Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Ivanovic Ends Reds Wembley Dream

After being held to a goalless draw by Bolton at the weekend in the FA Cup, Liverpool continued their domestic cup duties a trip to face Chelsea in the Capital One Cup semi final second leg tonight.

Liverpool stuck with the same starting 11 as the first leg and were lucky not to fall behind early on when Diego Costa found Willian in space only to see Lucas deny the Blues midfielder with a block in the fifth minute. Tempers flared in the 12th minute when Costa appeared to stamp on a floored Emre Can but no punishment was given and it served as the first incident of what would be a fiery encounter.

Branislav Ivanovic swept in a dangerous cross in the 18th minute when was achingly close to finding Eden Hazard but his fellow Belgian teammate Simon Mignolet claimed the ball first and quelled the danger. A controversial moment came in the 23rd minute when Martin Skrtel looked to have fouled Diego Costa in the penalty area but referee Michael Oliver waved play on to the clear dismay of the Chelsea dugout.

Alike in the first leg, Philippe Coutinho proved to pose a threat as he attempted a close shot on the half hour which drew a save from Thibaut Courtois before combining with Steven Gerrard to pick out Jordan Henderson who hit wide of the target.

Oscar looked to test the Reds defence but could only hit past the post with his first effort from a free-kick before shooting wide from free play but the last meaningful action of the first half came from Coutinho who saw his chance deflected wide for a corner.

 A fairly quiet start to the second half from both sides saw the first notable chance come in the 58th minute as Hazard blazed wide before Cpsta drew a strong save from Mignolet who led a counter for Liverpool that ended with Gerrard's shot from range finding the grasp of Courtois.

Liverpool were fortunate not to fall behind in the 65th minute when a sliding attempted clearance from Jordan Henderson put Diego Costa in on goal and almost certain to score but a superb tackle from Simon Mignolet denied the Spaniard and kept the score level.

Chelsea continued to pepper the Liverpool goal with chances from Oscar and Ramires drawing saves from Mignolet before a combination between Coutinho and Gerrard saw the latter hit a tame shot towards Courtois.

The introduction of Balotelli and Lambert meant Liverpool's attacking threat was given a boost and when the Italian combined with Coutinho and Gerrard, the latter blazed over the bar before Eden Hazard thundered a shot from long range which Mignolet saved superbly.

The last chance of the 90 minutes came from Raheem Sterling whose run and shot failed to trouble Courtois meaning the tie would be extended into an extra-time period. Balotelli blazed a chance over in the first few minutes of the period but just two minutes later his miss proved costly.

A free-kick from Willian out on the right found the head of Branislav Ivanovic who evaded the zonal marking from Liverpool to head into the net with Mignolet helpless to prevent the strike which despite giving Chelsea the lead, meant Liverpool still only needed to score once to stay in the tie.

Liverpool's best chance came in the 100th minute when a clever cross from Raheem Sterling found the head of Jordan Henderson whose header went achingly past the post before Sterling himself had a good chance go wide after Balotelli's cross.

Time ticked on and Liverpool continued to push for a vital goal and when Balotelli collected the ball on the left, he chose to try a shot from an acute angle rather than find an open Rickie Lambert at the back post which could have brought the Reds level but it wasn't to be as as Chelsea held on and secured the trip to Wembley. 

Battling Bolton Hold Rueful Reds

In the second of three cup ties in the space of a week, Liverpool hosted Championship side Bolton in the FA Cup fourth round on Saturday evening.  Bolton's starting 11 included the veteran attacking duo of Eidur Gudjohnsen and former Reds front man Emile Heskey who would spearhead the attack at a combined age of 73.

Liverpool made a few changes from the midweek draw against Chelsea with Glen Johnson, Joe Allen, Adam Lallana and Javier Manquillo returning to the starting 11 and on a day where all of the Premier League top three exited the competition, Liverpool had to be wary of suffering a similar fate.

The home side made the better start with the first chance to score coming after 12 minutes as a long range tester from Jordan Henderson drew a save from Adam Bogdan who was called into action again minutes later by a chance from Philippe Coutinho.

Raheem Sterling had a superb chance to open the scoring on the half-hour mark when he raced down the left wing before coming inside and hitting a tame shot which was blocked strongly by the Bolton defence.

Despite all of their chances, Liverpool could have gone behind in the 33rd minute when Dean Moxey unleashed a powerful volley from the edge of the area which travelled just past the post but Liverpool countered and went close with a powerful effort from Glen Johnson which forced Bogdan into a superb save.

Bolton looked to make a good start to the second half and came close to opening the scoring when a dangerous free kick from Eidur Gudjohnsen crept over the crossbar just seven minutes after the restart. This was followed by a neat passing combination between Coutinho and Sterling which saw the latter force a save from Bogdan.

Liverpool's attacking threat seemed to focus around Coutinho who had a double shot blocked before seeing a third effort denied and followed up by a chance for Javier Manquillo which drifted wide of the target.

At the other end, Eidur Gudjohnsen shot wide before going sending an effort just over the bar after being picked out by Dean Moxey from the left wing. Liverpool were eager to avoid a replay due to a packed run of fixtures and in the final ten minutes, peppered the Bolton goal with a number of chances.

Adam Lallana attempted a chipped effort which Bogdan claimed well before Coutinho connected to Henderson's free kick with a fluke shot which Bogdan did well to keep out and in the final seconds, the last chance fell to Lucas whose shot failed to trouble Bogdan who fully deserved the man of the match award.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Sterling Effort From Reds Denies Blues

After securing a 2-0 win away to Aston Villa at the weekend, Liverpool played hosts for the visit of Chelsea in the Capital One Cup semi-final first leg last night. Brendan Rodgers made just one change from the weekend with Steven Gerrard returning in place of Fabio Borini while Academy star Jordan Rossiter was named among the substitutes.

A cagey first ten minutes saw Liverpool become the more attacking of the two sides but the first chance of the evening came in the 12th minute as Jordan Henderson picked out Raheem Sterling who pulled the ball across the area only to find a Chelsea defender.

Sterling looked to be in with a chance two minutes later when Philippe Coutinho threaded a pass towards the young striker but the ball was intercepted by a vital block from Gary Cahill. The best chance of the game came in the 16th minute as Steven Gerrard looked to test Thibaut Courtois and did so superbly with an effort from long range which forced the Belgian stopper to tip the ball over the bar.

Despite Liverpool having numerous chances early on, they soon fell behind to Chelsea's first effort of the evening which came in the 18th minute after Emre Can fouled Eden Hazard with the Belgian playmaker stepping up to slot the resulting penalty past Simon Mignolet to give the Blues a 1-0 lead.

Liverpool's first chance to draw level came in the 27th minute when an in-swinging corner from Coutinho found the head of Martin Skrtel at the back post but the Slovakian was unable to hit the target with his effort which went wide of the post.

Chelsea came close to doubling their lead from the restart in the second half as a clever through pass was dummied by Cesc Fabregas and put Diego Costa through on goal but the Blues striker was superbly denied by the advancing Simon Mignolet.

Mignolet's clearance proved costly for Chelsea as they were pegged back by Liverpool just before the hour mark, Jordan Henderson's pass from the fringes of his own half picked out Raheem Sterling who raced towards goal, blitzing through the Chelsea defence before slotting past Courtois into the bottom corner for 1-1.

Chelsea came close to regaining the lead just four minutes later when a well-worked attacking move saw Fabregas and Hazard exchange passes with the latter looking to shoot only to be denied by a clever block from Skrtel.

Liverpool responded and went even closer to taking the lead when a pacy run from Coutinho saw him find Gerrard in space and the Reds captain let fly with a shot which looked to be creeping in but instead cannoned off the post and went out of play.

Philippe Coutinho continued to be a threat for the home side and forced a parrying save from Courtois after a pacy run allowed him to power at shot at goal. Gerrard went off in the 70th minute for Adam Lallana as Liverpool pushed for the lead and they came close to taking it when Henderson shot from the edge of the area and drew a parry from Courtois who had to be quick to deny Sterling from the resulting rebound.

Chelsea had Courtois to thank again for denying Liverpool after a rifling shot from Adam Lallana forced the Belgian into a superb stop before Sterling and Coutinho both hit efforts wide of the target. Chelsea seemed content with a draw but were nearly caught out in the final seconds when a clever chip from Raheem Sterling forced a crucial save from Thibaut Courtois.

So a frantic first leg dominated by Liverpool who with 20 attempts should have sealed the win and given themselves a boost into the trip to Stamford Bridge next week but a level tie spices up what should be an exciting game on Tuesday night and hopefully finish with a trip to the final for the Reds.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Reds Extend Villa's Woes

After a narrow win away to Sunderland last weekend, Liverpool were on their travels again as they journeyed south to face Aston Villa who have failed to score in eight hours of play which gave the Reds confidence of continuing their good form.

Both sides made a bright start with Alberto Moreno looking for an early threat after a set up from Philippe Coutinho before drifting a shot wide via a defection while a dangerous cross from Alan Hutton at the other end drew a vital block from Martin Skrtel.

Christian Benteke looked to bring an end to Villa's barren run in front of goal in the 17th minute but could only power a header straight at Mignolet, Liverpool had the ball in the net just seconds later through Alberto Moreno but his effort was chalked off due to offside in the build-up.

After the disallowed effort sent a warning to the Villa defence, they failed to learn from it as they shipped the opening goal just seven minutes later. A quick throw in allowed Jordan Henderson to find space on the edge of the box before sweeping in a dangerous cross which Fabio Borini connected to superbly to fire past Brad Guzan for 1-0.

Aston Villa came close to levelling just before the interval as a clever attacking move resulted in a shot from Tom Cleverley but to his dismay, the ball travelled over the cross bar ensuring Liverpool would remain in front into half-time.

Liverpool looked to double their advantage early in the second half and came achingly close when an in-swinging corner found the head of Martin Skrtel and gave Fabio Borini a shooting chance which led to a superb stop from Brad Guzan which cannoned back off the post.

The home side came just as close to levelling just after the hour mark with a close range chance from Christian Benteke drawing a superb stop from Simon Mignolet with the Reds 'keeper forced to deny a rebounded effort from Andreas Weimann. Christian Benteke continued his pursuit to end his sides scoring drought when he advanced on goal in the 68th minute but a vital challenge from Martin Skrtel quelled the danger.

Liverpool looked to wrap up the points with just over ten minutes to go as Lucas swept a curling shot towards goal which saw Brad Guzan tip the ball past the post. The Reds attacking threat paid off a minute later as a pass from Raheem Sterling found Rickie Lambert who slotted past Guzan for 2-0 to surely end any hopes of a point for the home side. The only further effort from Villa came seven minutes from the end as Fabian Delph swept an effort over the bar as Liverpool extended their unbeaten run which in turn sees Villa still without a league goal in 2015.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Markovic Seals Reds Victory

After securing a safe passage into the FA Cup fourth round with a win away to AFC Wimbledon, Liverpool returned to league duties with an away trip to face Sunderland.

Both sides looked to make a good start to the first weekend of the new year and it was the visiting Reds that made the better start of the two sides. A clever run from Lazar Markovic in the ninth minute allowing him to advance into the box and play a one-to with Fabio Borini which led to the Serbian tapping into the net past Costel Pantilimon.

Sunderland looked to respond rapidly with a free-kick just four minutes later but despite a long range effort from Seb Larsson, Simon Mignolet was able to save comfortably. Liverpool came close to notching a second strike with Steven Gerrard's 24th minute shot deflected past the post before a curling free kick from the Reds captain was tipped over by Pantilimon. 

Lazar Markovic came achingly close to a stellar second when a nice attacking move saw him attempt a scissoring volley which cannoned back off the crossbar to the relief of the home defence who were lucky to remain only a goal behind when Jordan Henderson swept a shot at goal in the 37th minute which ricocheted off the post but had come after an handball in the build-up.

Liverpool should have gone into the interval with a two goal lead when a clever run from Fabio Borini saw him advance on goal and round Pantilimon but his shot missed the target from close range. Sunderland's hopes of a good start to the second half suffered a harsh blow as Liam Bridcutt was sent off for a second booking after a foul on Emre Can just three minutes after the interval.

Despite being a man down, Sunderland could have drawn level just four minutes later when Adam Johnson thundered a shot at goal from 25 yards which to his dismay cannoned back off the crossbar. Liverpool continued to look for a second and wrap up the points and came close with a header from Dejan Lovren via a Philippe Coutinho corner before Mario Balotelli turn and shot in the 70th minute failed to trouble Pantilimon.

Liverpool held on to secure the win and continue their unbeaten start to the year with Aston Villa at home next on the horizon. 

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Gerrard Double Ends Wimbledon Run

After a run of good performances in the Premier League, Liverpool started their quest in the FA Cup with a trip to face League Two side AFC Wimbledon on Monday night. Since the sides were paired in the third round draw, the classic 1988 final has been a constant feature in the build up where the underdogs of Wimbledon stunned the giants of Liverpool.

In recent years, Liverpool have made sweeping changes when the third round comes calling but elected to field a strong team due to the threat that AFC Wimbledon could pose despite their lower league position.  Four changes saw Martin Skrtel and Javier Manquillo return while Lazar Markovic and Rickie Lambert were also included.

The kick-off had been preceded by the fourth round draw which saw Bolton Wanderers drawn out to visit either of the two teams and Wimbledon looked to mount the best start to such a match-up with an early chance.  Sean Rigg advanced on goal and found space in the area before driving his shot just past the far post.

Liverpool responded in the 12th minute with Javier Manquillo lofting in a dangerous cross which found the head of Steven Gerrrard who guided the ball past James Shea to the joy of the 800 travelling Reds fans.

Lazar Markovic could have extended the lead when a clever one-two combination between him and Philippe Coutinho saw the winger hit his shot across goal and cleared by the Dons defence. Wimbledon soon came close with an effort of their own after a corner from the right caused chaos in the Liverpool defence and allowed Rigg to power a shot at goal which was superbly tipped over by Simon Mignolet.

A defensive mistake from Skrtel and Manquillo led to the ball finding Matt Tubbs who turned and unleashed a shot but to his despair, saw the ball drift past the target and the attacking prowess from the Dons soon paid off nine minutes before the break. A corner looped into the box caused havoc for the visitors defence with the ball glancing off Sakho and into the path of Adebayo Akinfenwa who rifled the ball into the net.

Wimbledon could have taken a surprise lead after the restart after Adam Barrett hit an effort at goal which was cleared off the line by a clever header from Steven Gerrard before Rigg drove an effort over the bar as the Dons built up some momentum.

The shift in momentum to the home side gave them hopes of causing an upset but those hopes were dented just after the hour mark by a superb free-kick from Steven Gerrard which came after Coutinho had been fouled outside the area. Gerrard stepped up and swept a textbook curling effort into the top corner to regain the lead and show what the club will miss after his summer exit.

The Dons could have drawn level almost instantly when Dannie Bulman hit an effort towards goal but the ball went wide of target before Shea was called into action at the other end to prevent Rickie Lambert from extending the lead.

Gerrard came close with a free-kick before Shea denied a late chance from Coutinho with a superb save before Gerrard was denied his hat-trick by a fine stop from Shea in the closing seconds as the Reds held on to set up a tie against Bolton which may see former Reds attacker Emile Heskey return to Anfield.

Foxes Comeback Denies Reds

After bringing down the curtain to 2014 in fine form, Liverpool looked to start 2015 in a similar vain as they played host to the league's bottom side Leicester City on New Year's Day. Just two changes were made from the rout of Swansea as Steven Gerrard re-claimed the captaincy while Kolo Toure replaced the suspended Martin Skrtel.

Surprisingly, the visitors made the better start ad could have opened the scoring inside two minutes as a foul from Alberto Moreno allowed Riyad Mahrez to test the Liverpool goal with a free-kick which he swept in superbly only to see the ball cannon back off the post. 

Liverpool went even closer to breaking the deadlock a few minutes later with Raheem Sterling tapping in from close range but to his despair the effort was chalked off due to an offside infringement from Jordan Henderson in the build-up.

The visitors seemed to be best at attacking down the wings as Jeff Schlupp and Mahrez threatened with the two combining before the latter swept the ball off target. Liverpool struck back in the 17th minute as Coutinho and Sterling linked up with the latter sweeping in a cross to threaten the Leicester defence and the ball cannoned off the face of Wes Morgan who was harshly penalised for handball.

Steven Gerrard stepped up and slotted the controversially awarded spot kick past Ben Hamer to give the Reds the lead which could have increased when Sakho's pass found Moreno with the Spaniard picking out Lallana whose shot drifted wide of the target.

The Reds lead did increase in the 39th minute when a clever run from Phillipe Coutinho saw him advance into the box and look to loft a pass across goal but saw the ball hit Danny Simpson who was penalised for handball.

Alike the first spot-kick, Steven Gerrard converted well to open up a two-goal lead which sent them into the half-time interval sitting comfortably. The second period saw the Reds mount an early chance as Moreno powered an effort over the bar while a blow in the 55th minute saw Adam Lallana leave the field with an injury.

After coming off the bench, David Nugent came close to an rapid impact as he glanced a chance from a corner past the far post. He soon made amends though as he collected the ball from Jamie Vardy's knockdown to sweep in a scissor-kick volley which sailed past Simon Mignolet. The Belgian was was flummoxed to see his side pegged back to 2-2 just moments later when Jeff Schlupp slotted into the bottom corner to complete a rapid comeback for the Foxes.

Liverpool looked to regain the lead with the introduction of Lazar Markovic before fellow attacker Fabio Borini fired a shot over the crossbar from a pass from Sterling before Coutinho carved through the defence and shot straight at Hamer.

The sides looked set for a share off the points but Liverpool had one more chance to upset the equilibrium with Sakho finding Henderson but the midfielder's clipped strike hit Hamer and went out of play.

Four Star Reds Stun Swans

Liverpool signed off 2014 in style with a 4-1 win at home to Swansea City on Monday Night Football, a performance that saw a long awaited return to the attacking prowess show last season.

As the game was the second of three in the space of six days, the team selection saw Simon Mignolet, Emre Can, Javier Manquillo and Alberto Moreno included as the Reds looked to end a mixed 2014 on a high.

In the absence of Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson took over duties and looked to set his team off to a good start when he swept in a dangerous cross in the fifth minute which found the head of Martin Skrtel but the Slovak's effort was too close to trouble Lukas Fabianski in the Swansea goal.

Liverpool continued to push for the opening goal and a pacy combination between Raheem Sterling and Alberto Moreno saw the former power an effort against Lukas Fabianski whose parry fell to Adam Lallana whose rebounded shot went over.

Swansea responded with an effort of their own when a nice move resulted in Nathan Dyer looking to test Simon Mignolet but saw the Belgian claim his header comfortably before Wifried Bony powered an effort high over the target.

Liverpool resumed their attacking threat with promise as Mamadou Sakho swept forward a superb pass for Moreno which saw Spaniard pass infield while advancing into the box, the ball moved from Lallana to Henderson with the Reds captain picking out Moreno who tapped past Fabianski for the lead.

The lead could have been doubled before the interval when Phillipe Coutinho jinked into the box and thundered an effort to the near post which Fabianski denied before the Swans stopper denied the Brazilian from long range.

However, the slim lead was soon increased in bizarre circumstances when a back pass from the Swansea defence saw Fabianski delay a clearance on the edge of the box and with Lallana advancing on him, the Pole's attempted clearance cannoned back off the playmaker and into the net.

Swansea replied instantly as the Liverpool defence were caught out by a loose ball after Sakho had failed to deal with Bony at the back post resulting in an easy conversion past Mignolet for Gylfi Sigurdsson.

Simon Mignolet did come good minutes later as he preserved the Reds lead with a superb save to deny a thunderous effort from Bony before Raheem Sterling came achingly close to restoring the two-goal lead with a clipped shot which cannoned back off the post.
The game looked to be firmly in the hosts hands just after the hour mark as a stunning piece of skill from Coutinho saw him find Adam Lallana who evaded numerous challenges before sweeping a shot low into the corner to put the Reds 3-1 in front.
Swansea were unable to replicate their rapid response from earlier in the half and soon fell further behind as an in-swinging corner from Jordan Henderson caused chaos for the Swans defenders which saw former Reds midfielder Jonjo Shelvey head into his own net.
The Swans were keen to mount a comeback and came close to making it 4-2 when Bafetembi Gomis swept an effort against the upright as the Reds held on for a superb win in what was their 59th game of the year.