Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Liverpool 1-3 Swansea City: Classy Swans Dump Holders Out

By Robert Nevitt

There were no Halloween tricks or treats for Brendan Rodgers, as his former club Swansea City deservedly dumped holders Liverpool out of the Capital One Cup.

@Getty Images
The Swans' dominated proceedings with goals from Chico Flores, Nathan Dyer and Jonathan De Guzman giving Michael Laudrup's men a deserved 3-1 victory.

Possessing a paper-thin squad, Rodgers used the clash to use some of his fringe players with the likes of Jordan Henderson, Jamie Carragher, Stewart Downing and Joe Cole all handed starts, whilst 18-year old striker Samed Yesil was given a chance to impress from the start.

But, with the Reds looking to successfully defend the trophy they dramatically won on penalties against Cardiff City last season, Rodgers named a strong bench with Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling all available in case of emergency.

A quiet opening ten minutes saw both sides start cautiously, with Ashley Williams fine tackle to deny the advancing Yesil the only action worthy of note.

Slowly though the away side started to assert control with their crisp passing style, something which Reds' boss Rodgers built during his time in South Wales and is now trying to emulate at Anfield.

Dyer's touch let him down when a chance looked on, former Celtic midfielder Ki Sung-Yeung then went close from 20 yards, before good work between Michu and Pablo Hernandez saw Reds' defender Carragher roll back the years to brilliantly block Hernandez' goalbound effort.

The home side responded with Downing's run and shot forcing Gerhard Tremmel to turn the ball away.

But the Swans were soon back on top, with Michu dispossessing ex-Swan Joe Allen in midfield before the ball was worked to De Guzman, who chipped the advancing Brad Jones only to see the ball clear the Reds' crossbar too.

The visitors' pressure was mounting so it was no surprise that they took the lead on 34 minutes.

Ki's shot forced Jones into a fine save and from the resulting corner, defender Chico was allowed to rise unopposed to send a header into the Reds' net.

The goal finally woke the Reds' up and they almost immediately levelled when Oussama Assaidi's cross found Cole, though his header was weak and didn't trouble Tremmel in the Swans' goal.

Yesil then turned well but was blocked once more by the impressive Williams, before Downing could only fire wide as the Swans deservedly went in ahead at the break.

Disappointed with his side's performance, Rodgers used the interval to call on star duo Gerrard and Suarez, with youngster Yesil and the disappointing Cole the players replaced.

Buoyed by the changes, the Reds started the second-half strongly.

Jonjo Shelvey, who was making his 50th Liverpool appearance, beat two Swansea defenders only to fire over, before the midfielder produced a delicious outside-of-the-foot cross from which Suarez headed wide.

The introduction of Gerrard and Suarez had clearly seen the home side up their tempo and after the latter had fired over form the edge of the box, skipper Gerrard went even closer when his 25-yard piledriver was turned onto the post by Tremmel, with Downing prodding the rebound wide.

But, whilst the Reds had improved, Swansea still looked a threat on the break and nearly increased their lead in a crazy 30-second spell when Jones saved from Hernandez and twice from Michu, before Carragher blocked Dyer's low effort.

The excellent Michu then forced Jones into another save, before Swansea skipper Williams headed wide from a corner when well-placed.

A curling Gerrard free-kick then caused brief panic in the Swans' defence, before the visitors launched a stunning counter-attack with Spaniards Michu and Hernandez combining to tee the ball up for Dyer to tap home from six yards.

The tie looked all but over, but, in keeping with the never-say-die attitude of this week's cup ties, the Reds were offered a glimmer of hope when Suarez rose to head home Gerrard's free-kick with 13 minutes remaining.

The home side increased the pressure with Suarez and substitute Sterling both unsuccessfully trying their luck.

As the game entered stoppage time, another Swans' counter-attack finally killed the game off, when the game's outstanding player Michu centred for De Guzman to finish from close range.

The visiting supporters gleefully mocked former boss Rodgers with chants of "Brendan, what's the score?" and "Your getting sacked in the morning", but, whilst the chants will no doubt have the pride of the Reds' boss, Rodgers' main concern will have been the manner in which his side relinquished their hold on the League Cup.

Much has been said of the lack of depth in the Reds' squad, but this was another occasion where the lack of options available to Rodgers left him once again relying having to call upon the likes of Suarez and Gerrard to bail the team out.

With that in mind, the January transfer window cannot come quick enough for the Reds' boss.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Five Things We've Learned: Everton v Liverpool

1. Moyes' attempts to wind Suarez up backfired

In the build-up to Sunday's Merseyside derby, Everton boss David Moyes made headlines when he commented that Liverpool's star striker Luis Suarez "has a history of diving".

To Moyes, it matters little as to whether Suarez does throw himself to the floor or not, after all he is manager of Everton football club, not Liverpool. The reason for the Toffees' boss pubic lambasting of the Reds' striker was purely to gain an advantage ahead of Sunday's big clash.

By commenting on Suarez, he was trying to mark referee Andre Marriner's card, trying to let him know that any time Suarez went to ground, it would be a case of diving. The remark was also designed to increase the already intense pressure on the Reds' star player and thus dampen his performance.

Instead, it only served to fire the Reds' number seven up.

Straight from the first whistle, the Uruguayan was exceptional. Playing as the Reds' main striker, his movement stretched the Everton defence, whilst his trickery created numerous openings for both himself and his teammates.

When the Reds took a 14th minute lead, Suarez was heavily involved with his shot finding the net via a huge deflection off Leighton Baines. As if to make a point to Moyes in regards to the pre-match comments, Suarez celebrated by running in front of the home dugout and simulating a dive.

Five minutes later, if there were doubts as to whether the first goal was his or not, Suarez ensured his name would appear on the scoresheet when he guided a header past Tim Howard to double the lead.

He then flashed a left-foot drive inches past Howard's post and, after Everton had pegged the Reds back, he continually ran at the Everton backline in search of a winner.

He thought that winner had come deep into stoppage time when he latched onto a Sebastian Coates knockdown to prod past Howard, only for the officials to incorrectly disallow the effort.

Of course, every Suarez appearance comes with at least one source of controversy, so the storm that accompanied his challenge on Sylvain Distin came as no surprise. At first glance it looked accidental, but replays suggest otherwise. Only Suarez knows if there was any intent, but, either way, he was fortunate to escape with just a yellow.

But that slight shouldn't detract from a fantastic individual performance. Moyes' pre-match comments certainly didn't have the desired effect.

Maybe, although not likely, more opposition managers, players and supporters may take note.

2. Rodgers shows he does possess a 'Plan B'

One of the criticisms levelled at Brendan Rodgers so far in his reign as Liverpool boss, has been his failure to turn to a 'Plan B' when things haven't been going well.

Rodgers insistence on playing a 4-3-3 formation and building play from the back has seen the Reds play some great stuff so far this season, but at times, there has been a need to try something different, a notion which Rodgers has not shared.

However, Sunday's match showed that, when needed, the Reds boss is able to change his tactics.

For the first twenty minutes of the derby, Rodgers tactics were spot on, with his passing game seeing Liverpool race into a two-nil lead.

Leon Osman's 22nd minute strike though changed the game dynamics and for the rest of the first period, Liverpool were under constant attack from the Blues.

With Baines and Kevin Mirallas causing numerous problems down the Liverpool right, Everton levelled and had enough chances to edge their noses in front.

During the half-time interval, Rodgers recognised that his team were struggling to cope with the Everton attack and thus made changes.

Switching to a 3-5-2 formation, Rodgers replaced the ineffective Nuri Sahin with the colossal Sebastian Coates, who slipped into the centre of a back three alongside Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger, in a move designed to combat the aerial threat posed by Marouane Fellaini.

Jose Enrique occupied a left wing-back role, whilst teenager Andre Wisdom, who had endured a torrid half against the double threat of Baines and Mirallas, was given extra protection down the right from Skrtel, though he was also later replaced by Jordan Henderson.

Fellow youngster Suso, who had also found it hard to get onto the ball, was also replaced at half-time by Jonjo Shelvey, a move which allowed Rodgers to deploy three men in the centre of the park, a move which allowed Liverpool to regain composure and dampen the Everton fire.

Up front, Rodgers switched Raheem Sterling inside to work in tandem with Suarez, giving the Reds' forward line plenty of pace and movement, something which always gave the defence an outlet when under Everton attack.

Yes, Rodgers was helped by the fact that the Blues' best player in the first-half, Mirallas, went off injured at half-time, but the Reds' boss' changes to both personnel and system helped his side regain some sort of control after a nervy last 25 minutes of the first period.

From being 2-0 up, a point certainly isn't the best result. But after Everton's comeback, had Rodgers not made the half-time changes, then the Reds would almost certainly had left Goodison empty-handed.

As it turned out, the point was deserved, and had Suarez' last minute "goal" stood, then the result would have been even better and Rodgers would have received praise for showing that he does possess a "Plan B" after all.

3. Sterling offers glimpse that he can play down the middle

One of the half-time switches that Rodgers made was to move young winger Raheem Sterling into a central position.

During the first-half, Sterling had found his first taste of derby action difficult.

Occupying a place wide on the right, he found himself in direct competition with the excellent Baines, whilst the England full-back's combination with Mirallas caused endless problems for Sterling and teammate Wisdom.

Things were made worse for Sterling with the fact that he received a harsh yellow card when he arrived late to collide with Baines.

Minutes later, when he clipped the full-back's heels once more, Everton players and fans alike called for a second caution, though referee Marriner instead gave the young star just a talking.

Rodgers immediately moved him over to the left to calm the situation down, with many fans expecting the young winger to soon be subbed.

Instead though, the half-time changes saw Sterling surprisingly moved to a central position, from where he impressed and offered a tantalising glimpse that it may be a position where he can do alot of damage.

With his blistering pace, Sterling was able to play on the last shoulder of the Everton defence, offering the Reds a chance to play the ball in behind the Blues' backline.

The plan nearly worked as early as three minutes after the break when Enrique's fine pass saw Sterling break free, though his finish was poor, probably due to the fact that it came so soon after his poor first half.

But, as the half grew on, so too did Sterling.

His obvious threat meant Everton's defence were unable to push up too high, which in turn offered the Reds' attack, Suarez in particular, more room to work.

It was an interesting cameo from the youngster. His pace, skill and ability to cut in from wide areas make him the perfect modern day winger, but this brief spell up front showed that, with the Reds short on strikers, Sterling is capable of moving centrally.

His pace scares defences, whilst his small stature allows him to change direction in the box quickly. And a benefit to him playing up front is that he has no defensive responsibilities.

His finish when one-on-one with Howard was poor, but as shown against Reading the previous week, he is capable of finding the net.

Expect to see Sterling line up on the wing again in his next outing, but don't be surprised if he is given another stint through the middle before too long.

4. Jose Enrique - Good going forward, poor in defence

One player's misfortune is another one's gain, so when Glen Johnson was ruled out of the Goodison derby, it was a chance for Jose Enrique to shine on only his second league start of the season.

The Spaniard certainly started impressively, clipping a delightful ball forward, before combining well with Suso to provide the cross from which Suarez' shot diverted off Baines and into the net.

A measured pass to release Sterling early in the second half only further highlighted the talent of which the Spanish left-back possesses with the ball at his feet and rampaging forward.

But then we come to his defensive abilities.

Now don't get me wrong, Enrique put in as good a shift as any one of the Reds defenders. He consistently nicked the ball off his opponents and calmly brought the ball out of defence.

The problem with Enrique though is that he has a tendency to "switch-off" at critical times. For Naismith's equaliser on Sunday, Enrique had another moment.

When the ball fell at the feet of Fellaini, Enrique was in a good position, tight to Naismith in between the penalty spot and six yard box. As the Belgian swivelled to cross though, Enrique was caught ball-watching, something which allowed Naismith to move in behind Enrique and have the simple task of tapping in from less than six yards.

It may be a case of lack of match practice which was the factor, but his form throughout the second half of last season only adds to his problems. Going forward, Enrique is fine, but his defensive switch-offs, particularly against the better teams, means that he is often a liability in our defence.

With Glen Johnson now seemingly first choice left-back, Enrique has a fight to win back his regular spot. An improvement in his defending is needed if he is to succeed.

5. Scouse solidarity

Following the release of the Hillsborough Independent Panel's findings last month, our neighbours Everton put on a fantastic show of support when, in their first home game after the release of the documents, they staged an emotional tribute to the 96 and their families with a minute's silence and a tear-jerking rendition of "He Ain't Heavy...He's My Brother".

This though was nothing new. Ever since that fateful day over 23 years ago, Everton have stood shoulder to shoulder with us in the fight for justice.

Hailing from the same city, they too were affected by the events of 15th April 1989, and have sought to uncover the truth.

When the Liverpool side of 1989 returned to action after the disaster, there was no more fitting place to do so than at Goodison Park, whilst the FA Cup final of that year between the two sides was a public display of emotion.

Since then though the "friendly derby" seems to have disappeared, replaced by a disturbing undercurrent of hate between the clubs, with many a vitriol chant exchanged on derby day.

So, it was therefore heart-warming, that this derby saw something of a return to those friendlier times, as the visiting Liverpool fans displayed a flag with the words "Solidarity Has No Colours" to thank their Evertonian counterparts for all that they have done.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Everton 2-2 Liverpool: Reds denied late goal as game ends in stalemate

By Michael Owen

Brendan Rodgers first Merseyside derby ended all-level at Goodison Park after the Blues came back from two goals down and Luis Suarez had a late goal ruled out. 

A ball across the box by Jose Enrique set up Luis Suarez to fire a shot at goal which deflected off Leighton Baines and into the back of the net after fifteen minutes, before a headed effort by the Uruguayan from a Steven Gerrard free-kick doubled the Reds lead just five minutes later.

But two goals before half-time brought the home side level at the break, with Leon Osman striking an effort low into the bottom corner from just outside the box before Steven Naismith got onto the end of a chipped ball into the middle by Fellaini.

Brendan Rodgers once again opted to include youth in his starting eleven, with Raheem Sterling, Suso and Andre Wisdom all featuring, whilst Brad Jones was given a vote of confidence over the just back to training Pepe Reina in the Reds net.

Despite suggestions in the build-up to the match the Marouane Fellaini wouldn't be fit for the fixture the Belgian shrugged off a knee injury to feature for David Moyes side, who were without South African midfielder Steven Pienaar who was serving a suspension.

After a scrappy opening it was Liverpool who struck first with just over fifteen minutes on the clock, with Jose Enrique breaking free down the left hand side and cutting the ball across the face of goal, with Sterling seemingly being brought to ground in his attempts to connect the ball fell to Luis Suarez, who cut inside and fired home to give the visitors the lead.

It took just five minutes for Liverpool to increase their lead, with Raheem Sterling being brought down by Leon Osman in the middle of the park, allowing Steven Gerrard to chip the ball into the box towards Luis Suarez, who directed his headed effort past Tim Howard to increase the Reds lead.

But it was Osman, who had brought down Sterling moments earlier, who struck back for the home side straight away, getting on the end of a corner clearance and losing his marker before firing into Brad Jones bottom left-hand corner from outside the box to reduce the Blues deficit 2ith only 23 minutes on the clock.

With 35 minutes gone Everton got themselves Liverpool, with Fellaini finding himself in space just inside the box on the right, playing a tipping ball over the top into the path of Naismith, who lost his marker Enrique easily, allowing him to tap it into the back of the net to bring the home side level.

In an attempt to stop the good run Everton had in the latter half of the first period Brendan Rodgers made two half-time changes, bringing on Jonjo Shelvey to replace Nuri Sahin and Suso made way for Sebastian Coates.

A well-placed ball by Enrique gave Sterling lots of room to ready for a shot at Tim Howard's goal, but the youngster failed to convert, seeing his chipped shot bobbling well wide, much to the anger of the advancing Luis Suarez who was waiting for the ball in the middle.

Liverpool offered Everton a host of opportunities from set pieces, with the best opportunity falling to Jelavic after a well-placed free-kick was drifted into the box by Leighton Baines. But the forward directed his header in the wrong direction, with his effort going well-wide from a good position.

With twenty minutes left Brendan Rodgers made his third and final change to try and give the Reds some more attacking emphasis, bringing on Jordan Henderson to replace Andre Wisdom, who had been worked hard by Everton down the right-hand side throughout.

Liverpool improved going forward as the half went on, with Suarez nearly scoring after cutting inside from the right before Raheem Sterling, finding space just outside of the box, fired a shot which went just over the bar.

Luis Suarez put the ball in the back of the net in the final minute of the game, but the linesman raised his flag to disallow the goal. With the referee either, incorrectly, ruling out the goal for Suarez being offside, or for a foul by Coates in the build-up. 

View from the Opposition: Everton

By Michael Owen

With Liverpool set to face Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday, we talked to Blues supporter and freelance journalist Aaron Sharp about the fixture. 

It’s been all change at Anfield this summer, with the arrival of a new manager and several ins and outs amongst the playing staff. What do you think of Liverpool’s dealings?

Brendan Rodgers has made no secret of the fact that his red Rome will not be built in a day, and while even the longest of journeys begin with the smallest of steps, in acquiring his tools for the job, it's clear that the new manager has already put few feet wrong. Liverpool's failure to address their striker shortage after Andy Caroll's status was downgraded to persona-non-grata looks to have hampered the Reds' start to the season with chances going begging, and points along with them.

With the jury still out on what little business did get done in the acquisition of Borini and Şahin, the signing of tried and tested ball retainer Joe Allen looks to be Rodgers safest, and so far, most successful signing.

And how about Everton’s transfer dealings, do you think it’s been another summer of shrewd purchases from David Moyes?

For once, David Moyes' summer was a relatively straightforward one, made so by the remarkable success of the previous January window. The Blues' boss made the permanent re-signing of Steven Pienaar his top priority, and with South African's heart set on a return to Goodison Park, that deal always looked a given. With what little funds remained, The Scot has managed to add some much needed creativity to his ranks with the capture of Kevin Mirallas - that signing also brought balance to the side with Blues' attacking prowess improving dramatically now they're able to boast danger men on both flanks.

Everton of course finished above Liverpool last year, and have come out of the blocks faster in this campaign; do you think the Blues will finish on top again?

Yes. That's not to say Brendan Rodgers will fail at Anfield, but the ebb and flow of footballing fortunes looks certain to see Everton continue in their league superiority. While the Northern Irishman is admirably toiling with the overhaul of one the most traditional clubs in the world, David Moyes' rebuilding work of previous seasons is now starting to bear real fruit. Players like Leighton Baines, Phil Jagielka and the mercurial Marouane Fellaini all seems to have found the best form of their careers at the same time. If Everton can carry the weight of their own expectation and not become complacent in the process, they should finish above Liverpool.

Which Liverpool players are you most worried about going into the game?

When it comes to big game players, Liverpool have one of the greatest there is. But prospect of another Steven Gerrard is not the only thing which will be causing the Gwladys Street to shuffle in their seats. Luis Suarez too has proven himself to be the type of player who feeds off the hostility of a baying crowd, a handy attribute to have in this type of encounter.

And which Everton players should Liverpool be worried about?

David Moyes looks likely to rush back Marouane Fellaini for Sunday, and if he's able to return with the type of form he had pre-injury, he will undoubtedly cause Liverpool problems. But Nikica Jelavic has also
shown his eye for a derby goal, netting at Wembley last year. The Croatian knows a thing or two about local rivalries from his Old Firm days. Evertonians will be hoping he can hoping he can put that experience to good use, south of the border.

Do you think the fantastic support of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign by Everton as of recent has done a lot to bring the two sets of supporters closer and re-emphasise that this is the friendly derby?

I think the coming together of both sets of fans in the wake of the Hillsborough Independent Panel's findings showed the country what many had forgot, that Liverpool is a city where fans of rival teams live amongst each other, literally, in the same streets and the same houses. On field, divisions are deep, that's the way it should be, and I expect that's the way it will stay. For those who live in the city, I don't think much will have changed, there'll be blood and thunder on the pitch, and pints in the pubs afterwards - hasn't it always been that way?

Finally, can we get a prediction for a score?

I'm loathe to predict a score in any game of football, let alone a derby match, but I do think there's goals in it. An Everton win, with both sides scoring.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Putting the 'friendly' back into the Merseyside derby: Why Reds and Blues are best united.

By Michael Owen

Liverpool and Everton fans have been united by the Hillsborough Independent Panel findings, now it's time to further build on the relationship and work towards the development of the Football Quarter. 

When Sky Sports preview Everton v Liverpool on Sunday, they’ll remind the watching public that the clash of Merseyside’s two biggest clubs is know as ‘the friendly derby’.

Liverpool, more than many other cities, is a city united. Under the reign of Margaret Thatcher the city dared to fight, putting up a united front and stood up to the unfair policies that were crippling the economy of a once buoyant city.

They came together following the Hillsborough disaster. The Everton supporter s, many of whom lost friends and relatives, were the first to realise that what happened on that day in Sheffield went far beyond football rivalries.

But as of recent it wouldn’t be unfair to argue the derby has lost some of its friendliness. On and off the pitch their have been incidents which have turned this much anticipated event somewhat sour.

Red cards aren’t uncommon in local derbies; players with fire in their belly are always likely to act a little stupidly. Indeed many, particularly the neutrals, will argue that without the increased competitive edge a derby simply isn’t the same.

But the March 2006 fixture at Anfield saw Steven Gerrard red carded early in the game, a clash in which himself, and Everton’s James Beattie, were supposed to be advertising the city’s bid for the European Capital of Culture title by wearing a special ‘08’ number on their back.

Off the pitch there have been issues, too. Everton supporters were unhappy when Liverpool supporters presented a ‘Steaua Bucuresti 86’ banner in reference to the European Cup won by the Eastern Europe side when Everton were ineligible due to the Heysel ban on English clubs.

Liverpool supporters have of course also had their grievances, particularly when it has come to the infamous ‘Murderers’ chant that has far too often been heard ringing out from the home end of Goodison Park or the away end at Anfield during recent derbies.

But now the two teams have started to come back together. The findings of the Hillsborough Independent Panel has seen both Liverpool and Everton fans rally behind the battle for justice for the 96 supporters of the disaster.

A game earlier this season at Goodison Park reaffirmed the Blues commitment to the battle for justice, with two kids coming out before the game, alongside the players, one with the number nine and the other with the number six on the back of their Liverpool and Everton shirts.

Aside from the official backing of the families fight by Everton FC the fans have also been particularly vocal in their support. During their League Cup defeat to Leeds at Elland Road the travelling support broke out into a chorus of ‘Justice for the 96’.

Liverpool’s recent announcement that work is set to commence on the redevelopment of Anfield in the next couple of years also offers an opportunity to unite, with the much touted Football Quarter concept now having a realistic chance of coming to fruition. 

The idea, presented under the name of 'All Together Now' by Spirit of Shankly and Keep Everton in our City, would see the areas surrounding Anfield and Goodison, alongside the stadiums themselves, regenerated and turned into an area of sporting excellence.

Sitting in the same area of the stadium as your local rivals may be why many outsiders consider the Merseyside derby, some may say it’s the fact the two clubs sit at the heart of the same area, with just Stanley Park to separate them.

But the coming years offer immense possibilities for the relationship between the two football clubs. First they have the chance to work together to finally, after 23 years, ensure that the families finally get justice for the 96 relatives they lost at Hillsborough.

Alongside that they can come together to redevelop not only their own stadiums but also the local area around them, turning what is currently one of the most dilapidated areas of Liverpool into a world renowned sporting club.

That, for me, is a proper friendly derby.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Liverpool 1-0 Anzhi: Rare Downing goal gives Reds the win

By Michael Owen

A rare goal from Stewart Downing gave Liverpool all three points in their Europa League clash with Russian outfit Anzhi Makhachkala on Thursday night. 

Downing, playing at left-back after Glen Johnson was forced off through injury at half-time, was found by a searching ball from Jonjo Shelvey, with the former Middlesbrough man cutting inside, finding a sight of goal and placing a shot with his weaker foot. 

The Reds had other chances to increase their lead in what was an impressive attacking performance from the hosts, with Oussama Assaidi being denied a penalty whilst Daniel Agger had a goal ruled out by the referee after heading the ball out of the hand of goalkeeper Gabulov. 

Brendan Rodgers opted to name a strong line-up for the visit of the Russian outfit, with both Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard in the starting line-up whilst the defensive line was unchanged from the Reds weekend win of Reading, with youngster Andre Wisdom maintaining his place in the first-team set up. 

Anzhi fielded a team full of familiar faces, with star striker Samuel Eto'o starting alongside former Chelsea man Yuri Zhirkov and former Blackburn Rovers centre-half Christopher Samba all being included in Guus Hiddink's first eleven. 

Liverpool started the game well, controlling possession and looking to find space in and around the Anzhi box, with the best of the early chances falling to Suarez, who fired his low, drilled, effort directly at Gabulov, with the visitors keeper collecting easily. 

Mid way through the first-half Jonjo Shelvey wasted a golden opportunity to put the hosts into the lead, with Suarez breaking free down the right hand side and cutting the ball across to the England international, who leaned back into his shot and fired it well over the bar from just outside the area. 

The remainder of the first-half saw Liverpool continually create chances but ultimately fail to take them, with Assaidi being set up by Johnson only to fire directly into the arms of Gabulov before Daniel Agger broke quickly and unopposed down the middle before firing just above the top left corner. 

A knock picked up by Johnson forced Brendan Rodgers to take off the former Portsmouth man at half-time, with youngster Raheem Sterling being brought on to replacing, forcing Stewart Downing to switch to left-back. 

The Reds had a chance within a couple of minutes of the restart, with Sterling doing well to head the ball into the path of the advancing Shelvey, who cut it from the left hand side into Steven Gerrard, with the Reds skipper placing his effort just wide. 

Moments later Liverpool finally got themselves into the lead, with Shelvey playing a ball from the middle of the park out to the left towards Downing, who cut inside and, finding a sight of goal, took on a shot from distance with his weaker right foot, striking well, beating Gabulov and into the back of the net. 

With an hour played Anzhi made their first two substitution of the game, with Guus Hiddink opting to take off Agalarov and Smalov and bring on Logashov and Traore. 

The introduction of Traore helped Anzi to break up Liverpool's increasingly quick and clever attacking play, with the front man sparking a degree of caution in the Reds back line, continually trying to get the better of an impressively assured Andre Wisdom. 

Both teams made their final substitution within the last twenty minutes, with Lakiyalov replacing Boussoufa for Anzhi and Joe Allen replacing Shelvey for Liverpool. 

Daniel Agger thought he had sealed the win for Liverpool in the last ten minutes, heading the ball out of Gabulov's hand after the keeper had collected, with the Dane proceeding to fire a shot straight into the open goal. His strike was however disallowed by the referee. 

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Five Things We've Learned: Liverpool v Reading

By Robert Nevitt

1. Reds CAN win at home

Saturday’s game almost mirrored the majority of matches already seen at Anfield this year.

With the Reds dominant in possession, plenty of chances were created and subsequently squandered. Had Reading offered any sort of attacking threat, then they may have left Anfield with at least a share of the points, just like the majority of visitors have done so in 2012.

But the fact of the matter was, despite the missed chances, Raheem Sterling did hit the target. a goal which proved enough to give the Reds a win and a very welcome three points.

What it also did is prove that the Reds CAN win at home.

In 2012, prior to Saturday's game, Liverpool had won just two league games at Anfield, a figure matched by Arsenal! Brendan Rodgers was still looking for his first home three points of the season whilst it's been over a year since the Reds have strung back-to-back home league wins together.

As each Anfield game went by, you could see the home record playing on the minds of both players and supporters. As each chance went begging, the feeling of 'one of those days again' was written on everyone's faces.

So the fact that the Reds finally managed to win at Anfield on Saturday is hugely significant.

No matter that it was only Reading, teams of their ilk are among those who have enjoyed their trip to Anfield recently.

No matter that the scoreline would have looked far more convincing had a small fraction of the 23 created chances been converted.

The important thing was for the Reds to win.

With the monkey now removed from their back, let's hope the Reds can now start to make Anfield a fortress again.

2. Sterling shines again

The standout performer for Liverpool on Saturday was young winger Raheem Sterling, who continued his fine start to his fledgling Liverpool career.

The seventeen-year old was instrumental in the Reds performance, displaying his full armory of pace, power and skill to lead the Reading defence a merry dance.

In a slight change to previous games, Sterling was allowed to drift inside from the left wing allowing him to combine well with Luis Suarez and give the team a bigger attacking threat.

From here he was able to fire in 5 shots, one of which proved to be the match-winner when he brilliantly struck beyond Alex McCarthy in the Royals' goal to net his first senior goal and thus become the second youngest ever Liverpool goalscorer.

He also showed his undoubted talent on the wing as he teamed up with Glen Johnson to create numerous opportunities, most notably for Suarez and Nuri Sahin who both fired over from good positions.

3. Johnson shows his class

Another fine performer on Saturday was Glen Johnson.

For both Liverpool and England, the full-back never really gets the plaudits for which his performances deserve. Renowned as excellent going forward, he often receives criticism for his defensive duties.

However, his recent displays for both club and country have been outstanding in all aspects of his game.

In the summer, he was arguably England's the best defender at the European Championships and has continued in that vein during the World Cup qualifiers.

For Liverpool, this season he has been just as effective, albeit whilst playing on his "wrong" side at left-back.

On Saturday, he was an important component in a Reds' defence which kept only it's second clean sheet of the league season thus far, as he blocked three Reading shots, cleared the ball four times and was dominant in the air winning all of his aerial battles.

But it's going forward where the full-back really impresses. Seeing more of the ball than any other player, he fired six efforts at the Reading goal, including one against McCarthy's post.

He is also a key feature in the development of youngster Sterling, with Johnson's experience helping nurture the young winger through games. It's no coincidence that Sterling's best displays come when he is working in tandem with Johnson.

4. Jones proves decent backup option

The life of a backup goalkeeper is a strange one.

With most Premier League teams having a recognised number one, or number 25 in our case, the backup keeper is often nothing more than a glorified spectator.

For Brad Jones, playing second fiddle to Pepe Reina can't be much fun. Not even involved in Reserve games, Jones' participation rarely sees more than the training pitch or pre-match warm-up.

Even when he impressed in goal at Wembley against Everton, during a goalkeeping crisis in which both Reina and Alexander Doni were suspended, Jones soon found himself back on the sidelines when Reina was available once more.

So, when Reina was ruled out of Saturday's game due to a hamstring injury picked up on Spanish International duty, Jones must have secretly been delighted that he could dust the cobwebs off his gloves once more.

The Aussie stopper would have been forgiven for showing signs of rustiness, but his performance was top notch as he produced a fine display, his kicking apart, to help the Reds to a vital victory.

Quiet for most of the game, Jones showed good levles of concentration to first thwart Gareth McCleary when the winger broke clear, before he produced another fine stop to deny Jobi McAnuff and cement only the Reds' second clean sheet from the first 8 league games.

There's no doubt that when Reina is fit again he will rightly go straight back into the team, but credit must go to Jones, who has proved he is more than adequate backup.

5. Scouse Humour Comes To The Fore

There were two occasions on Saturday where the Anfield crowd went into raptures.

The first obviously came when Sterling fired the Reds in front. But the second was somewhat unexpected.

Five minutes before half-time, the ball was rolled towards Luis Suarez, who was 25 yards out and with back to goal. As the Uruguayan controlled the ball, Reading defender Kasper Gorkss challenged from behind and sent Suarez to the floor.

Now, as we all know, decisions don't often go for Suarez. This season alone he has been felled by O'Shea, pulled back by Mertesacker, tripped by Evans, wrestled to the ground by Barnett and stamped upon by Huth. But on all occasions, he failed to even win a free-kick for any of them. Instead, the focus has been on Suarez diving.

So when Saturday's referee Roger East immediately decided that Gorkss’ clumsy challenge was worthy of a free-kick, all four corners of Anfield, the Reading fans apart, stood up and let out ironic cheers.

And that was just for a free-kick. Imagine if Suarez won a penalty......

.."We're gonna have a party, we're gonna...!"

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Liverpool 1-0 Reading: Single Sterling effort sees off Royals

By Michael Owen

A single goal from youngster Raheem Sterling was enough to hand Brendan Rodgers his first home league win as Liverpool manager as a confident Reds side saw off Reading at Anfield. 

A well-timed pass from Luis Suarez landed in the path of an advancing Sterling, who broke into the box and placed his shot across the face of goal and into the far corner.

It was a game which Liverpool could, and should, have won much more comfortably, with Suarez alone missing a number of chances to extend the Reds lead.

With Fabio Borini likely to be sidelined for the foreseeable future Brendan Rodgers opted to start with a front three of Luis Suarez, Suso and Raheem Sterling, with goalkeeper Brad Jones also in the starting eleven due to Pepe Reina being sidelined with a knock picked up on Spain duty.

Liverpool looked confident in the opening exchanges, with Nuri Sahin doing well to break free of the last man, but the midfielder was, seemingly wrongly, adjudged to be offside by the linesman, with Suso having one of the first chances of the fixture, firing wide from just outside the box.

A clever run inside by Luis Suarez from the left found him with plenty of space, with the Uruguay international opting to flick the ball across to the right towards the advancing Raheem Sterling, but the youngster was quickly closed down by Mariappa, with his shot being deflected away and out of danger.

Liverpool's number seven nearly had a goal himself  minutes later, picking up the ball just outside the box and working the ball around a number of Reading defenders, getting a clear sight of goal and firing a shot just over the bar.

An injury to Jem Paul Karacan forced Brian McDermott to make his first change of the game, taking off the youngster and replacing him with Garth McCleary.

It was link-up play between Suarez and Sterling which created Liverpool's first goal, with the former Ajax man playing a well-timed ball over the top into the path of the advancing Sterling, who did well under pressure to fire and effort across goal and into the far corner.

Anfield erupted in ironic celebration in the latter stages of the first-half as Luis Suarez was brought down outside of the area and was actually awarded a free-kick. This striker couldn't convert from the dead ball situation, however, firing his effort straight into the wall.

Glen Johnson was handed the best chance of the closing moments of the first period, running onto a tee up from Sterling and hitting an effort first-time which forced a good save from McCarthy.

Both keepers were called into action in the opening minutes of the second-half, with McCarthy once again denying Suarez after the visitors keeper had made a poor clearance before a long-ball from the Reading half found McCleary one-on-one with Jones, but the stand-in keeper did well to block the wingers effort.

With an hour of the game played Brendan Rodgers opted to make his first substitution, bringing on Jonjo Shelvey to replace Nuri Sahin.

Reading looked to get more and more into the game as the second period progressed, though Liverpool still looked threatening, with Luis Suarez playing an inch perfect ball from the right into Jonjo Shelvey, but the youngster couldn't keep his first touch under control and McCarthy collected easily.

With seventy minutes on the clock both managers opted to make a change, with Brendan Rodgers bringing on Jose Enrique for Suso whilst Brian McDermott replaced Pogrebnyak with Le Fondre.

Enrique was involved immediately, breaking down the left-hand side and cuts it back to Suarez, who takes his shot first-time and hits it wide, with the front man once again failing to hit the target with an effort after he was laid off in space by Johnson moments later.

With ten minutes to go Brian McDermott made his third and final substitution in an attempt to add some fire power to his Royals side, bringing on Jason Roberts to replace former Liverpool man Danny Guthrie.

Liverpool's final substitution saw Brendan Rodgers opt to take goalscorer Raheem Sterling and replaced him with England Under 21's captain Jordan Henderson.

Friday, October 19, 2012

LFC Scout Report: Reading FC

By Ben Hardy

Reading head to Anfield on Saturday still searching for their first three points of the season.

Reading manager Brian McDermott achieved his first ever win as Reading manager at Anfield in an FA Cup replay in 2010, what he would give for the same outcome this weekend.

Fabio Borini could be out for up to 3 months due to foot surgery.
Whilst Liverpool have managed only a single win, The Kop have been deprived of a home victory so far and with the injury list only getting longer, it seems this fixture has become a proverbial six-pointer.

Fabio Borini joins Lucas and Martin Kelly on the long term injury list as the striker could miss up to three months due to surgery on his foot.

Jason Roberts has been busy creating a fuss in the media this week as he bravely declared he will not be backing the Kick it Out campaign against racism and will refuse to wear the t-shirt.

The striker is protesting about the four match ban handed to John Terry as he believes both the FA and Chelsea should have come down harder on Terry.

Brothers Rio and Anton Ferdinand are expected to join the boycott despite high profile criticism from the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson.

With the jam packed Christmas period lurking around the corner, both teams will be desperate to pick up another win or two and get some sort of form behind them.

Reading were on course for their first win last time out against Swansea as they lead 2-0 at half time. However, a second half Swansea fight back meant the Royals left with only a point and still winless.

Having scored two goals in each of their last three matches, goals are clearly not hard to come by and it seems the problems lie in defence.

With Luis Suarez being Liverpool's only fit recognised striker, the Reading defence will be hoping he has one of his quieter days and will look to stifle the Uruguayan and leave with a clean sheet.

Team News

The Royals' returned from the international break largely unscathed, with just Noel Hunt struggling for fitness.

The Irish striker has picked up a knock on his heel and will undergo a late fitness test before Saturday's 3pm kick off.

However they will be boosted by the news that midfielder Mikele Liegertwood is fit and ready after returning from a dead leg.

Key Players

The Red's defence will have their hands full if both Pavel Pogrebnyak and Noel Hunt start as expected. They have managed to score six goals between them in the league and cup this season.

Pogrebnyak has carried on his good form shown at Fulham last season as the striker has now scored eight goals in 11 shots on target in the Premier League.

Whilst the threat of the two striker is obvious, it's fair to say that most of Readings goals this season has come from wide man Jobi McAnuff. The midfielder has incredible five assists to his name already which would indicate to any defence that they should prepare for lots of crosses and runs from the wings.

Even at this early point in the season, it is vital for both teams to escape the trailing group of teams at the bottom of the league. Liverpool in particular, must push on and distance themselves from that group and concentrate on finishing in the European places.

A failure to secure three points on Saturday could cause a few fans to question Brenden Rogers' transfer policy and squad selection at a big club. Many sources have even suggested that a recall for Andy Carroll isn't too far away and the Northern Ireland man could do a lot worse than have the £30m striker back among his squad.

Under 21's: Man City 1-3 Liverpool: Morgan brace gives Rodolfo's Reds deserved win

By Michael Owen

Liverpool's under 21's side made it four wins in a row with a confident display against Manchester City on Friday, making the trip back to Merseyside having won by three goals to one. 

A brace from Adam Morgan and a stunning effort by Dani Pacheco ensured that Luca Scapuzzi's first-half effort was a mere consolation as Rodolfo Borrell's side recorded a solid win in what was a competitive fixture throughout.

It was Liverpool who struck first at Hyde FC, with  Danny Ward collecting a Man City corner and playing it quickly up-field, finding Michael Ngoo wh managed to take the ball under control but struggled to get his shot away, with his eventual tame effort being deflected into the path of Adam Morgan who fired home to give the young Reds' the lead.

Manchester City got their equaliser just ten minutes later, with Connor Coady giving away possession cheaply, allowing Lopes to play a well-timed ball to Hiwula, whose shot deflected off the outside of Danny Ward's right-hand post and into the path of Scapuzzi who placed his shot into an open goal to bring the home side level.

A well-placed through ball by captain Connor Coady gave Ngoo another chance to put the Reds into the lead, with the front man taking it down well and finding himself with a clear sight of goal. But the number nine, under pressure, fired well over the bar, nestling the ball in a tree behind the goal in what would be Liverpool's last chance of the half.

With just over an hour played Liverpool got their second goal of the game after a period of dominance, with Dani Pacheco chipping the ball just to the left of the box towards the advancing Krisztian Adorjan, who played a low ball across the face of goal which alluded Ngoo in the centre before falling at the feat of Morgan out right who placed his shot to double his and the Reds tally.

Rodolfo Borrell's side quickly doubled their lead, with Dani Pacheco receiving the ball straight back from the short corner he had took on the left hand side, looking up and playing what looked to be intended as a cross into the box past all of the advancing Liverpool players and straight into the back of the net from distance, giving the visitors a 3-1 lead.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Short-Term Pain Should Provide Long-Term Gain

By Robert Nevitt

It's been a difficult start to Brendan Rodgers' reign as Liverpool manager.

The club's worst start in over 100 years has seen just six points amassed from the opening 7 league games, with only nine goals scored, 5 of which came in one game at Norwich, whilst Pepe Reina and his defence have only kept one clean sheet thus far.

Worse still, Rodgers has suffered defeat on three occasions, including against arch-rivals Manchester United, and he is yet to oversee a league victory at Anfield.

Getty Images.
Away from the league, the Europa League campaign has already been a rollercoaster of a ride.

A last minute Luis Suarez goal saved the Reds' blushes at home to Hearts in the qualifying round, but the group stages started with a five-star performance away in Switzerland against Young Boys. However, an all too familiar home performance saw Liverpool dominate Italian side Udinese only to suffer a 3-2 defeat, leaving the Reds third in the four team group.

As was the case last season, the one bright spot so far has been the League cup, or Capital One Cup as it's now known, with the Reds living up to their tag as holders, coming from a goal down to record a fine 2-1 away win at West Bromwich Albion, a victory which has set up a fourth round home tie with Rodgers' former side Swansea City.

As if things on the pitch haven't been bad enough, Liverpool's last minute transfer dealings, or rather lack of, have left Rodgers with a paper-thin squad, particularly in forward areas.

Add to the mix another injury to key midfielder Lucas Leiva plus the never-ending controversy surrounding Suarez, something about which Rodgers publicly commented last week, then the first few months of the Northern Irishman's reign at Anfield have been a baptism of fire.

With the reds sitting in fourteenth place in the Premier League, it would be easy to adopt the same view as much of the rest of the footballing world and declare Liverpool as a club in trouble, a club in a downward spiral.

However, despite the start, it's not a view shared by the Anfield faithful. The reason is simple; the bigger picture.

When Rodgers was unveiled in front of a packed Anfield press conference back at the start of June, the main talking point amongst Liverpool supporters was whether or not the ex-Swansea boss could instill his 4-3-3 formation and passing philosophy onto the Reds' team.

Only two months in, despite struggling on the results front, the team have clearly taken Rodgers’ game on board. In the majority of matches, the home defeat to an excellent Arsenal side apart, the Reds passing style has seen them dominate possession. At Carrow Road, they set a Premier League record by completing 90% of over 700 passes, with their fifth goal of the day coming after a flowing move of 21 passes.

Of course, as the league table suggests, things are far from perfect though.

Rodgers' insistence on playing the ball from the back has seen defensive lapses, most notably when Martin Skrtel's backpass presented the ball on a plate for Carlos Tevez to give Champions Manchester City a point, whilst the rampaging nature of Rodgers' full-backs and midfield has seen gaps exploited by opponents, particularly the Santi Cazorla-led Arsenal.

At the other end of the pitch, the passing style is creating plenty of chances, but the lack of cutting edge means the Reds are not turning their dominance into wins. The absence of a Plan B also isn't helping, as shown against Stoke City last time out.

But, with Rodgers tenure still in its infancy there were bound to be teething problems. The manner of the performances so far though suggest that the Reds are on the right lines and with a bit more luck, a few favourable refereeing decisions and the arrival of a consistent goalscorer in the January transfer window, Rodgers should see his side's promising displays finally rewarded.

Another, and probably bigger, reason for Reds fans to be optimistic about the future, is the new breed of youngsters forcing their way into the first team reckoning.

The Reds' summer objective of lowering the wage bill and subsequent failure to bring in an adequate number of re-inforcements, resulted in Rodgers' squad looking desperately thin on the ground come September 1st. With the transfer window shut until the New Year, the boss had no option but to look to the younger members of his squad, a move which is already paying dividends.

Twenty-two year old Martin Kelly has continued to command a first team place under Rodgers only for injury to cut short his involvement, whilst a player of the same age, Joe Allen, has brilliantly epitomised Rodgers' football idealism since his move from Swansea.

Jonjo Shelvey, 20, was already a bit-part player under Kenny Dalglish, but this season his performance has visibly improved a few notches, so much so that he was rewarded with a first senior England cap at the weekend.

But it's some unfamiliar young names that are causing the most excitement.

Seventeen-year old winger Raheem Sterling impressed in a full debut against champions City and has since established himself as one of the first names on the teamsheet with his pace and skill causing opposition defences no end of problems.

Spanish teenager Suso has followed suit to bring some much needed guile and creativity to the other wing, whilst 19 year old local lad Andre Wisdom has taken advantage of Kelly's enforced absence to make the right back role his own in recent weeks.

With Rodgers looking to keep his first team regulars fresh for league duties, the cup competitions have seen even more impressive youngsters on show.

The excellent Jack Robinson has once again showcased his undoubted talent at left-back, whilst young strikers Adam Morgan and Samed Yesil have both thrown their hats into the ring for the role of first team backup striker.

Rodgers has even managed to blood the Reds youngest ever player in Jerome Sinclair, who came on as a sub in the league cup tie at West Brom at the age of just 16 years and 6 days.

With the likes of Stephen Sama, Conor Coady, Dani Pacheco, Jordan Ibe and Kristian Adorjan all continuing to impress in the new Under-21 reserve league, of which the Reds currently sit top, the likelihood is that there will be more youngsters on senior duty in the coming months, something which can only benefit the squad long term.

So the message is clear.

Whilst it may be painful to look at the league table at the moment, there are enough positives to take from both Liverpool's style of play and the promising influx of youngsters, to see that Rodgers will eventually get it right at Anfield.

Until then, we may have to endure a bit more pain with results hit and miss for a while, but the fact that the Kop continues to sing 'There's only one Brendan Rodgers!' shows that the Reds' supporters have every faith that the team are heading in the right direction.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Liverpool to remain at Anfield: Advantages and Disadvantages

By Michael Owen

It's been ten years since the idea of Liverpool Football Club moving into a new stadium was first seriously touted, and finally after a decade of grand designs and ditched plans the club looks set  to settle its long-term future. 

It was former owner David Moores, alongside his Chief Executive Rick Parry, that produced the first plans for a proposed new stadium on Stanley Park, stating the need to catch up with Manchester United in terms of match day revenues in order to preserve prosperity on the pitch. 

Supporters found initial designs for 'New Anfield' underwhelming, with the soulless bowl, of a similar design to The Emirates and The Reebok Stadium, featuring no distinctive features linking the ground to the club and its history, with the most notable omission from the plans being a single-tier Kop stand. 

Since then Tom Hicks and George Gillett have released a state-of-the art steel and glass facility, complete with a Spion Kop, only to edit the design to save on costs before eventually scrapping any plans for a new ground as their reign at Anfield turned sour after piling debt onto the club. 

John W Henry's takeover of Liverpool - two years ago - sparked fresh hope the stadium issue would be resolved, with the American not only promising to look into building a new facility on Stanley Park but also analyse the feasibility of Anfield being extended, something once considered near impossible. 

The new plans, revealed on Monday, will see the Main and Anfield Road stands extended, with the former seeing the houses behind it demolished and the closing the road it takes its name from in order to expand, taking the capacity of the stadium to 60,000 with work starting in 2014. 

But what does the decision mean for Liverpool's long-term future? Is this a short-term solution which will ultimately mean the ageing stadium requires more investment as time goes on? Or is it a clever and cost effective way to bring the club closer to its high capacity rivals whilst staying at its spiritual home?

(Editorial Note: This site and its editorial team have always believed that Liverpool should explore all avenues in order to ensure the clubs remains at Anfield as opposed to moving to a new facility.) 


One of the major disadvantages of staying at Anfield will be that any construction work may have to take place during the Premier League season. Even with the Reds having a stuttering start this campaign tickets, particularly for league games, are still hard to come by and a reduced capacity will further aggravate the problem. 

Even if the building work is broken up to ensure that both stands are not closed at once there will likely still be an adverse impact on capacity, and revenues, especially when the Main Stand is under construction, a problem which wouldn't occur if the Reds were to move to a new ground. 

Whilst it can't be argued that Liverpool could not build a new 60,000 seat stadium for £154 million, what has to be asked is what impact does staying at a new stadium have on revenues? A new stadium allows the club to open corporate hospitality areas that are design specifically for the purpose, with increased space allowing for more boxes. 

This cannot be guaranteed at Anfield, and whilst the total number of seats may be the same as in a new stadium it will be interesting to see the difference in estimated revenues as a new stadium would allow the Reds to fully live up to their potential in terms of attracting high-end corporate clients whilst not impacting too much on the average fan. 

The final key problem is that of the long, long-term. Yes, Liverpool will get a 60,000 capacity Anfield, but what happens when the club want more seats? A new stadium could be purpose built to extend to 70,000+ if needed; should Liverpool want that at Anfield they may once again find planning issues severely restrictive.. 


From a financial perspective one key advantage is that the total cost of the capacity increase will be considerably less than it costs to build a new 60,000 stadium. Not only that but it means Liverpool may not have to sell naming rights in order to fund the project, and if they do it's all extra profit on top. 

Another key financial plus is the inclusion in the plans of a hotel. No plans for any of the other proposed new stadiums have ever included a hotel facility, and the extra revenue that can be gained, particularly around match days, could be incredibly important in ensuring the club are competitive in years to come. 

The local community will also reap the benefits of staying at Anfield, with the area around the stadium set for a huge face lift as part of the regeneration plans, not to mention the pubs, food outlets and shops surrounding Anfield will still be a stones throw from the stadium and a host of potential one-off visitors who wouldn't have know where these pubs were if the stadium was moved to the middle of Stanley Park. 

Anfield's historic value should not be underestimated, either, with the Anfield stadium tour being one of the most popular in the country. Whilst a tour of any new ground would likely still attract interest from supporters visiting the city Anfield's added historic value provides extra incentive. 

Finally, and this may be the most important point of all, Anfield is the home of Liverpool Football Club, ever since Everton were kicked out for not paying the rent the stadium has been synonymous with the Reds and their winning ways throughout the 60's, 70's and 80's. Any supporter who's visited the stadium will tell you just how important it is to them, and I for one am delighted to be staying. 

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Decisions will continue to go against Suarez until he loses his bad reputation

By Michael Owen

Brendan Rodgers once again reiterated after Liverpool's clash with Stoke City at the weekend that Luis Suarez is treat unfairly by referee's due to his reputation - a point it's hard to disagree with. 

During a first-half mainly dominated by Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday the visitors resorted to a successive string of fouls to break up the Reds quick and clever passing play, with Suarez being one of the main victims of the rough tactics. 

It could even be argued Robert Huth, who put in his fair share of bad challenges throughout the game, should have been sent off early on for a deliberate stamp on Suarez, instead Lee Mason opted to allow the German to stay on the field, in fact he wasn't even cautioned. 

Had this happened to another player, Rodgers would argue, then the referee would have been quick to act, but with the Uruguayans reputation at the forefront of his mind Lee Mason failed to act, and as it had been noted by the referee during the game, Huth faced no disciplinary action. 

It was a shambles of a situation which should have seen Huth off the pitch and handed a hefty ban for violent conduct. It would have been highlighted across the media in post match analysis and would have been the main taking point of the game, but Suarez let himself down once again. 

A blatant dive in the second-half by the Liverpool number seven was ultimately going to be the major talking point of an otherwise dull affair. A dive which once again saw the former Ajax man the focus of media scrutiny, with his reputation once again tarnished and referee's decisions further influenced. 

Mark Lawrenson on Match of the Day dubbed Suarez "the boy who cried wolf" and it's hard to disagree - the more times the striker goes down to easy the more referee's are going to consider his past form when it comes to handing him crucial decisions. 

Brendan Rodgers will know that this isn't just something which is affecting Suarez, but also affecting Liverpool as a whole. Strong penalty claims have been waived away, costing the Reds points, whilst having someone who dives on the side isn't good for the image of the club. 

It could of course be argued that the likes of Ashley Young and Gareth Bale, who have both been caught diving this season, haven't had nearly as much criticism, partly because they're British. But Suarez's issue has been that it's persistent, and instead of the referee expecting him to be brought down, the official is expect him to dive. 

If Rodgers wants to referee's to stop putting Suarez's track record before the incident at hand he needs to drill it into the striker that he has to try and stay on his feet. He may see a handful of decisions not go his way as he doesn't go to ground, but for the sake of a rebuilt reputation it's worth it in the long-term. 

Monday, October 08, 2012

Five Things We've Learned: Liverpool v Stoke City

By Rob Nevitt

1. Sometimes Suarez is his own worst enemy

Luis Suarez was once again the headline maker in Sunday's draw with Stoke City, but unlike last week, it wasn't due to his footballing talents.

Rightly or wrongly, the Uruguayan was once again the main footballing talking due to his ridiculous attempt to win a penalty. Even BBC Breakfast's Susanna Reid had a go at him!

As I wrote in last week's "Five Things..", Suarez is the Premier League's public enemy no 1 (although John Terry and Ashley Cole are bidding to takeover top spot!). The Uruguayan's general manner on the football field wins few admirers outside of Anfield, whilst his misdemeanors in the World Cup, for Ajax and during the Patrice Evra affair have all helped create a character that most people love to hate.

Whilst in the Premier League he has also acquired, unfairly in my opinion, a label as a diver. This reputation has proceeded him recently with decisions against Sunderland, Arsenal, Manchester United and Norwich all going against him. In the game versus Stoke on Sunday, even when Suarez writhed around in agony after being stamped upon by Robert Huth, no action was taken against the Stoke defender.

So, with seemingly the whole footballing world already against him, why did Suarez go and make things a whole lot worse by feigning a ridiculous dive on Sunday?

Yes others do it, Gareth Bale's against Aston Villa was arguably worse, but it doesn't make it right.

Suarez already finds himself in a position where both the officials and the opposition are gunning for him long before the first whistle, so why does he continually give them more sticks to beat him with?

We don't want to change his desire and will-to-win, in fact it would be great if more of our players had it. But I can't help but feel that someone at the club needs to have a quiet word with him about some of his behaviour on the pitch.

Already, Suarez has many enemies in the top flight. The sad part is though, that his worst one may be himself.

2. No Plan B leaves Reds desperately short of firepower

It's getting boring now, but after each game in which Liverpool fail to win, the same line gets trotted out; We lack firepower.

Our failure to breach a well-organised Stoke defence was the latest in an ever-growing list of matches where Liverpool had the majority of play but failed to hit the target and subsequently take all three points.

The problem is that as an attacking force we rely heavily on the goals and creativity of Suarez. If our number seven doesn't find the net, our only real backup option is a moment of genius from the likes of Gerrard or a successful set-piece routine.

It's been said many times since the end of the transfer window, but the lack of striking options left at the club is having a detrimental effect on Liverpool's season.

With 70 minutes gone yesterday, the Reds were clearly running out of ideas on how to find the net. Suarez was enduring a difficult day with Stoke's defenders giving him the rough treatment, so much so that his frustrations got the better of him and he produced his comical dive.

The Reds clearly needed to adopt a Plan B, but the only attacking options we had were Joe Cole, someone yet to produce anywhere near his best for the Reds, and Fabio Borini and Oussama Assaidi, who are both only just starting their Anfield careers.

What we needed was someone to come on and score. That player doesn't have to be someone who can work hard, play on either wing or double up as a creator, he simply needs to be someone who stands in the six yard box and adds a finish to our wonderful set-up play.

Until we find that player, we are always going to struggle turning our dominant possession into three points.

The January transfer window can't come quick enough

3. Home form nothing short of diabolical

Sunday's draw leaves the Reds still searching for their first home league win of the season.

Draws against Manchester City and Stoke, as well as defeats to Manchester United and Arsenal, mean that Rodgers' men have amassed a paltry 2 points from an available 12.

Add in the three Europa League games staged at Anfield so far this term, only Gomel have been beaten.

As if that isn't bad enough, a more alarming stat reveals that the in the last 19 Premier league games at Anfield, Liverpool have won just four!

Anfield was once a fortress, but now opposition teams come without fear, knowing that if they can stifle the Reds' early charge, then they are likely to leave with a point, maybe even all three.

When Rodgers arrived in the Anfield hotseat, he knew the importance of improving our home form. In an attempt to intimidate opponents and make them endure "the longest 90 minutes of their lives", Rodgers asked for the red nets to be put back up and re-instated the original "This Is Anfield" sign in the tunnel.

Given the Reds' results at home so far this season, it may have been more fitting had Rodgers put up a sign saying "Enjoy your Stay".

4. A Clean Sheet at last

OK, we are clutching at straws here, but a minor plus point for the Reds on Sunday was the fact that, at the seventh time of asking, Pepe Reina and his defence finally kept a clean sheet in the league.

There were still a few heart-stopping moments though, especially in the opening 20 minutes, with Rodgers' insistence on the Reds playing the ball out of defence resulting in a couple of wayward passes that forced Reina to first deny ex-red Charlie Adam, then Michael Kightly.

After the initial rocky opening though, the Liverpool defence coped well with Stoke's physical approach, with youngster Andre Wisdom particularly impressive.

In fact, both Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel were able to join in the attack and came closest to finding the net when they each struck the outsides of the post.

Whilst there continues to be problems at the other end of the pitch, Rodgers will hope that the confidence earned from the first clean sheet of the league season carries through to the nest few games and ensures the Reds have a solid base to work from.

5. Downing on borrowed time

One name missing from Sunday's 18-strong matchday squad was that of Stewart Downing.

Since his £20m move from Aston Villa in the summer of 2011, Downing has been nothing short of a disappointment. Despite being a virtual ever-present under Kenny Dalglish, the winger failed to register a single goal or assist in the Reds' league campaign.

Under new boss Rodgers things started well as he netted the winner in the new boss' first game and was named in the starting line-up for the opening day clash with West Brom. But since then he has dropped out of a favour rapidly, with the young talents of Raheem Sterling, Suso and Oussama Assaidi all seemingly now above him in the pecking order.

In an attempt to fire his winger, Rodgers publicly lambasted Downing, telling the £20m man that he needs to "work hard and fight for his place".

But instead of knuckling down, Downing didn't take kindly to the criticism and opted to use the weekend papers to vent his anger at his manager's comments.

Rodgers' subsequent decision to not even name the winger on the bench, a decision which he also undertook when Manchester United visited Anfield, was as good a sign as any that Downing doesn't feature in his plans.

There will no doubt be appearances for the winger in both the Capital One Cup and Europa League during the next few months, but expect Downing to be on the move when the transfer window opens in January.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Liverpool 0-0 Stoke: Reds rue missed chances as game ends all level

By Michael Owen

Liverpool were left still searching for their first home Premier League win of the season after being held to a draw by Stoke City at Anfield on Sunday.

Liverpool dominated for much of the game, with Raheem Sterling and Suso troubling the Stoke defense in the early periods, forcing the visitors to resort to hacking down their opponents to stop the Reds flowing football.

Efforts from Skrtel, Johnson and Suarez came close to giving Liverpool what would have been a deserved win, but a solid performance by Asmir Begovic and a couple off shots stopped by the woodwork ensured the Reds walked away with only a point.

Brendan Rodgers reverted back to the team that beat Norwich for the visit of Stoke after dissapointment in the Europa League midweek against Udinese, whilst The Potters fielded ex-Liverpool players Peter Crouch and Charlie Adam.

Stoke started the game brightly, having a handful of good chances and capitalising on some suspect passing by the Reds, with Charlie Adam having one good effort after Nuri Sahin had played a sloppy ball which was intercepted.

Liverpool's first real chance of the game came with just under ten minutes played as Luis Suarez picked up the ball out left, cut inside along the byline and played the ball low into the feet of Nuri Sahin, whose goal bound effort was deflected out of danger by Ryan Shawcross.

An injury after twenty minutes forced Tony Pulis to make his first change of the game, bringing on Dean Whitehead to replace Glen Whelan.

With 25 minutes gone Liverpool had two good chances, first Steven Gerrard found space about 25 yards out and struck a powerful shot to Begovic's left, which the keeper got down to well. Moments later Daniel Agger got on the end of a dipping ball into the box, knocking it just wide.

As the half progressed the Reds began to push Stoke further and further back into their own half, and the visitors reacted with a succession of fouls, forcing captain Steven Gerrard to talk to Lee Mason about the conduct of Tony Pulis' side.

Liverpool started the second-half brightly, keeping Stoke pushed back in their own half, with Glen Johnson testing Begovic with a drilled shot from just outside the box which the Potters keeper managed to palm to the ground before jumping on it.

Luis Suarez made a scintillating run minutes later, picking up the ball in the middle of the park and rounding a number of Stoke defenders before breaking into the box. The Uruguay international couldn't convert his chance though, firing high and wide from s promising position.

With an hour of football played at Anfield Tony Pulis opted to make his second substitution of the game, bringing on Matthew Etherington to replace Michael Kightly. Moments later Brendan Rodgers made his first change, bringing on Joe Cole to replace Suso.

Raheem Sterling nearly gave Liverpool the lead, hitting a shot first-time in acres of space inside the box, but the youngster chose the wrong option, aiming for just inside the near post rather than firing across goal where there was more space, resulting in the ball bouncing off the post and going out of play.

Both Rodgers and Pulis opted to make changes with ten minutes to go, with Liverpool bringing on Assaidi for Sahin and Stoke replacing Charlie Adam with Maurice Edu.

A looping ball into the box gave Liverpool one of their best chances of the game, as Martin Skrtel got a toe to the ball under pressure firing an effort across the face of the goal which clashed with the far post and went out of play.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

LFC Scout Report: Stoke City

By Ben Hardy

Stoke City will have to overcome a 49 match winless streak at Anfield if they are to get their first Premier League victory at Liverpool on Sunday. 

A number of Liverpool old boys will line up against the Reds with the likes of Peter Crouch, Michael Owen and Charlie Adam looking to get one over on their former employers.

It's been a mixed start to the season for Stoke, impressive draws against Arsenal and Manchester City have been marred by draws with the likes of Reading and Wigan.

Their first win of the season came last time out against Swansea. A comfortable 2-0 home win will have no doubt lifted the mood in the Stoke camp as they look to build momentum over the next few fixtures.

Whilst Stoke have only managed the one victory so far this season, Peter Crouch has been in fine form, scoring four league goals so far. Many had even tipped the striker for an England recall but was snubbed by Roy Hodgson, much to the disappointment of the Stoke fans.

There was better news for Ryan Shawcross however, as he has been handed the chance to earn his first senior England cap amidst reports that the Welsh FA were contemplating a call up for the centre half.

Team News

Andy Wilkinson will definitely miss the trip to Anfield as he serves the last of his three game suspension.

There are questions over the fitness of Glenn Whelan as the midfielder was substituted last week with what appeared to be a hamstring injury, however he has not been ruled out and he still may feature at Anfield.

Key Players

As mentioned previously, Peter Crouch looks to be the man to stop for Stoke. Liverpool know exactly what he's about and how he plays and that might just be enough to stifle the six foot seven forward.

Another player which could cause problems all over the pitch is Jonathan Walters. The Ireland international already has three assists to his name so far and boasts an incredible work rate. He covered 6.12 miles against Swansea, more than any of his team mates and will look to hurry the Liverpool defence into making mistakes.

The Potters currently sit in a familiar 12th place and will be desperate to carry on their remarkable progress and push for a top half finish season.

The odds seemed stacked in Liverpool's favour but as we all know that counts for nothing when match day finally arrives especially in a season where records are being broken every weekend.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Liverpool 2-3 Udinese: Second-half treble stuns Reds

By Michael Owen

Three second-half goes ensured that a late Luis Suarez effort wasn't enough for Liverpool as the Reds slipped to a third consecutive home defeat.

Liverpool had dominated the first-half of the fixture, with a clever one two between Jonjo Shelvey and Stewart Downing resulting in the former heading home from close range to give the hosts the lead.

But the opening moments of the second-half saw Di Natale break quickly and find the back of the net after Glen Johnson had clumsily given the ball away in a dangerous area.

Two goals in the space of a minute for the visitors, an own goal by Sebastian Coates and a first-time shot from Pasquale, ensured that Liverpool were left empty handed despite a wonderful free-kick from Luis Suarez reducing the deficit late on.

Brendan Rodgers opted to name an experienced side for the bout with the Italian opposition, with Glen Johnson, Stewart Downing and Jamie Carragher amongst those named in the Liverpool starting line-up at Anfield.

Liverpool's first opportunity fell to Oussama Assaidi as the winger picked up on a pass from Downing, cut inside and fired a shot which deflected off a Udinese player and back on the the Reds number eleven, bouncing out of play for a corner.

A chance for either team came moments later, with Coates seeing his header from a Downing corner saved well by the keeper before the Italian outfit broke quickly, allowing Di Natale the chance to race Carragher to a floated ball, which the Reds vice captain managed to win.

After a period of Udinese pressure Fabio Borini managed to peel away from a number of defenders following a Liverpool breakaway, pushing out to the left side of the box and firing a shot across the face of goal which went just wide of the far post.

With 22 minutes played Liverpool put themselves in the lead, with Jonjo Shelvey playing the ball out right to Downing, who swung a ball into the box for the advancing Shelvey to get a head to, steering it into the right-hand corner of Brkic's goal.

The hosts continued to look good on the ball, dominating the play and passing well, rarely affording Udinese any time on the ball, with Reina only properly tested on one occasion before the end of the first period, when Di Natale forced a good save out of the Spaniard.

Within the opening minute of the second half Di Natale brought Udinese level. Substitute Lazzari chipped in the ball from out wide which the veteran striker latched onto, firing home confidently despite pressure from Joe Allen.

Chances were few and far between for the Reds in the opening part of the second period, with Downing having the best opportunity, playing a clever one-two with Borini, allowing the England international to go clean through on goal before seeing the ball toe'd away from him at the last minute by Faraoni.

The lack of chances forced Brendan Rodgers into action with an hour on the clock, with Assaidi and Henderson being replaced by more senior players in the form of Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez.

Udinese hit two goals within the space of a minute, with Coates heading past Pepe Reina and  into his own net from a free-kick from the right before Pasquale hit a first-time shot after a thundering run down the left to double his sides lead,

Liverpool reacted quickly with a moment of sheer brilliance from substitute Suarez, who stepped up to a free-kick on the left-hand side and curled it past the Udinese wall and into the top left-hand corner of Brkic's goal.

Suarez nearly got a second after he directed a header towards goal after a well-placed ball by Downing, with Rodgers deciding to increase the Reds attacking options moments later, bringing on Raheem Sterling to replace Borini.

Raheem Sterling came close on two occasions in the closing ten minutes, first seeing his close range effort deflected out of play before a good passing move with Suarez concluded in the young attacker firing just over the bar from a tight angle.

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