Sunday, 14 December 2014

United Triumph Over Rueful Reds

After a heartbreaking exit from the Champions League on Tuesday night, Liverpool made the trip to face fierce rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford. The Reds face a tough week with the League Cup tie against Bournemouth on Wednesday followed by a home game against Arsenal on Sunday.

Brendan Rodgers made a few changes from midweek but the most staggering was the choice to start Brad Jones in goal at the expense of the struggling Simon Mignolet in a gamble that could have serious repercussions should the week end badly.

Liverpool made the better start and could have gone ahead in the 12th minute when Adam Lallana picked out Raheem Sterling in a good position. the young winger advanced on goal but could only hit a tame shot which David De Gea blocked well. United countered superbly with Antonio Valencia carving through the Liverpool defence before squaring to Wayne Rooney who fired past a helpless Brad Jones who dived the wrong way as the home side took the lead.

De Gea denied Liverpool from drawing level in the 18th minut with a good save from Steven Gerrard's effort from the edge of the area, Alberto Moreno found Sterling in the box minutes later but sadly his effort was denied by a close range save from De Gea. Liverpool seemed to be the better of the two sides in attack but went further behind just five minutes before the interval.

Ashley Young swept in a dangerous cross which took a slight touch off the head of Robin van Persie before finding Juan Mata who had ghosted in at the back post to head past Jones which was cruel for Liverpool as replays showed the midfielder had been clearly offside.

Liverpool's problems seemed to be a lack of potency when in on goal and this continued into the second half as Raheem Sterling's cross found Jordan Henderson whose header went over the target and even when a horror back pass from the United defence put Sterling in on goal, the young winger wasted the one-on-one with De Gea who claimed the ball.

United could have been 3-0 up in the 64th minute when Antonio Valencia arrowed a cross into the box which resulted in a heart in mouth moment for the Liverpool defence as Robin van Persie's shot crept past the post.

Liverpool's frustration in front of goal reached new heights when a nice move from Raheem Sterling saw him pick out Mario Balotelli who rifled a shot at goal only to see it tipped onto the crossbar by a fine save from De Gea. The stop from the United 'keeper proved to be decisive as four minutes later United wrapped up the points with a third goal.

Wayne Rooney broke down the left and swept in a cross which was poorly cleared by Dejan Lovren right into the path of Juan Mata who found Robin Van Persie superbly with the Dutchman firing past a helpless Brad Jones.

Liverpool continued to push for a goal even if in consolation but were again denied by De Gea who saved twice from Balotelli as the game ticked into the final five minutes, Brad Jones prevented a fourth goal for United when he performed a superb tipping save over the bar from a powerful effort from Robin van Persie.

Despite the 3-0 win, it was the United' keeper who was awarded man of the match for a superb performance that saw his side triumph with half as many shots on target as the visitors who now move on to a crucial cup tie away to Championship high-fliers Bournemouth.

Europa League Awaits Exiting Reds

Alike their last Champions League double header against Basel which saw Liverpool exit the competition with a draw nearly 12 years ago to the day, the Reds suffered a similar fate that will see them grace the Europa League early next year. 

Basel have proved to be a tough task for English opponents and Tuesday night was no different as they sealed qualification alongside defending champions Real Madrid while Liverpool face a tough unseeded drop into the Europa League joining city rivals Everton. 

Brendan Rodgers made four changes from the weekend with Joe Allen, Jose Enrique, Steven Gerrard and Dejan Lovren returned to boost the Reds hopes of reaching the knockout stages, the opening exchanges were bright from the home side but the Swiss side had the first real chance.

An attack saw Luca Zuffi look to threaten the Liverpool defence when he picked out Shkelzen Gashi but luckily for the home crowd, the shot went wide of the target. Gashi looked to be a good influence on the Basel attack and when he found Marco Streller, Glen Johnson and Martin Skrtel did well to block the Basel captain's effort. 

Liverpool's task suffered a blow in the 25th minute when Fabian Frei exchanged a one-two with Zuffi with the former collecting the return ball ans rifling a powerful shot into the bottom corner past a helpless Simon Mignolet. 

The lead could have been doubled when Streller drifted into space and swept in a dangerous cross which made its way to Fabian Schar who connected well but his effort saw an instant block from Jose Enrique. Basel looked to be going into the interval two goals ahead after Gashi connected to a pass through the Liverpool defence and hit past Mignolet before the effort was chalked off by the linesman.

Liverpool needed two goals without reply to advance and began the second half with two changes as Lazar Markovic and Alberto Moreno replaced Rickie Lambert and Jose Enrique, the two substitutes looked bright early on and led to the home side making a good start to the half. 

Basel responded with a good effort from Taulent Xhaka from close range but Liverpool were son in trouble when a run from Lazar Markovic saw him flick out a hand towards Behrang Safari and was controversially dismissed on the spot leaving the hosts with a mountain to climb on the hour mark.

The numerical disadvantage strangely seemed to help the hosts and Martin Skrtel had a good chance to level with a thunderous shot from long range which caused concern for Vaclik in the Basel goal before sailing past the upright. A clever combination between Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling in the 71st minute put Steven Gerrard in on goal with the Reds captain tumbling after Vaclik claimed the ball with the crowd appealing for a foul.
Liverpool had just 10 minutes to stage a miraculous turnaround and had a chance to begin the task when Schar committed a foul on the edge of his own area, Gerrard stepped up and swept a glorious free-kick into the net right in front of the euphoric Kop whose belief began to grow.
Just one more push from the ten men was needed to seal a superb comeback and when Moreno sprayed the ball to Henderson in the centre, the midfielder's header took a wild deflection before edging towards the line and being recovered at the last second by Vaclik, to the anguish of the home fans.
Liverpool continued to threaten the Basel backline with a number of shots in the final seconds but to no effect as they completed a poor campaign in the competition that saw them exit with just one win in six games.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Sunderland End Reds Run

After securing back-to-back victories in the league, Liverpool hosted Sunderland ahead of their crucial midweek Champions League tie against Basel.

Two notable changes saw Steven Gerrard and Javier Manquillo replaced by Alberto Moreno and Phillipe Coutinho while there were no strikers named on the bench with Fabio Borini left out possibly hinting to a selection in midweek.

A fairly tepid first half from both sides saw limited chances at goal with the first coming from Jordi Gomez who blazed wide in the 16th minute from a good position before Rickie Lambert headed over at the other end in the 23rd minute. Phillipe Coutinho had a great chance to open the scoring just two minutes later but his low shot was tipped wide by Costel Pantilimon.

Wes Brown had a good chance to send Sunderland into the interval ahead but could only head an effort over the bar from Seb Larsson's corner. The visitors started the second half in a the same vain as they ended the first as Jordi Gomez hit a strong shot which was deflected wide of the target.

Sunderland seemed the likelier to open the scoring and went close with two efforts in as many minutes, Seb Larsson swept in a free-kick which was cleared by Martin Skrtel before the resulting corner found Connor Wickham in space but he volleyed wide.

Liverpool had a number of chances themselves with Raheem Sterling blazing over after a clever run and a Jordan Henderson free kick sailing over the bar. Sterling seemed to be the shining light for Liverpool and he created a good opening in the 78th minute as a pacy run saw him find Phillipe Coutinho with the Brazilian's shot saved by Costel Pantilimon.

Steven Gerrard looked to make an impact but save his free-kick in the 80th minute saved easily by Pantilimon while Simon Mignolet was called into action a minute later to deny Jordi Gomez's powerful effort with a superb tipping save.

Neither side really did enough to deserve all three points so a draw was a fair result but Liverpool will need to be a lot better if they are to advance into the next round of the Champions League on Tuesday night.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Three Lions Down Foxes

After securing a late win at home to Stoke at the weekend, Liverpool travelled to Leicester on Tuesday night looking for back-to-back wins.

Steven Gerrard returned to the starting 11 alongside Javier Manquillo with Glen Johnson switching to the left in place of the rested Jose Enrique but one thing that hadn't changed from recent outings was the better start of the opposition with Wes Morgan's tame header finding Mignolet in the fifth minute.

Liverpool had a good chance of their own in the seventh minute when Steven Gerrard swept in a free kick which drifted wide after connecting with Martin Skrtel, Jeff Schlupp had a good chance for the home side in the 18th minute which was deflected wide off Lucas.

Simon Mignolet has come in for a huge amount of criticism recently and did his cause no good when a stray pass found Esteban Cambiasso just on the edge of the box with the Leicester defender blowing an open goal by drifting the ball past the post.

Liverpool were caught out again just two minutes later when Leicester countered well from a Reds attack with Leonardo Ulloa powering an effort at goal from close range only to be denied by a goal-line clearance from Martin Skrtel. However, the ball remained in play and Leonardo Ulloa collected before hitting at goal and seeing his shot cannon off the post and in off the back of Simon Mignolet who was given the own goal.

Glen Johnson looked to draw Liverpool level but could only blaze over the bar from long range but just four minutes after going behind, the visitors were level after Lucas' cross into the box was met by a tame header by Wes Morgan with the ball drifting into the path of Adam Lallana who fired past Kasper Schmeichel to make it 1-1.

Martin Skrtel had a header blocked by Richie De Laet in the 33rd minute as the sides went into the interval on level terms but the equality lasted only nine minutes of the second half as a superb cross from Raheem Sterling was tamely cleared by Wes Morgan and straight to Steven Gerrard who rifled the ball past Kasper Schmeichel for 2-1.

After scoring an own goal at the weekend against QPR and in a way providing two assists for Liverpool on the night, Wes Morgan's evening got even worse in the 63rd minute when a chase for the ball with Rickie Lambert saw him pull back the striker in a perfect goal scoring position meaning he was given a straight red card.

Esteban Cambiasso had a good chance to level in the 74th minute before Steven Gerrard broke clear at the other end only to miss the chance to shoot when he collided with Kasper Schmeichel in the area but the referee deemed it as a 50-50 challenge and no foul was given.

However the Liverpool captain was influential in the next strong move as he swept in a clever cross to Raheem Sterling with an effort blocked by Kasper Schmeichel before the young winger squared the ball to Jordan Henderson who fired home for a 3-1 lead to surely wrap up the three points.

Leonardo Ulloa had a chance in injury time to try and reduce the arrears but saw his effort saved by Simon Mignolet ensuring Liverpool moved into eighth and just a few points outside the top four.  

Monday, 1 December 2014

Brave Johnson Ends Poor Run

After a late strike in Bulgaria denied only a second win of the group stage for Liverpool, they returned to domestic duties eager to avoid a fourth consecutive defeat as Stoke visited Anfield on Saturday afternoon.

In a surprise change later explained by Rodgers, Steven Gerrard had to celebrate the 16th anniversary of his debut on the bench as he and Javier Manquillo were dropped from midweek as Jose Enrique and Phillipe Coutinho came in to the starting eleven.

A fairly dull opening from both sides perked up with a clever move from Raheem Sterling looked to be promising but sadly he was unable to fins a teammate in the Stoke box with the first effort of the game coming in the 27th minute as a long range set-piece from Rickie Lambert narrowly cleared the bar.

Jose Enrique carved up an opening that came achingly close to finding Rickie Lambert before a corner deflected into the path of Martin Skrtel who sent a volley just past the near post and the home crowd rose in the 41st minute when Lucas looked to have been upended by Glen Whelan in the box but the referee was unmoved by the appeals.

Liverpool looked to make a good start to the second period and came close to breaking the deadlock in the 51st minute when Jordan Henderson outfoxed the defence with a pass that found Rickie Lambert who in turn found Henderson who aimed for goal and despite a deflection could only find the side netting.

Stoke threatened at the other end when Mame Biram Diouf connected to Bojan's pass but before attempting a shot on goal was denied by Simon Mignolet who had come off his line successfully and on the hour, Stoke went even closer as Bojan advanced on goal and unleashed a powerful effort which struck the post.

Liverpool responded through Raheem Sterling who sent an effort just past the post and Lucas went close minutes later after collecting a Sterling pass but could only find the palms of Begovic who was called into action again when Rickie Lambert hit an effort at goal.

Rodgers made a significant chance in the 75th minute as Steven Gerrard came on to mark 16 years since his debut for the club but the joy could have been soured when Mame Biram Diouf swept the ball towards goal only to be denied superbly by a goal-line clearance from Raheem Sterling.

The clearance proved to be even more important four minutes later as Liverpool took the lead, Rickie Lambert arrowed a header towards goal which beat Begovic but cannoned back off the crossbar and a rapid reaction from Glen Johnson saw him head the ball over the line while taking a blow to the head from a Stoke defender attempting to clear.

Finally something for the Kop to celebrate at the final whistle as Liverpool secured a first win in November that ends a horrendous run of form and will be a welcome three points ahead of a hectic December schedule.

Defensive Lapse Denies Reds Victory

After suffering a trio of defeats so far in the Champions League, Liverpool travelled to face Ludogorets knowing a fourth loss would damaged their hopes of advancing and potentially lead to a complete exit from European competition this season.

Their hopes suffered an early blow when a long range shot from Marcelinho saw Simon Migonlet parry horrendously into the path of Dani Abalo who fired past the Belgian to give the home side a lead inside two minutes.

Liverpool responded well and hit the back of the net themselves in the eight minute when a clever cross from Jordan Henderson caused chaos in the Ludogorets defence which allowed Rickie Lambert to take advantage and nod home past Stoyanov for his first European goal and second for the Reds in the space of four days.

Raheem Sterling looked to put his side ahead in the 29th minute but could only send an effort over the bar but he redeemed himself with style in the 37th minute as he teased a superb ball across goal which connected with the run of Jordan Henderson who swept the ball high into the net past Stoyanov to give Liverpool a 2-1 lead.

Both sides threatened with set-pieces before the hour with Steven Gerrard sweeping in a free-kick which drew a comfortable save from Stoyanov before Espinho sent his free-kick over the Liverpool crossbar.

Buoyed by his early goal, Rickie Lambert looked for a second as he arrowed a header towards goal which was blocked and fell to Jordan Henderson who fired over from close range but was relieved to be flagged offside after a superb chance to extend the lead went awry.

The England midfielder was involved again in the 71st minute when the duo of Raheem Sterling and Steven Gerrard found the former who forced a diving stop from Stoyanov who was called into action again just four minutes later to deny Raheem Sterling after a pacy run from the young winger.

Into the final minutes, Ludogorets began to pile on the pressure on the Liverpool defence and to the detriment of the travelling Kopites, it paid off in the 88th minute when Terziev found himself completely unmarked from a corner before heading past Simon Mignolet to secure a 2-2 draw and keep both sides in the hunt to qualify for the next round. 

Eagles Soar Past Reds

Liverpool's run of form went from bad to worse after they fell to a 3-1 defeat away to Crystal Palace who secured a second consecutive surprise after a stellar comeback in April's 3-3 draw which many believe ended Liverpool's title challenge.

However, it was the visitors who made a perfect start as Adam Lallana swept forward a superb pass to Rickie Lambert which the frontman collected and fired past Julian Speroni to claim his first Liverpool goal after just two minutes.

Crystal Palace fought back and soon drew level in the 17th minute when a superb shot from Yannick Bolasie cannoned back off the post and kindly into the path of Dwight Gayle who hit past a helpless Simon Mignolet for 1-1.

Both sides had chances to go in front just before the half hour with Rickie Lambert heading over Steven Gerrard's free kick before Yannick Bolasie forced a strong diving save from Simon Mignolet after a powerful effort from the edge of the area.

Bolasie seemed to be the driving for for Palace and was influential again in the 41st minute when he countered from a Liverpool corner and after combining with Jason Puncheon forced a corner with a strong shot which struck a Liverpool defender.

The Eagles had two good chances to take the lead early in the second half with Scott Dann's connection to a free kick finding the arms of Simon Mignolet before Martin Skrtel connected to a corner and shot at goal only to see the effort deflect wide off Rickie Lambert.

Glen Johnson swept in a dangerous cross in the 70th minute which Julian Speroni did well to take with Rickie Lambert advancing towards the ball but the visitors came even closer just a minute later as Javier Manquillo shot wide despite being wide open in front of goal.

Crystal Palace survived the pressure from Liverpool so well that they soon went ahead with Yannick Bolasie proving to be influential yet again as he raced down the win before squaring the ball into the path of Joe Ledley who fired past Simon Mignolet for 2-1.

The night worse for the visitors just three minutes later when Martin Skrtel conceded a free-kick in a dangerous position and Mile Jedinak curled the set-piece superbly past Simon Mignolet to surely wrap up all three points.

Liverpool's response came from a Steven Gerrard free-kick in the 85th minute but the Reds captain swept the effort over the bar from the edge of the area and that was that for the Reds who slipped to a third successive defeat.