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Monday, 30 August 2010
A win was the only option for Liverpool in this fixture against newly promoted West Brom. After dropping five points out of a possible six this was a must win game for Liverpool with more difficult fixtures on the horizon after the international break. On the back of a very good win in Turkey on Thursday, Liverpool were looking to build some momentum and string some results together and a home game against West Brom seemingly being a home banker for the Reds.
After resting many players in midweek in Turkey Hodgson brought back his big guns for this game. His team selection on Thursday working well by resting many players and also winning the tie. The team was about as strong as he could field, obviously Cole still unavailable. Agger came back into the left back position, Jovanovic came back into the left midfield position after being rested and Gerrard, Skrtel, Johnson and Torres returned to the team.
Liverpool started the match brightly and had one or two good efforts on goal Torres being the main threat and looks like he is getting sharper with every game. His best came from cutting in from the left before hitting a good shot that was well saved from former Liverpool goalkeeper Carson. But as the game wore on West Brom became more confident and started to put a bit of pressure on Liverpool winning some corner kicks and trying to launch some long throws into the box when given the opportunity. Some of Skrtel's defending at these set pieces bordered on swapping shirts, how he got away with so much holding and shirt pulling still amazes me, no doubt Hodgson will be making sure that type of defending doesn't happen again. So after the good start made by Liverpool they had to be content going in with no score at half time.
The second half was much the same as the first half with Liverpool having more of the play but West Brom looking like they could nick one at the other end too. As time was going on you were starting to wonder if Liverpool were going to get the breakthrough. Liverpool withdrew Jovanovic for Maxi to try and make an attacking difference and he did look lively when he came on. But the game turned on the sixty fifth minute and came after a break and chance for the Baggies which ended up safely in the hands of Reina who initiated a smart break up the Liverpool left which culminated with Kuyt playing a delicate chip to Torres at the edge of the West Brom box which he hit on the volley into the ground sending it into the right hand corner of Carson's goal giving him no chance. You could just feel the relief from the players and crowd as this goal went in. Torres almost scored a second minutes later when Gerrard played a brilliant cross into the box which Torres volleyed but Carson made a really good save spreading himself and blocking it.
Torres should have won a penalty when he shot at goal only to see his shot blocked by an arm of Jara. Then Torres was on the end of a reckless challenge from Morrison which brought him a straight red card. But in seeing out the final few minutes with an extra man Liverpool were far from comfortable. West Brom pushed Liverpool back and were unlucky when a shot hit the side netting, but relief at the final whistle, it wasn't pretty but the result was very important.
Not a great game and certainly not a great performance by Liverpool. Against better teams they probably would have lost this match, but then last season they would probably never had made the breakthrough. So great relief all round. Reina had very little to do. Johnson had some good runs forward. Agger was steady, same with Carragher. Skrtel was better than Monday night but he cant keep getting away with holding in the box the way he did here. The game by passed Lucas once again. Poulsen some good passes I think he will be a good player for Liverpool. Jovanovic worked hard and had some good runs before being subbed. Usual workrate from Kuyt but set up the goal and set up a few attacks. Gerrard was quiet but did create a few good opportunities and had one or two efforts on goal. Torres was superb a real handfull getting back to his best and a superb goal. The most important thing was the result and a great three points for Liverpool.
Man of the Match - Torres Superb, really looked sharp and the difference between the teams, caused problems all day long and the goal will really boost his confidence.
Friday, 27 August 2010
This was always going to be such a difficult night for Liverpool going over to Turkey with such a slender lead and with so many first team players unavailable. Its been a very difficult week for Liverpool and this fixture didn't make things any easier. Joe Cole's penalty miss in the first leg could have made it an easier task but Liverpool are not a club that dwell on missed opportunities.This competition is not Liverpool's priority this season as Hodgson admitted in a press conference and with the first team players that didn't even travel this highlighted the fact, but Liverpool still wanted to progress.
With the players that were missing the likes of Torres, Gerrard, Maxi, Agger, Jovanovic, Wilson and Mascherano, Liverpool were down to the bare bones. So what Roy had to choose from I can't complain with his team and thought it was still a strong team with so many missing. I was pleased to see Kyrgiakos, Poulsen, Kelly and Aurelio coming back in to the team.
With the hostile atmosphere and noise that the Trabzonspor fans were creating it was paramount that Liverpool got off to a good start and try to silence the crowd.
Could not have started worse, losing a goal inside the first five minutes which made the noise even louder. It was a very poor goal to lose with Kuyt losing possession inside his own half and Coleman struck a shot that from outside the box that was going well wide until Gutierrez sneaked into the penalty box to divert pass Reina. This lifted the Turks and you felt this was going to be a nightmare for Liverpool as Trabzonspor dictated the play and Liverpool struggling to contain them. Trabzonspor should have scored a second when a cross came over to the unmarked Kacar who should have scored only to head the ball past the post. Liverpool were hanging on and this pattern of play conitnued for the rest of the first half with Trabzonspor well on top and Liverpool trying to keep them at bay.
The Turks were trying every trick in the book and so were their supporters who were using laser pens to try and distract Reina. Liverpool, even though they were on the back foot were showing resiliance in not conceding again and made it through to half time.
Right at rhe start of the second half Liverpool almost conceded another when Trabzonspor disected the Liverpool defence right through the middle but thankfully with only Reina to beat the shot slipped past the post. After this scare Liverpool came into the game and started to get more of the ball and limit the Turks to a few breakaways. Starting to create a few chances the best being a header from N'Gog on the edge of the six yard box when he should have scored after good work from Joe Cole who created the chance with a good cross. N'gog had another chance soon after when he made space for himself on the edge of the box before shooting just wide of the target. But Liverpool were playing a lot better and you felt they looked the most likelier to score but the tie was still on a knife edge. As it looked like the game was heading for extra time Liverpool scored, good work from Johnson before pulling the ball back to a crowd in the six yard box and with both N'Gog and Cole trying to get there first Kacar's outstretched boot could only divert the ball into his own net giving Liverpool that priceless lead. Then to finish the match off they scored again created by the two substitutes, after good work from Babel he set up Pacheco who hit a low drive that was only parried by Kivrak and Kuyt had the easiest of tasks tapping the ball into the empty net and send Liverpool through.
This wasn't pretty but I thought this was a tremendous result for Liverpool and a great show of character from the team in what was very difficult conditions against a tough side. After losing such an early goal this could have turned into a nightmare, and Liverpool had to withstand so much pressure in the first half. With so many first team players out and showing the resiliance that they did was really comendable. This result is a massive lift for the club in what has been a very difficult week and I believe this will spur Liverpool on and give great confidence to the side.
Man of the Match Carragher - Martialled the defence brilliantly in what was a really difficult first half with Liverpool under so much pressure. Lead by example.
Tuesday, 24 August 2010
This was always going to be a very tough match for Liverpool so early in the season with a new manager still trying settle in and get to know his players and his best team he really has been given a baptism of fire. Arsenal last week, a tough Europa League tie on Thursday not to mention the fixtures that follow, it really is such a tough start. It didn't help having new signing Cole unavailable after his harsh red card last weekend. But worse still was the mayhem prior to the match when the transfer speculation involving Mascherano excluded him from the team.
I couldnt argue with the team Roy sent out, I was pleased to see him play both Torres and N'Gog upfront, which I thought he might do with Cole missing, although I wonder if they were only paired at that last minute when Mascherano dropped out. To a lot of people's surprise away from home Roy went for a 4-4-2 formation which delighted me and I honestly was very happy with his team selection and formation.
The game started with both teams trying to attack and Liverpool started not too bad but they were hit hard when City broke down the right and debutant Milner cutting the ball back for Barry to steer into the net. City grew in confidence with the goal and Liverpool really struggled for the remainder of the first half. Agger and Jovanovic were given a torrid time from Johnson and Richards breaking forward time and again. Liverpool couldn't keep the ball, to be fair City were working so hard at chasing Liverpool down but you expected better from Liverpool. Gerrard wasn't getting into the game, Torres and N'Gog were getting no service, Lucas couldn't get near the City midfielders and Kuyt was giving the ball away so badly. It was really poor in the first half even though Liverpool did start to creep into the match just before half time.
Liverpool came out better the second half attacking from the start and passing a lot better but then they were hit with a sucker punch when Man City scored a second from a corner. Milner sent over a corner wich Richards headered rising above Agger, his header went goalbound and with Tevez in front of Reina his distraction made Reina unable to save it although Tevez claimed the goal there appeared no touch from the Argentinian. Liverpool now had a mountain to climb but when an amazing piece of bad luck and great goalkeeping unfolded you just knew it wasn't going to be Liverpool's night. Gerrard smashed against the post which cannoned off the back of the diving Hart, any other day it would have rebounded into the net. Then the ball fell to N'Gog who shot but Hart saved then Torres had a go but Hart saved again and this was as close as Liverpool came.
An awful night for Liverpool was rounded off when the hapless Skrtel dived in bringing down the ever dangerous Johnson after another jinking run into the box, Skrtel should have seen red after an earlier yellow card. But City were worthy winners in this one and Roy will know that he has a lot of work to do.
Nightmare for Liverpool, well beat, like I said I couldn't fault Hodgson with his team selection or formation but he could have made changes earlier Babel getting fifteen minutes and poor Pacheco getting the last five. City did play well but after watching the way Liverpool chased and battled against Arsenal this was like a totally different team with a distinct lack of effort in my view. I would give nobody pass marks in this match and players I have to have a go at are Skrtel, bombscare all night and should have walked at the penalty. Agger, I know he's playing out of position but he was so easily beaten all night although I don't think Jovanovic was giving him much protection in front of him. Lucas wasn't up to pace with the City players and Gerrard didn't look fit to me very limited in his running.Kuyt was just terrible, but history now its the next match that counts roll on Thursday.
Sunday, 22 August 2010
Well Roy Hodgson is certainly not getting broken in gently with these early fixtures that Liverpool have. He's had to hit the ground running. This following week will be extremely testing as Hodgson is still trying to get to know his players. Hodgson rested his big players on Thursday and just about got away with a decent result, but I think this coming week he will be needing his strongest team available starting with this game against City and then away to Turkey on Thursday.
Roy will bring in the big guns for this match after most of them being rested on Thursday so I'm going to go for this team as my line-up for tomorrow's game.
Goalkeeper - Reina
Right Back - Johnson
Left Back - Agger
Centre Back - Carragher
Centre Back - Skrtel
Left Midfield - Jovanovic
Right Midfield - Kuyt
Centre Midfield - Gerrard
Centre Midfield - Mascherano
Striker - N'Gog
Striker - Torres
Thats my team but still question marks over Agger and Mascherano's fitness at the time of writing but if they are fit then I think they will start. 4-4-2 because Cole is unavailable although Hodson has plenty of options with Babel doing well the other night and I thought Poulsen had a decent debut but too big a game for him with his lack of match practice. Maxi and Lucas are two others that could strong candidates for a start along with Kyrgiakos who had a great game the other night. But that is my eleven.
Prediction - Manchester City 1-1 Liverpool
Posted by james walker at 04:55
Friday, 20 August 2010
Another European night at Anfield this time a lot earlier in the season than we are used to and in the lesser competition in Europe, the Europa League. Drawn against about the strongest team Liverpool could have drawn at this stage of the competition. So I thought Roy would have sent out a pretty strong team, how wrong was I. Again there were a couple of forced changes with Agger and Mascherano recovering from injuries, but I was very surprised with most of the players he selected against such a strong opposition, and I wasn't sure he was going to get away with it. So many players that haven't played much recently.
I know Liverpool have another tough fixture on Monday night but I feel European football is very important to this club and the fans and this was such a weakened team.
Surprises for me were Gerrard and Kuyt not even on the bench. Babel starting up front and Poulson starting who has hardly played at all. I thought Kyrgiakos would come in with Agger out but only for maybe Carragher to be moved to full back. But Roy is the manager and he picks the team.
Another great crowd packed into Anfield in a miserable wet night on Merseyside but with the team that was thrown together for this match there was no cohesion and the play was very disjointed in the first half and the vocal support from the crowd quickly became very subdued as Liverpool struggled to get a foot hold on the game with Trabzonspor dictating the play and having great possession of the ball. With so many players with so little game time you could see the rustiness in their play. The passing being very poor, Lucas being the main culprit in midfield whereas he is usually very assured.
Kyrgiakos was defending well in the first half and winning the high balls but also making some timely interceptions, and it was he that came the closest in the early stages with a header from a corner that Kivrak the Turkish keeper saved well from but other than that until the virtually the last kick of the half that was all that Liverpool could show in a poor first half.
Then as time was running out in the first half Liverpool struck the ball broke to Cole at the half way line and he ran straight through the middle and played a great little pass to Babel who had made a run to the left edge of the box and from a very difficult angle with Kivrak spreading himself Babel opened up his body to place the ball into the net inside Kivrak's left hand post with the inside of his right foot it truely was a class finish from a player that had virtually no service all half.
Babel's goal turned out to be his last touch as he made way for Torres. After that poor first half the second half burst into life with Torres cutting inside from the left and hitting a rocket at goal which Kivrak could only block away, this lifted the crowd and Liverpool played with more tempo which you can only assume that Hodgson had gave them a stern talking to at the half time interval. Liverpool were looking dangerous now and you felt Torres presence was unsettling the Trabzonspor defence.
Then with a run from Torres inside the penalty area the ball broke to Lucas who was scythed down for a penalty, without hesitation Joe Cole picked up the ball to take the penalty, the stage was set for him in what had been a difficult week for him, but Kivrak hadn't read the script and dived the right way palm Cole's effort way to safety. Great dejection all around the ground and this miss did seem to take the wind out of Liverpool's sails a bit. Liverpool did have one or two other really good chances one when Jovanovic linked up well with Torres in the box before shooting but Kivrak made a really good block. Then Liverpool had a goal chalked off which in my view was for offside when Poulsen bundled the ball over the line after keeper Kivrak failed to hold the ball as Jovanovic challenged him with his head. To be fair I thought Poulsen was a shade offside. Although Liverpool were creating most of the chances they almost lost a goal when Bulut found himself with space in the box and just Reina to beat, he shot well but Reina spread himself and the ball was saved by his right hand before bouncing into the ground and just clearing the cross bar, a tremendous save and one that could prove oh so important.
So the game ended with Liverpool taking a slender lead to Turkey and Hodgson will have to play a stronger team to go through.
A very difficult night against a decent European outfit but the biggest problems lay in the team selection. Too many players not match fit. The first half was really poor, the goal coming right out of the blue but what a finish. The second half was better played at a higher tempo and Torres arrival lifting the team. Liverpool created more and maybe should have scored more. But then again Liverpool could have lost an away goal if it wasn't for that man Reina once again with a vital save midway through the second half.
Reina - didn't have much to do but then what an important save.
Aurelio - thought he done ok steady put some good balls in at free kicks.
Kelly - couldn't get forward as often as he would like, defended well but passing poor at times.
Carragher - unusually quiet game basically because not much came his way, steady.
Kyrgiakos - really good game won every header and almost scored.
Maxi - quiet game struggled to get into it before making way for N'Gog
Jovanovic - worked really hard one or two good crosses in and unlucky not to score when linking up with Torres.
Poulsen - not match fit but passed the ball well and one or two meaty challenges good debut, unlucky to have goal chalked off.
Lucas - looked rusty, gave the ball away too often, good run winning the penalty though, needs more games.
Cole - great work rate, some clever passes, great pass for goal, missed penalty so a mixed night overall.
Babel - great goal, looked isolated most of the half with Liverpool so poor but great final touch unlucky to be subbed.
Subs Used -
Torres - on at half time and changed the tempo of the game looks like he's getting back to his best, great shot early on and great effort with a header as well, class act good to see him looking sharp again.
N'Gog - only got on for about fifteen minutes and never really saw much of the ball.
Man Of The Match - Kyrgiakos defended superbly especially in the first half when Liverpool were on the back foot and also was a threat going forward with one great effort.
Posted by james walker at 05:32
Thursday, 19 August 2010
A very tough tie for Liverpool so early in the season, couldn't have asked for a much tougher draw at this stage of the Europa League. But the Reds will just need to deal with it. I prefer to play away from home first but tonights game will be played at Anfield first so it is so important to take a lead over to Turkey because it will be so tough next week.
A lot of questions are being asked if Liverpool will take this competition seriously, I reckon we will take this seriously as Liverpool love playing in Europe and especially now with Roy Hodgson at the helm and his memories of last season still fresh.
I reckon Hodgson will make a few changes from Sunday's team, well he has to as Agger and Mascherano are both out with injuries picked up at the weekend. Personally I think it will be a difficult team to predict with another massive game coming up on Monday night away to Manchester City and one eye being on that game. But I reckon the team will be.
Right Back Johnson
Left Back Kelly
Centre Back Skrtel
Centre Back Carragher
Left Midfield Maxi
Right Midfield Kuyt
Centre Midfield Lucas
Centre Midfield Gerrard
Centre Midfield (Attacking Role) Cole
I think it will be as strong a team as he can select. I think Roy will bring Kelly in at left back to replace the injured Agger although he has other options one that I think he may use is to move Carragher out to left back and bring in Kyrgiakos to the centre of defence. I think he will rest Jovanovic as he adapts to the pace of the game in this country, and bring in Maxi to replace him. For me Lucas will replace the injured Mascherano as he plays that role well. The rest of the team will stay the same with Cole playing as he is still available in this competition. I think Torres will be given a run out at some stage to improve his match fitness but I think N'Gog will start.
They won in the league at the weekend and will come to Anfield with no fear knowing that they have an intimidating home support to help them next week at home. They won the Turkish Cup earlier this year beating Fenerbahce 3-1 in the final. Liverpool played them once before in the 1976-77 season in the European Cup losing the away tie 1-0 before winning at Anfield 3-0 with goals from Heighway, Johnson and Keegan. But this will be a tough tie for the Reds against Senol Gunes and his troops.
Prediction Liverpool 2-0 Trabzonspor
Posted by james walker at 05:23
Monday, 16 August 2010
Well fellow Reds great to have the season underway and what a fixture to kick it off. Great anticipation beforehand with all the activity in the summer, it certainly made me really excited about the new season. With Roy Hodgson coming in and some summer signings with the obvious snatch of Cole being the most exciting one, I think it has given us all real anticipation for this season. A difficult pre-season for Hodgson with all the speculation regarding Gerrard, Torres and Mascherano and with many players coming back for pre-season training late after their endeavours in the World Cup. All this plus early having to rustle up a team for Europa League qualifying games didn't make it an easy start for our new manager, but credit to him I think he has handled it brilliantly.
I would just like to let you know what I thought of the match I actually only saw the closing stages of the first half and the whole of the second half but I watched the highlights at night on Match Of The Day 2. One of the first things I saw was Cole's sending off and I just thought to myself sarcastically, what a great start to the season this is.
I was very pleased with team Hodgson sent out I thought it was as strong as we could be. Agger once again being a makeshift left-back which we know he can do well at. Great to see Jovanovic starting wide left I like what I've seen of him so far and looks like he has the work ethic complimenting Kuyt down the right giving the side a good balance. Also pleased to see Cole start just behind the striker N'Gog making Gerrard play deeper in midfield where he will influence games more from. Great to see Mascherano start I personally thought he had played his last game for us so that selection was a surprise for me.
From what I could make out from the first half it looked like Arsenal having most of the possession but Liverpool defending comfortably and looking lively when they broke from defence. One good break saw Cole play a nice little pass in the midfield releasing Jovanovic who made a strong run through the middle before sending a good pass out wide to Kuyt whose cross unfortunately failed to find Jovanovic who had continued his run into the box.
Liverpool had a couple of chances just before halftime with N'Gog having a header from a Gerrard corner cleared off the line and Johnson having a shot tipped over the bar by Almunia. But then just on halftime we had the turning point with Joe Cole trying sliding in late to try and block a clearance from Koscielny, but as Koscielny cleared Cole slid in catching the Arsenal defender. When I saw it I thought right booking, but when I saw the red card pulled out I couldn't believe it, and then I thought right must have been a second booking but then a guy in the bar came up to me and said that he thought that was a really harsh sending off and when he informed me that it was a straight red I could only agree, obviously Koscielny making a meal of the incident didn't help Cole's case and he was rightfully booed when he entered the field for the second half.
I was honestly fearing the worst for the second half being down to ten men and in all honestly I would have settled for a draw. But what an amazing start to the second half with Liverpool starting on the front foot, winning a few corners at the start but then with great pressure high up the field they forced Arsenal into a mistake on the edge of their own box which Mascherano pounced on and he played a great little pass to N'Gog as he ran into the right hand side of the Arsenal box and he unleashed an unstoppable shot into the top corner of Almunia's near post, I really thought it was a terrific strike and I think this young player is getting better all the time.
Liverpool really caught Arsenal cold at the start of the second half especially with the goal. But as the half wore on Arsenal started to dominate and you felt a goal had to come but Liverpool defended brilliantly and I was totally proud of their effort and every player gave everything which is what the fans have been wanting from the team which was lacking in so many matches last season.
With the legs tiring Hodgson had to make changes first he took Jovanovic off and brought on Maxi, then Mascherano was taken off when he really had nothing left in the tank, some effort from a player that wants away, Lucas replacing him. Finally N'Gog was replaced by Torres with both players recieving a standing ovation. But then Agger took a blow to the head from the ball blocking a cross and for the rest of the match he didn't really know where he was leaving Liverpool effectively down to nine men.
Getting towards the end of the match I just felt Arsenal were starting to turn the screw and the pressure was mounting, Liverpool defended valiantly and what a difference at set pieces without that zonal marking. But Arsenal were getting closer and Gerrard picked up a booking which resulted in Reina producing a great save from a Walcott free-kick. But then inside the last five minutes a goal looked certain when Rosicky was clean through but Reina pulled off what already could count as one of the saves of the season finger tipping the shot over the bar.
Just after Reina's heriocs though he was almost caught out when he thought a ball was safely going out for a goal kick only to see it headed back across goal which Liverpool were relieved to scramble to safety.
But after all Liverpool's resolute defending Liverpool were undone with sheer misfortune.A Rosicky cross was met by Chamakh getting in front of Reina but diverting it against the post but as Reina tried to gather the rebound he could only bundle it into the net and gift Arsenal an equaliser.
But in true Liverpool character Liverpool tried to grab a winner in stoppage time winning a couple of corners and Gerrard coming close with a great shot from a free-kick which Almunia saved well from. Reds fans were pleased to see Koscielny getting sent off at the end after a deliberate hand ball.
Initially I was gutted just like most Reds at the end, but now that the dust has settled I have taken great encouragement from the game. The commitment every player showed made me proud even after losing that late goal Liverpool still showed great spirit in trying to score a winner. Very happy with Hodgson's team selection and tactics. Gerrard looked back to his old self covering every blade of grass. Mascherano at his best, what does the future hold for him. N'Gog getting better with every game. Jovanovic I really like the look of him. The defence was superb all day martialled by an imperious Carragher. We looked more solid defending set pieces due to man-marking and dropping the zonal marking debacle. But overall I think we have so many positives to take out of this game, great attitude, the team and players gelling already and Reina will never let in a goal like that the rest of this season. Playing the way we did with ten men against probably the best passing side in the league was brilliant. After writing this article I can honestly say I have got the disappointment out of my system so bring on Thursday night and the rest of the season.
Posted by james walker at 12:46