The Liver Bird  

Sunday, 30 August 2015

West Ham Record First Win At Anfield Since 1963

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Liverpool fell to an embarrassing defeat at Anfield on Saturday as West Ham notched up an historic win at Anfield, their first victory here since 1963. The Hammers put three past a sloppy Liverpool side who failed miserably in their defensive duties and were unable to create any real attacking threat.

West Ham took just three minutes to get off the mark at the Kop End. A relatively poor defensive header from Skrtel allowed the ball to fall into the path of Cresswell who despite being closed down by Clyne was able to assist Lanzini who fired home the first goal of the game.

The goal left the Reds somewhat shell-shocked and we didn't react positively after going 1-0 down. Attacking wise we didn't appear to pose a significant threat and Christian Benteke for me once again looked completely lost. He's wasted in Brendan's preferred formation and it's seriously beginning to do my head in. The sooner Sturridge is back, the better.

The Reds' best hope of getting back into the game came from Firmino shortly after we had conceded with a stinging effort that smashed off the post. For me though, the new Brazilian signing didn't bring enough to the game as a whole and when you have Benteke up front relying on Firmino and Coutinho for support, you know it's not going to end well if the former has a pretty average game.

West Ham gained confidence as the match grew older and they were extremely dangerous on the counter attack. The speed at which they could turn the game left Liverpool looking desperately to their defence to pull off a performance like the one at the Emirates but the reality was far from it.

Next up to make a fool of themselves was Dejan Lovren. The Croat did well to keep the ball in play initially and refused to be muscled off the it.However after taking possession to the corner instead of passing to safety or even hoofing it out the way he was easily dispossessed by the chasing Lanzini.A cross from him into the danger area allowed Mark Noble to score West Ham's second goal.

Liverpool needed to pick themselves up and fast. The game was quickly turning into a disaster for the Reds who still looked unable to find a goal to get them back into the game.

After five minutes of the second half things got worse for Brendan Rodgers after Philippe Coutinho (arguably our most influential player at present) was given his marching orders. The second yellow appeared harsh to me, Coutinho is not a malicious player and there wasn't much in the challenge at all.

Down to ten men the Reds were going to find it even more difficult to get back into this game and Rodgers' tactical decisions didn't help matters in my opinion. His second half substitution saw the Reds revert to a back three. I think it was right to take off Firmino but Moreno essentially provided a similar offer. Going to three centre backs too and leaving Dejan Lovren to contiue to play after having a right mare just didn't make sense to me. We were leaking goals so Rodgers decided to decrease the number of defenders and increase the number of players not playing in their natural position?

For me the immediate half time substitution should have seen an additional striker brought into play but the boss is stubborn and we had to wait until 60 minutes for this which in my opinion was too late. The introduction of Ings allowed for flashes of link up play between himself and Benteke but what was even more frustrating was the constant decision to take short corners.

What is the point of buying a £32.5 million forward, renowned for his aerial abilities only to take a short corner and try to walk the ball into the net? Pointless. The one time we did whip in a proper corner, Benteke rose and headed back across goal creating real danger only for Lovren to fail in his attempt.

At 77 minutes Mark Noble was given a straight red card after a challenge on Danny Ings. The whistle had already been blown after Milner had fouled Noble so his decision to take on Ings was perhaps misguided however I don't see how that challenge was worth a straight red. It was a shocking performance from the referee overall really.

To finalise a terrible performance, in extra time the Reds thought they would close with yet more terrible defending as Lovren, Moreno and Skrtel may as well have not been there. Diafra Sakho took advantage and with a left footed shot completely sealed all three points for Bilic's side.

I asked you for your thoughts on the game and here are a few of the tweets I received:

Next up for Liverpool is Manchester United away after the international break!

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Thursday, 27 August 2015

MATCH PREVIEW: Liverpool V West Ham

After picking up a well earned point at the Emirates on Monday evening Liverpool must now welcome fellow Londoners West Ham to Anfield on Saturday. It's fair to say that the Hammers have had a mixed start to life in the Premier League under Bilic, so can the Reds collect all three points?

Liverpool have a few injury woes to contend with going into the game. Long term absentees Sturridge and Flanagan are still out whilst Lallana, Henderson and Allen also join that list with no return dates.

For Bilic’s side, they also have several fitness issues. Zarate, Valencia and Carroll are out long term whilst the game may come too early for O’Brien and Sakho. Also doubtful is their young starlet Oxford who has impressed players and pundits alike recently.

The last time the two sides met was in January this year after the Reds picked up a 2-0 win at home. Sturridge and Sterling were on the scoresheet that day. West Ham have a terrible record at Anfield, they haven't won at L4 since 1963.

The Londoners have however collected a few score draws and so it would be a dangerous tactic to rule their potential threat out. Their game against Arsenal proved that they are capable of beating the big sides, if anything from their three games so far this season they have shown that they are perhaps more comfortable facing that kind of caliber.

Players like Kouyate have stepped up and created a number of issues for the opposition but you have to feel Liverpool will be prepared to deal with any manner of attack after keeping a clean sheet in their own opening three fixtures.

I must apologise as I would usually include a stat sandwich here but I've had to write my post early this week because I'm mega busy with my last week at work! So I haven't had chance to consult my numerous sources! Haha.

I personally think this could be the game where Mignolet’s perfect record comes undone, I can see them scoring but I think we'll still win the game. If I get chance to put money on it I'll be going for a 3-1.

Coutinho looked very strong against Arsenal and I'd fancy him to pop up with a goal. I'm also hoping that Firmino can begin to build up a solid partnership with his compatriot as it would be brilliant to see them both starting together regularly.

We still need to work on supporting Benteke too in my opinion however you could argue that when he was given a divine cross on Monday night he still failed to take his chance.

Whatever happens on Saturday it would be great for the Reds to collect all three points and continue to pile the pressure on those around us. Nobody has any real expectations this year and so it would be nice to sew a bit of a run together.

Enjoy the match folks, wherever you are watching! 

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Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Potentially The Most Exciting 0-0 Draw You've Ever Seen

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Ok, maybe "the most exciting 0-0 draw ever" is a bit of an exaggeration but Monday night's clash with Arsenal turned into a far better game than I was expecting for Liverpool. We have a diabolical record at the Emirates and to find myself frustrated slightly after picking up a draw says a lot about our performance in the game. If only we could have found the back of the net!

The game started very brightly for the Reds who were off the mark with a shot from Benteke in just two minutes, shortly followed by a strike that smashed off the woodwork from Coutinho it looked like Liverpool were going to punish Arsenal in the very early stages.

Just before the eight minute mark the only blip in the first half for the Reds occurred when Arsenal had put the ball in the back of the net. Aaron Ramsey was ruled offside by the linesman but on closer inspection there appeared to be little wrong with the goal.

Brendan Rodgers' side continued to build the pressure in the first half as the Gunners struggled to deal with some slick movement from the likes of Coutinho, Firmino, Milner and Benteke. Coupled with a solid defensive display and some confident runs from Clyne and Gomez Liverpool were making Arsenal look like an average side.

I haven't seen us play that well at the Emirates in a very long time but it was becoming more and more evident that despite our best efforts we just weren't going to find that all important goal. The final nail in the coffin came when Christian Benteke missed what looked like a simple shot at goal. A superb searching cross whipped in by Firmino was begging to be reached by the Belgian, he got a foot on it but Cech with a good save prevented the Reds from taking the lead. For me, he should have smashed it high into the net and over the keeper, or just put some height on it to be safe really. I don't mean to complain but I can't help but feel he could have done better there. A frustrating moment for sure.

Benteke's chance wasn't even the final of the half, at 44 minutes a shot from Philippe Coutinho looked destined to find the back of the net but Cech kept his side in the game once again with a sublime save to push the effort onto the post.

After failing to score in the first half Liverpool knew that Arsenal would benefit from the break, able to regroup and pounce on their visitors after stalling their rhythm.

Wenger's side did begin to get a foothold in the second half but the game was still scrappy (I hate that term but it describes what I saw) neither side really could maintain a strong enough grip on possession which led to rapid breaks, increasing the excitement for both sets of fans.

Alexis Sanchez hit the post at 59 minutes for the home side but just ten minutes later hearts were in mouths as Giroud's shot from close range may have won the game for Arsenal if it wasn't for the quick reactions of Simon Mignolet. Another brilliant save in a game where the goalkeepers both shone.

Arsenal continued to push but Liverpool would not let up. A special highlight should be placed on the performance from Martin Skrtel who was an absolute rock in defence getting all his tackles and aerial duals spot on throughout the 90 minutes. He's often moaned at and he definitely is prone to a mistake but the service that man has given to this club is phenomenal, proud to have him on my shirt.

And so, Liverpool were forced to settle for a point in an enthralling 0-0 draw. The plus side is that it was a fantastic performance from the Reds and they are yet to concede in the league. With West Ham up next, things are looking good for Brendan Rodgers' side.

I asked you for your thoughts on the game and here are a few of the tweets I received:

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Sunday, 23 August 2015

MATCH PREVIEW: Arsenal V Liverpool

Liverpool travel to London on Monday evening as they prepare to face Arsenal in their third fixture of the season. The Reds have picked up two wins out of two whilst the Gunners have won just one game having lost their opening tie against West Ham. Will a stumbling start from Wenger's side assist the Reds or is it going to be the same old story at the Emirates?

Injuries for Liverpool mean they are likely to be without captain Jordan Henderson who picked up a problem against Bournemouth. They are also unable to call upon Joe Allen, Jon Flanagan and Daniel Sturridge. For Arsenal they are without Flamini who has an ankle problem and Jack Wilshere is also still unavailable. Out too are Welbeck and Rosicky.

The last time the two sides met was in April this year. The Reds took a beating at the Emirates as Arsenal put four in the back of the Liverpool net. A penalty from Jordan Henderson was the only consolation for Brendan Rodgers' side as they also had to deal with a red card for Emre Can.

Liverpool's last victory over Arsenal was in February 2014 it was a simply stunning performance from the Reds as they scored four goals in 20 minutes at Anfield. The game eventually ended 5-1 with Martin Skrtel, Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge on the score sheet.

It's no secret however that Liverpool's record at the Emirates is less than favourable. In our last ten meetings in all competitions at the Arsenal ground we have won just one fixture. There have been four draws with the home side winning on five occasions.

On Monday night Liverpool need to break their duck but they also need to prove to fans and neutrals that they can put on a serious performance against a side that many are naming as title contenders. I feel it's a good time to be facing Arsenal after their initial loss in the league and sometimes it's better to get these kind of fixtures out the way early on.

Stat Sandwich

  • Martin Skrtel has scored three goals in his last two league games against Arsenal (and has won me some money in the process haha!)
  • If Arsenal were to lose this game it would be only the third time that they have lost their opening two home matches of a campaign.
  • Mignolet has kept more clean sheets than any other goalkeeper in 2015 - 11

For me, Liverpool have got to pull a lot out of the bag in order to try and get the better of Arsenal tomorrow. The psychological aspect of failing to win at the Emirates will no doubt play on the minds and with a missing captain it could be a shake up that the Reds didn't necessarily want.

On the other hand, on the assumption that Emre Can will replace Henderson in midfield, his different style of play may aid Liverpool in their search for three points. With Benteke up front once again it is vital for me that we get the ball over to him and with Henderson not involved (one of the only players crossing the ball), there will be a lot of pressure on James Milner to offer a supply line for our big forward.

I can't see us walking the ball into the net against Arsenal, either we whip the ball in to Benteke (or Skrtel from a corner) or we wait tirelessly for a piece of Coutinho magic.

I forgot to ask you for your score predictions this week but I am hoping we might be able to scrape a score draw! I'll definitely be popping a quid on Skrtel to score as it has served me well over the years, I'll update you on Twitter with any other bets I place.

Enjoy the match folks, wherever you are watching!

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Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Benteke Scores In Controversial Liverpool Win

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It's two wins out of two for Liverpool after a decent performance and a dash of luck allowed the Reds to collect all three points against Bournemouth on Monday night. Christian Benteke got himself off the mark after scoring a controversial goal whilst The Cherries were left questioning why an early effort was disallowed.

Rodgers started with the same team that he rolled out against Stoke and whilst I was pretty happy with the XI there was a hell of a lot of moaning on social media, mainly down to the missing Sakho and Can. I like Can and I believe we performed better against Stoke once he entered play but some of the vitriol coming from fans last night just because he hadn't started was crazy, we're only two games in and it's widely accepted that Can is still looking for match fitness so it wasn't so much of a surprise for me to see him brought on as a sub.

As for Sakho, I definitely think he's a better defender than Dejan Lovren however I must give credit to the latter as he played well in the Stoke game in my opinion. Again, it's not that surprising that Brendan has stuck to his guns.

Despite the queries over the line up, Liverpool actually looked pretty lively in the first half. Some great link up play between the likes of Coutinho, Henderson, Milner and Benteke was causing issues for Bournemouth. Clyne also impressed with pacey overlapping runs and timely tackles, I'm very pleased so far with his performances over the two games.

Liverpool may have looked relatively settled but Bournemouth were no mugs. They too had plenty of time in possession but were failing on the majority of occasions to convert this into any real threat. The best chance for the visitors came from a corner but Tommy Elphick's headed goal was disallowed after the referee decided he had fouled Dejan Lovren.

I thought Bournemouth were extremely unlucky here and it was a harsh decision in my opinion to award the foul considering Lovren had failed to jump correctly in the first place. It was slow defending from Lovren who luckily managed to redeem himself by making the most of the contact and getting the goal written off.

Shortly afterwards Liverpool would be thanking the referee again. This time it was a blatant offside call that should have been given but was missed. After a short corner Jordan Henderson whipped the ball into the box where an utterly offside Philippe Coutinho pounced at the ball throwing a leg at it in an attempt to score, he never made contact which allowed the ball to fly through to Benteke who slipped home his first goal for Liverpool.

Coutinho was interfering with play, he'd clearly wrong-sighted the goalkeeper and whilst I'm extremely happy that Benteke is off the mark, you have to feel a bit for Bournemouth who at this stage were still very much in the game.

The second half saw no goals created however a rather strange substitution did occur. Jordan Henderson was brought off at 50 minutes to be replaced by Emre Can (NB - Henderson appears to have suffered a slight injury in the game, latest news is that he is awaiting a scan).I wanted to see Can come on but I didn't see the logic in removing the captain? Surely he needs to play as much as possible in order to build his stature as captain of the team, especially after stepping into Steven Gerrard's boots? It just seemed a very strange decision in my opinion, luckily it didn't really matter but you could tell Hendo was frustrated.

By the end of the 90 minutes some fans sounded relieved and were questioning the fact that the Reds didn't follow up with any more goals. To be fair though, if there's one thing Liverpool lacked last season, it was the ability to hold on to tight scorelines and secure all three points. Yes there are certainly improvements to be made (namely an increase in the supply line to Benteke) but at the moment the Reds should feel proud of the fact they have two out of two, keeping two clean sheets in the process.

Next up for the Reds is Arsenal at the Emirates on Monday night.

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Sunday, 16 August 2015

MATCH PREVIEW: Liverpool V Bournemouth

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Liverpool face Bournemouth on Monday evening for their first fixture at Anfield in the new 2015/2016 season. After picking up a late win at the Britannia thanks to a glorious Coutinho strike, the Reds will be buoyant going in to this game, hoping to collect all three points and put a dent in any gaps created by teams over the weekend.

Injuries for Liverpool mean they are still without Flanagan and Sturridge who are working back to fitness after longstanding injuries. Also unavailable for manager Brendan Rodgers is Joe Allen who picked up what looked like a knock against Swindon but has since turned into a more serious issue.

For Bournemouth they are without Arter who has a hip injury, doubts are also hanging over Atsu and MacDonald leaving Howe with some possible changes to make.

The last time the two sides met was in December 2014 when the Reds faced Bournemouth in a League Cup tie. The game ended in a 3-1 victory for Liverpool with Raheem Sterling and Lazar Markovic on the score sheet.

Prior to this fixture Liverpool have faced Bournemouth on five occasions. The Cherries have picked up two draws over that time period with Liverpool having won the remaining three games.

In their final seven fixtures in the Championship before being promoted to the Premier League Bournemouth picked up five wins and scored a total of 16 goals in the process. Callum Wilson was top goalscorer for Bournemouth last season and has remained at the club featuring in their first fixture against Aston Villa.

Stat Sandwich

  • This will be the first time Liverpool have met Bournemouth in the league
  • Bournemouth's two previous visits to Anfield have resulted in two 4-1 losses
  • Christian Benteke has scored 11 goals in his last 12 Premier League appearances

Realistically this should be a win for Liverpool but things are never that simple and Bournemouth even during our last meeting in the League Cup posed a decent threat. Since being promoted to the Premier League they have also gained some quality and were unlucky really to miss out on a draw against Aston Villa who scored in the 72nd minute.

Assuming Brendan Rodgers goes with a similar set up that was selected at Stoke I would like to see some more supply for Christian Benteke, who may get a better 90 minutes playing in front of the Anfield crowd for the first time.

It's still too early for me to voice a solid opinion on some of our new boys and so I will be paying close attention on Monday evening as they try to settle into the side. It would be good to see Firmino given some more game time on this occasion too.

I asked you for your score predictions and here are a few of the tweets I received, if I manage to pop a bet on I'll probably be going for 2-1.
Enjoy the match folks, wherever you are watching!

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Monday, 10 August 2015

Coutinho Stunner Sinks Stoke

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Liverpool eventually managed to get the better of Stoke on Sunday evening after a stunning strike from Philippe Coutinho in the 86th minute. It was a lacklustre affair prior to this with Stoke getting the better of the chances, the Reds however remained resilient and secured all three points.

Christian Benteke was given his first start under manager Brendan Rodgers but he had little to no support up top and collected just five touches of the ball in the penalty area. It's certainly no coincidence to me that a lone striker at Liverpool hasn't successfully worked since the disappearance of Luis Suarez and even he played regularly in a front two.

Our wingers are far too selfish (not always a bad thing) and even players like Milner and Henderson who I would expect to provide the odd cross just didn't seem to be keeping their eyes peeled for Benteke on Sunday. This concerns me moving forward but thankfully we still have time to correct that and I seriously hope that when Sturridge returns we revert to two up top.

The first half was relatively uneventful for the Reds who opted to remain cautious and protect their net after the embarrassment they suffered last season at the Britannia. Stoke is a tough place to go and in all fairness just keeping a clean sheet was probably a positive for Brendan Rodgers' side.

Players like Charlie Adam and Biram Diouf were causing some issues for Liverpool but Mignolet was only called into serious action on a couple of occasions. The most dangerous moment for the Reds was when Glen Johnson found himself central in the box with the ball spinning at his feet, a beautiful opportunity to rub salt in the wounds but he somehow managed to spoon it over.

Emre Can entered the fray just after the hour mark and I must admit after initially being sceptical of the decision he did bring some much needed stability and time on the ball for Liverpool in the centre of the park. Ten minutes later and we also got our first real sight of Roberto Firmino who looked extremely lively in the minimal time he had on the pitch.

I discussed on Twitter over the summer how Firmino would have a lot to prove and the weight of the world on his shoulders but I hope he can forge a good partnership with his compatriot Coutinho and settle in to a cracking Liverpool career.

It was all down to the magician in this game though and at 86 minutes after picking the ball up in the centre of the pitch, a short run from Coutinho followed by a perfect strike left Butland with little hope of preventing the inevitable. As the away end went crazy and the "Olés" began to sound, it was brilliant to see football back for the 2015/2016 Liverpool season and in such superb goalscoring fashion.

The game was by no means perfect but a 1-0 win at Stoke for the first match of the season is a bloody good result in my opinion. Here's hoping we can carry our winning form through to our next game with Bournemouth.

I asked you for your thoughts on the game and here are a few of the tweets I received:

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Friday, 7 August 2015

MATCH PREVIEW: Stoke V Liverpool

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And we are back!

I can't believe that we've reached season start already, it may have dragged for a few of you but because I've been working all this summer instead of sitting around the house whilst off Uni, it's gone well quick for me! In fact, I haven't even felt the usual withdrawal symptoms that occur when not being able to obsess over my beloved Liverpool each weekend.

But there we have it, it's here and it's time for the Reds to get stuck in!

After finishing last season with what looked like a potential P45 for Brendan Rodgers, the boss is still at the helm and he's made some signings in the process:

  • Christian Benteke - £32.5million
  • Roberto Firmino - £28.7million
  • Nathaniel Clyne - £12.3million
  • Joe Gomez - £3.4million
  • James Milner - Free Transfer
  • Danny Ings - Free Transfer
  • Adam Bogdan - Free Transfer

I've voiced my opinions on the transfers on Twitter so I won't go into it all again but one thing's for sure, Rodgers has nowhere to hide if things don't go well this season.

In terms of pre-season, the Reds couldn't have done much better. They never lost a game on their travels and topped things off with a stunning Benteke goal against Swindon.

Injury wise, Liverpool are in a pretty strong position for season start with just Joe Allen, Jon Flanagan and Daniel Sturridge unavailable. Stoke are also without three players; Wilson, Shawcross and Arnautovic.

The last time the two sides met was of course in May this year when the Reds ended their season with a crushing 6-1 defeat at Stoke. It was a horrid end to the season for Liverpool and it will be interesting to see if Brendan's side have managed to pick themselves up off the floor for this rematch. 

Prior to this, the last three fixtures at the Britannia have seen Liverpool win twice and lose once.

Stat Sandwich
  • Firmino collected 21 assists over his last two seasons in the top five European Leagues, more than any other Brazilian.
  • Stoke have only won their opening Premier League fixture once.
  • The Reds have failed to score in their opening Premier League fixtures on three occasions.

I'm extremely excited for kick off on Sunday but in terms of how the game is going to pan out, I genuinely have no idea. It will depend firstly on whether the new signings can gel together quickly and I'm also still trying to guess what line up Rodgers is going to choose and how he will prefer to set them up. In fact I can see Rodgers chopping and changing things in the first few games which may be required but could also be a risky strategy, especially with the list of away fixtures Liverpool currently have coming up.

I asked you for your score predictions and here are a few of the tweets I received:

Whatever happens, here's hoping we can get off to a good start! Enjoy the match folks, wherever you are watching!

P.s. For those of you who don't know, I'm now blogging for Shoot once a fortnight as their Liverpool correspondent so it would be fantastic if you could support me over there too :)!

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