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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 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 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 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: Liverpool vs West Ham (07.12.13) W 4-1

- - Match Report

Man Of The Match: Luis Suarez

Prior to the whistle there was a tribute to Nelson Mandela. Whatever your views on Mandela there is no doubt he was an icon of the twentieth century and he did have links to our football club. After he died, I found this post online showing photos of him meeting the Liverpool team and also sporting a Liverpool top. This is enough for me to wish he rest in peace. http://www.thisisanfield.com/2013/12/liverpool-football-unites-pay-tribute-nelson-mandela-died-aged-95/

The match got underway, with further tinkering in the centre backs. Rotation seems to be a fixed policy. Martin Skrtel seems first choice and a constant, but Daniel Agger was dropped today in favour of Mamadou Sakho. I think that Sakho has good potential and he did very well recently for France in their critical world cup qualifiers. West Ham’s attack aren’t great so maybe that elusive clean sheet will come good today?

Luis Suarez looked keen and lobbed an early attempt wide, he was linking well with Philippe Coutinho too. West Ham are likely to hole up their defence today (like they did last season) but our attack could be very dangerous. West Ham gave a bit of tit-for-tat and got an early corner at their business end of the pitch. It was straight back up the other end, though, with Jordan Henderson this time putting West Ham under pressure.
West Ham were surprising tactically – Rather than shutting up shop, they set up in quite an open formation and were giving as good as they got in terms of attacking. It was an open game and could go either way. Modibo Maiga latched onto a good cross, and finding a good gap between the central defenders, put a strong header in on goal only for the superb Simon Mignolet to save well.

It took until 40 minutes for Liverpool to get their breakthrough. Jussi Jääskeläinen saved a blast from Luis Suarez but unluckily for the Hammers it rebounded into the goal off their own player, Guy Demel. Liverpool were a goal to the good and Luis, perhaps angry at not being able to claim this goal, was straight back up to almost get another, this time shooting over the bar. West Ham had done well first half, and we’ll need another goal to secure this game in the second half.

Just after half-time Martin Skrtel stepped up to double the lead. Steven Gerrard delivered a free kick which Mamadou Sakho got onto and combining with Skrtel the ball ended up in the back of the net. It’s nice for people other than Luis Suarez to contribute on the scoresheet! It gets boring all these goals he’s scoring! lol

A bit of bad news followed with Steven Gerrard pulling up and having to be precautionary withdrawn and replaced by Lucas Leiva. Hopefully it will be nothing serious and the job is half done for this match. Glen Johnson took up the captan’s armband.  West Ham changed Joey O’Brien for James Tomkins.

The big difference in the second half is that Liverpool became totally dominant. Our attack was much more varied now, with good combinations coming throughout the whole team which was good to see. Chances were flying about thick and fast with Coutinho and Raheem Sterling both going close.

If things were going well upfront, then in defence that elusive clean sheet slipped past us yet again. This time we were the victim of bad luck. On a rare West Ham forward move, Jarvis headed and it came off Skrtel for an own goal. Suddenly the Hammers had found their way back into the match and the impetus was now with them.

Big danger, as now Joe Cole was on the pitch… though he might have started, I just noticed him as he went into the ref’s book… Raheem Sterling off, Victor Moses on. A good game from Raheem today – our fringe squad members are staking their places well. It was good to see Martin Kelly come off the bench too, though Jon Flanagan had had another good game. I think Rodgers has made some positive substitutions with West Ham starting to show strength. A fresh face or two could put us back in the mix properly.

Liverpool Lu soon came to the rescue… He got on the end of a decent Glen Johnson cross to bang in yet another Anfield goal. Into the last ten minutes with the two goal deficit restored. Kevin Nolan gave the game another turn by going straight through the back of the already tender Jordan Henderson and getting a straight red card for his troubles. Luis, again, with his brace, a nice solo effort culminating in a deflected blast. On a hat-trick now he kept on pressurising the Hammers. Is there any stopping this man? I pray that he meant that he wants to stay with us and I hope that our board come through on the promise to make him one of the league’s top earners when they offer a new contract. All seems forgiven for the summer of woe and our main man looks as though he could be picking up a Ballon D’Or any time soon.

Full time: Liverpool 4-1 West Ham… West Ham were courageous but who on earth can stop our main man at present. An excellent team performance. A good couple of home wins. Next up we have a series of trickier opponents which I think could prove to us if we really will be in with a chance of a top four finish at the end of the season. Back in second now. Let’s see where we are at Christmas.

Man of The Match: Up until the 70th minute I was going to give it to Philippe Coutinho who I think played very well and showed he had fully recovered from his injury, but it’s another no-brainer, Luis Suarez, stepping up when it mattered and winning the game for us with a late brace. Luis will probably be a bit disappointed with his performance which let’s face it at only 2 goals in below par… I’d be surprised if the bookies accept any further bets on the top scorer this season. Prove the haters wrong, lad, and keep hope in your heart…

Match Preview: Liverpool vs West Ham (07.12.13)

- - Match Preview

Liverpool CrestWest Ham Crest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Liverpool are on a high after their midweek drumming of Norwich which was maybe the highlight of our season. Will our form be maintained? Today’s Anfield visitors are West Ham, who in contrast to Liverpool, had a messy 1-0 defeat midweek to lowly Crystal Palace. West Ham have made 55 visits to Anfield in the league and have won just three. In September 1963 they had their last success against us. Having said that, I can remember a West Ham team giving us a damned good run for money in the 2006 FA Cup Final. They are a big club, with good support and as the league has already demonstrated to Liverpool’s woe this season, anything can happen in ninety minutes.

Liverpool have two key players, Daniel Sturridge and Jose Enrique missing with long term injuries, but the impact on our squad is minor compared with West Ham’s poor run of luck. Ricardo Vaz Te, Razvan Rat, George McCartney and Alou Diarra are all missing. Former Reds striker Andy Carroll is back in light training, though still unlikely to feature. To compound the injury woe, Ravel Morrison picked up a post final whistle caution taking him to a season tally of five so he will be serving a ban. A possible thorn in the West Ham squad, who could step up to haunt us is Stewart Downing. I felt he performed very well for us in the second half of last season and was surprised that he was allowed to leave on such a low transfer fee. I haven’t really been following his form this season, but his knowledge of our game will certainly help in the away dressing room.

West Ham sit one place out of the relegation zone so another season of dodging the relegation bullet looks in store for them. They usually only start playing in the last couple of months of the season. Liverpool are within their targeted zone – just. Everton are just outside the Champions League places in fifth, behind us only on goal difference. Tottenham are still within striking distance but the heights of Arsenal look a dizzying distance away and CHelsea and Manchester City are starting to show good form, even if both had shakier starts than us.

West Ham have scored fewer goals than Luis Suarez all season, even with him skipping the first five games. Perhaps we should just send him out alone and all will be well? It might not be quite as easy as that though… The Hammers, despite their low position, do have a much tighter defensive record. Norwich, for example, have conceded 28 goals to West Ham’s 15. Defensively they are one of the best sides in the league and are even better than us. Liverpool have conceded 17 goals this season, a frightening statistic, considering our leanness at the back in previous years. We do have work to do at the back. Simon Mignolet needs to settle properly and a stable centre back pairing needs to be found desperately. When we start facing the top sides, this leaky defence will prove critical.

Liverpool have only lost twice in 17 home games (W12 D3 L2)
West Ham have only won twice in their past 21 away games (W2 D6 L13)

Three changes were made after the Hull disaster and Daniel Agger, Joe Allen and Philippe Coutinho can realistically expect to hold their starting lineup places. I expect a quiet game defensively though our attack could find it frustrating. As super and red-hot as Luis is, West Ham are quite capable of shutting up shop. That tactic works very effectively against us and their 0-0 draw in the corresponding fixture last season could be inspiring to Sam Allardyce’s men. The pressure is on but I’d imagine a boisterous Kop could prove vital. Now that Uruguay have been drawn in England’s group for the World Cup, I’d expect the Luis Suarez haters to be really chomping at the bit. He will have to learn to deal with the venom of away fans from here on out and I’d imagine the tackles flying in on our star man will be even more heavier than usual. God only knows what the media have in store for poor Luis as the summer draws near!

There are rumours of a mural on the Kop thanking Sam Allardyce for re-signing Joe Cole.

The match kicks off at 3pm and isn’t being televised live. I’d recommend trying http://wiziwig.tv to find a decent live internet stream.

Match Report: Liverpool vs Norwich City (04.12.13) W 5-1

- - Match Report

Luis Suarez hat trick

Liverpool began the game with manager Brendan Rodgers imposing three changes on the starting line-up, following the defeat at Hull City. Daniel Agger coming back in for Kolo Toure at centre back was widely expected. Philippe Coutinho was fit enough for a starting place and Victor Moses dropped back down to the bench. The big surprise, perhaps, was that Lucas Leiva was left aside in favour of Joe Allen. Maybe, a home fixture against Norwich could be a good opportunity for the young Welshman to demonstrate his abilities? Raheem Sterling kept his place ahead of Iago Aspas or Luis Alberto, and Jon Flanagan also maintained his newly-acquired left back role.

We obviously lost the toss, as the visitors were forcing us to attack the Kop in the first half. Norwich showed some initial liveliness which made the Kop stand alert as if they were going to have to dig in for the rare midweek evening fixture. Anfield always has a better atmosphere for evening fixtures, and the crowd seemed in good spirits despite the grumpiness among fans that has lingered since Sunday’s embarrassment.

Philippe Coutinho certainly seemed keen and was displaying his silky skills right from the start. For the first fifteen minutes Norwich certainly kept our attention. We were playing loads better than at the KC stadium, with our passes smooth and linking up well. Norwich though looked set to be a test. At the fifteen minute mark, our star Uruguayan, who has a most excellent scoring record against Delia Smith’s outfit, decided to conjure up something special… From out of nowhere, forty-five yards out, Luis hit a spectacular half-volley which absolutely scorched past Norwich keeper, Paul Ruddy, into the corner of the goal. It was a real contender for goal of the season and surely sent out a clear message of intent to the Canaries. They were stuck down a mineshaft for sure and gas was leaking!

The deadlock was broken but still Norwich kept their chins up and showed they were here for a game. Wes Hoolahan was one name that was never far away from the commentators tongue. Bradley Johnson managed to find his way into the ref’s book. At the half hour mark, Liverpool’s lead was to double. Steven Gerrard flicked on Philippe Coutinho’s expertly delivered  corner and set Luis up for his brace. It was a left-footed shot this time, from within the area, but struck with fantastic precision and firepower.

Joe Allen gave away a needless free kick shortly after the goal. He went into the book for his challenge and gifted Norwich a good sight on goal. Nathan Redmond took a good free kick which hit the target, but Simon Mignolet was un-phased and kept his eye on the ball to comfortably collect it. Straight back up the other end of the pitch and Luis had gained his inevitable hat-trick. He beautifully crafted a right-footed shot past the under siege Ruddy. Luis Suarez was on fire. He was untouchable and totally unplayable. With the latest goal he became the first Liverpool player in history to score three hat-tricks against the same club. He is truly sublime and we really must ensure he doesn’t ever leave our precious club.

Captain Steven Gerrard managed to make the ref’s book just before the whistle blew for half-time. Essentially it was already Goodnight Vienna for Norwich though in all honesty they had done very little wrong, bar attempt to stand up to the magic of a world class striker at his most lethal.

Chris Hughton must have been lost for words to say to his side in the dressing room. It was going to be one of those nights for Norwich. In the second half Liverpool became more dominant, bossing possession and Norwich had given up the ghost a little. Jordan Henderson own a fee kick for Liverpool in a good position 20 yards out. Philippe Coutinho took the set piece but delivered a disappointing drive which was never going to worry the keeper. Steven Gerrard came close shortly afterwards and his on target header was cleared off the line. We seemed to be co-ordinating our attacks well and linking up in the vital final third. Sterling was doing his fair share and even Joe Allen stepped up and narrowly missed receiving his first ever league goal when his blasting shot was finger-tipped over the crossbar with a stunning save from Paul Ruddy.

One of Norwich’s better players, Wes Hoolahan was replaced by Josh Murphy.Jon Flanagan managed to get himself a caution too. the last thing we need today is to pick up a red and have players facing bans over Christmas. Steven Whittaker came on for Leroy Fer and also Gary Hooper replaced Johan Elmander. For Liverpool, Jordan Henderson was rested up and Luis Alberto came on for a taster. Gerrard won us a free kick 20 yards out and this time, the bogeyman of East Anglia stepped forward and to compound Norwich’s nightmare, Luis took a sublime free kick which sailed up and over the wall and dipped down past the keeper into the corner of the net. It was four for him and he was now well astride at the top of the league’s top scorer;’s list. Both Gerrard and Suarez were having a few shots saved as well. Our attack wasn’t just a one man effort. We were in general doing well, though I feel that there is an over-reliance on Luis’ goalscoring. We have two strong strikers this season but we are yet to start burying goals from other areas.

Into the last ten minutes and Bradley Johnson managed to grab a consolation goal for Norwich when he beat Daniel Agger in the air and headed a well-worked goal. Our defence had very little to do tonight and have agin leaked a goal. Still work to be done. We need more zeros on the scoreline. Steven Gerrard was unlucky not to score an amazing improvised goal as he spun in the air and reversed a ball which beat the defenders but bounced back from the post. However, the fifth soon came. Luis squared to Raheem Sterling to blast it in. It was a well taken goal and eased the loneliness of Liverpool Lou on the Liverpool scoresheet.

Iago Aspas cameoed for the star man at the end when he was substituted to a rapturous reception. It was Luis’ night and at the final whistle the game will be remembered for one man’s devastation. We were back on the march and Anfield truly is a fortress again. Liverpool 5-1 Norwich City.

Man Of The Match: silly question really. Luis Suarez, who missed so many games at the start of the campaign, is now the Premiership’s top goalscorer. His four in today’s match mean he has scored nine in his past three games at Anfield. Surely he is staking a claim for player of the season. The only concern is that the likes of Real Madrid may very well be taking a keen note of his progress. He is head and shoulders above the rest of the world’s attackers. A true legend.

 

 

 

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 Report: Arsenal vs Liverpool (02.11.13) L 2-0

- - Match Report

aaron ramsey

It was immediately clear from the start that we were facing high quality opposition. Whereas there are other premiership sides that pass the ball and retain possession well, Arsenal are masters. Their passing is not just quick and clean, it’s incisive. They play very creatively and recovering possession is difficult. We have to make our attacks count as they will be fewer and far between. A surprise to me was the starting of Jon Flanagan at right back. Him and Cissokho out on the wings will most probably both face a tough game.

The early possession was divided up roughly 60/40 in Arsenal’s favour. It was back and for and Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson broke through into the box well yet was unable to finish off properly. Liverpool had a few early free kicks in the opposition half but nothing productive seemed to be resulting. In the 19th minute Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla hit a flying shot which luckily rebounded off the post. Not so luckily the rebound fell right back to his feet and he comfortably slotted the goal into the net past a fallen Simon Mignolet. Arsenal were sharp and now had managed to maintain their record of scoring in every premiership game so far. It was 1-0 and our challenge had become a lot harder.

Bacary Sagna entered the book for a challenge on Luis Suarez, who had started to motor up against the Arsenal defence. Steven Gerrard lifted a lovely free-kick into the box and the keeper made a cracking stop to a Liverpool header but it would have all been in vain anyway as it was given offside. At the other end of the pitch Aaron Ramsey forced a good save from Mignolet. Sagna managed to outwit Aly Cissokho and he received the second booking of the game. Arsenal, when attacking, were really making us look uneasy. If Liverpool want to get anything from the game we need to focus on maintaining possession and allowing our attack to devastate.

The first half finished and Arsenal were clearly on top with a goal, more shots on targets and 60% possession. Brendan Rodgers decided to act at half-time and our Brazilian dynamo, Philippe Coutinho, was brought on, with Aly Cissokho being replaced. A very positive manoeuvre and hopefully the impetus we need to get back into the game.

Early second half and Liverpool began well, putting Arsenal under pressure. Suarez took a slight knock which was worrying. However, a couple of minutes later and he was delivering a quality ball into Jordan Henderson, only for him to volley narrowly wide. The change in formation certainly did seem to initially work.

We were very luck when Kolo Toure made a terrible defensive error. He passed the ball across the goal towards Martin Skrtel, but it fell short. Olivier Giroud jumped onto it and with a clear sight of goal, he looked nailed on to score but slipped it wide. It was a really lucky break and in all honesty we should have been two down. Arsenal started their incisive attacks again and Mignolet was being called into action. In the fifty-eighth minute Aaron Ramsey collected the ball at the edge of the box and with superb control he unleashed a tremendous strike which left Mignolet for dead and spun into the top corner. It was easily the best goal we’ve conceded all season and was pure class. He has ten goals so far this season and is on form and dangerous.

Rodgers decided to sacrifice the other wing back, Flanagan going off for Victor Moses. We have to throw everything at the game and it was a sensible move. Despite our tactical changes the game still looked well beyond us. We were being outclassed. It’s a step up and as the game wore on I felt a bit hollow. Was it really beyond us to be true title challengers? The Emirates is not an easy place to get a result for anyone.

Arsene Wenger made his three changes, bringing on Nacho Monreal, Thomas Vermaelen and Carl Jenkinson. Liverpool kept up pressure and seemed to do well territorially but we just couldn’t break down the solid defence properly. It seemed like our biggest problem last season, the lack of goalscoring opportunities.

Luis Suarez had a good chance late on but couldn’t finish properly. Daniel Sturridge was berating him for not passing. Our SAS failed to function properly and it was the quietest I’ve seen Sturridge in ages. Brendan Rodgers looked quiet and subdued on the touchline and his sombre dark suit and black tie made him fade into comparison with the lively experienced Arsene Wenger. Tactically, Wenger’s experience shone through. Arsenal are the dark horses this season and look good, by far the best team we’ve faced. It’s back to the drawing board for our team and hopefully we will rebuild and stay in the top four. A lesson in class today and our boys will need to step it up. Arsenal 2-0 Liverpool

Man Of The Match: I like to pick Liverpool players for man of the match. Out of our lot Jordan Henderson, I feel, put in the best performance. But the man of the match has to be Aaron Ramsey, whose devastating strike really finished us off. It was a spectacular goal.