Sunday, December 12, 2010

Newcastle 3 - 1 Liverpool

Alan Pardew's reign as Newcastle United manager got off to the perfect start as a turbulent week on Tyneside ended with victory against Liverpool at St James' Park.
Newcastle's fans gathered hours before kick-off to stage noisy protests against owner Mike Ashley in the aftermath of his controversial decision to sack the popular Chris Hughton and replace him with Pardew.
And banners were unfurled on the Gallowgate End in support of Hughton as Pardew took his place in the dug-out moments before kick-off to a muted response from the Toon Army.
The discontent had turned to delight by the final whistle, however, as Pardew's new charges delivered a display designed to dispel any doubts that they are not throwing their weight behind the new man in charge at St James' Park.
It was two Merseysiders, in the shape of Kevin Nolan and Joey Barton, who helped shape Liverpool's downfall, although Roy Hodgson's side were also the architects of their own demise with a wretched performance.
Nolan gave Newcastle an early lead after Andy Carroll headed down Barton's free-kick, but they were pegged back just after half-time when Dirk Kuyt sent a deflected shot past Tim Krul.
And after Fernando Torres wasted a chance to turn the tables and put Liverpool in front, it was Newcastle who finished the stronger and more vibrant side to run out deserved winners.
Barton took advantage of more hesitant Liverpool defending to restore Newcastle's lead with 10 minutes left - a goal greeted ecstatically by owner Ashley as he was hugged in the directors' box - and Carroll rounded off a memorable victory for Pardew with a low, long-range shot.
At the final whistle Newcastle's fans cut short their victory celebrations to launch another broadside against Ashley, indicating that the ill-feeling sparked by Hughton's dismissal has not been erased by a single victory.
Pardew needed a fast start to ease the discontent swirling around St James' Park two hours before kick-off - and a routine free-kick that resulted in a 15th minute lead provided it.
Liverpool could hardly say they were hit with a shock tactic as Barton aimed his free-kick towards the giant figure of Carroll at the far post, but the striker rose easily above Martin Skrtel for Nolan to arrive in trademark fashion to provide a low finish past Pepe Reina.
Liverpool, without exerting any concerted pressure on Newcastle, still had opportunities to equalise as Sotirios Kyrgiakos had a shot saved by keeper Krul and Raul Meireles saw a deflected effort cleared off the line by Jose Enrique.
Newcastle were almost gifted a second after 35 minutes when Meireles presented the ball to Shola Ameobi, but his shot took a touch off a Liverpool defender and went just wide.
Liverpool ended the half in the ascendancy as Kyrgiakos headed just wide, but it needed a touch of good fortune to restore equality after 49 minutes.
Netherlands striker Kuyt pounced after a long ball hit Sol Campbell's back, but still needed a hefty glance off Steven Taylor to send his effort out of Krul's reach.
The goal briefly galvanised Liverpool and dented Newcastle's confidence. Fernando Torres should have put Liverpool ahead within seconds when he was left with only Krul to beat in the area, but he shot straight at the keeper.
Newcastle, however, were not short on spirit and endeavour and Carroll only just failed to direct his header on target from Barton's inviting cross, before Pardew made his first change after 63 minutes.
Nile Ranger replaced Ameobi, and almost had an immediate impact as he outmuscled Skrtel only to shoot across the face of goal.
Newcastle had responded impressively to Liverpool's leveller, and deservedly regained the lead with 10 minutes left, although it was again the product of wretched defending from Hodgson's side.
Krul's long-kick was flicked on by Ranger, and as Liverpool's defenders stood almost motionless Barton reacted first to swoop and direct the loose ball beyond Reds keeper Reina.
Carroll then got the goal his performance deserved when he punished Liverpool's defence for standing off by firing home an emphatic third.
Newcastle's overjoyed supporters revelled in a win that takes them up to eighth in the Premier League at the conclusion of a contentious week.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Liverpool 3 - 0 Aston Villa

Gerard Houllier suffered a miserable return to Anfield as struggling Aston Villa were comprehensively swept aside by Liverpool.
Houllier received a warm welcome from Liverpool's supporters on his managerial comeback to the club he left in 2004, but that was as good as it got for the man who won four major cup competitions in a six-year Anfield reign.
And on the grim evidence Aston Villa produced here, Houllier will have to undertake major reconstruction if he is to enjoy even a slice of that success at Villa Park.
Liverpool strolled to victory, even without the injured Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and striker Fernando Torres, who missed the game after his wife went into labour.
It meant Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson fielded an unfamiliar strike force of David Ngog and Ryan Babel, and they made the most of their opportunity with the early goals that set their side on the way to victory to leave Villa with just two wins in their last 12 games.
Ngog headed Liverpool into a 14th-minute lead with a header as Villa failed miserably to deal with a corner, and Babel added a second two minutes later with a fine low finish.
Liverpool provided the scoreline with an even more convincing look after 55 minutes when Maxi Rodriguez warmed an Anfield crowd shivering in sub-zero temperatures with a delightful finish from Ngog's pass.
Villa's fans did themselves far more credit than their players - although the heavy sarcasm and gallows humour aimed at their team will have hurt Houllier as he tries to win over those still sceptical about his appointment.
Liverpool never needed to hit top gear to dispose of Villa, but Hodgson's side deserve full credit for the manner in which they made light of the absence of three such influential figures.
It was also a landmark night for Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina, who kept his 100th clean sheet for the club in record time.
Houllier, however, looks to have inherited a Villa defence in terminal decline, and the cracks were apparent early on as Liverpool established a lead they never looked like relinquishing.
Martin Skrtel was unmarked when he met Raul Meireles' corner, and Ngog was in even more splendid isolation as he headed past the badly exposed Villa keeper Brad Friedel.
Liverpool doubled their lead two minutes later when Villa were guilty of more shoddy defending as Babel took control of Lucas's pass on the turn ahead of Stephen Warnock to beat Friedel with a low drive into the bottom corner.
The rest of the half meandered to an uneventful conclusion, but any slim hopes Villa had of hauling Liverpool back evaporated with a superb third goal 10 minutes after the break.
Gabriel Agbonlahor had wasted Villa's best chance when he allowed keeper Reina to block from close range, and he paid the price for his generosity as Liverpool wrapped up the game in style.
Maxi found Ngog on the left, then continued his run to take the return pass and place a precise side-foot finish high into the top corner, a move and a finish that drew full appreciation from a frozen Anfield gallery.
Houllier made a double change, sending on John Carew and Robert Pires for Agbonlahor and Marc Albrighton, but by this stage the game was well beyond Villa's reach.
And Liverpool almost added to Houllier's misery with a fourth after 67 minutes when Glen Johnson broke into the penalty area, only to be thwarted by Friedel's fine block.
Sotirios Kyrgiakos was even closer with a header that was goalbound until Jonathan Hogg smuggled it off the line by the post.
Liverpool closed out the win with the minimum of fuss, to leave Hodgson delighted with another home win and Houllier with a graphic demonstration of the scale of the work he has to do to revive floundering Villa.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Tottenham 2 - 1 Liverpool

Aaron Lennon struck an injury-time winner as he earned Tottenham a dramatic league win against Liverpool.
Lennon ran through to slot in and move Harry Redknapp's side to within six points of the Premier League's summit.
Spurs had gone behind when Martin Skrtel stabbed in from 10 yards after his header came back off David Ngog.
Jermain Defoe missed a Spurs penalty but the home side levelled when Skrtel turned a Luka Modric cross into his own net before Lennon's late winner.
The victory after a thrilling game of rollercoaster fortunes will only enhance manager Redknapp's claims that his side can win the Premier League title.
Redknapp talked up his side's chances after a 3-2 win at Arsenal last Saturday and, after a midweek victory over Werder Bremen in the Champions League, Spurs proved they have the kind of fighting qualities and consistency they will need to back up their manager's bold prediction.
Liverpool were punished for not taking some gilt-edged chances, although they did show the gap between the two sides might not be as large as the differing recent fortunes of the pair might suggest.
However, it was Tottenham's reaction to adversity which ultimately proved the more decisive and impressive.
Spurs started promisingly as Lennon skinned Reds left-back Paul Konchesky and found Modric, who failed to get enough power and direction on a shot he fired straight at keeper Pepe Reina.
A Maxi Rodriguez angled strike went wide at the other end before Redknapp's risk in playing Rafael van der Vaart after a spell out with an ankle problem backfired with the influential playmaker going off injured after 10 minutes.
Defoe, who has only just returned after a lengthy spell out injured, came on as his replacement and he quickly showed signs of intent by volleying a Modric cross at Reina in what was proving to be an absorbing game as the teams traded blows.
Former Liverpool striker Peter Crouch got ahead of Jamie Carragher but steered a shot wide from a corner for the White Hart Lane outfit, while another Maxi effort was smartly palmed round the post by keeper Heurelho Gomes.
Spurs had a great chance to take the lead when Reina palmed a Modric cross to Defoe only for the forward to show his rustiness as his close range shot was blocked on the goal-line by Carragher.
Another Spurs player in Younes Kaboul was forced to go off injured and, after Raul Meireles had a well-struck 25-yard strike palmed wide, the visitors went ahead.
Skrtel headed a free-kick against team-mate Ngog before reacting quickest to send in the loose ball as Liverpool's discipline and controlled aggression reaped dividend.
Spurs were wobbling and should have been further behind when an audacious pass from Torres put Maxi through on goal but, instead of shooting, he tried to be too clever and only ended up fooling himself rather than Gomes.
The usually clinical Torres was twice through on goal either side of half-time but was foiled by crucial Sebastien Bassong tackles on both occasions.
Liverpool's lack of ruthlessness almost came back to haunt them only for Meireles to head a Bale strike off the line.
But the White Hart Lane side had the ideal chance to draw level when they were awarded a penalty for Ngog blocking a Bale free-kick with his arms.
Defoe sent the spot-kick horribly wide, but Modric helped quickly ease Spurs' disappointment as the home side found the kind of attacking rhythm which has made them such an entertaining team to watch.
The diminutive Croatian scythed through the Liverpool defence and had his low cross turned into his own net by Skrtel with Crouch waiting for a tap-in.
The intensity of the game ratcheted up along with the noise from the home faithful as the game turned into a frantic affair.
Both sides were denied penalties - Konchesky appeared to push Crouch, while at the other end Liverpool's Dirk Kuyt went down after a challenge by Spurs left-back Benoit Assou-Ekotto.
Meireles sent a rasping left-foot shot just wide before the decisive intervention of Lennon.
Crouch flicked on a long Assou-Ekotto ball and Lennon, who had got inside Konchesky, kept his cool to side-foot past Reina.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Liverpool 3 - 0 West Ham

Liverpool's first-half barrage secured an easy win over a West Ham side that looked worryingly weak at Anfield.
Former Hammer Glen Johnson cracked a low shot past over-worked Robert Green to give the hosts an 18th-minute lead.
Dirk Kuyt then coolly slotted home a penalty after lively Fernando Torres had caused Danny Gabbidon to handle.
Maxi Rodriquez nodded in a simple third before half time, while bottom-of-the-table West Ham created nothing in a largely stale second period.
Now with just one win in 14 Premier League matches this season, Avram Grant's Hammers were desperate for something positive from their trip to the north-west - a performance if not a tangible result - to convince supporters that their team is not destined for relegation.
But, at a ground where the club has not won since 1963, the Irons put in a poor show - one which could increase pressure on Grant just days after his board backed him to steer them clear of trouble.
The visitors - who have not won a league match on the road since the opening day of last season - were almost completely compliant, offering little resistance to a club equally in need of some cheer.
And Roy Hodgson's determined team got it, despite the absence of injured captain Steven Gerrard, as they played with intent and energy to claim a fifth win in seven matches.
Impressive French youngster David Ngog forced a good early stop from Green after jinking his way into space before Raul Meireles, who appears to be winning over the Kop faithful, just failed to release Torres.
In the 10th minute, the Spaniard got his first chance after Ngog had danced across a line of dallying defenders.
But the World Cup winner smashed a low shot just wide of the post as the hosts set about dominating possession with almost embarrassing ease.
Radoslav Kovac did make a superb block with Torres ready to pounce again, before Meireles's stinging shot was tipped over by Green.
But the barriers inevitably burst, and it was England right-back Johnson who made the breakthrough.
Competing for the ball under more pressure from his team-mates than the opposition, he managed to chest a Meireles corner into space before zipping a low drive firmly past Green with consummate technique.
Johnson then did his defensive duties with a clearing header from a Kovac cross with Obinna lurking, but Liverpool continued to flood forward.
Torres - full of inventive running but still not yet hitting peak form - escaped easily down the wings time after time, but failed to find well-positioned team-mates in the box.
And - when Johnson chipped a cross to the back post - the former Atletico Madrid forward could only scuff a volley into the ground.
But Torres won the 27th-minute penalty, chipping the ball over Matthew Upson's foot onto Gabbidon's hand to leave the linesman flagging furiously for a spot kick.
Dutchman Kuyt finished down the middle as Green dived too early.
Full of frustration, West Ham's travelling support even began chanting the name of former player Paulo Di Canio as Lars Jacobson frantically cleared off the line following a desperate scramble in the box.
A decent chance did fall to Carlton Cole soon after, though the occasional England striker could not convert Luis Boa Morte's cross despite climbing high above the hosts captain Jamie Carragher to make a clean connection.
Yet that was a rare opening for a side seeming to lack any inspiration, and Liverpool added a crushing third soon after.
From a narrow angle, rampant Torres forced a smart save from the feet of Green but former Hammer Paul Konchesky steered a cross straight back into the box and Maxi angled a simple header across the visiting goalkeeper.
Grant did make a change at the break, bringing Victor Obinna off for Pablo Barrera, and changed his formation from 4-5-1 to 4-4-2.
But tactics seemed to have little relevance for the ambition-free Hammers as they failed to make any impression on the second 45 minutes, bar keeping a clean sheet and keeping the score respectable.
That tiny chink of consolation was threatened in the 67th minute, when Maxi burst forward into the box and almost lifted an inadvertent chip into the top corner of Green's goal from the left.
But the ball drifted just past the post before going out.
Green then made a stunning double stop when, firstly, he pushed Torres' powerful 20-yard shot onto the bar before tipping Christian Poulsen's equally impressive effort around the post.
The rest of the action resembled a testimonial match as Liverpool closed out a win which will put each club in contrasting moods.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Stoke 2 - 0 Liverpool

Stoke produced a performance of grit and determination to achieve a first league win over Liverpool for 26 years. Ricardo Fuller poked home after his initial shot had been blocked in a pinball passage of play in the area. Earlier, he had been denied what appeared to be a clear penalty when he was pushed over by Maxi Rodriguez. Stoke wrapped up the win over a poor Liverpool when Kenwyne Jones slotted in coolly, before Lucas was sent off late on to add to the visitors' misery. The result launched Stoke up the Premier League table, out of the relegation zone and into into 10th place - leapfrogging the Merseysiders in the process.
Ahead of the game Stoke boss Tony Pulis insisted he had said all he wanted to say about referees, having claimed earlier in the week that decisions were repeatedly going against his side. But he might find it hard to completely move on after the Potters appeared to be denied at least one penalty in the first half - the clearest being when Maxi knocked over Fuller. There were also incidents involving Martin Skrtel, who twice had his arms wrapped around Robert Huth.
However, Pulis will be delighted that it did not cost Stoke this time as they stuck to their task and deservedly beat a disjointed Liverpool side, whose six-match unbeaten run comes to an end. The home side were the better team, pressing high up the pitch and playing at a tempo that Liverpool found difficult to deal with.
The tried-and-tested approach of utilising long throws from Rory Delap caused chaos in the visitors' box. One throw was eventually cleared to Dean Whitehead, whose fierce drive brought a fine stop from goalkeeper Pepe Reina. From the resultant corner Jones directed a header wide.
Whitehead smashed a rising drive just over the bar shortly after before another Delap throw was headed on by Huth and almost hooked in by Pennant. After 30 minutes of hustle, bustle and Stoke on top, Liverpool finally stirred. Having previously been unable to accurately find any intended target from five yards, the Reds then managed two decent shots from distance in quick succession.
Steven Gerrard's effort from 30 yards was pushed around the post by keeper Asmir Begovic, who then dealt well with a low shot from Raul Meireles. After half an hour Stoke's pace dropped, and that suited Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson's team. However, Jones would have been clean through but for a poor touch but the striker did recover enough to deliver a cross that a sliding Matthew Etherington almost managed to get on the end of. Liverpool's response was a Gerrard shot from 20 yards that went well wide. In a match short on quality and controlled football, it was perhaps not surprising that when the opening goal came it was borne of a passage of play that saw the ball bounce around like a pinball. The Reds failed to clear the ball out of their area after numerous attempts and Fuller eventually stabbed home after his initial toe-poke came back to him.
Stoke might have increased their advantage, but Delap's shot took a deflection and flew into the side netting and when Jones got the better of Skrtel, he fizzed a left-foot shot wide of the far post. Having been on the back foot, Liverpool suddenly sprung forward and when Kuyt pulled the ball back to Maxi, the Argentine's low shot almost squeezed under Begovic who made the save by sitting on the ball. It was rare moment of incisiveness from the visitors, whose afternoon was better summed by Fernando Torres' attempted pass that was thumped high into touch.
The striker had come into the match looking to score for the third consecutive match but his form deserted him. As Hodgson's men misfired, Stoke took full advantage and sealed a back-to-back victory - following the midweek defeat of Birmingham that ended a run of five straight league defeats - when Jermaine Pennant found Jones and the striker slotted home.
Lucas was then sent off after picking up his second booking when he kicked out at Etherington

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wigan 1 - 1 Liverpool

Liverpool were handed a reality check as they escaped with a draw against a determined Wigan.
Fernando Torres latched on to a precise Steven Gerrard pass and clinically drove in a shot to put the Reds ahead.
But Wigan grew stronger as the game progressed and Hugo Rodallega lashed in an effort from 10 yards to level.
Liverpool looked fragile but almost stole the points when Maxi Rodriguez found Gerrard, whose first-time shot came back off the crossbar.
Mohamed Diame also had a late chance for Wigan when his low strike was smartly saved by Pepe Reina as he missed the opportunity to complete the home side's fightback with a winner.
The Latics ended the game the stronger against a Liverpool side who had gone from a team showing authority at the start to one which was left hanging on for a point.
The Reds' efforts in beating Chelsea on Sunday appeared to have taken an energy-sapping affect and the draw ended Liverpool's run of three consecutive league wins, while showing the delicate nature of their recovery as well as a lack of depth to their squad.
The Anfield club's manager Roy Hodgson had picked the same starting XI which beat Chelsea and his side began in the assured manner the confidence of their recent revival had given them.
Lucas Leiva had a 20-yard strike tipped over by Wigan keeper Ali Al-Habsi before the Gerrard-Torres combination again proved lethal for the visitors.
Gerrard was allowed time and space with the ball in midfield and he used it to telling effect as he slid a ball through to Torres, who took a lovely first touch and held off Gary Caldwell before catching Al-Habsi off guard by taking his shot early to find the bottom corner.
Liverpool were thriving as Wigan stood too far off them and a well-worked move ended with Gerrard, who had instigated the attack, lofting a left-foot shot over after Torres and Kuyt had helped create the opening.
However, the combination of the Reds tiring and Wigan stepping up their efforts caused the Merseysiders several moments of anxiety.
Latics midfielder Hendry Thomas was biting into tackles and winger Charles N'Zogbia had the Reds defence on the back foot as he took any chance he could to run at them.
And Liverpool were almost masters of their own downfall when N'Zogbia turned the ball in after Lucas had given it away only for his effort to be ruled out for offside for a pass to Rodallega in the build-up play.
Wigan were exerting an increasing pressure and they were rewarded as Liverpool buckled and were made to pay the price for their carelessness shortly into the second half.
N'Zogbia found Ronnie Stam and he whipped in a low cross which Reina could only palm to Rodallega, who lashed in a left-foot shot.
The Colombian striker almost added another after centre-back Martin Skrtel failed to intercept a through ball, but Rodallega's first touch let him down and Jamie Carragher cleared for Liverpool.
It was backs-to-the wall stuff for Liverpool as they held Wigan at bay, although the visitors almost snatched a goal when Rodriguez released Gerrard, whose shot came crashing off the crossbar.
It was an enthralling finale to the game and Reina helped his side earn a point as he kept out efforts from Diame and N'Zogbia but Wigan's stirring efforts should give them a belief to move away from the bottom three.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Liverpool 3 - 1 Napoli

Great and inspiring performance by my idol, Steven Gerrard. Steven Gerrard came off the bench to inspire Liverpool to a win over Napoli in their Europa League Group K game.
Napoli had taken the lead when Ezequiel Lavezzi raced clear and slotted in.
But Gerrard's introduction breathed new life into the Reds and he beat keeper Morgan de Sanctis to an Andrea Dossena backpass to net an equaliser.
Gerrard then slotted in a penalty after Salvatore Aronica brought down Glen Johnson before the Reds skipper dinked in a third to complete his hat-trick.
Napoli had looked the more accomplished side as they passed it about with an authority and composure Liverpool's play had lacked until Reds boss Roy Hodgson introduced Gerrard at half-time.
The midfielder cajoled his stuttering side into a greater urgency and, after David Ngog and Raul Meireles missed two gilt-edged chances, it was left to the Reds captain to grab an equaliser.
A player who has consistently come to Liverpool's rescue, Gerrard was at it again as determination and dynamism helped raise his side's game and, a penalty as well as a late goal taken with aplomb, completed an impressive turnaround.
The victory will also have been extra sweet as it was played out in front of the club's new owner John W Henry, whose previous game watching Liverpool came when they were beaten at Everton in the Premier League.
Henry, whose New England Sports Venture group completed their takeover of the club in October, was sampling his first Anfield experience along with newly-appointed director of football strategy Damien Comolli.
And, while Hodgson's men started off promisingly, they quickly faded as the visitors took a stranglehold of the game.
Lavezzi had a shot deflected wide off left-back before he lofted a ball to release Edinson Cavani on the home goal only for the Napoli striker to blaze horribly over.
The Italian side were controlling possession against a disjointed Liverpool side made up of mostly youngsters and fringe players.
Lavezzi is a powerfully-built and stocky figure with a deceptive pace, guile and touch about his game and he was at the heart of most of Napoli's threatening forward forays.
He almost punished Jonjo Shelvey for giving the ball away when he curled a shot wide of Reds keeper Pepe Reina's goal before he made no mistake when the home side again made a mistake.
This time it was Reds midfielder Christian Poulsen who mistimed a header which fell to Cavani and he instantly nodded the ball forward to release Lavezzi, who raced through and slid a shot under Reina.
Poulsen tried to make amends for his error be slipping a ball through to Ngog but the young striker could only side-foot wide under pressure from ex-Reds left-back Dossena.
Gerrard's arrival sparked Liverpool to life in the second half but they were failing to make the most of their dominance as they wasted two promising chances.
Meireles slipped a ball across to Ngog, whose attempt to turn in a shot from close range was blocked by keeper De Sanctis.
The two players again combined and this time it was Meireles who could not find the finishing touch as he sent an eight-yard shot wide.
However, when Dossena struck a backpass too tamely, Gerrard pounced and his bravery was rewarded as he beat Sanctis to the ball and got his team back on level terms.
Napoli defender Salvatore Aronica was fortunate to stay on the pitch for a tackle on Ngog but Liverpool will feel justice was done when the Italian was punished for bringing down Reds right-back Johnson.
Gerrard drove in the resultant spot-kick before Liverpool's pressure, including a well-timed Lucas Leiva tackle, left him to wonderfully dink past De Sanctis and enhance his reputation as the Anfield side's captain marvel.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Liverpool 2 - 0 Chelsea

Liverpool's rejuvenation continued as two moments of brilliance from Fernando Torres sunk Premier League leaders Chelsea at Anfield.
Torres, who has struggled for form and fitness since the 2010 World Cup finals, was back to his best to torment Chelsea once more, ensuring the champions' lead at the top of the table remained at two points and Liverpool rose into the top 10 with a third successive league victory.
The Spain striker opened the scoring early on with a finish of rare finesse and added his second a minute before the break with a magnificent curling effort past Chelsea keeper Petr Cech to make it seven goals in eight games against the west Londoners.
Reds boss Roy Hodgson's side then defended their lead doggedly in the face of a renewed challenge from the visitors after the break, helped by the belated introduction of Didier Drogba, who had been suffering from a fever and was restricted to the substitutes' bench in the first half.
Chelsea badly missed the influence of midfield pair Frank Lampard and Michael Essien, and Liverpool's feverish work-rate, allied to the Torres's outstanding finishing, earned them three points that was celebrated ecstatically on The Kop.
Hodgson will be starting to feel his reign, so troubled and turbulent early on as they dropped into the relegation zone, is now clicking into gear - although there is still so much work to be done, and confidence is still a rebuilding process judging by the needless retreat into negativity for periods of the second half.
The 63-year-old's Chelsea counterpart Carlo Ancelotti will reflect on a display that never kicked into life until the second half, when Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina saved brilliantly from Florent Malouda before diverting Nicolas Anelka's shot on to the bar in a frantic finale.
Ancelotti had to leave Drogba on the bench, and the Ivorian was sorely missed as he was forced to watch Liverpool's master marksman Torres provide all the quality in the first 45 minutes.
The Blues boss cut a frustrated figure in his technical area as his team's lifeless display was punished ruthlessly by Torres.
Dirk Kuyt's return after an ankle injury not only provided the home side with greater endeavour but also invaluable support for Torres, and it was those two forwards who combined to carve through Chelsea's defence after 11 minutes.
Torres's first touch was perfect as he collected Kuyt's clever pass and the Spaniard's finish was of equal quality as he lifted the ball over Cech.
Reina was virtually unemployed in the first 45 minutes as Chelsea failed to mount any serious threat, and it was another moment of magic from Torres that doubled the lead on the stroke of half-time.
Raul Meireles won possession from Ashley Cole in midfield, and when the Portuguese midfielder found Torres, the Spaniard curled a stunning finish into the only space available to send Anfield into ecstasy.
Ancelotti responded by introducing Drogba for the second half at the expense of Salomon Kalou - and the effect was obvious, helped by Liverpool's obvious desire to hold on to what they had.
In a spell of sustained pressure from the Blues, Ramires headed Cole's cross over the top when he should have done better and Reina saved well from Yuri Zhirkov's powerful angled effort.
As the visitors applied the pressure, Reina came to Liverpool's rescue with a crucial reaction save from Malouda as he stole in on the end of Drogba's cross.
Liverpool broke the shackles with 15 minutes left and almost wrapped up the win when the men from Stamford Bridge could only half-clear a corner and Cech diverted Kuyt's effort away with his legs.
Chelsea's last chance came and went when Reina's turned Anelka's shot on to the bar, leaving Anfield in full voice as Liverpool celebrated a vital win.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Bolton 0 - 1 Liverpool

Maxi Rodriguez toe-poked an 86th-minute winner as Liverpool won at Bolton to move out of the relegation zone.
Fernando Torres missed two first-half chances to open the scoring, while Steven Gerrard shot wide and Bolton's Stuart Holden had a volley well saved.
Liverpool lost Joe Cole to a hamstring injury but responded well with Sotirios Kyrgiakos and Maxi both going close.
Bolton pushed for a winner but it was Liverpool who got it, Maxi prodding home after a sublime flick from Torres.
The result - Liverpool's first away victory since they won at Burnley in April - sees Liverpool jump from 18th to 12th in the table.
Roy Hodgson's men are now just three points behind fifth-place Tottenham and five adrift of Manchester City in fourth.
And it is a triumph that will fill them with confidence ahead of Thursday's Europa League meeting with Napoli, which precedes the visit of Chelsea on Sunday.
Bolton will feel hard done by after a performance full of energy and ambition, but they were ultimately punished for a lack of cutting edge in the final third.
Liverpool knew a point would be enough to lift them above the bottom three and Hodgson opted to name an unchanged side to the one which beat Blackburn last time out.
That meant Torres was deployed as the lone striker with Gerrard, Maxi and Cole in support - and the foursome looked dangerous from the outset.
Hodgson had not overseen an away league victory since the opening day of the 2009-10 season - when he was Fulham manager - but his team were full of attacking intent and they dominated the early exchanges.
Eight of Liverpool's previous nine league goals had been scored or created by Gerrard or Torres and the pair almost continued that sequence when Torres rose highest to meet Gerrard's corner but directed his header over the bar.
When the pair combined again a few minutes later, Liverpool should have taken the lead. A delicious lay-off from Gerrard sent Torres scurrying clear, but the Spaniard tried to turn inside Gary Cahill and a poor touch enabled the defender and his goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen to avert the danger.
Liverpool were getting forward in numbers and a couple of crosses from left-back Paul Konchesky troubled the Bolton defence before Jaaskelainen reacted quickly to race off his line and prevent Torres latching on to Maxi's through-ball.
Bolton managed to emerge from that spell of pressure unscathed and soon began passing and moving with the confidence of a side who came into the match unbeaten at home this season.
One particularly eye-catching move saw Holden meet Kevin Davies's flick with a sweetly-struck volley that startled Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina.
The hosts wanted a penalty after for a challenge on Chung-Yong Lee by Jamie Carragher, and they were appealing again when Paul Robinson's left-wing cross appeared to brush the same defender's arm.
Liverpool finished the half on top, Gerrard shooting wide from a promising position after being teed up by Maxi, but it was Bolton who made the more sprightly start to the second period.
Unfortunately for Owen Coyle's men, Liverpool were able to comfortably repel everything the Trotters threw at them.
The momentum briefly swung back in Liverpool's direction but, similarly, they struggled to carve out significant chances and suffered a set-back when Cole was forced off through injury.
He was replaced by striker David Ngog and the Frenchman's arrival - prompting Liverpool to switch from 4-2-3-1 to 4-2-2-2 - seemed to benefit the Reds.
Kyrgiakos glanced a header just over from Gerrard's corner and Maxi's overhead volley was narrowly too high after a Gerrard cross and Torres knockdown.
Back came Bolton and they saw another penalty shout rejected when Kyrgiakos appeared to shove Davies to the ground before Reina saved well to deny Johan Elmander and Zat Knight headed over from Matthew Taylor's corner.
But after Elmander flashed a strike wide and Davies narrowly failed to connect with Holden's inviting free-kick, Liverpool struck.
Lucas Leiva collected possession on the left and fed the ball into Torres, who flicked it through the legs of a Bolton defender to release Maxi. The Argentine's strike was far from clean but he did enough to beat Jaaskelainen and seal a vital three points.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Liverpool 2 - 1 Blackburn

Fernando Torres scored his first goal since August to earn Liverpool a hugely significant victory at Anfield.
Sotirios Kyrgiakos gave the Reds the lead on 48 minutes when he powered in a header from Steven Gerrard's corner.
But Blackburn hit back when El-Hadji Diouf's shot was deflected in by Jamie Carragher after Paul Konchesky cleared.
Torres then saved Carragher's blushes three minutes later when he side-footed in a Joe Cole cross but Liverpool stay in the Premier League's bottom three.
The Spanish striker's volley was only his second goal of the season but it represented a huge step forward for Roy Hodgson's team as it delivered their second league win.
They dominated for long periods of the game and should have taken the lead in a first half where Blackburn had Paul Robinson to thank for keeping them in the game.
But despite their attempts to give the Anfield crowd a scare when they threw away their lead within two minutes, Torres's return to goalscoring form will give everyone a lift after a dark period at the club.
Perhaps showing how bad things have been in recent times, Gerry Marsden, of Gerry and the Pacemakers, led a rendition of You'll Never Walk Alone on the pitch right before the game started to give the fans a boost.
But with new owner John W Henry unable to watch the first home game since taking over at the club through illness, Marsden's rallying cry seemed to have the desired effect as Liverpool began with a real thrust to their play.
Torres showed his intent from the very start, chasing down fellow compatriot Michel Salgado despite leaving his boot in, and as early as the eighth minute Liverpool came to close to opening the scoring.
A good interchange between Maxi Rodriguez and Torres allowed the Argentine to cut the ball back from the byline for Cole, whose shot was well saved by Robinson, but it was Raul Meireles who had the best opportunity, failing to hit the target with the follow-up even though the goal was gaping.
Torres was looking far more lively than in recent games, perhaps justifying Hodgson's decision to rest him and several other players for the midweek Europa League trip to Naples.
Blackburn centre-back Phil Jones denied the Spaniard by getting to a dangerous Gerrard centre, and the Liverpool striker then went close with another header from a Carragher cross.
Even early on, Gerrard was finding space in wide areas to deliver into the penalty area, and nearly every corner he took was causing Blackburn problems.
Kyrgiakos drew a fine save from Robinson with a header from Gerrard's set-piece and from another, Meireles almost took Salgado's head off when his bullet shot looked set for the top corner.
Despite all their attacking intent, the Anfield crowd remained quiet but they were brought to life once more when Liverpool burst forward on the counter-attack from a Blackburn corner.
Meireles was involved once again and his pull back across the edge of the box allowed Gerrard the chance to take aim but his well-struck shot was again saved by Robinson.
Lucas Leiva then had a great chance to finally beat the Blackburn keeper but the Brazilian could not find the target with his header, even though he was only four yards out.
Rovers were being made to suffer for the lack of their suspended centre-back Chris Samba and the injured Ryan Nelsen but the watching Liverpool co-owner Tom Werner must have been impressed with Liverpool's attacking verve.
He would not have been long back in his seat after the interval when the hosts eventually took the lead that their first-half play deserved.
Once again it was a Gerrard corner which bore fruit with Kyrgiakos thumping a header towards goal which deflected off Martin Olsson.
The relief in Anfield was palpable but within two minutes Blackburn were level with a goal that was almost comical, given their lack of chances during the game.
On as a half-time substitute, Benjani cut through the defence on Liverpool's left and although his cut back was tamely hit by Diouf, Konchesky's goal-line clearance hit Carragher and nestled in the net.
Hodgson was crestfallen on the Liverpool bench but three minutes later Liverpool restored their lead, Cole's cross from the left allowing Torres to end his goal drought.
It was his first goal since the 1-0 victory over West Brom on 29 August but despite the end of his barren spell Liverpool remain in the bottom three of the Premier League, with only Wolves and West Ham beneath them.
Fortunately for the Reds supporters there was no second reply from Rovers and they would have been happy to watch as the game drifted for large parts of the second half.
The only disappointment would have been for Blackburn's travelling support. Sam Allardyce's team looked content to probe but lacked any endeavour to their play.
As for Hodgson, the decision to leave several of his key men out of the midweek European trip looked like a good one, and he will be pleased that there were signs, particularly during the first half, that Liverpool are at last getting a rhythm and intensity to their play.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Everton 2 - 0 Liverpool

Everton ensured John W Henry's reign as Liverpool owner got off to the worst possible start as they emerged as comfortable winners of the Merseyside derby.
Henry and co-owner Tom Werner made a late decision to attend the 214th clash between the clubs after completing their £300m Anfield buy-out on Friday.
And there must have been times they wished they had stayed away from Goodison Park as Everton swept into an unassailable lead with a close-range first-half finish from Tim Cahill and a thunderous strike from Mikel Arteta just after the interval.
Moyes delighted with deserved derby success
Liverpool improved on a thoroughly wretched opening 45 minutes in the second half, but failed to break down an Everton defence in which Sylvain Distin and Phil Jagielka were outstanding.
Fernando Torres was snuffed out for much of the game, but also starved of quality service. He had a late shot saved by Everton keeper Tim Howard, but if Boston Red Sox owner Henry wanted a graphic illustration of the scale of the task in front of him, he got it here.
And how Everton fans revelled in their victory in front of the new Anfield hierarchy as Goodison Park resounded to chants of "Going Down" at the final whistle as Liverpool remain rooted in the Premier League relegation zone.
For Everton boss David Moyes, it was a victory he desperately wanted after Liverpool did the Premier League double over his side last season.
Everton were lifted by Jagielka's swift recovery from the hamstring injury he sustained on England duty - while Liverpool boss Hodgson was able to call on Torres after the groin injury that forced him off early in the Anfield defeat against Blackpool.
And Everton exerted the early pressure as Liverpool struggled to find any rhythm, with both Jagielka and Distin wasteful after finding space in the penalty area.
Liverpool emerged from their subdued start to fashion their first opening after 23 minutes as Everton keeper Howard was forced to touch Torres' glancing header over the top.
Everton deserved a reward for their greater enterprise, and it came from a familiar derby source 16 minutes before the interval.
Seamus Coleman's dashing run down the right flank ended with a ball inside to Cahill, who lashed his finish high past keeper Pepe Reina at his near post.
Liverpool needed to increase the tempo after the break, instead it was Everton who were faster out of the blocks and they doubled their lead in spectacular fashion as Arteta picked up a loose ball 20 yards out and fired emphatically into the top corner.
Everton were happy to sit on their lead and threaten on the counter attack, with substitute Jermaine Beckford shooting just over.
Liverpool had plenty of the ball, but Everton kept their Mersey rivals at arm's length apart from the one last chance for Torres.
And as Liverpool trooped off in misery at the final, Hodgson cut a frustrated figure as his team failed to make any sort of good impression on the new men at the helm.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Liverpool 1 - 2 Blackpool

EMBARRASING, a lost to a newly promoted club in ANFIELD! Blackpool produced a stirring display as they piled the pressure on Liverpool by beating the Merseysiders at Anfield.
Charlie Adam put the visitors ahead when he drove in a penalty after Glen Johnson tripped Luke Varney.
Varney controlled a Gary Taylor-Fletcher pass and ruthlessly lashed in a shot to stun the Reds.
A powerful Sotirios Kyrgiakos header gave the home side hope and he almost levelled in injury-time but was denied by a superb Matt Gilks save.
The defeat continues Liverpool's nightmare start to a season which has also seen them dumped out of the Carling Cup by League Two Northampton and now leaves them third from bottom of the Premier League.
However, any notion that the Reds are in a false position was for the most part dispelled, especially in the first half, by a joyful Blackpool side that blended a work-rate and commitment with some slick passing to celebrate a first win at Anfield since 1967.
There was a joie de vivre about Blackpool as they took the game to the Reds on their first Anfield appearance since January 1971 and, early on, Adam had a powerful 20-yard free-kick blocked away by keeper Pepe Reina.
Liverpool suffered a setback with star striker Fernando Torres going off after 10 minutes with an injury which, if any were needed, acted as further encouragement for the vibrant visitors.
Blackpool had an excellent chance to tale the lead when Neil Eardley curled in a teasing cross that DJ Campbell met on the half-volley but could only steer the wrong side of the far post.
Eardley cleared a Kyrgiakos header off the line at the other end but Liverpool were shocked as the visitors took the lead when Adam drove in a penalty after Johnson tripped Varney.
Liverpool tried to respond as David Ngog robbed Adam of possession and shot straight at Gilks before Johnson, attempting to atone for his error, fainted inside and sent a shot high.
But Blackpool showed their more esteemed opponents the required cutting edge and guile to score a goal as Taylor-Fletcher dinked a ball into the diagonal run of Varney, who controlled with the outside of of his boot before lashing in a 12-yard shot.
Anfield was stunned and the ecstasy of the Blackpool fans was in contrast to the despair of the home supporters, who booed their side off at the break.
Whatever Reds boss Roy Hodgson said at half-time had the desired impact as his side belatedly raised themselves into action and almost pulled one back when Ngog met a Dirk Kuyt cross but nodded wide.
However, Kyrgiakos made no mistake as he powered in a header from a Steven Gerrard free-kick.
The Reds were now a different side and, as they strived forward, Joe Cole looked set to equalise when he was clean through only for his angled shot to roll agonisingly wide of the far post.
Blackpool were pinned back but, when they did threaten on the counter-attack, Johnson crucially intercepted a Varney pull-back from the byeline.
Liverpool's attacks petered out as Blackpool stood firm and it was only an excellent injury-time save by Gilks from a Kyrgiakos header which secured the three points and moved them up to ninth.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

FC Utrecht 0 - 0 Liverpool

Liverpool lived a charmed life as they earned a hard-fought draw at Utrecht in a Europa League Group K tie.
Keeper Pepe Reina kept out an angled shot from Dries Mertens before Raul Meireles headed a Michael Silberbauer effort off the Liverpool goal-line.
Fernando Torres almost punished Utrecht only to have a close-range shot saved.
Jacob Mulenga steered an effort just wide for Utrecht and Mertens was denied a late penalty shout after a Jamie Carragher challenge.
Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson may take solace in a clean sheet for his side and the fact they remain top of their group but their slow rate of progress will be a concern.
Hodgson's urgency for his stuttering Reds to start improving had meant he abandoned his policy of picking a weakened side for Europa League games.
Torres had started in a bid to rediscover his goalscoring form, while Utrecht's home record of six wins in as many games so far this season was also part of the reasoning behind Hodgson's decision most of his first-team stars.
But, despite the visitors showing early glimpses of developing the understanding and fluency they are seeking, promising early moves would too often break down.
Meireles was employed on the right of midfield as opposed to his more preferred central position and it was apparent he looked uncertain.
Although, when the Portugal international did drift into the middle, he had a long-range shot comfortably saved before guiding a free header from a Glen Johnson cross straight at keeper Michel Vorm.
The Reds were feeding on scraps in attack, with Joe Cole unable to have any influence on the game, and Utrecht set about exposing a Liverpool defence which has conceded seven goals in the last three games.
Carragher crucially beat Utrecht striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel to a Mulenga cross and another threatening delivery from the right was spilled by Reina before Martin Skrtel cleared.
Torres curled a shot just wide from 22 yards at the other end but Utrecht's Jan Wuytens had a goal disallowed for a foul in the build-up play before the home side again went close as Liverpool's sloppiness gave them added encouragement.
Reds striker Dirk Kuyt, who started his career at the Dutch side, dallied in clearing a ball and was robbed of possession by Mertens, who had an angled drive blocked by Reina.
An unmarked Tim Cornelisse put a near-post header from the resultant corner wide before the visitors almost buckled.
Utrecht skipper Silberbauer thought he had scored when he side-footed a corner at the Reds goal only for Meireles to head clear off the goal-line.
Liverpool almost made the most of their desperate defending as a long goal-kick from Reina found Kuyt and he crossed for Torres, who failed to convert the type of near-post chance he would have put away in his pomp.
The visitors survived a late chance when Mulenga put a shot narrowly wide after Martin Kelly failed to intercept a Van Wolfswinkel flick-on as Utrecht maintained their pressure.
But, after a penalty scare for the Reds when Mertens fell to ground as he and Carragher challenged for a cross, it all ended even at the Stadion Galgenwaard.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Liverpool 2 - 2 Sunderland

Steven Gerrard's equaliser rescued a draw for Liverpool in a roller coaster game against a determined Sunderland.
The Black Cats had controversially gone behind when Michael Turner was ruled to have taken a free-kick and Dirk Kuyt slotted in from a Fernando Torres pass.
Darren Bent levelled with a penalty after a Christian Poulsen handball and the striker then powerfully headed in to give Sunderland the lead.
But Gerrard nodded in from a Torres cross to salvage a point for the Reds.
Daniel Agger should have grabbed a winner for the Merseysiders but he put a free header wide in injury-time.
However, despite their late rally, Liverpool's performance will do little to inspire confidence and lift the apathy that is engulfing the Anfield club after a drama-ridden encounter against the impressive visitors from Wearside.
This fixture showed its penchant for the peculiar in October 2009 when Sunderland beat Liverpool at the Stadium of Light courtesy of a Bent shot which went in off a beach ball, in a defeat that will still give Reds fans nightmares.
This time Anfield was the venue for the bizarre and the home side were the beneficiaries as they took the lead in contentious fashion.
Turner back-heeled a Black Cats free-kick towards keeper Simon Mignolet, who was nowhere to be seen, and Torres ran on to the loose ball before laying it across for Kuyt to side-foot in.
Whether centre-back Turner was taking the set piece or laying the ball back for Mignolet to take was unclear and, after conferring with his assistant, referee Stuart Attwell allowed the goal to stand.
Sunderland, who had just seen a Torres effort ruled out after a marginal offside decision, were furious but, to their credit, they responded with the type of vigour which belies a record which saw them register just two away wins last season.
The visitors were rewarded when a Ahmed Elmohamady cross struck the arm of Poulsen and Attwell awarded a penalty.
Bent blasted the spot-kick home under the dive of Pepe Reina for his sixth goal of the current campaign and Sunderland's first at Anfield since a 1-1 draw in September 2000.
After such a long wait, another goal for the visitors quickly came along as Bent powered in a header from Nedum Onuoha's precise right-wing cross to give Sunderland hope of a first win at Anfield for the first time since October 1983.
The hard-working visitors passed the ball around with confidence and composure and seemed to sense an air of dejection about the struggling Reds, who were coming off the back of their embarrassing midweek Carling Cup exit at the hands of League Two Northampton.
However, while Torres was cutting an increasingly frustrated figure, he skipped over a Titus Bramble tackle on the Reds' right and delivered a cross, which got a slight deflection off the unfortunate Turner, and was nodded in by Gerrard.
Gerrard escaped with a yellow card after appearing to catch Danny Welbeck with a forearm but the home side were reinvigorated by their captain's goal and Joe Cole had a shot blocked as they pressed for a winner.
Agger had the best chance before the final whistle, which was the cue for Reds fans to stay back and protest against the club's American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Liverpool 2 - 2 Northampton (Northampton win 4-2 on penalties)

Liverpool made a shock Carling Cup exit in the third round as League Two's Northampton won the penalty shoot-out.
With the sides locked at 2-2 after extra-time, Abdul Osman kept his cool to slot in the decisive spot-kick.
Milan Jovanovic fired in Liverpool's opener but Billy McKay equalised and Michael Jacobs tapped in to give the Cobblers a worthy lead in extra-time.
David Ngog's late header set up the late drama and as the Reds struggled in the rain, Osman sealed a memorable win.
It was another night of Carling Cup drama for Merseyside football following Everton's surprise exit at Brentford 24 hours before Northampton's visit to Liverpool.
Roy Hodgson opted to give run-outs for a number of fringe players on the back of their weekend defeat by Manchester United, but they started brightly enough as Jovanovic, a summer free transfer from Standard Liege, fired in his first goal for the club after nine minutes.
The Reds were wasteful in front of goal though and would have been wary of their opponents going into the interval with such a slender lead.
And so it proved, as Kevin Thornton out-jumped Sotirios Kyrgiakos to nod over Liam Davis' looping cross for McKay to crash in the equaliser from close range.
With the Anfield faithful sounding increasingly agitated, their team rarely looked capable of grabbing a winner as the visitors held firm at the back to take the match into extra-time.
Northampton, currently 17th in League Two, were the ones dreaming of a fourth-round spot in the Carling Cup as Jacobs poked in after Martin Kelly had blocked Kevin Thornton's shot.
With Kyrgiakos and Kelly both wasteful in the closing stages, it was left for striker Ngog, with four minutes left on the clock, who at last provided the spark to reignite Liverpool's battles.
Substitute Jonjo Shelvey swung in his corner for Ngog to nod in and provide some relief to Hodgson and the home supporters as both teams had to prepare for the penalty shoot-out to settle the tie.
As the rain lashed down, Northampton's Steve Guinan and Liverpool's Ngog missed their spot-kicks as the players struggled with the tension and conditions.
But when 19-year-old substitute Nathan Eccleston hit the crossbar with Liverpool's fourth effort, it was left for Osman to slot home and grab the headlines.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Dimitar Berbatov's rejuvenation continued as his brilliant hat-trick gave Manchester United a fully deserved win against Liverpool at Old Trafford.
The Bulgarian striker scored either side of the interval - the second a stunning overhead kick - to put Sir Alex Ferguson's side in complete control against a subdued Liverpool.
Liverpool were thrown a lifeline by United's frailty in defence as Steven Gerrard scored twice in six minutes midway through the second half from the penalty spot and a 20-yard free-kick, both awarded for fouls on Fernando Torres, to put the Merseysiders in sight of an unlikely point.
Berbatov was determined to have the final say, however, and he scored his and United's third with a towering header six minutes from time to seal the victory.
Ferguson will be delighted with United's attacking play, but once again lapses in United's defence threatened to throw away the good work from Berbatov and company further forward.
Liverpool, for so long locked up in a defensive shell, will be frustrated to lose a point late on, but boss Roy Hodgson saw his team come out as distinctly second best for long spells.
United were forced into a late change when Rio Ferdinand withdrew because of illness, while Liverpool were able to bring back Joe Cole after his three-game Premier League suspension.
The pattern was swiftly established as Manchester United's greater possession and territory was confronted by dogged defensive resistance from Liverpool.
Nani had an early opportunity to force Liverpool into a greater show of ambition when a brilliant interchange between Wayne Rooney and Berbatov left the Portuguese winger with space and time in the area, but he dragged an angled finish well wide.
Liverpool's patchy response consisted a long-range effort from Glen Johnson that flew harmlessly across the face of goal.
Just as it looked like Liverpool might survive until the interval unscathed, they were architects of their own downfall as Berbatov took advantage of poor marking at a set piece to give United a 42nd minute lead.
Torres was the culprit, losing Berbatov in the battle to make contact with Ryan Giggs' corner, the Bulgarian powering a header past Pepe Reina.
United, encouraged by the goal, pressed for another and Rooney was then narrowly off target from the edge of the area.
Liverpool continued to be pushed back after the break, and rode their luck after 56 minutes when Nani cut into the area and unleashed a powerful effort that bounced back off the outside of an upright with Reina beaten.
It was a brief reprieve as Berbatov scored a stunning second goal to extend United's lead. Nani's cross was behind the striker, but he brought the ball under control and swept an overhead kick past Reina via the underside of the bar.
Liverpool looked on course for a long and painful afternoon at the hands of their fierce rivals, but they were given hope after 64 minutes when Jonny Evans fouled Torres in the area, allowing
And a remarkable turnaround was complete six minutes later when John O'Shea was booked for fouling Torres on the edge of the area. The defender was arguably fortunate to escape a red card from referee Howard Webb, but Gerrard inflicted further punishment as he slipped a free-kick through a poorly assembled United wall and past Edwin van der Sar.
Berbatov had given a masterclass in the striker's art, and fittingly he completed his treble when he headed United back in front with six minutes left, soaring above Jamie Carragher to glance O'Shea's cross past Reina.
And this time there was no chance for Liverpool to recover - or for Manchester United to squander a lead once more.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Liverpool 4 - 1 Steaua Bucharest

Joe Cole scored his first goal for Liverpool to help them beat Steaua Bucharest in their Europa League tie.
The Reds playmaker steered in a shot only 27 seconds in after pouncing on a poor backpass by Octavian Abrudan.
Steaua equalised when Cristian Tanase chipped over on-rushing keeper Pepe Reina but a David Ngog penalty restored the Reds' lead.
A stunning Lucas Leiva 22-yard strike and a late angled Ngog effort completed the home side's victory.
While the Europa League is not a priority for Liverpool, their manager Roy Hodgson will be using the games in the competition to judge some of the players on the fringes of his squad.
However, for Cole, the club's European games have allowed him to keep up his match fitness while serving a domestic ban for his dismissal in the club's league opener against Arsenal.
Cole will be available again to play Manchester United on Sunday and showed flashes of the imagination the Reds want him to bring into their team.
He was allowed to give the home side a perfect start when he ran on to Abrudan's tame backpass and guided his effort into the far corner.
Liverpool midfielder Jay Spearing sent a long range strike fizzing just over before the Romanian side hit back in style.
Bogdan Stancu slid a pass in for Tanase, who nonchalantly dinked the ball over Reina.
The goal gave Steaua a renewed confidence and belief as they showed some of the attacking intent promised by manager Ilie Dumistrescu.
Dumitrescu had spells at Tottenham and West Ham in his playing career and, when at Spurs he was part of the attack-orientated team put together by their former manager Ossie Ardiles.
Steaua were not quite as gung-ho but had a threat, purpose and pace about them on occasion as they tried to catch Liverpool out on the counter-attack.
The home side had some nervous moments at the back before they reasserted their authority after the break.
They were rewarded when Ngog converted a penalty following a foul on Sotirios Kyrgiakos by Pantelis Kapetanos.
Raul Meireles was making his first start for the Merseysiders and he had a well-struck 20-yard shot smartly saved by Ciprian Tatarusanu.
Steaua's keeper, though, had no chance when substitute Lucas ran on to the ball 22 yards out and unleashed a ferocious strike before Ngog put a further gloss on Liverpool's win.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Birmingham 0 - 0 Liverpool

Liverpool had keeper Pepe Reina's heroics to thank for salvaging them a point against Birmingham.
Reina pulled off superb reaction saves to keep out firm headers from Cameron Jerome and Craig Gardner as the Reds struggled to cope with the home side.
Fernando Torres had an angled shot blocked by Blues keeper Ben Foster in a rare chance for the visitors.
The Reds were more dangerous when Raul Meireles came on to make his debut late on but were fortunate to get a point.
The extent of Birmingham's dominance will have them regretting having to settle for a draw, albeit one that extends their unbeaten home run of Premier League matches to 17.
A lethargic and lacklustre Liverpool side will, in contrast, breathe a sigh of relief at a hard earned point that came courtesy mainly of Reina.
Birmingham finished an impressive ninth last season and the qualities behind their achievement were firmly on display on Sunday.
Manager Alex McLeish has built a committed team who press the opposition high up the pitch in a controlled and disciplined manner, while they make sure they remain a secure defensive unit.
Their work ethic and determination can overwhelm the opposition and that would have been the case for Liverpool had it not been for Reina.
The keeper was at fault when he allowed Arsenal a late equaliser in Liverpool's opening game of the season and he made an embarrassing mistake in Spain's midweek 4-1 defeat in Argentina on a rare international outing.
But, after Torres horribly mistimed a shot from Glen Johnson's low cross early on, the Spaniard proved Birmingham's nemesis with the type of saves with which he is more normally associated.
He dived low to his right and scooped away a powerful Jerome header from Lee Bowyer's pinpoint cross as the home side began to take a grip of the game.
The Reds keeper was again his side's saviour when he punched the ball off Jerome's head as the Blues striker seemed set to get on the end of a Sebastian Larsson cross, before producing another eye-catching save.
Blues midfielder Gardner ran unmarked on to the end of a whipped-in Stephen Carr cross and directed a firm downward header which Reina somehow got a hand to.
Liverpool looked devoid of ideas and desire, although Birmingham were failing to make their superiority count with Scott Dann seeing a free header bounce over as the Midlands side spurned another chance.
The Reds eventually rose from their stupor and Gerrard played in Torres, who chose to shoot from an acute angle instead of crossing for his team-mate and saw his shot turned away by keeper Ben Foster.
At the other end, a backtracking Jerome put another header wide and, while Liverpool looked more threatening when debutant Meireles came on and Gerrard was pushed back into central midfield, they showed manager Roy Hodgson has plenty of work to do to improve their fortunes.
Victory may have eluded Birmingham but they kept up their unbeaten start to the season and have now not lost to Liverpool in the league in nine matches.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Liverpool 1 - 0 West Brom

Spain striker Fernando Torres volleyed in to give an unconvincing Liverpool victory over West Brom at Anfield.
Torres struck his first goal of the season by clinically converting a Dirk Kuyt cross from the edge of the box.
The Spaniard was denied a second when Baggies keeper Scott Carson blocked his far post shot at point-blank range.
The Reds were denied a late penalty for an apparent Gonzalo Jara handball before the visitors had James Morrison red-carded for a tackle on Torres.
The numerical advantage helped the Merseysiders close out the game as they were relieved to record their first league win of the season, albeit courtesy of a rare moment of quality in an encounter which had plenty going on before kick-off.
Liverpool's new signing Raul Meireles was presented to the crowd and left-back Paul Konchesky was also at Anfield to finalise a proposed move from Fulham.
The arrivals, even though Javier Mascherano is set to leave for Barcelona, will have added to the air of optimism sweeping through Anfield, although the Reds have so far failed to mirror that sentiment with performances and results this season.
And, when the focus of attention switched to the pitch, it was the same again for the home side as the industry of the Baggies served to frustrate a Liverpool side playing like strangers.
The Reds were too pedestrian and predictable and seemed unsure in possession as opposed to a West Brom side who grew in confidence as each of Liverpool's forward forays continually and harmlessly broke down.
The visitors had a penalty appeal waved away for Martin Skrtel pulling Jonas Olsson, while Torres thought he might have had a spot-kick for his shirt being tugged in the visitors' box.
Skrtel fizzed a shot just high of the visitors' goal but, while the Merseysiders were in sloppy mood, the Baggies could not capitalise as Marc-Antoine Fortune had a strike saved and were limited to speculative efforts from distance.
Torres had not scored in 10 games for club and country going into the match and was looking a shadow of his devastating best as he nursed his way back to match fitness from injury.
However, after the Reds survived a scare with goalkeeper Pepe Reina saving from Jara, Torres showed his quality and worth to his team by finishing off a Reds counter-attack with a volley from Kuyt's cross.
The Spain striker almost added another when found by a Steven Gerrard cross to the far post only for Carson to block his far post strike.
The Anfield side are clearly a work in progress as manager Roy Hodgson reinforces his squad and, in tandem, tries to embed his style on the side.
However, buoyed by the goal Torres thought he should have had a spot-kick when Jara seemed to block his effort with his arm.
Torres was the target of an over-zealous, rather than malicious, challenge which resulted in Morrison being sent off before the home side negotiated some anxious late moments to earn their first three points under manager Roy Hodgson.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Trabzonspor 1 - 2 Liverpool (agg 1 - 3)

Liverpool secured their place in the group stages of the Europa League courtesy of a win at Trabzonspor.
The Turkish side drew level 1-1 on aggregate when Teofilo Gutierrez slotted in from a Gustavo Colman shot.
David Ngog headed wide from six yards for the Reds but they got a crucial away goal when Giray Kacar put a Glen Johnson cross into his own net.
Dirk Kuyt completed the win when he slotted in after Daniel Pacheco's shot had been parried into his path.
Liverpool's goals came late on in the match as they eventually showed the character to negotiate their way past some awkward opponents.
Trabzonspor had beaten the Reds 1-0 the the first leg of a European Cup tie in the 1976/77 season before the Anfield side overturned the deficit to win the second round tie.
And Liverpool knew it would be a tough task to dispose of the Turkish side who were last beaten at home in December 2009 and had since won eight out of nine at their Huseyin Avni Aker stadium.
A banner in the crowd also read: 'You're Alone Here' as it played on Liverpool's famous You'll Never Walk Alone anthem, with the Trabzonspor crowd giving the Reds the type of hostile welcome Turkish clubs have become renowned for giving opposing teams in Europe.
However, while the Reds were a vastly different side from the one beaten by Manchester City on Monday, they started off displaying the same lethargy and lacklustre qualities.
It appeared the visitors were lacking the appetite for the Europa League with Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson having left most of his leading players in England after stating the Premier League was this season's priority.
And Liverpool quickly had their lead from the first leg cancelled out as Kuyt was dispossessed by Colman, whose attempted shot across goal was sidefooted in by Gutierrez.
Ibrahima Yattara wasted a chance to put Trabzonspor in front as the Reds failed to deal with a free-kick but the striker headed wide from close range.
Liverpool slowly started to work their way into the game and should have scored when the previously anonymous Joe Cole dinked a lovely cross to the far post where Ngog nodded the ball wide from six yards.
It was a glaring miss which the Frenchman almost atoned for as he turned and jinked his way to the edge of the box only to shoot just wide.
Liverpool were now showing a steel and determination that was missing in the first half and were duly rewarded when Johnson cut inside on the right and delivered a cross to the near post which Kacar diverted into his own net.
That left Trabzonspor needing two goals to turn the tie around and, in their efforts to perform an unlikely comeback, they left themselves in a vulnerable position.
Liverpool took advantage as Pacheco's shot was palmed into Kuyt's path by keeper Onur Kivrak and the Dutch striker gratefully applied the finishing touch to put Liverpool in the draw for the Europa League group stages on Friday.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Man City 3 - 0 Liverpool

Manchester City celebrated owner Sheikh Mansour's first visit to Eastlands by delivering an impressive performance to cruise to victory against Liverpool.
Sheikh Mansour has changed the face of Manchester City since his takeover two years ago - and this latest expensively reconstructed version of Roberto Mancini's squad provided evidence that they may be able to meet the expectations that will accompany his huge financial outlay.
After a £130m summer spending spree, City needed to deliver a swift statement of intent and they duly obliged against a Liverpool team showing the extent of the work required by new boss Roy Hodgson.
James Milner marked his debut by setting up Gareth Barry for an early goal, and Carlos Tevez gave City breathing space from close range just after half-time, although Micah Richards may claim his colleague did not actually apply the crucial touch from his header.
Liverpool's reaction was a shot from captain Steven Gerrard that struck the post, with City keeper Joe Hart saving superbly from David Ngog and Fernando Torres in the resulting scramble.
And City wrapped up a convincing win when Tevez scored from the penalty spot after Martin Skrtel hauled down the outstanding Adam Johnson.
Mancini will understandably keep the lid on expectations, but the way in which City mastered and out-muscled Liverpool in all areas, even with David Silva and Emmanuel Adebayor on the bench and Mario Balotelli out injured, will give him huge cause for optimism - and will have delighted the watching Abu Dhabi powerbrokers.
Sheikh Mansour received a predictably ecstatic reception from City's fans as they expressed their gratitude for his lavish refurbishment of the club's playing resources since his takeover.
And he was able to watch two of his most recent investments combine impressively as City took a well-merited lead through Barry after 13 minutes.
Yaya Toure made light of his giant frame with some fancy footwork to start a move that ended with Milner sliding a cross into the path of his former Aston Villa team-mate Barry, who passed the ball into the bottom corner out of the reach of Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina.
Johnson was a constant threat on City's right flank, giving Daniel Agger a torrid time under the watchful eye of England coach Fabio Capello's right-hand man Franco Baldini. He fired narrowly off target early on and pulled another effort just wide as the interval approached.
Liverpool, with Torres clearly working his way back towards full fitness, threatened only rarely, with Hart saving comfortably from Ngog and Gerrard demonstrating an uncharacteristic lack of accuracy when presented with two good shooting opportunities.
Boss Hodgson will no doubt have demanded greater urgency from his team after the break - but their hopes of a revival were effectively snuffed out as City doubled their advantage seven minutes after the restart.
Richards headed Johnson's header towards goal, and even though Tevez wheeled away in celebration after appearing to get the final touch past Reina, it looked as if he was more of a crucial distraction than the actual goalscorer.
Hart's elevation to City's number one keeper ahead of Shay Given has been a source of debate, but he demonstrated why he is rated so highly by Mancini as Liverpool attempted to mount a swift response.
Gerrard rattled the post from 20 yards, and as Liverpool tried to take advantage of confusion in the City penalty area Hart saved magnificently from Ngog and Torres in quick succession.
And the value of those saves was underlined as City swept forward to add a third from the spot after 67 minutes. Skrtel's rash challenge felled Johnson and Tevez completed the formalities from the spot.
Liverpool striker Torres, a summer target for City, was replaced to the ironic jeers of Eastlands with 15 minutes left - and City were able to see out time in comfort to record their first Premier League win of the season.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Liverpool 1 - 0 Trabzonspor

Liverpool's Joe Cole missed a penalty as his side had to make do with a slender first-leg lead over Trabzonspor in their Europa League qualifier.
The Reds went ahead when Cole set up Ryan Babel to finish with aplomb.
The home side then dominated but after winning a penalty for a foul on Lucas Leiva, Cole saw his tame effort saved.
Reds keeper Pepe Reina impressively saved from Umut Bulut before Christian Poulsen was denied a goal for a dubious foul on keeper Onur Kivrak.
Liverpool's failure to capitalise on their second-half chances will leave boss Roy Hodgson in rueful mood going into the return leg in Turkey next Thursday.
Hodgson, whose former club Fulham were losing finalists in last season's Europa League, had stated his priority this season was the Premier League and had consequently sent out a Reds second string.
Steven Gerrard, Glen Johnson and Dirk Kuyt were not even in the home side's squad and Trabzonspor coach Senol Gunes would have had high hopes of earning a measure of revenge over the Merseysiders.
Gunes was the Turkish club's keeper when they were beaten by Liverpool in the second round of the 1976/77 European Cup as the Reds went on to claim their first victory in the competition.
The fact that Gunes is a Manchester United fan would have only added to his motivation.
His side certainly went into the game in good form after winning the Turkish Super Cup - the equivalent of the Community Shield in England - and opening their league campaign with an away victory.
And, apart from keeper Onur Kivrak palming away a Sotirios Kyrgiakos header, the visitors' efforts were seeing them contain Liverpool.
The Reds were almost caught unawares when Burak Yilmaz stole in to win a corner to the near post but he could not get the direction to his header as the ball went harmlessly across the area.
There was a disjointed look about Liverpool in a game which was proving hard work before they broke the deadlock with a moment of inspiration on the stroke of half-time.
Cole produced a surging run from midfield and weighted a lovely pass into the run of Babel, who took a touch before sidefooting high into the far corner.
Cole squanders the chance of opening his Liverpool account
Babel was playing in his preferred striker role as opposed to his normal position on the wing under former Reds manager Rafael Benitez and took advantage of a rare chance which came his way.
However, that was his final action of the match as he was replaced by Fernando Torres at the break and the Spaniard had an immediate impact.
His snapshot forced Kivrak to palm wide and, from the resultant corner, an unmarked Lucas should have done better than to put a 10-yard header wide.
The hosts had now found their stride and their pressure earned them a penalty when Lucas was tripped by Serkan Balci.
Cole, rather than Torres, placed the ball on the spot with thoughts of netting his first goal for the club only to see his penalty parried away by the Trabzonspor keeper.
Milan Jovanovic was also denied his first goal for Liverpool when his low angled shot was saved low to his left by Kivrak.
Liverpool were almost punished for their profligacy and had keeper Reina to thank for maintaining their lead.
Reina's mistake had cost them a late goal in the draw with Arsenal on Sunday but he atoned by getting a hand to Bulut's shot from point-blank range.
Liverpool were denied what appeared to be a legitimate goal when a Kyrgiakos header was only parried against Cole by Kivrak and, despite Christian Poulsen forcing the loose ball in, the goal was disallowed for a foul on the visiting keeper as Trabzonspor held on to keep themselves firmly in the tie.

Babel gives Reds Euro advantage

A Ryan Babel strike has given Liverpool a slender 1-0 advantage following the first leg of their Europa League play-off against Trabzonspor.

The Holland international fired home on the stroke of half-time but the Reds were denied the comfort of a second goal after Joe Cole missed a penalty in front of the Kop.
The scoreline keeps Liverpool as favourites to progress to the Europa League proper as Roy Hodgson tries to become only the second manager after Sven Goran Eriksson to guide three different teams to the competition's final.
Having fallen at the last hurdle with both Inter Milan and Fulham, Hodgson is desperate to make it third time lucky in Dublin.
However, the Liverpool manager has already made it clear he intends to use his full squad in Europe this term, and against Trabzonspor there were first starts of the campaign for new boy Christian Poulsen, Fabio Aurelio, Maxi Rodriguez and Babel.
Martin Kelly and Sotirios Kyrgiakos also made the XI as the likes of Steven Gerrard, Glen Johnson and Martin Skrtel enjoyed a rest.
It was Kyrgiakos who almost headed Liverpool into an early lead after just five minutes when he connected with a tasty Maxi corner only to be denied by Trabzonspor custodian Onur.
Burak flicked a similar opportunity wide of Pepe Reina's goal shortly after but it was the hosts who were playing more football, Milan Jovanovic in particular impressing down the left.
Aurelio came close to breaking the deadlock with a free-kick which swerved just over the bar on 26 minutes as Liverpool continued to probe without creating many clear cut chances.
The visitors offered little by way of an attacking threat, though Burak might have made a name for himself again had his sweetly struck dead ball crept under rather than over the crossbar.
But it was Liverpool who eventually took the lead in first-half injury-time when Cole swept an intelligent throughball into the box, leaving lone striker Babel with the relatively simple task of side-footing past Onur.
It was to be the Dutchman's last act of the evening after being substituted during the interval for Fernando Torres, who within 30 seconds of getting a rapturous welcome from the Kop was trying his luck with a rasping effort from wide of the box.
A minute later Lucas wasted a free header after Jovanovic's corner, while debutant Poulsen whacked over from range. The Reds were starting to purr.
The second goal looked certain to arrive on 52 minutes when Serkan tripped Lucas in the box and Cole stepped up from 12 yards. The No.10's penalty kick was weak, however, allowing Onur to parry away.
Jovanovic was next to hold his head in hands when he was denied by a decent save after smart footwork from Torres sent him through on goal.
Trabzonspor should have made the Reds rue their profligacy on 59 minutes as Umut evaded the offside trap before being thwarted by a superb hand from Reina.
Poulsen seemed to have made it a dream debut with just under 20 minutes remaining when he tapped in after a goalmouth scramble - only to be denied by a dubious call of a foul from the referee. Television replays showed justice may have been done, though, as the Dane was standing in an offside position.
The Reds now take their lead to Turkey in a week's time.