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.