Adieu Liverpool Lu!

- - Blog, Comment, Transfers

Luis Suarez

 

Well, it was just one summer of speculation too far… After a cracking year of retained services at Liverpool we finally lost our talismanic striker, Luis Suarez, to the grandeur of the Catalan giants, Barcelona. It was a difficult summer… What with the failure of the homegrown boys to get anywhere in the tournament, Luis went for one bite more than he could chew….AGAIN. His behaviour brought shame to our club for not the first time, even though his bite on the Italian, Giorgio Chiellini, was committed in his national colours of Uruguay. He was facing a lengthy ban from not just international football but would have been absent for the first few months of our domestic season. After his early World Cup bath, he started to chew on some humble pie, apologising for the shameful incident, just enough for his proposed move to Barca to go through… With all the release clause details having been clarified when he signed a new contract last year, all Barca had to do was come in with the necessary coin. Luis parted company with Liverpool to the tune of £75 million, netting us just over £50 million in profit. I was hoping he’d stay on, especially as we now have the desired Champions League football that Luis himself so desired. His goals last year were special and I cannot see how anyone can bag so many from such a varied amount of positions. He was an individual player and I feel he was ‘on the rise’ so to speak, as a professional world-beating striker…. in Liverpool colours. In four seasons at Liverpool he bagged 69 goals in 110 appearances, a strong record, making him among our most prolific ever goal-scorers.

As much as I wanted him to stay, I can see exactly why Brendan Rodgers has moved on and got rid. Luis’ behaviour does no good to the reputation of Liverpool. one bad incident is provocative enough but it is clear from experience that Luis has issues which make him a liability. Could we afford the repercussions of his next misdemeanour? Is it possible to reach the heights of a football club when your star player is banned for several months each season? It could be argued that were last season’s ban not in place we would have won the league comfortably. Close season after close season of transfer speculation is just too much a distraction. It was clear that Luis’ heart was with the Spanish giants. He gets to speak his native tongue and is away from the malicious prying of the British press. I think that £75 million is a good price. We can rebuild our team significantly with the cash and for one man it is an awful lot of money. I am sure that five new quality players will surpass the efforts of one man who is undeniably world class. We are looking to the future. Who is to say that next year Luis doesn’t receive a lifetime ban or a career-disturbing injury which reduces his value to nowt?

What of the future? Already we are verging on £100 million of new acquisitions in the transfer market and a replacement high quality striker is still on the cards. I’d like to see Marco Reus come in for £30 million or so. Lallana looks as though he can chip in a lot of goals from midfield and Raheem Sterling has demonstrated, in particular towards the end of last season, that he is a growing menace on goal. Luis heads off to lead a formidable triumvirate at Barcelona. What defender in the world won’t be grinding his teeth n bed at night, worrying about facing Messi, Neymar and Suarez? It could be the best strikeforce ever in world football and Barcelona could go on to dominance at club level…. Or? Look at what happened to previous world class strikers who have left Liverpool for greener grass and pastures new… Michael Owen bade farewell after insisting on the appointment of Rafael Benitez as new coach. He went to the Madridistas but was only ever half the player for his subsequent career as he was at Liverpool. The other obvious example of a collapsed striker is Fernando Torres. He saw his best days as a footballer at Liverpool yet his big money move to Chelsea has left him the butt of jokes across the world as he fails to cut it there, his goal ratio halved. We got £50 million for Torres, a huge profit. The Luis money surpasses the Torres cash and I think that without the dedicated support of Liverpool football club, with its high quality training facilities, passionate supporters and caring management, Luis could indeed realise that his best days are behind him. Maybe he’ll do a Rushie and return in a season or two’s time, after his taste of life abroad? He’d always be welcome (I’d incidentally also like to see a return of Fernando Torres to Anfield – I think he’s more potential than say, Ricky Lambert?). It will be difficult watching Luis when he finally returns to the Champions League after his ban. Of course we’re bound to end of facing Barca at some point… He’s a quality player and I wish him all the best. We are a club that is bigger than any individual and life goes on. Just remember what happened the year we lost Owen to Madrid, the last time a talismanic striker left for the Spanish giants. We went on to lift the Champions League trophy. People are warning about us being the new Tottenham, with a wasted huge transfer budget and minus our star player. We are Liverpool, we are back in Europe and we have a point to prove in the title race. We are in safe hands and will go on to great success.

It’s a season new with shiny silverware to chew,
Farewell, Adieu, to Liverpool Lu,

 

Match Report: Liverpool vs Hull City (01.01.14) W 2-0

- - Match Report

Jordan Henderson

Steven Gerrard unfortunately didn’t make the starting lineup, but was present on the bench. Aly Cissokho was recalled at left back with Daniel Agger retaining his place in central defence alongside the stalwart Martin Skrtel. Iago Aspas was introduced to the starting XI. Raheem Sterling and the young Spaniard will be out on the wings, Jordan Henderson and Lucas Leiva in the central midfield and Philippe Coutinho sitting just behind Luis Suarez upfront. So, the injuries have forced a change in formation. All being well, the new-look side can crush Hull here at Anfield.

Liverpool started the match positively and were pinging the ball around well. Hull closed down well and were very defensive. The play all seemed to get caught up in midfield with few breakthroughs for both sides in the final third. Some hefty challenges were going in. Hull started to get the odd chance after the first ten minutes. They scored 6 goals in their last outing so it is no surprise that they have confidence going forward.

In the eighteenth minute it looked as though Liverpool had got the breakthrough. A nice free kick from Coutinho was floated in from the right and Luis Suarez got nicely on the end of it with an accurate header which skipped past the Tigers’ keeper. Unfortunately Luis was marginally offside when the kick was taken and the linesman had correctly flagged it. Hull escape….for now.

Tom Huddlestone became the first player into the referee’s book with a hefty challenge on Suarez, shortly afterwards. Nice to have him on a caution so early on. Philippe Coutinho had a speculative long free kick comfortably sail into the keeper’s arms. The Reds started to dominate and get a few more breaks, though we were not building play up enough and shooting rashly when it might have been better to build up the play.

Luis Suarez picked out a perfect pass for the accelerating Raheem Sterling to run onto. As he moved in on the Hull keeper, Allan McGregor, the goalie stepped up well and prevented Sterling from seizing the opportunity. The attacks were coming thick and fast now. Hull’s defence looked unable to cope with our forward force.

There was a prolonged period, mid first-half where the game petered out and a midfield battle ensued. Suarez seemed to be the recipient of Hull’s hard-hitting tackles. In he 36th minuted Daniel Agger climbed up around the penalty spot to get onto the end of a corner and headed the ball goal-ward. Jordan Henderson was acting as a foil and the distracted keeper could do nothing to save our central defender’s effort. 1-0 Liverpool and a goal for our captain for the day.

A frustrated Luis Suarez ended up getting booked although it was unclear exactly why. Perhaps it was a bit of backchat as he was getting too much attention from the Hull midfield and defence. Jordan Henderson missed a great opportunity to put us two up. Iago Aspas gave a nice flick into the path of Henderson who unfortunately shot just wide of the left post. It was a well-crafted move and deserved more. Just before half-time Henderson and Coutinho combined well but the Brazilian shot wide of the post. Another clear chance. Maybe we should be three up by now? We go into half-time a goal to the good.

A few minutes into the second half and our lead was indeed doubled. The Uruguayan maestro delivered one of his trademark free kicks from about thirty yards out. Suarez left the keeper no chance, with sniper-like precision. World Class is the best way to describe our star man.

Our sixty-three percent stats seemed to continue into the second half. Hull will have to really get lucky to earn points at Anfield today. Another unfortunate injury concern meant that Glen Johnson, who’d been struggling for some time, hobbled off to be replaced by Kolo Toure. Steve Bruce decided to shuffle his deck, making a three-way tactical substitution: George Boyd for David Meyler, Danny Graham for Robert Koren and Matty Fryatt for Yannick Sagbo. He needed to ‘Attack, Attack, Attack!’, as our Kop might cry in our own times of desperation. In the 62nd minute our talisman returned to action when Iago Aspas was substituted for Steven Gerrard. It seems a good opportunity to give him a run out after his injury layoff.

Coutinho and Henderson kept the pressure on the opposition goal. Luis Suarez seemed to be relatively quiet, perhaps the aggressive Hull players has successfully silenced him? Coutinho seemed to be really flying and made a fantastic run down the centre, shooting hard, only for the keeper to parry it away. Raheem Sterling  left the field to give Victor Moses a fifteen minute spell to exercise his wares.

Hull continued to do battle and pressed hard to try and get something from the game, but Liverpool were calm and resolute in defence. The two goal cushion was comfortable and without being overly relaxed, they kept the Tigers at bay. Luis Suarez continued to draw challenges and a good run by him through the middle led to Curtis Davies illegally ending it and getting himself booked in the process. Luis Suarez couldn’t repeat his set piece magic in the ensuing free kick. Coutinho, in injury time, again was denied. He had shown a lot of promise today, though the end result wasn’t forthcoming. the game finished 2-0 and a good three points should put us back within our targeted top four range.

Brendan Rodgers proved his tactics were astute. Forced into a formation change he understood how best to over-rule a dangerous side who had made us look stupid only a month ago. Liverpool have successfully reversed the downward trend of our post-Christmas mini crisis. We have to maintain Anfield as a fortress throughout the second half of the season and today was a good day for tending to the ramparts. Next up is an FA Cup tie against Oldham here on Sunday.

Man Of The Match: Jordan Henderson. His deeper first half role enabled him to keep the out-of-depth Huddlestone well at bay. Henderson managed to get forward on many of our best attacks and seemed to outshine all other players in what was a good team performance. Hopefully Roy Hodgson will be taking note and Henderson could have an important role to play in the national side come the summer.

 

 

Match Preview: Liverpool vs Hull City (01.01.14)

- - Match Preview

Liverpool CrestHull City Crest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, we were all wondering what our two Christmas fixtures against Manchester City and Chelsea would bring and unfortunately they brought nothing – well – in terms of points that is. We have slipped from top of the league at Christmas to out of the top four by New Year, the first team ever to record that achievement. Everyone knew Manchester City and Chelsea away would be tough nuts to crack. We need to reverse the slide and get three points today. On paper, Hull at home looks a perfect opportunity to do so. Anfield is a fortress once again. However, it was only the start of last month that saw us put is a dismal display at the KC Stadium and get thrashed 3-1 by Hull City (Gerrard The Red match report here: http://gerrardthered.com/match-report-hull-city-vs-liverpool-01-12-13-474 ). Steve Bruce won the battle of the managers that day and frustrated us defensively and took full advantage of our players not giving a 100% performance. Revenge is on the cards and our New Years Day fixture, the start of the New Year is a MUST-WIN at all costs.

The injury crisis has deepened at Liverpool. The two losses unfortunately had an additional toll on our already depleted manpower. Joe Allen is out with a abductor strain and Mamadou Sakho has hamstring trouble. Added to those already missing we really are scraping the sides in terms of squad numbers. Jordan Henderson did take a heavy knock against Chelsea though it looks as though it was nothing too serious and he should be back today. The good news is that Steven Gerrard, who has been back in training, might be available should he pass a late fitness test. We are exceptionally thin on the ground in central midfield and should our captain return it would be a boost in terms of morale. Otherwise, we will be relying on youth team players stepping up in an area which was completely bossed by Tom Huddlestone for Hull back in December.  Daniel Agger should retain his position in central defence and hopefully he can consolidate his role there rather than move out on loan to Napoli during the transfer window. Aly Cissokho is likely to get a recall at left back and has to attempt to prove his doubters wrong. Is he up to the required level for high-class Premiership football? Victor Moses will be back available for selection though I’d imagine he’ll start on the bench with the boss favouring our attack trio Phillipe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez.

For the Tigers, they have fewer injury concerns; midfielder David Meyler and defender Alex Bruce have both recovered from recent injuries. They do miss their top scorer Robbie Brady who is still sidelined with a  groin injury. Hull are punching above their weight in the league and are just inside the top half of the table in tenth. They have been difficult to deal with for many top sides and will be prepared to battle with us today, still high on their recent victory over us. They also go into the game on the back of a 6-0 whooping of Fulham. The state of mind in each changing room could not be different.

Liverpool can expect to face a confident side, not afraid to mix it up with top opposition. They will use a physical game which we do struggle to deal with. I think that Chelsea were most effective against us by being physically aggressive. Hull are a more traditional hacking side and as previous seasons clearly demonstrate,Liverpool are more likely to flounder against lowly teams than against the more fluent, skilful clubs. Huddlestone will need to be dealt with properly and I can see us having issues in central midfield. Lucas Leiva could be critical to a victory. I may seem a bit negative – after all we have scored at least three goals in our last six home league matches. If we can repeat this today then I can’t see Hull matching our strike rate and we should get the three points and hopefully march back into the Champions League places.

The game kicks off at 3pm and isn’t televised live in the UK. I’d recommend getting a good internet stream at http://wiziwig.tv

Match Report: Chelsea vs Liverpool (29.12.13) L 2-1

- - Match Report

Eden Hazard

Liverpool adjusted their defence: Mamadou Sakho moved out to left back and Daniel Agger came in at centre back, Aly Cissokho losing his place and dropping down to the bench. Martin Skrtel and Glen Johnson retained their defensive positions. I can remember when we tried a non-specialist wing back earlier in the season and I’m not overkeen. Let’s hope the formula works today. The rest of the side was the same as it has been for a few games, the upper triangle of Philippe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez taking responsibilities in attack. Two minutes in and we won a free kick in a nice position out on the left. Jordan Henderson was tackled heavily by Samuel Eto’o and needed treatment. The set piece was floated in and Luis Suarez, meeting his bite victim, Branislav Ivanovic with football skills and not barbecue skills, neatly beat him to the ball, heading it towards goal where the hungry Martin Skrtel was waiting to knock it over the line. A goal up in the third minute: A perfect start! And a fine way for Suarez to avenge his ban.

Chelsea didn’t take it lying down. They were attacking us straight away and making headway. The ball was floated into the box a lot, far more than it has been from other opposition. Glen Johnson made a vital goal line clearance. Gary Cahill headed a good header wide. Simon Mignolet’s dexterity in goal was tested by a decent Frank Lampard shot. Our midfield wasn’t holding up well at all and Chelsea were cutting through us like butter. The defence looked haphazard too and, when Eden Hazard broke through with a lucky rebounded pass from Oscar that had rebounded off Sakho, the Chelsea danger man curled it nicely past Mignolet and the Blues were deservedly level. The defence was on a back foot and disorganised. Daniel Agger had actually fitted into the side at left back, not in the centre, and he was found out of position for the goal. I don’t think that, as a team, we had settled well. We weren’t controlling the game as we usually do. Perhaps Chelsea were effective in breaking up our pattern of play, or maybe something just wasn’t clicking at Stamford Bridge? Ivanovic had to call it a day and went off injured for Ashley Cole to come on in his place. Our whole formation was being pressed and our possession stats must have been unhealthy. In the 33rd minute, defensive mishaps and a failure to tackle and clear properly led a cross to be converted by Samuel Eto’o – He was lucky to reach it and Mignolet half-saved the effort, but i had enough momentum to trickle over the line.

For the second time in a week and early goal lead against had been turned completely around by the home side. 2-1 Chelsea and we will have to sort our whole effort out in this game. Before half time Joe Allen had another good shot at goal, after a rare decent attacking move from us. The Chelsea defence was set up in two fluid banks and their movement was aggressively dictating to our front how to play, rather than being passively affected by our passing and movement. It was confusing the hell out of us and was a credit to Jose Mourinho tactically. I haven’t seen a side dominate us so well as Chelsea this season, except for Arsenal. Chelsea weren’t using Arsene Wenger’s total football, but had rather a more messy, physical, ball-off-the-ground header and volley game, though their discipline and set up was very well-managed. Let’s see what Mourinho’s former apprentice can pull out of the hat in the away dressing room at half time. I’d drill Lucas Leiva and Joe Allen to turn the tide in midfield somehow, maybe remove some of the freedom Jordan Henderson is allowed and get him to help shore up our problems in terms of possession.

At half time Mourinho used as second substitute: John Obi Mikel on for Frank Lampard. Something seemed to have changed in the second half. We were having more time on the ball and looked a changed side. Mamadou Sakho rose in the box to loop a headed cross past Peter Cech, but unfortunately it clipped the corner of the goalposts and rebounded away to safety. Chelsea were resorting to very physical tackling, roughing it up a bit, John Terry leading the way. The game was a lot more open now. Luis Suarez had a long distance effort but it was kept out. He had been quiet but there were signs that Liverpool were gaining momentum.

Our weaker squad was demonstrated when Joe Allen had to retire from the game, injured. He was replaced by a 19 year old academy-trained rookie, Brad Smith, his first cap. In a game of such magnitude it isn’t the time to be breaking in new, young players, especially with the problems already manifesting themselves in midfield. We had a good appeal for a penalty with Luis Suarez getting completely clattered in the box. We were firing in free kicks regularly and there were all sorts of tussles going off in the box. Chelsea are physically large and powerful in defence. It will be hard to beat them in the air, that is for sure. The physicality of the game gives it more the flavour of a typical Merseyside derby. It’s getting quite heated out there.

Glen Johnson had a nice long effort in the 73rd minute, Cech saving at his near post and conceding a corner. No joy from the set piece though. In the 79th minute a very cynical challenge by Gary Cahill on Luis Suarez resulted in a caution for the England defender. Cech parried the free kick away harmlessly. Into the last ten minutes and another penalty call. Samuel Eto’o clearly fouled Luis Suarez and it was a penalty but Howard Webb failed to call it. I’d hate to think that two of the season’s most critical fixtures can be affected by poor refereeing. It’s easy to whinge about officials and seems an excuse for poor results: I don’t like it. However, the refs should not be impacting the league in the way that they are.

Glen Johnson was sacrificed for Iago Aspas. We need to throw all we have at the game. Eto’o limped off with Fernando Torres coming on for the last part of the match. Torres, sporting a new Coutinho-style haircut, made a move on the goal but finished weakly. Half the player that we sold. More injury woe for Liverpool as Mamadou Sakho was next to hobble off. The January transfer are getting pricier, the nearer we get. We will need many signings just to replenish our depleted squad. Kolo Toure came on. Chelsea moved the ball into the corner and started to waste time. There should be significant injury time at the end. They slowed everything right down.  A messy Brazilian clash went off, Oscar following through on Lucas Leiva. Our samba man responded with quite an aggressive push to the face and a brief scuffle broke out. Howard Webb diffused the situation without issuing any further warnings.

The final whistle came and a frustrating fixture concluded; the end result a 2-1 defeat. We are the first side to be top at Christmas and out of the top four by the New Year. These last two games were never going to be easy and unfortunately we have had the worst possible outcome to them. We can cancel out the relative points deficit by victories and Anfield against both sides but relying on this is no way to justify losing.

Man Of The Match: Howard Webb had significant influence on the outcome though the scorer of Chelsea’s winner, Eden Hazard, was probably the best player. He was a constant problem down the left hand side.

Match Preview: Chelsea vs Liverpool (29.12.13)

- - Match Preview

Chelsea CrestLiverpool Crest

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brendan Rodgers, as manager of Liverpool, has never lost two games in a row. He accomplished this feat whilst at Swansea too. Yes, we slipped on the carcass of the Christmas Turkey on Boxing Day and fell to Manchester City in a game we should have won. Perhaps it was a case of too much Christmas Day revelry, knowing we had made it to the top of the league for Christmas? Anyway, we cannot change the fact that we go into today’s match at Stamford Bridge in fourth place. Chelsea are a point and a place ahead, in third. Looking at the table after Saturday’s games, it is quite frightening to see that Moyes’ Mancs are just two points below us now. For all the giggling we’ve been doing at them this season…. we really ought to shape up and assert ourselves until we hit the summit again…. and stay there this time. It’s tighter than a pair of leggings at the top this season.

On paper, one might suggest that today’s fixture is an easier one than our visit to the Etihad. However, we go into the game with a squad, already plagued with injuries that has been weakened even further. The proximity of the January transfer window will be a godsend for us. If we are to maintain contact with the top four and possibly attempt to win the league we need a stronger squad. Jon Flanagan is still out. Steven Gerrard, closer to recovery is still absent, along with Daniel Sturridge plus the other long-termers. Victor Moses is ineligible due to his loan conditions, ruling out a Boxing Day player. Our squad is thin on the ground. Aly Cissokho, who didn’t win the praise of the fans last week, is likely to deputise at left-back. There is talk of Daniel Agger replacing Mamadou Sakho in the centre half position though some more cautious liverpool pundits have stated that it’d be better to wait for the Hull fixture to make this change. Simon Mignolet will need to be less shaky today, and we’ll need the midfield firing up well. I thought our attacking triangle against Man City did very well. Philippe Coutinho seemed to sparkle and Raheem Sterling continues to be in top form. There has been a question mark over Luis Suarez’s record against the top sides. He has failed to score in our fixtures this season against Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City. He will be keen to silence doubters and can expect an extra hostile crowd, especially with it being his first meeting with Ivanovic since the notorious biting incident.

Chelsea’s ranks are also depleted though they have a much stronger squad. Ramires is out with a suspension for accumulation of yellow cards. Frank Lampard will most likely step up to replace him and there is no love lost between Frank and us. I’ve not been a fan of his since he broke Xabi Alonso’s ankle at Anfield on New Year’s Day several years ago and proceeded to taunt the Kop, proud of his exploits. Jose Mourinho rotates his defence and Ashley Cole is likely to be replaced by Cesar Azpilicueta. John Terry hits a landmark 600th Chelsea cap in today’s game. Fernando Torres is likely to be up front against the Reds, but this is good news really. In six games against us since he moved he has failed to score a single goal and is yet to register a victory. Chelsea have been far less prolific in front of goal than us so far this season, scoring ten goals fewer. Our defence is likely to be threatened less than on Boxing Day, though Chelsea’s defence is certainly among the strongest in the division.

Brendan Rodgers and Jose Mourinho have a deep mutual respect and with Rodgers having served as junior team coach and also reserve team coach during the outspoken Portuguese’s previous reign at the Blues, both will be well up on each other’s tactics. Rodgers is his three latest managerial jobs has never beaten a Mourinho side. Jose is wily. His return to English football has seen a cagier less flamboyant press image and a seemingly deeper thinking seriousness about him. Chelsea’s football has been criticised for not being free flowing, but they are sitting a point above us.

There’s bad news for the referee doubting Liverpool manager as one of our least favourite men in black takes charge of today’s game. Howard Webb will surely have one eye on the two point gap in the table that separates our side from his. I just hope his Christmas scotch was a little sour.

Another defeat would surely put a spanner in the works. If we can stay in the hunt to the new year, we have an easier run of games coming up and key players are due back from injury. The second half of the season sees us taking most of the top sides back to Anfield where it has been re-established as a fortress. The omen’s are good but today’s game is very crucial. It is a pivot point in our season.

The match kicks off at 4pm and will be shown live on Sky Sports.

Match Report: Manchester City vs Liverpool (26.12.13) L 2-1

- - Match Report

vincent kompany

For Liverpool, the lineup was forced into making one change from its successful one in recent matches. Jon Flanagan didn’t make his fitness test and the talented young left back was replaced by Aly Cissokho.

The game was lively from the start, to and fro, both teams looked set out to play a good open game of football. Jesus Navas hit the post with a header after five minutes. The Manchester City defence looked very disciplined and our early attack moves were thwarted as rigorous pressing, good tackling and a very wide formation stopped us in our tracks. Other teams have not forced us to use the whole width of the pitch and have left room to manoeuvre for our wingers down the sides. City stretched us to the max. I thought Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho looked the main danger men. Luis Suarez was being held on a tight leash by the strict Vincent Kompahy, who commands the Man City defence.

After 19 minutes Sterling latched on to a Luis Suarez through ball. Behind the defence he did well in his one-on-one with Joe Hart but unfortunately the linesman flagged him offside so the goal was disallowed. At twenty-five minutes Sterling and Coutinho combined, the Brazilian hitting the ball into an empty net after Hart was rounded by Sterling. One-nil and Liverpool haven’t lost a game when they’ve scored first this season and only one of those games has ended in a draw.

The lead only lasted five minutes. Vincent Kompany totally outmuscled Martin Skrtel as he rose to head a corner past Simon Mignolet in the Liverpool goal. Joe Allen failed to clear from the goal-line emergency defensive position. Philippe Coutinho almost scored a fantastic response in perhaps our finest move all season. Sterling, Suarez and Coutinho all worked well together and intelligently threaded it through the City centre only for the on-form Joe Hart to deny.

On the stroke of half-time Alvaro Negredo gave the home side the lead. Aly Cissokho was out of position and our centre halves were nowhere to be seen. Negredo broke through and with a fairly weak shot, caused Mignolet to make a rare mistake and fumble the ball into the net. Not the best of times to start making unforced errors. Perhaps our luck has run its course? It’s been end to end for the first half and the game could still go either way> Luis Suarez needs to find a way to escape from Kompany’s pocket.

Manuel Pellegrini had obviously been doing his homework on our Uruguayan marksman. Luis Suarez was being closely controlled, which allowed the other Liverpool players a bit more freedom. Our best move early second half saw Jordan Henderson almost latch onto a lovely deep through-ball. Suarez assisted in getting the rebound into Henderson in a goal-line clamour, but Henderson was given offside. Our attacks now have the finesse of a decent Arsene Wenger side – high quality and well-orchestrated total football.

We were dominating possession, having 70% of it early second half. The game was end to end, but no clear chances were developing. We almost had another nightmare in defence, this time Mignolet coming to the rescue as Mamadou Sakho made a shady pass back which was almost intercepted. Glen Johnson became the first player in the ref’s book. Brendan Rodgers made the first use of his bench with a surprise change: Philippe Coutinho making way for Victor Moses, who we haven’t seen in action for a while. I though Coutinho had been more effective than usual today.

Our persistent possession started to pay. We had three clear cut opportunities in the City box. Glen Johnson, Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling all going very close. Sterling’s chance was a real gilt-edged chance and he should have really scored it. Luis Suarez seemed to be getting muscled out away from the central areas and was cropping up down the sides. Pellegrini turned to his bench to try and turn the tide a little. James Milner came on for Samir Nasri and Edin Dzeko was brought on for Alvaro Negredo. With ten minutes left, Brendan Rodgers sacrificed Luca Leiva for Iago Aspas.

The referee Lee Mason seemed to be making some erratic decisions which were costly for Liverpool. He failed to award several free kicks and Luis Suarez had two good penalty appeals shunned away. He did manage to put Pablo Zabaleta in the book and Luis Suarez also entered it for a high challenge on Joe Hart.

The last ten minutes drifted away with us getting no closer to bridging the divide. At the final whistle the score stood at 2-1. Yes, a disappointment, especially in a game where we dominated possession. We should have done better with our chances, though there were far fewer of them today. Manchester City dealt with Luis Suarez very effectively, keeping him silenced for the first time in ages. Their winning goal was ultimately lucky and perhaps they didn’t deserve victory but a victory to the Sky Blues it was and their title challenge looks a strong one. Our bench lacked the depth of their much stronger CL squad. It could be a telling factor later on in the season. We still have a home game to come against this side and three points at Anfield will not be beyond us. We drop off top spot. A few sour cranberries perhaps to dullen our Christmas party. It’s a Blue Moon on Boxing Day. Let’s get back on the road against Chelsea next…

Man Of The Match: Vincent Kompany – The Manchester City marshalled a well-run defence, dealing with Luis well and also scored a vital goal. The difference between the two teams and a quality player.

Match Preview: Manchester City vs Liverpool (26.12.13)

- - Match Preview

Manchester City CrestLiverpool Crest

It’s time for one of the traditional football delights – the Boxing Day match… Full of Christmas turkey, it’s the time of year to gather around and watch the game – the halfway point of the season – it’s a good time to really start judging your team’s chances for the season. And it’s been a perfect Christmas for Liverpool; a perfect 2013 really, with even Gary Neville recognising Brendan Rodgers as the manager of the year…. We are top of the league, our star player has just put pen to paper on a lucrative contract extension and we have one of the highest league points total in many a year. It hasn’t been a season without flaws and we have dropped vital points and performed badly in a few matches: the Hull City, Southampton and Arsenal games spring to mind… But overall we have been doing very well. Our defence could still plug up a little, but the goals are fast-flowing and our attack, tactics and passing have looked better than they have done in a long time. We have possibly the best striker in world football and despite a couple of key injuries our squad is looking strong and performing well, and more importantly playing together as one. We are a force to be reckoned with and our preseason goal of a top four finish is well on the cards, with a chance now of actually lifting our first ever Premiership League trophy. Managerial changes in other top clubs means that an opportunity like this season may not present itself again. The time is ripe.

Our Boxing Day fixture this year is a mouthwatering fixture that has been creeping up over the past month. Away at the Etihad to Manchester City. Brendan Rodgers says that the title in Manchester City’s to lose. We are top of the league, but the top five are separated by only two points. It is very congested. Manchester City lie third, only a point behind us. The fixture looks particularly prominent as it is a meeting of the two top scoring Premiership sides. Goals have been free-flowing from both teams this year and Manchester City are the only side to have bagged more goals than us – 51 – 9 more than our 42. They have a perfect home record with 8 wins from 8, with a massive 35 goal tally at the City of Manchester stadium. Liverpool are the biggest scorers away from home and top individual goalscorer, Luis Suarez, has already broken the history of the Premiership’s monthly goalscoring record with ten goals in December so far. The firepower should be evenly matched as City’s leading scorer, Sergio Aguero, is out injured until January. We are missing Daniel Sturridge though have been coping well without him, with other players stepping up in the side to contribute to goals.

I think the weakness for both sides in is defence. Both Manuel Pellegrini and Brendan Rodgers have both been tinkering a lot with their defences this season and both have been a little too leaky for title challengers. Hopefully, our problems in the centre have been resolved with consistency being achieved in the last three games, Martin Skrtel being joined by Mamadou Sakho. Today will be their biggest test of the year perhaps? It looks as though Daniel Agger could be off to Napoli on loan in January… Let’s hope that we are extra secure at the back today…

Liverpool come into the fixture off the back of four straight high-scoring wins, though City are no slouches, having has some good dominant victories over Arsenal and Bayern Munich. They also put six past Tottenham. We were dominated by Arsenal and made to look ordinary in our defeat to them. Manchester City completely destroyed them a couple of weeks ago and I suppose, are responsible for us finding ourselves top of the league at Christmas.

Rodgers was present at the Etihad when Bayern Munich beat City in the Champions League so knows full well how they are not infallible at home. He saw the European Champions use a holding midfielder to edge out the 4-4-2 City set-up. Manchester City have been steadily improving all year though.

Last season we had two draws against Manchester City though outperformed them on both occasions. We are a side whose tactics strike fear into the ‘new Chelsea’. City will be there or thereabouts in the top four at the end of the season so it is crucial that we make gains on the head-to-head fixtures. Yes, Aguero is out, but equally, our captain, Steven Gerrard, is a critical injury blow for us. We cannot be overdependent on Luis and the other players around him will all have to bond well and deliver top performances if we are to get points here today. To be fair they have done surprisingly well recently though today is certainly a step up in class.

City’s defence is under the cosh injury-wise with Matija Nastasic, Pablo Zabaleta and Micah Richards all out for the fixture. Our youngster, Jon Flanagan picked up a knock against Cardiff and might not make it, which could be a concern as Jose Enrique is also still out. We could possibly see Martin Kelly getting a recall.

The tables are set and this will certainly be a Christmas treat for both sets of supporters, if only to truly assess our teams’ potential. I hope Luis has a nice bit of Turkey and is feeling fresh as he is unplayable at the moment, whatever the calibre of opponent. I’d like to think he’ll bag a hat-trick, and it would really top off the Reds’ festivities. We’ve been spoilt this Christmas though, and maybe a wake up call is lurking in the mist?

The match kicks off at 1730 and will be shown live on BT Sport.

Match Report: Liverpool vs Cardiff City (21.12.13) W 3-1

- - Match Report

Luis Suarez

The game began with Liverpool retaining their lineup from the previous weekend. For Cardiff, Craig Bellamy didn’t make the starting eleven. Early on the game seem fairly balanced. Luis Suarez got on the ball in the penalty area twice, the second being a good opportunity after Raheem Sterling did very well to get ahead and set it up nicely for the captain. After about ten minutes Liverpool began to turn the screw and became dominant in possession, forcing the visiting Welsh side to defend. They set up some counter attacks though and Craig Noone forced a good save from Simon Mignolet in the fifteenth minute. Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling both had good efforts on goal but Cardiff were organised in defence and battling hard.

Cardiff’s resolve lasted until the 25th minute when, who else, but Luis Suarez stepped up to wonderfully strike a left-footer bang into the back of the net.Unplayable is an understatement. Philippe Coutinho had a moment of magic, seeing a gap next to the keeper and unluckily striking the post. It wasn’t all one way traffic though and Cardiff showed good discipline in their set up. Martin Skrtel had a good header from a set piece that skipped over the crossbar. Liverpool were playing well as a team and lots of players were getting forward. Jon Flanagan almost scored another goal with it being cleared off the line… Brendan Rodgers nomination of him for the Ballon D’Or may not be so far-fetched! Raheem Sterling seemed to be one of our most effective players, and although his final pass or cross could do with some work, his blistering pace gets him into good positions. A little work on his finishing too and he could prove a very valuable asset. With a few minutes until half-time a beautiful break by the Liverpool forwards saw a two on one situation with the keeper. Luis Suarez unselfishly gave the ball to Raheem Sterling who had an easy conversion. The Suarez show rolled on and at the stroke of half-time, an indescribable curling shot just went around everyone and into the goal. It’s as if the guy has magnets set up in the net at the moment. Nobody can stop Luis. 3-nil half-time and Cardiff need a miracle or to kidnap Luis and force him into a Blue shirt….

In the second half it was one-way traffic. Chance after chance was falling to Liverpool. In the fifty-seventh minute a substitution Malky Mackay had made, paid off. Jordan Mutch headed home from close range, the Liverpool defenders disappointingly doing little to counter him. It was a fightback of sorts. Could Malky Mackay defy all the odds? The goal spurred Cardiff on and they started to create some more chances. Cardiff were tenacious and succeeded in reversing the possession and territory that had characterised the game so far. Mignolet was on high alert and managed his goal well.

Cries of ‘Go Back To Malaysia’ rang out around the ground, directed towards the unpopular Cardiff City owner, Vincent Tan. At the end of the day, despite the scoreline Cardiff were looking a strong side and were doing well. They were a credit to their manager and had Vincent Tan allowed for better preparation ahead of the match, maybe Cardiff could be doing even better?

Raheem Sterling managed to join Martin Skrtel in the ref’s book. The sustained pressure was, in a way doing us some good. We are likely to face long periods off the ball against Manchester City and Chelsea. the young man almost added to his goal tally. One on one with the keeper, Sterling just mis-controlled it a little and muffed the opportunity. Luis Suarez hit the post on the follow-up.

Cardiff made three attacking substitutions in an effort to get something from the game. They certainly hadn’t given up. Cautiously, Rodgers took off Coutinho and replaced him with Daniel Agger. Coutinho looked quite lively and had a good game. The Bluebirds had some big players up front and most of their attacks tended to be high long balls in with some physical aerial challenges.

The game reached its conclusion with no further score. The result suggests a comfortable victory but the game was quite even really. We won it in the first half and put it beyond the Premiership newcomers. I just hope that we aren’t held responsible for wrongly prematurely ending another manager’s career. Cardiff did their manager proud and playing they way they did I cannot see staying in the league being a problem. If Vincent Tan wants magic then maybe he’d be better retaining his manager and going out to seek a superfluous South American striker. That would be a positive move for the Cardiff City fans.

Liverpool go top and it’s comforting to see them there. I think that the next two games could be decisive for the season and give us a true indication if we have true title pedigree.

Man Of The Match: although I think Raheem Sterling performed very well, it is hard not to give this award to Luis Suarez. In a week where he gave every Liverpool fan a welcome Xmas gift by signing a new contract, Suarez showed clearly how lucky we are. He set up a goal and scored two himself, the second being truly world class. He was the difference between the two sides and is yet again the Gerrard The Red man of the match.

 

Match Preview: Liverpool vs Cardiff City (21.12.13)

- - Match Preview

Liverpool CrestCardiff City Crest

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Christmas games are upon us and we have almost reached the traditional halfway stage of the league season. Liverpool are sat happy in second and a win today will put them top with Arsenal needing a victory on Monday against Chelsea to regain number 1 spot in time for the festivities. Liverpool fans are in ebullient mood after last week’s demolition of Tottenham. Three straight victories and possibly the world’s best player in untouchable form… All looks good for the Anfielders…

Cardiff City come to a tricky away fixture in what has been a bad week for them. They lie in fifteenth in the table, only four points from the drop-zone, but a win today would take them to tenth… It hasn’t been a bad season for them really. For novice top-flighters they are doing well with some impressive results against top sides including a victory against Manchester City and a good draw against Manchester United. This week has seen controversial Malaysian owner Vincent Tan issue an ultimatum to manager Malky Mackay to either resign or be sacked. t’s provoked a great deal of sympathy and reaction for the manager, including in particular from his former colleague, Brendan Rodgers, who was one of the first people to stand firmly behind the under pressure boss. Personally I think that the Cardiff City fans should have forced Vincent Tan out when he started making irrational decisions about their kit colour. How a team nicknamed ‘The Bluebirds’ should be forced to change to red, God only knows. Just imagine the furore if Liverpool suddenly changed colour to blue… It just wouldn’t be possible. We, as a club, know exactly what problems bad owners can cause after the Gillett and Hicks saga. Cardiff should maybe learn from us and see how it is possible to get rid of bad owners, if it is perhaps more difficult than changing manager.

On a positive note, something I noticed about a month ago, was an announcement by Liverpool and Cardiff City that both clubs have mutually agreed to offer supporters a discount on tickets for the two matches they have scheduled this season. All supporters get a five pound reduction at the Anfield turnstiles and there will be a similar discount in the Cardiff fixture later in the year. In today’s money-hungry competitive game, it is nice to see two clubs being amicable and giving something back to the people.

Liverpool’s off-field news has been a lot more uplifting. The perfect Christmas present for Reds supporters across the world was announced on Friday, with our talisman and star player, Luis Suarez, putting pen to paper and signing a new four and a half year contract. Critics might suggest that contracts are pretty worthless, but should things deteriorate the £90 million buyout clause is certainly good insurance. If I’d have been told at the height of the summer that by Christmas the Luis situation would be as it is, I wouldn’t have believed it. I’ve always liked Luis and rated him highly but he has surpassed all expectations and the future of our club is on his shoulders. I hope that all Liverpool fans can do their best to keep him and his family happy in the UK, where he is welcome, whatever the press might be saying. We have something special on our hands, perhaps more special than anything I can remember in Liverpool history. The sky’s the limit with Liverpool Lu.

There have been no further injuries this week and Brendan Rodgers could well start the same eleven from last week. Consistency in central defence seems to have been found with Mamadou Sakho and Martin Skrtel being the favoured formula. I think Jordan Henderson’s engine could really rev up our midfield and I can’t see what could be gained by making any changes to the lineup… Cardiff have only scored 12 goals all season so are not a great threat up front. Craig Bellamy could be vital today for them, with his experience and knowledge of Liverpool, though he faces a fitness test to see if he’s available. Other than that, the Cardiff dugout (whoever is in it!) will have a full side available for selection.

Today’s is a rare fixture. The last time these sides met at Anfield in the league was in 1959. Cardiff were riding high in Division 2 and Liverpool were languishing. Cardiff won 4-0 that day. The match was a pivotal moment in our history, however, as it was the first game in charge for our new manager, Bill Shankly, who, of course reversed the fortunes of our great club and led them to where they stand today. It’s a good job that Vincent Tan wasn’t in charge back then or Shankly may not have lasted…

Apparently, the Cardiff owner has plans to attend the game and the Kop have already stated that they will be joining in with any Cardiff fans’ demonstrations. It will be a Christmas pantomime, whatever the result, though I can’t see Cardiff realistically being able to deal with the pressure and no defender in the world is able to cope with Luis Suarez.

We have to be cautious and keep one eye on the two big away games we have after this one. Chelsea and Manchester City will require full concentration and now is the time to prepare.

The match kicks off at 12.45pm and will be shown live on BT Sport.

Match Report: Tottenham vs Liverpool (15.12.13) W 0-5

- - Match Report

Jordan Henderson

Luis Suarez led the team out with the responsibilities of the captain’s armband. It is a big game for us today and we need our star man to step up to the occasion. Liverpool began the game well, giving as good as they got in terms of possession and passing. Tottenham got forward on occasion but it was Liverpool that looked more dangerous in attacking positions. The lack of Gerrard seemed to be made up with Jordan Henderson and Joe Allen both getting into advanced positions. Sterling won a good free kick on the side of the box but unfortunately Philippe Coutinho could do little with it. Luis Suarez almost drew a penalty claim but managed to keep playing on and gained a corner instead. In the eighteenth minute our perseverance paid off and surprise surprise it was Suarez on the scoresheet yet again. Jordan Henderson put a good through ball into Luis, who with remarkable individual brilliance, weaved his way around the Spurs defence and casually placed the ball beyond the keeper into the corner of the net. 1-0 and it is fair to say that Suarez is unstoppable.

Shortly afterwards, the keeper Hugo Lloris made some amends for the goal by getting off his line well to deny Joe Allen from getting in on goal. Roberto Soldado in attack for Tottenham looked the principal source of goals for Spurs yet our central defenders (retained from the West Ham game), Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho, had him well in their pockets. Michael Dawson, the Tottenham skipper, made a cynical challenge on a breaking Jordan Henderson and got himself into the ref’s book with a caution. In the ensuing attack Philippe Coutinho hit a messy volley which bounced around and came off the crossbar. Glen Johnson’s follow up was clipped wide. Tottenham were forced into a personnel change, Lewis Holtby coming on for Sandro, who limped off. Nacer Chadli climbed up to head a corner for Spurs’ best opportunity. At the other end, confusion allowed Luis Suarez to have a good chance on goal and what seemed a certainty was stopped. It was very out of character for our man not to score…

Liverpool were really dominating possession and were far more incisive. Any chances Spurs had in front of goal were messy and quite easily cut out. A rare defensive slip allowed Lewis Holtby to have an attempt but he snatched at it and it was in vain. Jordan Henderson, who was playing very well, made another driving run at the defence and unluckily had his shot beaten away by Lloris. Suarez pounced on the rebound and again Lloris parried, but third time lucky Henderson remained calm and coolly volleyed into the net for Liverpool’s second.

Soldado at the other end was showing that at least he hadn’t given up. Sakho messily forced Mignolet into making an error and Soldado pounced but was deemed to have shoulder-barged the Reds keeper too strongly. Half time came and Liverpool go in two goals to the good. With Spurs struggling to score this season, let’s hope that we can hold it together defensively and that the two goals will be enough for all three points. Liverpool are deservedly ahead and it has been a good first 45 minutes of football.

Tottenham made a half time change bringing on Zeki Fryers for Kyle Naughton at left-back. With two substitutions already gone, it leaves Andre Villas-Boas with few options to change the flow of the game with impact substitutions later on. The second half kicked off and Roberto Soldado wasted a good opportunity, failing to work Simon Mignolet properly in the Liverpool goal. Liverpool resumed their dominance and after Raheem Sterling excellently set the ball up with a dinky cross, Mamadou Sakho rose and was very unfortunate to hit the post with his header. Martin Skrtel shot wide with the follow up ball. It was a great opportunity to kill the game off. One more goal should seal the victory.

Spurs were, of sorts, fighting back in the second half and had more possession. Villas-Boas made his tactical move bringing on Andros Townsend for Moussa Dembele. However, Spurs fightback suffered a real setback when a late challenge on Luis Suarez from Paulinho saw the Brazilian get a straight sending off. More alarmingly was the way Luis grimaced. We can certainly do without any more key injuries. Holtby soon after fouled Joe Allen and ended up in the book also.

Liverpool started to make the extra man tell and Suarez continued to cut through the Tottenham defence like butter. The final killer blow came at the 75 minute mark. Henderson, taking the ball towards the corner, did a lovely nutmeg back heel for the ball to be crossed into an arriving Jon Flanagan who, from the left of the box slammed the ball, with a striker’s composure into the top of the bar from where it bounced into the back of the net. it was the young defender’s first goal for the club and the celebrations from relieved teammates showed how proud they all were.

Lucas Leiva was allowed a break and made way to be replaced by Luis Alberto. The fight had gone out of Tottenham. Liverpool kept them pinned back and pinged passes around with ease. Raheem Sterling made a good break but his lack of control at the critical moment let Spurs off the hook. Luis as one might imagine, had not quite had enough in this game. His second came with a nice dink over a rushing Lloris to get a brace. I think that talk of him as Ballon D’Or material is not wide of the mark. He most certainly is likely to gain a few awards this year. I just hope he doesn’t get too much better or we will face a struggle to retain his services next year.

Suarez became provider next, putting Raheem Sterling through on goal with a lovely through ball. The youngster, who had probably had his best performance so far this season deserved to get on the scoresheet and didn’t disappoint, slotting the ball cleanly home.

In the final few minutes the home supporters headed for the turnstiles. Liverpool songs reverberated around White Hart Lane. We had converted this away fixture into a home one. Spurs have had poor home form and to be honest the 5-0 scoreline was flattering and surprised me. Tottenham are a side who are contenders for a top four finish and today we left a big dent in these aspirations. We totally dominated them with a supreme team performance. Tactically Brendan Rodgers has to take credit. We are in the midst of an injury crisis and he has prepared the team well to show good spirit and confidence. In six years we have lost all our games at White Hart Lane. We have put that statistic to bed and the 5-0 victory reasserts our position in second in the league with Arsenal only two points ahead now. Three more tricky fixtures to go over Christmas but we are a form side that will trouble anyone at present. Today was a day that exceeded all expectations.

Man Of The Match: Jordan Henderson. A good team performance with plenty of contenders for man of the match. Jordan Henderson, however, stood out. He filled the void of missing captain Steven Gerrard and was the link man between the midfield and attack. He was involved in several of the goals and of course bagged one himself. A top performance and the watching England manager, Roy Hodgson, must surely be considering the young man for next summer’s World Cup.