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Monday, 25 April 2011
Well this match had more importance for me than for most supporters or people connected with Liverpool, it was my first trip to Anfield since Nigel Clough and Neil Ruddock made their debuts for Liverpool, so I was so excited to be at Anfield for this one with my lovely wife Lorraine and my daughter Rachael and my youngest son Kyle who was attending his first football match.
With good recent form going into this match Liverpool were hoping to end this bad run against Birmingham of having not won for 7 years against them. This seasons Carling Cup winners would be a tough team to beat as they have become a bit of a bogey team for us. But this renewed confidence around the club in recent times has raised our expectations once again no matter who we are playing. But I was expecting a very tight game in this one with hopes of a narrow win.
Liverpool have been decimated with injuries in recent weeks especially in defence and so it was pleasing that Carragher was declared fit to play after being stretchered off last Sunday against Arsenal. But bad news that Andy Carroll was unfit to play meant Maxi coming into the side for the first time since the Manchester United victory in early March.
A continued run in the team for youngsters Spearing, Flanagan and Robinson making his first start for Liverpool at left back. So Dalglish is getting a good chance to see what his squad is made of with all these injuries.
Liverpool started the match well and pressed Birmingham back from the start and got their reward with an early goal in the 7th minute when Jay Spearing hit a stinging drive from the edge of the box which Foster spilled and the alert Maxi was first to react to fire the ball into the net at the Kop end giving Liverpool a great start.That goal meant that Liverpool had scored in 16 consecutive Premier League matches , the best run of any side in the division this season.
Birmingham responded from this early setback with Gardner hooking over from close range and then Flanagan having to make a great defensive header from a dangerous cross. But on 23 minutes Reina's long clearance was flicked on sending Suarez through on goal but Foster did well to save his bundled effort only to react quickly to block from Kuyt's follow up effort but luck deserted him when a third attempt from Kuyt was swept into the net doubling Liverpool's lead.
Liverpool were dominating proceedings and Meireles almost added a third from a low Maxi cross but his effort was well blocked a sliding Larsson. Lucas had a long range effort seemingly hitting Carr on the hand but referee Webb waved away Liverpool's appeals for a penalty.
Birmingham were dealt another blow when goalkeeper Foster had to be replaced 5 minutes before half time after failing to shake of the injury he sustained in the lead up to Liverpool's second goal. Just before half time Kuyt glanced a Meireles' free kick just wide.
Birmingham came out strongly at the start of the second half but Suarez had the first real chance firing a free kick just over the bar from the edge of the Birmingham penalty box. Birmingham tried to get themselves back into the match without really threatening but there hopes were crushed when Liverpool scored a third in the 66th minute when Suarez sprung the offside trap before chipping a clever cross to the back post to Maxi who side footed a volley into the net giving him his second for the day.
With Liverpool rampant now they scored a fourth seven minutes later giving Maxi his hat-trick when he hit a shot from the edge of the box which was parried by Doyle before eventually being re-directed to Maxi who made no mistake in scoring from close range and giving him a perfect day.
The icing on the cake for Liverpool was a fifth goal from substitute Joe Cole who had his shot deflected by Jiranek beating Doyle at his near post with time running out. It was a terrific performance by Liverpool especially with so many players unavailable , and to score so many goals against a stubborn Birmingham side was very impressive.
I couldn't have wished for a better game to make my long awaited return to Anfield. I would have settled for a 1-0 scoreline but this was emphatic. It really was an impressive performance with some really good football played by Liverpool and an obvious confidence in the team with everybody wanting the ball. The hunger and workrate shown by the players is encouraging even after the game was settled as a contest the players were looking for more goals which is the way us Liverpool fans like it.
The youngsters are not looking out of place at all as Flanagan and Robinson having us looking very solid wide in defence. Spearing is forming a good partnership with Lucas in the middle and I was very impressed with seeing Kuyt and Suarez first hand, their workrate is superb and Maxi just had a superb game being rewarded with a stunning hat trick. It was just a memorable day for more than just me and Maxi. Bring on the next game.
Man Of The Match - Maxi - had to be with his 3 goals but he did so much more. Great return to the team.
Thursday, 21 April 2011
Not so long ago this fixture would be one where you would have gave Liverpool little chance of coming away with anything, but in recent times under Kenny Dalglish there has been a renewed belief in the team, especially after that great win against FA Cup finalists Manchester City last Sunday. With Andy Carroll opening his goal scoring account as a Red, Liverpool would go into this clash with confidence high. Arsenal desperate for a win to keep their hopes of winning the League alive would make this a very tough game for Liverpool as our record is poor away to Arsenal, never having beat them at the Emirates.
Kenny seems to like to keep a settled team which is in stark contrast to the days of Rafa. This has not been easy to do for Kenny as he has been hit by so many injuries, but after such a good performance against Manchester City last Monday and with no new injury worries Kenny was able to select an unchanged side. A tremendous vote of confidence for young John Flanagan keeping his place in the team against such a potent attack as Arsenal. To be fair Kenny is running out of options as his squad dwindles with injuries. Having to bring in youngsters to the first team maybe sooner than he would like but as he often states he has faith in their ability to step up to the plate.
The game kicked off with Arsenal setting the tone with an early chance when Diaby headed narrowly wide from a Fabregas free kick. Liverpool's defence would have to be strong to keep Arsenal at bay. But Liverpool had claims for a penalty next when Spearing went down in the box under a challenge from Djourou, but referee Mariner saw nothing wrong.
On 12 minutes a Walcott effort was spilled by Reina which allowed Van Persie to flash the ball across goal which Flanagan intervened heading clear. Arsenal were dominating possession and Liverpool were lucky not to concede when Koscielny header against Reina's crossbar from a corner.
Liverpool were dealt another injury blow on 20 minutes when Aurelio had to go off with a hamstring injury. 17 year old Robinson replaced him at left back Fabregas then hit a shot low into the hoardings as Liverpool tried to re-organise.
Skrtel and Flanagan picked up soft bookings as the pressure mounted. Eboue had a shot deflected to safety as Liverpool managed to hold out to half-time.
Suarez had a good run and shot just wide at the start of the second half. But then Liverpool were dealt another defensive injury blow as Carragher was knocked unconscious after a clash of heads with team mate Flanagan, Kyrgiakos replaced him as Liverpool had to re-organise for a second time.
Suarez had a shot well saved by Szcesny as he dived to his left, he again went close as he twisted past a defender before forcing Szcesny to beat the ball away.
Reina had to be at his best as he prevented Van Persie twice from scoring. The first from a header which was heading to his bottom corner, then he brilliantly palmed away when one on one. Suarez shot high and wide from an acute angle after good work down the Liverpool right.
As the game headed into stoppage time the fourth official held up an additional 8 minutes to be played on his board, the extended overtime mainly due to Carragher's injury. Arsenal were bouyed by this added time and pressed hard for the goal to surely win the match. Liverpool's defence had been brilliant all day long but in the 96th minute despair for Liverpool when the superb Spearing felled Fabregas in the box which referee Mariner had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Van Persie kept his nerve to score from the spot and give what seemed like a vital win to Arsenal. With overtime just about up Liverpool went for one last attack when Lucas was tripped on the edge of the Arsenal penalty box, the Liverpool players looked for a penalty but referee Mariner got the decision right giving a free kick just outside the area.
Suarez hit what seemed like Liverpool's last chance into the Arsenal defensive wall, the ball looped into the air towards Lucas who, with his back to goal tried to shield the ball as it dropped only to be barged from behind by Eboue, Lucas hit the ground and once again referee Mariner pointed to the spot. It was an amazing finish with Kuyt stepping up for the last kick of the game. Kuyt kept his cool scoring and giving Liverpool a deserved point.
Wenger showed his obvious frustration as he confronted Dalglish who discarded the Frenchman in typical Dalglish fashion.
This was such a gritty performance from Liverpool against an Arsenal side chasing for the title. The Liverpool players showed so much determination it makes you proud. Dalglish is getting everything out of his players as this performance showed. With so many experienced players out and having to deal with another couple of injuries during this match makes it all the more impressive. True we didn't threaten too often but Dalglish knows the teams abilities and limitations. Special mentions to Reina who made some great saves to keep us in the match, and to Jay Spearing who was superb covering every blade of grass. Young Flanagan was again tremendous at right back against such a dangerous attack, also 17 year old Robinson was thrown on replacing Aurelio and defended brilliantly against the pacey Wallcott. For the team to comeback from a despairing last minute penalty shows the desire and character of this team. To win 4 point out of the last 2 fixtures is good going and hopefully we can continue the good form at home to Birmingham next week.
Man Of The Match - Spearing - he really is impressing with every game, his workrate is superb and he never gave the Arsenal midfield time as he constantly snapped at their ankles.
Monday, 4 April 2011
It seem such a long time ago since that good away result at Sunderland with the international break seeming such a long one. Liverpool back in action away to former manager Roy Hodgson's West Brom side who remain unbeaten since he took over. Liverpool went into the game full of confidence and with a good record against West Brom having not lost against them in the Premiership. But the big story in the build up to the match was obviously to do with Roy Hodgson playing against Liverpool for the first time since his departure.
Kenny kept an unchanged side from the Sunderland winning team, mainly due to the fact that Gerrard re-injured his groin at training on Friday. But it was pleasing to see Dalglish keeping a settled side and especially good to see Carroll and Suarez paired together up front as they continue to develop their new partnership. I thought it was as strong a side as Kenny could field and well capable of beating West Brom.
Liverpool started the match well with Kuyt going close on 2 minutes after Carroll had flicked on a Meireles corner. West Brom showed their physical approach with some tough challenges in the early stages. But Liverpool were dealt a blow in 8 minutes when Glen Johnson pulled up with a hamstring injury being replaced by Kyrgiakos with Agger moving out to left back.
Kuyt then went close dragging his shot wide after being played through by Suarez. On 24 minutes Liverpool were dealt another injury blow when Agger had to leave the field, Danny Wilson replaced him at left back and was instantly called into action with a good clearance to prevent Brunt from going through on goal.
Liverpool lost their way with the substitutions and Reid saw a header well saved by Reina as West Brom started to dictate the play. Reina made another good save as Skrtel almost headed into his own net. At the other end Carroll picked up a booking as he showed his frustration. Liverpool were quite happy to go in 0-0 at the half as Liverpool lost their way after a good start.
Right at the start of the second half Cox almost scored for the home side when he turned Kyrgiakos and got a shot on target which Reina did well to parry. Liverpool had the next chance when Carroll hit a rasping shot from the edge of the box which was well saved by Carson. From the resulting corner Liverpool took the lead when Martin Skrtel powered a header past the helpless Carson.
Kuyt tried to make it two but flashed an ambitious effort wide of goal. Wilson then made a superb clearing header as West Brom pressed. The home side did draw level when Odemwingie turned Kyrgiakos on the edge of the box and the big Greek lunged in with a desperate tackle which referee Atkinson deemed a penalty. Brunt made no mistake from the spot.
Odemwingie then had a fierce shot well saved by Reina as the home side looked to take the lead. Liverpool had the next chance when Suarez teed up Meireles who blasted over. Odemwingie was causing Liverpool all sorts of problems and he looked like scoring but for one of those famous last ditch Carragher blocks.
But just as it looked like finishing 1-1 Liverpool were dealt a final blow when a long ball through the middle wasn't dealt with by Kyrgiakos allowing Odemwingie through with only Reina to beat, but as he cut inside Reina, Reina trailed a leg which tripped the West Brom man up resulting in a penalty, which Brunt dispatched once again giving the Baggies a lead with time running out. Liverpool came close to equalising with Suarez so unlucky having an attempt cleared off the line right at the death.
It was such a disappointing defeat especially after taking the lead at the start of the second half. Liverpool started the match well and Kuyt should have scored early on but the injuries did disrupt the defence as it looked extremely dodgy under pressure especially in the second half. Kyrgiakos struggled with the pace of the West Brom attack. Spearing and Lucas were very quiet and not enough service given to Suarez and Carroll. I have to be honest though about the referee Atkinson I thought he was a joke, he was so one sided it was untrue, some of the challenges the West Brom defenders were getting away with was ahocking and I don't think I've seen such a one sided refereeing performance. But I do think the referee was right to give the two penalties as they both resulted in poor defending. A very bad result and I believe that is our hopes of European football next season over.
Man Of The Match - Reina I thought he kept us in the match with some great saves.