The Liver Bird  

Monday, 30 September 2013

SAS Seal Three Points At Sunderland


Yes, it was the magic of Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez (and a bit of an arm) that safely saw Liverpool collect all three points on Sunday as managerless Sunderland could only create one goal via Italian Giaccherini.

Temporary boss Kevin Ball had made no changes to the Sunderland side from their league cup outing and it was the black cats that had the more positive start initially. As often happens when a team are looking to shake off their old manager and prove themselves to any new contenders, Sunderland were very confident to begin with and maintained a lot of possession.

Giaccherini as always was causing the defence some problems and without Steven Fletcher, Sunderland were perhaps missing that final product however, they did sustain pressure for a good 15 minutes or so. After failing to find the back of the net though Sunderland slowly allowed Liverpool back into the game.

Rodgers had gone for a similar set up in comparison to the Manchester United game. We had three at the back once again with Moses directly behind the strikers. I quite like this formation to be honest but I can't help but feel it would work better with Glen Johnson in Jordan Henderson's spot, both him and Enrique on the flanks could cause some havoc. That's not to say I haven't been happy with Henderson either.

Just before the half hour mark Liverpool had put themselves on the score sheet. A corner from Steven Gerrard found its way to Daniel Sturridge who literally flung himself at the ball, with no appeals from the Sunderland players and nothing from the linesman or referee it appeared there was nothing wrong with the goal but a closer look at replays and a very honest post match interview from Sturridge later revealed that it did make contact with his arm. Perhaps Sunderland were unlucky here and maybe if you're being very optimistic, they could have still been in the game but at this stage Liverpool had really begun to apply the pressure and also, it's quite key that none of the Sunderland players appealed, they obviously didn't feel anything was wrong with the goal. Sometimes you just get the decision I suppose.

With Liverpool now ahead, the lads began to relax a bit more. All eyes were now on Luis Suarez who was making his first appearance in the Premier League since his now infamous 10 match ban. Just five minutes after the Sturridge goal, it was himself who was setting up our Uruguayan magician.

A quick move from Sturridge allowed him to play a ball straight across goal to Luis Suarez who easily slid home Liverpool's second goal of the day. His celebration saw him reveal a shirt in honour of his new born child and then he was nearly slide tackled to death by a clumsy Steven Gerrard...

For the remainder of the first half Liverpool dealt well with any resulting Sunderland attacks and also made sure their goalkeeper was kept alert. One thing I've began to notice especially after watching Sunday's game is that Sakho isn't necessarily neat and tidy with his defensive play but he seems to get the job done and at the moment that's fine with me!

Early in the second half Sunderland managed to capitalise on a bright spell similar to their first half start. The Italian Emanuele Giaccherini put his side back into the game. An original long distance effort from Ki for Sunderland was parried away by Simon Mignolet but Giaccherini was ready to pounce and with his left foot sent the ball into the back of the net for the home side.

Very shortly after Sunderland's goal, they once again called Simon Mignolet into action, thankfully the Belgian made a fantastic save to deny Gardener and Liverpool remained in contention for all three points. It was definitely beginning to feel like the Reds would need a third goal though to really secure this result.

At 75 minutes Liverpool introduced Raheem Sterling into the game, he replaced the on loan Victor Moses. Shortly after this, Lucas Leiva was the talking point after he picked up his 5th yellow card of the season already, meaning he will miss the game against Crystal Palace.

With 15 minutes left to go, this match still looked like it could go either way, Sunderland were making breaks and threatening to level the game up but Liverpool were also determined not to falter again in the league. They had a chance to put themselves second after some hilarious results for Manchester this weekend and there wasn't a cat in hell's chance that the Reds were going to give this one up!

At 88 minutes, who other but Luis Suarez ensured that victory was for Liverpool. Another assist from the brilliant Daniel Sturridge allowed Suarez to once again easily slip the ball into the back of the net and secure the Reds' three points.

It was a fantastic performance from the nicknamed SAS and although Liverpool had to weather some storms in the game I think they showed character to see this game out and thank god they didn't slip up! Brendan Rodgers has his side in 2nd place with Crystal Palace at home next, a set up any manager would be jealous of!

(P.s. there are no tweets in today's post because I didn't receive a brilliant response as I wasn't able to request tweets on the match as often due to being at Uni all day. If you want your tweets featured in a match preview or report, keep your eyes peeled on @_TheLiverBird's twitter feed for requests for score predictions and thoughts on the game!)

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Saturday, 28 September 2013

Reds Need To Get Back On Track


Liverpool travel to Sunderland on Sunday with their tails slightly between their legs. An undeserved loss against United in the league cup has knocked their confidence but the poor performance against Southampton is what has most fans worrying. Luckily for the Reds Suarez is well and truly back and he will no doubt boost the side's overall display.

There are no new injury worries for Liverpool and Daniel Agger looks as though he may be able to start if Rodgers decides to field him. For Sunderland I have conflicting information, some websites are saying Fletcher is their only player out whereas physio room says also out are ex red man Dossena, Bardsley and Brown. It also says they have doubts hanging over the fitness of Celustka and John O'Shea. Make of that what you will but Steven Fletcher is probably the biggest loss there anyway.

Along with their injury woes, Sunderland also find themselves stone dead last in the Premier League table with just one point collected under manager Di Canio who has since left the building. I must admit I was annoyed of two parts about Di Canio's departure, one because he's absolutely mental and adds entertainment to the league and two because I figured we'd be destined to get all three points with him still in charge. But strangely now he's left I think a managerless Sunderland pose a bit of an unknown threat.

The last time the two sides met was in January of this year. At Anfield, Liverpool came away winners with Raheem Sterling on the score sheet and Luis Suarez scoring twice. The last time the sides met at the Stadium Of Light Luis Suarez was again on the score sheet levelling the game up after Steven Fletcher scored in the first half.

Sunderland's last three games in the league have ended in a loss whilst Liverpool have a win a draw and a loss. Sunderland though did manage to get their only point of the season so far against Southampton, which is more than Liverpool can say...

This time, thankfully we have a stat sandwich! I'm sure you missed it... haha

Stat Sandwich

  • Liverpool have failed to find the back of the net in a second half so far this season.
  • Sunderland are the only Premier League team without a win thus far.
  • Liverpool's Simon Mignolet has made the most saves in the league so far - 25.

So I asked you on Twitter (@_TheLiverBird) to send me in your predictions for this game and here are two of the replies that I received:


I must admit I have to agree on the Suarez front, I think he'll find his first goal after his ban on Sunday and I also think the Reds will get things back on track with another clean sheet, my prediction is 1-0 to Liverpool.

Enjoy the match folks!

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Thursday, 26 September 2013

The Return Of Suarez Ends With Defeat


For once, I'm not being bias here and I think neutrals and even United fans will agree that David Moyes' side did not deserve to win that game last night. Liverpool after the first ten minutes of the game had complete control, pressure was constant and by half time they looked most likely to walk away with the win. Some poor defending immediately in the second half though allowed Hernandez to score for the home side. Liverpool continued to show promise and applied pressure throughout the second half but that final pass or final ball was still missing and Liverpool were knocked out of the league cup.

Brendan Rodgers had set up his Liverpool side in a 3-5-2 formation, a commendable move I feel as it's not often you see that formation for an away side at Old Trafford. Of course his hand was forced slightly by injuries but I feel it worked well. Moyes on the other hand had made eight changes from the side that fell to a 4-1 defeat against Manchester City.

For the first ten minutes or so of the game Manchester United were allowed to keep possession and also had a few half chances, at first it looked as though United would get the better half but that quickly changed as Liverpool began to get a foothold.

Liverpool played very well in the first 45 minutes, they were punishing United especially by utilising the five in midfield. United as many have said were known for their width under Alex Ferguson but that appeared to be missing last night, Kagawa particularly appeared to struggle with instructions and left far too much space on several occasions making United look very slender in midfield. Also causing problems for United was the return of Luis Suarez. He did look a bit rusty on occasions but that is to be expected, on the whole though some of that spark we have been missing was definitely on display and despite being booed almost constantly the Uruguayan did not look bothered at all.

Unfortunately for Liverpool Suarez's link up play with Daniel Sturridge wasn't quite on song. I found on several occasions that they were both passing when they should have been shooting and shooting when they should have been passing which was mega frustrating! A moment late on in the game too also caught my eye, Daniel Sturridge broke into the box and he had Moses and somebody else encroaching the line (can't remember who it was but there was definitely another body) for me all Sturridge had to do was play the ball across goal but instead he looked for Suarez who was further back and being closed down, United regained possession. Now I'm not getting on at Sturridge here but I feel this we be a recurring problem, Sturridge and Suarez will be looking for each other, even when that isn't necessarily the best option and this can be detrimental, especially when you're currently behind in a game.

Anyway...

After a great first half minus a goal, Liverpool looked to come out and pick up where they left off in the second half. They barely got chance to settle in though...

Just 40 seconds into the second half, Manchester United had a corner. Taken by Wayne Rooney the ball found its way to Hernandez who was left completely by Jose Enrique. It was poor defending from Liverpool who had done so well throughout the game and for the travelling fans it added yet more annoyance after the Reds conceded from another set piece.

Liverpool had failed to score in the second half of a game so far this season but the Reds still looked as though they could change that stat in this game against United. Moyes' boys were luckily to be in the lead and they certainly didn't deserve it in my opinion. United fans can boast all they want today but I'd be very worried by watching the performance from last night, yes of course the result is the main thing that counts but playing like that all season won't be good for you.

The Reds continued to apply pressure and created their best chances in the second half. A header from Victor Moses was saved by David De Gea but you have to feel if he'd of put it either side of the goalkeeper the Reds would have equalised. Luis Suarez also had fans with their hearts in their mouths after a free kick rattled off the cross bar.

Despite all their efforts it just wasn't to be for Liverpool, they'd been defeated after a lapse in defence which makes the result even more disappointing. The only positive is that United were by far the least impressive, we've done them over in the league and if we play the way we did last night against them at Old Trafford later in the season, I reckon we'll be doing them over again. I think that will just about be ok after them knocking us out of this year's league cup.

I'm attempting to set up a new feature on the blog where I add in some of your comments on the game from Twitter or Facebook, here are a couple of the ones I received after last night's game...


Next up for the Reds is Sunderland.

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Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Can Liverpool Get The Better Of United Again?

The Reds make the short trip to Manchester on Wednesday evening to face David Moyes' side in the third round of the league cup. Liverpool may have received a knock in the league after losing to Southampton at the weekend but Brendan Rodgers doesn't need to remind his side of their performance and win against United earlier in the month at Anfield.


Long term injuries for Liverpool mean once again they are without Glen Johnson, Sebastian Coates, Aly Cissokho and Philippe Coutinho. Daniel Agger also has a doubt hanging over him after a rib cage injury. The real positive news for Liverpool though is the return of Luis Suarez. Rodgers has been quoted this week on Suarez, saying "He'll travel and we'll reflect over the next 24 hours whether he starts". To be honest I think you'd have to be mental not to start him, I understand that the boss doesn't want to make it seem like Suarez can just walk back in whenever he likes but let's face it, with or without injuries, Liverpool need Luis Suarez in their starting line up, more on him later.

For Manchester United they have long term absentee Darren Fletcher and also have doubts hanging over Rafael, Jones and Robin van Persie. It would aid Liverpool massively if van Persie was unable to start but a decision is yet to be made on that front by David Moyes, as I write this though it is believed that he will be able to start.

Liverpool's current form reads 3 wins, 1 draw and 1 loss in the league. United's on the other hand is very un-United-like. They have notched up two wins in their last 5, a draw with Chelsea and two losses, one at the hands of us and one battering at the hands of Manchester City.

If you saw the City game you'd have seen the poor performance that United laid on. It was a very similar display to their 90 minutes at Anfield except City weren't content with just the one goal. For me, Liverpool can take United on Wednesday night, the Reds are looking to put the Southampton loss behind them and if Suarez starts, he needs no incentive to get himself on the score sheet.

I mentioned Suarez earlier and just thought I should put across my views on the whole debacle. Yes, he was an absolute arse over the summer, some of the things that he said were hard to take but if there's one thing I know about Luis Suarez, he loves football. He doesn't care if everybody hates him, loves him or can't decide, he will still give 110% on the pitch just for his own pleasure. As a Liverpool fan this is wonderful because despite the whole will he/won't he stay, we know that however long he is here he'll still knuckle down and score goals, I can live with that, as long as he keeps his mouth shut for a while too!

The last time the two sides met, I'm sure I don't need to remind you of, however some people may have forgotten when the last time the teams met in the league cup was...

Well it was the final in 2003 when Michael Owen and Steven Gerrard scored to win Liverpool the silverware. In terms of the Reds at Old Trafford though, we haven't won there since that famous 4-1 rout in 2009.

Usually I'd give you a stat sandwich here but once again I appear to have beaten the sites I get my stats from for a match preview which seems to happen a lot midweek, so my apologies.

Instead here's a couple of bets that might take your fancy:

Luis Suarez is at 6/1 to be first goalscorer tomorrow night with most bookmakers. According to some of the tweets I have received this morning he seems like a favourite!



Daniel Sturridge is also at a very appealing 8/1 with William Hill for first goal scorer. And if you fancy a repeat of that scoreline in 2009 you can get Liverpool and 4-1 at 100/1 with William Hill.

I think Liverpool can definitely win this match tomorrow. Our slip up against Southampton may have been unpleasant to watch but at least we know why, the 4 centre backs, missing Coutinho etc. This time out you would think Rodgers will set up more appropriately and surely Suarez will be back. United on the other hand have slipped up massively against their rivals, with Moyes looking bemused as to what happened, all they have to hope for is that the sheer rivalry will spur them on is this match, the Reds on the other hand need to kick the devils whilst they are down!

Enjoy the match folks and keep tweeting @_TheLiverBird with your predictions! I'm well excited for this one!
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Sunday, 22 September 2013

Rodgers' "Subdued" Liverpool Lose To Impressive Saints

It was a match Liverpool fans will want to forget on Saturday afternoon as the Reds fell to a Southampton side that very much deserved their 1-0 win. Brendan Rodgers bizarrely made the decision to start four centre backs but despite this Liverpool still managed to concede from a set piece. It was a poor performance all round from Liverpool and many disagreed with the starting line up.

Gerrard looking miffed...
Image: sportinglife.com
Interestingly the last team to beat Liverpool before they went on their run was the Saints and Pochettino certainly set his side up to apply real pressure on the Reds. Southampton worked very well as a unit and on too many occasions were allowed through in to dangerous positions by Liverpool.

Liverpool looked very uninspired from the off and had a very disappointing first half performance. Without the likes of Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique it was clear the Reds had drastically decreased their supply line. There's often many a fan on line who will criticise the likes of Johnson and Enrique to the hilt when they are playing but it was very interesting to see how many were calling for them back yesterday. Especially the likes of Glen Johnson who was sorely missed. With Sakho and Toure acting as full backs there was no real movement forward at all, this also created another problem that concerned Simon Mignolet.

The amount of times in yesterday's game that Mignolet was fed a pass back under serious pressure was ridiculous. Mignolet came under criticism also for his poor distribution but I feel that he wasn't the one to blame, if Johnson and Enrique were in that starting XI, the ball would have been brought forward and into play, not constantly given back to the goalkeeper because essentially Toure and Sakho didn't know what to do for the best. For me, without Mignolet our scoreline could have been a lot more detrimental and his three saves in a row alone more than made up for his perhaps shoddy distributing display. The stats show that Mignolet made 34 passes against Southampton, only finding a player on 17 occasions.

In the first half Liverpool had no real highlight aside from a Steven Gerrard free kick just after 20 minutes that was parried away by Boruc. The most important moment for Liverpool of the whole game also came in the first half after Daniel Sturridge was challenged in the box by Southampton's would be goalscorer Lovren.

It was a penalty I thought and many seemed to agree, yes it may have changed the game but I hate relying on these sort of decisions and the fact is, if Liverpool continued to play as they were even after converting a penalty, Southampton would have found the back of the net, I don't feel we had enough in our game to really take all 3 points, maybe if we had the peno we could have seen out a draw but this is all guess work anyway. Fact is we weren't given the decision and we still had plenty of time with the game at 0-0 to do something about it.

But we didn't.

The second half saw Iago Aspas replaced with Raheem Sterling. Aspas was rather ineffective and to be honest I think Raheem Sterling deserved to start this game, he may have been a bit wasteful with his introduction but Sterling was involved in some of the most promising moments of the game for the Reds and these moments were few and far between.

Another player that was sorely missed for the Reds yesterday was Phillipe Coutinho, post match he ended up being the top trending topic on Twitter in the UK which says it all really. Liverpool desperately missed his creativity and with no full backs either there was literally nothing coming down the flanks. Thank god Suarez returns on Wednesday!

Southampton continued to pressure Liverpool in the second half and their chance came not long before the hour mark via the Bosnian born Dejan Lovren. Lovren rose well to beat a desperate looking Daniel Agger and head the ball home. Liverpool looked dumbstruck and so they should have, it wasn't like the hadn't received the warning signs and now Southampton were very much in control of the game.

Enrique was brought onto the field after the Southampton goal replacing Daniel Agger but it was probably too little to late from a now disgruntled Rodgers.

Daniel Sturridge for Liverpool had the hopes of Anfield on his shoulders but even he couldn't find the back of the net on Saturday. The Reds only had 5 shots in the game 4 of which came from outside the area and it was clear that we weren't going to score like that. A late run from Raheem Sterling towards the box created hope for Liverpool fans but the youngster's first touch was poor and that was that for Liverpool.

A lot of people who are much more intelligent than me predicted that this could be a banana skin for Liverpool, perhaps the pessimist was getting the better of them but they were bang on. I was very positive in the match preview stating that I could only see Southampton taking something from the game if they scored first and shut up shop, half of that may have been right but full credit to the Saints they had no intentions of playing it safe at Anfield and were very deserving of all 3 points.

For Liverpool it's not quite all doom and gloom yet, obviously this result isn't an acceptable one, especially after the way we played but the Reds are still on 10 points and are well and truly stuck in the action, with Man City to play United later today too it may not end all to bad this weekend for the Reds. They also face Sunderland next in the league who are on a sinking ship with captain Di Canio at the moment so here's hoping Liverpool can return to winning ways sooner rather than later.

First up though the Reds have the small matter of Manchester United in the league cup on Wednesday. Stay tuned to The Liver Bird for a match preview on Tuesday afternoon!

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Friday, 20 September 2013

How To Vote For The Liver Bird In @TheFBAs

So, it's that time of year again; The Football Blogging Awards!

Most of you will know that last year through your immense support The Liver Bird won best #Female blog at the inagural event, you can read the story of that night here.


This year the awards are bigger and better and there are some cracking blogs in the #Female category entering the race! Please take a look at the Football Blogging Awards website to read some guest posts from all the blogs in each category.

As you can probably tell, The Liver Bird needs all the help it can get and I would really appreciate your votes, shares, retweets whatever, it all helps and I sincerly appreciate it!

I write The Liver Bird alone and I have supplied match previews, match reports and features since September 2009 missing only one match preview and one match report over this period. So if you like The Liver Bird and appreciate my efforts please take two seconds to do one of the following:

HOW TO VOTE!

TWITTER

Simply tweet: "I am voting in @TheFBAs for @_TheLiverBird as best #Female football blog."

Alternatively you can follow this link and select the #Female shirt on the Football Blogging Awards website.

FACEBOOK

To vote on Facebook follow the link below and simply enter "The Liver Bird" in the #Female category box


You can also vote via Campo's Facebook page via the link below, once again simply enter "The Liver Bird" in the #Female category box


Follow @CampoRetro on Twitter, History rewritten, retro reinvented.

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If you have a Liverpool blog up for an award in The FBAs please tweet me @_TheLiverBird and let me know so I can give you a retweet! All votes for The Liver Bird via Twitter will also receive a shoutout.

Once again, thank you, your support is much appreciated!

Vote Red, Vote The Liver Bird!

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No Coutinho For Southampton Clash

Liverpool welcome Southampton to Anfield on Saturday as the Reds look to continue their almost perfect start to the Premier League season. The 2-2 draw with Swansea on Monday night has been judged as a failure by some Liverpool fans but with Brendan's side still perched nicely at the top of the league, Liverpool still have destiny in their own hands at this early stage of the season.
Agger could be back in defence on Saturday...
Image: telegraph.co.uk
Injuries for Liverpool have been troublesome this week after Philippe Coutinho had to undergo shoulder surgery, he won't be back in the squad until late October. Also still out long term are Glen Johnson, Sebastian Coates and Aly Cissokho. Daniel Agger on the other hand is expected to be available after that "freak gym accident" and of course Luis Suarez is anxiously awaiting his return which will come against Manchester United in the League Cup midweek.

Southampton on the other hand are in relatively good shape with just two players having doubts hanging over them; Luke Shaw and Danny Fox.

The last time the two sides met was in March this year. The injured Coutinho was on the score sheet that day but Liverpool fans will remember the game for the embarrassing defeat. Southampton found the back of the net on three occasions and the Reds were very disappointing to watch that day.

The last meeting at Anfield was in December last year, this time Liverpool took all three points with a single goal from Daniel Agger. Historically Liverpool have done pretty well at home against Southampton however the Saints notched up a win at Anfield in 2003.

The Reds recent form reads three wins and a draw in the league whilst the 11th placed Southampton have recorded an inconsistent WDLD. Southampton have also failed to score more than once in a league game so far this season. The Reds however have only scored more than once on one occasion in the league themselves. Despite Southampton sometimes offering some danger particularly via Lambert, you have to feel Liverpool will take all 3 points here with relative ease, at least, they should do!

Stat Sandwich

  • If Liverpool win it will be their 400th win in the Premier League.
  • Southampton have won only 1 of their last 10 Premier League games.
  • All of Liverpool's goals in the league so far this season have come before half time.

Liverpool can't hide from the fact that they will miss the creativity of Coutinho on Saturday. He may not take many chances at goal but the space and movement he creates will be sorely missed most notably perhaps by Daniel Sturridge. The forward is in immense form but even a talented striker needs a plentiful supply, despite this I still would pop a quid on Daniel Sturridge to find the back of the net once again on Saturday, I don't see his run ending any time soon.

For Southampton I think their best chance of taking something from Anfield is probably to try and find an early goal and then shut up shop. Watching the Reds so far this season one thing the opposition must have noticed is not only Liverpool's improvement with the ball but the fact that the Reds have become a lot better without possession. Taking the Manchester United game as an example, Liverpool made it extremely difficult for United to pass the ball, there was pressure from all angles and this was very positive to see.

My prediction for Saturday's game is going to be a 2-0 Liverpool win. Let me know your score predictions by tweeting @_TheLiverBird!

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Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The Shelvey Effect

It was a game ex Liverpool man Jonjo Shelvey would probably rather forget and during his post match interview it did look like he was trying his best to block out the previous 90 minutes because after a dream start for the midfielder, things quickly took a turn for the worse. Jonjo opened the scoring for Swansea after a miss kick eventually led him to an opportunity to find the back of the net. Shortly after though he gifted Daniel Sturridge an equaliser and that wasn't even the end of the story.

Shelvey evades Jordan Henderson...
Image: skysports.com
Liverpool had made some changes to their starting line up, namely the addition of new signing Sakho who replaced Daniel Agger. Agger apparently was injured in a "freak gym accident"... that's a new one.  Victor Moses also made his debut for the Reds.

Anyone who looked at this match thinking it was going to be easy was mistaken from the onset in my opinion but I don't think anybody could have predicted the way the game opened.

In the second minute of the game Jonjo Shelvey attempted a long range shot but fluffed it. The ball remained at his feet though and after finding his way into the box his second attempt at goal was met by a block from Martin Skrtel, with the danger not fully cleared Jonjo had one last swipe and with a lovely finish put the ball past Mignolet to give his new side the lead.

Jonjo made a point not to celebrate in front of his old fans but he'd soon be showing a different emotion anyway just over a minute later. With Swansea in possession it looked like a routine forward pass was coming from Shelvey but as he began to turn his body back to goal an ever aware Daniel Sturridge had already made a move to intercept the pass he knew was coming.

Shelvey's pass back to goal was far too risky and with a first time left footed finish Daniel Sturridge made it 4 in 4 and put Liverpool immediately back into the game. Shelvey on the other hand looked absolutely gutted.

With Liverpool finding an equaliser so quickly Swansea definitely had the wind taken out of their sails, they had no chance to capitalise on a somewhat fortunate lead and so the Reds had the upper hand. For the first 45 minutes Liverpool's control on the game really showed, Swansea barely troubled Simon Mignolet and the Reds were dominating possession.

Coutinho's famous footwork was causing problems for Swansea and an impressive start to Victor Moses's Liverpool career meant the Welsh side had a lot to deal with. At 35 minutes Liverpool converted their pressure into a lead and who gave away possession again? You've guessed it, Jonjo Shelvey. A diagonal pass was never going to find its way to a team mate and Victor Moses jumped at the chance to steal the ball, a run that lead him all the way to the edge of the D was finished with a powerful shot entering the bottom left of goal. I must admit I was over the moon with Moses, I wasn't necessarily one of the fans who was mega excited at his signing but I was very intrigued and he's certainly done a lot to impress me in his first game. We have definitely needed a proper winger for a long while now and maybe Victor can finally fill that gap.

By half time Liverpool looked destined to seal a victory, goals were still within their grasp and Swansea looked flattened but it is often amazing what the half time break can do. Swansea came out revitalised, determined not to give up and the pressure would soon switch from a Red origin to a White one.

Swansea also made a sub at half time replacing Nathan Dyer with Jonathan de Guzman.

After 10 minutes of the second half Liverpool were also making a substitution, an injured Coutinho was replaced with Iago Aspas. Unfortunately for Aspas he had a pretty dire game, I hate jumping on a new signing's backs and obviously all hope is not lost just yet but he didn't really add anything to our game and lost possession on several occasions. This is quite worrying considering the role he plays but hopefully he can adjust, learn and improve after all this is only one match.

Shortly after the substitution there was an incident on the field between Shelvey and Lucas. It was essentially handbags but it wasn't nice to see ex team mates pushing and shoving each other over nothing, both got booked for their troubles too so it was hardly worth it!

Whilst Liverpool continued to try and regain a foothold on this game Swansea were becoming ever more confident. Some of their key players like Michu had been quiet in the first half but now they were coming to light. Michu was back to his old self just after the hour mark when after being set up by... YES Jonjo Shelvey, he converted to put his side right back in the game.

By now, Liverpool looked as though they were trying to hold on for the draw. Kolo Toure replaced Andre Wisdom with 20 minutes to go and the Reds looked reluctant to break. A lot of criticism was given to the defence on Twitter last night but I think they dealt effectively with the Swansea pressure especially late on in the game, it may not have been a textbook response but it worked and they successfully prevented Swansea from finding a winner.

Raheem Sterling added some late excitement for the Reds as he definitely wanted to help Liverpool find a late winner. A free kick from Steven Gerrard gave Liverpool some sort of chance but in his 400th appearance as captain Stevie took the chance himself and sent his effort over. As the game wound down it was Swansea that were still pushing but thankfully for Liverpool the game ended 2-2 and the Reds were back on top of the league.

This match is a difficult one to analyse really because of the nature of how it started. Swansea are not an easy team to beat at home and so some would say a draw is a good result anyway, I'm certainly happy with the draw although it would have been nice to collect 3 points of course. The other thing to note is that Liverpool could have come off a lot worse in this game, the early gifted equaliser for us as I said in the post seemed to take the bite away from Swansea, if we hadn't of found a goal so quickly I think Swansea would have pushed hard and perhaps even have found a second before half time but then this is all guess work isn't it?

The point is, it's a decent result, we still haven't lost and we're still top of the league with Southampton at home next. I get the frustation from some fans about particularly the second half performance but I don't understand when people act like it's the end of the world because quite frankly it's not.

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Sunday, 15 September 2013

Reds Look To Keep Momentum After International Break

Hooray! I hear you all cry, the international break has finally ended, I don't know about you but I bloody hate international breaks! Anyway, we're here and we're back, ready to face Swansea with the incentive of putting ourselves back at the top of the table. If the Reds win they will be 3 points clear of the chasing pack.

Rodgers looks to impress again at his old club...
Image: telegraph.co.uk
Injuries for Liverpool mean there are a few doubts hanging over key players. Daniel Sturridge for example is presumed to be ok for tomorrow night's game but it would still be a quick return for the in form forward. Kolo Toure is also apparently available to start. Joe Allen is also a doubt whilst Glen Johnson, Aly Cissokho and Sebastian Coates are all out long term. Luis Suarez is also still serving his ban.

For Swansea they are without Taylor who isn't expected back until early October and they also have doubts hanging over Dyer and Tate. Jonjo Shelvey who of course is an ex Liverpool man also had to quickly regain fitness but it is widely agreed that he will start tomorrow to line up against his old mentor Steven Gerrard.

The last time the two sides met was in February this year. Brendan Rodgers led Liverpool to an emphatic win over his old team with the Reds finding the back of the net of 5 occasions, twice from the penalty spot. The last time Liverpool were at the Liberty the game ended in a 0-0 draw.

Liverpool are boasting a perfect record in the Premier League so far and they also haven't conceded. Swansea on the other hand have lost 2 of their 3 opening matches but the games they lost were against Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur. Swansea are currently placed 18th in the league but could drastically move up the table if they manage to pull off a win on Monday night.

In this section of the post I would usually supply you with a tasty stat sandwich but unfortunately I appear to have beaten the stats folk today and so I don't have a sandwich for you! Those bloody stats folk need to get a jog on next time!

Looking at Liverpool's start to the season it is very easy to assume that the Reds should pick up three points here but I don't think that's the case. Swansea are a very good side and even more so at home. I think tomorrow is the sort of game that could grind Liverpool to a very annoying halt, however if Daniel Sturridge starts as it appears he will do, you would hope that he will be able to put Liverpool into the lead, from a leading position I think Liverpool can have this game in the bag however if Swansea find the net first I think Liverpool may struggle to break Swansea down.

Enjoy the match folks! And don't forget to follow @_TheLiverBird on Twitter!

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Monday, 9 September 2013

Past Players: Volume 7 - Steve McManaman

Steve McManaman is one of the Liverpool players that were around in the era that I began learning everything about Liverpool Football Club. Most people will know now that the reason I ended up supporting Liverpool was down to a brother who was obsessed with them at the time. Despite being only 10 when McManaman left I remember watching several games with my brother praising his every move but it appears that many younger fans these days and neutrals alike have no idea how good McManaman actually was, he separates opinion when it comes to his personality but he truly had a gift on the field.

Image: goal.com
The Basics

Full Name: Steven McManaman
Date Of Birth: 11th February 1972
Born in: Kirkdale, Liverpool
Height: 6ft
Position: Attacking Midfielder

Personal Life

Before signing his first contract with Liverpool McManaman was a much praised cross country runner, he even beat a former Olympian at one stage on the circuit. 

Many people often forget that Steve lost his mother during his last season at Liverpool, she lost her battle with breast cancer after being bed ridden for over 2 years. I always think it is important to bring these posts back to a personal level sometimes people forget that a football player at the end of the day no matter how much money they are on, is human. The closing stages of his time at Liverpool were not always the most supportive for Steve and I think considering how long he had been at the club and some of the things he was subjected to, he reacted with dignity.

In 2002 McManman married his girlfriend Victoria Edwards. The couple have three children Ella, Lara and Lucas. The family have three homes in Cheshire, London and the bay of Palma.

It is also well known that McManaman and Robbie Fowler have a company; The Macca And Growler Partnership that invests in racehorses. McManaman's interest in the animals perhaps stemming from a grandfather who was a bookmaker. 

Steve is also apparently a distant relative of the Wigan player Callum McManaman according the The FA.

Liverpool Youth

Like so many Liverpool greats, unfortunately Steve McManaman grew up as an Everton supporter. When it came to choosing where to start his footballing career though his Dad helped Steve make the decision and a schoolboy contract with Liverpool was selected. McManaman impressed quickly in his early days and it wasn't long until Kenny Dalglish called him up to the first team in 1990.

Liverpool FC

McManaman made a total of 272 appearances for Liverpool scoring 46 times.

McManaman made his first Liverpool debut coming on as a sub against Sheffield United at Anfield. McManaman had to settle for a few more appearances as a sub before he finally got to feature in Liverpool's starting XI. This privilege came against Oldham Athletic under new manager Graeme Souness in 1991. McManaman's first goal for Liverpool came against a team he would later player for; Manchester City. His diving header wasn't enough to find Liverpool a win though as the Reds lost that game 2-1.

In Steve's first full season for the Reds he played a total of 51 times and found the back of the net on 10 occasions. The highlight of his inaugural season though was perhaps the FA Cup win in which he assisted the second goal, Liverpool beat Sunderland 2-0 and McManaman was awarded man of the match.

Steve McManaman at Liverpool was one of the most exciting, if not the most exciting of his era. He was a truly talented, English winger, he was never afraid to break through a defence and seemed to thrive on the challenge. He was pacey but most importantly he had amazing stamina, he never stopped and never gave up. For the people quick to criticise Steve, he was often questioned about his crossing and goalscoring. This particularly reached a height during an extreme dry spell when McManaman failed to find the back of the net in 363 days. It was during this period that the infamous bust up between himself and Grobbelaar occurred.

When Roy Evans took the managerial hotspot in 1994, he was determined to get the focus back on McManaman and try to support him anyway he could, it was Evans' decision to field the winger in a less constricted position and this seemed to appeal to Steve. McManaman topped off his magical season of mazy runs with a League Cup win. The 1995 final against Bolton saw Mcmanaman score both goals, one in the first half and one in the second. Bolton found a consolation goal but the Reds picked up the trophy with McManaman collecting another man of the match award for a final. This clash is often nicknamed "The McManaman Final" I distinctly remember by brother referring to it as that when I got older, I was only 6 for this final, bless!

McManaman only grew stronger in his new free role under Roy Evans and this is when the world really began to sit up an notice what a star he really was. Several big names jumped to praise Steve in his time at Liverpool. Ian Rush once described McManaman as "the most promising young player at Liverpool" and Kevin Keegan once said "there are few finer sights in world football than the sight of Steve McManaman running down the length of the pitch."

McManaman had proved that he was one of the best midfielders around, he could switch from wing to wing with ease and also proved very useful sitting behind the forwards. He was always a very passionate player and strived to get his side going when the gods were against them. It was no secret that McManaman had become such a force in a Red shirt that the opposition would now almost always deploy somebody to mark him throughout the 90 minutes,  Bryan Robson once said "If you stop McManaman, you stop Liverpool." the thing was though, you couldn't stop him.

The next big final for McManaman and Liverpool was the 1996 FA Cup final. Unfortunately it wasn't a man of the match award that encouraged people to remember McManaman for this final, it was that horrid white suit...

The Spice Boys as they were dubbed turned up to this final all in white, this came at a time when the likes of McManaman and his partner in crime Robbie Fowler were being criticised for their flamboyant lifestyles outside of football. Some may say they were just doing what any normal lads their age would do, others would describe it as being very disruptive to the team as a whole, either way the press were loving all of the commotion at Liverpool.

In the 1997/1998 season McManaman scored 12 times. His most remembered though was a goal against Celtic in another UEFA Cup run for Liverpool. It's not brilliant quality but the video below really gives you a sense of how good McManaman was.

In the summer of 1997 Liverpool were facing the prospect of losing McManaman despite Steve himself saying he was quite happy where he was to begin with. Barcelona came in with a bid but that ended in disaster when nobody met McManaman in Spain and Barca appeared to have snubbed him for Rivaldo. An offer from Juventus later in the year was then rejected by Liverpool. 1998 saw McManaman named as captain but with facts emerging that Liverpool were unable to match the sort of wages McManaman would get if he left on a free, debates began to ignite. Some people agreed that McManaman deserved to play in the best sides in the world and at this point Liverpool weren't playing to their best. Others took the opinion that he was just being greedy either way eventually Steve admitted he wanted to play abroad.

Real Madrid

In January 1999 Steve McManaman passed his medical for Real Madrid. He became the highest paid English footballer at that point but did not pose in a Real shirt as most signings do, saying that he didn't want to out of respect for his former club. This of course was a "pre contract" and McManaman still had months left at Anfield under Houllier.

The last few months at Liverpool weren't brilliant for McManaman, he was out of favour now really as Houllier began to strengthen his team, making sure they could cope without the departing McManaman. The result meant that Steve came on as a sub quite often, he also suffered some injuries and had to deal with some sections of the Liverpool fan base calling him a traitor. In fairness, McManaman took his criticisms on the chin. Despite all the ups and downs McManaman notched up an assist in his last game for the club and at the final whistle he did receive a standing ovation.

Real Madrid being the money splashers that they are weren't as interested in Steve McManaman originally as everybody thought, he soon changed their opinions though. McManaman made his debut for Madrid in August 1999 against Mallorca. He scored his first goal in Real Madrid's next fixture against Numancia.

Despite a promising start the FIFA Club World Championships saw a stain created on McManaman's Spanish career he missed a chance to score the winner and then missed a penalty that would have given Madrid 3rd place. It may have been a new competition but fans don't forget that sort of thing. The following season though McManaman and his team mates put in another Champions League run making it to the final. McManaman had been brilliant throughout this season and he stamped his authority in Spain when he scored a spectacular goal in the final against Valencia, helping his side to a 3-0 win and another Champions League trophy. This final also made McManaman the first ever English player to win the Champions League with a foreign team.

The next season for McManaman at Real Madrid really was a mental one. When Madrid brought in a new president it was clear that key players were going to be sold in order to reduce the debt hanging over the club. Big names like Anelka and Redondo were told along with Steve that they would be moving on. McManaman though knew he had a watertight contract and was adamant he would not be going. Bids and interest from clubs like Fiorentina, Manchester United and Chelsea did not interest Steve one bit and even when manager Del Bosque made it clear he wouldn't play many games at all this season McManaman still refused to budge. Starting the season with no designated squad number it really was a bizarre situation at Real Madrid. With a joke of a scenario going on at their club the fans responded quickly, a poll saw that 90% of the fan base wanted McManaman to stay, whether this had a bearing on key staff at the club who knows but in September of that season Del Bosque brought McManaman on as a sub against Malaga. Slowly but surely McManaman proved he deserved his place and he began to feature regularly. That season Real Madrid won the league and managed to reach the semi finals of the Champions League.

As time went on at Real Madrid for McManaman, offers were still coming in and he was still refusing to leave, his time on the pitch was decreasing but players like Figo and Ronaldo were quick to praise Steve's loyalty and fight in interviews. In 2002 McManaman even further cemented his passion and desire to do well both for and with the club when he scored against Barcelona in the first leg of a Champions League semi final. Real made it to the final in Glasgow where McManaman came on to replace Figo, the game ended 2-1 and Steve had collected his 2nd Champions League winners medal.

In McManaman's final season at Madrid he only started 9 games. Perhaps the most memorable game for English fans saw him feature in a 4-3 loss at Old Trafford in the Champions League. McManaman won another La Liga with Madrid in his final season but with the arrival of David Beckham, the writing was definitely on the wall now for Steve.

A lot of people take the idea that McManaman simply stayed at Real Madrid for the massive benefits applied to his contract. Of course the money he was receiving would have had a bearing on his decisions but I honestly think that the main reason for his stubborness to stay was to prove people wrong. Maybe he was just a money grabber and I can totally see that viewpoint as well but I think when looking at Steve on the whole you can tell what his true character is.

McManaman made a total of 94 appearances for Real Madrid and scored 8 goals.

Manchester City

In Augsut 2003 Steve McManaman signed for Manchester City. Teaming up with the familiar face of Kevin Keegan and playing alongside the likes of Robbie Fowler and Nicolas Anelka, it looked as though Steve would settle right in. His debut came against Aston Villa on the 14th September in a match that saw City win 4-1. Unfortunately McManaman's time at Manchester City was very much one to forget, he never managed to live up to the expectations or find his old form and frustrated fans began to get very annoyed at the player. He dropped down the pecking order very quickly and when Stuart Pearce became manager in 2005 McManaman was allowed to leave on a free. McManaman made 35 appearances for City without scoring once.

England

McManaman  played 37 times for England and scored on 3 occasions. He made his debut for England in November 1994 under manager Terry Venables. McManaman like many big club performers never really managed to replicate his club form for his country. He impressed in Euro 96 for a lot of people and even drew compliments from Pele. McManaman was also named in the team of the tournament.

When Glen Hoddle took over as England boss he only gave McManaman 4 appearances. Despite some brilliant club form Steve could not seem to convince Hoddle that he deserved a place and he only appeared once in the 1998 World Cup as a sub. Things got better for McManaman when Kevin Keegan got the England job, in Euro 2000 McManaman found his first goals in his international career scoring twice against Luxembourg in a qualifier. McManaman also scored against Portugal in Euro 2000 but injured himself shortly afterwards and had to be replaced.

Under Sven Goran Eriksson McManaman made some appearances in World Cup qualifiers but was then cruely informed that he would not be in the squad. It was a frustrating time for McManaman in his international career and despite backing from Real Madrid teammates such as Zidane plus stats such as an 84% pass completion rate 15% more than any other midfield option at the time, he just couldn't get in the side and in my opinion this was very much to England's detriment.

In late 2001 McManaman played his final games for England coming on as a substitue in the match against Germany that ended 5-1 then featuring against Albania and finally feauturing as a sub in the qualifier against Greece in 2001.

Life After Football

After his 15 year career in football McManaman moved into media. He featured in the film Goal II in 2007 and was an associate producer. Steve has worked for a stack of TV channels including ITV, ESPN and Setanta. 

McManaman is also an ambassador for UEFA. You can also find him playing in a lot of charity football games and in 2009 he stated intentions of completing his coaching badges however it is unclear whether he ever followed through on this idea.

Final Thought

Whatever you think of McManaman whether you think he was just a money grabber doing whatever he could to live the dream or whether you admire his determination to prove people wrong, one thing you can never disagree on is his immense talent. 

I often find that many neutral fans have no idea how good McManaman was and often I find this is down to the fact he never really featured for England. It's a shame that a poor international career can have such an effect on one of England's best ever players in my opinion. Maybe I am bias but McManaman was just effortless, magical to watch. What I would give for the current Liverpool side to have such an effective and versatile winger, somebody with confidence who would give his all to the side.

What did you like best about Steve? Or did you never really like him at all? Tweet me your thoughts - @_TheLiverBird


Honours

Liverpool
FA Cup - 91/92
League Cup - 94/95

Real Madrid
La Liga - 00/01, 02/03
Supercopa - 01, 03
Champions League - 99/00, 01/02
UEFA Super Cup - 02
Intercontinental Cup - 02

Individual
PFA Team Of The Year - 96/97
Euro Team Of The Tournament - 96
Premier League Player Of The Month - December 97
Champions League Final Man Of The Match - 00

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Monday, 2 September 2013

Birthday Boy Scores To Mark 100 Years Of Shankly

Shankly made the people happy and I'm sure he would have been immensely proud of Daniel Sturridge on Sunday as the number 15 found the back of the net for Liverpool after flicking on a Daniel Agger header. Shankly would have been 100 years old today and whilst Sturridge remains a year behind a quarter of that tally, the forward continued to make the people happy at Anfield yesterday as his goal secured a win over David Moyes' Manchester United.
Image: dailymail.co.uk
Liverpool were the more dominant side in the first half as Manchester United struggled to deal with the pressure applied from the Reds. An early goal also aided Liverpool's progress and United at times seemed flustered messing up a lot of crosses and passes. The second half though saw United gain some control and the match ended with the devils having the majority of possession (57%). Liverpool fought hard though to ensure United could not break through with Martin Skrtel putting in a fantastic performance proving he hasn't lost it at all!

It was a mad start at Anfield for any Liverpool fan watching live yesterday, I don't know about you but I struggled to accept that we had in fact started the game very well and scored within 4 minutes, it just seemed surreal! The goal for Liverpool came going into the 4th minute when Steven Gerrard took a corner. The resulting cross met the head of Daniel Agger and his shot did look as though it was heading for goal, Sturridge either wasn't convinced or fancied stealing a goal for himself, either way it's a good job he put his head on it and converted because the replays showed that if left, Cleverly would have probably made the clearance. Sturridge was swamped by his team mates as he attempted to celebrate his birthday goal. I at this stage, sitting in a pub pretty much full of United fans had decided to complete my own rendition of the Sturridge dance! Haha!

To score so early against United is obviously a positive but it also creates a tense atmosphere because you know United will usually find an equaliser and once they've done that they find enough momentum to go and grab a winner. We've seen it happen too many times and so it was vital Liverpool kept control and essentially kept Robin Van Persie quiet.

Liverpool looked the better side in the first 45 minutes but there still wasn't that many chances being created. It didn't matter much though because United were also failing to really trouble Simon Mignolet. Whilst the imaginative footwork of Coutinho on occasions found paths throughthe United defence there was no final product. It became evident post match that Daniel Sturridge was playing through some pain and was actually quite concerned about taking shots (good job he scored with his head!) this perhaps explains though why sometimes Sturridge wasn't in the right place at the right time.

With just over 5 minutes of the first half left Manchester United had to make their first substitution after Phil Jones injured himself. Valencia took his place and did give United some more options. The end of the second half also saw tempers beginning to fray as Robin Van Persie was involved in an altercation with the Liverpool defence, Steven Gerrard soon sorted that situation out though!

The second half saw no changes from either side but the break appeared to have encouraged a faltering United side as they managed to retain more possession. Liverpool may not have been in charge of the ball but they were still constantly applying pressure to United making it as difficult as possible for them to find a way through. I was very pleased with this aspect of our game because I don't feel we looked as positive last season when we weren't in possession where as so far this season we have exactly the right attitude and set up for these situations.

Just before the hour mark Liverpool made their first substitution replacing Iago Aspas with Raheem Sterling. I must admit Aspas didn't have the best of games for me and he looked a little bit out of touch, it's still very early doors though for him. I was pleased to see Sterling enter the fray but this raised the only negative I'd spotted and that was the weakness of the bench. The addition of Sakho, Ilori and Moses will obviously help this situation and the return of Suarez but for me we still lack a little bit of edge, we don't have too many players we can bring on to really change a game.

Shortly after our sub United also made one bringing on Nani for Ashley Young. Nani has been out injured for a while (My source said he was still injured for the preview) and it was clear he'd been out of play for some time, his touch was nothing short of terrible and the United fans surrounding me in the pub were constantly moaning about his performance. It really didn't look like United were going to be able to find themselves a goal, they may have improved their performance in comparison to the first half but Liverpool were adamant that they would not break through.

Hernandez also came on for United with 20 minutes to go and he's always on the look out for a last minute goal but not even he could alter Moyes' fate of still never winning at Anfield. Liverpool made another substitution late on too after Johnson was injured, Andre Wisdom did well to keep his composure in a high tempo game. And finally Luis Alberto replaced Coutinho with 7 minutes left of full time.

In the second half United had forced Simon Mignolet into a couple of saves but nothing was getting past the man who has yet to concede in the Premier League. United also I noticed were forcing many shots from outside the area due to the struggle of making their way inside it. For me, they were never going to score from this far out and so their efforts were not rewarded. Very late on Liverpool nearly doubled their lead after a Raheem Sterling strike was tipped over the bar by David De Gea but it wasn't to be. Liverpool weren't bothered though, they had just recorded yet another win in the Premier League and over Manchester United!

I think we can all admit that the Reds were not playing to their best ability yesterday but that's the thing, if you can beat Manchester United whilst you're playing poorly that quite simply is brilliant! We'd have never of won that game yesterday if it was last season, we'd have crumbled and to see us fight on for the 90 minutes and hold another 1-0 lead, in a way it was fantastic. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'm not bothered how we go about winning at the moment, you can keep your sexy football, I'd take 1-0's all season and with Sturridge in the form that he is, with Suarez still to come back, this really is an exciting time for a Liverpool fan, of course we don't want to get too carried away but the early signs from this season prove that we CAN challenge for the Champions League.

Oh and in case you hadn't noticed... We're top of the league!

Next up for Liverpool is Swansea.

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