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.