Friday, December 30, 2011

Liverpool 3 - 1 Newcastle

Returning skipper Steven Gerrard sealed victory over Newcastle following two Craig Bellamy goals as Liverpool rose to fifth in the Premier League.
Gerrard, who made his second appearance since returning from injury, capped a fine cameo when he tucked in late on.
Bellamy had earlier fired in a low shot to level after Daniel Agger diverted Ryan Taylor's cross past Pepe Reina.
And the former Magpie gave Liverpool the lead from a free-kick before Gerrard scored from a tight angle.
His goal was fully merited after a performance which invigorated Kenny Dalglish's side just as Newcastle were beginning to claw their way back into the contest.
The defeat for Newcastle means they have won once in their last eight league outings and perhaps it was a surprise that Liverpool had not added a third goal sooner, such was the quality of Gerrard's deliveries into the box.
But unfortunately for them, Andy Carroll had another night in which he failed to find the target despite crashing a header against the bar from a superb Gerrard centre as he extended his run without a goal to nine matches.
After a period in which Liverpool struggled to turn chances into goals and drew six of their nine games at Anfield, Gerrard's return following an ankle problem that had kept him out since October will have given them a huge lift as they embark on their quest for a Champions League spot.
And it will also give them hope that they can sustain that challenge should leading goalscorer Luis Suarez's eight-match ban for alleged racist comments towards Manchester United's Patrice Evra be upheld.
With the Uruguayan banned for making a gesture towards Fulham's fans in a separate incident, Bellamy took his place in the side and the Welshman was a constant threat down Liverpool's left as he looked to support lone striker Carroll, who was also up against his previous club.
Gerrard has scored seven goals in his last nine Premier League games against Newcastle United.
While the two former Magpies were full of endeavour, their willingness to be involved in the build-up meant there were several occasions when there was no-one in the box to finish their good work.
And in keeping with their promising season thus far, Newcastle withstood the early pressure to pounce from an isolated attack on 25 minutes.
Top scorer Demba Ba has lit up the Premier League this season with 14 goals in his last 13 games and his presence had a hand in the goal as Ryan Taylor's cross from the left was nodded on by Yohan Cabaye and with Ba in close quarters the ball diverted off Agger past Reina.
Having been on top up until that point, Liverpool were stung into life by that goal, although the visitors almost looked like they had cleared the danger.
Cheick Tiote cleared Charlie Adam's low cross from the right, but with men lined in front of goal, Bellamy found the bottom corner.
Dalglish's side pressed further after that and Martin Skrtel went close with a near-post header from a corner, with Adam also inches away from diverting it into the net.
That was enough for Dalglish to bring on Gerrard, and the Liverpool skipper was involved straight away on his 15th outing of 2011, twice picking out Carroll, with the striker being let down by a poor first touch on the second occasion when he was unmarked in the box.
Fortunately for him and Liverpool, they took the lead on 76 minutes though they were a tad lucky to be given a free-kick when Tiote challenged Agger.
Bellamy stepped up to curl a delicious free-kick in, but Danny Simpson made a real hash of defending the line by deflecting the ball past Tim Krul.
Newcastle came close to equalising soon after when Ba somehow clipped the ball past Reina from Cabaye's cute pass, with the French midfielder perhaps fortunate not to be punished for an earlier tackle on Jay Spearing, but Skrtel's goal-line clearance was equally impressive.
Carroll then smashed a header against the bar from Gerrard's cross, but the returning talisman showed his team-mate how to finish when he collected Jordan Henderson's through ball to finish from a tight angle.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Liverpool 1 - 1 Blackburn

Another DRAW result again!! Blackburn Rovers lifted the pressure on manager Steve Kean as they battled to a Boxing Day point against Liverpool at Anfield.
Kean has been subjected to fierce hostility from Rovers supporters and his time in charge looked to be coming to a close after successive home defeats by West Bromwich Albion and fellow strugglers Bolton.
But the Scot finally heard cheers from Blackburn fans as they produced a performance of real resilience to earn a draw and offer some light at the end of a very dark tunnel.
Charlie Adam's own goal gave the visitors the lead in first-half stoppage time before Maxi Rodriguez's equaliser early in the second period set the stage for a typical Anfield finale.
For Liverpool, this was another bitter Anfield disappointment to add to previous draws against Sunderland, Norwich City and Swansea.
And for all the money Dalglish has lavished on his strike force, the grim statistics read the Reds have failed to score two goals at home since the victory against Wolves in September.
Liverpool's supporters spent the early stages noisily registering their support for Luis Suarez after he was handed an eight-match ban and fined £40,000 by the FA after being found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra.
The Uruguayan responded with a typically energetic first-half display that brought a succession of attempts on goal but none that tested Bunn.
Liverpool came closest to breaking through Blackburn's disciplined ranks after 26 minutes when Carroll had a chance six yards out but was blocked by the diving Bunn.
With the interval approaching and a growing sense of frustration inside a subdued Anfield, Rovers took a shock lead when Adam deflected Morten Gamst Pedersen's corner beyond the reach of home goalkeeper Pepe Reina at the near post.
The Reds emerged after the break in the manner of a side stung by the words of their manager and responded with an equaliser eight minutes after the restart. Defender Skrtel was the creator, lofting the ball to the far post where Maxi rose unmarked to head in.
Rovers were penned back in front of the Kop and Dalglish decided to introduce talisman Gerrard for the tiring Adam to push for the victory.
It has been a rearguard action for Kean's men, but with 12 minutes left Blackburn created, and wasted, their best opportunity. Dunn won possession and weaved his way into the area only to shoot wide.
Carroll had not had many opportunities to make his mark, but he was only inches away with header as Bunn stood rooted to the spot.
Gerrard then played in Stewart Downing on the angle, but his side-foot effort was too close to Bunn and he was able to claim comfortably. Downing's header brought another save from Bunn after he was picked out by Craig Bellamy, on as substitute for Maxi, at the far post.
In a grandstand finish, Bunn and Henley emerged as Blackburn's heroes to finally give Kean some respite from his troubles.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Wigan 0 - 0 Liverpool

Ali Al-Habsi saved a Charlie Adam penalty and made a string of other fine saves to help Wigan hold Liverpool to a point at the DW Stadium.
Luis Suarez won the second-half penalty when his overhead kick was handled by Gary Caldwell.
Dirk Kuyt also went close but he fired over from just six yards out.
Wigan played their part in a pulsating encounter and Hugo Rodallega could have snatched all three points with a header in the closing stages.
Liverpool enjoyed the best chances throughout, but their wastefulness in front of goal cost them victory in an open game that was theirs for the taking.
Wigan's footballing principles are laudable and this draw, coupled with the point picked up against Chelsea in their last outing, can give them plenty of confidence in their latest relegation battle.
During the pre-match warm-up, Liverpool's players joined manager Kenny Dalglish in sporting t-shirts with an image of Luis Suarez printed on the front.
The Uruguay forward has been banned for eight games and fined £40,000 by the FA for racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra at Anfield on 15 October.
The striker started the game - the suspension does not start until the appeal process is over - and was cheered and jeered in equal measure by the rival sets of supporters.
And while Liverpool dominated in the opening half hour, Suarez was not the chief threat as he struggled to get into his stride.
It mattered very little while his team-mates were in such free-flowing form, with Al-Habsi making good saves from Jordan Henderson, Martin Skrtel, Dirk Kuyt and Glen Johnson before the home side finally broke into life.
While Wigan's slick passing game was getting them into trouble at the back, they were exciting in the final third and Roberto Martinez's side almost scored two goal-of-the-season contenders.
First, Mohamed Diame cracked a shot into the side-netting from 40 yards out and then Victor Moses embarked on an amazing run from his own half which only ended when his swerving shot was beaten clear by Jose Reina.
Suarez was brighter in the second half and had a free-kick tipped over the bar by Al-Habsi.
And he won a penalty in the 50th minute when his overhead effort was blocked by the hand of Caldwell.
Adam stepped up, but his spot-kick was spectacularly saved by Al-Habsi.
That appeared to knock the stuffing out of the visitors, who struggled to regroup.
However, they should have gone into the lead when Kuyt hooked over from just six yards out.
Wigan did enjoy good chances of their own, most notably when Rodallega's header was deflected behind by Johnson before Moses stabbed wide from the resulting corner.
But the points were destined to be shared, meaning it is now three games unbeaten for the ever-improving Latics, while Liverpool may live to rue two dropped points in the race for European qualification.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Aston Villa 0 - 2 Liverpool

Craig Bellamy inspired Liverpool to their fifth away league win of the season by scoring one goal and creating another in the space of four minutes.
The former Manchester City man fired home from close range after Jonjo Shelvey's clever flick created the opening from Stewart Downing's corner.
Bellamy then swung in a 15th-minute corner for Martin Skrtel to head home.
Charles N'Zogbia's effort in the first half was the closest Aston Villa came as they slumped to their fifth defeat.
Villa's final-day win over Liverpool at the end of last season was their first in 13 attempts but with the Reds having only one defeat in their 10 previous games before this visit, it was always going to be tough for the hosts.
And Alex McLeish's side's task was made even harder as a sluggish start saw them two down after only 15 minutes.
Downing, making his first visit to Villa Park since his £20m move in the summer to Anfield, squandered an early chance to a chorus of sarcastic cheers from the home faithful.
However, the Villa fans were soon silenced when Downing whipped in a corner that Shelvey diverted goalwards.
Luis Suarez attempted a trick of his own that Guzan blocked but Villa's second-choice keeper could do nothing to deny Bellamy smashing home.
Liverpool have the best defensive record in the top flight, conceding only 13 goals and keeping six clean sheets
Four minutes later, Skrtel grabbed his second goal of the season to double the visitors' advantage with Bellamy turning provider with a pacey corner that the Slovakian defender rose above Alan Hutton to head in.
With Gabriel Agbonlahor suspended and Darren Bent a late withdrawal because of injury, McLeish was missing his two top scorers and it was obvious as they created little in a first half that Liverpool dominated.
N'Zogbia was the one bright spark for the home side as he fired over just before the half-hour mark before hitting another effort into the side-netting soon after.
Bellamy continued to prosper after the restart as he crossed for Daniel Agger but the defender headed wide despite being unmarked at the back post.
Suarez, who was cleared to play after the outcome of disciplinary hearing on Friday was delayed, had a relatively quiet first half but he almost made it three with a move of real class.
The former Ajax forward was played through on goal and he beat both Richard Dunne and James Collins before rattling his effort off the underside of the crossbar.
That was the 16th time Liverpool have hit the woodwork this season and Suarez added the 17th just before the hour.
The Uruguayan found himself on the edge of the area with limited options his deft chip beat Guzan but not the post.
Charlie Adam then had a chance when he waltzed into the area but, with Shelvey in the clear to his left, the Scottish midfielder opted for a shot and it was deflected wide.
It would not prove costly, however, as McLeish's side failed to create another real chance and Dalglish got his first win away at Villa as Liverpool manager on his seventh attempt.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Liverpool 1 - 0 QPR

Luis Suarez's goal was his fifth in the league for Liverpool this season
Luis Suarez scored the only goal against QPR as a dominant Liverpool avoided a fifth successive home draw and climbed to sixth in the table.
QPR kept the hosts out until 69 seconds into the second half when an unmarked Suarez headed in Charlie Adam's cross.
It was Suarez's first league goal since netting against Everton on 1 October - and comes in the week he was charged by the Football Association for a hand gesture made towards Fulham fans.
Radek Cerny made several superb saves.
But his team rarely threatened, except from corners, and almost conceded an own goal when Shaun Wright-Phillips hit the bar late on.
Uruguayan Suarez, 24, had scored five goals for his country since his last Premier League strike.
But he has consistently been in the headlines as he faces a second FA charge relating to an alleged racial slur against Manchester United defender Patrice Evra.
If the win kept Liverpool on the fringes of the race for the Champions League places, it also left nagging doubts about their stuttering home form, which has seen them draw with both title-chasing Manchester clubs but also Sunderland and the two sides promoted with QPR - Norwich and Swansea.
The game, and particularly the opening 45 minutes, gave a taster of why Kenny Dalglish's side have drawn so often this season and failed to secure more points at Anfield.
Liverpool dominated possession, won 10 corners, and created a reasonable number of chances - but rarely forced Cerny into serious action.
Maxi Rodriguez was the man most frequently denied by the Czech keeper but, in truth, he should have scored after he was sent clear by Dirk Kuyt's perceptive pass Cerny got down quickly to make a one-handed save from the Argentine's shot.
Just before the interval, Cerny's decision to stand up until the last possible moment proved the right one as Suarez tried to chip the ball into the net from an acute angle and the keeper palmed the ball away.
In first-half stoppage time he then moved quickly to his left to gather a Stewart Downing shot as QPR saw out the first phase of their containment operation at Anfield.
Suarez had frequently glimpsed goal in the first half but was unable to capitalise on his prodigious work-rate and unerring ability to find space.
He sent a free header straight at Cerny early on, miscued after being teed up by Maxi, and ended the half allowing the ball to flash past him, possibly due to a misunderstanding with Daniel Agger, who was in close proximity.
However all QPR's good work went to waste in the second minute after the restart when Suarez was left unmarked and the Uruguayan guided his header into the corner of the net from the edge of the six-yard box.
QPR then lost Anton Ferdinand through injury but the visitors - Cerny in particular - continued to frustrate Liverpool.
The Rangers keeper threw himself to his left to tip Maxi's shot on to the post and then bravely denied the same player after the Argentine completed a one-two with Suarez.
With the clock running down, QPR forced a flurry of corners, one of which Reina was forced to clear from almost under his bar.
Liverpool might have had a second goal in stoppage time when Wright-Phillips almost scored an own goal as his defensive clearance from a Craig Bellamy centre hit the underside of the Rangers bar.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Fulham 1 - 0 Liverpool

Clint Dempsey's late winner gave Fulham victory against 10-man Liverpool in the Premier League and ended the visitors' hopes of a seventh away win in a row.
The visitors saw Jay Spearing dismissed after 71 minutes when he won the ball but then clattered into Moussa Dembele.
Liverpool were punished in the 85th minute as Dempsey finished after Jose Reina spilled Danny Murphy's strike.
Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing's shots against the woodwork meant that Liverpool have hit it 12 times this season - at least fives times more than any other Premier League team
Jay Spearing became the third Liverpool player to see red this season in the Premier League - with all having been in London
Exactly half of Fulham's 14 Premier League matches this season have been goalless at half-time, more than any other club.
Fulham had failed to win any of their last seven Premier League matches in which the half-time score was goalless.
The sending off was crucial to the outcome and was a controversial one as Spearing got the ball. However, he followed through and caught Dembele, meaning that the Liverpool midfielder was always in danger of getting a red card.
His dismissal meant that a game that had been even swung in favour of Fulham and Liverpool's resistance was broken when Reina made a bad error, having produced several important saves beforehand.
The result meant that Fulham won for only the second time in nine league games at Craven Cottage, moving them up to 13th in the table, and it did little to change Liverpool's reputation as a side that unduly struggles against lesser sides.
The visitors were facing up to life without their influential defensive midfielder Lucas Leiva - ruled out with a knee injury for the rest of the season - and Spearing was the man drafted in to replace him.
Both goalkeepers were forced into early saves with Reina the first to be called into action as he saved Dembele's side-footed effort before Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer kept out a 10-yard snapshot from Andy Carroll.
Reina was then forced to keep out long-range efforts from Dembele and Dempsey, but Henderson's quick thinking almost gave Liverpool a 28th-minute lead as he cut inside and unleashed a curling strike that struck a post.
Luiz Suarez fired wide for the visitors but Fulham finished the first half strongly as Dempsey again tested Reina from distance before firing a shot off target.
The momentum swung again after the break as Liverpool piled on the pressure with a Jose Enrique volley from 30 yards being palmed out by Schwarzer.
Kenny Dalglish's side had a penalty appeal denied after a brisk counter-attack ended with Charlie Adam being brought down by Philippe Senderos, but the Swiss defender was adjudged to have been outside the box when he pulled back the Scottish international.
Liverpool kept pushing hard. Craig Bellamy dragged a shot wide from Glen Johnson's pass and Suarez had a strike ruled out for offside, but the Merseyside club's hopes took a huge blow when Spearing was shown his straight red on 71 minutes, playing the ball first but then making heavy contact with Dembele.
Dempsey was inches away from scoring in the 81st minute, hitting the bar after cutting inside in similar fashion to Henderson earlier, and Fulham gained late momentum, with Dembele forcing a save from Reina and also shooting wide.
Liverpool could have snatched a goal themselves as Downing surged forward and forced Schwarzer to push the ball on to the post, but the away side were cruelly sunk with five minutes to go.
Murphy beat Glen Johnson on the edge of the 18-yard box and Reina embarrassingly spilled the midfielder's low shot.
Dempsey reacted quicker than Daniel Agger and won the game with a simple, close-range finish.
Fulham manager Martin Jol: "We dropped points at home against Everton when we were the better team - we were pretty unlucky. Tonight we had the rub of the green.
"We weren't the better team but it was even. Mark Schwarzer is one of the best in the business and he saved us.
"I think it was a bad tackle [by Jay Spearing]. His ankle was there and I think it was a sending-off."
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish: "We didn't play as we have been but we did enough to come away with something from the game.
"But we didn't and we can't feel sorry for ourselves. Even when we went down to 10 men we kept pressing, and I can't fault that.
"Jay Spearing won the ball, but upset the referee with the follow-up. Sometimes it's a red, sometimes it's not."

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Chelsea 0 - 2 Liverpool

Chelsea were again struck down by the curse of Kenny Dalglish as Liverpool increased the pressure on manager Andre Villas-Boas with a comfortable Carling Cup quarter-final victory at Stamford Bridge.
Maxi Rodriguez and Martin Kelly both scored in a five-minute spell after the break to maintain Dalglish's unbeaten record against Chelsea in 13 matches as Liverpool manager.
Liverpool's win was fully deserved, even with the inspirational Luis Suarez rested, as they were able to recover from the setback of Andy Carroll's missed first-half penalty to secure their third straight victory at Stamford Bridge.
It was a fully deserved win, following hard on the heels of the Premier League triumph here 10 days ago and confirming a renaissance that has seen Liverpool go undefeated in their last eleven games.
And as his side closed in on the semi-final, Dalglish showed special appreciation for the contribution of Craig Bellamy when he was substituted late on.
He was withdrawn from Sunday's game against Manchester City at Anfield following the death of his mentor and Wales manager Gary Speed, but returned in style at Stamford Bridge to create both goals.
Liverpool can now contemplate their first semi-final in this competition since 2005, when they reached the final only to be defeated by Jose Mourinho's Chelsea.
The only cloud over Liverpool's night was a knee injury that saw midfield man Lucas stretchered off. He will now undergo a scan to determine the extent of the problem.
In contrast to Dalglish's obvious delight, Villas-Boas cut a dejected figure as the momentum built by the victory against Wolves on Saturday was snuffed out by an impressive Liverpool display.
The 34-year-old Portuguese coach insists he has the full backing of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and there is no doubt he is currently presiding over a squad in need of major repair.
But this result only makes next Tuesday's defining Champions League meeting with Valencia at Stamford Bridge an even more crucial moment for Villas-Boas, despite his managerial career at Chelsea being in its infancy.
And it was another disappointing night for Chelsea's £50m British record signing Fernando Torres, who cut an almost apologetic figure against his former club as he laboured in vain on the margins.
Carroll and Torres were both given chances to impress as both managers made changes - but it was referee Phil Dowd who was the central figure early on as he ignored two penalty appeals.
He booked David Luiz for diving when he was clearly felled by Sebastian Coates as he raced into the area - but the Chelsea defender was then lucky to escape punishment for a push on Carroll.
Dowd did award a penalty, albeit after a lengthy delay, at the third time of asking in the 22nd minute when Alex handled needlessly. Carroll claimed the penalty with some confidence only to drill it straight at Chelsea keeper Ross Turnbull.
The official was not enjoying his finest night, as he proved when he booked Ryan Bertrand for a dangerous tackle on Jordan Henderson - by Romelu Lukaku.
Chelsea at least posed a whiff of danger early in the second half when Florent Malouda's downward header looped up on to the bar, but this was only the signal for Liverpool to put the game out of their reach.
Liverpool went ahead just before the hour when Bellamy broke clear down the right and crossed perfectly for Maxi, who also scored in the recent league win at Chelsea, to beat Turnbull comfortably at the far post.
Villas-Boas immediately prepared the introduction of Juan Mata and Nicolas Anelka, but he was not able to make the change before Liverpool extended their lead.
Bellamy's free-kick found Kelly unmarked in the area and the defender took advantage to head past the exposed Turnbull.
Mata and Anelka came on, but Liverpool cruised to victory untroubled to move a step closer to Wembley.