The Liver Bird  

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Bobby Hat-Trick Brushes Arsenal Aside

Liverpool came back from a goal down to stun Unai Emery's Arsenal side in an emphatic 5-1 victory at Anfield. A hat-trick from Roberto Firmino was joined by goals from Sadio Mane and Mo Salah meaning the Reds remain unbeaten at the top of the table.

Arsenal's opening goal after just 11 minutes came as a bit of a surprise to onlooking Kopites who perhaps assumed it would be the Reds finding the back of the net first on their home turf. A good cross from Iwobi found the Gunners' youngster Maitland-Niles who ensured he converted to put his side ahead.

Image via Sky Sports
Some Arsenal fans in the pub went absolutely crazy for the goal, a risky tactic I thought as surely they didn't think that alone would stop Klopp's XI?

Firmino punished just three minutes later with his now signature "no look goal", it was Bobby himself who also started the attack, linking up with Mo Salah.

The Brazilian clearly wasn't content with just the one goal on Saturday evening though as he found the net again just two minutes later. With Arsenal defenders falling around him as he slalomed towards goal, it looked more like a bomb had gone off as Bobby finished his attack putting his side 2-1 up. A brilliant goal.

Liverpool were completely and utterly dominant in this game, Arsenal's defence was all over the shop and their main attacking presence in Aubameyang barley even touched the ball. Full credit to Arsenal for coming to attack at Anfield and not playing defensively as many teams do, Unai stuck to his tactics but unfortunately for the visitors, they played perfectly into Liverpool's hands.

Another goal for the Reds followed at 32 minutes, this time it was Sadio Mane. A long range ball from Andy Robertson found its way to an encroaching Mo Salah who with a perfectly placed first touch pass managed to find Mane. The number 10 still had a lot to do as the ball bounced but he converted with ease and the Reds were now 3-1 up.

Arsenal just looked lost and things went from bad to worse when Liverpool were awarded a penalty two minutes into extra time in the first half. Sokratis took two swipes at Salah and for me, it was definitely a peno. Mo scored the spot kick confidently to put Liverpool 4-1 up. A special note for the build-up to this penalty must go to Alisson who played a stunning pass directly to Firmino to set up the attack.

Being 4-1 up after the first half and knowing that Arsenal weren't going to get back into this game made the second half a boring one for the neutral but Liverpool would find a final goal to secure their solid win over their London visitors.

Another penalty, this one perhaps a bit soft for me after a bit of contact/pushing with Lovren. Roberto Firmino stepped up to the spot in order to try and seal his hat-trick and he did just that right in front of the adoring Kop.

A stunning game for Liverpool who were also aided earlier in the afternoon as Wolves got the better of Spurs. There's just something about this team this season, going down and still finding a way back, those sprinkles of luck against Chelsea and Everton (I still can't stop laughing about that match, good old Origi)... it just feels like everything has clicked into place. 

We're cooly and calmly going about our business and no matter what anybody is throwing at us, we're finding a way through. I for one am now starting to allow myself to get excited. Roll on Manchester City.

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Saturday, 22 December 2018

REPORT: Wolves 0 Liverpool 2

Top at Christmas, best present ever. Thankfully I did not have to deal with a festive period stuffed with jokes from my Wolves supporting fella, family and friends, I seriously do not think I would have coped. To be fair to Wolves though, they didn't do too badly at all but they just couldn't quite cope with Jurgen Klopp's side.

Wolves have taken points off Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea so far this season making it feasible that they might cause issues for the Reds. I put on a confident front but I genuinely did have concerns about this match and if Wolves had made the most of their own chances the result could have been very different.

Image via Express & Star
It was Liverpool though who opened the scoring with a lovely goal from Mo Salah. The Egyptian took the original free kick which found its way over to the right side of the pitch where Fabinho and Mane played a wonderful one-two. Fabinho then fizzed a ball into the box for the encroaching Salah who flicked the ball into the back of the net.

I was sat in All Bar One at this point having moved from my work's Christmas party sit down meal to the next venue of the night. Sat in the corner, several drinks down with my iPad propped up on the table, I cheered quite loudly to the bemusement of the rest of the pub haha. This game meant a lot though and there was no way I could miss this after I was supposed to be going to the match.

Wolves remained in the game after the Reds took the lead, chances from Traore and Saiss, in particular, stand out but they couldn't quite convert and half time probably came too soon for the Midlands side who were gaining a bit of a footing.

Klopp in his post-match interview noted how difficult Wolves are to break down and this was reflected in the time it took Liverpool to actually find their second goal. Virgil van Dijk is by most people's standards, the best defender in the Premier League right now, he's been an absolute revelation since joining Liverpool but who knew he could also finish like a forward?

A half-clearance from Wolves, who seemed to struggle with the second ball during the 90, was found by Mo Salah. Mo provided a lovely ball over the gold and black defence and it was Virgil who was waiting, his finish was one any striker would be envious of.

Another string to our defender's bow and things just keep getting better for the Dutchman, which is why it is going to be so difficult facing Bayern Munich in the Champions League first leg without him.

I have to confess, my ability to follow this match was limited due to the amount of ciders I'd downed at the work's Christmas do but in summary, I think Liverpool dealt extremely well against a tough opposition who could have changed the game in a flash had a bit of luck gone their way. Importantly for the Reds though, this is yet another example of how Klopp's side can now grind out difficult results, Wolves away was never as straightforward as some would have you believe and for a variety of reasons, it's a massive, massive win for me.

Have a top Christmas folks, it's the Reds at the top of the tree!!!

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Thursday, 20 December 2018

PREVIEW: Wolves V Liverpool

Liverpool travel to Wolverhampton on Friday evening, my hometown and a place I love dearly. As a kid growing up, my brother was mad on the Reds so my football allegiance was aligned early to the lads from L4 but with a fella, family and friends supporting the boys in gold I always want them to do well, apart from tomorrow that is. 

After all we've been through this season, still top of the league and still unbeaten, I don't think I could take it if them Wolves lot managed to beat us. The scary thing is, they are fully capable. Wolves have had a brilliant start to the season and while they've struggled against sides like Huddersfield, they have absolutely thrived against the likes of Man City and Chelsea. 

Image via The Express
I think a lot of neutrals weren't sure what to expect from the Midlands side when they got promoted. I remember having a debate with several fans on Twitter first day of the season as some were calling Nuno's side a one-man team after a 2-2 draw with Everton. I was warning people not to underestimate. 

On a friendly note, let's not forget that Wolves are a major reason why we are currently sat top of the table. Taking points off City and beating Chelsea helped us massively, but they will not want to be doing us any favours on Friday. 

To change up this preview a bit I asked my fella a few questions to gain a Wolves perspective: 
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What do you make of Liverpool's season so far? 

Well, it couldn't have gone much better, could it? Unbeaten at Christmas and ahead of probably the best side the Premier League has seen. It's a remarkable achievement and in any other season, you could be 10 points clear. You seem to be really hitting your stride now, whereas earlier in the season you were winning games without playing particularly well. That win over United was huge, and should give confidence you can stay with City and push them all the way during the second half of the season.

Who's your favourite Red at the moment? 

Bobby Firmino for me is one of the most underrated players in the league. He's been getting a bit of stick of late from what I've seen, but he is what makes this Liverpool system tick. Brilliant at holding up the ball and linking the play and has that knack of getting into the box and on the end of tap-ins. A word for James Milner too, who has been vital to this team. A true case of a man making the very best of himself despite his limitations.

Have Wolves not met, matched or exceeded your expectations so far this season? 

It is a strange time to be a Wolves fan. Any other promoted team would merely be seeking survival in their first season back but the club has said from the off they are aiming much higher. The amount of money spent and the football we played in the Championship heightened expectations. We have shown we belong in this league, but defeats to the likes of Huddersfield and Cardiff have also given us a reality check. The win over Chelsea and draw with City are the standout results but last week's beating of Bournemouth was much more significant in putting to bed the notion we only do it against the big teams. We're currently seventh in the league, sat a point behind Man United, so we can't really complain

Name some players we should keep an eye out for? 

Ruben Neves has been the star of the last 12 months, an elegant, graceful midfielder with a phenomenal passing range. However, it is others who have shone of late such as Raul Jiminez, our lone frontman, who has more than stepped up to the task. He's chipped in with a few goals but his all-round play is much more important. Conor Coady too has been a rock in defence and made the step up to the Premier League look easy.

Is Conor Coady now a yam yam? 

They said he was a Scouser, he's bleeding gold and black, is how the song goes. We're under no illusions, Coady grew up in Liverpool and came from their youth set-up but when he steps out onto the pitch he gives everything for the shirt and the club. Can't remember the last time he had a bad game. A true leader. Don't expect him to shirk any tackles!

You're always banging on at me about how Wolves invented the European Cup. Honved, floodlights, blah blah blah... do you think Nuno's side could make Europe? 

Nuno's side could definitely make Europe but probably not this season. Given how the Premier League is these days, our only chance for the foreseeable future is by finishing seventh or winning a cup, unless one of the big six has a crisis. United are woeful but they're still sitting in sixth spot. This season will probably be too soon and I see us finishing around half way.

And finally, score prediction for Friday night?

I would probably look daft to predict a Wolves win given Liverpool are top of the league and unbeaten but we are definitely capable. Chelsea found that out. But if I'm honest, I probably see Liverpool winning this. Klopp will be desperate not to slip up after that United win. That being said, I'll sit on the fence and say 1-1.

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I was supposed to be going to this match, I'd been looking forward to it as soon as they released the fixtures but Sky went and moved it to Friday. Friday is our work's Christmas party which I'm helping to organise so I've had to resort to an iPad in the handbag and SkyGo! Haha. 

The last time we played Wolves...
It's going to be a difficult match for Liverpool and there's a danger of taking this one too easy. For me, the key bonus on Liverpool's part is the strength of our defence, Wolves will attack but whether they can convert successfully is a different question. In the meantime, you have Mane, Salah and Firmino taking advantage of any gaps. 

Wolves have scored and conceded exactly 19 goals this season while the Reds have scored 37 and conceded just seven goals. 

I am extremely excited for this match. I just wish I could be there but luckily we drew them in the FA Cup so I can go to that in Jan. 

My score prediction is a 2-1. 

Enjoy the match folks, wherever you are watching! 

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Monday, 17 December 2018

Big Shaq Brace Puts Reds Back On Their Perch

Liverpool put themselves back on their perch on Sunday afternoon as three goals from the Reds brushed United aside at Anfield. Jose Mourinho's team was quite frankly horrendous, it was easily one of the worst United sides I've seen at Anfield in a very long time. 

Liverpool opened up the scoring with a beautiful goal from Mane, set up by an even more beautiful assist from the impressive Fabinho. 

It was the Reds piling on all the pressure and Anfield was bouncing but a somewhat lucky equaliser for United took the sting out of it for the Reds for the remainder of the second half. Lingard managed to convert from close range after a rare error from Alisson. 

Image via The Independent
The start of the second half saw immediate desperation from Mourinho as he brought on Fellaini straight away and soon began the hoof it and hope tactic. I mean, it's embarrassing, they're supposed to be the mighty Manchester United but they're set up like Stoke...

It was Klopp who would make the most inspired substitution though when he introduced Shaqiri at 70 minutes. I knew it was a good decision but I had no idea it would be THAT good. 

Shaq wasted no time getting involved and at 73 minutes when a close-range effort was deflected in. The Swiss international looked elated as he celebrated in front of the Kop and so was I. 

For years I've had to sit in the pub surrounding by United fans talking absolute bull but all they could do yesterday was listen to me scream my head off. Nineteen points behind us, absolutely hilarious! 

Shaqiri's second goal and a third of the night for Liverpool came at 80 minutes. Another deflection helped the ball into the net but there's a reason Shaqiri made such an impact because he plays positively and takes chances. A brilliant performance. 

If I wasn't already happy enough knowing we were top and had just battered Man United, I also then remembered I had money on a Mane 3-1 scorecast so I also won £56! Haha. Bonus. 

Next up for Liverpool is the small matter of Wolverhampton Wanderers. Those who know me will know why this one is a big deal.

Stay tuned to The Liver Bird for what should be an interesting preview and report! 

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Saturday, 15 December 2018

PREVIEW: Liverpool v Manchester United

This must be the least concerned I've been about Liverpool facing United in a very, very long time. I mean don't get me wrong, I'm always up for the United match and I always think the Reds will be able to get the win but equally, I also fear what the devils have to offer... not this time out though.

United, at the time of writing, are sitting 6th in the table on just 26 points. A full sixteen points behind Liverpool at present, and potentially nineteen points behind tomorrow. The United side used to be one filled with talent you would begrudgingly own up to saying you would like in your own team but as fans, including neutrals, up and down the country have been filling out their Liverpool/United combined XIs this week, it's the boys from L4 making up the majority of the lineup.

Image via inews.co.uk
The last time the two sides met was in March this year, I'd moved our dream holiday to Australia back a week in order to make sure I could watch this fixture but we lost the game 2-1. A brace from Rashford was enough for United and Liverpool only found the net thanks to an own goal from Bailly.

The last game at Anfield was in October last year, a dire 0-0 didn't exactly display the excitement and head to head affair we usually expect from this clash of the titans. The Reds haven't won at Anfield against United since September 2013 in the league, but they did pick up a victory in the Europa League on home soil in 2016.

Injury wise, both sides are struggling in defence. Matip fractured his collarbone against Napoli and Joe Gomez is also out for the foreseeable future. Liverpool are also facing a major doubt over Alexander-Arnold who has a foot problem.

For United, Marcos Rojo is added to an ever-growing injury list: Smalling, Darmian, Shaw...

Stat Sandwich
  • If Liverpool keep a clean sheet it will set a top-flight record for the fewest goals conceded in the opening 17 matches.
  • If United lose this fixture, it will result in their lowest points total after 17 league fixtures.
  • Liverpool are unbeaten in their last 28 home matches in the league.
Liverpool are flying high, unbeaten, looking solid at the back and remaining powerful in attack, everything on paper says this match should result in victory for Jurgen Klopp, but it's not that simple is it?

Jose Mourinho, as much as it pains me to say it, is a clever manager. He's not afraid to shake up his tactics or set up and play horrible football if it will mean his side avoids an embarrassing defeat and nicks a point.

Mourinho will not come to Anfield to play football tomorrow, he will come to play anti-football and you can almost guarantee that somebody like Fellaini or Lukaku will find a goal and spoil Liverpool's Christmas party.

Klopp's side found it very difficult against teams who parked the bus last season and while we've definitely found a way through this year, I can just see it working a bloody treat for United.

However, if the Reds can get off the mark quickly, score early on and force United into a reaction then I think it could end very badly for the away side. Whatever happens, I hope it's more exciting than that bloody 0-0. I am well up for this one!!!

Enjoy the match folks, wherever you are watching!

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Wednesday, 12 December 2018

REPORT: Liverpool 1 Napoli 0

Well, we needed a 1-0 win and that's exactly what we got. At times it looked as though the Reds would never find the net and even when we did the aim remained the same for Napoli which made for an extremely nervy final quarter of the game. 

Forced into starting Joel Matip after the injury to Joe Gomez, Jurgen Klopp must have been hoping for a now-famous solid defensive performance from Liverpool but that was nearly hindered when Virgil van Dijk was shown a yellow early on. 

His tackle was perfectly timed, he won the ball and the ref wasn't even interested in the situation initially but somehow we ended up with our star defender on a yellow and missing the next match. It was a ridiculous decision. 

Image via standard.co.uk

For me, I was a bit concerned because any defender on a yellow is going to play more cautiously and we needed Virgil to be able to step in if required. I shouldn't have worried though, he remained cool, calm and collected at all times and helped see his team over the line. 

Liverpool's goal appeared just after the half-hour mark. Mo Salah with a strong run into the box slotted home from an angle leaving Anfield stunned. The Egyptian is there when Kopites need him most. Also, I don't know many forwards there that stay on their feet after that tug, how many strikers do you see risking it and going down to chance the decision. Great work by Mo. 

With 60 odd minutes still to go and some tactical changes from Ancelotti to contend with Liverpool had their work cut out. We had a few chances of our own but we just weren't clinical and in the meantime, the Italians were building in confidence. 

Their chance to break hearts under the Anfield floodlights came deep into stoppage time when Alisson made an absolute worldie save against close range Milik. What an absolute Brazilian god. 

Jurgen Klopp summed it up perfectly for me: "If I knew Alisson was this good I would have paid double." 

And so, the Reds are through to the last 16. Nobody in that hat will want Liverpool, I've always said over two legs in knockout football the Reds can have anyone. 

Roll on the draw next week! 

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Monday, 10 December 2018

PREVIEW: Liverpool V Napoli

Liverpool welcome Napoli to Anfield on Tuesday night in the Reds final game of the 2018 Champions League group stages. 

Sitting pretty at the top of the Premier League table after a 4-0 win over Bournemouth and a slip up by City, can Klopp's side also progress to the next stage in Europe? 

Assuming that PSG beat Red Star, which I likely but not a certainty, Liverpool must beat their Italian opposition at L4. A 1-0 win would be enough but if Napoli find the net, the Reds will have to win by two clear goals (where have we heard that before? ... GERRAAAAARRRRRD).

Image via goal.com
Liverpool enter this game on solid form, winning all four of their last four league games. Napoli come into this strong but have picked up a draw in their last four Serie A games, a 0-0 against Chievo, alongside three victories. 

For me, what worries me the most is that I can't shake that Napoli will find the net. Players like Insigne are more than capable of causing hassle and while Liverpool's defence has been solid this season, the pressure in this situation can make all the difference. 

I can accept that Napoli may score, the issue I have is that I'd almost rather they scored from the off so we have the maximum amount of time to do something about it. I don't want to be sat 1-0 up at 88 minutes and they find the net... 

It's going to be a very tough game tomorrow and yes some will say focus on the league, I totally agree, if we're out I'm sure I'll get over it but I bloody love the Champions League and if Liverpool can get out the group I wouldn't fear anyone over two legs in knockout football. 

Enjoy the match folks, wherever you are watching! 

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Monday, 3 December 2018

REPORT: Liverpool 1 Everton 0

I've seen some Merseyside derbies in my time but that could quite possibly be my favourite ending ever, you just couldn't make it up! After a battle between the two sides over 90 minutes it was the forgotten Divock Origi who found himself in the right place at the right time to take all three points for Liverpool. 

I have to hand it to the Toffees they look a far stronger side under Marco Silva and they held their own at Anfield for the majority of the match. Liverpool have improved vastly in defence compared to last season and that showed when Alisson was forced into a close-range reaction save, stopping Andre Gomes' header. The danger wasn't quite clear but Joe Gomez's quick thinking ensured the Reds cleared it off the line. 

Image via Sky Sports
Annoyingly for Liverpool, while their defence is ten times better their attack seems to have gone a bit quiet over recent weeks and for me, this isn't necessarily to do with the forward players. I'm not sure what other people's opinions are but for me, it feels like the link between defence and midfield and midfield to attack is somewhat lacking at the moment. There's a lot more side or back passing and no real cutting edge balls through, this was also the case when Henderson was on against PSG so I'm not really singling out players, just the midfield as a whole feels like it could click more. 

Don't get me wrong players like Fabinho for me are proving their worth, he did very well breaking up play on Sunday but I just think we need a midfield that is more positive with the passing. I feel like that improved slightly once Keita came on. 

The Reds had some chances, mainly half ones and mainly from Sadio Mane but it never quite felt like we would actually win this match. I was preparing myself for a draw and the pain in seeing us go further behind Man City but a free kick in the dying moments would change all that. 

Due to be taken by Trent I am sure Virgil was shouting up the pitch asking Alisson to take it. The keeper ran to the free kick spot and rolled it forward to Trent who then flung it into the box. Sat in the pub next to an Everton fan who was screaming for the whistle all I kept thinking was surely we can't score here, surely it's over. 

A header found its way out to Virgil van Dijk who absolutely spooned his effort to get the ball back into the box but the height on his miss hit meant Jordan Pickford would have to make a decision. As the ball came crashing down onto the bar, Pickford appeared to try and catch it instead of turning it over the bar for a corner. Meanwhile, Divock Origi was already in position and as the ball fell on the right side of goal the Belgian headed home to win the Merseyside Derby in the 96th minute. Absolutely crazy!

I was screaming my head off, of all the people to score the winner it's Origi, nobody's seen him for about two years apart from the odd cameo. What a man. 

Did we deserve to win? No, but the fact is, you play to the end and if your chance arises ensure you take it. 

Klopp running on the pitch was absolutely hilarious people having a go can say all they want. He didn't jump in Silva's face he ran to his keeper. It's a natural reaction in a game that already means so much let alone when the three points means your side remains latched on to a title race. 

All I keep thinking is Man City must be well pissed off. Hahaha. 

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Saturday, 1 December 2018

PREVIEW: Liverpool V Everton

Liverpool welcome Everton to Anfield on Sunday afternoon for the 232nd Merseyside derby. A loss at the hands of PSG in the Champions League during the week will have dented the Reds' confidence levels slightly but the chance of another victory over Everton will surely spur on Klopp's side.

Liverpool will be without captain Jordan Henderson who is serving a suspension. Klopp has also hinted that some players may be rested after a difficult game in Paris where several members of the team picked up knocks. For Everton, they are in a very strong situation as manager Marco Silva has no real injury worries to contend with. 

At the time of writing, Everton are 6th having lost just one of their last five games in the league. The Reds are in 2nd place, still unbeaten and chasing Manchester City who will remain two points ahead at the top if Klopp's side seals all three points. Liverpool have won four out of their last five league games, drawing the remaining match with Arsenal in November.

Image via premierleague.com
The last time the two sides met was in April this year, the match ended 0-0 and for me was one of the worst Merseyside derbies I've ever watched. The last meeting between the two sides at Anfield was in January this year in the FA Cup, the Reds won that game 2-1 thanks to a penalty from James Milner and a goal in the final five minutes from Virgil van Dijk who knocked the Toffees out the cup.

In the past six meetings in the league between the two sides, Liverpool have won on three occasions and there have been three draws. To find a win for Everton at Anfield you have to go back to 1999.

Stat Sandwich:

  • Liverpool have 33 points, their highest ever points total at this point in the league.
  • Everton have lost only one out of their last seven league matches.
  • Liverpool have conceded just one goal at Anfield in the league so far this season.
Everton at Anfield usually results in a victory for the home side but Marco Silva has brought a different flavour to the Toffees and Klopp would be foolish to underestimate the Everton XI. In a Christmas period jammed with fixtures including the likes of Napoli and Manchester United, the Reds could do without an embarrassing defeat to their cross-city rivals at this stage.

Enjoy the match folks, wherever you are watching!

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