Posts Tagged: "Howard Webb"

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: 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.