Sunday, February 28, 2010

Liverpool 2 - 1 Blackburn

Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres scored as Liverpool won a bad-tempered contest against Blackburn to move to within one point of fourth spot.
Gerrard put Liverpool ahead with a left-foot shot from six yards before Keith Andrews levelled from the spot after a Jamie Carragher handball.
An unmarked Torres slid home from close range to restore Liverpool's lead.
Gerrard and El-Hadji Diouf exchanged heated words before the break while Pepe Reina denied Chris Samba late on.
There is no love lost between Reds boss Rafa Benitez and Rovers counterpart Sam Allardyce - and little that happened on the pitch is likely to lead to any form of reconciliation.
Steven Nzonzi should have been sent off after pushing Lucas in the face and there were a series of thunderous challenges during a fully committed contest that saw Benitez repeatedly complain to the fourth official.
It was far from vintage Liverpool and Rovers can consider themselves unfortunate to have left Anfield pointless.
But the Reds will be pleased to have returned to winning ways having failed to score in their previous two games.
Torres, who has been dogged by groin and knee injuries, was back in the starting XI for the first time since 13 January, and understandably not at his fluent best.
But there was an unmistakeable electricity around the ground every time the Spain striker was in possession.
And the fact that he and Gerrard both found the net ended a sequence of six Premier League games during which Dirk Kuyt had been the only Liverpool player to have scored.
The wait goes on for Allardyce to earn his first win as a manager at Anfield, but there was plenty to suggest from his team's performance that they will climb the table during the remaining weeks of the season.
Blackburn started brightly and created several early chances, with the recalled Samba heading tamely at goal, Martin Olsson narrowly missing from distance and Nikola Kalinic shooting across goal but marginally wide.
Their early dominance perhaps warranted a goal and Rovers can consider themselves extremely unlucky to find themselves trailing after 20 minutes.
A rare period of crisp interplay concluded with a heavy touch from Gerrard that had the effect of catching Samba flat-footed and allowed the Liverpool skipper the time and space to drill the ball beyond Paul Robinson from a tight angle.
Reina twice denied Morten Gamst Pedersen, while Dirk Kuyt headed wide for Liverpool before Rovers equalised from the penalty spot after Carragher was adjudged to have handled while he was led on the floor, preventing Kalinic from collecting the ball.
We need a goalscorer - Sam Allardyce
Reina almost saved the spot-kick but Andrews' effort squirmed under his body.
Liverpool, who had seen the recalled Fabio Aurelio limp off, went into the break with their lead restored after Torres converted Maxi Rodriguez's low cross.
But the final minutes of the half were dominated by a prolonged verbal exchange between Gerrard and former Liverpool forward Diouf that started after Rovers had a second penalty appeal turned down.
The two players had to be separated by a steward as they made their way into the tunnel at the break.
The first dramatic action after the restart involved another unsightly incident as Nzonzi pushed Lucas in the face and was extremely fortunate to escape with a booking.
Actual footballing drama remained at a premium but Daniel Agger headed over from a Gerrard free-kick while an ambitious overhead kick from Kuyt missed the target.
Rovers substitute Vince Grella missed from 20 yards late on before Reina pulled off a sensational injury-time save from Samba's header that had deflected off Kuyt.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Unirea Urziceni 1 - 3 Liverpool (agg 1 - 4)

Liverpool eased into the last 16 of the Europa League and maintained hopes of silverware this season with a simple win against Unirea Urziceni in Romania.
Woeful defending allowed Joao Bruno Fernandes to head the hosts in front early on but Javier Mascherano equalised with a fine long-range drive.
Ryan Babel controlled and fired home a terrific second before Steven Gerrard's shot squirmed under Giedrius Arlauskis.
The Reds will now face Lille in the next round after they beat Fenerbahce.
It was hardly a vintage Liverpool display but manager Rafael Benitez will not care a jot, with victory the only objective in a competition representing their only realistic chance of a trophy this season.
On the same day 12 months ago, a Yossi Benayoun goal saw the Reds claim a famous away win in the Champions League against Real Madrid.
But while this triumph will not live as long in the memory, it was arguably just as important as Liverpool look to salvage something from a disappointing campaign.
In truth, Unirea looked a shadow of the side that destroyed Rangers 4-1 at Ibrox earlier in the season but did trouble their more esteemed visitors from set-pieces throughout.
The Reds' zonal marking system looked all at sea once more and it was no surprise that a failure to pick players up was directly responsible for Unirea's opening goal.
Fernandes was allowed to stroll into the box without a care in the world and, direct from a Razvan Paduretu corner, the big defender powered a header past Pepe Reina to level the tie at 1-1 on aggregate.
It was a supreme example of how not to defend a cross, and little more than the hosts deserved after a bright start.
Liverpool looked devoid of ideas early on but quickly drew level through Mascherano's excellent goal.
Confusion in the Unirea area saw a half-clearance dribble to the Argentine midfielder 25 yards out and a powerful strike flew into the back of the net.
Paduretu continued to impress for the hosts, despite the setback, and tested Reina to the full with a long-range drive shortly after.
But the visitors effectively secured their passage to the next round with Babel's fine strike just before half-time.
A free-kick from Gerrard curled in from the right and the Dutch winger demonstrated deft technique to pull the ball down in an instant, swivel and fire home.
Unirea started brightly again after the break but their already bleak hopes were dashed when Gerrard slotted in Liverpool's third.
Benayoun jinked his way into the area and dragged a scuffed pass to his captain, and the England midfielder duly took advantage with a low finish.
Liverpool reduced the match to a training ground exercise for long periods thereafter, but Benitez's hopes of an injury-free night were ended when defender Martin Skrtel was stretchered off after injuring his foot in a challenge with Antonio Semedo.
The loss hardly affected the Reds, although they were indebted to Reina for a point-blank save from Marius Bilasco late on.
Benitez will travel back to England more satisfied than inspired but if his side are to avoid playing in the same competition next season, the Spaniard will know further victories in the Premier League against Blackburn on Sunday and Wigan a week on Monday are equally essential.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Man City 0 - 0 Liverpool

Another goalless draw!! With Aston Villa winning at Burnley, the 4th position is widely open up to 4 teams namely Spurs, Man City, Liverpool and Aston Villa. But Liverpool had played the most number of games currently. Sigh!!!
Let's hope that with the return of Torres from injury will help us in our next few games.
Manchester City and Liverpool played out a miserable stalemate at Eastlands as they battled for fourth place in the Premier League.
Roberto Mancini and Rafael Benitez have their sights set on a place in next season's Champions League - but this was a wretched advert for their lofty ambitions in an encounter that plumbed the depths for long periods.
Emmanuel Adebayor had City's best opportunities with a shot that was well saved by Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina and a header just off target.
Martin Skrtel headed wide from Liverpool's clearest opening late in the first half, but both teams were so poor that it would have been a travesty had either claimed all three points.
Liverpool could at least point to the return of Fernando Torres, who made a 15-minute appearance as a substitute after knee surgery, but there was little else to provide any cheer amid an Eastlands downpour.
Yossi Benayoun, also back after injury, may have had a penalty had he gone down late on and Liverpool are likely to be the happier with a point.
But a DVD of this desperate encounter should be required viewing for the clubs chasing City and Liverpool for a top-four spot - because it would provide ample encouragement that they can be overhauled.
Liverpool were lifted by Torres' comeback on the bench, while City boss Mancini kept Craig Bellamy as a substitute after a difference of opinion between the pair during the week.
There was not much on offer to excite the pair as the opening 45 minutes produced a wretched spectacle, the lack of quality reflected in the increasingly frustrated mood of the Eastlands gallery.
Liverpool were marginally the better side in the opening exchanges, although keeper Reina offered City rare hope when he hesitated over a clearance, but they were unable to take advantage.
Skrtel wasted the game's best chance on the stroke of half-time when he headed Steven Gerrard's corner wide from six yards. City would have been infuriated to fall behind in such fashion as referee Peter Walton missed a deflection off Skrtel to award the corner to Liverpool.
Draw the right result - Mancini
As a heavy downpour rained down on Eastlands, City opened the second half with greater purpose and Liverpool's Ryan Babel was forced to take a lengthy count after he was struck on the head by a vicious cross from Adam Johnson.
Emmanuel Adebayor almost lifted the gloom on and off the pitch with a long-range effort that Reina did well to save low down by his post.
Benitez made a change after 62 minutes, introducing fit-again Benayoun for the disappointing Maxi Rodriguez as Liverpool pushed for the crucial breakthrough.
Mancini swiftly followed suit, introducing Bellamy for Shaun Wright-Phillips to a huge ovation from City's fans delighted to see the Welshman enter the action.
The mediocrity continued unabated and Liverpool supporters were able to finally greet the return of Torres with 15 minutes left when he came on for Babel, while City took the opportunity to send on Abdisalam Ibrahim for Stephen Ireland.
Adebayor was in position to break the deadlock with 11 minutes left, but he was halted by Skrtel's vital interception - and then headed narrowly over from the resulting corner as a dreadful game drifted to its predictable conclusion.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Liverpool 1 - 0 Unirea Urziceni

David Ngog's 81st-minute winner spared Liverpool's blushes as they began their Europa League campaign in disappointing fashion against Unirea Urzinceni.
The Romanian side's defensive approach looked like earning them a draw in the first leg of their last-32 clash.
Liverpool dominated possession but were unable to break down the visitors and created few clear-cut chances.
But, with time running out, Daniel Pacheco knocked down Ryan Babel's cross and Ngog headed in from close range.
Steven Gerrard went close to adding a second goal seconds later with a rasping shot that flew inches wide, but a second goal would have put an undeserved gloss on what became a difficult night for Rafael Benitez's side.
Liverpool's early exit from the Champions League had left them in Europe's second-tier competition for the first time since 2004 but Benitez backed up his promise to take the tournament seriously by fielding a strong line-up.
The Europa League is the Reds' last realistic chance of winning any silverware this season and their fans turned out in force too, with more than 40,000 at Anfield.
Sadly, they were not treated to much of a spectacle, mainly due to the ultra-defensive tactics employed by Unirea that stifled the hosts for most of the match.
Liverpool made a storming start to the game, and could have been ahead inside the first 30 seconds when Dirk Kuyt played in Steven Gerrard, who was denied by Giedrius Arlauskis.
But, from then on, chances were a lot harder to come by as the Romanian champions defended deep and in numbers.
Liverpool did have opportunities - Kuyt went close with a deflected effort that flew across the face of goal, Gerrard missed the target and Ngog turned to fire a shot inches wide - but Arlauskis was far from over-worked before half-time.
The game continued in the same pattern after the break, with Unirea rarely venturing forward but Liverpool seeming unable to find a way through their packed defence.
Martin Skrtel headed over from six yards out and Fabiano Aurelio forced Arlauskis into a fine diving save but, if anything, Unirea, who have not played for more than two months because of Romania's winter break, looked more comfortable as the game wore on.
It took two of Benitez's substitutes to combine and help make the breakthrough, with Babel's deep cross being headed back across goal by Pacheco for Ngog to turn the ball home.
The goal means Liverpool can head to Romania in confident mood for next week's second leg.
But, before then, they face another big Premier League test with a trip to Manchester City for a game that is likely to have a huge impact on their hopes of finishing in the top four and avoiding playing in this competition again next season.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Arsenal 1 - 0 Liverpool

Arsenal injected new life into their title bid as Abou Diaby's header saw them end a three-game winless sequence with victory over Liverpool.
Both teams struggled for momentum in a dour first half but the game came alive after the interval as David Ngog and Tomas Rosicky went close.
Rosicky blasted over and Diaby then capped a period of Arsenal pressure by powering in from the Czech's cross.
Ryan Babel's drive was tipped on to the bar but Liverpool could not level.
Although Rafael Benitez's men pushed hard to salvage a point, subjecting the Gunners to attack after attack late on, Arsenal held out for what could prove a critical win.
With leaders Chelsea losing at Everton and Manchester United drawing at Aston Villa, Arsene Wenger's side move to within six points of leaders Chelsea and five of Manchester United.
They do not play 'big four' opposition again this season and will feel their campaign is back on track after successive defeats by United and Chelsea.
Serious questions have been asked about Arsenal's credentials to win a first Premier League crown since 2004 but, on this evidence, there is life in them yet.
Liverpool remain fourth in the table but slip eight points behind the Gunners after their first defeat in eight games.
The Reds are still yet to win at the Emirates Stadium but could not have worked harder to come away with something, especially as they flooded forward at the death.
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard talked of the need to afford Arsenal as little space as possible and the tactic worked for long periods.
But the hosts were equal to the challenge and, in turn, prevented the visitors from establishing any sort of rhythm until the final quarter.
Wenger refuses to rule out title
Benitez made one alteration to his back four as Martin Skrtel replaced the suspended Sotirios Krygiakos, yet it was still easy to see why Liverpool arrived unbeaten in seven league games with four successive clean sheets.
In the first half they were rarely troubled by Arsenal forwards Nicklas Bendtner or Andrey Arshavin, although Bendtner did slice over from an acute angle after being played in by his strike partner.
Liverpool felt they should have had a penalty when Maxi Rodriguez's strike appeared to cannon into the arm of Thomas Vermaelen and Pepe Reina saved comfortably from Cesc Fabregas.
The half-time whistle came as a relief and, fortunately for all concerned, the second period was a more open affair from the first whistle.
Arshavin drilled a venomous effort into the side-netting and Lucas shot just over when put through by Dirk Kuyt after some careless defending by Gael Clichy.
Benitez confident of top four finish
Both teams were pressing hard for an opener and suddenly the standard of play began to soar.
Gerrard took control of a counter-attack to send Ngog scurrying away but William Gallas slid in with a perfectly-timed tackle as his fellow Frenchman was about to shoot.
At the other end, Arshavin put Rosicky away but he lacked composure and miscontrolled before Bendtner saw an effort scrambled clear.
By now there was a pulsating ebb and flow to the game and the hosts were beginning to dictate, Rosicky flashing inches over via a Javier Mascherano deflection.
It felt like the deadlock would soon be broken and so it proved.
Bendtner showed fine persistence to feed Rosicky on the right and he curled in a superb cross for the unmarked Diaby to head home.
Liverpool came straight back at their opponents and Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia brilliantly tipped Babel's fizzing strike on to the bar.
Benitez's team earned a number of free-kicks in dangerous areas but failed to capitalise.
One set-piece from Gerrard appeared to hit the arm of Fabregas in the wall but referee Howard Webb waved away their appeals, leaving Wenger to celebrate his 300th Premier League win.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Liverpool 1 - 0 Everton

Great LIVERPOOL FC spirit although with 10 players!!
Dirk Kuyt grabbed the only goal of the game to settle a truculent Merseyside derby as 10-man Liverpool beat Everton to further their top-four ambitions.
The Dutchman rose to head home a Steven Gerrard corner to settle a fierce game.
It was little more than the hosts deserved after recovering from Sotirios Kyrgiakos's first-half red card for a lunge at Marouane Fellaini.
Tim Cahill headed Everton's best chance over but the visitors rarely threatened before Stephen Pienaar's late red card.
The defeat ends a run of nine matches unbeaten for Everton, but manager David Moyes might quietly admit his side simply did not do enough to earn any more from a match that saw Liverpool play more than 60 minutes a man down.
For the Reds, though, it was a precious win that served to underline their renewed strength of late.
We can fight until end of season - Benitez
And with Tottenham and Aston Villa drawing in Saturday's later game, Rafael Benitez's side remained in fourth despite enduring a season to forget so far for many of their fans.
The red half of Merseyside have now secured 17 points from a possible 21 in their last seven league matches.
But few of those will have been earned in such trying circumstances from a pulsating encounter memorable as much for its ferocity as its football.
Referee Martin Atkinson was always likely to be a key figure in a fixture that before kick-off had seen more dismissals than any other in the Premier League, 17, and eight in the last 10 league games - and so it proved.
Keen to give the game a chance to flow, he allowed a host of forceful early challenges to go without sanction.
But if his hope was that the spice would soon temper, he was wrong, and his patience was exhausted as early as the half-hour mark.
Jamie Carragher was particularly aggressive in the opening exchanges, Fellaini was fortunate that Atkinson missed him kicking out at Kuyt after the striker had been felled, while a booking for Pienaar after he had raked his studs down Javier Mascherano's shin also looked lenient.
And so the home supporters were incensed when Kyrgiakos saw red.
The Greek defender's challenge on Fellaini was undoubtedly fierce, leaving the ground as he launched himself two-footed towards the ball.
However, replays suggested Fellaini was equally guilty of a misjudgement as he too missed the ball, succeeding only in connecting with Kyrgiakos's shin.
The Everton midfielder, stretchered off as a result of the challenge, was not punished, while Krygiakos had to have stitches in his leg in the dressing room before taking his early bath.
Amid the ferocity of the challenges, the match was barely allowed to flow, ensuring clear-cut chances were at a premium.
Leighton Baines forced Reds keeper Pepe Reina into action with a 20th-minute free-kick, while Gerrard crashed a whipped set-piece of his own on to the top of the bar in first half injury time.
The best chance of the half fell to Cahill, though, the Australian heading over on the dive just before the break after Mascherano's attempted clearance had fallen straight to him 10 yards out.
It was a miss he would rue 10 minutes into the second half. Kuyt was the scorer, muscling free of Phil Neville and Tim Howard to smartly nod in Gerrard's corner from close in.
It was the Dutchman's 50th goal in Liverpool colours and, with a record of only one goal against in their last six matches, the hosts visibly grew in confidence despite their numeric disadvantage. It was clear something had to change for the visitors if they were to make their extra man count, and Moyes reverted to 4-4-2 with 20 minutes left with the introduction of Yakubu and Victor Anichebe.
But it made little difference as Liverpool repelled Everton's increasingly desperate forays into the box with ease, even when Anichebe found room in the area in injury time as Reina and Daniel Agger combined to clear.
It was somewhat fitting, then, when Pienaar was handed a second yellow card deep into injury time as the Toffees' frustration got the better of them.
The result leaves Everton without a win at Anfield since 1999, and means they have it all to do if they are to continue their push for a top-six finish and European football.
However, Liverpool's recent renaissance continues and Benitez's promise of a top-four finish and Champions League qualification looks ever more possible on this form.