Saturday, January 28, 2012

Liverpool 2-1 Manchester United: Late Kuyt Strike Sends Reds Through

Dirk Kuyt pounced two minutes from time to give Liverpool a narrow victory over fierce rivals Manchester United.

With the scores level and an Old Trafford replay on the cards, Kuyt latched on to an Andy Carroll flick-on to fire past David De Gea and send the Reds into the fifth round of the FA Cup.

Much of the pre-match build-up centred around the Luis Suarez-Patrice Evra racial spat and how both clubs would react in what was their first meeting since the clash. But, despite the inevitable banter between the opposing supporters and booing of the United's captain every touch, the game passed without major incident.

With only 2 full days rest since Wednesday night's impressive performance against Manchester City which saw the Reds reach the Carling Cup final, Kenny Dalglish freshened his side up bringing in Martin Kelly, Maxi Rodriguez and Andy Carroll, whilst there was also a surprise start in midfield for Jamie Carragher. For United, Sir Alex Ferguson was unable to call on a host of injured stars, including Wayne Rooney, Nani and Phil Jones. But despite still having the likes of Dimitar Berbatov and Javier Hernandez at his disposal, the Scot chose to go with Danny Welbeck up front on his own, instead packing the midfield with Ji-Sung Park included.

As is so often the case when these two sides meet, the first 20 minutes were cagey, with only two real sights of goal. Maxi's 20-yard shot forced De Gea into a good save low to his right, whilst Antonio Valencia struck an upright after cutting in from the right.

But on 21 minutes, the home side took the lead. After Stewart Downing had done well to nip between two defenders down the right, the ball eventually fell to Jose Enrique, whose long-range effort was deflected behind by a United defender. From the resulting corner, United's Spanish keeper found himself bullied by the physical presence of Carroll and Kelly, which allowed Daniel Agger to climb highest and nod into the net.

Finding themselves behind, United started to dominate possession, with veteran Paul Scholes in fine form. After not really creating any attempts, the visitors were given a helping hand as they equalised six minutes before the break. When Valencia flicked the ball down the right, Liverpool left-back Enrique should have dealt with the loose ball, but instead he dallied, allowing United right-back Rafael to step in, get to the byline and centre for Park to clinically smash past Reina.

After the restart, United continued to see more of the ball. A fine through ball from Michael Carrick saw Welbeck knock the ball past the on-rushing Reina, only for Martin Skrtel to clear.

With the home crowd starting to get a bit restless as the Reds struggled to get into the game, Dalglish made a double substitution, bringing on Charlie Adam for Carragher and Kuyt for Maxi. The changes, Adam in particular, allowed Liverpool to assert more pressure, from which De Gea suffered more problems when he conceded a corner after failing to catch a straight-forward cross.

On 72 minutes, Carling Cup hero Craig Bellamy came on as the Reds looked to find a winner, although the sight of captain Steven Gerrard leaving the field raised some eyebrows. United's response was to throw on an attacker of their own in Hernandez, but their decision to take off the game's outstanding player in Scholes, meant United subsequently struggled to make any clear cut chances.

With the game heading towards a replay, Liverpool struck with only two minutes remaining. When Reina's goal-kick was flicked on by Carroll, who had enjoyed one of his better performances in a red shirt, Kuyt got in behind the sleeping Evra, to fire home past De Gea and send the Kop into raptures.

Within a minute, the lead was nearly extended as Enrique's cross was headed onto the bar by Carroll, with Kuyt prodding the rebound narrowly wide. United's last throw of the dice was Berbatov, but the Reds safely saw stoppage time out to take their place in the hat for Sunday's fifth round draw.

After the debacle of last Saturday's defeat at Bolton Wanderers, the win capped a fine few days for Dalglish's men. Having dumped Roberto Mancini's City side out of the Carling Cup on Wednesday, the elimination of United from the FA Cup completed a fine double for the Anfield side.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Liverpool 2-2 Manchester City (3-2 on agg): Bellamy Fires Reds to Wembley

Craig Bellamy produced a fantastic individual performance as Liverpool reached Wembley for the first time since 1996.

The Welshman returned to Anfield in August after falling out of favour at Manchester City. and he came back to haunt his former club by netting a 74th minute equaliser to send Liverpool through on aggregate.

With the Reds holding a slender 1-0 lead from the first leg at The Etihad Stadium, a packed and vociferous Anfield was ready for another famous semi-final night. Despite publicly lambasting his side following Saturday's abysmal 3-1 capitulation at Bolton Wanderers Reds' boss Kenny Dalglish resisted the temptation to make wholesale changes to his starting eleven, deciding on only a couple of alterations, with Dirk Kuyt and Stewart Downing coming in for Maxi Rodriguez and Andy Carroll. For the visitors, the decision not to appeal Mario Balotelli's 4-game ban for his weekend stamp on Scott Parker, meant manager Roberto Mancini was unable to call on the services of his enigmatic Italian. Mancini did spring a surprise though, by naming Sergio Aguero on the bench, instead opting to revert to a back three as well as bringing in defensive midfielder Nigel De Jong.

The second half of the first leg saw Liverpool in defensive mode as they held on to the lead given to them by Steven Gerrard's penalty. If people expected Dalglish to deploy the same tactics, then they were mistaken as the home side immediately took the game to the Premier League leaders.

Only four minutes had passed when the ball ricocheted into the path of left-back Jose Enrique eight yards out. Unaccustomed to finding himself in such an advanced position, Enrique controlled the ball with his chest before prodding goalwards, only for Joe Hart's legs to block, with Downing firing the rebound high wide and not very handsome. Charlie Adam was next to test the England keeper, when Hart was forced to save low to his left from the midfielder's 20-yard drive.

The home side's main attacking threat was Bellamy. Asked to lead the line on his own against City's back three, Bellamy was a constant threat. His pace, directness and, above all, his desire, caused the City backline, in particular Montenegrin Stefan Savic, all sorts of problems. The forward was narrowly caught offside when despatching past Hart, whilst he also forced the City stopper to tip an effort over the bar.

The first half hour had been dominated by the Reds, with the only glimmer of life from the away side coming when Adam appeared to foul Edin Dzeko in the box. But, on 31 minutes, City shocked the Anfield faithful by taking the lead. Spanish playmaker David Silva worked space before moving the ball inside to De Jong. With no-one closing the midfielder down, De Jong let fly from 25 yards and, despite slipping as he hit it, his curling shot flew past Pepe Reina to level the tie.

To their credit, Liverpool didn't panic, with the pattern of the game reverting to the Reds being camped in their opponent's half. Four minutes before half-time they were rewarded as they regained the aggregate lead.
Daniel Agger's goalbound shot struck the leg of the outstretched Micah Richards, before rebounding onto the arm of the City defender. Referee Phil Dowd harshly pointed to the spot, but despite the City appeals, Reds captain Gerrard stepped up to comfortably beat Hart from 12 yards for the second time in the tie.

As Anfield got it's breathe back during the half-time interval, Mancini put Savic out of his misery, replacing him with Aguero as the visitors opted for a more attacking line-up. But, as in the first half, it was the home side who looked the more threatening, with Hart single-handedly keeping City in the tie.

First, he saved from Bellamy, then he further enhanced his reputation as one of the finest keepers around when he produced a magnificent reflex save to tip Martin Skrtel's prodded effort over the bar. A hat-trick of high class saves was completed when Downing's volley from six yards was turned away by the impressive keeper.

As it looked more and more likely that Liverpool would extend their aggregate lead, City repeated their trick of striking against the run of play. Aleksandar Kolarov's fantastic 67t minute cross from the left bypassed everyone, allowing Dzeko to tap in at the far post to put City 2-1 up, and ahead in the tie on away goals, a factor which would come into play at the end of extra-time.

Once again though, Liverpool refused to panic and struck back only seven minutes later. After good work down the right, Kuyt cut in and rolled the ball to the feet of Bellamy. The diminutive striker played a wonderful one-two with Glen Johnson before side-footing a left-foot shot past Hart, to put the Reds 3-2 up on aggregate.

The last 15 minutes saw City exert pressure, but never really trouble the Reds rearguard, allowing Dalglish's men to book a first final appearance since 2006.

With two minutes to go, Bellamy left the field to a deserved standing ovation. In his second spell at Anfield, the Welsh forward has proved a shrewd signing, with this the latest in string of impressive performances. In what reads like a fairytale story, Bellamy will now take his boyhood club to his first Wembley appearance where they will play his hometown club, and the team for which he was on-loan last season, Cardiff City.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Bolton Wanderers 3-1 Liverpool: Lacklustre Reds Blown Away by Wanderers

A lacklustre Liverpool were blown away by Bolton Wanderers in blustery conditions at The Reebok Stadium.

Owen Coyle's struggling side more than deserved a welcome three points as they outplayed, outmanoeuvred and outfought a below-par Liverpool, who produced one of their worst displays since Kenny Dalglish returned to the club more than 12 months ago.

Following a disappointing 0-0 home draw with Stoke City last weekend, Dalglish made four changes to his starting eleven, with fit-again Daniel Agger returning along with Maxi Rodriguez, Craig Bellamy and Andy Carroll. But, if the Scot thought the changes would freshen up his side, he was to be mistaken.

With the worst home record in all four of England's top divisions, Bolton were expected to find life difficult again. But, to their credit, Wanderers immediately took the game to the Reds, a tactic which was rewarded after only 4 minutes.

A clever flick from former Reds' striker David Ngog found Mark Davies free 35 yards out. The midfield schemer was able to advance unchallenged into the visitors' box before calmly slotting the ball past Pepe Reina.

Minutes later, Chris Eagles dispossessed the day-dreaming Jose Enrique and brilliantly wriggled his way into the box, before prodding a cross-cum-shot past the far post.

Shell-shocked by the home team's start, Liverpool struggled to get a foothold in the game, with passes consistently going astray. Just before the half-hour mark, they had an appeal for a penalty turned down when the ball appeared to strike the hand of Bolton centre-half Zat Knight, but 60 seconds later, they were picking the ball out of their own net again.

Once again the Liverpool marking was non-existent as Eagles was able to break into the box and find Bolton skipper Nigel Reo-Coker, who chested down and finished from close range.

Finding themselves 2-0 down, the Reds finally showed some flashes of interest. Bellamy's pace and directness caused problems as he got round the back of the Bolton defence a couple of times, before Carroll's clever pass set the Welshman away, only to fire straight at keeper Adam Bogdan.

On 37 minutes though, the same combination combined to halve the deficit. Carroll rose highest to flick on for Bellamy to outstrip the defence then coolly despatch past Bogdan.

After a torrid first-half, the fact that the Reds only found themselves a goal down was enough to expect a second-half improvement. But within five minutes of the restart, Bolton restored their two-goal lead and effectively killed off the game.

Martin Petrov's out-swinging corner led to David Wheater out-jumping the ineffective Liverpool defence, allowing full-back Gretar Steinsson to superbly volley into the corner to give Bolton their first 3-goal haul against the Reds since 1950.

Disgusted with his side's performance, Dalglish made changes with the disappointing Maxi and Adam replaced by Stewart Downing and Dirk Kuyt. Downing did tee up Carroll, who summed up his Liverpool career to date by failing to connect with a left-foot shot, but, apart from a 30-yard Agger shot which struck the bar, the Reds failed to exert any real pressure on the opposition goal.

The win was only Bolton's third home success of the season and moves the Trotters' out of the relegation zone. For Liverpool, with top-four rivals Chelsea and Newcastle United both dropping points earlier in the day, this was another missed opportunity. The Reds now face a daunting few weeks, hosting both Manchester sides in the Cup competitions this week, whilst also playing United, Tottenham Hotspur and Everton in the league before the end of February.

After a performance lacking in quality, and most worryingly effort and endeavour, Dalglish will be looking for his team to make amends quickly.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Manchester City 0-1 Liverpool: Gerrard Gives Reds The Advantage

Liverpool produced a disciplined performance at the Etihad Stadium to move a step closer to a first appearance at the New Wembley.

Reds' skipper Steven Gerrard converted an early penalty to give Kenny Dalglish's men a 1-0 Carling Cup Semi-final first leg victory and set them up nicely for the return leg at Anfield in two weeks' time.

The Carling Cup is often renowned for teams fielding weakened sides, but the fact both sides were missing star players was not through choice. Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany began his 4-match ban for his controversial red card in Sunday's FA Cup defeat to Manchester United, whilst the Premier League leaders were also without injured playmaker David Silva and the Toure brothers, Kolo and Yaya, who are away at the African Nations Cup with the Ivory Coast. Though the sight of the four City players missing from the home team sheet would have given Liverpool a boost, particularly the exclusion of Kompany and Yaya Toure who both excelled in City's league win over the Reds last week, Liverpool too were missing two of their star performers this season, with Lucas Leiva ruled out for the season and Luis Suarez still serving his 8-game FA ban.

As was the case in last week's 3-0 reversal at the Etihad, Liverpool took the game to their hosts. Under-fire striker Andy Carroll should have put the Reds one-up inside five minutes when he wrestled his way past defender Stefan Savic, but saw his right foot shot well saved by Joe Hart. Gerrard was next to bring Hart into action when he curled in a 25-yard shot which the City stopper did well to palm around his left post. From the resulting corner kick, Stewart Downing's goalbound volley was flicked on by Daniel Agger, forcing the excellent Hart into another splendid save.

But, on 13 minutes, Liverpool's early pressure finally got its rewards. From another corner, Savic mistimed tackle on Agger gave referee Lee Mason no option but to award a penalty. Gerrard kept his cool to fire his spot-kick low past Hart to net his 4th goal of the season and third since his latest comeback from injury.

With the midfield trio of Gerrard, Jordan Henderson and Jay Spearing bossing proceedings and Craig Bellamy a constant threat against his former club, Liverpool continued to hold the upperhand. They were dealt a blow midway through the half when Spearing pulled up with a tight hamstring forcing the young midfielder to be replaced by Charlie Adam. But, despite the change, the Reds still looked the more threatening, with Carroll flashing a header wide of the far post.

At the other end, City struggled to make any in-roads towards the Liverpool goal. After missing the United game through injury, Mario Balotelli was chosen to partner Sergio Aguero in attack, but the enigmatic Italian was at his infuriating worst. Having not seen the ball, his first action saw him react angrily to Adam's tap on the head following a foul, with the Italian blasting the resulting free-kick into the wall. He showed dissent towards the referee after not being given a free-kick, then on 39 minutes, when he failed to routinely control a ball, City boss Roberto Mancini withdrew the striker, replacing him with midfielder Samir Nasri.

The change almost paid instant dividends as Nasri cut in and forced Pepe Reina into a save low to his left. With City finally clicking, Micah Richards rampaging run down the right set-up Milner, who fired over from 12 yards.

After impressing for most of the first half, Liverpool came out after the restart with a different gameplan. Rather than attack what had looked a vulnerable City defence, Dalglish opted to protect what they already have by getting men behind the ball and making it hard for City to find a breakthrough.

The plan nearly backfired on 54 minutes, when Martin Kelly's loose pass back fell to Aguero, though Reina did enough to force the Argentinian wide before he fired over. The Liverpool keeper was called into action again minutes later when he reacted smartly to deny Richards' header from a Nasri corner.

As City looked to up the pressure, Dalglish replaced Downing with Jose Enrique, with the Reds reverting to what looked like a back five, although Glen Johnson, who had started at left-back, didn't quite know where he was playing. It mattered not though as the England full-back was in the right place at the right time to produce a wonderful tackle on Aguero as the striker wound up to fire at goal.

Edin Dzeko and Aleksandar Kolarov were both sent on as City looked for an equalise, a move which was counter-acted by the Reds when they went even more defensive by throwing on Jamie Carragher in place of Bellamy, with Johnson moving to right-back, his third position of the night.

Despite the home side's dominance of possession, Dalglish's tactics worked wonderfully as Liverpool were able to safely see out the rest of the game and gain the advantage ahead of the return leg at Anfield in two weeks time. For City, it was their second home defeat in a row and the first time they have failed to score at home this season.

The only cause for concern for the visitors was a late two-footed lunge by Johnson on Joleon Lescott. Referee Mason didn't even deem the challenge a free-kick, but replays show it looked worse than the one Kompany was reprimanded for only days earlier.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Half-Term Analysis

So, we've reached the halfway stage of the season. The Reds sit in sixth place in the league and have reached the semi-finals of the Carling Cup, but the story of the season so far is a case of what might have been.

We've lost three times, but have only been outplayed away at Spurs. For the majority of all the other games, there hasn't been that much wrong, with us dominating possession in nearly all the matches. The one problem though, and unfortunately, the most important, is that we are unable to put the ball in the back of the net. Despite throwing everything at sides, including the kitchen sink, a combination of poor finishing, excellent goalkeeping and the woodwork (17 times!!!) means we have only scored 24 goals from 19 league games. Even Blackburn and Bolton have more! Our profligacy in front of goal means we've drawn far more games than we should have, especially at home.

The problem looks set to worsen in the New Year with our best striker, and current top scorer, Luis Suarez set to sit out 8-games after being found guilty of racism towards Man United's Patrice Evra. The least said about that the better!

But, on the bright side, we have played some brilliant stuff at times. The defence looks solid and we are able to dictate games. Although we all started the season harbouring dreams of a title challenge, it was never a realistic target. Instead, our quest for a top four finish remains on course, with us only 2 points off the Champions League spot. We've got what looks like a straight-forward home tie against Oldham Athletic in the third round of the FA Cup, then a tricky 2-legged Carling Cup semi-final to come against Man City, but we showed in the league game that we can more than match them. With the January transfer window about to open, there will no doubt be at least one arrival to boost the squad too.

Despite the disappointment of too many dropped points, there is a lot of optimism about how we are playing. If only we could find the net a bit more!

Here is my half-term analysis of how the Liverpool squad have fared:-

Pepe Reina (24 appearances, 8 clean sheets) - 7/10

Apart from a couple of errors at home to Norwich and away to Fulham, ever-present Reina has been his normal reliable self. If there is a better keeper in the league, I haven't seen him.

Alexander Doni (0 apps) - 5/10

Doni was expected to play a part in the early rounds of the domestic Cups, but so far we haven't seen him competitively. He impressed in a mid-season friendly against Glasgow Rangers and looks more than adequate backup to Reina. It's just a question of will he get a chance.

Glen Johnson (11 (1) apps, 1 goal) - 7/10

Missed most of the early weeks of the season through injury, but has impressed upon his return to fitness. Can still be wasteful in possession and sometimes switches off defensively, although his defending does look to have improved under Steve Clarke's guidance. Attacking wise, Johnson is excellent, as proven by his fantastic winner at Chelsea.

Martin Kelly (8 apps, 1 goal)- 7/10

Performed well whilst Johnson was out injured, so was unlucky to lose his place in the team. Has impressed in the Carling Cup as well as for England Under-21s. Definitely a star of the future, just needs to bide his time.

John Flanagan (2(1) apps) - 6/10

Started the first game of the season against Sunderland, but struggled. Played well in the Carling Cup victory over Exeter City, but his only other first team action was as a late sub against Brighton. Still young, another year in the reserves will do Flanagan the world of good.

Jose Enrique (20 apps) - 9/10

Signed during the week before the start of the season, Enrique was immediately thrust into the team, where he has excelled. An ever-present in the league, he is quick, assured on the ball and sound defensively. Although sometimes his decision making in the last third of the pitch is questionable, he is excellent going forward. A very good signing.

Jack Robinson (2 apps) - 6/10

Similar to Flanagan, Robinson has only featured twice in the Carlin Cup this season, impressing on both occasions. With Enrique performing so well at left-back, there is no rush to bring Robinson through, so the young defender can hone his talent in the reserves, whilst providing quality backup.

Martin Skrtel (16(3) apps, 2 goals) - 9/10

In the past I have been quick to label Skrtel as not good enough for Liverpool. But, despite a torrid time at Spurs where he was asked to play right-back against Gareth Bale, the defender has had a very impressive season to date. He looks calmer and more assured, and has realised that he doesn't need to try and wrestle attackers all the time. He has even become a threat in the opposition box, scoring twice and creating one for Maxi against Blackburn. The biggest compliment Skrtel can be given is that he is currently keeping Carragher out of the team.

Daniel Agger (16(1) apps) - 8/10

Liverpool look a much better side when Agger plays. Cool and calm with great distribution, the whole defence seems to play better when Agger is there. He has formed a strong pairing with Skrtel, with both players complimenting each other well. If Agger could stay fit for a prolonged period, it would be hard to find a better centre-half anywhere in Europe.

Jamie Carragher (12(1) apps) - 6/10

It's been a tough season so far for Carragher. When he has played he hasn't been at his best, sometimes looking slow and vulnerable. Injury meant he lost his place in the side and such has been the performances of Skrtel and Agger, he hasn't been able to force himself back in. But the break may do Carragher more good than harm and I'm sure when called upon, he won't let himself or the club down.

Sebastian Coates (3(1) apps) - 6/10

After a tough baptism to English football when he came on in the 4-0 drubbing at Spurs, Coates has impressed in the three Carling Cup games that he has played. At 6ft6, he brilliantly withstood the aerial bombardment at Stoke City, whilst he helped keep Fernando Torres quiet at Chelsea. Looks a good signing from the little we've seen.

Danny Wilson (1 app) - 5/10

Wilson has only started one game this season. Yet to hit the heights he did at Rangers, a loan move to gain some experience looks the best option for him at the moment.

Lucas Leiva (15 apps) - 8/10

Last year's player of the season has continued his fine form. An integral part to the way Liverpool play, Lucas has been the defensive lynchpin whose workrate sets the tempo for the plays ahead of him to play. He was sensational against City at home and Chelsea away twice, but injury at Stamford bridge has ruled him out for the rest of the season. Already the absence of the Brazilian has shown his worth, with Charlie Adam's form dipping dramatically since the loss of his midfield sidekick.

Charlie Adam (20(1) apps, 2 goals) - 7/10

For me, Adam has done well this season. Whilst his passing ability has never been in doubt, he seems to be fitter now than during his Blackpool days. He has surprised me at how good he is at breaking up opposition attacks, whilst he is also able to get forward and support our attacks. He looks like he is enjoying being at the club and his performances have proved that. He still gets booked too easy, Spurs being a prime example, and he hasn't been as effective recently without Lucas protecting him, but so far I'd rate his signing as a success.

Jordan Henderson (18(4) apps, 1 goal) - 7/10

In the early few games of Henderson's Liverpool career, he seemed to be in awe of the place. He did everything cautiously, making sure he didn't make a mistake. But after a brief spell on the sidelines, he has grown into the Liverpool shirt. He is good on the ball and never stops running. Following Lucas' injury, he has moved inside to his more favoured position, and whilst he doesn't offer the same protection as Lucas, he has performed well.

Stewart Downing (17(3) apps) - 6/10

Steady is the one word I would use to describe Downing. He is a good player who provides width and keeps the ball, but he is also very frustrating. He seems to lack belief in his own ability, relying too much on the overlaps of Enrique of Johnson, rather than running at defenders himself. As I say, he has been steady enough, but the fact that we are halfway through the season and he is yet to register an assist or a goal against his name is a damning statistic.

Maxi Rodriguez (8(1) apps, 4 goals) - 7/10

Despite his goalscoring exploits towards the end of last season, Maxi spent the early part of the league campaign on the bench, whilst playing in the Carling Cup. When he did get a start at Chelsea, he seized it with both hands as he scored in our 2-1 win. Since then he has been in and out the team. His movement, eye for goal and ability to link with players such as Suarez and Bellamy, means he is unlucky not to start more games.

Steven Gerrard (3(4) apps, 2 goals) - 6/10

Injury has meant we have hardly seen our skipper so far this season. After a couple of substitute appearances, he made his first start against Man United, scoring a trademark free-kick. He played the following week against Norwich City, but has been injured since, only making a comeback on Boxing Day. His half-hour cameo against Newcastle United though showed how important a fit Gerrard is to Liverpool. As has so often been the case, much of our hopes rest on the fitness and form of our talismanic captain.

Jay Spearing (6(1) apps) - 6/10

Spearing has impressed in the Carling Cup showing he is more than adequate backup. Looked set for a run in the team following Lucas' injury, but his controversial red card at Fulham forced him to miss three games, which allowed Henderson to move into a central position. Was very good in the last match against Newcastle United and will no doubt get more chances as the season goes on.

Jonjo Shelvey (1(3) apps) - 6/10

Enjoyed a successful spell on-loan at Blackpool where he won NPower Championship Player of the Month. Was recalled when Lucas got injured and was a surprise starter in the win at Aston Villa, where he impressed. Dalglish clearly rates Shelvey, so expect him to feature more in the coming months.

Luis Suarez (20(1) apps, 8 goals)- 8/10

It has been an up and down season for Suarez so far. He has continued his scintillating form of last year, giving opposition defences the run around whilst being Liverpool's focal point in attack. However, his goals tally is nowhere near what it should be, with the Uruguayan the main culprit for missed chances, although it can be argued that is because he also creates the most for himself. Throughout the season, he has also had to endure rough treatment on and off the field. As Liverpool's dangerman, he has had to withstand a number of bad challenges, whilst the press and rival supporters have labelled him a diver. He finally lost patience with the boos he is greeted with when he made a gesture to the Fulham fans, for which he was suspended for one game. On top of all this, there has been the ongoing Evra incident, where the United left-back accused Suarez of racist remarks. From the outset, despite a lack of real evidence, people labelled Suarez as guilty, and thus the FA disciplinary committee came to the same conclusion and handed our number seven an 8-game ban. The club and supporters have stuck by their man. We can only hope an appeal is successful.

Dirk Kuyt (11(8) apps, 1 goal) - 6/10

The season has been very stop-start for Kuyt so far. With the arrival of Henderson, he was pushed to the bench. He regained his place in the side, flitting between right wing and up-front, before again being named as a sub. Whilst he still offers incredible workrate, his form hasn't been up to usual standards with a return of only 1 goal so far. For me, Kuyt is a player who gets better the more he plays. Finding himself in and out of the team means he is unable to build up a head of steam and find his best form. The problem is though, if I were to name my preferred starting line-up, Kuyt wouldn't be in it.

Andy Carroll (12(8) apps, 3 goals) - 5/10

Carroll has so far been very disappointing. Because of his huge price tag, the spotlight is always on him. But even if you forget about the fee, his performances haven't been up to scratch. At Newcastle, the team were built around his strengths, but at Liverpool it's hard to see how he fits in to the side, as we tend to play better, more attractive football when he is on the bench. He has a cracking left-foot and does link the play up well, but I believe he needs to become more of a poacher in the six yard box rather than wandering about on the edge of the box. Being in and out of the team hasn't helped him either. He needs a run in the side of 10 games or so for us to form a valid assessment. Suarez' impending ban could provide the kick-start to Carroll's Liverpool career.

Craig Bellamy (7(9) apps, 5 goals) - 8/10

Bellamy has proved to be a very shrewd free signing. He seems much more mature than his last stint at Anfield. Despite his age, he hasn't lost any of his pace, and provides a genuine threat whether he plays left wing or through the middle. His injury record means he can't play every game, but I would like to see him used more than he has been.

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