Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Skrtel Strike Not Enough In Chelsea Defeat

The return of vice-captain Daniel Agger shored up the Liverpool defence as they travelled to Chelsea looking to bounce back from the defeat to Man City on Boxing Day and there was a double surprise on the bench as Jordan Rossiter joined Brad Smith who was unused at City.

Liverpool made the perfect start by taking the lead after three minutes as Coutinho swept in a free-kick that Suarez flicked on and saw Skrtel convert from close range to send the travelling fans into delight. Chelsea could have levelled instantly as Hazard tested Mignolet and thought he had scored to be denied by a vital goalline clearance by Johnson with Cahill soon heading wide from a set-piece.

Chelsea pushed to level and came close in the 12th minute as Hazard struck again after nice play from Lampard but saw his Belgian teammate tip the chance over the bar but Mignolet could not prevent his fellow Belgian for a second time as minutes later the midfielder levelled after an Oscar run.

Allen, Suarez and Henderson combined to allow the Uruguayan to hit for goal but was denied by a block from Cahill, but the block proved vital for Chelsea as they soon took the lead with Oscar lifting in a cross for Eto'o who converted past Mignolet to the despair of the travelling fans.

Johnson teed up Sterling with a pinpoint pass and the young winger picked out Allen who hit a curling shot that forced a strong save from Cech as he ensured the Blues led at the break, Liverpool started the second half as they had done the first as they attacked and saw Sakho loop a header past Cech only to be denied as the ball struck the woodwork which saved Chelsea's lead.

Liverpool could have levelled in style as Henderson picked out Suarez who looked to copy his strike against Cardiff with a volley but unfortunately found the thankful Cech but there was a cause for celebration as Brad Smith came on to make his senior debut at the age of 19 coming on for the injured Allen.

Oscar came close to extending the lead when he hit past the post and Suarez picked out Johnson who forced Cech into a diving save to push the effort past the post with Hazard hitting off-target from a similar position but even though Liverpool continued to pressure in the final minutes, they were left to reflect on yet another strong display that saw them go away pointless for the second time this week.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Suarez Run Ends In City Loss

Liverpool looked to return to the top of the Premier League with a visit to the fortress that is the Etihad to face Man City.

One change was made from the previous win with Flanagan being replaced by Cissokho meaning 19-year-old Brad Smith was named among the substitutes but it was the hosts who had the better start as Navas looped a header that cannoned off the post and Kompany connected to a Nasri cross but failed to test Mignolet.

Liverpool had their first chance in the 14th minute when Suarez shot off target from Lucas' corner and the Uruguayan found Sterling and the winger rounded Hart to tap home only to be pulled back for offside even though it was clear he was onside so a massive error by the linesman could have proved costly.

However, Liverpool did take a valid lead in the 25th minute as Sterling picked out Coutinho and the Brazilian hit his first goal since his comeback from injury and City would have equalised instantly but Skrtel denied Toure with a fine challenge but Kompany rose highest to head past Mignolet and level the scoreline just after the half-hour. 

Liverpool came close to regaining the lead with half-time on the horizon with a clever move from the trio of Suarez, Sterling and Coutinho splitting the City defence who had Hart to thank for denying Coutinho but City took the lead themselves as Negredo attempted to chip Mignolet and the Belgian got a hand to it but could not stop it from going in and meant City lead 2-1 at the break.

 Henderson threatened to level early in the second half but hit narrowly over while Suarez evaded Zabaleta to force Hart to save impressively and the same duo were involved again as Sterling attempted to set up Henderson but the stray ball found Suarez who hit for goal but saw Henderson block the shot while offside.

Coutinho came off for Moses with 20 minutes to go as Liverpool pushed for an equaliser and could have had one had Johnson connected well to Henderson's cross and the midfielder went close himself but lacked the power to trouble Hart.

The visitors should have levelled in the 73rd minute when Suarez raced down the left and picked out Sterling but the winger could only hit over the bar after stretching to meet the cross and Liverpool pushed right until the final whistle but were unable to prevent City from continuing their unbeaten home record that saw Liverpool slip to fourth ahead of a trip to Chelsea.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Liverbird Sits Top Of The Tree At Christmas

Liverpool could not have had a better preparation for the visit of Cardiff after Luis Suarez signed a new long-term contract to silence the doubters as he continued as captain to send the Reds back to the top of the league.

Liverpool started well as Sterling dashed past the Bluebirds defence and crossed only to see it cleared straight to Suarez who volleyed past the post, The Uruguayan had another effort blocked by Taylor after being put in by Sterling and the result was Coutinho hitting wide.
Mutch responded for the visitors with a low effort with Mignolet called into action to deny Noone's curler after 15 minutes, Mutch connected to the resulting corner to head past the post and minutes later, Suarez had another go but saw his shot deflected behind.
Suarez only had a further seven minutes to wait to continue his stunning scoring run as a combination of Coutinho and Henderson saw Suarez hit a superb volley across goal and into the bottom corner to the delight of the home fans.

A second could have come quickly as Coutinho tricked into the area and hit towards goal only to be denied as the ball smashed off the crossbar and Skrtel later headed over after collecting from Flanagan.

Cardiff looked to be still in the game as half-time approached but went further behind in the 42nd minute as Liverpool countered with Suarez in open space and as he advanced on goal he unselfishly squared for Sterling who tapped into the empty net for a 2-0 lead.
However that was soon three as Suarez latched on to Henderson's skillful backheel to finish expertly past Marshall and send his side 3-0 up at the break. The second half saw Liverpool continue to pressure as Suarez picked out Flanagan who teed up Allen who was denied by Turner.
Cardiff needed a goal quickly to have any chance of a comeback and got lucky just before the hour mark as Mutch was left unmarked at the back post and headed past Mignoley to give the travelling fans hope, Mignolet was called on to deny a second Cardiff strike as Turner headed at him but the Belgian kept it out.
Liverpool came close to a fourth as Sterling raced forward and lost control only for Suarez to recover the ball and hit past the post. Coutinho found Allen but saw the Welshman head over and the last action of the game saw Suarez attempted to secure his hat-trick but hit off target from the edge of the area as the Reds held on for the win.

As this is a delayed report, Arsenal and Chelsea's draw last night means that Liverpool top the table at Christmas but the omens are against them as they are the last team to be top on Christmas and not win the league with the previous four all being successful, their failure being famously blamed on the 'Rafa Rant' in 2009.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Five Star Reds Trounce Sorry Spurs

After a comfortable win over West Ham, Liverpool made the trip to White Hart Lane to face another London based side in the shape of Tottenham with the Reds hoping to end a five game losing streak at the Lane and in doing so propel themselves back into second spot.

There was only one change from the West Ham game which saw the inured Gerrard replaced by Lucas and as such it meant a first game as captain for Luis Suarez. The visitors could have taken the lead inside the first minute as stand-in captain Suarez attempted to pick out Coutinho but the Brazilian failed to connect properly and the shot proved that as he failed to score.

Liverpool continued to push for an opener as Suarez hit wide but within minutes he was the architect of the first goal as he was picked out by Sterling and attempted to set up Henderson who flicked back the one-two pass and saw the Uruguayan skip through the defence and tap the ball past Lloris.

Lloris was called on to deny Suarez three minutes later as the denied the attacker in a one-on-one and Suarez came close to an assist as he put Coutinho through on goal but saw the resulting shot cannon of the crossbar. Spurs had a chance but Chadli failed to test Mignolet with a header and the miss could have proved costly when Suarez latched on to a mistake from Lloris but with an open goal in sight he failed to shoot before the 'keeper had recovered and denied him a second goal.

Sterling spotted and found Coutinho who in turn found Henderson and he tested Lloris who could only clear into the path of Suarez who hit for goal and forced an acrobatic stop from the Frenchman who saw his work undone as Henderson collected the ball and volleyed home for a 2-0 lead.

Tottenham did have the ball in the net before half-time but it was chalked off as in the build-up, Mignolet made a mistake in the area an allowed Soldado to challenge him but the Spaniard looked to out muscle the Belgian who went to ground and Soldado hit the ball into the open net only to be stopped in his celebration by the referee declaring a foul.

 Sakho only had the post in his way as he came close to his second goal in the space of a week as he headed at the far post but saw his attempt rebound off the post with the resulting chance from Skrtel going over, Tottenham's push to get back into the game suffered a massive blow in the 62nd minute as Paulinho received a straight red card for a high foot on Suarez and that all but signalled that the Liverpool would avenge their previous visits to the Lane. 

They increased the lead with a surprise scorer as Henderson played a clever back heeled nutmeg to Suarez and he crossed to the back post where to the surprise of the Spurs defence the unmarked Flanagan swept home a superb volley for his first Liverpool goal and was the base for an amazing team celebration.

Seven minutes to go and up popped the mercurial Suarez once again as he lifted the ball over the onrushing Lloris for his second and Liverpool's fourth as the pressure on AVB began to grow.

 Liverpool had not finished yet and punished the frail Spurs defence once more as Suarez turned provider and picked out Sterling who hit home for the fifth and a rich reward for a brilliant performance and as the final whistle went, the visitors and their fans were jubilant in  handing Tottenham their worst defeat for 16 years.

As I write, the result proved to be the last straw for Tottenham as yesterday saw the sacking of Andre Villas Boas despite him having a 54% win percentage but it seems the reverse on Sunday coupled with the 6-0 demolition they were given by Man City last month left the board with no choice.

Personally, I felt sorry for AVB as it was plainly obvious that the selling of Bale and the influx of 100m of 'talent' was done out of his control and that chairman Levy chose to use the manager as a scapegoat for his failings so as I highlighted on Twitter, I would take great pleasure in seeing Spurs stutter this season in the league in order for Levy to see that it would be his fault and not the manager.

Meanwhile, Liverpool move on to host Cardiff on Saturday with the prospect of being top of the league at Christmas if Arsenal fail to beat Chelsea on Monday night and would do so for the first time since the title challenge in 2009 then derailed by the famous 'Rafa Rant'.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Own Goal Treble Sees Hammers Blunted

Liverpool hosted West Ham hoping for a second home win in the space of a week and made one change from the stunning Norwich win with Sahko replacing the ill Agger.

The game was preceded by a well respected minute of applause for the late Nelson Mandela which was very emotional and well observed. The home side began well with Suarez piling on early pressure but his clever chip went wide. 15 minutes gone and Mignolet set up a counter-attack by picking out Sterling who played in Henderson who shot wide.

Mignolet made an excellent save from Maiga from close range after Jarvis raced down the wing and swept in a cross and the winger had another threatening cross but it failed to find a team mate, Coutinho found Sterling but the England forward failed to hit the target. Liverpool took the lead withing minutes as Suarez hit the ball across the box and forced a save from Jaaskelainen but the ball bounced in off Demel to give the home side a half-time lead.

Liverpool went 2-0 up inside two minutes of the second half when Gerrard's free-kick found Sakho at the far post and the defender headed goalwards with Skrtel and Collins colliding to forced the ball over the line but the goal was given to the Frenchman to spare West Ham's blushes of a second own goal.

Gerrard raced goalwards in the 56th minute but worryingly pulled up as he attempted a shot and had to go off to be replaced by Lucas,West Ham got some luck of their own as Jarvis' header across goal was met by the unfortunate Skrtel who tapped into his own net to level the own goals tally but also give the Hammers hope of a comeback.

The hope was short-lived as Suarez connected to an exquisite cross from Johnson to head past Jaaskelainen for 3-1 and to continue his amazing scoring run but the West Ham mood dropped further as captain Kevin Nolan received a straight red card for a challenge on Henderson.
Liverpool took advantage of the extra man with Suarez weaving left and right skillfully on the edge of the area before shooting for goal but was denied a second goal by a deflection off the shoulder of O'Brien which fooled Jaaskelainen as the ball flew into the net for the third own goal for the afternoon.
The Reds held on to complete back-to-back victories at Anfield and due to other results going in their favour, they moved up to second place behind Arsenal with a tough trip to Spurs next Sunday.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Historic Four Star Suarez Smashes Canaries

After an embarrassing piece of history on Sunday which saw Hull record a first ever victory over an average Liverpool, Anfield played host to the visit of Norwich.

Luis Suarez has been a deep thorn in Norwich's side in past meetings with two hat-tricks against the Canaries and his inclusion in the starting eleven surely drew worries from the visiting fans who had the positive that SAS partner, Daniel Sturridge would not be in the team after last week's injury.

Rodgers brought in Coutinho, Allen and Agger in place of Moses, Lucas and Toure but could have found his side behind early on as Howson swept in a superb volley that went over with Coutinho responding by swaying past three Norwich defenders and hitting for goal only to be denied by Bassong.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Tigers Roar As SAS Disbanded

After Arsenal opened up a seven point gap at the top with a win over Cardiff, Liverpool knew a win away to Hull was a must but the heavy favourites got a massive surprise and instead of maintaining second spot they now sit fourth.

The day couldn't have started any worse with the pre-match news that not only would he not play against Hull but that Daniel Sturridge would not play again until 2014 after suffering an injury in training so Liverpool included Moses and Sterling to partner Suarez.

Hull started the better with the opening chance as Davies headed wide from a Bruce pass but this was a sign of things to come as minutes later Hull stunned the viewing masses by taking the lead, Moses attempted what can only be described as a miss-chip pass and lost the ball,Livermore hit for goal from distance and got lucky with a spectacular deflection from Sktrel which sailed past Mignolet.

Liverpool levelled the score via a free-kick as Henderson was brought down and Gerrard converted into the bottom corner of McGregor's net with 27 minutes played. Huddlestone had a chance to regain the lead for the home side but saw his shot rest in Mignolet's grasp with Suarez soon testing McGregor at the other end.

Seconds after the restart, Suarez blasted from a tight angle but McGregor was unfazed and took it well.Rodgers brought on Coutinho in place of Sterling and the Brazilian started well with a swooping cross picked out Moses but the Nigerian International could only find McGregor and it proved very costly as moments later, Hull regained their advantage as Meyler hit a shot across Mignolet and into the bottom corner as the visitors fans were silenced.

Suarez went achingly close with a free-kick as Liverpool pushed for an equaliser but it was Hull's day and that was conclusive when Liverpool were dealt another blow as Huddlestone hit for goal only for it to be drifting wide until a superb header from Skrtel flew into his own net to confirm an historic maiden win for Hull against Liverpool and dent Liverpool's hopes of ending the year in the top two with Spurs, Man City and Chelsea still to come before the New Year.