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.