Saturday, 8 November 2014

Chelsea Seal Anfield Win

Liverpool's run of three games in a week ended miserably with a 2-1 defeat at home to unbeaten Chelsea who as a result sit 15 points ahead of the Reds ahead of the international break with Brendan Rodgers making sweeping changes from the midweek loss in Madrid.

Emre Can retained his place and could have made an instant impact inside the first minute when a shot at goal took a wicked deflection before going over the bar, the early chance served as a warning which Chelsea failed to heed. The German midfielder tried his luck again in the ninth minute and again his chance drew a wicked deflection but when the ball cannoned off Gary Cahill it sailed past Thibault Courtois to the joy of the home crowd.

However, Liverpool's lead lasted just five minutes as a lapse in defence saw Gary Cahill equalise after Simon Mignolet saved a John Terry header from a corner, Cahill tapped in the rebound which Mignolet looked to have saved but the goal decision system showed he had done so behind the line and so the goal was given.

Liverpool looked to have regained the lead in the 19th minute when Philippe Coutinho found Mario Balotelli but despite firing past Courtois in the Chelsea goal, the strike was denied by an offside decision but the Brazilian had a chance of his own when a clever run and shot drew a diving save from Courtois.

Chelsea came close to taking the lead with two chances from Eden Hazard late in the half both drawing saves from Mignolet who ensured the sides would go into the interval on level terms, Diego Costa had a superb chance in the 51st minute when he connected to Eden Hazard's cross with an overhead kick travelling over the bar.

Raheem Sterling looked to put Liverpool ahead after a mazy run into the box saw him force a good save from Thibault Courtois and Chelsea countered with Eden Hazard whose shot was blocked by Steven Gerrard.

Chelsea did get lucky though in the 66th minute when Cesar Azplicueta swept a cross in and drew a parry from Simon Mignolet with the ball falling to Diego Costa who fired past the Belgian to give the league leaders a 2-1 lead. Liverpool made a double change with Fabio Borini and Joe Allen replacing goalscorer Emre Can and Phillipe Coutinho.

Jordan Henderson looked to draw Liverpool level with a close range shot after a nice run and cross from Joe Allen but the shot deflected wide of the target another change saw Rickie Lambert replace Mario Balotelli. Liverpool were unfortunate not to be awarded a late penalty when Steven Gerrard's shot looked to have hit the arm of Gary Cahill but referee Anthony Taylor signalled play on.

Chelsea held on and moved clear at the top while maintaining their unbeaten record while Liverpool remained in seventh ahead of the three o'clock games.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Benzema Strike Downs Reds

Ahead of a tough clash against Premier League table toppers Chelsea, Liverpool travelled to face a Real Madrid side who bested them 3-0 in the reverse meeting.

Despite some criticism in the build-up to the match, Brendan Rodgers named a mixed strength side with Fabio Borini, Lazar Markovic, Emre Can and Lucas Leiva all included which resulted in a strong substitutes bench containing Steven Gerrard, Mario Balotelli, Raheem Sterling and Jordan Henderson.

It was no surprise that Madrid made the better start as James Rodriguez forced Simon Mignolet into a clawing save after a shot from ten yards away from goal before Cristiano Ronaldo aimed a chance towards the top corner but Mignolet was on form again to deny the Real striker with a superb stop.

However, the Belgian was powerless to prevent Real from opening the scoring in the 27th minute as a sweeping cross from Marcelo out on the left found Karim Benzema at the back post with the Frenchman finishing first time into the roof of the Liverpool net.

Real's confidence grew and Cristiano Ronaldo tried his luck from 30 yards out with a free-kick which was punched clear by Simon Mignolet before Marcelo began a move which saw him combine with Karim Benzema with the former volleying towards goal only to be denied by a stop from Mignolet.

Liverpool looked to respond early in the second half and created a move with Alberto Moreno finding Adam Lallana in space allowing the England midfielder to hit a snap-shot at goal which despite going wide, prompted a rise in atmosphere from the travelling Kopites.

Real bounced back and came close to scoring a second when a neat combination between Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema saw the former advance on goal but a superb block from Kolo Toure ended the move. Brendan Rodgers looked to change the game with a double change with Steven Gerrard and Raheem Sterling replacing Lucas Leiva and Lazar Markovic.

However, Real also boosted their attack with the introduction of Gareth Bale and the Welshman came close to a second strike for Real when he connected to Marcelo's pass but his effort rebounded back off the cross bar. Liverpool pushed to equalise and seal a draw but the illusive goal eluded them and meant Real secured a place in the knockout stages while Liverpool need to win both remaining games to have a chance of advancing.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Supersub Perez Downs Reds

After sealing a last-gasp win over Swansea in the Capital One Cup in midweek, Liverpool faced Newcastle in Saturday's lunchtime kick-off which saw a superbly observed minutes silence for Remembrance Day.

The Magpies made the better start of the two sides with Papiss Cisse claiming the first chance in the fourth minute when his shot at goal was deflected over by the Liverpool defence and from there the game seemed to quieten down until around the 28th minute mark.

Mehdi Abeid looked to test Simon Mignolet from a free kick in the 28th minute but was denied by the defence before his second attempt from a set piece came ten minutes before half time with the effort being deflected wide with Sammy Ameobi blazing over from the resulting corner.

Liverpool breathed a collective sigh of relief in the 37th minute when Glen Johnson headed off his own line after Papiss Cisse had connected superbly from a corner and the Reds responded well and could have gone into the interval ahead.

Steven Gerrard swept in a corner which found the head of Martin Skrtel who arrowed the ball towards goal only to see his effort sail past the post, Newcastle looked to start the second half as they had the first with Papiss Cisse looking to test Simon Mignolet but could only shoot over from a free-kick.

Mario Balotelli looked to threaten the deadlock with a free-kick of his won but saw his effort saved well by Tim Krul who was called into action again in the 57th minute when a powerful header from Phillipe Coutinho drew a tipping save from the Dutch stopper.

However, Newcastle mounted a superb attack in the 73rd minute and opened the scoring when Paul Dummett found the path of Ayoze Perez who hit past Simon Mignolet for his second league goal in the space of a week to put the Magpies ahead.

Liverpool could have fell further behind when a defensive error on the halfway line saw Remy Cabella break free and after a one-two with Ayoze Perez, he looked to test Simon Mignolet with the Belgian 'keeper saving superbly with his right leg.

Newcastle seemed the likeliest to score and they came close again when Moussa Sissoko swept in a dangerous cross which was strong enough to draw a save from Simon Mignolet but Liverpool's attacking frailties meant they slipped to a fourth league defeat of the season.

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.