Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Southampton v Liverpool

After an inspired comeback to win against Tottenham last week, Liverpool travelled to the South Coast to face Southampton and were brought down to earth with a crushing blow to their top four hopes.

Martin Sktrel returned in place of Jamie Carragher and Allen came in for Lucas with Jones again deputising between the sticks as Liverpool hoped to continue a four-game unbeaten run.

The hope suffered an early hit as Ramirez swept in a cross to Rodriguez and up popped Schneiderlin to tap past Jones, stun the travelling kopites and give the home fans great pleasure.
The advantage could have been two as Lambert went one-on-one with Jones but luckily Jones denied him the chance to score. Southampton looked in control and a way away from the 'strugglers' tag they hold in the table as Rodriguez forced a good stop from Jones with a clear cut drive from the edge of the box and blazed over a great chance after Jones parried Lallana's lob.

Liverpool took until the 28th minute to register their first shot on target as Sturridge caught Boruc out of position but his 25 yard shot was easily collected by the keeper. 

Southampton increased their lead five minutes later as a free-kick from Latmbert brushed Sturridge's back in the wall and wrong-footed Jones to sail into the corner and need Liverpool needing a miracle to keep their unbeaten run intact, some solace did come just before the break as Coutinho made the most of a goalmouth scramble to tap home and cut the deficit by one going into the interval.

Sturridge attempted to equalise early in the half but miscued a volley and that was it from Liverpool until the 65th minute when a Suarez free-kick sailed into Boruc's grasp. 

Southampton threatened a third when Lallana found space but an attempted lob was denied by Jones, the third did come with ten minutes to go as Rodriguez weaved through the defence and slotted home from a rebound after his original shot was parried by Jones to ruin Liverpool's recent good form and give Southampton a crucial win in their fight to achieve safety in the league.

As for Liverpool, losing at Southampton coupled with other results going against them meant a top four finish is a fantasy and that Europa League qualification is the best they can hope for in a mixed season which resumes against Aston Villa after the International break.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Liverpool v Tottenham

After a crushing win away to Wigan last week, Liverpool hosted Tottenham in a big clash which they came away from with a crucial win and overtook rivals Everton.

Pre-match there was a blow as goalkeeper Pepe Reina missed the game due injury meaning Brad Jones deputised in goal and Gulasci was promoted to the bench. The positive though was the inclusion of fit-again Daniel Sturridge and Jamie Carragher lining up in his 500th league game to become only the second in Anfield history after Ian Callaghan to do so.

Liverpool's goal glut of recent weeks saw them start well and could have led inside five minutes as Sturridge knocked the ball past Lloris only to drift wide and allow the defence to recover.

The pre-match billing was 'who would be the star - Suarez or Bale' and Bale tried to further his case with a curling free kick which forced a strong save from Jones and kept the score level.

The equilibrium was broken in the 21st minute as Enrique found some space and slipped a pass through to Suarez who converted through a tight gap past Lloris to give Liverpool the lead and hit his 22nd league goal of the season.

Spurs response came from Sigurdsson who drove a chance wide of the post and Assou-Ekotto hit a shot straight at Jones for an easy save. The leveller did come just before half time as a deep cross from Bale looped to the back post and found the head of Vertonghen who headed into the bottom corner to leave Jones with no chance of keeping it out and made the half time team talks just that bit different for both sides.

Spurs completed the comeback eight minutes into the second half as Liverpool failed to clear Bale's set-piece in the box and the unmarked Vertonghen swept home from eight yards for his second goal of the game and left Liverpool stunned.

The task for Liverpool could have been greater had luck not been on their side as Bale picked out Sigurdsson but the combination of Jones, Johnson and the upright denied a third goal for Tottenham.

Liverpool were soon level in a gift of a goal from Spurs as Walker's wayward back pass left Lloris stranded after his clearance ricocheted off Downing, leaving the winger an with a great chance which he took well by nutmegging Vertonghen who attempted a goal-line clearance.

The momentum seemed to be switching to Liverpool and they could have regained the lead quickly as Downing's cross found Sturridge at the back post but his motion meant his header hit the side netting rather than testing Lloris. 

Both sides pushed to take the lead and in the 82nd minute, Liverpool were given a helping hand as Suarez was bundled over in the box by Assou-Ekotto and the referee awarded a penalty to the home side. Gerrard stepped up and coolly slipped the ball into the bottom corner past Lloris to send Anfield into a rapturous roar and leave the away fans gutted.

As the final whistle went, Liverpool held on for a famous win (their second of the season when coming from behind) while Tottenham were left to reflect on a good performance which heralded no points to take back down to London.

Next up for the Reds is a trip to Southampton on Saturday in a game many will expect a Liverpool win but with the home side currently in a relegation battle and narrowly beaten in the reverse meeting a surprise could be in the offing.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Wigan v Liverpool

After bowing out from European competition to Russian side Zenit St Petersburg, Liverpool returned to domestic duties with a trip to Wigan.

Rodgers made one change from the Zenit win with Phillipe Coutinho replacing Jordan Henderson and in his first away game for the Reds he made a quick impact as from a Reina long ball, he flew by Boyce and crossed into the box for Downing to head in to give Liverpool the lead inside two minutes.
Wigan's task got even harder in the 18th minute as Coutinho again assisting slipped a ball through to Suarez who slotted home past Al Habsi to double the advantage.

Boyce could have reduced the deficit with an acrobatic effort which Reina superbly kept out and the failure to beat the Spaniard soon proved costly as with 11 minutes until the interval, Liverpool went three goals clear as Suarez fired a long range freee-kick towards goal and a deflection from Maloney sent it into the net.

The last action of the first half saw Di Santo drive a header towards goal but yet again Reina's acrobatics pushed the ball onto the roof of the net and Liverpool went in happy that the game was now in their control.

That control was increased barely four minutes into the second half as Suarez completed his hat-trick as Johnson's surge down the right side allowed him to play a ball into the box for the Uruguayan and he swept home past Al Habsi,

At 4-0, surely the game was won and it was a case of how many more could go in if Wigan's defence failed to improve but it did and they kept Liverpool out with the biggest reception of the afternoon coming  in the 70th minute as Coutinho left the field for Henderson and the Brazilian received a rapturous applause from the travelling fans.

Liverpool pushed for a fifth but it didn't surface and the score settled at 4-0 leaving Wigan with work to do before their next game against Everton in the FA Cup and give Liverpool massive confidence for their next game against Tottenham who also play on Thursday, so Liverpool will be far fresher and hopefully that will give them a better chance of victory.