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

Monday, September 28, 2009

Liverpool 6 - 1 Hull

Fernando Torres struck a brilliant hat-trick as Liverpool demolished Hull.
The Spanish striker showed stunning footwork to slot in a first, before Geovanni's volley levelled matters.
Torres dribbled around Boaz Myhill to restore the Reds' lead and rolled in to complete his treble after latching on to a clever Yossi Benayoun pass.
Steven Gerrard's cross flew it to make it 4-1 before Ryan Babel tapped in Dirk Kuyt's cross and then unknowingly deflected in Albert Riera's late shot.
Benitez happy with six against Hull
The final score was harsh on Hull, but their commitment and endeavour could not make up for a glaring lack of quality throughout the side.
After a shaky start to the season, Rafael Benitez has now seen his Liverpool side win their last six matches, scoring 18 goals in the process.
The Spaniard even had the luxury of resting midfielder Javier Mascherano ahead of a testing week which includes a Champions League trip to Fiorentina on Tuesday and a league meeting with Chelsea next Sunday.
Riera came in for the Argentine and the winger had an immediate impact as his low ball in from the left was shifted out of his feet by the quick-thinking Torres before he rolled into the far corner.
It was far from an ideal start for Hull, who had lost their previous three matches, but if the majority of the Anfield crowd were expecting the floodgates to open they were soon to be disappointed as the Tigers gave their travelling fans something to celebrate.
Paul McShane's cross from the right was headed back across goal by Jan Venegoor of Hesselink and, after Martin Skrtel could only flick the ball up in the air, Geovanni waited for it to drop on to his left foot and directed it into the corner from 10 yards.
The goal gave Hull renewed belief and every time they pumped a ball into the Liverpool area the hosts' fragile defence gave them cause for optimism, clearly not heeding boss Benitez's midweek plea for them to tighten up at the back.
Fortunately for them Hull were even shakier and before the half-hour mark Torres doubled the lead, slipping on to a Benayoun slide-rule pass, nonchalantly rounding Ibrahima Sonko and Myhill before clipping into the net.
Hull simply could not live with the blond marksman and he sealed his fourth Liverpool hat-trick two minutes after the break, again found by Benayoun and again coming inside Sonko before firing home.
At that stage the score was harsh on Hull, who saw a Sonko header deflected wide and a Geovanni shot fly off target, but from then on it was nothing more than an exercise in damage limitation.
And as the Hull defence - including 18-year-old Liam Cooper, making his Premier League debut - proceeded to fall apart, Liverpool began to run riot.
Torres delighted with a wonderful game
Gerrard's goal had more than a touch of fortune about it as he swung over a cross from the left that swirled over Myhill's head and flew in-off the crossbar, but as the game wore on Hull simply could not get the ball off their opponents.
Torres and Gerrard were given deserved rests but the torment did not end there as Kuyt ploughed down the right and crossed for Babel to convert at the near post.
It got even worse in injury time as Riera's shot struck Babel and looped over Myhill to make it six.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Kuyt's praise for Liverpool ace Johnson

Striker Dirk Kuyt believes summer signing Glen Johnson has provided Liverpool with a different emphasis this season.
The England defender, who moved from Portsmouth in the summer, has probably been the Merseysiders' best player so far, scoring twice and providing a much-needed cutting edge from right-back.
Johnson, 25, may yet have to win over critics who are sceptical about his defensive strengths but there are no doubts over his ability as an attacking force.
“I think Glen has done really well,” said Kuyt.
“He was a big signing for us but he has shown straight from the start that he is very important - both defensively and in attack.
“He has scored some very good goals and provided some assists. He is probably one of the best players in the team so far this season.
“He is still young and I think he will only get better and better.”
Kuyt's fellow striker David Ngog is prepared to play a waiting game as he tries to force his way into the starting line-up.
Tuesday's Carling Cup match-winner at Leeds accepts he is behind Fernando Torres, Kuyt and probably even Andriy Voronin in the pecking order.
However, he hopes scoring the only goal at Elland Road will have given manager Rafael Benitez another glimpse of his talents.
“I think I played okay. The intensity of the game made it difficult and I was very happy to score,” said the 20-year-old, who joined Liverpool from Paris St Germain in the summer of 2008.
“When you are a striker, scoring is always the best thing. That is our job and what we work for.
“Of course I know that I'm not going to play every game so when the coach gives me a chance, I want to do my best for the team and try to score.
“I know I have to be patient and all I can do is when I get a chance, try to take it and show the manager what I can do.” Read more:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Leeds United 0 - 1 Liverpool

Liverpool striker David Ngog produced a clinical finish to help the Reds come through a testing Carling Cup third-round tie at Leeds.
Ngog controlled an attempted shot by Javier Mascherano before spinning and sidefooting past keeper Shane Higgs.
It was the kind of finish Leeds striker Jermaine Beckford lacked as he mishit an earlier shot when through on goal.
Beckford was also harshly deemed offside when Leeds had an early Lubomir Michalik headed effort disallowed.
It was a contentious call by the assistant referee as Beckford looked onside, while also not appearing to get a touch as Michalik's low header found its way past flailing keeper Diego Cavalieri.
The decision may leave Leeds with a rueful feeling of an opportunity lost, especially against a lacklustre Liverpool side, but they can take encouragement from a determined performance.
A tough challenge was expected from Leeds after 15 league home wins on the trot, their good form pitted against the desire of Liverpool's fringe players trying to impress manager Rafael Benitez.
A roaring full house was also in the home side's corner and provided a flashback to recent halcyon days at Elland Road, which included a Champions League semi-final against Valencia in 2001.
And Leeds should have given their contingent of the sell-out crowd a goal to cheer early on but an unmarked Michael Doyle headed an inviting Robert Snodgrass cross disappointingly wide.
Michalik's header was then disallowed as Leeds pushed forward, sensing an upset against an unfamiliar looking Liverpool struggling for any rhythm or control.
Benitez had made nine changes to his starting line-up and it told in their play with Ryan Babel ending a marauding run with a tame shot to give them a rare threat on goal.
Liverpool's second string were doing little to enhance their cases for more of a first-team say as Leeds were the more accomplished, with Snodgrass, in particular, causing Reds left-back Andrea Dossena all sorts of problems.
Leeds were given a major scare when Albert Riera flicked a header goalwards from close range but keeper Higgs pulled off an instinctive save before Luciano Becchio blocked the Spaniard's follow-up.
Beckford has earned a reputation as a prolific striker in League One and was aiming to enhance his reputation against more exalted opposition.
He had an ideal chance when he was through on goal after running on to a long ball but he mistimed his shot and Cavalieri gratefully saved.
Beckford did show his instinctive nature in front of goal when a Bradley Johnson cross was just behind him and he hooked an effort on goal agonisingly high.
Liverpool were hardly convincing and Mascherano could have been given more than a telling off for striking out at Beckford as the visitors' frustration came to the fore.
But the tireless Ngog capitalised on the home side's failure to score with his goal before the Reds closed out the game to progress into the last 16.

West Ham 2 - 3 Liverpool

Fernando Torres scored twice to help Liverpool overcome battling West Ham.
Zavon Hines hit the post before Torres poked in the opener, but Alessandro Diamanti scored a debatable penalty that he appeared to touch twice.
Dirk Kuyt stabbed in Steven Gerrard's header and West Ham fought back with Carlton Cole nodding in Mark Noble's corner just before the interval.
With the Hammers tiring in the second half, Ryan Babel burst forward to chip in for Torres to head the winner.
The Hammers, looking for their first win since the opening day of the season, started off brightly and came within a whisker of taking the lead within only two minutes.
The Jamaican-born Hines, making his second Premier League start, stole possession from the napping Carragher on the edge of the box but could only curl his shot against the upright.
It was a wake-up call for the visitors and Yossi Benayoun, facing his former club, dinked his way into the box but shot only tamely into the grateful arms of goalkeeper Robert Green.
The Reds though, adopting a 4-2-3-1 formation with Torres as the solo striker, poured forward and grabbed the opener on 20 minutes thanks to a dash of Spanish magic.
The packed West Ham midfield, always pretty but often careless, handed the ball to Emiliano Insua and his through-ball found Torres on the left who weaved around James Tomkins before blasting over the on-rushing Green.
Manager Gianfranco Zola, recently celebrating his one-year anniversary at Upton Park, looked bemused on the sidelines, and his cause was not helped after 25 minutes, seeing Matthew Upson and a tearful Valon Behrami limping off.
Within three minutes of the enforced substitutes they were amazingly level after a sloppy challenge by Carragher on the dangerman Hines down the left-hand side of the box.
Up stepped Italian Diamanti for the spot-kick and although the ball flew over Pepe Reina, the Liverpool bench were incensed, claiming the striker had kicked the ball twice after slipping.
Back came Liverpool and they grabbed the lead again with Kuyt's boot getting on the end of a towering Gerrard header from an inswinging Benayoun corner.
For all of Liverpool's possession, West Ham's frontline was always threatening and stunned the visitors on the stroke of half-time when Cole outjumped three defenders to nod in the equaliser.
The second period was a case of West Ham hanging on with a handful of players suffering from cramp and their substitute options severely limited.
Benayoun twice went on dazzling runs and only last-ditch sliding tackles denied the Israeli midfielder from scoring wonderful goals.
Even the legs of the battling Diamanti proved too weary for the final onslaught as he was taken off to a standing ovation, replaced by former England star Kieron Dyer.
It was a flood of players in white desperate to break down the resolute Hammers defence, and with 15 minutes remaining they bagged the all-important strike.
Johnson, another player up against his former employers, stormed down the right wing and with Babel picking up possession, the Dutchman delicately chipped over to Torres who headed down brilliantly to regain the lead.
Still the hosts were not finished as they managed one last throw of the dice with Radoslav Kovac denied at the end by Reina's outstretched hand.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Liverpool 1 - 0 Debrecen

A frustating day for the REDS as they just managed with that solitary goal. Liverpool opened their Champions League campaign in unconvincing fashion with a narrow win over Hungarian champions Debrecen.
Dirk Kuyt's goal in first-half stoppage time settled an undistinguished encounter played out in a strangely subdued Anfield atmosphere.
Kuyt swept home the winner after Debrecen keeper Vukasin Poleksic failed to hold a low shot from Fernando Torres.
It was the high point of a low-key performance - but manager Rafael Benitez will simply be relieved that Liverpool achieved their main target of making a victorious start in Group E.
Liverpool deserved to clinch the three points for a period of sustained pressure that ended with Kuyt's goal but Debrecen, the first Hungarian side in the group phase of the Champions League for 14 years, stuck gamely to their task and provided the odd anxious moment for the Kop.
In the end, it was Liverpool's 100th victory in this competition in both its guises, the European Cup and the Champions League, and came in Benitez's 300th game in charge at Anfield. It was an occasion unworthy of such milestones.
Goalkeeper Jose Reina saved well from Peter Czvitkovics before the hosts heeded the warning signs and stepped up the tempo to make the crucial breakthrough.
Albert Riera had been denied by Poleksic and Norbert Meszaros cleared off the line from Kuyt before the Netherlands striker got the goal that proved to be decisive.
Steven Gerrard and Yossi Benayoun almost doubled Liverpool's advantage, although striker Adamo Coulibaly wasted half-chances near the end to earn Debrecen an unlikely point.
Anfield's reaction at the final whistle was tinged with relief rather than elation - and it was the noisy band of away supporters who stayed behind to revel in a landmark night for their club.
Benitez afforded himself the luxury of naming the same Liverpool team that beat Burnley 4-0 at Anfield on Saturday.
And in an unusually muted Anfield, with even a few empty seats to be seen, Liverpool found difficulty in finding their rhythm in the opening stages.
Indeed, the only incident of note early on was a booking for Liverpool captain Gerrard from Portuguese official Pedro Proenca for taking a free-kick too quickly.
Debrecen posed the first serious danger on the half hour when Czvitkovics - wearing number 77 - forced a fine diving save from Reina after Martin Skrtel had presented him with possession 25 yards out.
Reina then clutched a long-range free-kick from Laszlo Bodnar - and as Anfield vented its growing frustration, Liverpool finally sparked into life.
Riera was prominent as Liverpool finally exerted their superiority on the Hungarians, shooting just wide from Gerrard's pass then bringing a fine save from keeper Poleksic before defender Meszaros kicked off the line as Kuyt pounced on the rebound.
Gerrard then side-footed inches wide from Riera's cross, but the goal was coming and so it proved as Liverpool went ahead in first-half stoppage time.
Benayoun released Torres, and when Poleksic could not hold his shot Kuyt was again loitering with intent to turn home the loose ball.
The Reds picked up the pace again after the break and Gerrard was only inches off target with a stunning rising volley with Poleksic merely a helpless bystander.
Benayoun, a hat-trick hero against Burnley on Saturday, was almost on the scoresheet again after 64 minutes when he ended a weaving run with a low shot that Poleksic turned away unconvincingly at his near post.
Coulibaly made a hash of a presentable chance near the end when he closed in on Reina, but Liverpool survived in relative comfort to secure the win.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Standard Chartered Bank to sponsor Liverpool

Liverpool has completed its most lucrative shirt sponsorship agreement by signing a four-year deal with Standard Chartered Bank.
The jersey sponsorship, which will start in July 2010, was announced early Monday. Financial details weren't disclosed, but it is believed to be worth 80 million pounds ($134 million).
Liverpool has been sponsored by Danish beer brand Carlsberg since 1991.
"It is a real sign of the progress we have made at Liverpool that we have been able to secure the largest ever commercial deal in our history,'' Liverpool managing director Christian Purslow said.
Standard Chartered Bank had been trying to sponsor Liverpool's Premier League rival Manchester United before the Premier League champions completed a deal in June with Aon Corp.

Liverpool 4 - 0 Burnley

A Yossi Benayoun hat-trick inspired a dominant Liverpool to a comfortable victory over Burnley at Anfield.
The midfielder cut inside Graham Alexander and slid in a shot across keeper Brian Jensen for the opener.
Jensen could only parry Benayoun's shot at the end of a swift counter-attack and Dirk Kuyt slotted in the loose ball to extend the Reds' lead.
Benayoun then twice tapped in Steven Gerrard and Andriy Voronin passes to round off an impressive display.
The creativity produced by Israeli international Benayoun showed he can help ease the pressure on Gerrard and Fernando Torres and provided a contrast to keeper Pepe Reina's forthright words ahead of the match.
Reina claimed winning the Premier League was "not a realistic option" for the Reds as he revealed there was an air of "resignation" at the lack of funds spent on the squad.
He also cited an absence of enough players of "vision" at Liverpool compared to the Anfield side's rivals.
The lack of players to open up defences against teams like Burnley cost the Reds dearly last season as they twice drew with newly-promoted sides at home and dropped four points, which would have won them the title.
Benayoun - whether riled by Reina's words or not - appeared determined to prove his team-mate wrong.
He latched on to an angled Glen Johnson ball and cut inside Alexander before side footing in a shot across Jensen for his first.
Reds boss Rafael Benitez has always emphasised the importance of his side getting the opening goal to bring teams out of their shell and so it proved.
Burnley pushed forward more after going a goal down and were caught out as Liverpool sucked them in before going up the other end and scoring - Kuyt side footing in after Benayoun's shot was only parried by Jensen.
There were chants of 'where is Traore' from Burnley fans in reference to former Reds defender Djimi Traore's own goal for them when they knocked Liverpool out of the 2005 FA Cup.
But there was little threat of them instigating any such humiliation this time around.
Two Martin Paterson long-range strikes were Burnley's only threat but they were comfortably gathered by Reina as Liverpool rarely looked in trouble.
Gerrard, playing in a deeper midfield role with Javier Mascherano missing, still made an impact in attack as he forced his way into the Burnley box before squaring a ball for Benayoun to tap in.
An unmarked Benayoun again eased in from close range after Voronin's pass to emphasise the emphatic nature of the victory, while a clean sheet will also please Benitez after the side's recent struggles in defence.
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez:"Yossi had been away on international duty and done a lot of travelling, but he wanted to play.
"It is important to him to show his quality in every training session and every match.
"Over the seasons he has shown his value coming off the bench, but now he is showing how important he can be with movement and passing from the start."
Burnley boss Owen Coyle:"We started really well, and looked comfortable. But if you switch off against players like these, you will be punished.
"I can't argue with the result, we were playing against world-class players.
"But I was annoyed with the first goal we conceded, we backed off and allowed Yossi Benayoun to get his shot in."