Monday, 24 February 2014

Reds Win Thiiller Over Swans

After the FA Cup exit to Arsenal, Liverpool's sole chance of silverware became the league title and a classic sign of 'champions' is being able to grind out results which was clear in the visit of Swansea on Sunday.

Liverpool made three changes with Henderson and Johnson replacing Allen and Cissokho while Mignolet returned back between the posts, Swansea had barely settled into the game as Liverpool took the lead as Sterling gained possession and picked out Sturridge who rounded Vorm and slipped the ball into the empty net to the joy of the Anfield crowd.

Sterling had a a chance to make it two as he tested Vorm but the Swansea stopper denied him, this prompted Swansea to respond and Bony was inches from levelling after a pass from former Liverpool man Shelvey who found him from the right side.

The deficit was soon cut to one as Shelvey netted against his former side just like in the reverse meeting as he powered a shot that clipped the woodwork and went in past Mignolet and his refusal to celebrate against his former team-mates drew praise from the home fans.
But praise turned to groans as within minutes Swansea were level as Bony connected to a well worked free-kick to divert the ball against Skrtel and past Mignolet it went for a 2-2 score. 

If four goals described a crazy first 45 minutes then five made it more exciting as Liverpool made it 3-2 with nine minutes left before half time, Suarez had been fairly quiet so far but swept in a superb pass that found the head of Sturridge who headed past Vorm to continue his rich scoring run and treated the home fans to another classic celebration.

 Akin to the first half, the opening minutes of the second period saw a goal but this time it was a third for Swansea as Skrtel was penalised for a foul on Bony and the referee pointed to the spot, Bony stepped up and slotted past the Belgian to make it 3-3.

Swansea looked to have gone in front in the views of some fans as De Guzman hit a strong effort from 20 yards that swung wide and he had another good chance as he latched on to a clever backheel from Bony but failed to truly test Mignolet.

Liverpool responded as Sturridge connected to a through pass by Allen but was denied by a well times block from Williams. Suarez hit wide as Liverpool looked to regain the lead and he attempted for a second time shortly after and it paid off as after being picked out by Gerrard, he hit for goal but the resulting block flew into the path of the advancing Henderson who powered it past Vorm at the second time of asking to settle the tie and ensure Liverpool kept in touch at the top.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Reds Exit The Cup At Arsenal

After a last-gasp win at Fulham in midweek, Liverpool made their second trip to London in a week to face Arsenal with the prospect of a quarter final against city rivals Everton on the cards.

Liverpool surprisingly made changes despite the fact their next game is not for a full seven days but in came Jones, Agger and Allen as they looked to complete a mini double over Arsenal in February.

In a copy of the previous meeting between the sides, Liverpool had the first chance as Sturridge connected to a superb pass from Gerrard but he was denied a continuance of his scoring streak by a block from Fabianski. Minutes later, Sturridge had another chance via a pick out from Suarez which saw the Englishman collect the pass and round Fabianski but sadly saw his shot travel wide of the post.

The failure to convert the early chances was costly as in the 16th minute, Arsenal took the lead after a delivery from Arteta led to a melee in the area and the result was a collection by Oxlade-Chamberlain who hit a low finish past Jones. The SAS combined with Suarez hitting a superb volley but sadly for the visitors the move broke down. Sterling had a great chance to level on the half-hour as he swished past two markers and looked for team-mate in space but Flamini was able to block.

Skrtel was on hand to block a chance from Ozil and in stopping a rapid Arsenal counter-attack by Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gerrard became the fifth player booked inside the first half while Fabianski was called into action just before the interval and was at full stretch to deny Suarez as the Uruguayan swept in a volley that was a tough test but at the break it remained 1-0.
Suarez began the second half as he ended the first with the ball and on the attack as an quick turn of pace allowed him to drive at Fabianski but the 'keeper denied him with an outstretched boot to retain the lead which increased when Oxlade-Chamberlain and Podolski exchanged with the latter hitting a superb shot that beat Jones and breached the net at pace. 

Sturridge created space and hit a curling shot that failed to trouble Fabianski but it was a sign of things to come as Liverpool pulled one back minutes later after Suarez was felled by Podolski in the area and Webb pointed to the spot. Gerrard stepped up looking for his second penalty goal this week and side-footed past Fabianski who dived the opposite way.
Liverpool could have been level rapidly after Coutinho and Sturridge combined but Fabianski put a stop to the move to keep his side in front but he was caught out with five minutes remaining as a superb free-kick from distance saw Agger connect when the Arsenal keeper had come out to punch but the ball drifted wide and meant Liverpool exited at the fifth round stage and were denied of a Merseyside derby in round six.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Captain Secures Lasp Gasp Win at Cottage

Fresh from the thrashing of Arsenal at the weekend, Liverpool travelled to face Fulham on Wednesday night looking to capitalise on the fact that Chelsea had dropped points at the top.

Yet again, Rodgers named an unchanged side for the fourth match in a row but a change on the bench saw academy star Joao Carlos Teixeira named for the first time. In recent weeks, Liverpool have blitzed their opponents from the start but this time around it was Fulham who had the first attack as Mignolet was forced into action to deny Tunnicliffe after a fine piece of play.

Fulham's pressure paid off as they took the lead in the eighth minute when Richardson raced past the visitors defence and he crossed into the area but as the ball found Toure it hit and and went past Mignolet to the joy of the home fans who could not believe their luck.

Suarez had an instant chance to respond when he found space and hit a powerful effort that via a deflection almost fooled Stekelenburg but the 'keeper was able to react and palm wide, the Uuruguayan had another chance in the 15th minute from a narrow angle while Sturridge evaded his marker and hit for goal from 20 yards but failed to trouble Stekelenburg.

Fulham could have doubled their lead when a dangerous cross from Richardson found Bent who headed over to quell the visiting fans fears of going two behind but the deficit was soon cancelled out as Gerrard swept forward a superb pass that Sturridge collected cleverly and finished with style past Stekelenburg to level at 1-1 into the break.

The second half began as the first had ended, with Liverpool on the attack and five minutes into the period they had a good chance to take the lead as Suarez guided a dangerous free-kick toward the far corner but as Stekelenburg rushed to deny it, the ball went wide of the post.

Sidwell looked to build on his strike at the weekend at Old Trafford as he tested Mignolet with a surprising chance from his won half but luckily for Liverpool, the Belgian collected it cleanly and at the other end, Suarez volleyed wide after being found in space by Sturridge's sweeping pass.

Sturridge had a go himself by racing down the right and hitting towards goal but a deflection
The 24-year-old took matters into his own hands by drifting from the right wing and clipping toward the goal but a deflection saw the ball go out for a corner and from that corner, Suarez fired from the edge of the area and saw the ball bounce achingly off the post.

Despite all of Liverpool's pressure, it was Fulham that scored next as Richardson took advantage of a loose ball after Skrtel had failed to complete a clearance and tapped into the empty net to regain the lead for the Cottagers three minutes after the hour.

Liverpool have grown to be able to comeback from a 2-1 deficit and with ten minutes they were level as Coutinho swished his way into space and struck a low curling shot that evaded Stekelenburg and levelled the score at 2-2.

In the 82nd minute, Rodgers continues his project of giving youngsters a chance as he introduced Teixeira for his senior debut for the club and as the visitors pushed for a winner, Coutinho sent an arrowed shot that sailed wide of the target.

The deciding goal came right at the end as Sturridge raced into the area and was felled by Riether with the referee pointing to the spot, Gerrard stepped up and slotted the ball past Stekelenburg to complete the comeback and seal the win that puts Liverpool only four points away from the summit of the table.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Fab Five Stuns Gunners

In what could be a season-changing week for Liverpool, they hosted the table toppers Arsenal with devastating consequences in the lunchtime kick-off.

Arsenal went into the tie as favourites after not losing at Anfield for seven years and on a current unbeaten run of ten games but they got an early blow as Liverpool took a shock lead with only a minute on the clock.

Suarez earned a free-kick down the left and up stepped Gerrard who swung in a superb cross which found Skrtel who powered the ball past Szczeny to a joyous roar from the Kop to give Liverpool a perfect start. Sturridge came close to making it 2-0  with a thundering effort that drew a reactive save from Szczesny but the Gunners could have drawn level when Skrtel saved Mignolet's blushes after the Belgian had parried into the path of Monreal who got a lucky bounce as the ball went towards the goal.

Skrtel completed a majestic first ten minutes with his second goal which came as Gerrard looped in a corner which the Slovakian collected and swept expertly past Szczesny as the home faithful erupted while the travelling Gunners sat stunned.

A lot of pre-match talk was about what Suarez would have done had he gone to Arsenal in the summer and he stunned them with a spectacular volley from 25 yards that cannoned off the post and achingly, Toure failed to convert the rebound past Szczesny.

After such a dominating win in the last home game, thoughts of a repeat gained pace as Liverpool struck a third as Suarez slipped a pass across the box to the onrushing Sterling who tapped home after a well-worked counter attack and despite having played only 16 minutes it looked like game over for Arsenal.

Three goals inside 16 minutes was something of a fantasy to the fans but it certainly wasn't a fantasy when three became four in the 20th minute as a miraculous pass from Coutinho split the Arsenal backline and Sturridge continued his stellar scoring spree as he hit past Szczesny to the disbelief of the travelling fans but the empahtic joy of the majority the Anfield crowd.

Arsenal needed a miracle comeback akin to that of Newcastle in their 4-4 meeting of 2011 but could have been further behind as Suarez hit wide as the half drew to a close but their hopes of Liverpool easing off the gas in the second period were false as Sterling hit his second and Liverpool's fifth right in front of an ecstatic Kop.

The England winger raced down the left and tested Szczesny who denied him only to see a second effort whistle past him and surely hand a vital and historic win for Liverpool. Arsenal made a triple change in order to prevent what was already a thrashing becoming a humiliation as Rosicky, Podolski and Gibbs entered the fray.

The changes bore fruit quickly as Arsenal changed their attacking technique and afforded Wilshere the chance to test Mignolet on the hour mark as he hit a dipping shot that the Belgian stopped to the anguish of the the Gunners number 10 and this prompted Suarez who was keen to prevent going a second successive game without scoring sweeping in a free-kick but to his dismay, Szczesny avoided conceding a sixth goal.

Surprisingly, the sixth and final goal of the game cam from Arsenal who were awarded a penalty after Gerrard brought down Oxlade-Chamberlain as the attacker headed for goal and the result saw Arteta clip the ball past the diving Mignolet to reduce the deficit to five meaning it would be sheer consolation for the league leaders.

Mignolet made up for the penalty miss as he denied Arteta from a well-worked set piece with Coutinho switching the focus onto Szczesny with a clever drive. Sterling came close to a famous hat-trick when he was denied by the leg of Szczesny but was able to celebrate minutes later when the final whistle blew as Liverpool dealt a crucial blow to those who have written them off for any title challenge this season and also to Arsenal's hopes of a perfect week.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Baggies Claim Draw After Toure Blunder

Liverpool had a brilliant chance to go clear in fourth after both Tottenham and Man United dropped points on Saturday but had to settle for a draw away to West Brom after a horror pass from Toure.

Rodgers named an unchanged side from the midweek victory over Everton and Liverpool had an early chance to open the scoring after Yacob fouled Suarez and gave the Uruguayan the chance to replicate his recent successes from set-pieces with a free-kick but the resulting effort deflected out of play off the wall.

Suarez was picked out by his strike partner Sturridge but a resolute Baggies defence crowded Suarez and prevented any further danger in the attack. However in the 25th minute, Sterling broke down the wing and slipped the ball to Suarez who swept a cross to the back post which was cleverly met by Sturridge who opened the scoring with his 50th league goal.

West Brom could have been two down after 33 minutes when Suarez tried to convert from Coutinho's corner and Toure attempted to force the ball over the line but was thwarted by Foster and the defence as Liverpool had the momentum. Coutinho hit wide and at the other end, Gera hit a powerful effort that luckily for Mignolet sailed wide of the post.

The second half began with West Brom looking to level the score early and had a great chance after Gerrard had tripped Gera but Brunt curled the resulting free kick too high but had another good chance within minutes as he connected with a volley which was blocked by Flanagan.

Mignolet was forced into a superb save after a West Brom corner met the head of McAuley who tested the Belgian's reflexes but to no avail as Liverpool remained 1-0 in front but their lead could have increased just before the hour mark as Suarez swayed through the defence and was left with only Foster to beat but the finish was too close and the Englishman denied him.

West Brom drew level but in unbelievable circumstances as while in possession on the edge of his own area, Toure passed across the box and it rolled straight to Anichebe who finished superbly past Mignolet to the joy of the home fans while the travelling kopites could not believe what had just transpired.

Rodgers made an instant double swap as Allen and Kelly replaced Coutinho and Flanagan and Toure had a chance to make up for his error as a corner came into his path but he mistimed the header and it went wide.

Both sides pushed for a winner but had to settle for a point each but I think it is more a point gained for the hosts and two valuable points dropped for Liverpool in the fight for fourth place.