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.