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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 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 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.

Match Report: Hull City vs Liverpool (01.12.13) L 3-1

- - Match Report

Tom Huddlestone

There were a few surprises in the starting lineup. Philippe Coutinho, it transpires, will also be missing from our attack with a niggling injury from this week’s training. He made the bench , however, unlike Daniel Sturridge, of course, whose 6-8 week absence was confirmed by the club prior to kick off. Kolo Toure was called up in place of Daniel Agger and Victor Moses and Raheem Sterling were called in to support Luis Suarez up front.

The question regarding Steve Bruce’s defensive lineup was answered by the Hull City defence conservatively opting for five men at the back. The first twenty minutes proceeded somewhat cautiously with Liverpool perhaps edging possession yet their depleted attack and the enhanced Hull defence cancelling each other out. Gerrard shone initially for the away side, pinging a couple of his trademark long crossfield balls, though in the centre of the attack, it was all a bit hackety-hack with our strikeforce failing to link properly and Hull being able to belt the ball away from their lines. At the end of the first twenty minutes, Hull were to benefit from a massive stroke of luck. Jake Livermore, moving forward dangerously, recollecting from a one-two, hit a speculative effort which unfortunately caught a huge ricochet off Martin Skrtel and left the Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet powerless to stop the ball from careering into the goal. Hull were up and with a good home defensive record Liverpool needed to step it up.

The Reds duly did increase the pace of their game and within ten minutes got their reward. Jordan Henderson made a good run towards the edge of the penalty area and was brought down under a hefty challenge from Curtis Davies who went straight into Howard Webb’s book. The free kick was perfectly within Luis Suarez’s range. It was the captain, however, who stepped up to the mark and beautifully defying the wall, Steven Gerrard guided the ball with missile-like accuracy past the keeper into the bottom corner to draw us back level.

In open play, Hull’s defensive tactics seemed to be working well. The newcomers, Raheem Sterling and Victor Moses, weren’t using the width of the pitch and with a narrow attack, it was relatively simple for the banks of defenders to prevent any breakthroughs. Hull were playing classic counter-attack football yet their rarer attacks seemed more penetrative. I hate playing against the lesser sides who do tend to be overly cautious against us. In seasons gone by we just fail to deal with overly-defensive less-skilled opponents and drop unnecessary points far too often.

Lucas Leiva, not for the first time this season, was the victim of simulation. Robert Brady went down far too easily as he moved into the box and Howard Webb, having a surprisingly good game (considering he was refereeing his arch rivals), cautioned the diving offender.

Half time soon followed. My thoughts at the end of the first half was that Sturridge was noticeably lacking. Passing was relatively poor, especially the link up play in the final third. We are guilty of allowing Hull to dictate how the game is being played. We are reducing our skill level to their standard and playing a style of game which is more suited to them. We need some freshness second half and to try a different approach. Coutinho’s creativity could prove crucial if he is risked from the bench. We need these three points, at the start of a challenging string of games and with Arsenal striding well ahead at the top. It’s going to be noses to the grindstone after the break and we are going to need to grind out a result.

At the start of the second half there wasn’t really a discernible change in the pattern of play. Hull still had Liverpool contained by imposing their style of football on the game. The ball was rarely on the ground and spent far too often in the air, inviting messy aerial challenges at both ends of the pitch. There were little niggles going on in clattering challenges and our only hope seemed to be from set pieces where we have been very strong all year. Skrtel managed to get up well for a corner but a foul was given against him. There seemed a lethargy to our play. Hull’s discipline off the ball was wearing us down and mistakes were starting to show when we were in possession. The more our natural game was broken up, the more distant the three points were becoming.

For the last quarter Brendan Rodgers made the much anticipated change and brought on Coutinho for Sterling, who’d been fairly anonymous for the second half. Tom Huddlestone had been having a good game in the centre of the park for Hull and he managed to have a good attempt on goal. He was certainly one of the best players on the park. Victor Moses has a gilt-edged opportunity right in front of goal at the other end of the pitch. The game seemed to be opening up a little. Again, it was Hull who took the lead. The Liverpool defenders failed to properly clear an aerial ball into the box. The ball was pinging around like a pinball machine off the shins of defenders and attackers when it set itself up nicely for David Meyler in space, who with a quality strike, steered it past Liverpool’s Belgian shot-stopper. We had allowed Hull to stay in the game and play their style of football and it was starting to hurt us. For a team who had been struggling so much to score in a game, it is such typical luck that everything seemed to tick into place against us.

Victor Moses was sacrificed for Luis Alberto, but all of Liverpool’s spirit had gone out of the game. Hull were holding possession a lot better now. Even our talisman couldn’t conjure up his magic. After he was again clattered over, Suarez delivered a free kick but it was well wide of the mark. To sum up our terrible day at the office, in the final five minutes of the game, events conspired against us yet again. Toure, down in the box, was playing everyone onside. Tom Huddlestone managed to get another fortunate deflection off Skrtel who perhaps had been our best player all game, despite being the last touch on two opposition goals. Huddlestone scored his first goal in two and a half years. Prior to this game Hull had scored only nine goals all season. To get three against us, with our fairly mean defence, was a remarkable achievement. The game was far from pretty, but the home side did what was necessary to beat us. We have had a strong season so far, but we faced an astute tactician today in Steve Bruce, who set his team up well. Their good discipline is what undid us. They dictated to us how to play and broke up our normal patterns. We lacked creativity up front and the supply to Luis Suarez was appalling. Moses and Sterling were the wrong choice to start and both struggled to engage effectively. We did miss Sturridge. Our SAS is enough to trouble any defence, but a lone striker needs a foil. Our lack of squad depth is perhaps coming to haunt us. The final whistle delivered a 3-1 victory, Hull’s first ever win against us.

We don’t have time to restructure, with two games in the next 6 days. Luckily they are both at home. We need to address our performance today quickly. It was the worst of the year so far and if we want to stay in touch at the top of the table we will need to change our ways quickly. Hull deserved the victory today and we cannot be bitter. It’s the same old story of matches we should be winning against much weaker opponents turning into nightmare performances.

Man Of The Match: Tom Huddlestone. He made Gerrard and compadres look ordinary on the centre of the park and played some lovely flowing football, culminating in maybe a career defining goal.

Match Preview: Hull City vs Liverpool (01.12.13)

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Liverpool travel to the KC Stadium for an away fixture that at first glance looks a nice comfortable three-pointer after the challenges posed to us at Goodison in the derby last weekend. In sixteen games against Liverpool, Hull City are winless, though two of the four premiership fixtures between the sides have ended in draws. The big headlines for Liverpool is that the SAS is a man down. We haven’t the largest of squads and the element that has had most success so far this season has come undone with Daniel Sturridge picking up a sprained ankle in Friday’s training. Our attack will be spearheaded by Luis alone this week, though with the kind support of Coutinho and Gerrard, maybe this will be enough to see off the challenge from 13th place Hull. Hull City, since promotion, have had a fair amount of success, with this relatively high league position. Their defence has been particularly solid at home though Liverpool are the first major side to face them on their own soil. They are on a losing streak at present, however, and have lost 4 of their last 5 fixtures. The main problem facing Hull, is that despite playing good football from box to box, their strikers have lacked goals. They have the third poorest goalscoring tally in the league at 9, which is what both Luis and Sturridge each have scored independently. Our defence has performed well, though not so much on our travels. Jon Flanagan played a confident role in the derby and is likely to keep his place at left back, though with much of Hull’s forward momentum going through their Egyptian right winger, Elmohamedy, Flanagan could be in for an awkward day. The other main danger for the home side is their playmaker, former Spurs man Tom Huddlestone. He will be fired up to face the England captain Steven Gerrard and he is the most active of Hull’s passers. The Hull defence faces injury difficulties as they lost Paul McShane to a hamstring injury in their defeat to Crystal Palace last weekend.

Perhaps, Brendan Rodgers will be spoilt for choice in his selection for central defence, but the gap in attack should prove more troublesome. Could we see a return of the out of favour Iago Aspas? It looks as though Sturridge could be absent for a while and with some critical Christmas fixtures just around the corner we need to really ensure the effectiveness of our strikeforce. Another selection issue could be whether or not Joe Allen fits into midfield, allowing the captain to get forward more. Rodgers’ main man, the former Swansea star is not flavour of the month with Reds’ fans, especially after his horrific miss in the derby. The Sturridge dilemma should have us all puzzling for the bossman’s solution. Opposition manager, Steve Bruce, perhaps has the more awkward job, in plugging one of the most prolific scoring teams with a side which has little in the way of attack itself. He will need to set up his formation with a view to keeping the home fans happy, but with also safety in mind. Hull have tried their more traditionally favoured wing back defence as well as a four man defence. I suppose it depends on how Liverpool decide to set up that will determine Bruce’s final decision.

Arsenal have already played this weekend and their resounding three points away to Cardiff have left them with an impressive seven point lead. We’re still second in the top four though things are getting mightily congested in the Champions League spots. Other top sides are also playing on Sunday and we have no excuse to drop points here at the KC. Liverpool will be expected to win and let’s hope that all goes to plan.

The match kicks off at 2.05pm and will be televised live on Sky Sports.

Match Preview: Everton vs Liverpool (23.11.13)

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Well, thankfully, the last international break of the year is now over. It’s back to business in the premier league and Liverpool have their work cut out with a tricky away derby fixture at Goodison Park. We haven’t done particularly well so far this season immediately after an international break. The gap in our playing schedule has affected our performance. Liverpool looked good last time out and seemed to have regained their form after the slump against Arsenal. Everton are really likely to make a good test of that resurgent form and perhaps present our second most difficult game of the season so far. Since David Moyes’ departure in the summer, Roberto Martinez has stepped in and improved the team. A win against us today would put them level on points after twelve games. Our best season in years is matched by our derby rivals, who let’s not forget, finished above us last season. Derbies are critical games and local bragging rights are very important, especially if no trophies are on the mantlepiece at the end of the season.

Roberto Martinez, who was said to be in consideration for the Liverpool job before Brendan Rodgers’ appointment, will savour his first derby match and will be keen for victory. Everton have only lost one game all season, fewer than Liverpool. They will be difficult to beat, especially at home. Their recent form, however, does suggest a bit of a slip, with two goalless draws against Spurs and Crystal Palace. There are no main injury concerns for the Blues. Tony Hibbert and Antolin Alcaraz both are available once again for selection after long-term absences.

Liverpool have Jose Enrique missing, out for some time due to a scheduled operation on his troubled knee. Either Aly Cissokho or John Flanagan look set to replace Enrique. Kolo Toure is back available for selection and hopefully Daniel Sturridge will be fit, despite still enduring a dead leg. Our other star striker, Luis Suarez made headlines this week after Reds’ owner John Henry lent him use of his private jet to return home early from his international duties with Uruguay.

This game is traditionally the dirtiest game in the league with 26 red cards having been shown. Will it be a tough tackling game or will the flowing style of football favoured by both coaches rule the day? It is a crucial derby where both sides are very high in the table so a bit more than just local pride is at stake. The corresponding game last year finished in a 2-2 draw and I feel that to get a point today would be a good result for Liverpool.

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

Match Report: Liverpool vs Fulham (09.11.13) W 4-0

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Luis Suarez

Liverpool kicked off the match reverting to their more typical 4-4-2 formation. Daniel Agger had a recall in the centre of defence, pairing up with Martin Skrtel. Aly Cissokho retained his place as left-back and Glen Johnson returned on the right. Philippe Coutinho was our additional midfielder, making a welcome return.

Right from the outset, Liverpool demonstrated their intentions by setting up camp in the Fulham half. Defensively Fulham looked very weak. They weren’t pressing the ball at all and had a very shaky formation. they just seemed interested in getting men behind the ball and banks of defenders built up to wait for Liverpool mistakes and to hack the ball away.

It seemed as though Coutinho would be more advanced and it was more like a 4-3-3 formation from Liverpool. The side were certainly very positive and were passing the ball around really well, with Jordan Henderson and Steven Gerrard in particular, dovetailing nicely and creating lots of good attacking opportunities. Luis Suarez came closest to breaking the early deadlock, moving nicely into the box, but being denied by Fulham keeper, Maarten Stekelenburg.

In the twenty-third minute, Steven Gerrard lifted another of his perfectly executed free-kicks into the box. It connected with Luis Suarez’s head and was knocked into the back of the net by Fulham player, Fernando Amorebieta. Liverpool deservedly had the lead. Three minutes later and that lead was doubled when Martin Skrtel rose to head home a Steven Gerrard corner. liverpool were rampant with over two thirds of possession and the vast majority of the territory. There were lots of skills flowing, with Philippe Coutinho regularly outclassing the lacklustre Fulham defenders. In the thirty-sixth minute an awesome crossfield pass from Gerrard was slotted through to Luis Suarez by Jordan Henderson. It was a perfectly executed pass and Luis Suarez, in a rich goal-scoring vein, had little hesitation when slotting it past the Fulham keeper.

Martin Jol and the Fulham bench looked on desolate and the Fulham players looked relieved at the half-time whistle. Liverpool had enjoyed 70% possession and a return from this result looked out of the question.

As soon as the whistle blew Liverpool were straight on the attack. Daniel Sturridge had his turn in front of the keeper and was unlucky not to score and Suarez latched onto the rebound to no avail. Sturridge has looked a bit shaky in front of goal the past few games and today was no exception. Still, him, Gerrard, Coutinho and Suarez were making mincemeat of the poor Fulham side. They were just gliding past them. If Liverpool hadn’t have taken their foot off the gas, then this game could easily have been a complete rout. In the fifty-fourth minute Gerrard picked out Suarez’s run and in a one-on-one with the keeper, he easily beat him to bag his brace.

At 4-0 it made sense for Brendan Rodgers to rest some key players. Aly Cissokho was replaced by the returning Jose Enrique, Joe Allen came on for the captain, Steven Gerrard, who’d had a forceful impact on the game, and Daniel Sturridge made way for Victor Moses. Fulham made a few changes but the game was well beyond them. From the start of this match they hadn’t looked at all if they were bothered about playing or getting a result. The bench was static throughout and Jol’s odds to be the next sacked manager must surely have strengthened.

The game closed out as a 4-0 victory and a favourable result of a draw in the Chelsea West Brom game means that Liverpool regain second in the league, with Arsenal still maintaining a two point lead and have to play Man United tomorrow.

Again, we go into an international break in a strong position. Let’s hope our players don’t get over-exerted for their national sides and we return in a fortnight to face Everton playing as well as we have done today.

Man Of The Match: Although Henderson and Gerrard both had superb games, Luis Suarez has to be man of the match. He looked absolutely deadly in front of goal and was unlucky not to bag another hat-trick.

Match Preview: Liverpool vs Fulham (09.11.13)

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Liverpool were humbled last week on their trip to the Emirates and have dropped to third place in the league, with Arsenal opening up a five point gap at the top. Today’s fixture offers Liverpool a good opportunity to recover. A home game against Fulham who are just two points away from the drop zone in sixteenth place. Brendan Rodgers has set a target of gaining two points per game in order to gain Champions League qualification and by beating Fulham today their average will rise above this two points benchmark.

Glen Johnson, who was ill for last week’s game, will be back available for selection at right-back. Also, Jose Enrique is back in training and should be fighting it out with Aly Cissokho for the left-back position. Philippe Coutinho is fully recovered from his shoulder injury and should be in contention for a starting place.

Fulham welcome back captain Brede Hangeland from injury though a few players will be missing; Sascha Riether is serving a three match FA suspension for a stamp against Manchester United’s Adnan Januzaj; Hugo Rodellega and Matthew Briggs both have injuries.

Fulham have conceded 15 goals in ten games and lost the past three on the bounce. Manager Martin Jol is under intense pressure and is odds-on to be the next Premiership manager to be sacked. However’ Fulham have proved a tricky side for Liverpool in the past few seasons and in three of the past five fixtures between them at Anfield they have kept a clean sheet.

It’s the last game ahead of yet another international break so hopefully we should achieve the three points on offer as easily as might be suggested. The SAS are the top-scoring strike premiership and Fulham’s weak defensive record means that we could be witnessing a goal fest at Anfield this afternoon.

The match kicks off at 3pm and isn’t televised in the UK, but will be shown on Setanta Ireland and you can usually find a good internet live stream at http://wiziwig.tv