Monday, May 23, 2011


Liverpool failed to end their revival with a spot in the Europa League as they finished sixth in the Premier League after defeat at Aston Villa.
England winger Stewart Downing grabbed the only goal when he fired in after a cross from Marc Albrighton.
Reds midfielder Raul Meireles almost equalised but keeper Brad Friedel impressively clawed away his shot.
In a game which failed to sparkle, Villa finished the stronger and James Collins almost added a second.
The victory moved the Midlands club up to a respectable ninth-place finish and despite under-achieving for much of the season, they ended it with just one defeat in their last eight games to provide some encouragement for the future.
The same can also be said for Liverpool, even though they have lost their final two games of the campaign, and they are expected to embark on a summer of major strengthening via the transfer market.
Ahead of the game, the Merseysiders knew a Europa League place would be theirs if they could better Tottenham's result against Birmingham at White Hart Lane and claim fifth place.
As events transpired, they failed to qualify for Europe for the first time since 1999 but there might not be too much angst felt at Anfield about not playing in a competition with a reputation among some clubs for being more of a hindrance than an honour.
Joe Cole was given his first start for Liverpool since 17 March as Reds boss Kenny Dalglish chose to leave out Andy Carroll, Maxi and Glen Johnson.
Carroll's absence was the most notable with the striker emerging as a doubt to play for England at the European Under-21 Championship in Denmark this summer because of injury concerns.
Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard, who has been injured since the start of March, opted to watch the final game of the season from among the Reds fans at Villa Park - but there was little for him to get excited about with more injuries than goal attempts in the first half.
Liverpool midfielder Jay Spearing was first to depart as he felt the effects of a Nigel Reo-Coker challenge after 12 minutes, with Jonjo Shelvey coming on as his replacement.
Centre-back Jamie Carragher had to go off briefly to have running repairs to a head wound before Villa lost midfielder Fabian Delph, who was replaced by Albrighton.
Liverpool went close when Lucas Leiva's effort was cleared off the line by Ashley Young, but Villa responded by opening the scoring themselves as Albrighton provided a cross to the far post where Downing controlled on his chest before firing an angled shot high into the Reds net.
Villa had conceded 59 goals in previous games this season and that record provided a Liverpool side, who improved after the break, with hope of getting back into the game.
The visitors thought they were set to do so when the tricky Luis Suarez outwitted Villa right-back Kyle Walker and squared the ball for Meireles.
The Portuguese international midfielder had the Villa net at his mercy but 40-year-old Friedel, making his 400th Premier League appearance, scampered across to claw away the shot.
Thereafter, the home defence stood firm and it was Villa who looked the more likely to score.
Young's free-kick was guided narrowly wide by Collins before Gabriel Agbonlahor agonisingly failed to get an outstretched leg to a Darren Bent cross.
Ashley Young has been linked to a move away from Villa and when he went off to a ovation as he clapped the fans on his way off after 89 minutes will do little to deter speculation about his future.
And, despite a frustrating season, Villa's fans were celebrating after the final whistle, giving off a huge roar when the relegation of local rivals Birmingham, who lost at Spurs, was confirmed.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Liverpool 0 - 2 Tottenham

Tottenham beat Liverpool to leapfrog their rivals into fifth place and move a point ahead of the Merseysiders in the race for a Europa League place.
Rafael van der Vaart chested down the ball and sent a dipping 20-yard strike into the Reds net to put Spurs ahead.
Andy Carroll headed a gilt-edged chance high and was punished when Luka Modric scored a penalty for the visitors after John Flanagan's foul on Steven Pienaar.
It was a controversial decision but Spurs were good value for their win.
In the first game for Liverpool since manager Kenny Dalglish had his temporary deal turned into a three-year contract, the Reds struggled and stuttered to a first home league defeat under the Scot.
Tottenham, by contrast, put in a controlled and composed performance, which they completed with the type of end product that has been missing in recent months and has cost them repeating their top four finish of last season.
And, if Spurs manager Harry Redknapp had stated his reluctance to play in next season's Europa League because of the impact it has on a top-flight campaign, it was not matched by his players at Anfield.
Instead, it was the lacklustre home players who seemed more determined to avoid Europe's less prestigious competition.
The two teams had gone into the game travelling in opposite directions in their rollercoaster seasons, with Liverpool on an upward curve of 10 wins from 14 games and Spurs plummeting with one win from 13 outings.
But it was the visitors who quickly got into their stride and made a mockery of the statistics as they seized control of the game before they took the lead after nine minutes.
A Modric corner was only headed out to Van der Vaart and, after controlling the clearance with his chest just outside the area, the Dutchman sweetly struck the ball before it could bounce as he sent a dipping shot into the far corner.
It was a goal reminiscent of Van der Vaart's form in the first half of the season before, like Spurs, his form dipped.
In their run of one win in the last 13, playmaker Van der Vaart and strikers Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe and Roman Pavlyuchenko have scored only 11 goals between them and Spurs 14 in all.
But Van der Vaart's goal at Anfield was reward for his side's fluency and fortitude, while the Reds struggled to impose themselves.
The frustration of the home side was emphasised when striker Luis Suarez flicked a kick at Spurs defender Michael Dawson and escaped with a yellow card from referee Howard Webb.
The Merseysiders belatedly and briefly raised themselves late on in the opening half when Carroll was presented with the type of chance you would expect him to put away.
Martin Skrtel clipped a cross to the far post for the powerhouse Reds forward, who mistimed his close range header horribly high.
Van der Vaart was forced off injured early in the second half before Spurs added to their lead shortly afterwards when Webb awarded a questionable penalty to the visitors for right-back Flanagan's foul on Pienaar.
Liverpool will argue whether it was a foul as well as whether it was in the area but Modric stepped up to send keeper Pepe Reina the wrong way from the spot as he confidently extended Tottenham's lead.
A laboured Liverpool rarely looked like adding to their 13 goals in their previous three games as Spurs eased to their first league win at Anfield since August 1993.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Fulham 2 - 5 Liverpool

Maxi Rodriguez scored his second hat-trick in three games as a rampant Liverpool crushed Fulham to boost their hopes of reaching the Europa League.
Rodriguez put Liverpool ahead after 32 seconds, and volleyed a second before Dirk Kuyt made it 3-0 on 16 minutes.
Moussa Dembele gave Fulham hope with a crisp finish from Bobby Zamora's pass.
Rodriguez smashed a spectacular third from 25 yards and Luis Suarez rounded Mark Schwarzer to make it 5-1 before Steve Sidwell fired a late consolation.
It was a sensational display from Liverpool, who have now scored 13 goals in their last three games and have climbed from 12th to fifth in the table since Kenny Dalglish took over from Roy Hodgson in January.
The Reds are two points clear of Tottenham, who play Manchester City on Tuesday and travel to Anfield on Sunday for a game that is effectively a play-off for the Europa League spot.
Whether participating in that competition would be a blessing or a curse for either club is a moot point but the Reds certainly set off like a team determined to secure another season of European football.
Suarez broke clear down the left and advanced into the penalty box before trying to pick out Kuyt.
The low cross was deflected towards goal by Carlos Salcido and although Schwarzer stopped it creeping in at the far post, Rodriguez was on hand to lash into the opposite corner.
Six minutes later, Glen Johnson found space behind Salcido and crossed to the far post, where Rodriguez volleyed low past Schwarzer.
There was a moment of controversy on 14 minutes when a long ball found Suarez bearing down on goal. The irrepressible Uruguayan took a tumble after an apparent push from Brede Hangeland but the officials rejected the visitors' penalty appeals.
Any sense of grievance on Liverpool's part was short-lived as Kuyt received the ball in space on the right and drilled a speculative effort towards the near post, which Schwarzer inexplicably allowed to slip through his fingers to gift the Dutchman a ninth goal in his last eight league games. Suarez and Rodriguez both missed presentable chances before Clint Dempsey had Fulham's first opportunity of the game just after the half-hour mark - but his low volley from a corner was cleared off the line by Johnson.
Fulham boss Mark Hughes brought on Zamora for Simon Davies at half-time and the change paid dividends as the home side began the second period in the ascendancy.
First Zamora had a goal-bound header blocked and then Dempsey fired narrowly over the bar from the edge of the area.
The goal, after 57 minutes, was nothing less than Fulham deserved as Zamora's lay-off teed up Dembele for a powerful side-footed finish into the bottom corner.
Fulham briefly threatened a comeback but Rodriguez's superb drive from outside the area guaranteed Liverpool the points and allowed the Argentine to depart to a standing ovation.
Five minutes later, substitute Jonjo Shelvey threaded a pinpoint pass through to Suarez, who coolly took the ball around the goalkeeper and tapped in.
Despite being on the receiving end of a fearful hammering, Fulham refused to throw in the towel and Sidwell's superb chest down and half-volley from the edge of the box would have graced any fixture.
As it was, the goal merely reduced the deficit to three and there was still time for Suarez, Shelvey and Kuyt to go close to adding a sixth.
That would simply have added further gloss to a superb display in a game in which captain Jamie Carragher made his 666th appearance to go second behind Ian Callaghan (857) in the Reds' all-time list.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Liverpool 3 - 0 Newcastle

Liverpool are up to fifth in the Premier League table after recording a comfortable victory over Newcastle.
The Reds dominated the early exchanges and took a 10th-minute lead through Maxi Rodriguez's deflected volley.
United competed until the 59th minute when Mike Williamson fouled Luis Suarez for a penalty that Dirk Kuyt converted.
Suarez's neat close-range finish sealed the win for the hosts, for whom former Newcastle striker Andy Carroll came off the bench for the final 20 minutes.
Inevitably, the build-up to the game was dominated by talk of Carroll, who the Reds recycled £35m of the £50m fee they received from Chelsea for Fernando Torres on, when they purchased him from Newcastle late in the January transfer window.
Having spent the last few weeks sidelined with a knee injury, the big number nine was an ominous presence for his former side on the Liverpool bench and sparked an entertaining vocal war of attrition between opposing fans every time he appeared on the touchline for a warm-up and during his late cameo.
Newcastle, though, had enough to worry about prior to that, having to cope with a Liverpool attack that has given the Reds a very realistic chance of qualification for the Europa League following a run that has seen them take 30 points from their last 14 games.
Suarez again demonstrated the predatory instincts and creativity that persuaded the Reds to part with £22.7m to sign him from Ajax in January, while Dirk Kuyt extended the richest goalscoring form of his Liverpool career by scoring in his fourth successive game.
In Liverpool's previous game, eight days ago, winger Rodriguez scored three of his side's five goals in a hammering of struggling Birmingham and it was the Argentine winger who again gave his side the lead on Sunday.
The home side had already threatened through Raul Meireles's miscued sixth-minute shot before going ahead in the 10th.
Teenage full-back John Flanagan provided a testing cross from the right which Mike Williamson only partially headed clear, allowing Rodriguez to volley a shot from 12 yards that took a crucial deflection off Danny Simpson past keeper Tim Krul.
It was the high-point of a 25-minute opening period in which Liverpool dominated possession but created few real goalscoring chances.
Impressive teenage midfielder Jay Spearing was involved in their two other best attacking moves of the half, firstly forcing keeper Krul into a low save with a 25-yard shot and then later provided a superb pin-point cross from the right which Lucas headed straight at the United keeper from 10 yards out.
As the half wore on the visitors grew as a presence, but barring some well-delivered Joey Barton free-kicks, they only had Kevin Nolan's miscued effort from a corner to show for their efforts.
However, they did fashion the first opportunity of the second half when Nolan crossed for Barton, but his shot flew past the post and with it went their best chance of forging a first away win since February.
Instead, Liverpool reasserted their authority and extended their lead just before the hour.
Williamson misjudged an attempt to shepherd the ball out at the byline, allowing Suarez to nip and knock it past him. Realising the threat the Uruguayan now posed, the defender dragged him down for a penalty that Kuyt stroked home for his eighth goal in seven games.
The Dutchman should have added another minutes later when Meireles's cross found him unmarked six yards out, but he failed to connect properly with his header and put it wide.
However, he did play a pivotal role in his side's third goal, flicking a superb short pass through a crowd of defenders to find Suarez, who neatly finished from eight yards out.
To rub salt into Newcastle wounds, Liverpool used the final 20 minutes to parade Carroll.
The 11 goals he scored for his former side earlier in the season have played a major part in securing them a second successive season in the Premier League and he may well yet play a significant role in helping his new side into Europe next campaign.