Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Swansea v Liverpool

Back to league action and a tough trip to Swansea with Joe Allen and manager Brendan Rodgers going back to their former club.

The team saw seven changes from the draw against Young Boys with the surprise of Downing and Henderson retaining their place as opposed to Suso and Shelvey claiming a place after their man of the match performances in midweek.

Both teams started well but it was Liverpool who created the best chance with Sterling smashing a shot on the half-volley from the edge of the area only to see hit crash back off the crossbar. The ball hit the back of the net soon after as Enrique latched onto a Suarez cross only to have his effort chalked off for being in an offisde position.

He should have hit the net again but spurned a great chance from six yards after meeting a great cross from Johnson who himself could have got on to the scoresheet after exchanging passes with Enrique but was denied by the oncoming Tremmel in the Swansea goal who pushed the ball over the bar.

Swansea tested the Liverpool defence as Routeledge powered a shot at Reina who denied him with a reflex save and Pablo Hernandez came close to breaking the deadlock with two good chances from distance but the score remained level going into the break.

Swansea continued their pressure early in the second half as Hernandez hit a free-kick with force but saw it fly into the stands and within minutes, Swansea should have been ahead but luckily for the men in red, former swan Joe Allen cleared Ashley Williams' goalbound header off the line.

Liverpool pushed forward and Suarez forced a save from Tremmel with a fine hit after combining with Gerrard but Swansea seemed to have the momentum as Dyer fooled Downing before being denied by Reina who came to the rescue for his side.

Rodgers rang the changes with the much criticised pairing of Downing and Henderson departing the field to be replaced by the scorers from midweek in Cole and Shelvey.

Liverpool should have taken all three points near the end when Sterling and Suarez found themselves attacking with a solitary defender in their path but Sterling's pass was inaccurate which left Suarez with a tough job to continue the attack and the resulting shot was saved.

Both sides had a final chance to win with Hernandez looping in a free-kick which was saved by Reina and Shelvey forced a save from Tremmel who made sure the score remained goalless.

So another draw for Liverpool in a season where despite being unbeaten in eight league games they still sit in the bottom half of the table as many games have resulted in draws of 1-1 with the previous two with Liverpool coming from behind.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Liverpool v Young Boys

After a well deserved win against Wigan, Liverpool resumed their Europa League campaign at home to Young Boys.

Changes to the previous game included a new three-pronged front line of Shelvey, Cole and Assaidi and the night saw Pepe Reina set a new record for European appearances by making his 81st which broke Ray Clemence's long club record.

Liverpool kicked off knowing a win would seal qualification for the next round after Anzhi's earlier 2-0 win over Udinese but it was the visitors who started the brightest with Zarate hooking over the bar after just nine seconds.

Young Boys pressed further as Nuzzolo tested Reina from the edge of the area which inspired Liverpool to force their own pressure and in the 17th minute, Shelvey put Cole through towards the  goal on the right but his strike flew past the far post.

Wolfli in the away goal made a fine save in the 26th minute from Henderson after being setup by a nice flick by Shelvey.

On the half hour, Gerrard came on to replace Wisdom who departed with a slight injury and the reshuffle saw Henderson move to right-back. The change paid dividends as Liverpool took the lead after Suso and Cole exchanged passes on the edge of the area with the Spaniard lifting the ball above Wolfli to allow Shelvey to head in from a yard out.

Liverpool could have hit two in mere minutes as Skrtel latched on to a goalward punt by Cole only to be denied by a goal line clearance by Nuzzolo. Liverpool were dominating possession and came close to a second just before the interval but Suso shot wide with only the keeper to beat.

Young Boys came out in the second half with optimism that they could equalise quickly and had two good chances, first Farnerud drilled over from close range and Zverotic's shot from distance crept past the post.

Liverpool pushed back with Suso dissecting the defence to pick out Joe Cole but when one-on-one, Cole failed to hit the back of the net. The miss proved to be expensive for Liverpool as within seconds the equaliser came for Young Boys as Farnerud hit a hopeful pass, he picked out Bobadilla just inside the box who then blasted a shot into the far corner past the ailing Reina.

On came Luis Suarez in place of Suso who had given a majestic performance surely making him a candidate for man of the match. Liverpool pushed for a winner and with 18 minutes left, they hit the front, Suarez and Gerrard exchanged passes with Gerrard picking out Cole's run with a pinpoint pass and Cole with his back to goal spun expertly to then release an excellent shot past Wolfli and set of in celebration.

Time went on and again Young Boys pushed for an equaliser and to stop Liverpool from qualifying with a game to spare, their luck came in the 88th minute as Zverotic blasted home from the edge of the area and meant the game ended level at 2-2.

With Udinese away in a fortnight's time, Liverpool know a win is essential to qualify for the last 32 but can got through via a draw if Young Boys fail to get a result against already qualified Anzhi Makhachkala.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Liverpool v Wigan Athletic

After a midweek break due to the international matches,Liverpool resumed their Premier League season by hosting Wigan Athletic with the Latics coming to Anfield looking to win for the second year in a row after a 2-1 victory last March began their run to survival from relegation.

Liverpool welcomed back stalwart Jose Reina between the sticks but other than his return it was business as usual with the trio of Suarez, Suso and Sterling up top.

The home side came out of the traps first with Enrique trying his luck after earning possession deep in the Wigan half but his shot in anger flew wide of the target but showed Liverpool's intent for the game.

Suso showed his silky skills by making the most of playing just behind Suarez as he took the ball past his marker to then swish past a further two defenders but when taking the chance at goal was blocked just on the edge of the area.

As is the trend with Liverpool this season, there was massive intent early on but no breakthrough and Wigan saw this as a chance to create an opening in the 15th minute as a well worked attack allowed Arouna Kone to put in Ben Watson but Watson's shot cannoned over the bar.

Wigan pushed again as Kone shimmied past Allen and tried for goal but his shot caused no trouble for the returning Reina. Liverpool pushed back with chances for Agger and Suso, the Dane's connecton from a corner went off target and the Spaniard forced a save from Al Habsi with a strong drive as the ante was increased.

In the 25th minute, a 50-50 aerial challenge between Sterling and Watson saw Watson come off worse and leave the field in pain to be replaced by David Jones. Suso continued to impress with some good pressure down the left side by Johnson giving the 18 year old a chance to head for goal but his header went over in what was his last contribution to the game as in the 35th minute he left the field to be replaced by Jordan Henderson.

 Liverpool ended the half with a chance to go in ahead as Gerrard's control put Suarez through but he then attempted to setup Enrique only for Al Habsi to collect the ball and ensure that the half ended with both teams level.

From the restart, Liverpool continued their pressure and within two minutes it paid off as an exceptional interception allowed Sterling to break down the right side and cut back into the path of Suarez who swept the ball home to send the home fans into a roar and Liverpool into the lead.

Suarez added to his tally in the 58th minutes after Enrique collected the ball on the left and advanced on the Wigan defence before sliding an intricate pass to Suarez who ran on and slipped the ball past the oncoming Al Habsi with a truly calming finish.

Liverpool were in the mood to silence the doubters of their lack of goals and Suarez came close to an hat-trick as he burst past the defence but a defection took his shot into the side netting.

Wigan were now pushing to stay in the game and in doing so led to another struggle against the new trio of Enrique, Suarez and Sterling who exploited the visitors' for a third time in the 65th minute as Sterling created a one-two with Suarez who collected the final pass to deliver to the far post and in ran Enrique to tap home into an empty net and all but seal a win for Liverpool.

Wigan were carved open again through Johnson but luckily for them his effort found the wrong side of the post and Suarez was denied his hat-trick after being put in by Enrique but failed to find the net.

The final whistle sounded and Liverpool claimed a win which kept up an unbeaten run which spans seven games while Suarez took his seasonal tally to 13 and became the first player to hit double figures in the League with his 9th and 10th today.

Next up for Liverpool sees Swiss side Young Boys visit Anfield on Thursday hoping to avenge their 5-3 defeat to a young Liverpool side in Bern earlier in the season.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Chelsea v Liverpool

After defeat to Anzhi on Thursday in the Europa League, Liverpool looked to bounce back away to Chelsea.

A stronger team than usual took to the field as Liverpool craved a win despite being unbeaten for five matches.

Chelsea nearly opened the scoring in the sixth minute as Joe Allen gave up possession in the centre w Hazard claimed the ball and put Juan Mata on a clean path to goal with Mata denied by excellent defending by Wisdom.

Liverpool played with three in the centre-back line and dominated the possession but as is the story with the Reds, possession always seems to lack a goal threat which Chelsea had in their locker.

Ivanovic tested the Liverpool barrier with a hit from 30 yards which flew over,  this was a warning which proved decisive in the 20th minute as Juan Mata swung in a corner which allowed Terry to connect at the near post and put the home side ahead.

The game could have been sealed in the 27th minute as Hazard ran clear of Allen before setting up Torres, but the former Liverpool hero tried to place a shot and was denied by Jones who allowed Hazard to rebound but his shot failed to add to the score.

In the 35th minute the game came to a startling halt for 10 minutes as Suarez and Terry collided after Suarez evaded a challenge only to crash into Terry who came off worse as his leg bent backwards and meant he left the field via a stretcher to be replaced by Cahill.

Terry's absence failed to affect Chelsea's attacking flow as just before the break, Mata spurned a glorious chance while one-on-one with Jones but he directed the ball over the bar.

Liverpool needed to perk up and get back into the game but just like in the first half, Chelsea continued their attacking pressure but Mata's long-range effort narrowly missed the target.

 Rodgers changed the Liverpool setup with Suso replacing Sahin and just like last week, the Spaniard was involved in the equaliser as he swung in a corner in the 72nd minute which glanced the head of Carragher and flicked towards goal only to be put in by Suarez who reacted quicker then Ramires to nod in from a yard out and celebrate rapturously in front of the travelling supporters.

Both teams chased a winner with Liverpool looking the most likely after resorting to a back four and Suso had a great chance from a Sterling cross but his shot lacked the required composure to trouble Cech.

Suarez unleashed an effort from just inside the Chelsea half which caught Cech off guard but stayed out and Ivanovic came close with a header from a corner.

The end neared and both had enough time for a final chance each with Hazard angling a shot just wide of the top corner before a golden chance or Liverpool as Suarez slipped a pass to Enrique on the left edge of the box but Enrique's shot at the bottom corner was well saved by Cech as the final whistle went.

Another draw for Liverpool but a positive one against a very tough opposition and signs that the win they crave is on the horizon, next up is the hosting of Wigan with Liverpool hoping to exact revenge for the defeat at the back of last season which fell during a blessed spell for the Latics as they beat Arsenal and Man Utd as part of an amazing run.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Anzhi Makhachkala v Liverpool

A tough trip to Anzhi saw the tie played at a neutral ground in Moscow due to Anzhi's home stadium being based in 'dangerous' Dagestan.

Surprisingly Brendan Rodgers fielded a very weak side while Suarez and Gerrard were not even included in the travelling squad.

Anzhi created the first opening as Tagirbekov's left foot shot across goal attempted to test Jones in the Liverpool goal but the shot was wayward.

Liverpool should have opened the scoring in the 23rd minute as Morgan put Henderson through on goal but rather than take the chance to score, Henderson attempted a pull back and was intercepted by Carlos in the Anzhi defence.

Eto'o tested Jones from 12 yards after Zhirkov stole possession from Andre Wisdom and from there both sides failed to create chances until just before the break when Traore's ingenious flick and spin combo fooled Coates and set himself in on goal but as Jones came out to meet him, Traore lofted the ball over the ailing keeper and put the Russian's ahead at the break.

Liverpool came out pushing for an equaliser and Morgan struck the side netting after being released by Cole and Jones narrowly stopped Traore from bagging a second goal after a hit from 20 yards out.

On the hour mark, the Spanish duo of Pacheco and Suso entered the fray in place of Morgan and Coady and Suso's entry provided a different way of attacking for Liverpool and he was in place for the best chance of the night for the visitors in the 77th minute. He shimmied just outside the box to create some space for a shot but the shot was spilled by Gabulov in the Anzhi goal and as Cole went to tap in he was thwarted by Gabulov.

Traore again came close to his and Anzhi's second and a sure winner as Liverpool pushed for an equaliser, spaces began to appear and a fast counter-attack saw Traore in on goal but saw his resulting shot drift wide.

Liverpool tried to level up but their efforts proved to be in vain as Anzhi held on for the win. Next up is the current European champions in Chelsea, a tie that in recent years has seen Liverpool be the victors on many occasions in the League only to suffer defeat when it really mattered in the FA Cup Final in May.

A win is sorely needed in what is fast becoming a below average season and one which currently will be remembered for Liverpool's failure to put the ball in the net.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Liverpool v Newcastle

After a disappointing exit from the Capital One Cup to Swansea, Liverpool regrouped and looked to register only a fourth home win in 2012 at home to Newcastle.

The starting 11 was a carbon copy from the Merseyside Derby but hopefully a best result than a draw.

Liverpool came out of the blocks quickly with Anita fouling Sterling which led to Gerrard testing Krul's reflexes with the Dutchman passing the test.

Sterling combined with Sahin to cross into the box but the Newcastle defence cleared the threat which drew Alan Pardew to change his original plan for the game.

Both sides had further chances with Suarez curling wide from a free-kick before Newcastle tested Brad Jones from long range.

Suarez was in action again as he beat Steven Taylor to a header similar to his previous two goals but this time round the chance went wide.

Suso danced his way past the Newcastle defenders but his shot was cleared via a deflection which soon proved to be costly as two minutes before the break as Yohan Cabaye volleyed into the top corner right in front of a stunned Kop end.

Half time arrived and Liverpool wondered how after dominating they had gone into the break behind to a goal against the run of play.

Liverpool had to banish a record from 11 months ago against Newcastle in which they came from behind to win and a few openings early in the half showed that the record could be in the way out.

Sahin went close which led to a Newcastle breakaway which thankfully was quashed by Skrtel with a well timed challenge.

Liverpool's breakthrough came in the 67th minute as Enrique propelled a ball over his former team mates to pick out Suarez who went on a solo run past his marker and fooling Krul to finish into an empty net.

It was nearly a complete turnaround as Suarez carved open the defence to setup Shelvey who slipped while attempting a shot and Sterling soon had a glorious chance but hesitated and allowed Taylor to block his eventual shot.

Newcastle had a blow in the 84th minute as Coloccini received his marching orders with a straight red after grazing his studs down Suarez's leg but the extra man didn't allow Liverpool to change the scoreline and Shelvey's chances near the end saw an easy save for Krul and a tense tap onto the bar from the keeper.

So another draw and with two massive games this coming week a win would have boosted confidence ahead of the trips to Anzhi and Chelsea.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Liverpool v Swansea (League Cup)

After Sunday's draw in the Merseyside Derby with Everton, Liverpool moved on to continuing the defence of the League Cup or Capital One Cup as it is now known with a home tie against Rodgers' former team Swansea City.

Surprisingly, Rodgers put out an eleven that no one would have predicted with Joe Cole and Samed Yesil surprise starters and Sterling, Suso, Gerrard and Suarez all on the bench.

Liverpool started well and created the first opening on nine minutes as Yesil advanced towards the goal only to be denied by a well-timed slide by Ashley Williams who was soon involved at the other end with his cross setting up Nathan Dyer before Dyer could strike Jones gathered the ball.

Swansea piled the pressure on through Ki-Sung Yeung with a 20-yard chance which saw Jones scrambling to keep it out. In the 25th minute, Hernandez and Michu carved open the home defence and a trademark last-ditch tackle from stalwart Jamie Carragher prevented the shot which would have been right at the goal.

The Swansea threat meant Liverpool had to improve and improve they did as Downing's grass trimmer of a shot from range saw Tremmel in the Swansea goal turn it past the post. Liverpool were nearly undone as Jonathan De Guzman blew a beauty of a chance after attempting a lob over the onrushing Brad Jones but only found the roof of the net after a well structured counter attack.

The deadlock was broken in the 34th minute but unfortunately for the Anfield faithful it was the away side that opened the scoring as Jones pushed Yeung's shot out for a corner, the resulting corner found the head of Chico Flores, who had bested the home defence and powered a header into the corner and silence the home fans.

Liverpool came close to an instant levelling but Cole failed to connect with a header from Assiadi's setup and Tremmel gathered easily and Swansea lead 1-0 into the half time interval.

Just like on Sunday, Rodgers made a double substitution at the break with talisman's Suarez and Gerrard entering the fray for the departing Yesil and Cole.

Liverpool powered for an equaliser as Shelvey evaded two challenges before hitting his shot over the bar and he then put in Suarez with a scintillaitng cross but Suarez's header was off target.

In the 64th minute, Liverpool went even closer as Gerrard's screamer from range pinged off the base of the post to fall for Downing but the winger could not convert and Liverpool were still behind leading to the entry of Sterling for Assaidi.

Fortune shone on Liverpool though as Swansea pushed for a second as a goalmouth scramble ensued and Carragher and Jones combined skills to kept the Swans out. Liverpool pushed again and in a cramped area Shelvey, Suarez, Carragher and Coates all fell short of scoring the leveller.

This proved to be a costly as Swansea broke forward on the counter and Hernandez flew in a cross which was tapped in by the inbound Dyer to put Swansea 2-0 up and leave Liverpool needing an Arsenal-esque comeback to keep their cup hopes realistic.

The comeback began with a sumptuous header from Luis Suarez from a stylish Gerrard free-kick with 13 minutes left of the tie. However the comeback hopes were dashed in the final minutes as Swansea sealed victory and a 5th round passage with the carving of the defence which left Jonathan De Guzman with an easy tap in.

Gutting for the home fans that the defence of the trophy only lasted two rounds but some encouragement from the youth getting some more experience on the big stage and as I write this evening, Liverpool's exit is not the only major upset as Man Utd and Tottenham have also bowed out with away losses to Chelsea (5-4 AET) and Norwich (2-1).

Liverpool now must try to forget the defeat and move on to what some believe is a massive game on Sunday at home to Newcastle. The famous 4-3's of old will always linger in the memory but more recently we have seen a 5-0 Liverpool win and Pardew's first game in charge of the Magpies saw him swoop past Liverpool 3-1. The last encounter saw a Reds win by 3-1 last season. Personally, I see the main focuses being on Ba and Suarez as both have hit top form in the scoring charts this season.

Ah well, on to Sunday and hopefully a win to propel us into the top half of the table.