However, they conceded an equaliser in controversial circumstances as Gerrard, who looked a constant threat even when nursing his groin injury, sent Hart the wrong way from the spot.
The Anfield crowd were now staunchly behind their team and Ngog side-footed wide after Gerrard powered in a cross to the near post in an exciting finale.
However, a winner eluded the Reds and Benitez is still without a league victory over Birmingham in seven attempts.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Lyon 1 - 1 Liverpool

Liverpool conceded a 90th-minute goal at Lyon to leave their Champions League hopes hanging in the balance.
Substitute Ryan Babel had put the Reds ahead late on with a 25-yard thunderbolt into the top corner.
But some sloppy defending allowed Lisandro through on goal and he calmly dinked a shot over Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina to dramatically equalise.
Lyon are now in the last 16 but the Reds are five points behind second-placed Fiorentina with two games to go.
Liverpool have to beat Debrecen and Fiorentina, while hoping other results go their way to stand a chance of reaching the last 16.
The situation should have been a lot more promising for the visitors but they were mainly guilty of wasting a number of chances in a match they dominated against Lyon at the Stade Gerland.
Andriy Voronin was the culprit of the most glaring miss, while Fernando Torres, who was nursing a hernia problem, and Lucas Leiva also failed to turn Liverpool's superiority into goals.
It seemed like Babel had grabbed a winner with his late strike but the defensive vulnerability which has dogged Liverpool's season so far struck at the worst possible time to let Lisandro in and break the visitors' hearts.
Liverpool were already battling for Champions League survival going into the game and the Anfield club's manager Rafael Benitez had wanted his side to show confidence, character and belief.
He had also drawn on the club's anthem of You'll Never Walk Alone as well as a record which has seen the Reds win on their last four visits to France to try to motivate his players.
And the Liverpool players gradually started to show the qualities demanded of them after a tentative start.
Torres had their first chance but he sidefooted straight at Lyon keeper Hugo Lloris from 12 yards after a low Emiliano Insua cross was deflected into his path.
Another Insua cross came off Yossi Benayoun for Dirk Kuyt and he steered a shot which would have dipped under the Lyon crossbar but for Lloris to again rescue his side by tipping the ball over.
Liverpool's control of the game grew as the tie progressed and they should have converted it into a goal when Voronin was presented with a glorious chance.
Javier Mascherano's quick-thinking and vision saw him release the Ukrainian clean through on goal with a long free-kick over the top but Voronin shot straight at Lloris.
And, while the profligacy would have frustrated Benitez, the signs were encouraging from a Liverpool side with an air of the walking wounded about them because of a severe injury crisis.
However, Lyon also had their problems with right-back Anthony Reveillere and midfielder Miralem Pjanic having to go off injured as the home side struggled to make an impact.
Liverpool and Lucas should have taken advantage but Lloris brilliantly saved to his left as the Brazilian tried to curl as shot around him.
The ball was cleared off the line from Kuyt's overhead kick from the follow-up as the urgency of the visitors' situation saw them push forward in greater numbers.
Reina crucially produced a save from Lisandro after confusion between Sotirios Kyrgiakos and Daniel Agger to keep Liverpool in it before Babel's stunning intervention.
The Reds had to hold on for about 10 minutes but failed to do so and now face failing to progress from the initial group stage for the first time since 2002/2003.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Arsenal 2 - 1 Liverpool

Liverpool FC are out of the Carling Cup. Only highlight is the inclusion of Aquilani (see photo)
Arsenal proved too strong for Liverpool as they beat the Reds in an absorbing Carling Cup fourth round tie.
Fran Merida thundered in an 18-yard shot to put Arsenal ahead.
Emiliano Insua equalised with a superb 25-yard dipping strike but Nicklas Bendtner shot into the roof of the net for what proved to be the winner.
Alberto Aquilani impressed after coming on for his Liverpool debut and felt he should have had a penalty when Philippe Senderos blocked his overhead shot.
Referee Alan Wiley waved away the Italian's appeals for a Senderos handball but, after the long wait to see the £20m summer arrival, he showed some nice touches and energy in a 15-minute cameo appearance as his side pushed for an equaliser in the closing stages.
Andriy Voronin put a shot wide for Liverpool and Ryan Babel missed a Dirk Kuyt cross with the home goal gaping as Arsenal held on for the win.
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger has always used this competition to plunge some of his youngsters into action but, on this occasion, his side also had a more experienced look as he included several senior players needing first-team football.
His counterpart Rafael Benitez had a similar blend of experience and youth as he tested the depth of his squad by giving his supporting cast the chance to shine.
The Reds' fringe players almost took their chance when Voronin found David Ngog and his clever backheel put Philipp Degen through on goal only for the right-back to angle a shot wide.
Arsenal's fluidity and slick passing is a feature of their game no matter who is in their line-up, and they upped the tempo before being rewarded with a stunning goal.
Merida scored with a powerful left-foot strike after 18-year-old Gunners debutant Craig Eastmond, who put in a promising display in central midfield, had won a tackle on the edge of the Reds box.
But the visitors hit back with an equally superbly struck effort when Babel nodded the ball down to Insua and he chested the ball down before sending a dipping shot past keeper Lukasz Fabianski for his first Liverpool goal.
The sense of attack from both sides and a vulnerability about both defences made for a captivating and open game.
A swift Arsenal counter-attack masterminded by the skill and vision of Aaron Ramsey provided an opening for Merida and, despite chipping a shot over on-rushing keeper Diego Cavalieri, Reds defender Martin Skrtel headed the danger away.
Cavalieri had another escape when he missed a cross and, after a goalmouth melee, gratefully gathered Bendter's close range shot on the turn.
However, the Denmark international gave Cavalieri no chance when he latched on to a Gibbs ball and powered a strike into the roof of the net.
Liverpool had chances to equalise but Voronin angled a shot across goal wide and a well-struck Babel free-kick was saved.
Babel should have scored from a Kuyt cross but he missed the ball completely as Arsenal continued their impressive record of not having lost to Liverpool at home since February 2000.

Fulham 3-1 Liverpool

Liverpool were reduced to nine men as they suffered a fifth league defeat in 11 games after losing at Fulham.
Cottagers striker Bobby Zamora gave his side the lead against the run of play when he tapped in a Damien Duff cross.
Fernando Torres equalised with an 18-yard volley only for Erik Nevland to flick in a shot from close range to restore Fulham's lead.
Philipp Degen and Jamie Carragher were sent off late on for Liverpool before Clint Dempsey tapped in Fulham's third.
Degen was given a straight red after a late challenge on Dempsey just moments before Carragher, who will argue he got the ball, was dealt the same fate for a professional foul.
The defeat and the manner of it heaped more despair on to a Reds side in disarray as their season threatens to fall apart.
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez also took off Torres with the scores level after 62 minutes as he attempted to shield his star striker from injury ahead of a crucial Champions League game at Lyon on Wednesday.
But Torres is vital to Liverpool's play and confidence - as he showed in the win over Manchester United last week - and Fulham's surge to victory after his exit is likely to see Benitez come under fire for the substitution.
Liverpool fans would have had serious concerns about their chances going into the game at Craven Cottage with Steven Gerrard, Glen Johnson, Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, Albert Riera, Fabio Aurelio and Alberto Aquilani not even making the squad, and their concerns were well-founded.
Degen, Sotirios Kyrgiakos and Andriy Voronin each made rare Premier League starts and, even though the visitors had plenty of possession early on, Fulham took the lead.
Just after Yossi Benayoun had thumped a far-post shot against the Fulham crossbar, Zamora caught the Reds defence sleeping as he stole in between Kyrgiakos and Emiliano Insua to tap in a low-angled Duff cross.
Picking the ball out of his net was almost keeper Pepe Reina's first action of the match and, while Liverpool were dominating the game, his counterpart Mark Schwarzer was rarely tested.
That all changed when a Voronin header from Degen's ball came off Aaron Hughes and Torres instantly lashed in a volley from the edge of the box.
Torres was then taken off and a more adventurous Fulham, who showed an increased energy and sense of purpose, took full advantage of his departure.
Zamora was incensed he was not given a penalty when Carragher eased him off the ball as they chased a long thump forward but the home side did not have long to wait for a second goal.
In stretching to keep the ball in play, Dirk Kuyt handed the ball to Paul Konchesky who skipped over the Dutchman's recovering challenge and chipped in a cross which Zoltan Gera nodded back for Nevland to apply the finishing touch.
The need to chase the game left Liverpool susceptible at the back and, with their defence having been vulnerable all season, they soon capitulated.
Degen might have felt hard done by along with Carragher, who eventually left the field after remonstrating he had got the ball in a tackle on Zamora.
Fulham then made the most of their numerical advantage with Nevland playing in an unmarked Dempsey and he side-footed home to compound Liverpool's misery.
Dempsey scored the winner when Fulham last beat Liverpool in the top-flight back in May 2007 and his goal left the Reds nine points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Liverpool 2 - 0 Man Utd

YES, we did it again and this time without our inspirational captain, STEVEN GERRARD.

Anfield was awash with ecstasy as goalkeeper Pepe Reina rushed the length of the field to join the celebrations with Ngog - a sign of what was riding on this result for Liverpool and manager Benitez.
Reds boss Benitez entered this crucial game with spirits lifted after managing director Christian Purslow added his weight to co-owner George Gillett's message that his future is not under threat.
But it was the commitment and energy shown by Liverpool in the face of four successive defeats that was always going to be the most realistic measure of the current circumstances surrounding Benitez.
And Liverpool delivered in emphatic fashion, backed by fervent Anfield supporters who recognised Benitez had reached a pivotal point in his five-year reign.
Liverpool held sway for most of a match that only occasionally touched the heights, but the workload of the respective keepers confirmed this was a victory well-earned by Benitez's side - and which now leaves them only four points behind the Premier League champions.
United mounted a late rally of sorts but Ngog's late goal gave the scoreline a more realistic appearance.
And watching it all after a late cameo as substitute was Michael Owen, returning to Anfield for the first time since joining United and being subjected to a venomous reaction from Liverpool's fans.
Owen was involved in the late drama as he was fouled by Jamie Carragher with United trailing 1-0 and boss Sir Alex Ferguson felt the Reds defender should have been shown a red card rather than yellow.
It was perhaps the stroke of luck Liverpool have been missing recently.
Events on the pitch, as ever, will ultimately dictate Benitez's fate and United fans arrived at Anfield in the mood to revel in Liverpool's current misfortune.
Phelan disappointed with result
Eric Cantona masks and a succession of banners served as a reminder that they now equal Liverpool's total of 18 league titles - with beach balls thrown on to the Anfield turf to mock the manner of Liverpool's defeat at Sunderland.
The Kop rallied behind Liverpool, who as expected were without injured captain Steven Gerrard, and they responded with an energetic first-half performance in which United keeper Van der Sar was fully extended.
Van der Sar leapt brilliantly to claw out Aurelio's free-kick in the 14th minute after Patrice Evra had been booked for his third foul in quick succession - even recovering to keep out Kuyt's effort from the rebound.
Kuyt was guilty of missing Liverpool's best chance of a frantic opening three minutes later when he failed to hit the target from the angle after he was released by Lucas.
Valencia's pace was posing real problems for Liverpool left-back Emiliano Insua, and he was the provider with a cross that saw Wayne Rooney's header clutched by Reina in front of an anxious Kop.
Liverpool were rising to the challenge of ending their recently dismal sequence, and Aurelio should have given them the lead 10 minutes before half-time, heading straight at Van der Sar from Yossi Benayoun's cross.
Benitez's side started well again after the break and Kuyt, his confidence perhaps sapped by earlier failures in front of goal, tried to set up Benayoun when the Netherlands striker would have been better served trying to test Van der Sar.
The goal Liverpool craved eventually came - and from a predictable source as Torres showed searing pace and clinical finishing to shrug off the attentions of Ferdinand before lashing a finish high past Van der Sar at The Kop end.
It was the signal for former Liverpool striker Owen to warm up, and he was subjected to a torrid reception and cries of "Judas" from the supporters who once idolised him.
Owen almost delivered the perfect answer to the taunts when he set up Valencia, but his shot smashed against the bar from a tight angle and United's last serious chance had gone.
There was still time for a frantic finish, with Vidic achieving the unenviable feat of a third red card in three games against Liverpool when he picked up a second yellow card for a foul on Kuyt. Mascherano joined him on the sidelines for a similar offence, this time a late challenge on Van der Sar - but the final word was left to Liverpool and youngster Ngog.
As United pressed forward in numbers, Liverpool broke and Ngog finished with composure from Lucas's pass to set the seal on a day that went almost perfectly to the script for besieged Benitez.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Liverpool 1 - 2 Lyon

A sad day for Liverpool and my idol, Steven Gerrard. Lyon deepened the sense of crisis surrounding Liverpool and manager Rafael Benitez as Cesar Delgado's injury-time winner left their Champions League ambitions hanging in the balance.
As the Reds slumped to a fourth successive defeat, their worst sequence since April 1987, boss Benitez was given a rare taste of the anger and frustration inside Anfield as their damaging slump continued.
And to add to the air of despair, Reds captain Steven Gerrard limped off midway through the first half with a recurrence of a groin injury.
The injury will make him a doubt for Sunday's meeting with champions Manchester United at Anfield, a game that now assumes huge significance for Benitez and his players.
Liverpool initially rallied after the departure of Gerrard and looked on course to arrest their recent slide when Yossi Benayoun put them in front as half-time approached.
But once Lyon substitute Maxime Gonalons scrambled home the equaliser after 72 minutes, Liverpool's resolve wilted and Delgado's close-range finish gave the French side a victory their late supremacy just about merited.
And it was Benitez who felt the full force of Anfield's displeasure when he contentiously replaced goalscorer Benayoun with Andriy Voronin in an attempt to snatch victory with five minutes remaining.
Loud jeering greeted the decision, and the move looked even more ill-judged when Lyon swept forward to snatch victory.
The one bright spot on a bitterly disappointing night for Liverpool was the excellent performance of young defender Martin Kelly, in for Glen Johnson, who was ruled out by a groin injury.
Liverpool gave Anfield little else to cheer, although they did show commendable spirit in their attempt to recover from the loss of Gerrard and the absence of Fernando Torres.
For all the effort the home side put in, they just did not have the weapons to hurt Lyon when they required that crucial second goal, and a central midfield partnership of Lucas and Javier Mascherano may be many things, but creative it is not.
Benitez now faces a huge task to resurrect his side's shattered morale before the champions come to Anfield.
They also know that defeat in Lyon in a fortnight would leave them battling against the odds to reach the last 16 of the Champions League - an outcome that would have devastating financial as well as footballing consequences.
Liverpool co-owner George Gillett was present at Anfield, and he will not relish the prospect of the club he is touting for sale falling at the group stage of Europe's elite competition.
Benitez was forced into a late reshuffle when Johnson was ruled out. It gave youngster Kelly the opportunity to shine and it was one he took with relish in the opening half.
Lyon, watched from the Anfield directors' box by their former coach and one-time Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier, made a lively opening and should have taken the lead after only nine minutes.
The menacing figure of Aly Cissokho provided an inviting cross for Lisandro Lopez, and while Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina did well to block his header, the striker should have done much better.
Liverpool's attempt to recover from a mini-slump suffered a major blow after 24 minutes when Gerrard, who had been a subdued figure, was forced off and walked disconsolately down the tunnel to be replaced by Fabio Aurelio.
The departure of Gerrard galvanised The Kop, who recognised Liverpool were up against it, and also a home side who had previously struggled to exert their authority on Lyon.
They almost made the vital breakthrough after 35 minutes when Lucas retrieved an overhit cross from Kelly. The Brazilian's ball caused confusion in the Lyon box and keeper Hugo Lloris was forced to make a crucial save from David Ngog.
Liverpool had to survive a further scare before breaking the deadlock, however, when a stretching Sidney Govou could not connect properly with Kim Kallstrom's raking pass.
Benayoun brought Anfield to its feet as the under-strength Reds took the lead four minutes before the interval.
Aurelio's cross evaded everyone in the area, and the Israel international took his time before sliding a composed finish beyond Lloris.
And Aurelio should have doubled the home side's lead on the stroke of half-time when he flew in on the end of a wonderful delivery from Kelly, only to see his header spectacularly turned over the bar by Lloris in front of an expectant Kop.
Benayoun was posing a real threat and he almost grabbed his second after 55 minutes with a header from Dirk Kuyt's cross that dropped just the wrong side of an upright.
Kelly was delighting a Liverpool support only too keen to encourage homegrown talent, and he was the provider again with another cross that did not get the finish it deserved from Ngog.
Liverpool were walking a fine line as they failed to extend their lead, and they were punished when substitute Gonalons, on for the injured Cris, equalised with 18 minutes left.
As mass confusion reigned in the Liverpool penalty area following a corner, Reina saved from Jeremy Toulalan and then Jean Makoun before Gonalons headed in at the third time of asking.
Benitez then made a change that was, to put it charitably, mystifying when he replaced the lively Benayoun with Voronin.
Liverpool looked likely to secure an unsatisfactory point as the game entered stoppage time - but they were even deprived of even that.
Miralem Pjanic played in Govou and he set up Delgado to arrive at the far post and turn in a goal that delivered a devastating blow to their Champions League ambitions.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Chelsea 2 - 0 Liverpool

Nicolas Anelka and Florent Malouda sent Chelsea back to the top of the Premier League as their second-half goals gave Carlo Ancelotti's side a deserved victory over Liverpool at Stamford Bridge.
The enigmatic Didier Drogba - who mixed theatrics with threat in an encounter that was competitive rather than compelling - won the battle of the strikers with Liverpool's Fernando Torres to make decisive contributions and set up Chelsea's win.
Drogba, who infuriated Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez with his antics when coming into contact with opposing defenders, set up former Liverpool striker Anelka for a simple close-range finish on the hour to break the deadlock.
And in injury time he made light of the presence of Jamie Carragher and Fabio Aurelio to slide in another cross for substitute Malouda to seal the win.
Chelsea boss Ancelotti's usually impassive mask slipped in a wild touchline celebration, acknowledging the significance of beating a Liverpool side expected to be a serious threat to their Premier League ambitions, plus the importance of reacting swiftly to the shock defeat at Wigan.
And it was all done without suspended keeper Petr Cech, with his replacement Hilario distinguishing himself when called upon.
For Liverpool and manager Benitez, defeat capped a disappointing week after they slumped against Fiorentina in the Champions League on Tuesday.
The Reds threatened only occasionally, with Torres subdued by a magnificent performance from Chelsea and England captain John Terry, who repelled any danger that came his side's way.
Substitute Yossi Benayoun missed the visitors' best chance, but that came after Malouda had doubled Chelsea's advantage, with Hilario also clawing away Steven Gerrard's 20-yard drive in the closing stages.
It was Liverpool's third league defeat of the season, eclipsing the number of losses they had in their entire campaign last term, and Benitez has much to ponder in the international break as they failed to rise to a vital occasion.
Emotions could not be more contrasting for counterpart Ancelotti, who will see his reputation at Stamford Bridge enhanced after the Blues ultimately out-manoeuvred their opponents.
Liverpool's midfield was strengthened by the return of Javier Mascherano after injury - and he played a crucial role in protecting his defence in a scrappy, niggly opening period.
Torres set the tone early on with a nasty challenge that floored Terry, then Michael Essien was fortunate not to connect with a reckless lunge at Mascherano, although the Argentine did himself little credit with a dramatic collapse.
The home side's best hope of a breakthrough looked to be via the aerial route, with Drogba and Anelka both having headers comfortably collected by Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina.
And Michael Ballack should have done better than head Deco's free-kick off target at the near post after he escaped the attentions of the Liverpool defence.
Chelsea had exerted a small measure of supremacy as the half wore on, but Liverpool's threat was still in evidence. Torres wasted a clear opportunity when he headed Dirk Kuyt's cross straight at Hilario.
And the stand-in keeper came to Chelsea's rescue on the stroke of half-time when he reacted late to Albert Riera's 30-yard free-kick but managed to dive low to his right to turn it around the post.
Frank Lampard had been a peripheral presence, but he made a crucial contribution as Chelsea took a lead they just about deserved on the hour.
He turned the tables on Mascherano by robbing the combative midfield man in possession and fed Deco. Deco in turn found Drogba, whose cross provided an open invitation for Anelka to turn a finish high past Reina from point-blank range.
It was Drogba at his menacing best, but the striker spent too much time reverting to his bad old ways, throwing himself to the ground - and staying there - even though contact had been minimal at best.
When he did stay on his feet he was, as always, a huge threat and Reina was grateful to see his angled low free-kick swerve narrowly wide from 25 yards.
The goal at least impressed on Liverpool the urgency of attempting to trouble the Chelsea goal, and Torres scuffed a presentable opportunity wide with 10 minutes left after Gerrard drove into the penalty area.
Drogba again demonstrated his power and threat as Chelsea wrapped up the points in injury time, dismissing the presence of Carragher and Aurelio to set up Malouda for the simplest of finishes.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fiorentina 2 - 0 Liverpool

Stevan Jovetic was Liverpool's tormentor as he scored twice in Fiorentina's surprise win over the Reds in their Champions League Group E tie.
The teenager pierced the visitors' offside trap and slotted past Pepe Reina to put his side deservedly ahead.
He added a second when he diverted in a powerful Juan Vargas strike.
Liverpool had chances to get back into the game but Lucas Leiva put a free header wide and Fernando Torres skied a close-range volley.
The Reds did not lose away from home in the Champions League last season but were undone by a poor first-half showing and an inspired Viola at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.
Liverpool had also found the net in their previous 21 Champions League matches and their failure to do so against the Serie A side saw them miss out on Bayern Munich's record scoring run of 22 games.
Fiorentina fielded 19-year-old Jovetic in attack because of striker Alberto Gilardino's absence through suspension and the teenager relished the stage on his first Champions League start.
A bustling and energetic presence in the hole behind fellow forward Adrian Mutu, Montenegro international Jovetic was a major influence as the Italian side took the game to Liverpool after weighing up their rivals.
His reward came when he timed his run to perfection to beat the Liverpool offside trap and latched on to a Cristiano Zanetti pass before calmly slotting past Reina.
The assured home defence were giving little away as their organisation and discipline created a barrier the Reds struggled to make any impression on.
It gave the Italian side the foundation to push forward with confidence, and their work-rate and movement saw Liverpool struggle to keep them at bay.
The Reds have looked vulnerable in defence so far this season and they conceded a 12th goal in 10 games when Jovetic diverted in a powerful, angled Vargas drive at the near post.
Liverpool had found space and time at a premium as Fiorentina constantly and quickly closed them down and robbed them of possession.
The presence of combative midfielder Javier Mascherano, who is sidelined with a groin strain, was missing but the game changed after half-time.
The visitors increased the tempo and urgency in their play, while Fiorentina sat back and relied on counter-attacks to preserve their lead.
Rafael Benitez's side almost capitalised when Yossi Benayoun cut in from the left byline and had a well-struck shot blocked by keeper Sebastien Frey.
Lucas put a free six-yard header over from the resulting corner when he should have done better and Dirk Kuyt had a shot deflected wide as Liverpool searched for a way back into the game.
Fiorentina were weathering the pressure and Gerrard chested the ball down before having a shot blocked as the home side showed the resolute and stubborn defending Italian teams are famed for.
Torres felt he should have had a penalty after a forceful Alessandro Gamberini tackle late on before he blazed a near-post volley over from a Martin Skrtel cross.
But there was to be no breakthrough for the visitors as Fiorentina held on leaving their fans to raucously celebrate a memorable victory