Saturday, 27 December 2014

A Sterling Effort At Turf Moor

The packed festive period continued yesterday as Liverpool travelled to face Burnley at Turf Moor with the Clarets eager to get out of the bottom three and extend their recent good form.

The Reds fielded the same starting eleven from the Arsenal draw but there was a surprise inclusion on the substitutes bench in the shape of  17-year-old Academy starlet Sheyi Ojo who was included after a run of great performances for the U19's.

Liverpool looked to get off to a good start and came close inside five minutes as Raheem Sterling looked to test Tom Heaton in the Burnley goal after a well-worked counter attack but sadly could only hit an effort past the far post.

The home side responded well and had a chance of their own in the 15th minute when Danny Ings found space to connect to a throw in before driving a shot at goal only to see it cannon against the post.

Brad Jones' afternoon was cut short as he left the field with a knock just a minute later with Simon Mignolet entering in his place and hoping to silence the critics after a run of poor form but could only watch as Ashley Barnes headed over the bar from a Dean Marney cross.

Liverpool did cause a threat though on the half hour mark as Steven Gerrard swept a pass to Adam Lallana but despite finding some space, the midfielder saw his eventual effort blocked by Heaton. Burnley came achingly close to breaking the deadlock when a clearance from Mignolet fell for Scott Arfield who looked to volley into the bottom corner only to be denied by a superb block from Lucas.

The home fans were off their feet again when George Boyd headed at goal but in despair as the effort narrowly missed the target in the last chance of the half which signalled a chance for Liverpool in the second period as Emre Can replaced Kolo Toure.

There was no instant impact from the chance but the momentum began to build and just two minutes after the hour mark, the visitors broke the deadlock as a superb piece of control from Phillipe Coutinho led to him scooping the ball over his own shoulder and perfectly into the path of Raheem Sterling who collected the ball before rounding Heaton and firing into the net.

After earning a brilliant assist, Coutinho came close to scoring himself as he displayed stellar skills in outfoxing three Burnley defenders before aiming for goal and seeing his effort deflect off target before making way for Rickie Lambert later on. Lambert went one better than his teammate by putting the ball into the net but to his dismay saw the effort chalked off for offside as Liverpool held on for a vital away win.

10 Man Reds Deny Gunners

A tough festive schedule for Liverpool continued with the visit of Arsenal on Sunday afternoon in a game that will live long in the memory for both positive and negative reasons.

Liverpool continued the 3-4-3- setup from the defeat to Manchester United and started the better of the two sides with Steven Gerrard curling a free-kick over the bar in the third minute before Adam Lallana shot over in the 12th minute.

Mamadou Sahko came closest to scoring for the home side as he headed past the post after connecting to a corner before Arsenal responded with an effort from Olivier Giroud which went straight at Brad Jones.

A long range effort from Philippe Coutinho on the half hour was taken well by Wojciech Szczesny who was called into action again just five minutes later after Lazar Markovic raced into the box and tested the Gunners 'keeper.

Liverpool looked to be going into the interval in front when a superb run from Raheem Sterling resulted in him picking out Phillipe Coutinho on the edge of the area who turned and fired the ball past Szczesny to open the scoring. However, Liverpool's defensive frailties haunted them as Arsenal levelled in the final seconds of the half with a free-kick from Alexis Sanchez headed on in the box by Mathieu Flamini into the path of Mathieu Debuchy who headed in at the back post.

Both sides had reasonable chances early in the second half with Coutinho blazing over from a free-kick before Santi Cazorla hit a similar effort over for Arsenal. A long delay came in the 50th minute when an Arsenal attack resulted in a tangle between Olivier Giroud and Martin Skrtel with the Liverpool defender suffering a head injury.

After the five minute delay, Skrtel was stitched up and bravely played on as Liverpool looked to retake the lead just after the hour mark but a Raheem Sterling run and Steven Gerrard cross saw Wojciech Szczesny beaten but failed to result in a goal.

Arsenal countered with Giroud hitting wide of the target before redeeming himself just two minutes later by connecting to a clever square pass from Santi Cazorla and hitting the ball through he legs of Brad Jones to put the visitors in front.

The change in fortunes saw Liverpool bring on Fabio Borini in place of Lazar Markovic to try and draw level and the equaliser came so close to appearing in the 75th minute as Jordan Henderson found the path of Lucas who manoeuvred into the area and saw his shot slip agonisingly past the post.

Fabio Borini looked to make an impression after seeing a headed effort tipped over by Szczesny in the 86th minute as he hit for goal again just two minutes later only to have his chance parried to safety by the Arsenal 'keeper. A huge nine minutes of added time as put on the board and Liverpool looked to level early into it as Raheem Sterling forced a clever save from Wojciech Szczesny.

However, Liverpool's momentum suffered a blow as Fabio Borini received his second booking in as many minutes after a yellow card for dissent was followed by a second for raising a foot in a challenge.

The last time Liverpool went down to 10 men against Basel earlier in the month, their performance didn't stutter and they levelled late on despite exiting the Champions League. This time around the same spirit was apparent as in the seventh minute of added time they did draw level as Martin Skrtel superbly met a Gerrard corner and headed past Szczesny to the joy of the home fans.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Sterling Double Sours Cherries Hopes

After a bad result away to Manchester United at the weekend, Liverpool travelled to face Championship leaders Bournemouth in the Capital One Cup quarter final on Wednesday night.

Brendan Rodgers stuck with Brad Jones in goal while the return of Mario Balotelli and Fabio Borini saw them both named among the substitutes as the Reds looked secure a place in the last four and edge closer to a trip to Wembley in March.

The home side started the better which was no surprise given Liverpool's mixed away form and the Reds could have gone 2-0 down early on with a Adam Smith forcing a block from Martin Skrtel before Callum Wilson wasted a superb chance seconds later as he hit narrowly past the post.

Liverpool responded with a duo of chances from Adam Lallana with the midfielder forcing former Southampton teammate Artur Boruc into a superb tipping save before sending a shot wide of the post in the space of seven minutes.

Lazar Markovic has had limited chances this season to live up to his £20m summer price tag but showed some real promise in the 20th minute with a weighted cross to the back post to the head of Jordan Henderson who picked out lone striker Raheem Sterling in space who arrowed the ball past Boruc to open the scoring.

Bournemouth were unable to mount a rapid response as they fell further behind just seven minutes later, Phillipe Coutinho tested Artur Boruc with a close range shot which drew a parry from the Cherries stopper and fell into the path of Lazar Markovic who fired into the net to claim his first goal for the Reds.

The Cherries could have pulled one back instantly when Simon Francis crossed for Yann Kermogant but to the dismay of the home crowd, the Frenchman blazed his effort high over the target before an effort from Dan Gosling was blocked well by Steven Gerrard just five minutes before the interval.

After ending the first half in good spirits, Bournemouth began the second half in a bad way as they were carved open by superbly skillful routine from Raheem Sterling, who danced through the Cherries defence before rifling the ball past a helpless Artur Boruc to extend the lead to three goals in the 51st minute.

Bournemouth bounced back with a superb effort of their own in the 57th minute as Dan Gosling, famed for a FA Cup semi final winning goal against Liverpool powered a shot at goal which looked to have been saved by Brad Jones. However, the Australian was unable to deny the Cherries midfielder as his attempted save failed to stop the ball nestling in the net.

Buoyed by gracing the scoreboard, Bournemouth looked to add a second notation as a deep cross found the head of Ryan Fraser but his effort travelled narrowly over the bar. Raheem Sterling came achingly close to a first senior hat-trick for Liverpool in the 67th minute as he latched on to a clever flick from Adam Lallana before dragging a shot wide of the post.

At the other end, Bournemouth should have made it 3-2 when Dan Gosling cannoned a shot at goal but his effort came back off the post and into the path of Matt Richie who blew a great chance with a shot wide of the target.

Bournemouth had another good chance in the 80th minute as Simon Francis looked to test Brad Jones from long range but could only send the ball past the post before Baily Cargill drew a strong save from Brad Jones with two minutes remaining as Liverpool held on for the win.

A fairly good performance from the Reds against a side who have high hopes of reaching the top flight and look good to do so this season while Liverpool will move their focus to tomorrow's huge clash at home to Arsenal at Anfield.

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.