Sunday, January 31, 2010

Liverpool 2 - 0 Bolton

Liverpool FC great record against Bolton in Anfield continues.
Liverpool moved a point behind fourth-placed Tottenham with a win over Bolton at Anfield.
Bolton almost went ahead when Sotirios Kyrgiakos cleared a Chung-Yong Lee shot off the Reds goal-line.
But the home side took the lead after Alberto Aquilani nodded an Emiliano Insua cross back across goal and Dirk Kuyt scuffed in a shot.
David Ngog missed a great chance before Insua's shot deflected in off Kevin Davies to help secure a Reds victory.
The win extended Liverpool's unbeaten league run to six games and gave them extra satisfaction as Spurs were held to a draw by Birmingham.
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez had praised his side's recent defending and a back-to-basics approach that had seen them concede just once in their previous five league games.
Improving Liverpool please Benitez
But with a more stable defensive foundation and the need to make the most of their home games as they chase a top-four finish, Benitez fielded a more attacking side against Bolton and it eventually paid dividends.
Yet it was the visitors who quickly created the first chance. Tamir Cohen got goal side of Jamie Carragher but, by the time he got his shot off as he was pressured by the Reds right-back, keeper Pepe Reina had closed him down and gathered his poked effort.
Liverpool were guilty of too many misplaced passes and, although they saw plenty of the ball, there was a lack of cutting edge to their play as they failed to raise a subdued Anfield.
When the Reds did threaten, Kuyt failed to do enough to get on the end of an inviting Insua cross and was almost immediately punished.
Bolton's right-sided midfielder Lee picked up the ball on the halfway line and ran at the heart of a back-peddling Reds defence. With Cohen's run dragging Liverpool's defenders away, Lee rounded Reina and got a shot in which rugged centre-back Kyrgiakos did well to clear off the line.
Liverpool were looking unconvincing but still took the lead as Kuyt got his third goal in as many Premier League games.
Another dangerous Insua cross was nodded back across goal by Aquilani and, although Kuyt mistimed his shot, the ball still found its way into the Bolton net.
As Bolton pushed forward to try to get back into the game, Liverpool should have extended their lead after a swift counter-attack.
Steven Gerrard's shot from an Albert Riera cross was fended away by keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen and fell to Ngog, who had a gaping goal in front of him but could only strike his shot into the ground and high off the top of the crossbar.
Jaaskelainen parried away a fierce Gerrard strike before further Liverpool pressure saw Insua's shot deflect off Kevin Davies, wrong-footing the Bolton keeper to extend the home side's lead.
Liverpool had gained a stranglehold of the game and, after an improvement following their second goal, could have added more as they secured a seventh straight win over Bolton.
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez:"I am pleased with the result and the second half but not too happy with the first half - but at the end of the day we needed to win and we won.
"In the first half they had two chances and we were a little lucky but in the second half it was different and we could have scored more goals.
"I think we are improving. Clearly you can see the team is working hard."
Bolton boss Owen Coyle:"Tamir Cohen on another day might have had a penalty and Chung-Yong Lee had a terrific run (when his shot was cleared off the line).
"The second goal was a foul as Lucas (Leiva) has dragged Johan Elmander and wherever the shot (by Emiliano Insua) was going it wasn't going in.
"Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez will be delighted he's had the breaks today."

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wolverhampton 0 - 0 Liverpool

Liverpool's inconsistency returned with a vengeance as they were held to a draw by a valiant Wolves at Molineux.
The Reds, who beat Tottenham in their last game, lacked invention with Albert Riera missing a rare early opening.
Wolves striker Kevin Doyle had a poked goalbound shot deflected wide by defender Emiliano Insua as the home side created more clear-cut chances.
The Reds applied some late pressure but a resolute Wolves deservedly held on for a point.
With last Wednesday's 2-0 win over fourth-placed Spurs under their belts, Liverpool were aiming to show signs their stuttering season had turned a corner.
But previous such victories so far this campaign have only seen them go round in circles of poor form, lack of confidence and the problem of failing to perform without key players.
And, even though inspirational captain Steven Gerrard was back for the Reds, they again flattered to deceive with Wolves keeper Marcus Hahnemann hardly called into any serious action.
Riera flashed a header across the Wolves goal as he could not to get enough purchase on his effort in order to send it goalwards, and the urgency with which Liverpool started the game quickly evaporated.
Instead, the home side quickly got into their stride after a sluggish start and, as they comfortably held the Reds at arm's length, they almost took the lead.
A counter-attack saw left winger Matt Jarvis outpace Jamie Carragher and get in a low cross to the near post and, even though Doyle got to it first, his effort was deflected wide off Insua.
Benitez defends team selection
The threatening Jarvis was his side's best attacking outlet and he drifted a cross the the far post where Kevin Foley sent a header straight at keeper Pepe Reina as he was defeated by the angle.
Wolves have only scored 17 goals in 21 league games this season - the lowest in the Premier League for the present campaign - while Liverpool have struggled for away goals with 17 in as many games away from home in all competitions.
Liverpool's problems at Molineux were as a result of a lack of invention as Gerrard and left-winger Riera lacked match sharpness, along with right winger Maxi Rodriguez, who was making his full Reds debut.
Riera did again go close when his mistimed volley almost looped under the crossbar before the alert Hahnemann saved.
The impressive workrate and 4-5-1 formation of Wolves also had plenty to do with them keeping Liverpool at bay, with the tough midfield tackling of Karl Henry and harrying of lone frontman Doyle a feature of the home side's play.
As the game progressed, Wolves grew in confidence and Doyle sent a well-struck shot over.
Liverpool's attacking midfielder Alberto Aquilani had to watch from the touchline as the visitors continued to be repelled by Wolves and had to settle for a draw.
Liverpool are now fifth and three points behind Tottenham but sixth-placed Manchester City are level with the Reds with two games in hand, while Wolves are fourth from bottom courtesy of a better goal difference than Burnley.
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez:"If you analyse the game, it was a fair result. In the first half, we were in control, although we didn't create chances. The final pass in the final third was the difference.
"In the second half, they pushed harder. We still had some good counter-attacks but again the final pass was the difference. It was a fair result."
Wolves manager Mick McCarthy on striker striker Kevin Doyle:"If you see a better performance from a centre-forward than Doyle showed, I would like to see it. If he had just managed a goal, it would have been one of the best all-round performances.
"He is physically strong enough to play that role. We changed the system and I don't think our keeper had a save to make. I don't think we were troubled.
"It was a really solid performance and it's great to get off 19 points because we've been there for too long."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Liverpool 2 - 0 Tottenham

Liverpool made up crucial ground in the race for the Premier League's fourth place with victory over Tottenham at Anfield.
Dirk Kuyt's early strike established the platform for the win in a game Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez admitted they simply could not afford to lose, leaving them only a single point behind Spurs.
And he wrapped up the three points with a twice-taken penalty in injury time after Sebastian Bassong had flattened Liverpool substitute David Ngog in the area.
Liverpool's ceaseless workrate and greater passion earned them a deserved three points, and the victory margin could have been greater had Albert Riera's second half header not hit the bar and Kuyt failed to hit the target from close range.
Ngog forced a fine save from Spurs keeper Heurelho Gomes in the dying minutes and Kuyt was guilty of an awful miss as Anfield was subjected to a needlessly anxious finale before the Netherlands striker scored his second from the spot.
Spurs were desperately disappointing as they missed a chance to put down a marker for their ambitions of breaking into the top four, rarely applying concerted pressure to a Liverpool side stripped of their two most potent forces, captain Steven Gerrard and and striker Fernando Torres, through injury.
Manager Harry Redknapp can point to a Jermain Defoe strike that was contentiously ruled out by referee Howard Webb, leaving him still without a managerial win at Anfield in 13 visits.
It is now more than 16 years since Spurs last enjoyed a league win at one of the so-called big four of the Premier League, a damning statistic and one they would have been hoping to change when they arrived to face under-strength and struggling Liverpool at Anfield.
Instead it was Liverpool who claimed the honours, and while the win was hardly a cure for the ills that have dogged their season, they can at least feel there is now some cause for cautious optimism.
Liverpool boss Benitez's spirits will have been lifted by a banner of support on The Kop - and his team played their part as they took the lead after only six minutes.
Alberto Aquilani made a nuisance of himself on the edge of the Spurs penalty area, and when the ball fell into Kuyt's path he drilled a low right-foot finish into Gomes' bottom corner.
Liverpool may have been without injured Gerrard, but there was no shortage of industry and inspiration as Jamie Carragher led from the front impressively.
Spurs were lacking sharpness and Liverpool's greater sense of urgency was much appreciated by their fans as Anfield searched for vital signs that this season of suffering will come out of its slump.
Gomes' desire to punch as opposed to catch was causing more problems than it solved for the Spurs defence, and he almost put his side in trouble a minute before the interval when he failed to deal convincingly with Riera's corner. Kuyt saw his header scrambled off the line by Gareth Bale in the subsequent melee before Martin Skrtel fired over the top.
Spurs finally gave Pepe Reina an anxious moment in first half stoppage time when Luka Modric broke into the area, but Liverpool's keeper was equal to the task as he blocked with his legs.
Defoe thought he had equalised for Spurs in the opening moments of the second half, but the goal was ruled out - although the exact nature of the offence was not clear.
And Liverpool almost took advantage and doubled their lead after 51 minutes when Riera met Carragher's cross with a fine header, only to see it bounce back to safety off the bar.
Spurs appeared to have finally realised the importance of the occasion and looked to apply some pressure to Liverpool's goal, with Jermaine Jenas forcing Reina into a one-handed save following a slick exchange with Defoe on the edge of the box.
Philipp Degen inexplicably wasted the chance to get Liverpool's second when he was set free by Kuyt inside the area. The situation begged for a shot, and yet Degen chose to play a hopeless return ball that brought the threat to an abrupt conclusion.
Benitez made two changes to see Liverpool through to the final whistle, with Ngog replacing the tiring Aquilani and Maxi Rodriguez coming on for Riera. It should have been the signal for Liverpool to wrap up the win, but Ngog was halted by Gomes, who also saved well from Sotirios Kyrgiakos and Kuyt shot hopelessly over from eight yards.
Liverpool finally got the second goal they had threatened when Bassong clumsily floored Kuyt in the area. He scored with his first attempt but was ordered to retake the kick after a Liverpool player encroached - and he was equally emphatic at the second time of asking.
The Kop ended singing the name of manager Benitez as some of the pressure lifted on the Spaniard with victory over one of their closest rivals for a top four place.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Stoke 1 - 1 Liverpool

Stoke's Robert Huth denied boss Rafael Benitez a vital victory with a dramatic last-minute leveller against Liverpool.
Sotirios Kyrgiakos had given the Reds the lead, bundling home from close-range, after Thomas Sorensen's fumble.
Earlier, Liverpool had been denied a penalty after defender Danny Higginbotham brought down Lucas.
A late Potters corner was headed across goal by Higginbotham for Huth to poke home, then Liverpool's Dirk Kuyt headed against the post in a frantic finale.
The result did little to ease the intense pressure on beleaguered boss Benitez who had faced a barrage of criticism and calls for him to be sacked following his side's FA Cup exit at the hands of Reading on Wednesday.
Understandably, after their midweek defeat against the Championship strugglers, Liverpool started nervously.
That showed when Fabio Aurelio had the chance to send Javier Mascherano away on his own but tried a ridiculous 40-yard attempt to expose an out-of-position Sorensen that sailed miles wide
And with an unfamiliar line-up, that had £20m Alberto Aquilani and new signing Maxi Rodriguez start the game on the substitutes' bench, the visitors struggled to get into the game with Stoke starting brightly.
Twice keeper Pepe Reina was called into action by Rory Delap's long throws and having just about dealt with the first the Spaniard fumbled the second with the ball stabbed wide from close range.
But Liverpool started to warm into the game and Lucas saw his goalbound shot bravely blocked by Abdoulaye Faye.
The Reds were further boosted with Delap and Faye going off injured and the substitutions seemed to disrupt the hosts.
Under-fire Benitez defends players
But while Sorensen was not called into action once in the opening 45 minutes by an unimaginative Liverpool attack that was missing injured trio Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard and Yossi Benayoun, the visitors were denied a penalty midway through the half.
Lucas played a neat one two with Philipp Degen but as he latched on to the return pass he was brought down by Higginbotham.
The Brazilian was booked for diving by referee Lee Mason, with replays suggested Higginbotham made no contact with the ball, much to the annoyance of manager Benitez.
But just before the hour mark Liverpool eased the pressure on Benitez with a goal they barely deserved.
Higginbotham was wrongly adjudged to have fouled Degen on the right, and from the resulting free-kick Sorensen fumbled Aurelio's inswinging cross onto Kyrgiakos and over the line.
Pulis relieved after 'scrappy' draw
Moments later Tuncay headed wide at the back post for Stoke while substitute Ricardo Fuller's flicked header from Matthew Etherington's inswinging corner was straight at Reina.
With 12 minutes left Liverpool introduced new signing Rodriguez but it was Stoke who finished strongly.
Late pressure from Stoke resulted in a last-minute corner which Higginbotham headed back across goal for the unmarked Huth to tap home at full stretch.
And deep into injury time Liverpool could have snatched a dramatic winner but forward Kuyt diving header from Aurelio's cross crashed against the post from close range

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Liverpool 1 - 2 Reading

What a dissapointing day for LIVERPOOL FC again. Torres' wish to at least win the FA Cup brokes into pieces when we lose to Reading. An extra-time goal from Shane Long capped a stunning comeback for Championship strugglers Reading as they knocked Liverpool out of the FA Cup.
Liverpool fortuitously took the lead when Ryan Bertrand deflected Steven Gerrard's cross into his own net.
In second-half injury time Reading were rewarded for their endeavour throughout when Gylfi Sigurdsson levelled from the spot after a foul on substitute Long.
Long's extra-time header proved the decisive blow to send Reading through.
This was Reading's first victory at Anfield and it was fully deserved as they out-worked their under-par Premier League opponents to book a fourth-round tie at home to Burnley.
The result places even more pressure on under-fire Reds boss Rafael Benitez who will also be concerned that star duo Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard failed to finish the match due to injury.
Neither side had played since the original third-round tie; with Reading's home game against Newcastle and Liverpool's match with Tottenham both falling foul of the weather.
The team line-ups for the replay reflected the level of satisfaction each had taken from the game at the Madejski.
Reading caretaker manager Brian McDermott named an unchanged side from what was arguably their best performance of what has been a lacklustre season so far and he was rewarded with a similarly committed display from his side.
They looked anything but a team that has failed to win any of their last five league matches and have spent all season in the bottom eight of the Championship.
In contrast, Liverpool made five changes in an attempt to improve upon what was a blunted, mediocre showing in the 1-1 draw.
They started well and were only denied what could have been the game's opening goal when Ivar Ingimarsson's outstretched boot intercepted Gerrard's cross with Yossi Benayoun lurking.
But once the initial storm from the home side was weathered, Reading's confidence and assurance grew as Liverpool's wilted.
With a platform built, the visitors twice could have taken the lead either side of the 20-minute mark.
Firstly, Reds defender Jamie Carragher opted to leave Simon Church's right-wing cross, unaware that Grzegor Rasiak was lurking behind him, but the striker miscued his effort over the bar.
Then, Jobi McAnuff broke away down the right before delivering into the box from deep but the cross was inches ahead of the diving Church who failed to make contact.
Reading were further buoyed on the half hour when Torres was substituted after falling awkwardly and replaced by David Ngog.
Despite the loss of the prolific Spanish marksman and the deficiencies that have hampered their season thus far, Liverpool have the quality to exploit the slightest of lapses from an opponent.
On the stroke of half time they did just that.
Gerrard's initial corner was headed clear but it was returned to the England midfielder, who played a one-two with Ngog before directing a ball into the six-yard box which deflected off Bertrand and in.
Liverpool's joy was tempered by the withdrawal of the Gerrard at half time with a twinge in his hamstring.
However, despite the loss of their influential captain, Liverpool began the second half well and pinned the visitors into their own half for large spells.
But despite their dominance of possession they crafted relatively few clear goalscoring chances.
Daniel Agger flashed a 25-yard shot well wide after Alberto Aquilani's free-kick had deflected to him off the Reading wall and the Italian headed a good chance wide from a Benayoun cross.
In contrast, Reading created a number of good opportunities during the half.
Substitute Brian Howard swung over a superb cross to the edge of the six-yard box but somehow Ingimarsson failed to make contact with the goal at his mercy.
Not long after, McAnuff picked up the ball on the halfway line and drove at the Liverpool defence, evading a string of challenges to find himself clear on goal but with the hard work done and keeper Diego Cavalieri committed to ground early, he shot wide of the upright.
Reading's final chance appeared to have gone when Cavalieri palmed away a shot from Sigurdsson in the 90th minute but there was still time for another twist.
A long ball forward broke fortuitously to substitute Long in the Liverpool box and whilst Benayoun's tackle on the forward was mistimed more than malicious, no contact was made with the ball and referee Philip Dowd pointed to the spot.
Sigurdsson showed an admirable lack of nerves to side-foot the penalty in, with Cavalieri diving the wrong way.
Having rescued themselves at the death, a buoyed Reading stunned Anfield by taking the lead 10 minutes into extra-time.
Brynjar Gunnarsson nutmegged Emiliano Insua on the right before sending over a pinpoint cross that Long glanced into the Liverpool net from six yards.
Inevitably, the rest of extra time was played largely in the Reading half but despite their best efforts Liverpool were unable to force an equaliser.
Benayoun spurned a glorious chance to equalise when through on goal but he dwelt on the ball and Federici was able to save his shot and Ngog fluffed a good shooting opportunity after finding space in the box.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Reading 1 - 1 Liverpool

Championship strugglers Reading deservedly forced a replay against Liverpool after an entertaining and finely balanced FA Cup third-round tie at the Madejski Stadium.
Reading have won only five of their 24 Championship fixtures and are 20th in the table after a disappointing season that saw them recently part company with manager Brendan Rodgers.
But the Royals, thrashed 4-1 at Plymouth on Monday, had spells when they were the superior side against a Liverpool team determined to prosper in the competition after their elimination from the Champions League and travails in the Premier League.
Simon Church, an academy graduate at Reading, put the home side in front with a close-range finish after 24 minutes before Steven Gerrard equalised for Liverpool 12 minutes later.
Rafael Benitez's team were at times disjointed and showed little sign of the sort of form that had seen them win their last two top-flight games without conceding.
They dominated between equalising and the half-time whistle, but Reading responded after the break and arguably looked the more likely to score the winner, although Fernando Torres headed narrowly over in the final minutes after substitute keeper Ben Hamer failed to collect a cross.
There were few clear openings at either end before the home side took the lead but there was no doubt that they deserved their goal after an opening period in which they had slowly but definitely wrestled the initiative.
The Royals had a decent penalty shout turned down after Martin Skrtel appeared to tug the impressive Gylfi Sigurdsson's shirt.
Jem Karacan then headed the ball into the Liverpool net after an unconvincing punched clearance from Pepe Reina but two Reading players were clearly in an offside position and the goal was ruled out.
However, reward for Reading's bright opening came when Grzegorz Rasiak superbly guided an overhit free-kick from Ryan Bertrand back into the six-yard box, where Church was on hand to stab home from two yards.
Liverpool had looked uncertain in defence and failed to produce the quality of final ball that some excellent forward movement deserved, but they were not behind for long.
Torres headed wide from eight yards after losing his marker but shortly afterwards keeper Adam Federici was caught flat-footed after Dirk Kuyt failed to connect with a curling Gerrard cross that bounced into the far corner of the Reading goal.
The equaliser appeared to encourage Liverpool as much as it deflated Reading, with Federici making a one-handed save from Torres and an unmarked Fabio Aurelio drilling a low strike wide as an increasingly ragged Royals defence managed to reach the break on level terms.
Torres shot narrowly over and Sigurdsson forced a parried save with a rasping effort as an increasingly engrossing cup tie continued to unfold after the break.
David Ngog broke down the right but failed to find Torres with his disappointing low cross, while Church delivered a teasing low ball across the face of the Liverpool goal.
Benitez brought on Alberto Aquilani as he looked for his team to prise a decisive second, while Reading lost keeper Federici to injury with Hamer replacing him.
The two new arrivals were involved when the ball struck Liverpool's expensive Italian at the far post and then bounced into the hands of Hamer on the line. However, referee Martin Atkinson had seen an infringement so the goal would not have stood even if the ball had eluded the Royals' keeper.
There was little to choose between the teams and it would have been harsh if Torres had snatched a late winner. Instead the two teams will contest a replay at Anfield on 12 January.