The Liver Bird  

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Torres Was The Catalyst

Liverpool battled through the snow last night at Villa Park to clinch a 1-0 victory in the dying minutes of injury time. The fight was back, the determination and most importantly the superb finishing of Fernando Torres.

In a game that was destined to finish level after numerous amounts of wasted chances and lack of ability to keep possession in the slippy conditions from both sides it was quite a shocking end to the game.

Some people have argued that in many senses Aston Villa were the one's if anyone who deserved the three points, but is this fair to say?

In most ways yes, Villa did often look more of a threat and you could also argue they had the majority of the possession but crucially they could not find the end product.

With chances from Downing, Carew and several from Agbonlahor it was a spectacular Pepe Reina who managed to keep us in the game. Downing and Carew arguably missed their chances to put the home side in front after Downing opted to shoot straight at the keeper and Carew did not provide enough from a pin point cross. His header was poor, like the Agger chance a few matches back you simply must score.

Perhaps the most poignant moment within the first half for Liverpool was when Steven Gerrard saw an opportunity to lob Brad Friedel, after executing the chance perfectly it was a back tracking Friedel who made a superb save to deny the skipper.

Another moment to note was a penalty shout for Liverpool after Richard Dunne appeared to get much more of the man than he did the ball when Dirk Kuyt went down in the box. Thankfully this wasn't one of those bad decisions we would end up having to look back on.

Dunne moments later picked up a yellow card for another bad challenge, perhaps a moment of realisation from the referee? Lucas was also booked after what to be fair did not even appear to be a challenge although he had made some late tackles earlier on in the half.

With Lucas now providing the Mascherano aspect to our fixture it was Aquilani who was relied on more so for the passing and forward play. Possibly not as influential as he was against Wolves on Boxing Day but he again showed promise. The majority of his passes reached their targets and he again was excellent in making sure he was in space for that pass back or chance to threaten the Villa area. He also opted to have a pop at a free kick which in all fairness was not half bad, i've seen Aurelio and Gerrard on many occasions be unfortunate in a similar way but of course because it was Alberto everyone was quick to jump at the fact that it did not end up in the goal. I'm sure they didn't say that the first time Ronaldo took a free kick eh? Good 75 minutes from Aquilani in my eyes.

The second half reflected much of what the first did only now it appeared both teams were beginning to tire.

Pepe Reina during the second half at one stage caused havoc when he received the ball and stopped play after experiencing a problem with one of his boots. Refusing to continue at the reason of safety he awaited just the one new boot and then with no sense of urgency tied his laces, made sure he was all set and ready to go then took the goal kick. Quality.

"All the Villa fans they hate Pepe Reina, all the Wolves fans they hate Pepe Reina, Everton fans they hate Pepe Reina - HEYYYYYYYYY PEPE REINA!"

After a very scrappy ending to the 90 minutes it was Villa who were looking to spoil the party. After what we had already seen and the performances from both teams i think it would be realistic to say that we would have taken the clean sheet and the point.

Just as you thought it was the time for acceptance though a somewhat lucky deflection from the Villa defence finds itself in the path of Fernando Torres. Bearing in mind throughout the game he had been rather frustrated with his own performance and i think it would be fair to say quiet what happened next would be surprising to anyone who does not know of El Nino.

However my reaction as i'm sure 90% of every other Liverpool fans reaction at the moment he received the ball was that this was going in the back of the net. The one man you want a ball like that to fall to and it did. With superb composure and an excellent finish the ace of Spain had sealed Liverpool a massive victory and an even bigger 3 points.

Not only this but he now has the title of the fastest player to reach 50 league goals for Liverpool in the history of the football club, faster than Hunt, faster than Rushy and faster than Fowler. If that start to your club career does not provide the basis on which you can become a Kop hero, nothing ever will. They boy quite simply is gold.

And this is what made the difference between the two teams, and what makes Fernando Torres a world class player. When the likes of Carew and Agbonlahor could not rise to the occasion, Torres did.

Although the match as a whole again was probably not a performance that reflects the Liverpool we know, it was clear that the fight and utter determination was back. The never say die attitude and the realisation that you should always play until the last minute was enforced, and that will go a long long way as the second half of this difficult season continues.

With Tottenham next up at home what a fantastic opportunity Liverpool have to again show their 4th spot rivals how the real boys do it. A win here would do wonders and on some of the key aspects from last nights performance i think it is fair to say that Spurs will need to be weary of a slightly refreshed Liverpool.

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Monday, 28 December 2009

Why Villa Are Just The Pushers

So after a 2-0 victory over Midlands side Wolverhampton Wanderers on Boxing Day can Liverpool go to fellow Midlanders Aston Villa tomorrow and come away with another 3 points?

Aston Villa, widely regarded as challengers for the top 4 are set to be there or there about again this season. With their current form sustaining their current 4th spot and their points tally reading 5 better than Liverpool, it can sometimes be a cause for concern.

However, i just don't think Villa, Spurs or City will continue pushing, not this season anyway, and although Martin O'Neill has no doubt done a fantastic job i can't help but think that his 4th spot ambition is just a dream and nothing more. Even on the back of some terrible Liverpool results which have totally opened up the opportunity he and the team have not taken a full stranglehold on the chance.

Just by looking at last year it is clear to see that there comes a stage when the pushers push too much and the steam just runs out.

Aston Villa last season had so many moments to pounce on Arsenal, at one stage they were almost comfortably ahead but after so many silly draws i.e. Bolton, Everton and Middlesbrough, the dream began to slip away. Everton were actually allowed to finish above the Midlanders in the end, shocking to both Martin O'Neill and most football fans, they had such a great opportunity and just threw it all away.

You only have to analyze Arsenal and Villa's season to see the difference in the teams.

Arsenal Points Tally By End Of December 08/09 Season = 35
Aston Villa Points Tally By End Of December 08/09 Season = 38

Okay by then it was only a 3 point advantage but more than a chance to continue capitalizing on an Arsenal side that appeared very poor until they began the turn around and Villa slipped and slipped.

Arsenal Points Tally For Second Half Of Season = 37
Aston Villa Points Tally For Second Half Of Season = 24

Going from a nice little cushion of 3 points at the end of the year to a 13 point deficit and being leapfrogged by Everton is quite a feat if you ask me. What a chance they had too.

Arsenal last season were effectively in the same situation that we find ourselves in at the moment and i just feel even with teams in the "big 4" struggling to find form, eventually it always shows up, leaving the likes of Villa, Spurs, City, Everton (on some occasions) etc just settling for the slots underneath.

It's the same this season for Villa, although in all fairness we can't really say anything at the moment because they are in fact in 4th place (although if Spurs beat West Ham today this will change), but you only have to look again at some of the silly results that will no doubt crop up again for Villa in the second half of the season - Draw with Wolves, Draw with Everton, Loss to West Ham. Not to mention the fact that they seem to really struggle when facing the teams around them. They will slide and that 4th spot will be there for the taking. Not without us putting the work in of course but a combination of the likes of Villa, Spurs and City continuing to slip up in the latter stages of the season along with Liverpool finding form is what my prediction is.

Not usually one to get these things right but after watching the way the games and table panned out last season and having also watched it this season, it is quite clear that is the obvious set up. Of course, if we don't go out there and do something about it then it WILL be handed to one of the pushers.

So what a great way to start by showing Villa the way to "push" and then most importantly "secure" that 4th spot?

If Liverpool can come away tomorrow with the desired 3 points, already before the year is out we will have managed to close the gap to just 2 points. With Spurs next up after Reading in the FA Cup this is a vital moment for Liverpool to portray how the big boys do it and how despite the fact we have faltered, we are a good old fashioned football team who strive for what they need, not just drop our heads and let that be that.

Liverpool are again still without Kelly, NEZ, Riera and of course Mascherano. After some promising play from Aquilani against Wolves it is assumed he will make the start in Birmingham tomorrow night. With Benayoun opted to start on the right for the last fixture i doubt this will be reflected for the next. Although at this moment in time i would perhaps prefer Benayoun to make the start, in all fairness he failed to make an impact until the second half against Wolves, maybe bringing his fresh legs on will be a better option?

Aston Villa have some top class players and as we know from our first meeting this season, they can punish the defence. Although the back four do appear to be gradually getting there, still some moments worried me against Wolves concerning Insua and Agger out of position and a couple of occasions when Carra was turned too easily. Nevertheless the lads kept the clean sheet so let's not nit pick, i just hope they can show the same sense of solidarity.

Big game, no question about it and a massive chance for Liverpool.

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Sunday, 27 December 2009

A Dash Of Red In A Sea Of Gold And Black

Okay, so I'll set the scene. It's about 4 o'clock when me, me fella aka Rich (Wolves), me mate Josh (Wolves) and my old friend from school Plim (Wolves) all show up at the pub of choice - actually half pub, half bowling alley, ready to get some drinks in and settle down for the build up.

After a few games of Match Of The Day and 1 vs 100 on the quiz machine and some deliberation, i decided the seats we had chosen were at a bit too bad of an angle for the liking of my neck. Not only this but shortly after i had sat down, a man at the table next to us decided to start chanting "Utd,Utd,Utd!" to which i muttered "shit" unfortunately, his mate realised and told him then it was the whole "did she just say shit?" so i said "yes", blah blah blah several moments later from the Manchester United?/Wolves fan? ... "So are you like a proper fan then?", "What dya reckon the result will be?" so on and so forth, i answered, he seemed quite bewildered at my knowledge of the defense and then said "it doesn't matter, Wolves are gonna do you anyway", right. To be fair, it was all a good bit of banter but i still felt a little uncomfortable, and to be honest it was more to do with the ridiculous position of the television in comparison to my eyes.

Roughly 5 o'clock and we opted to shift tables in front of another TV in the bar, preferred this position but after Plim pointed out an annoying light which kept reflecting on the TV screen i was beginning to wish we hadn't of moved. Nevertheless, we were set. I'd checked and checked as the room started to fill up and i was THE only Liverpool fan, to be completely honest if it wasn't for my gender I'm pretty sure i would have been "sorted out" by some of the hardy fans. Despite this, they "put up with me" as it were, didn't seem exactly happy about it but i couldn't care less.

I love the looks i always get from a lot of naive football fans, mainly when I'm spotted in a pub watching a game, expecting me to not know what the hell I'm on about and that I'm only watching because i fancy Gerrard or some bull crap. It's a different story when they hear me shouting and discussing the game mid way through with me fella though. I still think now before i continue though i should point out, they were all good sports.

So, kick off. In all fairness Wolves were matching us for at least the majority of the first half. We had our chances and so did they, although it appeared at times they were the ones having more of a damaging affect on the defence.

With Gerrard, Torres and Johnson all being unsuccessful in the first 45minutes, it was beginning to have a taste of just another one of those matches. Wolves fans had already appeared to have singled out the problem though, they weren't very happy with the referee and felt they had been hard done by on a few occasions, namely (their words) a Torres dive and a Lucas challenge.

Looking back on those decisions, it is probably right to say that they did have a point, especially on the Lucas challenge but at 0-0 why did they feel any need to already be falling back on excuses? Would it have made a difference if Lucas or Torres had been shown the yellow card? We shall never know.

Onto the second 45 minutes. The first incident to highlight is definitely the first yellow card given to Stephen Ward for a tug on Yossi Benayoun. This reveals it's importance later, not only for Liverpool fans, but also a disgruntled Wolves fan.

Liverpool came out second half in the same manner as they did in the first. The play still looked very balanced. Gerrard was looking more and more lively although Torres unfortunately was looking very drab, it was clear he was unfit. With Aquilani making his first Premier League start, i had no complaints with his passing and determination plus his ability to get himself into space. Benayoun also was a great choice from Benitez to start instead of Kuyt on the right and although he hadn't had much of an effect in the first half he was beginning to show his colours.

Back to Stephen Ward, that's Stephen Ward Mr.Marriner, not Christophe Berra. After Ward again finds himself out paced but this time by Lucas Leiva he again carelessly goes for the shirt pull. Illegal challenge, yellow card, nothing to argue about - aside from the fact that Marriner almost let Ward get off scot free after showing the yellow to the Wolves defender Berra, only after a discussion with his linesman and a plight of correct Liverpool players was it that he made the right decision and Ward was sent off.

Funny really, nobody said a peep in the pub when the yellow was shown to Berra...

Now this was arguably the turning point of the game. Did it give Liverpool a lease of life? Maybe it did. Would we of needed this to happen to eventually go on to win? Maybe. Can Wolves use it as a valid excuse? No.

Yes, it had a big effect almost straight away to a strong looking Wolves side but our first goal looked pretty unstoppable in my eyes.

Steven Gerrard, came rocketing into the area poised for an inward bound cross from Insua on the left, he jumps and beats the two Wolves defenders in style, leaving them for dead and sending home a perfect header. Elation.

At this point i had literally jumped out of the chair shouting "YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSS GET IN STEVIE!" i was met with silence. I then followed up with a chant of Steve Gerrard Gerrard and then another shout in my boyfriends face, looking back now that was probably a bit harsh! Although he's a top bloke so all was forgiven for my moment of sheer joy.

So there we were 1-0 up against a 10 man Wolves, at Anfield, and there i was, in a pub full of Wolves fans biting my nails and STILL not feeling confident. All i knew is that we needed to get another goal (which seems so vital lately) to truly feel like we could go on to win the match.

69 minutes and step up the Israeli magician, after providing himself with enough space a deflected shot was sent goal bound. Now it was time to feel secure. Firstly because now there was only 20 minutes to hold out but more so perhaps that in the minutes between our first and second goal, Mick McCarthy had decided for whatever reason he saw fit to remove Doyle (their top goalscorer), Milijas (another big threat) and replace Ebanks-Blake with Iwelumo. In all honesty the only decision there i can deem right was Ebanks for Iwelumo, but hey what do i know? I just felt it was the wrong attitude for a Wolves side that were still causing problems.

So as the threat fizzled out and the clock ticked down Rafa gave minutes to rested Kuyt and youngsters Pacheco and Spearing. I must say it was great to see Pacheco again, he seems full to the brim with confidence. Certainly one to keep an eye on.

And that was pretty much that. I did get the last laugh and boy did i relish it.

I'd just like to leave you with a few of my favourite comments/reactions during the match.

Fan X - "Ohhhh f*** off you Scouse b******!"
Me - "He's not Scouse, he's Israeli, it's Yoss."
Fan X - "(Pause) ... He's still a twat."

The reason why the referee was apparently biased...
Fan Y - "The ref's a Brummie, that's why he ain't givin us anything."

The worst dis ever after getting annoyed at Fernando Torres...
Fan Z - "Ahhh you big girl."

I can't remember most of the words that were exchanged but most of the time i felt the best response was laughter.

Here's to January the 26th when i shall be at work, sat in the Billy Wright stand, again surrounded by Wolves fans...

God help me.

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Wednesday, 23 December 2009

An Insider's View

Right, for those of you that don't know already i am a Liverpool fan who lives in Wolverhampton. After growing up with a brother who was obsessed with the Red's and a Dad who supported Wolverhampton Wanderers but not enough to rub in the tradition my love for Liverpool began. At a pretty young age with my brother's room full of posters, magazines etc etc and him constantly watching Liverpool games on the TV i soon began to pick up things and learn about the club until i was old enough to follow them properly, make my own views and buy my first Liverpool shirt, from then on i have stuck with the lads ever since and will never turn back, unlike my brother (now 30) who switched to supporting Wolves when he was about 19, how he did it i don't know but anyway...

Your probably thinking, why on earth did you just tell me that paragraph of what was seemingly nonsense? Well i felt that was the first bit i should explain before then explaining how i came to work at The Molineux...

After being pretty skint in 6th form at my old school about 2 years ago i decided it was about time i found myself a nice little part time job. I have an Auntie who works for Ladbrokes so figured I'd have a better chance of getting a job there what with knowing an employee, anyway, long story short, no shop jobs were available but betting cashiers were needed at The Molineux so i gladly took the job.

After Ladbrokes moved on this May i now work for Sporting Bet (BD Stadia) still at The Molineux and as part of the perks of the job i get to watch all the matches if i choose too, i am also very lucky in a sense i get to meet a lot of football players and managers including the mighty Ian Rush, easily one of the best moments in my life.

Not one to refuse a free footy match and knowing that it is always (especially this season) good to keep a close eye on how Wolves and the opposition are playing i have seen most of the Wolves home games this season aside from the Midlands derby as i had to dash to find a bus then get home just in time for the 2-0 win over Everton.

So after that you can now understand how for this match preview i do in fact have an "insider's view" i hope that wasn't too boring, but hey, at least you won't have to read it again.

So with that out the way the first thing i am going to highlight is who i think will be the main threats on Boxing Day to a shaky Liverpool side.

For me easily their star man is Matthew Jarvis, a pacey and skillful winger who in most games i have seen has been a key aspect to Wolves's play and result. Providing a lot of crosses and set piece play he is definitely one to be wary of, our defence will need to be sharp and even more so Kuyt who will probably start on the right wing.

Secondly Kevin Doyle, who you may be aware of is also on form at the moment after managing to get Wolves that miraculous winning goal at White Hart Lane and again scoring against Burnley on Sunday. He is a strong striker and a big favourite with the fans, also one to keep an eye on.

Worth pointing out is Ebanks-Blake, coincidentally he is actually a Liverpool fan despite having a short spell at Manchester United. Again he is a fan favourite and pretty much was the reason Wolves got promoted but i have been keeping a close eye on him and i don't think he has adapted to the Premier League if i am honest. He struggles to turn defenders and is often slightly lazy, nevertheless i assume he would love to get a goal at Anfield to add to his record and his talent should not be shunned.

Wolves have conceded 31 goals in all matches so far this season and although they can sometimes be quite fallible they do have veterans and solid defenders in the likes of Stearman and Craddock (also prone to scoring the odd goal).

Another thing to note about Wolves is that they do seem to sit back and protect a result if they feel that result is right i.e a score draw, win etc. This sometimes does not work to their favour as they tend to keep everyone back towards the end of the match with nobody left up for the option of a counter attack, they always look very nervy at these stages but to be fair usually do come away with what they want. This is also only what i can say for home games, possibly not reflected in away fixtures.

So what should we expect?

The defence WILL be hassled i should think, Jarvis, Doyle and Milijas probably being the main problems. Wolves tend to play the 4-4-2 and often work in a traditional way it will be gritty and they will be up for the challenge but again even after our recent problems this fixture shouldn't provide too many complications.

Liverpool are still without NEZ, Kelly and Riera and Mascherano will be suspended. Aquilani would therefore be your first thought, unfortunately he picked up a knock recently so may still be unavailable for the Boxing Day clash, however Rafa has been quoted today saying:

"Alberto was working with the physios on Tuesday because he had a knock in his calf but he will train today with the team and hopefully will be available for the weekend."
Other options if Aquilani is not able to start include Spearing and Plessis, this could prove an interesting option and if we're all honest, any other time that we were to face Wolves at Anfield you wouldn't feel so bad about having the hole in midfield but under recent circumstances it could prove a problem.

With Gerrard and Torres both expected to start I'm hopeful that the magic will be there, Gerrard was speaking in the press yesterday encouraging heads to be lifted, maybe it is now we will see the turn around of the skipper? A goal would do wonders for his confidence. Torres we also must not forget just needs one goal to reach 50 before any other Liverpool player, again another major incentive.

It would be nice to see Benayoun start this one as i feel it is a perfect fixture for the Israeli, Wolves would struggle to deal with the skill and pace of the number 15 not to mention his vision.

So with all of this in mind i am going to stick my neck out and say 2-1 to Liverpool, i hope we don't actually concede but in all honesty i think the defense will leak to the tune of at least one goal.

I hope you all enjoy the match on Boxing Day wherever you may be watching it, spare a thought for little old me though, in a pub full of Wolves fans with my other half and several mates also following the away side i seriously hope i get the last laugh!

Merry Christmas folks, let's hope it's a happy Boxing Day too!

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Sunday, 20 December 2009

Bad Performance, Bad Result And A Bad Reaction From Some Fans

I'm afraid this match report is going to probably appear very negative and low, even being one of the most optimistic fans myself, i struggled dearly to find any real positives from Saturday's clash at Fratton Park. It was quite possibly the worst i have ever seen us play but despite this, i still refuse to jump on a band wagon filled with mostly a deluded fan who is following other peoples train of thought just because at the time, it seemed correct.

We all know the situation with Benitez and we all know as fans that there will always be a difference of opinion but time after time after time there is ALWAYS a select few who bash the manager after a poor result, no real reason or points, they just cause a knee jerk reaction, this then snowballs and many fans who do not take time to think are switched inadvertently to the "Rafa out" way of thinking.

Now don't get me wrong, i have no problem with a fan that can wholeheartedly explain in a calm manner why they do not want Benitez at the club, or why they do not feel he is our best option anymore. If anyone speaks to me with their point of view and can back up their thoughts with good points and facts then that's fine but when you have hundred's and hundred's of forum members, Facebook & Twitter users feeling it completely necessary to type "Rafa out" on their status's/messages then when asked for a reasoning the best they can come up with is that he started Dossena, a player who might i add had a stormer of a game against Debrecen then it is beyond a farce.

Yes, we know you would have preferred Benayoun, so would i but the fact of the matter is Dossena is not the sole reason as to why Liverpool lost on Saturday. Maybe it didn't help but can you honestly sit there and feel that explains the reason the defence was a shambles? The reason Gerrard is still un-Gerrard-like at the moment? The reason Mascherano was red carded for a tackle he could not have removed his foot from even if he tried after getting tangled in a flailing Ben Haim? The reason Daniel Agger's almost perfect header would not be sent goal bound? No you can't, because that my friends is the REAL reason Liverpool lost in such a bad fashion yesterday.

A combined mixture of injuries, bad refereeing, beach balls, off form players and a very slow start to the season have all appeared to have been Rafael Benitez's greatest enemies so far this year. No matter what he does or how he does it, some how it is all totally down to him, his fault - solely. Don't get me wrong, he's not faultless, i don't always sit there after a totally questionable substitution and fill the television with shouts of praise, i voice what i am truly thinking at the time but i always sit down afterwards and try to look back at the game, the result and the decisions when i am in a proper state of mind.

To be fair to Portsmouth, it was two fantastic goals from ridiculous angles that provided them with the win. Despite Liverpool's almost constant pushing again we suffered when it came to the end product.

Gerrard and Torres early on appeared to be linking up very well together but after the goal came in and the minutes began to tick by that famous electric partnership began to fizzle out.

When Mascherano was sent off we were left with a massive hole in midfield. Although i felt the tackle was a bad one and undoubtedly a free kick and yellow card the only real reason i can see as to why the red was given is that the referee did not have as good a look at the challenge as viewers with the replay's did. It did look high and by Ben Haim's reaction it was clear to the referee that it was a bad tackle but after Mascherano actually took the challenge in between the Israeli's legs and ended up getting tangled, plus injured in the process it was again another unfortunate decision.

Dossena left the field at an early time of 52 minutes and was replaced with Yossi Benayoun. Even with the skill and magic that Yossi brings to the pitch, the number 15 could not add a game changing effect to an already deflated Liverpool.

Roughly 65 minutes and the next Liverpool substitution came, Insua off, Aurelio on. Now this for me was the more confusing situation and one more worthy of questioning, not the Dossena start. Left back for left back when were 1-0 down doesn't always jump to you as a great idea but i must admit the crossing and set piece play Aurelio added to the latter stages of the game did add a big plus.

Portsmouth's second goal was a big blow, and with just over ten minutes left on the clock, i had already given up most hope.

87 minutes and Jay Spearing was given a run out after Lucas was substituted. Lucas was in my eyes the only player on Saturday that actually played well, he was by far the best player on the pitch for Liverpool and just seemed to do everything right.

So that was pretty much it, 90 minutes and almost all Liverpool could be grateful for was the Agger header which on most other days would have ended up in the back of the net. Would it have mattered? I'm not so sure even though an equalizer so soon after the Portsmouth goal would have had it's effect, somehow i just don't think we would have gone on to win the game anyway, not even keep hold of the draw. Portsmouth look a refreshed and dangerous side now and they should be praised for their efforts against a feeble Liverpool side.

In reflection then where does it leave us? What does it mean?

Well firstly, it leaves us in 8th position, (after today's Birmingham result, can't count on Everton for nothing can you?) three points behind 6th place.

Secondly it leaves us without a key member of our squad in Javier Mascherano.

And thirdly it leaves us with an incentive, we know, the lads know and no doubt Rafa knows that that result was far from good enough and more so that the performance was terrible. We are in a sense lucky to be faced with promoted side Wolves as our Boxing Day fixture but to be honest under our recent form, it is still going to take a lot to beat the Midland side.

We simply have to be solid in defence, and we can only hope that Torres will be sharp and Gerrard will appear a bit more like himself but this fixture is a great chance to AGAIN try to begin the turn around.

It will be interesting to see what team Rafa fields, with Mascherano unavailable this is a great chance and the perfect game to start Aquilani, but after he supposedly picked up another knock and was unable to train before the Portsmouth match who knows if he himself will be available.

I just want to put that result behind us as quickly as possible, onwards and hopefully upwards it is. A win on Boxing Day would be the perfect delayed Christmas present for Liverpool and the look on my gold and black other half's face wouldn't be a bad gift for myself.

As i always say, stick with the lads and stick with the gaffa. The last thing anyone needs after a result like that is a drop in faith from the fanbase.

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Friday, 18 December 2009


Sports - November 06, 2007
Next on the fixture list for Liverpool this year is Portsmouth, with new manager Avram Grant, Pompey do appear to be on the up albeit slightly, still Liverpool must look at this as a fantastic opportunity to finally go on some sort of a winning run. With Wolves next up at Anfield this is a brilliant chance for the lads to gain some ground.

Liverpool are still without the options of Martin Kelly, Nabil El Zhar and Ryan Babel. However Albert Riera and Glen Johnson will both be subject to late fitness tests. Hopefully this will come good and will provide greater choice for Benitez on Saturday.

Portsmouth's recent form does not make excellent reading but when you take into consideration that within these 5 fixtures they have played Chelsea, Villa and Manchester United, it doesn't seem so bad - LLWDL. Althoguh they lost to Chelsea on Wednesday, in all fairness they had alot of the ball and alot of the attack, they could have won it if it wasn't for a bad tackle on Ivanovic which resulted in a Chelsea penalty. So they are clearly still a team to be aware of despite their current position in the league.

Stat Sandwich:
  • A victory will give Liverpool a total of 400 points collected under Rafael Benitez.
  • Avram Grant is unbeaten as a manager in England against Benitez he has two wins and two draws to his name.
  • No Liverpool player has ever scored a hat-trick at Fratton Park.
I think again we will probably concede at some point, the defence still isn't up to scratch and i think it's going to take more than 3 days after Wednesday's performance for them to begin being solid again, however i can also see this being a 3-1,4-1 sort of game. Saying that i'm usually miles off score predictions so i wouldn't take my advice if your having a punt this weekend!

Nevertheless, this is a must win, another three points would do us the world of good.

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Thursday, 17 December 2009

A Long Needed 3 Points

Liverpool beat Martinez's Wigan yesterday at Anfield and secured a much needed win. The boys managed to put two past ex Liverpool keeper Chris Kirkland although it was still some of the same old story after the lads conceded another very late goal which sort of put a spoil on what could have been a better result.

Nevertheless, despite the performance and the late goal Liverpool got those crucial 3 points and after Man City dropped points themselves we are now in a safer looking 6th and closing the gap.

A very fitting result for the lads on the night that Liverpool celebrated the great man that is Bill Shankly, legends such as Ian St.John, Keegan and good old Rushy were all present for the North West clash and The Kop End portrayed a massive mosaic all part of the great show put on in memory of one of the best Manger's ever to grace football.

Liverpool got off to a great start after getting an early goal via David N'Gog, a glancing header saw the ball home and we were in front by 8 minutes. Task 1 - done, Task 2? Get another goal.

Task 2 would not be completed in the first half it appeared after Liverpool saw several chances blocked by Bramble who was surprisingly playing well.

Second half and Fabio Aurelio was up to his old first half tricks providing plenty of crosses and and making sure he was a constant attacking threat. Shots from Kuyt and Mascherano were the only real chances within the early stages of the second half and as the clock ticked down that niggling thought in your mind became ever more present. ~ "We're going to throw away our lead if we let them get too comfortable, all this pressure is arising to nothing."

It took another good 20 minutes before Liverpool managed to get another goal, thankfully in the same amount of time Wigan had not managed to punish and as Torres received the ball Anfield was certain he would find the net. Albeit a bit untidy as his initial shot was blocked the ball came back to Torres's feet and as he skillfully made sure he took it round Bramble and away from a scurrying Kirkland he slotted the ball home confidently.

So there we were, 2-0 up with just 15 minutes to go, arguably we were entitled to push for another goal but most importantly we should have been focused defensively. As i said in the match preview it would have been very nice to have left the game with a clean sheet and have beaten Wigan good and proper but as in the fashion of the shoddy Liverpool defence of late, we conceded on 91 minutes courtesy of an N'Zogbia goal.

I have no idea what any of the defence were doing at the point N'Zogbia came running across goal but defending they were not. Ball watching and waiting for the right moment to get in a tackle maybe? But it didn't soddin' work. Past, Insua, past Agger, past Skrtel and past Carragher then left with enough space to get in his attempt. It was a shambles.

However for now, although the performance was again a very similar below par Liverpool one, we should not dwell on the negatives. We should think of the positives i.e another David N'Gog goal, a goal from Torres who is now easily on target to become the fastest ever player in Liverpool's history to reach 50 goals for the club and most importantly, we should be grateful for the 3 points. Performance aside, we got the win and that is all we need at the moment. I don't care how we get the wins, just as long as they start to come in.

With Portsmouth next and then Wolverhampton Wanderers i should hope that this will be a great opportunity to collect 6 points. Not only from the clubs point of view but from a rather selfish view of my own. Boxing day will be a very tasty game for myself as my fella is a massive Wolves fan, and i bloody well want bragging rights here!

But of course before this, the Portsmouth game is first point of call and although Avram appears to be moulding Pompey into a slightly more threatening side, we have no excuses, a win is the only option.

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Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Martinez's Lactics Travel To Anfield

Wigan are next up at Anfield tomorrow night in what should be an unpredictable midweek fixture for the lads. Firstly going by our own recent form, anything could happen and secondly looking at Wigan, they beat Chelsea, but they also fell to a massive 9-1 defeat from Spurs so which Wigan will turn up?

For Liverpool Riera, Kelly, NEZ and Babel are all still expected to be unavailable. Wigan's only problem is Emmerson Boyce after a head injury he sustained in the Stoke match.

Martinez is not expecting this to be an easy fixture though even with our boys on the back of some bad results he was quoted saying:

"Liverpool are on the back of a disappointing result, but they have a world-class squad which alone makes them a very dangerous side."

Effectively he is right we do arguably have a world class squad especially in the likes of Gerrard, Torres, Reina, Mascherano etc but from the performances so far this season you wouldn't think so would you? It's only a matter of time though before eventually this team starts clicking together again like they did in the latter stages of last season, along with the introduction of Aquilani the results will hopefully start to pick up providing we keep our star men in shape.

Stat Sandwich:

  • Dirk Kuyt has scored more goals for Liverpool against Wigan than any other player with 5 goals.
  • Wigan have conceded 36 goals this season so far, more than any other club in the Premier League.
  • Liverpool have scored in all 8 league meetings with Wigan.
With home advantage and the realisation that this is even more of a must win game the lads should be able to do this tomorrow. Again i feel we need an early goal and of course the defence needs to be solid. It would be nice to do it properly tomorrow and come away with a good win along with a clean sheet.

What do you think will happen in tomorrow's fixture? Discuss it
Fancy your chances at guessing the starting eleven? Play Benitez Bingo

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Monday, 14 December 2009

A Game Of Two Halves

Arsenal repeated a bit of history yesterday as it was the first time since 2003 that Liverpool had lost a game at Anfield after taking the lead. Arsenal were the team responsible in '03 and here they are 6 years later at it again.

It was a very clear cut game straight down the middle, we saw one Liverpool the first half and another one the second. Again you could argue luck was not on our side, the referee made some bad decisions and many other things but I'm not really one for excuses this time out.

Liverpool started brilliantly, with the re-ignition of the Gerrard and Torres partnership it wasn't long before the pair were back to old tricks. Most notably the brilliant link up when Gerrard finds himself in space on a great run Fernando Torres has already set off, awaiting that perfect ball through. Gerrard waits and waits until he places the perfect pass to the feet of the number 9, in a position we've seen him score from so many times before, his attempt to bend it round the keeper would just not happen this time and Almunia collected.

The Gerrard and Torres partnership was not the only means of attacking pressure though as Glen Johnson was also a constant threat to a nervy looking Arsenal side in the first half. Several times Johnson found himself powering into the box with one of his lengthy runs from defence, and causing problems each time. He was arguably "too honest" at one stage when a poor tackle came in whilst on a run into the penalty area but the England international was proud enough to stay on his feet and get the cross in.

The first half was a threatening one from Liverpool and Arsenal had to resort to a few crunching tackles and many a foul. Mascherano appeared to suffer the brunt of all this after being on the receiving end of several bad tackles. When what appeared to be a knee/thigh injury kept him on the ground it was most likely that Rafa would be needing to make a substitution but the Argentine was brilliant and was determined to carry on, after being taken off the pitch he continued to play even though you could still see he was in some trouble. He went on to play 60 minutes - trooper.

All this attacking and no end product was becoming all too familiar for my liking as i was watching this weeks super Sunday clash and as it pushed closer to half time it was obvious we needed a goal to go along with all this effort. After Liverpool were earlier rejected a penalty after William Gallas tripped Gerrard in the box it could have already been a different story. So many times this debate comes up and so many times it is right so why is it not enforced?

If that incident occurred outside of the box a free kick would have been awarded, therefore it is a penalty no?

The most pathetic reasoning i heard for it not being given after the game was that Gerrard was arguably not in control of the ball at the time of the foul. That is possibly the biggest load of bullshit i have ever heard, if Gerrard is making an attacking run into the penalty area with the ball in his possession whether the ball goes to the right, to the left or stays at his feet the challenge was unlawful and therefore a penalty. Ball was no longer in his control, pfft suck it up Dixon, he had it in more control than you ever had a football in your career sunshine.

Thankfully we did not have to rely on a bad decision as Liverpool did in fact go on to score~

Step up Dirk Kuyt, after the ball entered the penalty area from an Aurelio free kick it eventually found it's way to the Dutchman who fired the ball into the back of the net with a confident strike.

As the clock ticked down to half-time a deserved goal from Liverpool was what separated the two teams. There was still way more to come and you can never throw the idea of an Arsenal come back out the window but with one goal down and that kind of play a 2-1 win for Liverpool was becoming foreseeable. Let's be honest we all knew we were going to concede but the 3 points were still on.

Second half and no changes from both teams.

Barely ten minutes in and Arsenal find an equalizer in the luckiest of options. After a cross came in from Nasri, an adjusting Jamie Carragher attempted to get the block in on the already deflected cross, after unsuccessfully getting the ball away Johnson finds himself at speed now left to clear it when he fumbles and almost walks the ball into the net after being unable to change his footing. Unbelievable and most unlucky but Reina was spot on when he immediately patted Johsnon on the back of the head and began clapping and shouting in order too boost the defence and forget about that incident as quickly as possible.

I knew it, you knew it, and to be fair, Reina probably knew it too, he has never kept a clean sheet against Arsenal and after the way Liverpool have been of late it was imminent that Arsenal would get a goal. The task was still what it was at half time, go out and secure the win.

Just 10 minutes later and a completely different Liverpool from the first half had still not settled when up popped the Russian maestro. Arshavin finds himself with the ball on the edge of the penalty area and before Reina could even acknowledge the shot coming in it was already in the back of the net. Simples.

Arsenal were revelling in success and Arshavin was beginning to realise how much he really does like Anfield. With half an hour still to go, we needed to get sorted, and fast.

2 substitutions in the 65-75 minute window meant that Liverpool would have some fresh legs and a new attacking threat. After Aquilani came on for a bruised and clattered Mascherano and Benayoun was replaced with David N'Gog it was there in the headlines for the Italian or Frenchman to get the equalizer.

Even after a third substitution when Johnson was replaced with Degen despite a lively ending from Liverpool, Arsenal walked away with all three points. Just what they wanted and just what we didn't.

After Villa capitalized ultimately on Saturday by beating Manchester United, a feat which i would usually celebrate, we find ourselves in even more trouble. With Man City above us complete with game in hand and Tottenham sitting on 27 points a win against Wigan in the week is essential.

I just hope the Wigan that beat Chelsea don't turn up, more so the one that lost 9-1 to Spurs. Strange team though they are, i don't feel confident in any fixture at the moment home or away all i know is that this simply can't go on forever and it won't.

If we have a team that is still capable of beating Manchester United and Everton then no matter how those games panned out, that at least indicates the ability that is there. I don't know how, i don't know where and i don't know when but there will be a turning point for our season, and providing we can keep hold of a fully fit squad we WILL get that 4th spot.

We don't need all this negativity now, we already know this season is not ours and every club is entitled to a shoddy one. I'm sure you all remember the days of actually finishing in 7th, well that isn't going to happen. Stick by the manager, stick by the team and keep the faith.

What would football be without miracles and tragedy's anyway?

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Saturday, 12 December 2009


Liverpool welcome the 'sexy football' of Arsenal tomorrow in what should be an exciting clash at Anfield. As we all know last time out a certain Andrey Arshavin put 4 past a bewildered Pepe Reina in a game which ended 4-4. As Arsene Wenger might say "footballistically" it should be a good game.

With Liverpool's frequent inconsistency so far this season it is hard to try to predict what might happen in a game such as this. Arsenal at the moment are going pretty well and although they have suffered a big blow in the loss of Robin Van Persie they will still have many attacking options and will no doubt be a problem for the defence and Pepe.

This is a big fixture for Liverpool, just like the Manchester United game, and the Everton one. A win will again send out a positive message but you can almost guarantee after what happened in the last two big fixtures that we will not continue to capitalize into the next game.

With the possibility that Aquilani and Torres could both start tomorrow you would be wrong not to feel slightly hopeful and the home advantage is always a big plus for Liverpool. However after being so susceptible to late goals so far this season you do feel this Arsenal side will be able to make the most of this weakness.

Liverpool will need a 2 goal cushion i think before they can even begin to think about being comfortable. Again we seem to be able to provide the goal part of the scenario, it is the prevention of goals that we have problems with.

Stat Sandwich:
Arsenal go into the game as the leagues top scorers with 38 goals.
The last 4 league matches between the two teams have ended in a draw.
Reina is yet to keep a clean sheet against Arsenal.

Rafa spoke in glowing terms this weekend about his fellow foreign manager Arsene Wenger saying:

"I think it's amazing what he has achieved here in England, especially when you are a foreign manager. It is difficult because you need to understand a lot of things in a different country. He is a great manager."
When looking at Arsene Wenger as a Liverpool fan it is often a very confusing matter when you look at your own manager and the sheer criticism he gets and then look over to The Emirates to find the main man there dodges the majority of criticism from the media and fans. It's situations like this that make you realise patience, loyalty and faith are three vital things that are needed for a "big clubs" manager when they are trying to complete the impossible.

I don't want to get into the debate because i could write a novel but i just felt that point was worth highlighting in the run up to the game.

Liverpool have the options of most players although Ryan Babel and Martin Kelly are still unavailable. Reira will be subject to a late fitness test and Nabil El Zhar picked up and ankle problem so will also most likely miss the Arsenal fixture.

So with all of this in mind we should look forward to an eventful clash tomorrow and hope for a good result although to be perfectly honest I'd quite happily take the draw.

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Thursday, 10 December 2009

Another Late Goal, Another Disappointing Result But It Wasn't All Bad

Liverpool ended this years Champions League campaign last night on a bit of a low note. After playing some good football and looking the better side at many stages within the game they were defeated by a late Fiorentina goal which ensured that the Italians would top the group

Benitez had a chance to start an experimental 11 for this match and that he did. The starting line up consisted of Cavalieri, Darby, Dossena and of course Aquilani. It was a great chance to see some less frequent faces and it was also a very exciting moment for many a Liverpool fan poised and ready to analyze Aquilani's first start for the club since being signed in August.

The first 45 minutes consisted of a confident and forward pushing Liverpool. Despite the positive play the final product appeared to be the problem though, shots were sparse and Fiorentina were becoming more dangerous on the counter attack.

Cavalieri was called to duty on a few occasions in the first half and each time he reacted calmly and commanded his area. The more i watch him the more i feel he keeps hawk eyes on Pepe Reina, he is obviously a very attentive person and a good learner. May i just take this opportunity to congratulate him on a great performance last night, aside from one or two dodgey moments he was excellent, you did your father proud lad.

Meanwhile all eyes were on Aquilani, everytime the ball was at his feet or he was in acres of space you could just feel the tension. "Don't mess up" , "Give it Alberto!" everyone was so excited to see him and thankfully most people kept a reasonable expectation rather than expecting him to hit the ground running and i think for his first start for Liverpool he did well.

For me at the moment, all i expect from him is good passing ability and the ability to see that link between midfield and the forward. Anything else he brings to the table in the next month or so is a bonus, however once he has settled in and the starts are rolling, i shall be expecting more, last night was obviously an under par Aquilani, one who will continue to improve so i shall keep my fingers crossed.

His passing ability was definitely proved last night as that was to be his main role, he appears to have good vision and he was also always on the front foot, ready to receive a pass whenever needs be. We also saw flashes of the Italians skill, something that is always good to see - providing it works - and it did.

It was Yossi Benayoun however, one of the regular lads that sent home Liverpool's first goal. Steven Gerrard delivered a fantastic free kick which was curving into the box when Yossi saw his opportunity and flew into the air producing a glancing header which sent the ball into the far side of goal. Fantastic.

Into the second half one nil up, it was looking like Liverpool would be able to leave the Champions League in style atleast, another good performance in the second half would be needed and a steady defence but it was looking do-able for Liverpool.

Second half and Liverpool began positively, with crosses galore from Gerrard and Dossena into the danger area, Fiorentina were being weakened at the back.

Dossena in my eyes had a stormer of a game, with Insua at left back and Riera/Aurelio not the first choice for this game in particluar he started on the left wing. A lot of people seem to jump on his back claiming he's a bad buy from Benitez but for me he's a brilliant asset. I'm not saying he should start every game and that he's a world beater or anything but his passion and work ethic yesterday were second to none, he gave 100% and it wasn't wasteful. With plenty of charges down the wing and crosses into the box along with a couple of decent efforts himself i thought he deserved the highlight.

62 minutes and Martin Jorgensen who was a constant threat from the Italians equalized for the away side after slotting his attempt into the bottom right hand corner of the goal.

Again Liverpool had conceded after leading by just the one goal. Never before have i felt we were so vulnerable to conceding so easily. Fair point it wasn't the full first team squad but that team too has defensive problems at the moment.

Liverpool made three changes in the second half seeing Torres, Pacheco and Aurelio all make an appearance.

With a strong squad still out there Liverpool still needed to retain the draw to walk away with some sense of achievement but Fiorentina had seen the chance now and they were determined to take it.

Liverpool almost changed things when Pacheco had a confident strike almost straight after coming on as a substitute causing a stretched save from the viola keeper. Pacheco again is another very promising youngster, from the few glances we were given he seems a very exciting prospect.

As the dying minutes began to tick away it was imminent that Liverpool would walk away with some dignity but by the way of Liverpool's Champions League campaign so far this season, another late goal was conceded.

An unfortunate mistake from an otherwise good performance from local lad Darby saw Fiorentina take full advantage of the space for the attack, Gilardino who had also been excellent throughout the game was the goalscorer and you could see what it meant to him after he attempted to reach the away fans by clambering over the advertising boards.

So there we have it, another loss and another goal conceded far too easily. We can be thankful that it doesn't really matter but that should take nothing away from the clear problems we have in our performances at this moment in time.

Plenty of positives to take from the game and in some ways the scoreline wasn't really a good reflection of the game, despite this i am in a strange way glad Fiorentina won, for the sole reason that it was the only way they could top the group. They fully deserve it.

When we made the trip to Florence many people were not as weary of the Italian opposition, maintaining the idea that Lyon would in fact be the side to watch in the group. I always had a different opinion, from the day the draw was made i knew they would be a tougher team to beat. Take nothing away from Lyon, they did well themselves but just by contrasting the performance from Fiorentina at home against us and the performance by Lyon said enough for me.

So congratulations Fiorentina and here's to the new year when we can embark on the new challenge of the Europa League.

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Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Viola Grace The Red Of Anfield Tomorrow Night

So Liverpool face Fiorentina at Anfield tomorrow in a match that could have meant so much but will in fact be almost meaningless. After Fiorentina themselves caused Liverpool's run in the Champions League to come to an abrupt end the match will not be one of those famous European nights at Anfield.

On the plus side the match will provide an opportunity to see some of the less frequently used players in the squad. It has also been revealed that Aquilani will start the game, see Rafa's quotes here. Fernando Torres is also set to be on the bench so hopefully our star man will feature at some point and be available for the Arsenal game on the weekend.There will also be a big protest via chants, banners and fans showing their frustration with the two Yanks upstairs as Spirit Of Shankly will be using this match to pin point what the majority of the fan base feels.

Stat Sandwich:
  • Liverpool go into this game on the back of a 6 match unbeaten run.
  • Liverpool have never lost two games at home in the same European competition in the same season.
  • If Fiorentina win on Wednesday it will guarantee that they will top the group, they have never done this in the Champions League before.
With a very relaxed situtation in terms of the result it should be a very experimental side put out by Benitez but we should still go out with the right mentality and the want to win the game. Ok so "it doesn't matter" but this is not the point, this could be the perfect fixture for players like N'Gog to build even more on their skill and confidence, whilst Aquilani has a chance to hit the ground running. Spearing if he features could also use this fixture as vital experience and there is no question that this game will provide valid lessons for youngsters and fringe players.

Fiorentina however will also want the victory because it will ensure their top spot in the group which will add benefits to their progress in the Champions League.

With all of this in mind it should still be a very interesting match tomorrow at Anfield and certainly not one to miss.

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Monday, 7 December 2009


Liverpool left Ewood Park on Saturday with a belly full of pies but not a belly full of pride. 90 minutes could not provide a separation between the two teams after the game ended goalless.
Rafa started a slightly different looking side with both Benayoun and Riera making starts, nevertheless minus Torres it was a good side, fully capable of picking up the three points here and perhaps even a few goals.

The first half was uneventful to say the least. The most memorable moments were the numerous free-kicks, offsides and chances gone wide.

So with nothing notable to report in the first half of Steven Gerrard's 500th game the lads came out fresh and ready for the next 45minutes. 0-0 is not a scoreline to be worried about at half time but as it pushes nearer and nearer to the 80minute mark you start to wonder if it will be your day...

Barely 5 minutes into the second half and Rafa makes a substitution, i can't remember the last time i saw a substitution from Rafa that came before 60minutes and wasn't forced upon him for other reasons, but this proved he realised the game needed a change, ever aware of how the game and tactics are panning out the boss switched Albert Riera for an in form and confidence filled David N'Gog.

Liverpool were more of an attacking force in the second half however not a successful one, shots from Gerrard, Kuyt and N'Gog were all either blocked or sent wide. Time ticking by it was becoming more and more important that Liverpool found the net before Blackburn did themselves.

After a rather quiet first half Blackburn were also threatening with shots from Di Santo and McCarthy giving Reina some mild problems.

Roughly 70 minutes and Rafa makes his next change, to some hesitation by the fans Yossi Benayoun was replaced with a newly available Nabil El Zhar.

I don't understand some fans reactions a lot of the time, i can understand at 0-0 you would be right to feel slightly bewildered when seeing Benayoun leave the pitch but Benitez can't win, one week the fans want Benayoun to start, the next they want him to come on. Benitez almost always replaces at least one winger in his changes within a game regardless of the score this is obviously one of his ways. I personally knew when the team came out that Benayoun would not play 90 minutes and if the scoreline were of a different value you can guarantee the change wouldn't have been met so hastily.

I do however see the point, maybe he should have left Benayoun on but the other factor is, when fans believe players like Kelly, Spearing, El Zhar etc should be given a chance, they should feature more etc etc, they seem to feel that it must also fit in with a time and game situation that they choose. (4-0 up against Hull/Bolton/West Ham maybe?) It's double standards and I'm not falling for it. Yes it riled me slightly, but not enough to 'boo' the decision. It would have been a very different story if NEZ had of gone on to net the winner. He looks a very promising player if you ask me, pace, skill and good crossing ability. Just what you need in a 0-0 deadlock with the clock running down no?

Easily the highlight of the match for Liverpool was the soul destroying N'Gog shot which after taking a bobble connected with David's shin and was sent to safety by the bar. A brilliant driving run by Glen Johnson and a point perfect cross left everyone certain the Frenchman would find the back of the net but luck just wasn't on our side and with that it was clear today, was not our day.

On the plus side we didn't lose and we kept a clean sheet. Usually this would not be much to hold your chin up about but under the circumstances and our recent inconsistency plus the fact that Blackburn could have actually taken the three points at one stage we should be grateful for the point.

With Fiorentina next in the week and then Arsenal at Anfield on the weekend who knows what could happen. Fiorentina will be a good chance to give key players a rest and allow newly fit ones to have a good run out. With the hope that Aquilani and Torres could both start the game it will hopefully provide us with more options for the Arsenal fixture.

Inconsistency is a worry, but it is not a time to dismay. Providing we continue to collect a steady chain of points, that top 4 slot is still easily in our sights. As proved yesterday Spurs are not infallible, nor Chelsea or Arsenal. Manchester United have also been beatable and with a shoddy defence it could be a very different story in weeks to come.

With that in mind let's hope we have a good game against Fiorentina to get the ball rolling for the Arsenal game. With no pressure on either side for a result it could prove an interesting match.

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