The Liver Bird  

Friday, 30 April 2010

The Dream Is Over

Liverpool vs Athletico Madrid
Long may he prove his critics wrong...

Despite Liverpool beating Atletico Madrid 2-1 at Anfield last night and putting on a fantastic performance with every player giving 110%, that early goal from the first leg came back to haunt us after Atletico booked their place in the final on the away goals rule.

Due to injuries and a tactical decision by Benitez to switch Johnson onto the left side, the line up was as good as could be under recent circumstances. Masch was pushed into right-back position with Johnson on the left, Carra and Agger were in the centre and Reina in goal.

Kuyt lead the line with Babel and Benayoun on the wings. Aquilani, Gerrard and Lucas made up the rest of the XI.

Liverpool made a fantastic start to the game with immense tempo and urgency. Gaining 4 corners within the first minutes of the match, it was clear the attitude was there. Anfield was as vociferous as ever and the stage was set for a memorable night in Liverpool.

Despite the good start and the holding off of Atletico Madrid, it wasn't until just before half time that Liverpool chalked up their first goal.

When Benayoun whipped in a threatening cross, Dirk Kuyt managed to get on the end of it, in the process the ball was laid to Aquilani who with an excellent finish found the only gap left in the goal to squeeze home the effort.

Anfield went crazy, i went crazy. The dream was still on.

At this point, the goal for Liverpool now meant that the tie was all square, should this be the result at 90minutes the game would go into extra time and then penalties depending on the outcome after the half hour.

For the second half it was still a very determined display from all the boys in red but it didn't appear as if a goal was coming. There was no need to panic though, and focus was needed, if Atletico were to score in this second half, Liverpool would require another 2 goals before the 90minutes was up to go through to the final.

Atletico had some speculative long range efforts from the likes of Garcia & Simao, but thankfully most chances from the Spaniards went wide. The lads were defending well from set pieces too after Atletico managed to pick up a few free kicks in dangerous areas as the clock ticked down.

At 88minutes Rafa made his first substitution. Aquilani left the field for Nabil El Zhar. Moan if you like, make it an excuse, fact is Rafa left that change as long as he possibly could, yes, no denying Aquilani had an excellent game but you are talking about a man who is arguably still not even match fit, fresh legs were definitely required and although i feel NEZ had a poor stint, just look at the bench Benitez had to work with.

So it was into extra time, Liverpool could score with no return and go through, concede and win 3-1, 4-2 etc or it could remain 1-1 on aggregate and it would be penalties.

It took just 5 minutes for Liverpool to change the whole layout of the game. Lucas with a great little dink over to Yossi set the Israeli up perfectly who hit it first time and from an unfavourable angle put Liverpool 2-0 in front on the night.

Again the crowd raised the decibels, Benayoun's celebration and expression was emphatic. It was a picture painted perfectly and the paint had almost dried.

All Liverpool had to do was hold on, as easy as it sounds, all that was required was to not allow Atletico to score. We had managed this for 90minutes, the task seemed achievable but just 5minutes later, celebration turned to sheer nerves.

Diego Forlan, of all the players stuck the dagger in after he scored from a remarkably similar position to where he was for the goal in the first leg.

Johnson was beaten by Reyes and in the midst of this some sort of confusion between Reina and Glen, this meant that the Spaniard had to track back towards goal. This however was not the real problem, the space that Forlan was given was shocking, considering we had seen what this could do already from the first leg, we simply did not learn our lesson.

Ultimately, whether you want to run your mouth about being annoyed at substitutions, whether you are going to blame all of this on Rafa or whether you are going to remove your Liverpool shirt and put your Chelsea one back on. Fact is, a defensive mishap is what let us down, it was unfortunate, it shouldn't of happened, and its not an excuse but don't sit there and say to me that it was the substitutions that lost the game.

Considering only the introduction of Nabil El Zhar was made before we conceded, for that part of the match the "blame game" is useless.

Yes, i can sort of agree that when we required a late, late goal, taking off Benayoun would maybe not be your first option, but lets not forget the very limited "options" Benitez had to try to manage a tiring team in extra time.

Beforehand, Benitez had brought on Philip Degen for Mascherano, not many groans at the time were made I'm sure because we could all clearly see that Degen would add more to the attack down the flanks.

The fickleness in people soon came out some ten minutes later though when we were out of the competition. The slating of Degen was in full force. Why? What did you think he was going to do? Win us the game? He did what was asked, and i for one am happy with that.

As for the introduction of Pacheco, anyone who has seen him play will know that he could be just the guy to add that last minute spark needed, and some of his first touches almost led to a Steven Gerrard smash.

Complain all you like, fact is, it just wasn't to be. The lads fought their asses off, even players like Ryan Babel who are often questioned for their level of input were playing for their lives.

And despite this, Liverpool still couldn't find that third goal to take them through but make no bones about it not one person on that pitch did not give their all, so regardless of the extremely gutting realisation that we will not be in Hamburg for the final, i am proud of the team, the manager and the (real) fans.

Considering we actually won the game, and in good style, with two great goals, such is football that people get so worked up they cannot even appreciate the positives.

After that massive blow to the heartbeat of the end of our season, all i know now is that it is absolutely vital that we end the season with dignity and some respect.

I couldn't give a toss anymore if us beating Chelsea hands United the title, i want us to give our all against the Blues and Hull and if we finish in 6th, so what, we tried.

In a season which has again lacked investment, been plagued with injuries, had more going on off the field than on it, it is just "one of those seasons" and Benitez is more than entitled to one.

Roll on August.

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Wednesday, 28 April 2010

The Anfield Face Off

Atletico Madrid vs Liverpool

Diego Forlan scores in the first leg...

Atletico Madrid welcome themselves to L4 tomorrow for the second leg of our Europa League Semi Final with the Spaniards. After all the hectic travel arrangements Liverpool suffered for the first leg, Atletico have had no such problems for the trip to England.

With the prospect of another European final for Liverpool and obviously the chance of silverware, Anfield should be buzzing tomorrow night, resembling that world famous atmosphere that footballing culture knows so well.

Liverpool were unlucky in a sense in the first leg when a scrappy goal from Diego Forlan found its way past Golden Glove contender Pepe Reina. The lads weren't playing at their best but the 1-0 still gives the Reds the upper hand tomorrow night.

As we are all aware, star striker Fernando Torres will not be fit to face his old employers, and the rest of the list of injuries still drags on pretty long.

Long standing injuries to Martin Skrtel, Emiliano Insua and Martin Kelly mean they are all still out along with Brazilian Fabio Aurelio.

There is some hope that strikers David N'Gog and Dirk Kuyt could feature after a very late assessment for the pair.

Atletico again are believed to have no real injury worries. They will also be boosted by the return of Aguero into the side.

With Steven Gerrard being so influential against Burnley it would be fantastic to see him bring that attitude into this game. Another player to highlight too is Aquilani who was excellent on the weekend, with the boss lacking options and perhaps favouring the idea of a more threatening Liverpool side in attack he could make the start tomorrow night.

With Rafa also coming out today and requesting we forget the scoreline, i have to say that is the correct mentality. Liverpool still have the same task on their hands as they would of whether the first leg was win, lose or draw - they must play to win.

Lets hope tomorrow night is another memorable European clash at Anfield for the lads in Red.

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Monday, 26 April 2010

Gerrard Gears Victory

Football - Burnley v Liverpool Barclays Premier League
Captain fantastic back to his best...

Steven Gerrard helped steer Liverpool to a 4-0 victory yesterday with 2 goals in 9minutes. The final result saw Burnley relegated but it was an emphatic win for the Reds as they cling on to slim hopes of that last Champions League spot.

The shock entry of Ayala into the back four was the only unsuspected addition to the line up from Benitez. With N'Gog injured it was Kuyt who lead the line. Fellow Dutchman Ryan Babel also started and Maxi Rodriguez was reintroduced on the wing.

The first half for Liverpool was a rather nervy one, Burnley appeared to be dealing with the likes of Kuyt and Aquilani rather well. They were looking strong against the Reds.

The 45minutes portrayed a bad outlook should Liverpool continue to play like that in the second half. Despite some speculative attempts from Gerrard and co, no real chances were created. Burnley also sprung Reina into making a save in the dying minutes, possibly indicating they were becoming comfortable.

Just 2 minutes into the second half and a worrying site for Liverpool as Dirk Kuyt left the field. First thoughts are that the injury to his calf is not too bad, we just need to keep our fingers crossed. Yossi Benayoun replaced the Dutchman.

Less than five minutes later Liverpool collected their first goal. Courtesy of captain Steven Gerrard. After going on a short run and reaching the edge of the 6yard box the number 8 decided to have a pop at goal, a fortunate deflection from a Burnley player ensured the effort found its way past Jensen.

Gerrard was already looking a total contrast of himself against Atletico Madrid last week and his second goal just proved this theory even more.

9minutes later and Gerrard with the help of an assist from Aquilani scored an absolute peach.

When Maxi played a great ball to Aquilani it looked as though the Italian was about to loose the ball along with his footing. Luckily enough he still managed to get some sort of touch on it, just enough to lay it into the path of a very determined Steven Gerrard.

With precision and power his goal was as sweet as a nut. Jensen had no chance as the ball flew with pace into the right of goal. Simply spectacular.

Burnley were looking concerned when they conceded the first but after that craftsmanship from our captain it was clear they were beginning to come to terms with the almost imminent prospect of relegation.

To be fair to Burnley though, they kept on fighting, getting stuck in and giving their all for the fans.

It wasn't long though before Liverpool managed to find a third goal. Maxi Rodriguez who has had some superb games in the Red shirt of late fancied a piece of the action.

Aquilani who again provided a vital link spotted Maxi on a run down the wing and played a pass to the Argentine. Maxi went on to finish from an acute angle with another great goal for Liverpool and a deserved one for the very impressive new recruit.

As the remainder of the second half went on Liverpool were more than content but Pepe Reina was still on guard, adamant on keeping a clean sheet to help his case for the Golden Gloves at the end of the season.

We needn't of worried though, conceding was not on the agenda, getting a 4th to well and truly finish the game off was.

Ryan Babel who was assisted by Lucas Leiva, to many was in a rather questionable onside position. He kept his cool though and in a one on one situation managed to put the ball past Jensen, who perhaps should have done better.

A brilliant team performance from Liverpool and some great individual efforts. Daniel Ayala did exactly what his job description asked in defence. Aquilani showed why he should be starting more games for Liverpool as he assisted and played his way around midfield.

Steven Gerrard showed that scouse passion and fight that has been missing from his game complete with a superb second goal. Maxi Rodriguez again had a fantastic stint on the wing and also scored.

I can't think of a game in a good while where i can't actually think of any complaints. With the second leg against Atletico Madrid coming up on Thursday and then Chelsea after that it is an important week ahead for the Reds.

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Saturday, 24 April 2010

Reliance

Liverpool vs Reading
Can Benayoun make a repeat of his performance against Burnley in September?

Liverpool face the short trip to Burnley tomorrow as the Lancashire side attempt to remain in the Premier League. Liverpool would hand Burnley a massive blow should they be victorious tomorrow and would see Burnley be relegated.

Not only this they would also hand relegation battlers Wolverhampton Wanderers security. With the Chelsea game also looking more important for other teams rather than ourselves, it is going to be a very peculiar end to the season. Reliance on ourselves from other football clubs is a very scary thing, what worries me is a lot of the time this season, we have not been able to rely on our own performance, let alone giving somebody else a hand.

A win tomorrow could see Liverpool jump into 5th depending on the margin of the win and the Manchester City result. Anything at this moment in time can be taken as a positive because it is just becoming so unlikely that Liverpool will manage to scrape 4th place, but where there's a will. there's a way, as my Grandad used to say.

Liverpool unfortunately have been dealt another injury to add to the ever expanding list. David N'Gog picked up a back problem in the Atletico Madrid game mid-week, it is believed he will be assessed but it's not looking likely that he will be available for tomorrow.

Martin Kelly, Martin Skrtel, Fabio Aurelio, Emiliano Insua and of course Fernando Torres are also unavailable for manager Rafael Benitez.

Many people are suggesting that Pacheco may be able to make a start as replacement for David N'Gog and to be honest, i think that would be fantastic to see. Realistically though and perhaps cautiously you have to think that Benitez will either use Kuyt as the lone forward or utilise Ryan Babel in a more forward role.

Burnley have few injury worries, David Nugent looks set to make his comeback after missing The Clarets last match. Clarke Carlisle however looks to be unavailable.

With one eye on the second leg of our Europa League clash, it would be nice for this game to be a simple 1-0 for Liverpool who could then relish the three points and focus on the next game whilst continuing to hope other results go their way.

This though is very unlikely to happen, Burnley to have any sort of slim hope have to win, they know that and they will be more than up for a fight with a tentative looking Liverpool side.

Influential players like defender Alexander and striker Steven Fletcher will look to pump Brian Laws' teams attitude. It will be a tough game for Liverpool but a more than winnable one to say the least.

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Friday, 23 April 2010

Extra Officials? Beneficial? Don't Be Daft.

Football - Atletico Madrid v Liverpool UEFA Europa League Semi Final First Leg
A frustrated Dirk Kuyt portrays everyone's emotions...

One goal separated the two sides last night at the Vicente Calderon, scored within 9minutes in rather bizarre and scrappy circumstances, it was enough to see Atletico Madrid take glory in the first leg of our Europa League Semi Final.

Benitez reintroduced Mascherano and dropped Maxi Rodriguez for this fixture due to him being ineligible for the competition. The remainder of the XI was the same fielded against West Ham.

It wasn't long before Liverpool's defence was undone. With barely any chance to settle down Atletico punished with a fast paced attack originating from their own half.

Frustratingly, Forlan was unmarked, the player who i was so certain we should be able to deal with was allowed too much space. When the cross came in, a diving Kyrgiakos could not connect, Agger was too far away from the action and Carragher was still checking back after he was pulled out of position.

When Forlan made contact though, something suspicious appeared to happen, when he connected with the ball his dodgy header seemed to take a deflection off of another part of his body. My first thought was handball, as was the thinking of many other Liverpool fans, but from the angles available, it is hard to distinguish.

Forlan eventually followed up and despite Reina getting some sort of block on it, Atletico took the lead.

We can't moan too much obviously because the defending was below par but i think we had a case judging by the direction the ball travelled AFTER Forlan made the header. Just goes to show again with these two extra officials, they still can't work properly.

I'm afraid this post will again pull back to the poor refereeing when i get to the Benayoun goal which should have stood.

Reyes, the ex Arsenal employee was doing his best to frustrate Liverpool too, with some skillful runs and confident play, the Reds were struggling to deal with him. What became annoying though was his ease in which he fell to ground, but then again, he did that at Arsenal too.

So with the clock reading roughly 20minutes it looked like Liverpool were on for an equalizer. When Kuyt picked up the ball on the edge of the Atletico 6 yard box it appeared he was going for a shot, when his attempt was scuffed though an aware Yossi Benayoun made his run, and with a great finish should have seen his efforts put Liverpool onto the scoreboard.

This however was not to be. Despite the fact that the Israeli was clearly onside when the ball was played, its just yet another case of these pathetic extra officials NOT doing their jobs, not forgetting of course the linesmen and the referee.

Usually i don't like to moan but this time out i feel hard done by.

For Liverpool, this was the only positive in front of goal. With no shots on target it was a pretty dismal display from the boys who were lacking the influential Fernando Torres. For me too it became more apparent of the aspects that Maxi if he was able to feature could have added, similar to Kuyt but perhaps with more accuracy, he could have supplied a lot of killer passes and pin point crosses.

Players like David N'Gog who in some games rely on being fed would have benefited greatly i feel from somebody like Maxi.

Benayoun and Babel are great wing players but they are (not a bad thing always) quite selfish, due to their style of play and perhaps confidence of taking people on, they don't always see that key pass or deadly ball through, this i feel is where Maxi comes in.

In Liverpool's fairness, despite Atletico being the better team, aside from the sloppy goal early on in the game, the lads dealt with the rest of the Spaniard's attempts at undoing the defence.

Pepe Reina also was called to duty on a few occasions. Notably when a close range shot saw him make a magnificent reaction save, as most of the watchers described, simply world-class.

He continues to shine whilst others around him falter, and believe it or not, Pepe Reina is literally the only positive we can really take from that game.

Of course, lets not forget though, 1-0 down into the second leg by no means at all spells the end of the road for Liverpool. It is still very much in our own hands.

In some ways, it just makes the tie more exciting and more meaningful.

Anfield will be buzzing and even without our star man, you just have to fancy us as favourites to go through. I for one am not ready for a shock and would love to be able to watch us play in the final in Hamburg, even if it does mean playing Fulham...

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Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Atletico: First Leg

LIVERPOOL PRESS CONFERENCE
Me?... Tired?... Noooo.

Fernando Torres will miss out again as Liverpool prepare to face Atletico Madrid on Thursday night. After sustaining a knee injury, the number 9 will not be able to face his old club as Liverpool's plight in the Europa League continues.

The Reds reached destination Madrid earlier on today after a mammoth journey across the continent. Starting with a train ride from Runcorn and ending with a flight to Madrid the trek included an overnight stay in Paris, several coach/train stints and a lot of autographs.

Nevertheless, the team and the Manager have arrived safe and sound ready to face their Spanish opposition. With the flight ban on UK airspace also now lifted, the travel back should be a lot easier for the lads who would have found it a tight squeeze trying to get back in good time for the Premier League fixture on the weekend against Burnley.

Liverpool head into this tie on the back of an uplifting 3-0 win over West Ham, confidence should be high and with the prospect of finishing 4th looking constantly further away, the Europa League offers a real chance for Liverpool to end the season on some sort of high.

Atletico Madrid are an established and threatening football side, however, they are currently hovering at 10th in La Liga and have lost their last 3 league matches.

News player wise is that Atletico do not have any major concerns so all options should be available for manager Quique Sanchez Flores.

Sergio Aguero however, who was a major threat for many Liverpool fans will not make the start due to being suspended after picking up too many yellow cards so far in the competition. Some relief for the Reds.

Liverpool on the other hand still have some missing names, Torres was mentioned earlier but still we are also without Skrtel, Aurelio and Martin Kelly. To add to this Insua is again not able to start meaning more than likely Agger will be at left back again.

With Atletico missing Aguero, it will be top league goalscorer and ex United employee Diego Forlan that most of the Spanish contingency will look to for supplying their goals. Another one to watch out for is Reyes.

Forlan may be racking up quite a goal tally over in Spain but he's getting on a bit now, his pace is lacking slightly, its his experience that will provide him with fortune should we let it on Thursday night.

I just get the feeling though that Benitez has probably studied Forlan and the rest of the Atletico attack down to a tee, and with the defence instructed, providing they can remain calm and intelligent they will win the battle.

All that then leaves us with is the task of getting one in the net, away goals can always be precious.

Got to be seeing the likes of Benayoun start again i think, always a problem for any opposition. Kuyt needs to feature too as he can always grab a goal. N'Gog leading the line i fear may not work as well against the continental style but if he is fed well from the wingers and supported then he also could grab us glory on the night.

To end with, Liverpool will be setting a fantastic record as soon as they set foot on the pitch by becoming the first English club to play in 16 European Semi-Finals, lets just hope the record is accompanied with a win for the Reds.

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Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Bellyoun

Liverpool's Ngog shoots to score against West Ham United during their Premier League soccer match in Liverpool
David N'Gog gets Liverpool's second...

Anfield attendance was of a lowered tally for Monday nights clash, possibly due to the numerous amount of people still stuck abroad. A lack in the Anfield faithful though was not going to put a downer on the team or the performance against the London side battling to stay in football's top league.

After the injury to Fernando Torres and the ongoing injury to Emiliano Insua, Benitez had to field another different looking Liverpool side. This time out he opted to start N'Gog leading the line with Kuyt sitting very closely off the French youngster.

The midfield saw Mascherano dropped with Benayoun and Maxi on the wings, whilst Gerrard and Lucas slotted in the centre. The back four was the same used against Fulham, Agger still remaining as stand in left back and Reina was in goal.

Liverpool started the game with good possession and fluidity, West Ham were being made to look dysfunctional but with some skillful flashes from the likes of Cole and Stanislas, the Reds could not afford to go to sleep.

Liverpool's first goal was created from a Steven Gerrard free kick. When the ball was whipped in a quick thinking Yossi Benayoun made the run and actually managed to send the ball in off the post by using his stomach. Not the most practical body part for scoring goals but it was one nil nonetheless.

A subdued celebration from the gentleman like Benayoun due to the opposition being his former employees.

West Ham's defence was already being made to look average but their attempts to defend the set piece were more than sloppy. If Liverpool could keep their heads and get another goal, the three points were ours.

It didn't take long before Liverpool settled any nerves that may have been loitering in the crowd. When Yossi Benayoun played a pin point pass to Maxi Rodriguez who was awaiting on the right wing, his job was clear, supply a decent cross.

His cross was above standard though, perfectly reaching David N'Gog - who was poised in the box, with just enough pace.

N'Gog hit it first time and with a great finish sent the effort straight past Robert Green. As the commentator correctly described the goal "taken like Torres". The lad gets a lot of stick to be honest, he's still learning and his goalscoring record already is nothing to frown upon. People need to lay off him a bit.

Maxi Rodriguez with a great assist i also feel needs to be mentioned. What a fantastic performance from the Argentinian, easily my MOTM. I've been keeping a close eye on him now in a few league fixtures and it is clear that he has settled in perfectly.

Some people have been questioning whether it has been due to the weaker opposition (i.e. Portsmouth, Fulham and now West Ham), these however are just poor excuses. It is clear from just looking at his movement, his confidence that he has already adapted to the style of the English league. What a steal he has been and a great signing by Rafael Benitez.

Here's to his continued improvement, i am just gutted that he is ineligible for our Europa League clashes that we have left. What an asset.

For the remainder of the first half Liverpool were untroubled by West Ham, it was almost as if that fight that they so clearly had against Everton had disappeared in the fixture against the better half of Merseyside.

Liverpool's third and final goal came in the second half. Kyrgiakos who is constantly adding to his CV for a fan favourite vacancy was again making his presence in the box.

It was another Steven Gerrard free kick that sent the ball high in to the box, the powerful Greek international managed to get a foot on the end of it, after it rebounded off the post it then hit the back of Robert Green and went down as an own goal. Soto celebrated anyway... After all, he did the work.

The shot of Upson said it all after our third goal, he was beaten by N'Gog for the second and again beaten by Kyrgiakos that created the third. He looked disgusted at his own performance and the combined effort of his team mates as the Hammers trailed 3 goals to nil.

West Ham brought on Benni McCarthy as the second half wore on. He replaced the believed to be injured Carlton Cole. The introduction of the fresh legged striker though came to no avail as the clock began to tick down.

What i could not understand is why Zola did not opt to start Diamanti? Assuming he was fully fit he was a must have in order for them to be a threat at Anfield.

Liverpool managed to retain their lead and clean sheet when the final whistle was blown.

Pepe Reina is now a great contender for the "Golden Gloves" award after this clean sheet brought his total to 15 in the league for Liverpool.

Liverpool are now in 6th with Villa to play in the week and Spurs/City still having a game in hand it is getting nervy in the race for fourth. Fact is though, anything could happen. This win has at least gave us some sort of optimism should things fall into our own hands.

Next up for Liverpool is the first leg of our Europa League tie with Atletico Madrid, the lads should now be on either a coach or train somewhere making their long journey to Madrid after British and most of European airspace remains closed after the ash cloud continues to spread from the erupting Icelandic volcano.

I bet Eidur Gudjohnsen is in his element? He doesn't have to make an excuse not to fly for the time being. Oh wait, i forgot... Tottenham aren't in Europe are they? Hahahaha.

On a more serious note, lets just hope that the long haul travel does not take its toll on the lads for this important clash in Liverpool's season.

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Sunday, 18 April 2010

Race For Fourth Meets Relegation Battle

Sports - November 06, 2007
Will Yossi feature against his old club?...

With the introduction of a stand in chairman this week for Liverpool and the stories all reading that Hicks and Gillett are ready to sell up and move on, there was a very positive feel amongst the fan base.

Don't count your chickens though, with Hicks making suggestions that he will only accept stupid money despite the fact nobody will pay £600mil for a club some £250mil (roughly) in debt, it is not looking as bright as once thought.

However, it is no doubt a step forward, the key thing is though, this time out, our club needs to be handled with dignity and intelligence, no silly mistakes, the correct buyer, somebody with passion and the strive to support the team must be found.

So with all this going on off the pitch, can Liverpool beat West Ham on Monday night and keep themselves in an ever changing race for fourth?

West Ham have failed to win on the road since the opening game of the season when they beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-0.

Scott Parker will not feature for the Hammers after picking up a collection of yellow cards. All other options for Gianfranco Zola are said to be available.

Last time out Liverpool managed to beat West Ham in a 3-2 goal fest, with Fernando Torres scoring twice.

This time out though Liverpool will be without El Nino after he struggles to recover from a knee injury. With flights being grounded in and out of the UK, a specialist he was due to see has also been unreachable as the race for his fitness continues.

Other injuries include Fabio Aurelio and Emiliano Insua who both have thigh related set backs. To add to the list is Martin Skrtel and Martin Kelly.

Injuries are no excuse but they have plagued Liverpool this season and unfortunately Monday nights game will force Benitez to play the defence again in an unfamiliar set up.

It would be great to see the likes of Aquilani and Maxi both starting tomorrow because not only do they add great movement and spacial awareness but the remnants of their attacking abilities against Fulham were very positive. Without Torres available we need as big a threat as possible in attack because it will be hard to break down a team like West Ham fighting for their lives in the Premier League.

One player from the West Ham side that i would like to highlight is Alessandro Diamanti, he has 7 goals in the league this season for West Ham and appears to be a clever and dangerous player. Liverpool need to be especially careful giving away silly free kicks outside the box, because the Italian will fancy those 100%.

After Spurs beat Chelsea, Aston Villa got the better of Portsmouth and Manchester City lost in the dying minutes to Manchester United, the layout of the teams fighting for 4th has changed slightly.

Liverpool however still find themselves playing the chasers, when Monday nights game has finished, our rivals will all still have a game in hand, making a win realistically the only option should we wish to pursue the Champions League next season.

Our only positive again is that the others around us (on paper) have a much harder run in in the closing stages than ourselves. Crucially though, to be left with any sort of hope, we must rake in the points on our own behalf and then pray that things pan out.

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Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Hillsborough: Never Forget.


Anfield covered in scarves, shirts and flowers...

Tomorrow marks the 21st anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. On April the 15th 1989, thousands of Liverpool supporters on a beautiful April afternoon made their way to Sheffield to watch their beloved football club play in the FA Cup semi final.

Nobody that morning when they set out to the game though could begin to imagine the horror that would unfold.

96 Liverpool fans lost their lives that day, 96 friends, 96 people who were a Mother, a Father, a Daughter, a Son, a Grandad, a Grandma, a Sister, a Brother, a Cousin, a Soul Mate, a Friend. 96 people went to a football match that day and never returned.

In the 21st century, a disaster so heartbreaking and so preventable is tragic. To make things worse, those 96 friends were not mourned respectfully or with decency. Families were not offered compassion, they were offered lies.

Still to this day, justice for the families and friends of those 96 has not been done.

I was not brought up in Liverpool and i am not related to or close to anyone who was affected by Hillsborough, i cannot even begin to comprehend the hurt, the pain that these people must be going through.

What i am though, is a fan of the football club that ties us all together and brings hope to the people still fighting for justice day by day.

In relation to this i feel the only way i can help in some minor way is to help educate and make sure fans who, like me, may not have been brought up in Liverpool know the truth about Hillsborough, know that at 3:06pm tomorrow we should all pay our respects to the 96 victims, and know that a certain newspaper should NEVER be acknowledged let alone read or bought.

If you are unaware of the full story, or you would simply like to learn more. I urge and ask you to go out there and do some research.

Just some of the very moving and factual links that i have came across over these weeks leading up to the anniversary may be of help:

YouTube video showing how the Hillsborough disaster brought about an everlasting friendship between two people affected in different ways by Hillsborough -HERE

The full story of a doctor who travelled to the game and was in the crowd in the Leppings Lane end on that fateful day (Courtesy of The Tomkins Times) - HERE

BBC News article giving an overview of what happened and some details on the enquiries after the disaster that are still flawed and have failed to provide justice for the families - HERE

A blog post from a fan who had family members at the game, with a very moving personal poem - HERE

Another very moving post by a fan who was also present on that April afternoon in '89 - HERE

The Hillsborough Justice Campaign - HERE

If you do not understand why you should not associate yourself with a certain outlet of media - HERE

Hillsborough: Never Forget.
R.I.P The 96.
Justice?

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Monday, 12 April 2010

We Just Couldn't Take Our Chances

Football - Liverpool v Fulham Barclays Premier League
Hillsborough... Never forget.

Liverpool's already unrealistic hopes of finishing in the top 4 appear to have almost certainly been shattered after Roy Hodgson's Fulham managed to hold the Reds to an eventful 0-0 draw at Anfield.

Yesterday's game was the closest game to the 21st anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. Both sets of fans, managers, staff and players completed a solemn minute silence to remember the 96 Liverpool fans that lost their lives on that fateful day on the 15th April 1989.

Benitez's choice of line up was favoured by many with a very strong midfield and familiar defence. Fernando Torres was missing from the line up through a flaring up of a knee problem believed to have been causing him problems earlier in the week. Despite this being a blow it was an ideal XI played by Benitez.

N'Gog lead the line with Babel, Mascherano,Gerrard,Aquilani and Maxi making up the centre of the field. Agger was utilised at left back again with Carra, Soto and Johnson finishing the line and Reina in goal.

The first half for Liverpool was a very positive one. With players like Aquilani and Maxi using all areas of the pitch and Steven Gerrard providing a strong driving force from the midfield to lone forward N'Gog, it was looking good for Liverpool.

With shots from Aquilani, Babel and Agger just to name a few in the first half it was a feeling that it was only a matter of time before one effort from the Reds found its way past Schwarzer and into the net.

When the first half ended and the scoreline still read 0-0. It was disappointing knowing that we had almost all of the possession for the 45minutes, several chances and hadn't managed to convert. Such is football though, and such is Liverpool on some occasions, confidence in the second half and much of the same surely would result in 3 points for Liverpool?

Fulham could barely even get out of their own half, in all honesty, their defending was slapdash too, it was luck, stamina and some good play from Schwarzer that was keeping them in this Sunday afternoon clash at Anfield.

Liverpool continued the second half in mirrored fashion to the first, 14 shots at goal were accounted for in the remaining 45minutes, but it just wasn't going to be Liverpool's day.

Some say that the changing point in the game was when Benitez decided to make his first substitution (people are obsessed with his sub choices of late aren't they?). He decided to replace the effective looking Alberto Aquilani and bring on grafter Dirk Kuyt.

I was slightly disappointed as it appeared as though Aquilani if not getting closer to actually scoring, was causing a lot of problems for Fulham. However, Kuyt did supply some good crosses and his passing and movement was good. After that display from Aqua though, i would love to see him make the start against West Ham.

Another player who was worth highlighting i thought was Maxi Rodriguez, i have been very impressed with his performances of late and today fitted straight into an applaudable category for the Argentinian.

He was extremely unlucky on a few occasions in front of goal, but his efforts and work ethic were more than respectable. He made sure he was available for that "one two" link up and was a key player throughout the game.

Going back to the "one two" sort of description, many people on Twitter hit the nail on the head i thought in post match analysis via 140 characters. Liverpool were taking too many touches and too many short passes when they reached the edges of Fulham's 6 yard box.

I have to agree, in some senses i fear this may have contributed to our lack of the final product.

Pacheco and Benayoun were also introduced into the game in the dying minutes. It is always very refreshing to see Pacheco on the pitch and he again proved what a star he could go on to be with some fantastic footwork and glaring confidence.

Despite all of the positives and all of the up sides and despite a very good performance from Liverpool, Fulham just refused to be broken down. Their only shot at goal came in the 92minute which saw Reina have to make a save from Duff, but the fact is, Fulham will be over the moon with their result, they shut up shop for 90 odd minutes at Anfield and came away with a point.

Liverpool however can only feel extremely disappointed, it appears that realistically unless some freakish link up of events occurs in the closing stages of the Premier League, the only up side to Liverpool's season is the prospect of picking up some silverware by winning the Europa League.

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Saturday, 10 April 2010

Practice Run?

Football - Fulham Training
Murphy would love to score at Anfield again...

With Fulham also managing to get through to the semi finals of the Europa League on Thursday just like ourselves, tomorrow's game could be a warm up for the final of the competition.

Hodgson is often praised for his managerial skills and it is clear that he can hold is own amongst European competition.

I'm sure you all remember the first meeting this season between Liverpool and Fulham too when Roy Hodgson had the last laugh over Rafa Benitez after his side beat the Reds who were reduced to 9 men on the day of Halloween.

Horror show was an understatement and despite the fact that maybe some refereeing decisions were questionable, Liverpool were not up to scratch, tomorrow we will be looking to get an absolutely vital 3 points but also revenge.

At Anfield and after beating Benfica in such style, you have to feel pretty happy facing Fulham tomorrow. Despite players like Clint Dempsey looking to cause problems and ex Liverpool favourite Danny Murphy will be punting to make it a day to forget for the Reds, i still feel tomorrow is going to be a Liverpool win.

Liverpool are still without Kelly, Skrtel and Aurelio. Aurelio was believed to be on his way back into action in recent weeks but news coming out of the LFC website is still reporting that he is unavailable.

Fulham have never managed to notch up a win at Anfield, but they have collected draws in the past, and a draw will simply not be good enough for Liverpool. It is already a mountain to climb should we manage to finish in 4th, another knock to our efforts would see us simply be ruled out, whether it is still mathematically possible or not.

It would be nice to see a set up involving Maxi on the wing tomorrow as i feel he has had an excellent few games in the Red shirt. I also would like to see Lucas in a more attacking role, after that performance against Benfica the other night, his confidence should be flooding should he get a chance to push forward.

Fulham have let in 8 goals in their last 5 games, Liverpool have let in 5 goals in 5 games. Whether this will be a yard stick for the outcome of the game i do not know but it helps you favour the abilities of Fernando Torres in front of goal tomorrow.

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Friday, 9 April 2010

Liverpool Through To Semi-Finals

Liverpool press conference
Lucas Leiva proves critics wrong and shrugs off his scapegoat status...

Liverpool can boast semi final status after successfully knocking out Portuguese rivals Benfica last night with a scoreline reading 4-1 to the home team. Although there were some nervy moments when Benfica's Cardozo got one back, the lads worked hard and it was a superb and well deserved result come 90minutes.

After all the questions about how the back four would be set up, Benitez fielded Agger in the left back position with Carra, Soto and Johnson making up the the rest of the defence. With Reina in goal and Torres up front it was Gerrard, Masch, Lucas, Kuyt and Benayoun that completed the starting XI.

For the first twenty minutes or so it was quite a scrappy affair for Liverpool. With the added input of Benfica bashing players like Torres around, the fouls and stop-start feel to the game was becoming frustrating.

Frustration was nearly a continued theme after the revelations of the first Liverpool goal.

When Steven Gerrard sent an in swinging corner into the box, Dirk Kuyt was there to head the ball home. 2 seconds into his celebration though he saw his goal chalked off as the linesman held his flag in the air. To the fans, manager and players dismay, appeals began immediately and rightly so.

The reason why the linesman flagged is still a mystery, most thought it was because he was claiming there was a foul, others that Kuyt was offside but you can't be offside from a corner when nobody else has got a touch. Totally baffling.

After a nervous few moments or so, the referee overruled the linesman's decision and the first of Liverpool's goals was put back onto the Anfield scoreboard.

They are trialing two extra officials on the pitch in this competition and STILL they cannot get it right, its just lucky that we had a decent referee this time out who made the right decision.

Our second goal came just 6minutes later, not even mystic Meg could have predicted this one though!

When Steven Gerrard makes a superb outstretched through ball pass to the feet of the already forward pushing red shirt, the camera angle for those who unfortunately had to watch on television, like myself, was still zoomed out.

Without my glasses, and with the pubs television sound down very low (its a pretty crap local lol) all i could make out was pace, blonde hair and an absolute sweet finish. As i was celebrating, i was still in belief that i had just seen another fantastic goal from the man we call El Nino.

Only when the camera zoomed in to show Lucas Leiva running away celebrating did it become clear that it was the Brazilian who had crafted such an excellent goal. I was ecstatic for him! Could not believe my eyes, i was convinced from the other angle that it was Fernando Torres, and to me, that simply proves how good the goal was.

Lucas had the confidence and the composure to take it past the keeper and then still managing to remain calm, dinked the ball home in sheer Torres style.

I hate to make comparisons because Lucas is his own player and nothing should be taken away from his performance last night, but comparing his goal to Torres for me just allows us to understand how much credit he actually deserves.

The lad has taken a lot of stick from some of the fan base, not to mention the media, yet he has continued to do as is asked, keep his head down and work hard. Absolutely delighted for him.

Liverpool managed to keep a clean sheet for the remainder of the first half and we were already two nil up going into the second. This was no time to feel settled though, as we all saw in the Manchester United V Bayern Munich game, anything could happen. Just a good job Benfica don't have Arjen Robben ain't it? Haha.

Liverpool's third goal was the best display of team effort and counter attack that i have seen from the lads in ages. From an initial Benfica corner it was Mascherano, Benayoun, Kuyt and finally Torres who were involved.

When Masch makes a great long pass to Yossi Benayoun who is already pushing forward, he collects the ball and continues his run up field. Despite now many of the Benfica players getting back and pressuring Yossi, he spots Kuyt on the wing, with another great pass, Dirk Kuyt just about manages to get there, completely out stretched he manages to get in an excellent cross, Fernando Torres meets the ball with ease and from close range makes it 3 nil for Liverpool.

Dirk Kuyt and Lucas Leiva as many people rightly pointed out are often unsung heroes in our squad but no matter how much they frustrate you on their off days, when they bring their game, they are a vital link in our team. Absolutely fantastic performance form both players.

Liverpool weren't set to have it all their own way though. When Cardozo, Benfica's top goalscorer lined up for a free kick just outside the box, most fans like myself were on tenterhooks.

Cardozo converted the free kick which flew low and straight through the wall. Reina could not do much in attempt to prevent the ball from going into the back of the net and suddenly Benfica, just as Bayern Munich did the night before had a lease of life.

At this point it was as if all our hard work had been undone, if Benfica had scored just one more goal, we would have been out of the competition.

Nobody wanted that though, especially not the eleven players on the pitch who had put in so much graft. To go 3 up and throw it away would be devastating.

As the clock pushed closer to that famous 80-90minutes mark, the visions of conceding were becoming more prominent. After all the horrors of late goals in the Champions League, particularly the recent one against Lyon. It was hard not to think of the worst.

All of this was soon forgotten though when none other than Fernando Torres got himself a second in the atmospheric quarter final.

As soon as he collected the ball you just knew that him versus the keeper was only going to result in one outcome.

After calmly lifting the ball over the Benfica stopper and watching it slowly find its way into goal, Torres celebrated and it was almost certain that Liverpool would now be in the semi finals of the Europa League.

The dying minutes saw N'Gog, Aquilani and El Zhar replace Torres, Gerrard and Benayoun.

The final whistle was blown and Liverpool could finally celebrate after a hard shift.

And just to end on, lets not forget the hard work last night of fans who were at the game, not only providing that famous Anfield atmosphere but the hard work of the Spirit Of Shankly members/supporters who were present and helped out with the protests at the game.

After learning that Hicks and Gillett would be at the game, the organisation who is constantly working hard for the benefit of our beloved football club (Twitter: @spiritofshankly - Website: www.spiritofshankly.com) held peaceful protests via chants & banners but also with a mass gathering on the car park after the game.

Which ever way you look at it, the two yanks must be getting some sort of message as this morning revelations about them possibly stepping down and employing a stand in chairman have been revealed.

Although this would not oust the parasites from the club, it is certainly a step forward.

Liverpool Football Club is in the wrong hands. Hicks and Gillett OUT!

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Wednesday, 7 April 2010

2nd Leg: Benfica

Football - Liverpool v Blackburn Rovers Barclays Premier League
Could the Dane be utilised at left back?...

Liverpool are looking to turn around the tie against Benfica tomorrow with the 2nd leg at Anfield. After gaining only an away goal as a positive in the 2-1 defeat last Thursday we still have a great chance of going through to the semi finals of the competition.

If we do manage to get through tomorrow evening we will be facing either Valencia or Athletico Madrid depending on the outcome of their own tie. The result from the first leg played at the Mestalla saw both teams score twice meaning the second leg is poised evenly. So for Liverpool it could quite easily be either of the two teams.

Both of which would be interesting, Valencia obviously for players like David Villa and the huge link between the club and Rafa Benitez. Athletico with the ties between the club and ex captain Fernando Torres would also provide a good atmosphere.

Benfica's manager Jorge Jesus has again made all of his team available despite the fact that Weldon missed a training session due to a thigh injury.

Liverpool are still without Skrtel, Kelly and Fabio Aurelio. Not only this but left back Emiliano Insua cannot feature tomorrow night after picking up another yellow card. This leaves us with a pretty big problem as we do not actually have any other titled left backs aside from Aurelio who is injured.

Thus meaning that a make shift left back will have to be utilised. It is almost certain that the defence will consist of Johnson, Kyrgiakos, Agger and Carragher. The question is though in what order?

A lot of people are suggesting that Agger at left back would be a good idea due to his ability to make strong forward runs from the centre of defence. Others suggest that it will probably be Jamie Carragher who although is not fond of being moved out of position will always offer his services. It's all left to guess work until we see the line up tomorrow.

Benfica have been in the competition from the start whereas we dropped out of the Champions League and into the competition. In our time so far we have scored 8 goals. Benfica have scored 23. In terms of average goals per game that reads 2.09 for Benfica and 1.33 for ourselves.

Liverpool are fully capable of turning this tie around, European pressure has never phased the Reds so i doubt it will this time out. The problem could arise though from the unfamiliar set up of the back four and the possible lack in team moral/confidence after Sunday's result against Birmingham.

A trophy at the end of the season would ease some of the hurt should we not finish in fourth, although we all ideally should we of had a choice would have chosen to finish 4th. Fact is, doing both is still an option although as mentioned before, it will take some luck and a lot of hard work.

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Monday, 5 April 2010

Far From Eggs-cellent

Steven Gerrard Liverpool 2009/10
Gerrard celebrates passionately in front of the fans...
What?...

You didn't seriously think i would go through the Easter weekend without adding a really bad Easter related pun in somewhere did you?

On a more sombre note though, yesterday's result saw the grey clouds regather over an already subdued and annoyed Liverpool fan base. There were numerous moments throughout the game that were top of the moaners lists.

Make no bones about it, i had a moan myself, but quite astonishingly it is again clear as to what most fans feel and what most fans are more concerned about at this moment in time.

Whilst my first reaction was the sheer fear of what finishing out of fourth place could do to us. I.e. with Hicks and Gillett already dragging the club into so much debt, they idiotically based our finances on assumption of qualification into the Champions League, failing to do so could see us add another £40million or so to our already unsteady financial situation.

With the deadline having to be extended the other day as we struggle just to find a minor shareholder to invest, the realisation of what could happen should we fail to get 4th place came flooding to the forefront of my vision.

Most people just seem to forget it, or push it all aside... Oh it's okay, some billionaire will show up eventually. We won't have to sell Torres to fund debt repayments. We won't slide down the table through lack of investment in our already thin squad.

Without disregarding the other aspects of the game that i shall also highlight and comment on, which were perhaps worthy of a moan/questioning, it is simply vital that people see the real picture here. Never mind Rafa taking Torres off, how would you feel if Torres wasn't even there to be subbed?!

Liverpool started a slightly changed XI from the Benfica game. Daniel Agger was swapped for the powerful Kyrgiakos. Maxi was reintroduced and the skillful Yossi Benayoun made the start.

We all knew this would be a tough game for Liverpool, and we all knew about the capabilities of Birmingham holding the big boys to a draw at home, but we all went for optimism and hoped that we would come away with the win.

The first half from Liverpool was a relatively respectable one. We created chances and dealt with Birmingham attacks, although it was becoming apparent that both sides were cancelling each other out.

With attempts from Torres and the likes of Kuyt, Insua etc, it was Maxi's shot that had Liverpool fans ready to celebrate. It was only due to a fantastic save by Joe Hart that the new recruit was denied.

The second half was immediately of a different feel as Steven Gerrard put Liverpool into the lead after just 6minutes in.

With a clever little step inside to create himself that extra yard, Stevie sent the diagonal effort through a crowd of blue and red shirts and into the low right corner of goal. Superb.

After we'd scored it was clear to me, after predicting beforehand, that if we could hold onto a 1-0, we would walk away with the three points and this would be the only way how. I just felt that if Birmingham managed to get one back they would be more than happy with a draw, so would just defend to the death.

Unfortunately, for once, my "scrappy 1-1" prediction was spot on.

It took just 10minutes longer before Birmingham equalised, and my god, was it pathetic.

The defence may as well have not been there, and that is not even an exaggeration or a joke. The lack of shape, the absence of players in their correct position and the space that Ridgewell was allowed was the joke.

Glen Johnson managed to do pretty much everything wrong for this specific attack. Way out of position, ball watching, he actually looked baffled himself.

Simply not acceptable. Whether the fact that Kyrgiakos was pulled further out during the attack and Glen took that as a reason to also pull himself further out of position i don't know but whatever he was thinking/doing was just not on.

Now for me, the shambolic conceding of a simple goal from Birmingham was the real injustice/questionable aspect of our performance. Do you not think that if the defence had dealt with that as they should of, we would have possibly gone on to keep hold of our slim lead?

Although Birmingham had created chances, Reina and the defence had (on the majority of occasions) dealt with them quite comfortably. A defensive mishap was what saw us throw away three points. Never mind the ifs and buts of that substitution.

By 65minutes Rafa decided to make his first substitution. Not many would have expected this substitution to have been so drastic, but it was.

Fernando Torres left the field for youngster David N'Gog.

Now all of you will know that i am in full support of Rafael Benitez remaining in charge at Liverpool once the season is over. Unfortunately, this time out, i cannot fully agree with this rash decision. However, i am not one to be so fickle about a substitution.

Yes, Torres, even if he was supposedly "exhausted" is still ten times better than most players in the league when tired.

Yes, fact is Torres COULD have scored, COULD have created a chance, COULD have made an assist.

Yes, Torres is arguably our best player.

But where would we be sitting on what if this? And what if that? Why should Benitez feel pressurised into leaving a striker on the pitch who has so far in a game been ineffective? So many people constantly say that we shouldn't have to rely on the likes of Gerrard and Torres, it all goes out the window in the midst of desperation though doesn't it?

Benitez is too stubborn. I wish he would change things and be brave enough to make a change. Means shit all when he does something (which quite nearly worked and so easily could have) drastic though when your scared of drawing with Brum.

Its double standards.

No i don't agree with the substitution, but fact was, the little things that N'Gog added whilst he was on the pitch appeared more effective than the aspects Torres added in this particular game.

Even looking at the poor stats from both Torres and N'Gog for yesterday's game proves N'Gog has the edge.











Nobody would have said boo though would they if that on target N'Gog chance had found its way into the back of the net?

I just feel as though the majority of people are missing the point. Torres has 65minutes to get one in the net and when you just haven't got yer shooting boots on, you haven't got them on. Sometimes bizarre and brave decisions can change a game. Unfortunately, and so unfortunate for Benitez, this time out, it didn't prove fruitful.

Whilst i can totally understand people being annoyed/angry/baffled, i cannot understand how actual "hatred" for the man from some of the fan base rears its ugly head again when something goes wrong.

In all fairness, a draw with Birmingham away from home, analyzing what Birmingham have already done, ain't half bad. It is a respectable result.

Yes, Benitez needs to take some flack and rightly so. But it still amazes me how people can so blindly criticize without even taking into account all angles of the game and the situation.

Another one to forget, we will gain nothing from looking back. Only from looking forward. With some luck and providing we can provide the results on our own behalf, it is still a possibility.

Despite the fact that when looking at our last few fixtures, i myself thought we would stumble at Brum and i still don't think we will beat Chelsea. Even so, that series of events, one of which has already happened would STILL see it possible to finish in fourth.

It's not quite over yet.

City still have to play United, Villa, Spurs and Arsenal.
Spurs still have to face City, United, Arsenal and Chelsea.
Villa's only really tricky fixture is the one against City but there are a few games where they could trip up.

No point giving up all hope yet is there? Now roll on the bounce back against Benfica.

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Saturday, 3 April 2010

Reds Face Birmingham For Easter Sunday Clash

Sports News - March 20, 2010
Birmingham's top goalscorer Jerome is on a tally of 9 goals...

Liverpool go in to tomorrow afternoon's fixture looking to improve on the performance earlier in the season against Birmingham City which saw them leave Anfield that night with just the one point. It was a scrap to even come away with the 2-2 draw that evening, so Liverpool should know to be weary of a revamped Premier League style Birmingham.

Just to make things worse, Liverpool have not beaten the Blues since may 2004. Over the 6 meetings we have lost twice and drew on the remaining 4 occasions. Despite our head to head stats in the league, we have in the midst of all this beaten Brum in the FA Cup (remember the 7-0?) and also in the League Cup.

Benitez is not one to dismiss the ability of the recently promoted side either, he was quoted saying:

"They are doing well. It has been a very good season for them. They are a good team, with a good spirit who work hard for each other.

"You could see from their game with Arsenal that they fight to the end."

Pushing all of this aside though, you have to feel the lads are capable of getting three points tomorrow. Removing the loss to Manchester United, we have had a decent run in the league, yes we are entering the game on the back of defeat to Benfica, but this should not really pose a problem.

For tomorrow's game Birmingham are without Lee Carsley and Garry O'Connor. For Liverpool we are still without Martin Skrtel, although Fabio Aurelio is rumoured to be on his way back so could be a shock feature.

Martin Kelly has been ruled out and Aquilani looks to be a major doubt.

Birmingham do come into this game on a bit of bad form, which gives Liverpool some sort of positive. They haven't won in the league since beating Portsmouth 5 games ago, however in the midst of this they have picked up respectable draws against Arsenal and Everton.

Although a draw would not be completely and utterly damaging to our challenge for fourth, it would be a major dent. A win for me is the only option tomorrow and although i feel slightly nervous at the moment, i have confidence in the on form Torres to perhaps get one or two in the net along with a solid display from the team.

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Friday, 2 April 2010

Babel Sees Red As Liverpool Lose In Portugal

Sports News - April 01, 2010
Agger celebrates after scoring Liverpool's only goal...

Benfica put two past Liverpool last night both courtesy of their top goalscorer Oscar Cardozo. Despite an early goal from Daniel Agger, a mixture of fortune in favour of the home side and some questionable refereeing decisions saw the Reds fall to defeat.

Benitez fielded a familiar looking side which saw the reintroduction of Lucas into the midfield. With Torres leading the line, it was a confident feel for kick off.

It took just 9 minutes for Liverpool to get on the score sheet after a set piece allowed us to put one in the Benfica goal. Steven Gerrard with a clever little free kick placed the ball square into the box, Daniel Agger then with a superb flick off the back of his foot saw his risky attempt go straight into the back of the net.

Play continued to be positive for Liverpool as we pushed with the attack on the Benfica defence. Looking relatively comfortable, it appeared we may be able to come back to Anfield with a most favourable result.

By 30 minutes though, the tides had turned. When Ryan Babel and Benfica defender Luisao got themselves into an altercation with each other after Fernando Torres was subject to a poor tackle from the same Benfica player in question, it all spiraled out of control.

Luisao who was booked and rightly so for the tackle was also first to become angered and get in Babel's face. Both players had hands in faces, and it was little more than handbags but for some strange reason, it was only our Dutchman who saw red.

If it's one thing i hate about referring it is the sheer lack of consistency, both players were involved, one who had already committed an offence and from what i could see both were deserved of the same punishment. So leaving one on the pitch with a yellow and giving the other his marching orders for me was unacceptable.

Even with 10 men Liverpool showed great spirit and there was fight still in the performance. Benfica, although they seemed to be creating more chances for themselves were still struggling to fully break through the Liverpool defence.

It wasn't until close to the hour mark that Liverpool's problems began to get worse. After a clumsy tackle from Emiliano Insua, Benfica were rewarded the first of their penalties, not too much to complain about and Cardozo converted.

The second penalty however, almost 20 minutes later was in my eyes pretty harsh. Jamie Carragher who was already sprawled for the block was penalised for what i would describe as ball to hand. The pace on the ball wouldn't have given him to to move his hand out of the way as it was and to be honest it was quite clear it was unintentional.

Cardozo converted again from the penalty spot and that saw Benfica through to their 2-1 win over European giants Liverpool.

Lets put things into perspective though.

  • 2 goals that were conceded were both from the penalty spot, no goals were scored in free play meaning the lads must have done something right.
  • Considering we had 10 men left on the field for the best part of half an hour before they got their first goal, the lads composed themselves superbly and dealt with Benfica well.
  • Daniel Agger's effort means that we have a very important away goal in our pockets.
All in all, we didn't do bad at all really, and with the second leg next week, you have to feel we can still go through.

A match to forget i feel and one not to moan about too much, disappointing yes but lets not add this to our woes. We'll see how they fair in the magical European atmosphere of Anfield.

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