Friday, 31 October 2014

Lovren Heads Reds Into Last Eight

After claiming a first clean sheet in 18 attempts in the 0-0 draw at home to Hull, Liverpool hosted Swansea in the Capital One Cup fourth round with the Swans looking to complete a Merseyside double in the competition after dumping Everton out in the previous round.

Both sides made numerous changes from the weekend games with Liverpool notably naming Mario Balotelli on the bench while Raheem Sterling was rested meaning Rickie Lambert and Fabio Borini started up front.

Liverpool started well and could have gone ahead after only five minutes as they were awarded a free-kick in a good position but unfortunately, Jordan Henderson's shot went over the cross bar before Lucas had a shot saved by Gerhard Tremmel just minutes later.

The hosts seemed to dominate the chances and how Phillipe Couthinho didn't have a hat-trick before the half-hour mark, only he knows after three good chances went awry. The Brazilian shot wide in the 13th minute before having a powerful shot saved by Tremmel in the 24th minute followed by him blazing over a chance in the 26th minute. 

Swansea responded and could gave gone ahead but for a superb save from Brad Jones who kept out Jefferson Montero's shot before Jonjo Shelvey looked to break the deadlock with successive free-kicks with the first cleared and the second drawing a superb tipping save from Brad Jones.

Liverpool started the second half well with Jordan Henderson and Phillipe Coutinho both testing Gerhard Tremmel before Baftembi Gomis forced a clever save from Brad Jones with a powerful header on the hour but it was a sign of things to come as Swansea went in front in the 65th minute.

Marvin Emnes ghosted into the box before rifling a shot across goal that sailed past Brad Jones to the joy of the travelling fans behind the goal as the Swans led 1-0 but Liverpool could have drawn level just four minutes later as Gerhard Tremmel tipped over a shot from Glen Johnson before the Swansea stopper denied Rickie Lambert with a palm save.

Rickie Lambert came close again with a powerful shot which deflected and forced Gerhard Tremmel into a vital save before Jordan Henderson blazed over with just six minutes remaining but Liverpool equalised in style in the 86th minute as Fabio Borini whipped in a cross which found Mario Balotelli who fired in at the near post to the delight of the Kopites behind the goal.

Extra time looked to be on the cards as the final minutes of the five added on ticked down but Liverpool were awarded a free-kick in a dangerous position in the final minute after Federico Fernandez was dismissed for a challenge on Philippe Coutinho. The Brazilian swept the set-piece towards the back post and found Dejan Lovren in acres of space with the Croatian heading past Gerhard Tremmel to the joy of the euphoric Kop as Liverpool secured a place in the last eight.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Reds Held In Hull Stalemate.

After suffering a midweek humbling at the hands of  Real Madrid, Liverpool returned to domestic duty in what was to be their second of three home games in the space of a week and with such a packed schedule, fitness is paramount so when Emre Can went down after six minutes, there was a major worry.

Luckily for the hosts, the young midfielder shook off the injury as Liverpool mounted the first real attack of the game which resulted in a corner that saw Steven Gerrard find Dejan Lovren who headed at goal only to be denied by a goal line stop from Ahmed Elmohamady

Liverpool had another good chance in the 13th minute as Mario Balotelli hit towards goal and was prevented from an opener by a superb save from stand-in Hull 'keeper Eldin Jakupovic. The atmosphere spiked minutes later when a Kop chant towards Hull manager Steve Bruce was met with a positively comical response.

After recent criticism about his effort, Mario Balotelli seemed adamant to quash the critics and when a back pass to Jakupovic looked to be too short, the Italian raced into the box to intercept only coming inches away from doing so but receiving a good backing from the home crowd.

Hull responded with Jake Livermore drawing a save from Simon Mignolet before Mo Diame shot wide but the travelling Tigers fans were close to celebrating just before half-time when a powerful shot from Tom Huddlestone deflected wildly off Martin Skrtel before creeping past the post.

A fairly quiet start to the second half saw the first real chance come in the 59th minute as Abel Hernandez drew a save from Simon Mignolet before a combination between Raheem Sterling and Steven Gerrard saw the Liverpool captain forced a superb save from Jakupovic who tipped the shot past the post.

Liverpool seemed to have the momentum and should have taken the lead in the 64th minute when a clever cross from Emre Can arrowed towards Mario Balotelli but a mistimed move from the Italian saw him fail to connect as the move broke down.

Hull looked to break the deadlock themselves and just minutes after coming on as a substitute, Sone Aluko forced a clever save from Simon Mignolet and Liverpool countered only to have the move break down on the edge of the Hull area as Jordan Henderson went down but the midfielder was booked for simulation.

Four minutes of added time meant there would be ample time for either side to strike a late winner and Liverpool came closest as Raheem Sterling drew a save from Eldin Jakupovic before the Hull 'keeper made a last-gasp save from Phillipe Coutinho as he tipped the Brazilian's 20-yard effort away to ensure a share of the points.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Reds Schooled By Marvellous Madrid

The prospect of Liverpool v Real Madrid was always going to be a huge one but despite many references to the 100% record the Reds held over the Galacticos in the build-up, the following 90 minutes displayed a polar opposite.

Brendan Rodgers replicated the usual front three of Mario Balotelli, Phillipe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling in what would be a huge task against the defending champions who boasted a front six that value wise is terrifying at over £300m.

Real dictated the opening minutes and had the first good chance as Cristiano Ronaldo hit a shot which drew a comfortable save from Simon Mignolet before Liverpool responded with a chance from Raheem Sterling who forced a save from Iker Casillas.

Steven Gerrard looked to open the scoring with one of his textbook drives from range and forced a superb diving save from Iker Casillas as Liverpool looked to build momentum but Madrid fought back and after combining with James Rodriguez, Cristiano Ronaldo fired past a diving Simon Mignolet to give Real the lead.

Real looked to build on the lead and soon doubled it on the half hour mark when a pinpoint cross from Toni Kroos found the head of Karim Benzema who arrowed the ball past Mignolet to stun the Reds who were cursing their luck for a third time in the 41st minute.

A dangerous cross caused chaos for the Liverpool defence and allowed Karim Benzema to tap into an empty net after Simon Mignolet and Martin Skrtel had tangled and looking at being 3-0 down going into the interval, thoughts among some fans turned to an Istanbul-esque comeback in the second half.

However, the deficit could have been reduced in the final seconds of the half when Philippe Coutinho rifled a shot at goal which achingly cannoned back off the post leaving the hosts still with a three-goal deficit to turnaround.

A bizarre end to the half bemused both fans and viewers as Madrid defender Pepe looked to exchange shirts with Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli, and event made even stranger when the Italian was taken off to be replaced by Adam Lallana which was later labelled as a tactical change.

Madrid continued their onslaught from the first half as James Rodriguez curled a shot over the bar before Ronaldo powered an effort at Simon Mignolet which drew a superb save from the Belgian, who was called into action again seconds later when a cross from Benzema found Ronaldo who hit at the Liverpool stopper.

Liverpool responded and a powerful effort from Raheem Sterling forced Iker Casillas to push the ball over the bar before a melee in the Madrid six-yard box saw both Lazar Markovic and Adam Lallana flap at the ball but unable to hit the target as the ball drifted wide of the post.

Luka Modric looked to extend Madrid's lead with a shot from distance but found the arms of Simon Mignolet but Liverpool still had a duo of chances to claim a consolation with Glen Johnson's cross to the back post cut out by former Reds defender Alvaro Arbeloa before it could find Raheem Sterling and Emre Can blazed over with four minutes remaining.

The fact that Liverpool kept Madrid scoreless in the second half is a positive ahead of the reverse meeting in a fortnight but a failure to score is a negative but one last piece of luck came in the form of Ludogorets securing a late win against Basel which means they join the Reds and the Swiss on three points.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Reds Edge Five Goal Thriller

After going into the International break on a high, Liverpool looked to secure back-to-back wins for the first time this season as they made the trip to face QPR in the first of seven games in 21 days.

The hosts looked to put an early mark on the game when they attacked through Charlie Austin inside three minutes but the striker's shot went high over the bar before he drew a superb stop from Simon Mignolet six minutes later after advancing on goal.

Liverpool were unable to clear their lines as QPR continued to pile on the pressure and only the width of the crossbar denied them from taking a 28th minute lead, Bobby Zamora broke forward and pulled the back into the path of Leroy Fer who hit for goal only to see the ball cannon off the crossbar.

The visitors failed to learn from the scare and were again lucky not to concede in the 34th minute as they were carved open again by a clever QPR attack as Zamora picked out Fer who headed against the bar resulting in a goal-line clearance from Glen Johnson as Liverpool survived.

Despite dominating the first half, QPR could have gone into the interval behind when Steven Gerrard turned the hosts defence before aiming a shot at goal that drifted just past the post before Mario Balotelli rushed a shot which went wide of the target.

Alike the first half, QPR made a bright start to the second as Sandro struck a powerful shot which forced a superb save from Simon Mignolet before Liverpool countered with Henderson blazing over at the end of a decent move.

Liverpool seemed to be more attack minded in the second half and came close to breaking the deadlock in the 55th minute as a clever run from Glen Johnson gave him space to shoot but his effort failed to trouble stand-in keeper Alex McCarthy who saved easily.

QPR countered well and came just inches from opening the scoring as Charlie Austin hit a shot across goal that beat Simon Mignolet but failed to trickle over the line but the miss was pale in comparison to the howler from Mario Balotelli on the hour mark.

Raheem Sterling picked out fellow England midfielder Adam Lallana who forced a good save from Alex McCarthy whose stop rebounded into the path of Mario Balotelli who blazed over with an empty net at his mercy.

However, Liverpool did break the deadlock in the 68th minute and very fortuitously as a quickly taken free-kick allowed Glen Johnson to sweep in a cross which struck the leg of Richard Dunne and beat Alex McCarthy to put the Reds ahead.

QPR looked to level and came close with two good efforts from Charlie Austin and Armand Traore which drew superb saves from Mignolet but the Belgian keeper was soon picking the ball out of the net as the hosts equalised.

Eduardo Vargas who had come on in place of Bobby Zamora in the 79th minute used his freshness to power through the Liverpool defence before completing a one-two with Charlie Austin and firing past Mignolet from close range.

The momentum was with the hosts and they came close to a superb turnaround as Charlie Austin crossed for Steven Caulker with the Rangers defender denied by a great block by Martin Skrtel, Liverpool staged a counter attack and Steven Gerrard picked out Phillipe Coutinho who sashayed through the hosts defence before side footing past McCarthy for 2-1.

However, QPR drew level in rapid fashion as straight from the restart they forced a corner which Leroy Fer crossed into the box before finding the head of Eduardo Vargas whose effort crept in at the near post to level the score at 2-2 with just seconds left of added time.

Liverpool broke forward through Raheem Sterling and having had a nightmare of an afternoon, Mario Balotelli awaited at the back post eager to score but saw Sterling's pull back find Steven Caulker whose momentum saw him hit the ball into his own net to seal the win for Liverpool in the most bizarre of endings.

A result which the Liverpool contingent agreed was undeserved given the superb performance by the hosts but with European champions Real Madrid visiting Anfield on Wednesday an improvement is rapidly needed by Liverpool to prevent a nightmare evening.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

England Stars Secure Narrow Win

After suffering a 1-0 loss away to Basel in the Champions League, Liverpool looked to bounce back domestically as they played host to West Bromwich Albion with the Reds line-up showing three notable changes from midweek.

Rickie Lambert was handed a first start since joining from Southampton in place of Mario Balotelli with Adam Lallana and Alberto Moreno included in place of Lazar Markovic and Jose Enrique and the best chance of the opening exchanges saw Steven Gerrard sweep in a free-kick which the Baggies defended well.

Craig Dawson attempted an overhead kick from 20 yards but failed to find the target while Rickie Lambert was unable to connect to a clever cross from Adam Lallana but the biggest chance came in the 18th minute as Martin Skrtel winged a pass to Rickie Lambert who powered a shot at goal only to be denied by a fine save from Ben Foster.

Simon Mignolet kept the sides level with just minutes before the interval with a five save after Saido Berahino had shrugged off pressure from Steven Gerrard and Dejan Lovren to hit a strong shot which the Belgian saved well but West Brom had a superb chance to go ahead as Sebastien Pocognoli swept in a superb cross but to the relief of the home fans, Saido Berahino was unable to finish with a headed effort which went over.

Liverpool responded well and went ahead just seconds before the interval as Adam Lallana pulled a one-two with Jordan Henderson before rifling a shot past a helpless Ben Foster to open the scoring and Liverpool began the second half well but were soon pegged back in the 55th minute.

A bright move from West Brom saw Saido Berahino collected a pass just 20 yards from goal and in attempting to evade a challenge from Dejan Lovren on the edge of the area, he went down and strangely a penalty was awarded despite the tackle clearly being outside the area. Berahino stepped up and slotted past Simon Mignolet for 1-1.

However, Liverpool were soon back in front on the hour as after Raheem Sterling looked to have been barged off the ball by Craig Gardner, he got up and found Jordan Henderson who propelled a shot into the left corner to the joy of the celebrating Kop.
A double change saw Glen Johnson complete his comeback from injury with Mario Balotelli also coming on and the latter came close to a rapid impact as he linked up with Henderson and Lallana to create a rasping volley that went just past the post.

West Brom looked to draw level as Chris Brunt swept in a cross which found Saido Berahino but the resulting headed effort found the welcoming hands of Simon Mignolet but the hosts were on the hunt for a third goal and a nice passing play between Mario Balotelli and Steven Gerrard, saw the former look to test Ben Foster but the strike lacked enough power to trouble the Baggies stopper.

However, Liverpool managed to hold on and record a first league win since August to send them into the International break on a high.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Reds Suffer Swiss Loss

After starting the group stage with a win over Ludogorets, Liverpool made the trip to Switzerland to face Basel in their first away game in Champions League since 2009.

The continuing absence of Daniel Sturridge meant a three pronged attack in the form of Raheem Sterling, Lazar Markovic and Mario Balotelli but it took until the 18th minute for the attack of either side to make an impact.

Steven Gerrard swept in a dangerous free kick but could only find the Basel defence which cleared with ease and the ex-England captain had another chance from a free-kick just three minutes later and this time around beat the defence by could only find the arms of Vaclik.

Basel responded and could have gone ahead in the 23rd minute with an effort from Elneny whose powerful shot at goal could only draw a comfortable save from Simon Mignolet which was soon followed by a stray shot from Hamdoui which went wide of the target.

Liverpool continued to face heavy pressure from Basel with Serey Die testing Simon Mignolet with a strong shot which the Belgian saved well before his opposite number was called into action to save after a shot from Raheem Sterling. The Reds had a superb chance to go into the interval in the lead as Phillipe Coutinho swept in a dangerous free-kick which found the head of Dejan Lovren whose effort drew a strong save from Vaclik.

Basel started the second half the better of the two sides and threatened with a run and shot from Hamdoui which drew a parrying save from Simon Mignolet who forced a corner Basel opened the scoring from the corner with a dangerous cross causing chaos in the Liverpool area allowing Marco Streller to hit past Simon Mignolet for 1-0.

Mario Balotelli had two good chances to equalise just after the hour mark with a long range free-kick drawing a save from Vaclik with the defence denying Lazar Markovic's rebounded effort before the Italian blazed the ball over the bar from the edge of the area. A clever one-two between Raheem Sterling and Adam Lallana saw the former look to test Vaclik but a tame effort was the result and the move broke down.

Liverpool continued to push for a leveller but to no amends as they suffered their first defeat of the campaign ahead of a tough double-header against reigning champions Real Madrid.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Jagielka Stuns Reds

Ahead of a tough trip to Basel in the Champions League, Liverpool hosted neighbours Everton in the 223rd Merseyside derby in a lunchtime kick-off on Saturday.

The hosts looked to make a rapid start with Raheem Sterling rushing forward from the kick-off before a heavy challenge from Gareth Barry on Adam Lallan resulted in a booking for the Everton man with Mario Balotelli firing the resulting free-kick into the wall.

Barry was seemed to be influential in denying Liverpool's next attack as a volley from Sterling looked to block the shot with his arm but the appeals for a penalty were waved away by referee Martin Atkinson.

Everton responded and forced a goalline clearance from Dejan Lovren in the 26th minute after a mazy run from Leighton Baines saw him beat Lazar Markovic before hitting a dangerous cross which forced the Croatian to clear for the hosts.

Liverpool started the second half brightly but were unable to break the deadlock and as the hour mark approached, Rodgers made a change in attack with the introduction of Phillipe Coutinho in place of Lazar Markovic. Everton looked to open the scoring with an effort from Steven Naismith who tested Simon Mignolet but found the Belgian up to the task.

However it was Liverpool who went ahead in the 65th minute as for the 10th time in his Reds career, Steven Gerrard found the net against Everton. The Liverpool captain swept a superb free-kick which despite finding the hand of Tim Howard beat the American to sent the Kop into a raucous roar.

The win could have been sealed for Liverpool as Mario Balotelli connected to a dangerous cross from Raheem Sterling before rattling the cross bar with a powerful shot which looked to have grazed the hands of Tim Howard.

The Italian swept a volley wide of the target as the clock reached 80 minutes and the win looked to be just minutes away from completion for the Reds when they were stunned by a superb leveller for the visitors. A clearance from an Aiden McGeady shot landed perfectly on the edge of the area for Phil Jagielka who thundered an effort which sailed past Simon Mignolet to salvage a draw for the Toffees.