The Liver Bird  

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Benitez's Boys Face Benfica

Benfica vs Belenenses
Oscar Cardozo - Benfica's top goalscorer...

As we continue to progress through the lower tier of European competition it is starting to get towards the business end of the procedure. With some more of the big names now being left in the pot, it is only ourselves and Fulham representing the British force.

Tomorrow we start the tie in Portugal and return to Anfield the following week. Benfica are an unfamiliar opposition for this current Liverpool side. Sometimes not knowing what to expect can be a good thing, although it also implies that the line up will be cautious ready for a more threatening side for the home leg.

Benfica are currently perched nicely at the top of the Portuguese league. 6 points clear of their nearest rivals. Despite their league not being up there with the best in the world of football, their run is nothing to be shunned.

Quite a few people are expecting Benfica to be a difficult team to beat, and i agree that it will not be an easy ride. But looking at some of the other opposition that we could have faced, i can't help but feel more confident, especially over two legs facing Benfica, who lets face it, aren't what they used to be.

Jorge Jesus will have a choice from all of his players according to Benfica's website in the run up to tomorrow nights clash.

In contrast Liverpool are still without Skrtel and Aurelio, with Maxi also being sidelined. To add to this Aquilani has suffered an ankle injury in training so is also ruled out.

With Torres on such great goalscoring form, the defence in great shape and Steven Gerrard putting in more inspired performances of late, a win is highly achievable. However returning with a draw would be satisfactory.

The chance of silverware at the end of the season is beginning to look realistic, it would be nice to at least be in with a shout at the end in Hamburg.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, 29 March 2010

Torres Tantalizes Sunderland Defence

Football - Liverpool v Sunderland Barclays Premier League
The boy is gold.

Liverpool exposed Sunderland for the unfortunate side that they truly resemble yesterday, bizarre incidents from the meeting earlier in the season were forgotten about completely as Liverpool ran rings around Steve Bruce's XI and put three past Craig Gordan in the process.

Benitez fielded a similar side to the one played against United. However, Lucas was dropped from the midfield with Gerrard sitting in and then Kuyt pushed forward to create a 4-4-2 with Torres.

This is exactly the kind of set up that needs to be enforced in more games, might i make it clear that it is obvious the effectiveness of both Lucas and Masch in midfield is excellent and still depending on the tactics and style of play from the opposition they should, and I'm sure will continue to be utilised. Most importantly though, Gerrard was in his natural position and the midfield had a more attacking feel as we began the clash with Sunderland.

It didn't take Liverpool and their number 9 long before they sent an early message to the confident looking North East side.

Fernando Torres, who is on great form at the moment had the whole of Anfield's mouths agape and fans elated after he finished what has got to be, easily, one of, if not, the best goal(s) i have seen this season.

After collecting the ball on the wing and making his way untroubled to the edge of the box, it is only now when two defenders close him down. After managing to take a glance upwards and still having the slightest of spaces left between the approaching defenders to get a cross in, most people assumed his only option and his train of thought was to pick out a loitering Ryan Babel.

This is Fernando Torres we are talking about though, since when did he ever opt for the easy option? With a superb finish from an acute angle Torres sent the ball into the top far right corner of goal. Craig Gordon simply had no chance. This was just another example of why Torres is a world class player.

S'alright going on about Rooney's world class headers innit? But when did you last see him craft something as spectacular as that? Premier League strikers - eat your heart out.


Liverpool 1 - 0 Sunderland

With all of this excitement occurring within just 3 minutes, it was hard to not expect a similar continuation throughout the first half.

Liverpool were looking a lot more confident when in possession of the ball and on several occasions that famous "pass and move" culture was enforced against Sunderland.

Sunderland, quite literally couldn't get near Liverpool. Were they playing cautiously for the trip to Anfield? Or were they just being undone by an ever improving Liverpool side? Either way, Steve Bruce must have been embarrassed.

Our second goal came from forward pushing Glen Johnson. A great game for the England international because his talent when attacking down the wing was free to shine. His defensive accolades were rarely called upon from an almost silent Sunderland attack, but even so, when he was needed at the back he was there.

When Glen managed to create himself enough space outside the box, i was encouraging him via shouting at the television to have a pop as it were, and that he did. Albeit his attempt did take a deflection from the thigh of a Sunderland player but you don't score goals without shooting and a great shot it was.

For the second half Steve Bruce had swapped Lee Cattermole for Paulo Da Silva, Liverpool made no changes and were looking to begin the second half in precisely the same fashion as the first. Goal difference could become of utmost importance as the race for fourth continues so nobody was planning on sitting back.

Almost at the hour mark it was the linking up of both goalscorers that created Liverpool's third of the day.

When Glen Johnson again found himself high up the pitch, he unselfishly put a ball through to Torres who was deeper in the box. Torres knew where everyone was, what speed they were travelling, what angle they were coming from and when they would arrive. After intelligently taking his time and remaining calm he avoided the approaching block from one of Sunderlands under pressure back four and then tee'd himself up to effortlessly dink the ball over the tackle and into the back of the net.

As the clock ticked down Sunderland popped up with their only real effort from the whole 90minutes, Bolo Zenden with a speculative shot from far out sprung Pepe Reina into action. Reina reacted perfectly with an excellent save, it is clear to see he never loses focus, even in added time when we are 3 nil up.

In all honesty, it could have been 4,5 even 6 for Liverpool but the three great goals and another clean sheet are more than satisfactory.

With Benfica up next it would be great to come away with a similar sort of result in the first leg of our continuing Europa League run.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, 26 March 2010

Revenge Is Sweet


Some things are best forgotten...
(Image link.)

After perhaps the most bizarre highlight of our season at The Stadium Of Light back in October when a giant Liverpool beach ball helped Darren Bent fool Pepe Reina and seal a win for Sunderland, Sunday marks the day for appropriate revenge and a fixture where a much needed three points should be collectible.

Liverpool have hit a wall somewhat after being so fluent in their goalscoring with 3 against Lille and 4 against Portsmouth, Manchester United posed a threat and the goal rout was limited to just the one from Fernando Torres in a 2-1 defeat.

The game against Sunderland will be a true marker of the current character of the players, the manager and the team as a whole. The Liverpool we know will turn this around and make it a winner for the Anfield faithful, but the not so familiar Liverpool side we have seen sparks of throughout the season could make it a difficult one and allow Steve Bruce's boys to walk away with a token for their efforts.

Speaking of the man referred to as (#bigfathead) on Twitter, he seems to fall into a special category of managers that love to criticize Rafa Benitez, but as always, Raf has the upper hand in the mind, and on the majority of occasions, he will have the upper hand on the pitch.

Bruce's side have not lost in 5 games, they have collected 3 draws and 2 wins in that time. Just as it appeared they were in free fall, Sunderland have found some sort of foot hold and a sense of stability.

Liverpool will be without Martin Skrtel and Fabio Aurelio for this one but all other players are available. Don't expect to see Albert Riera though...

Without the beach ball to interrupt play and with the added bonus of Anfield, you have to feel Liverpool will come out on top for this fixture.

It would be nice to see a similar set up that was used against Portsmouth as i felt players like Aquilani and Maxi worked very well. With Torres on good goalscoring form too it is quite predictable that he may net against the North East side.

My prediction for this one, 2-0.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, 22 March 2010

Park Seals Win For United

Premier League: Manchester United 2 v 1 Liverpool
Torres still delivers...

Liverpool suffered defeat at Old Trafford yesterday afternoon despite taking the lead via a Torres goal within the first ten minutes. With the prospect of beating Manchester United for the 4th time in a row, it just wasn't Liverpool's day, and although it was only a narrow victory for the devils, there were not too many positives to take from the 90minutes.

Liverpool made a very lively start to the game, which was what was required if we wanted to get anything out of the fixture. Benitez started a familiar XI with the same back four from Lille, Pepe in goal, Masch and Lucas in midfield, Maxi and Kuyt on the wings and Gerrard sitting off Torres.

No question about it, this was more of a precautionary line up rather than one to take the attack to United but Rafa's original tactics worked as the goal scored in free play came within 5minutes from kick off.

It was Fernando Torres himself who created the build up towards his headed goal. After a great little back heel to Gerrard in the centre of the pitch, Steven made the run and spotted Kuyt in space on the wing, Torres was now making his own way into the box, when Kuyt collected the ball he supplied a top cross for our number 9 who with a fantastic header made it 1-0 to Liverpool.

In case you weren't aware i opted to watch this one on a big screen in a pub, unsurprisingly there were hardly any Liverpool fans but tons and tons of United fans, who i feel i could correctly question their loyalties to the team, you could tell that some were full on fans but you can spot the glory hunters a mile off.

Point being, celebrating the Torres goal was the highlight of the whole match, it's always great to jump up in front of the Mancs and scream.

Moving on to the equalizer. Which was the most controversial situation within the game. Javier Mascherano, sometimes renown for his hot-headedness is chasing down Valencia, he takes hold of the wingers arm. Vitally though, his grasp was no longer intact when Valencia rolled over into the box and protested.

Now look at it whatever way you wish, maybe we were just unlucky, maybe Masch should have just not made contact in the first place but the incident was quite clearly outside the box, and where i come from, that ain't no penalty.

What made it worse was that Howard Webb had to look over to his linesman before he made the decision, a linesman who did not swing either way and basically did not know. So how, if Webb wasn't certain to start with and the linesman could not give a decision do you award a penalty? Are referee's not supposed to be almost certain if they are to award a penalty? Baffling.

Fact is, although we cannot complain too much about the decision, we know that it was the penalty that changed the state of the game. Up until now Liverpool looked as though they could handle the pressure from United, and if it weren't for them equalising so quickly, you would have felt we may have been able to hold on to half time.

What was most gutting too was that the fantastic efforts from Pepe Reina were wasted after the Spaniard actually made the save from Rooney's initial spot kick he then saw the ball lay back out to the striker who then followed up. Justice would have been done if only that ball stayed away from the ex Evertonian.

From here on in Liverpool looked a weakened version of their starting self. No real chances to note in the remainder of the first half and the second installment was much of the same.

United scored their second goal close to the hour mark courtesy of Ji-Sung Park. Rather ironically and annoyingly for me it was a header from Park that saw United to victory. I had been taking the mick out of his two or three previous efforts earlier in the game and quite literally had to shut my mouth when they scored.

Liverpool were never set to deal with this chance as the cross from Flethcer was perfect, whoever got on the end of that it was going into the back of the net.

A couple of miss queued chances from Fernando made the pain worse as we searched for an equalizer.

Perhaps most humorously though was the reaction of the United fans in the pub when the board went up "5 minutes added time" ...

"5 f***in minutes?!" Was the general consensus. To which i shouted "F*** off if we were still drawing you'd have said s*** all!"

So hypocritical.

So that was that, a grin on farty Ferguson's wrinkled tomato face and a grim look on Benitez who (what a surprise) will have woken up this morning to countless calls for his head again, slating of his decisions, despite the fact he went all out with the introduction of Aquilani, Babel and Yossi Benayoun in the dying moments and despite the fact that he has already beaten the Mancs three time in a row, which is definitely nothing to frown at.

Who in their right mind actually thought we could get anything from Old Trafford this time around anyway? In all fairness, despite a rather drab performance we did well to score and lose by just the one goal.

Unfortunately though, we could have done with 3 vital points. After Man City narrowly beat Fulham yesterday we now sit in 6th place, the only real plus side is that our run in of games should be kind to use, assuming that we can go out there and get the results.

Roll on Sunderland and the revenge for the beach ball incident.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Make Mine A Double

Sports - December 15, 2007
5 minutes added time please Ref... Thank you.

Aside from the Merseyside derby, this is quite easily one of the highlights of a Liverpool fans fixture list. With the bitter rivalry between both ourselves and Manchester United it is always a battle on the pitch, a battle between the managers and a battle between fans.

No side wants to lose, and neither will accept a draw. The bragging rights are what everyone wants, and even more so to a Liverpool side who can rub this victory in the faces of their North West rivals as our slim hopes of silverware are not enough to get on the Mancs wick.

So can Rafa Benitez, the author of "How To Beat Manchester United For Dummies" do the double over them for the second time in his Anfield career?

With Ferguson clearly using an apparent injustice in the Gerrard situation to try to collect some excuses before the game has even begun it is evident that he is fearful of Gerrard, Torres & Co and Rafa's tactics.

With Rooney on great form many are assuming that along with Liverpool's continued unsteady season it will be a rout at Old Trafford for the devils but as each and every Liverpool fan knows... When the pressure is on, the majority of occasions you will witness our best football.

Ferguson is right to be worried, Torres is currently on 4 goals in two games an exact replica of the tally of his front man who is often touted as the best striker in the Premier League. He knows Torres is a threat and with this constant reemergence of the effective partnership with skipper Steven Gerrard he can expect trouble for his side tomorrow afternoon.

Another point of of interest for many a Liverpool fan is the ability of the supposedly "world-class" Nemanja Vidic.

After being sent off in two games already against Liverpool and his clear fear of Fernando Torres, it shall be interesting to see how he fairs this time out.

Torres' pace is a hazard to any defence but when you have a defender who has practically admitted to being scared of our number 9, well it can't do much for the morale and confidence of your back four.

Along with the solidarity of our defence and the passionate Pepe Reina we are fully capable of embarrassing the Mancs as we did in the 4-1 victory last season.

Liverpool are still without the option of Martin Skrtel & Fabio Aurelio. Aquilani will be subject to a late decision after he tries to recover from a virus.

I get the feeling that Benitez will start with a close knit midfield/defence tomorrow, i.e. Masch & Lucas both being instructed defensively with Gerrard also being made to track back. However i do feel that this is the best option against a team like United.

Providing we can use this set up and also manage to get a first goal then maybe after half time we can change the formation/tactics slightly and push our advantage.

With Torres celebrating his birthday today, what better celebration than to put a few past Van Der Sar and shut Fergie's extra chewing gob?

It should be a very tense and exciting match, lets hope we can come away with the 3 points.

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, 19 March 2010

Gerrard & Torres Seal European Progression

Sports News - March 18, 2010
Torres sends first effort past Lille goalkeeper...

Liverpool let their football do the talking last night and dismissed an outspoken Albert Riera's quotes of the club being a "sinking ship", well last time i checked for a vessel to be described as "sunk" you are to be well and truly under water, all i can see at the moment is a club keeping their heads above the waves whilst we continue to fight in this struggle of a campaign.

Riera's comments before the Lille game aired on radio it appears are just the forefront of an ongoing incident but still, as in the Tweeting Babel incident, you do not do those things especially before an important European tie for your current team. Team player has a meaning behind it, it is clear that some people these days have no idea what that meaning is.

Benitez fielded a similar XI as played against Portsmouth although Maxi was not used due to being ineligible and Aquilani was left out with a virus.

This raised alarms for a lot of people because many fans at the moment do not like the choice of two defensive midfielders, when Masch and Lucas were both named to start, the grumbles began.

Benitez however had a trump card up his sleeve, to most peoples surprise Lucas was put into a more attacking role and it worked a treat. Quite easily the man of the match and it put many complaints to bed as the supposedly "stubborn" Benitez changed things for the better for the current match in question.

Lucas was the reason Liverpool were allowed to level the tie up on aggregate after his first moment in the spot light lead to a penalty for the Reds.

An inventive run from Lucas straight into the box saw him taken down by Rami. Steven Gerrard successfully converted the spot kick and with just 8minutes on the clock Liverpool were 1-0 up on the night.

For the remaining half an hour or so left of the first half Liverpool continued to play some good football. With attempts from Lucas, Torres, Agger and Insua at goal just to name a few, we appeared relatively comfortable.

With no changes from both teams for the second half, Liverpool began in a similar style to the first.

Within 5 minutes Fernando Torres had created some magic for the Anfield faithful.

After a long ball up from Ryan Babel, Torres latched on to the ball taking it past the sole Lille defender with ease, his pace carried him forward as he ended in style with a typical Fernando Torres finish, dinked past the keeper and sent neatly into the net.

The third and final goal for Liverpool involved a struggle from Kuyt to keep possession, he managed to lay the ball to Lucas who then spotted Gerrard, Gerrard receives the ball and sets off on a run.

Torres already awaiting in the area, Stevie opts for a powerful shot, when it rebounds back out, Fernando is there to make sure the chance is converted and at 89minutes on the clock Liverpool had qualified for the quarter finals of the Europa League.

It was a nervy end to the second half with some flashes from Eden Hazard and the rest of the Lille attack. Knowing if they scored at that time we would have been out due to away goals rule, it was horrible to watch, thankfully though El Nino made any doubts a certainty.

A great team performance from Liverpool and a great display of how we know we can play.

With Manchester United up next, it is a massive chance for Liverpool, not only for bragging rights but to collect a vital and well needed 3 points.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Liverpool Poised To Turn Tie Around

Sports News - March 11, 2010
A deflated Liverpool after defeat to Lille.

Liverpool are set to welcome Lille to Anfield tomorrow on the back of a 1-0 loss in France. After the emphatic victory over Portsmouth on Monday night can Liverpool keep things going with another win in the Europa League?

Liverpool lost the first leg after conceding in the 84th minute of the game, something which has been a frustration for Liverpool in many games this season, letting in silly goals very late in a match.

However after being uplifted by the 4-1 rout over Pompey, Liverpool can quite easily turn this around and continue their venture in the Europe.

The incentive and target is still the same as it was if we had of came away from Lille with a 0-0 draw, score at least one goal.

Forcing extra time or winning outright, it doesn't matter which outcome, Liverpool can complete this task with ease if the tactics are right and the lads work as a team.

After the positive boost Aquilani gave the team in a more attacking Liverpool side it is a big blow reading this afternoon that the Italian may not be available to face Lille. Rafa was quoted as saying:

"He has a virus and is struggling with his fitness," ... "We have to take care of him and decide tomorrow. It will be a late decision."

We shall have to keep our fingers crossed and hope that he is an option, but in all honesty there is never a certainty whether he will start under Rafa's decisions but it would be nice to have him available.

Along with the question hanging over Aquilani we are still without Skrtel and Aurelio. Not forgetting that Maxi is not eligible for this competition so he cannot feature.

With all of this in mind i think it is vital that the defence is solid tomorrow and Torres et all are on goalscoring form again. With the added magic of Anfield this should be do-able for Liverpool.

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Food 4 Thought

Premier League: Liverpool 4 v 1 Portsmouth
Aquilani relished his first
Liverpool goal.

Just as we thought our ship was about to sink, captain Steven Gerrard and the rest of the boys pulled something special out of the bag last night against a team fighting for their life in the Premier League. But is this a sign of things to come or just a one off result?

Many people will quickly jump to the old "oh well it was only Portsmouth" but as Liverpool fans we all know how much that victory meant. We all know how valuable those 3 points were and we all know after being beaten by Portsmouth earlier on in the season, this was no fluke.

It was an early goal from Fernando Torres that started off the Liverpool rout.

When Steven Gerrard closed down Pompey keeper Jamie Ashdown, i don't think anyone was expecting the last ditch attempt to be fruitful, however when Gerrard managed get a foot to the clearance, the ball kindly fell to Maxi Rodriguez, he kept himself composed and swept the ball to our number 9 who put the ball in the back of the net with ease.

Pompey looked quickly dislodged, the quick pressure from Liverpool seemed to cause panic in their defence, but in all fairness they should have been prepared for this coming to Anfield, even if Liverpool are currently on a downer.

Less than 3 minutes later and a more fluent, attacking Liverpool side capitalized on Portsmouth's weaknesses again. This time it was marmite man Ryan Babel who had a great game for the Reds.

When Glen Johnson whipped the ball in to Fernando after a bit of a scramble he managed to lay the pass to Babel, he sent his effort the the wide low right of goal and it was now 2-0 for Liverpool.

Time and time again people have been putting across the point that why when we play teams who are less threatening don't we drop one of our defensive midfielders and start the likes of Aquilani, or add Gerrard into his correct attacking role. Well this result did nothing but back up those points.

Aquilani (without getting head over heels as it was Portsmouth, we need to compare and contrast as he plays against say Utd, Everton etc etc) was immense. Clearly a refreshing asset to a tired looking Liverpool side of late.

The changing of players such as Lucas and Kuyt was a great move from manager Rafael Benitez. However by no means is this a call for the Dutchman and Brazilian to be blamed/slated for recent poor results, both players never give anything less than 110% in every game, it was a change of tactics that allowed Liverpool to be so successful not necessarily just the players. Don't make two of the Reds' best players scapegoats or excuses.

The third goal came from none other but Il Principino himself, the chants and banners have been waiting for this moment and by the reaction of Anfield you could see how much it meant to the fan base for him to get off the mark. Not only how much it appeared to mean to the man himself, he was ecstatic.

Torres and Gerrard were involved with the set up but when the ball reached the Italians feet there was only one place the ball was going, with a great drive towards goal his effort found its way into the back of the net.

I seriously hope this is the starting point of a "shove that in your pipe and smoke it" moment to every single critic in the land. How you can judge a top class player in his first season especially after only just coming back from injury and barely playing any games i don't know, but they just love noting how terrible he apparently is don't they? Well in Aquilani. Keep it up.

Our fourth and final goal saw El Nino get his second. This time it was typical Torres terrorising a defence, Portsmouth had no idea what to do with him and his final strike was fantastic.

(I'm sure Vidic is quaking in his boots.)

Portsmouth had to spoil the party somewhat though didn't they? Belhadj who scored against us in the first fixture managed to get Pompey a consolation goal but there was no way back for the Southerners.

We have now moved into 5th place overtaking Man City who still have 2 games in hand. We remain just one point behind Spurs as the race for 4th continues.

With a Europa League tie against Lille to come before we face bitter North West rivals Manchester United it would be nice if Liverpool could make this a collection of matches to remember.

If we play like we did last night against United it makes no difference if they have Rooney instead of Piquionne, Hreidarsson instead of Vidic or Ashdown between the sticks instead of Van Der Sar... Fact is, United and Fergie will not know what to do with us.

Anyone punting for deja vu?

Labels: , , , , , ,

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Looking Into A Mirror?


As far as worst case scenarios go, Liverpool comparing their current financial situation to Pompey's current off field crisis would be top of my list, but as ludicrous as the idea is, it's not as far fetched as it it sounds.

I'm sure you are all aware of the two clowns currently in the hot seat of "running" our club, without going into facts and figures, it is Tom Hicks and George Gillett who are the reason we find ourselves so cash strapped and the reason why Rafael Benitez is forced to play his best negotiating skills in the transfer market, constantly having to sell to buy.

Not forgetting that (as far as i am aware) our current finance structure is built on a system that assumes qualification into the Champions League i.e. 4th spot. In the current realisation that finishing in 5th or even worse is highly possible who knows what the next step would be for our struggling football club. There is a fantastic article relating to this written by Paul Tomkins (Twitter: @paul_tomkins) which you can read here.

Turning all this negativity on its head though are a revitalised and fighting Portsmouth. A club who have nothing to lose, they either go for it, all out, or nothing.

After continuing their run in the FA Cup and collecting some good results from teams around them, along with their clear ambition within every game, Portsmouth could prove a horrible stumbling block for Liverpool just as Wigan did one week ago.

No one will forget either, as much as they may wish to, the shocking defeat to Portsmouth that Liverpool suffered back in December. Again, Liverpool could not complain, in all honesty, the Southerners deserved the 3 points and Portsmouth will be quick to realise that they have in fact beaten the Reds this season, bring their A game to the plate at Anfield tomorrow night and they may well be able to cause a similar upset.

Liverpool are still without injured Fabio Aurelio and Martin Skrtel. Yossi Benayoun will be subject to a late fitness test after he picked up an ankle injury in the Wigan fixture.

Whatever side is fielded tomorrow, whether it involves Aquilani or not, whether Babel starts or not, whether Gerrard starts in midfield or sitting off Torres. Fact is, it does not matter, any XI Rafa fields is fully capable of collecting 3 points, at Anfield, against Portsmouth.

What is required is 110% from everyone on the pitch. I don't want a re-run of what happened against Wigan, a sense of, they've scored, we're not up to it, i can't be bothered.

The fans will already be nervy as it is, i can imagine that the atmosphere at Anfield will be subdued, i just pray that the team don't give the moaners something to moan about.

A win here is the only option, following this we face Manchester United, a game we always want to come out of on top, but even more so when 3 points are becoming more and more precious in the top 4 battle.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, 12 March 2010

Lille Prove More Than A Hazard For Liverpool


Time to turn your frustrations into support for a good cause.

Late goals were almost becoming a thing of the past for Liverpool but we were back to our old ways against Lille last night. Despite an improved performance compared to our 90minutes against Wigan we still let things slide after being unable to capitalize on a steady 80 minutes or so.

Benitez drafted in Ryan Babel for this one after Yossi Benayoun picked up an injury, i shall move on to commenting on his performance later. A lot of people pre match were calling for Aquilani to make the start, mainly because he clearly deserves it but also in a game against Lille, you would think he would be greatly suited. After looking back at the game too, it is clear to me that we would have benefited from some of the more attacking aspects of the Italian.

Lille started the first half in a very lively fashion, they obviously realised that they would need a result on home turf to truly trouble Liverpool over the two legs.

Liverpool dealt well with the majority of the threats, although at times untidy, the ball was constantly removed from the danger zone and Reina's net was kept empty.

In terms of Liverpool's attack, it was a Ryan Babel attempt and a flash from Steven Gerrard that were worth noting in the midst of an unsteady forward pushing Liverpool.

Moving onto Ryan Babel, without coming across as if i am slating the bloke i feel i must again highlight what i always say, there is simply not enough in his game for him to constantly be chosen. There are always calls for him to make a start but he constantly falls at the first hurdle. If i remember rightly his first moment involved in the game he lost possession, this appeared to be a marker for his total game.

Not taking away from him the fact that he did cause some problems in front of the Lille goal, albeit one attempt he should have really done much better with, the link up with Fernando Torres beforehand was fantastic but his effort was wasteful, he still, to me, is extremely frustrating as a player apparently filled with so much potential.

In all fairness, his replacement in Albert Riera was a let down too, don't know what has happened to him of late but he seems a shadow of himself compared to last season. All this makes it certain to me that Yossi Benayoun must start when he is fit, by a country mile he is the best option.

In terms of the second half, it didn't get much better for Liverpool. It was clear that the players were at least putting in the effort, on Monday you wouldn't be criticised for thinking they just didn't care, but effort can so often come to no avail when it comes to winning games.

Lille got the winner near the 85minute mark and it was Eden Hazard who had already provided Reina with some problems earlier in the game who sent a free kick straight over every attempt to make sure it went in or in Liverpool's case to attempt to clear. Nobody got a touch and by the time it was at Reina is was too late to deal with.

It was a match that you can't really comment on, in all honesty even when they scored it wasn't a surprise it was just predictable. Another nail in the negativity barrel but why cling onto that? What use is there in constantly expecting the worst?

If your wondering how you can vent your negativity into something positive and something that is constantly a benfit to our club, an organisation who prides itself on doing what is best and most importantly right for the future of our club are on social networking site; Twitter.

For those of you that don't know Spirit Of Shankly do have their on Twitter and if you have been tweeting today in the UK you will have noticed that top of the trending topics were #hicksandgillettout and #lfcsongs show your support and lets unite together as Reds and remind these Yanks that despite the bad results on the pitch we have NOT forgotten the more pressing matters going on behind the scenes.

You can follow Spirit Of Shankly on Twitter here.

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

C'est La Vie!


It's a phrase every Liverpool fan at the moment wishes they could say without a care. After a season to forget being added to on Monday night with a damaging loss to Wigan it would be lovely to be able to sit back and say "That's life" as it were, let's just focus on the next game and move on.

Unfortunately for us, things aren't as simple as that, with a trip over to France for our Europa League tie tomorrow against Lille and then Portsmouth on the following Monday night Liverpool need focus.

The tie with Lille could go one of two ways, it could provide Liverpool with a springboard, helping them head into what could be a difficult tie with Portsmouth and thus improving morale and hopefully meaning results go their way.

On the other side of the coin though, it could be a very frustrating match for Liverpool, although a loss would not mean we were out of the competition, it would do no good at all for a team already low after a poor defeat to a side they should have beaten.

Liverpool have never faced Lille before, although they are the 10th club from France that Liverpool have met in European competition.

Lille are currently 5th in Ligue 1, 4 points behind leaders Bordeux despite having played two more games.

Lille's top goalscorer is De Melo who has 3 goals. Lille may not appear very good on paper but they are pretty good on home turf. They have not lost any of their home games in the Europa League so far so Liverpool will have to come up with something special to change the statistic.

Liverpool still have injuries to Martin Skrtel and Fabio Aurelio, although Glen Johnson and Daniel Agger should now both be travelling for tomorrow evenings fixture.

Yossi Benayoun however has been added to the injury list after he picked up an ankle injury in the loss at the DW Stadium, key player for Liverpool who we could have benefited from in this game.

In terms of the team Benitez may field I'm struggling to guess this time around, have a feeling it could be quite different, not only because it is a European fixture but also down to some lacklustre performances on Monday. With Yossi Benayoun out i think it is quite likely that Ryan Babel or Albert Riera could feature.

I also feel that Aquilani although he wasn't on the pitch for very long did make a statement, in my eyes he definitely deserves a start, maybe sit him alongside Lucas and give Masch a break? He worked his socks off at right back.

As for predicting the score, I'm not even going to bother. I simply do not know. What i do know is that it won't be a white wash and i will be very surprised should we manage to keep a clean sheet. Something like a scrappy 1-1 is what i am expecting but lets hope i am totally wrong.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Martinez Makes Mockery Of Reds

Football - Wigan Athletic v Liverpool Barclays Premier League
A disappointed Pepe Reina
removes his gloves.

Martinez capitalised on the fact that Liverpool are clearly still not set in their ways or on to some sort of consistency. Martinez realised that Liverpool were, and have been a beatable side for a while now providing your tactics are good and the work ethic of your players is at a maximum.

Martinez was right, with an inspired performance from a Wigan side who have not won since late January on the new turf at the DW, Liverpool were made to look undone. Wigan on the other hand resembled a top 4 challenging side whilst the Reds allowed their heads to drop directly after the 35minute Wigan winner found its way into the net.

Benitez fielded an interesting line up, Mascherano was again utilised at right back although Glen Johnson did make his come back as a substitute. The line up had many attacking options with the likes of Gerrrard, Torres, Benayoun, Kuyt and Maxi all making the start. The big Greek was back in defence and it was Reina, Carragher, Lucas and Insua who made up the rest of the XI.

Other than a few blocked attempts and some unfortunate chances not taken by Fernando, Liverpool's stats in front of the Wigan goal mouth made poor reading.

Wigan could boast more attempts and more times at which they called the goalkeeper to duty, Reina had a lot more work than ex Liverpool keeper Chris Kirkland who would have been ecstatic that El Nino was not his more electric self.

Wigan took their chance after Dirk Kuyt gave away possession to Emmerson Boyce, after the Latic player spotted Rodallega, the Colombian international saw his opportunity and sent his effort to the right of Pepe Reina and into the Liverpool goal.

With 55minutes of the game still to go you would think even despite the poor performance so far, Liverpool would get their chance. The last 10 minutes of the first half did not provide it so we were relying on a much improved second half performance.

Improvement was not necessarily the best descriptive word for our latter half. It was almost as if the players had forgotten what we were fighting for here and what it would mean should we come away with nothing.

They seemed quite happy to complain about lost chances, moan about their own fallible passing and get frustrated in 9 out of 10 situations. I understand it must be frustrating for the players but where's the spirit? Yes, Wigan aren't exactly AC Milan and it's not like we're losing in a Champions League final but the pumping of Stevens Gerrard's arms up into the air to lift the vibe would have done wonders.

The whole team had let their heads drop, it was almost as if they had just sat back and accepted that this stint was atrocious and even though plenty of time was left to salvage something from the situation, they didn't have enough heart in it to bother.

The Glen Johnson and Aquilani substitutions appeared to apply some sort of lift, along with the introduction of Babel. Aquilani proved he was able to focus in a difficult and poorly poised fixture, his passing and movement was a lesson for some of the sloppy starts for the men in Red shirts.

This performance was on a par with the terrible display against Portsmouth earlier this season, ironically, it is the Southerner's who we face next in our now ever hardening quest to finish in that 4th spot.

With Portsmouth in a totally different state of mind to ourselves, if we don't go into this game with the right attitude/line up, it could quite simply be disastrous.

With Aston Villa now having 3 games in hand over ourselves, City with 2 and Tottenham with 1. It is surely going to be a very nervous end to our season.

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, 7 March 2010

We Have Never Lost To The Latics

Football - Liverpool v Tottenham Hotspur Barclays Premier League
The big Greek has served his
ban, could he be back to face
Wigan?

In the Premier League we have always walked away with a bare minimum of at least 1 point when facing Wigan, and tomorrow is no time to change that fact.

Wigan are a rather funny footballing side, at the moment they are not going too well when it comes to winning games either. Their last recorded win was at Molineux against Wolves where they won the game 2-0. This result came in the latter half of Januray and although Wigan have mustered some draws and perhaps been unlucky in some fixtures, they are still in the midst of a struggle.

However, in my eyes, Wigan are exactly one of those sides that can prove to be a stumbling block for Liverpool. Just like Portsmouth, it is always the sides many people feel confident we can beat that i fear most. Perhaps this is because when you play a side like Wigan, the automatic expectation adds a lot of pressure and although this should not affect the players i think in some senses it can get to people.

Wigan are miles away from the team they were when they beat Chelsea earlier on this season and when they were victorious against Aston Villa, but it does pose the fact that they are capable.

Wigan have let in 9 goals in their last 8 Premier League matches, whereas Liverpool have only let in 3. With ourselves having our main attacking threat back in Fernando Torres, a fallible defence will not do Wigan any favours.

Wigan are without Scharner and N'Zogbia tomorrow whilst Liverpool are missing Martin Skrtel who has broken a metatarsal in his right foot, also out is Fabio Aurelio who sustained a muscle injury in the game against Blackburn. Glen Johnson is also still out and to add to the list is Daniel Agger who left the Blackburn match on crutches due to severe bruising in his right knee according to LiverpoolFC.tv.

It will be interesting to see how ex Liverpool shot stopper Chris Kirkland fairs against his old club tomorrow, last time Kirkland saw two goals pass into his net and this time i have a feeling it might be a similar tally.

With the assumption that Agger will now not feature, my prediction for tomorrow's line up is:

------------------Reina------------------
--Degen----Carra----Kyrgiakos---Insua-
-Kuyt---Lucas---------Masch----Yossi--
-------------Gerrard--------------------
----------------------Torres-------------

I'm thinking the partnership of Gerro and Torres will be back to it's more familiar self for this one although Gerrard in midfield again against Blackburn worked a treat. I'm also thinking Masch could possibly be utilised as right back again as it is clear he is capable but at the same time it is probably fair to say we can play a bit more risky and attacking football against Wigan so Degen may add a bit of flair to the game, providing he can sustain some acceptable defending i feel this is a good choice.

Liverpool are still 6th in the table but a win at the DW Stadium tomorrow would see us temporarily move into fourth as Manchester City and Tottenham do not play their next matches until the weekend.

As for the score, it is much of the same really, i have been predicting sort of 2-1, 2-0, 1-0 's etc for a while now and this time is no different. So 2-1 is my guess this time out.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Monday, 1 March 2010

"We Prefer To Talk On The Pitch."


I didn't realise Allardyce was German...

Was easily my Rafa Benitez quote of the day for yesterday. There is nothing more satisfying as a manager of a winning side, and nothing more dissatisfying as a manager of the losing side, when as the loser you come out before hand, running off things such as Liverpool are fatigued, they have been "digging games out" etc in an attempt to dislodge the victory train.

As Benitez's quote suggests though, it was the manager on the winning side that had the last laugh. The tension between our Gaffa and Big Sam is continually growing and I'm afraid the ex Bolton manager is simply no match for our rather clever and brilliantly subtle sarcastic Spaniard.

With Skrtel out through injury, there was an open space left in the back four. Mascherano was somewhat surprisingly chosen at right back, although we have witnessed him have a successful stint here earlier in the season when a sending off shook up the formation.

Aurelio had started at left back with Agger and Carragher again finishing off the list. Maxi, Gerrard, Lucas and Benayoun were the midfield men and the two up front were the Dutchman Kuyt and fresh back from injury Fernando Torres.

We started the game rather comfortably with some good footwork from the likes of wing men Maxi and Benayoun. With Gerrard starting this one in the heart of midfield and not behind Torres we were also seeing those aspects of Gerrard that are sometimes missing when he is pushed into a more forward role.

The effectiveness of Gerrard was made even more present when he found himself netting our first goal.

Yossi Benayoun with one of his now infamous untidy but extremely rewarding runs headed into the box, he then tee'd up Steven Gerrard who with his first touch took the ball to the far left when he then swooped the effort into the Blackburn goal.

You could see how much it meant to him by his rather strange but very passionate celebration in front of the fans. This has again raised the big question of where should Steven Gerrard start?

(Just out of interest, does anybody know the last time we scored before the 20minute mark? Statmonkeys?)

Shortly before half time and the Blackburn penalty, unfortunately Fabio Aurelio found himself hobbling off the pitch to be replaced by Emiliano Insua. It is feared that he has torn a muscle and will probably be out for some time. Horrible to see because he has only recently returned and he's a great talent, wish him a speedy recovery.

Jamie Carragher is not always the most discreet person in his football and when he tries to do something "on the sly" he is constantly caught out. After he found himself on the floor in the penalty box and noting that there were a few blue and white shirts around, it appeared he deliberately handled the ball to prevent it from reaching an attacking player.

I've watched the replay a few times now and to be honest, he does look as though he is up to no good. Maybe it was slightly harsh as many have said he was still focusing on the fact that Blackburn feet were flying around but i don't think there is too much to complain about.

Keith Andrews scored the penalty for Rovers and although Reina went the right way, he could not prevent the ball from going into the back of the net.

Just as you think, well we can go into half time at 1-1, come back out and then finish the game, Fernando Torres decides he has other plans.

After his first attempt comes to no avail the ball finds its way out to an already forward pushing Maxi Rodriguez. Fernando Torres as the natural striker that he is, remains focused and stays central, Maxi whips in a great pass which Torres then buries. 2-1.

There is one thing with Fernando Torres that he made clear when we first signed him, he needs no such thing as "time", he does not need to "settle" he does not need to "adjust", whether it is changing leagues or coming back from injury, the minute he steps back onto the pitch is the minute you can refer to him as a lethal threat for any opposing side. Simply world class.

We have missed his ability to finish things off i feel and as Carragher has said today, let's hope he comes back from his Spanish duty in good shape.

The second half, although it contained no goals, it did contain numerous examples of Blackburn playing dirty, quite clearly through frustration.

Steven Nzonzi for a starters is a complete and utter thug. Like the spitting Diouf he is an angry and pathetic man. When he was holding Lucas back and rightly so Lucas was protesting, he got annoyed at the fact that Lucas wanted to make his foolish behavior clear. Lucas was being prevented from playing the ball which in itself is a yellow card on many occasions but when Nzonzi decided to take it one step further and push Lucas in the face, full force until he fell flat to the ground, Wiley still just pathetically handed out a yellow card.

I'm all for football being physical but that was just too far. A pathetic display of pointless anger from a below par player at a below par club.

Not forgetting of course the fact that Maxi Rodriguez was studded in his chest, Reina sustained a shoulder injury, Mascherano was on the receiving end of poor tackles several times. Sam can keep fooling himself into thinking his side did not play dirty but i know what i saw.

Pepe Reina at one stage was looking as though he may not be able to continue. A worrying time for Liverpool fans as we all know how vital he is to the side. The spectacular flying save that the Spaniard made during the 90minutes none more so of a representation of why he is one of the best keepers in world football.

2-1 was what i predicted and for once i was actually right. However i was assuming Blackburn would score in free play, so maybe i don't deserve full credit. An interesting game and thankfully a win. All three points means we remain on the tail of Spurs and City.

Next up: Wigan Athletic.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,