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.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Liverpool v Zenit (Europa League)

Monday, 18 February 2013

Liverpool v Swansea

After two defeats so far this week to West Brom and Zenit, Liverpool looked to bounce back against Swansea in a game brought forward due to the Swans participation in the Capital One Cup final next weekend.  
Rodgers handed Coutinho his first start while Sturridge returned from injury.

The first threat came from Suarez who tested Vorm after finding some space in the box and Downing had a chance from the edge of the box which went past the post.
Liverpool seemed to be taking control early on as Gerrard swept a free-kick into the Swansea wall and Suarez hit the rebound waywardly into the Kop.

The best chance came in the 23rd minute as Downing weaved into some space down the right and swept in a ball to Sturridge who narrowly headed over. Suarez then sent Sturridge on a run but as he tried to fashion a shot, Swansea trapped him and he seemed to be tripped by Bartley but referee Webb saw no infringement and as the ball broke to Coutinho he hit it wide.

Liverpool's domination let to an opening in the 34th minute as Suarez received Gerrard's corner he attempted to weave through the defence by was stopped by Agustien who brought him down and gave Webb no choice but to award the penalty. Gerrard had missed on Monday but this time stepped up and slotted home past Vorm to open the scoring.

The lead could have been two at the break were it not for Bartley heading off the line from Sturridge's dink over Vorm but 1-0 it stayed into the interval.

Swansea's hope of levelling was quickly spoilt as from the kick off, Suarez collected the ball and flicked on for Coutinho who ran at the defence before curling a shot into the corner past Vorm to score his first goal for the club on his full debut.

His tally could have doubled within minutes as he tried to outfox Vorm with a classy back-heel but it slithered past the post, Liverpool did get a third in the 50th minute in what was one of the team goal's of the season as Coutinho, Suarez and Sturridge all combined to put in Enrique who exchanged a one-two with Sturridge before tapping in from close range.

Swansea looked out of the game and their decision to rest stars Michu and Williams proved to be most costly as a fourth went in for Liverpool as Suarez's mazy run outclassed two defenders and allowed him to fire into the bottom corner from 18 yards for his 23rd of the season.

Coutinho left the field to a standing ovation and on in his place was Henderson and the change added to the Liverpool attack as Sturridge was denied twice by Vorm's fine saves but his luck changed in the 71st minute as a cross swept in hit the hand of Routledge and a penalty was awarded and Gerrard allowed him to take the spot kick which he fired past Vorm expertly.

Liverpool could have added more but left it at 5-0 as the final whistle went and collected a few records for their performance having scored more than any other team in 2013, having more shots this season than anyone else and the highest amount in a single game (35).

Next up is the hosting of Zenit in the Europa League with a two goal deficit to turn around in order to progress in the competition.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Zenit v Liverpool (Europa League)

After the defeat against West Brom, Liverpool travelled to Russia to face Zenit St Petersburg in the 1st leg of the last 32 of the Europa League.

Rodgers included Sterling, Allen and Skrtel in place of Shelvey, Lucas and Agger and in the opening minutes both sides could have scored as Hulk volleyed at Reina only to be denied by a low stop and a Liverpool attack saw Suarez hit a shot which narrowly went past the far post.

Hulk was denied again after a low drive was parried by Reina and in the 16th minute, Suarez had a great chance to open the scoring when he ran clear of the Zenit back line and took the ball round Malafeev but his final touch proved to be too heavy and the Lombaerts caught up and denied Liverpool from taking the lead.

Suarez and Hulk seemed to be causing the most trouble for their opposition and Hulk smashed a shot against the post with Reina stranded but the ball rolled across the goal and with no Zenit runners to tap in it allowed Liverpool to clear to safety.

Suarez went close just before the break as he flicked Sterling's cross towards goal but it went the wrong side of the post and just after the restart, Johnson's pacey run took him into the box and hit for goal with Malafeev successfully denying him and Suarez later curled a shot wide on the hour mark as Liverpool pushed just like they had done on Monday but with no goals for their effort.

Their lack of conversion proved costly in the 69th minute as Hulk unleashed a stunning effort from 30 yards out which sailed past Reina and into the top corner to give Zenit the lead and with the momentum they quickly added a second ad Semak latched on to a deep cross while unmarked at the back post to tap home and leave Liverpool stunned and with a mountain to climb to stay in the tie.

Sadly, Liverpool were unable to muster any further clear chances and as the final whistle went they knew a historic night at Anfield next Thursday would be needed in order to stay in the competition.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

West Brom v Liverpool

After throwing away another 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 this time against Man City, Liverpool travelled to face West Brom hoping to avoid being doubled after being humbled 3-0 at Anfield on the opening day of the season.

The night was devoted to the cause 'Seeing is Believing' and saw two players chalk up milestones as Glen Johnson started his 100th league game for Liverpool and Lucas made his 200th appearance for the club.

Phillipe Coutinho started on the bench while Jonjo Shelvey replaced the injured Daniel Sturridge in the attack.

Liverpool started well and even had the ball in the net after nine minutes after Foster saved Johnson's volley it fell to Shelvey who hit home only to have his effort ruled out due to being in an offside position. The pressure continued and Foster tipped over a Agger effort midway through the half and Suarez's outrageous rabona flick had Anfield stunned in admiration but no one could convert from his pass.

Downing cut in from the right and tested Foster from range but the attacks didn't seem to be as potent as they have been in recent weeks. West Brom came close to handing an opening goal to the hosts as Shelvey's low cross hit the leg of Steven Reid and looped agonisingly over the net leaving the teams level at the interval.

Liverpool began the second period well and Foster was forced to deny Gerrard from point-blank range and Henderson's back heeled chance before Shelvey guided Carragher's headed chance wide of the post as the momentum built for the home side.

On came Sterling and Borini in place of Henderson and Shelvey and the Italian went close to an instant impact but his shot on goal was an easy take for Foster which was easier than his next save from a stunning effort from Gerrard which took a strong save to deny an opening goal.

77 minutes gone and still no breakthrough but then Olsson shoved Suarez over in the box and Liverpool were awarded a penalty, up stepped Gerrard and Foster saved well to deny Gerrard yet again.

The penalty miss soon proved to be costly as from a corner in the 81st minute up popped McAuley to head in unmarked and leave all the home crowd stunned and give the visitors the lead.

Liverpool pushed for an equaliser but the game was over as a contest as stoppage time began as Lukaku raced clear to fire past Reina and condemn Liverpool to a defeat they really didn't deserve.

Rodgers mentioned that in recent weeks the team has progressed but personally I really don't see how blowing three consecutive games after dominating all the way through is progress. If luck had gone our way we would have taken nine points from three games and not a measly two. 

Next up is a tough trip to face Russian side Zenit St Petersburg in the last 32 of the Europa League and after impressive performances before their exit from the Champions League, Zenit are a team to be worried about especially when playing in Russia.