Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Liverpool Too Strong For South China

Liverpool set up a Barclays Asia Trophy final clash with Portsmouth after seeing off a spirited South China outfit 3-1.

A side with skipper Steven Gerrard and summer signings Fernando Torres and Ryan Babel were given a testing examination as goals from John Arne Riise, Xabi Alonso and Daniel Agger finally saw off the hosts at Hong Kong Stadium.

Riise opened the scoring after nine minutes with a trademark blistering free-kick from the edge of the area that left keeper Zhang Chunhui with little chance as it arrowed its way into the top corner.

Harry Kewell's ball into the box caused panic in the South China defence shortly afterwards and the ball broke to Andriy Voronin but the Ukraine striker could not apply the finish.

Jose Luis' side then nearly grabbed an equaliser as first an in-swinging corner was cleared almost off the line before the Liverpool defence misjudged a deep cross but Bai Hei spooned his shot wide when well placed.

The home side fell further behind after 26 minutes when Alonso's cute through ball split the South China defence and Voronin was bundled over in the box. Alonso slotted home the spot kick low to Zhang's left.

However, South China halved the deficit just after the half hour mark when, after Mohammed Sissoko had been penalised for a foul near the right touchline, skipper Li Haiqiang curled a brilliant effort into the top corner of Scott Carson's net from 30 yards.

Alonso went close with a couple of long-range drives before the interval, the first from a Peter Crouch lay-off after persistent work from Voronin and the second when the ball fell to him after Crouch's surging run was stopped in its tracks as the Reds maintained their advantage.

The second half opened in low-key fashion but Dirk Kuyt, who had replaced Crouch, fired over when Alvaro Arbeola's low cross picked the Dutchman out on the far side of the area.

Voronin went close after 70 minutes when the striker rose to meet Kuyt's cross from the left but just could not keep his header down as it went narrowly over the bar.

A third was not long in coming though as Agger rounded off a beautifully worked goal after 72 minutes.

It was the centre-back who started it as he intercepted a pass and rode a couple of challenges before feeding Riise on the left.

The Norwegian's cross picked out Kuyt and he teed up Agger to drive the ball home from inside the box.

Zhang then produced two good stops in the space of two minutes as he first parried Kuyt's strong effort before denying Jermaine Pennant at the far post.

Liverpool should have scored a fourth two minutes from time but Voronin could only get minimal contact on Pennant's teasing cross and Kuyt somehow could not turn it in at the far post.

My comment: Not bad at all.....five wins out of five matches. However, golden boy Torres has yet to find the net. Conversely, Voronin has been playing some impressive football. Hopefully the likes of Torres, Crouch and Kuyt will find their scoring touch when the new season starts.

LiverpooL Hunting For Real Madrid Youngster

Reports in Spain suggest Liverpool are pushing hard to secure the services of another Spanish youngster, Real Madrid's Javi Garcia.

The 20-year-old defensive midfielder, part of the Spain side that won the Under 19 European Championship in 2006, has spent the last five seasons at Real having joined from a regional side in his hometown of Murcia.

Highly rated within the corridors of the Santiago Bernabeu, he was expected to graduate to Real's first team last season, but found his progress blocked by the summer signings of Emerson and Mahamadou Diarra.

As a result he spent the majority of the campaign - a handful of UEFA Champions League and Copa del Rey games aside - with Real's B side, Castilla, and is now reported to be anxious for a chance to prove himself at first-team level.

With another change in management at the Bernabeu this summer that is far from guaranteed and he is now mulling over a number of offers to move on.

Real are keen to extend his contract which expires next summer, but Liverpool and Atletico Madrid are understood to be leading the chase for his signature, with both ready to part with €3million (£2million) to land the youngster.

Mallorca, Getafe and Deportivo are also keen on Garcia but Liverpool and Atletico appear in the driving seat should the player choose to end his stay at Real.

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez does have the advantage of sharing the same agent as Garcia, Manuel Garcia Quilon, although Atletico may feel they have a trump card of their own as Garcia's cousin, and former Liverpool player, Luis Garcia, now plies his trade at the Vicente Calderon.