Sunday, September 28, 2008

Match Report: Everton 0 - 2 LiverpooL

Liverpool striker Fernando Torres shrugged off his Euro 2008 hangover to score twice to beat 10-man Everton in the 208th Merseyside derby.

The Spain international had managed just one goal all season before this match.

He got himself booked at Goodison Park, argued with referee Mike Riley about the heavy-handed treatment he was getting from Everton's defenders and then hit back where it hurts.

Torres volleyed home his first after 59 minutes and cracked in the second three minutes later.

Everton have still to win at home this season and had Tim Cahill sent-off with 10 minutes to go to cap a miserable day for David Moyes' side.

The hosts had full-back Tony Hibbert back for the first time this season after a knee ligament operation in the summer, while midfielder Mikel Arteta had recovered from a virus to play.

Liverpool were without Javier Mascherano, with a calf problem, and fielded the side that drew 0-0 with Stoke last weekend.

An interested observer in the directors' box was Standard Liege boss Laszlo Boloni, who was preparing for this week's UEFA Cup tie but also watching former player Marouane Fellaini in his first derby.

The midfielder probably won his move to Goodison Park after two excellent performances against Liverpool in the Champions League.

Fellaini was first into referee Mike Riley's book after just nine minutes for a foul on Alvaro Arbeloa.

Everton should have been ahead after 14 minutes when Cahill failed to make a decent connection to Arteta's corner from just six yards.

With Ayegbeni Yakubu up front and Arteta and Cahill attacking from deep it meant Liverpool had the majority of possession as Everton sat back and tried to hit them on the break.

It almost succeeded after 26 minutes when Joleon Lescott's cross was dropped by Jose Reina under minimal pressure from Fellaini, who spun to strike a fierce shot that Jamie Carragher somehow blocked on the line.

But referee Riley had spotted an infringement and awarded a free-kick.

Xabi Alonso was booked for blocking an Arteta run on the right before Robbie Keane almost created a scoring opportunity for Dirk Kuyt, arriving late in the box.

Yakubu was booked three minutes into the second half for diving in the box having pushed the ball past Martin Skrtel before plunging to the floor.

Two minutes later Riley booked Torres, who had questioned the referee's decisions throughout the first half, for a foul on Lescott.

But the Spaniard finally channelled his annoyance into the game and saw a 20-yard strike go just wide before Gerrard was much closer from slightly further out.

Albert Riera should have done better when presented with a shooting chance by Keane but when Torres was denied a clear opportunity, having shrugged off Phil Jagielka, Riley was again on his case, awarding a fortunate free-kick to the hosts.

But after 59 minutes Torres got his own back. Arbeloa robbed Arteta far too easily on the touchline and quick passing involving Riera and Alonso released Keane on the left.

The Irishman's cross to the far post was met beautifully on the volley by Torres to beat Tim Howard.

Three minutes later Torres was celebrating again. Liverpool surged forward again and when Jagielka's tackle 10 yards out stopped Keane in his tracks, the ball fell for Torres to smash into the top corner.

Torres scored again seconds later but the effort was ruled out by referee Riley.

Arbeloa was booked after 85 minutes for a retaliatory kick at Cahill after a tussle between the pair before Yakubu missed an open goal as Leon Osman's cross flashed in front of him.

Five minutes later Cahill was sent off. Referee Riley showed him a red card for a late challenge on Alonso.

It was the eighth red card in the last eight derbies, and the 17th in 33 Premier League clashes between the clubs.

Substitute Louis Saha fired a 25-yard shot just wide in the dying minutes but that was the closest Everton came all time.

Rafa Hails Attacking Duo

Liverpool gaffer Rafa Benitez has heaped praised on his dynamic attacking duo of Torres and Keane following their impressive 0-2 win at Everton.

Both Fernando Torres and Robbie Keane went into the game at Goodison Park under heavy pressure and criticism for their lack of goals in recent outings.

But the Spanish international ended his six-game drought by netting both goals while Keane had a part to play in his strike partner’s brace.

“It was a good performance by the team and Fernando played really well,” Benitez told the club’s official website.

“Clearly, we have players who can change games like Fernando with his goals and this gives the team confidence.

“It makes it easier for us to play well and keep the ball and Torres is always a threat for defenders,” Rafa added.

“Robbie was also doing a good job for the team and he played a part in both our goals.”

Gerrard: Win Key To Title Tilt

Steven Gerrard believes Liverpool must reproduce their derby display on a weekly basis if they are to be crowned Barclays Premier League champions.

The inspirational midfielder admits his side have failed to hit top gear in the opening weeks of the 2008-09 campaign but feels the second-half performance in the 2-0 victory at Goodison Park has seen them edge closer to their best form.

"So far it's probably our best performance," Gerrard told reporters at Goodison Park.

"We were winning games but stumbling early on in the season, but I think the derby performance has set the standard now and if we can continue that level then we will certainly be there or thereabouts come the end of the season.

"I think we controlled the game all the way through, though obviously there were bits of pressure from Everton. They are a good side here and they've got good support behind them but it was a statement of our intentions.

"We were together, played some terrific football and the performance showed how frustrated we were not to take maximum points from Stoke."

The Reds eased to a comfortable win in the 208th Merseyside derby following Fernando Torres' sublime second-half brace.

The Spaniard's double blast saw him notch his first goals since the opening day of the season success at Sunderland and Gerrard claims it was inevitable the striker would recapture his form sooner rather than later.

"It was only a matter of time," he said.

"You can't keep strikers with his talent down for long because they aren't going to go long without a goal. It was only a matter of time. He was a bit frustrated first-half, but then Keane's put one on a plate for him and the second one was typical Torres.

"He made a lot of space for himself in the box and the finish was deadly."

Ahead of the match Gerrard had been tipped to notch his 100th goal for the club and although he went close on a number of occasions, he was happy to sacrifice his own hopes of personal glory for the good of the team.

"The manager wanted a disciplined performance from me," he said. "When we play a 4-4-2 he wants me to pick the right time to go forward and I'm really happy with how I performed on the day.

"The 100th goal will come. I'm confident of that. I had a couple of half chances today. The keeper's made a couple of good saves but I'll keep going. The most important thing, as I said before the game, was the win and it was all about the team."

"As a local lad these are the most difficult games to prepare for. The nerves start the week before and you can't wait for the game to come about, so the fear of losing these games takes up a lot of energy beforehand. So I'm pleased we've won it and delighted with the lads' performance.

"It obviously settles you down to get the opening goal because these games are so frantic. You've got to earn the right to play and win the battle first.

"I thought we matched them physically and outplayed them and we knew the goal would come, with the quality we've got and the six front players we have in the side we knew it was only a matter of time before the goal came."

Three points at Goodison Park coupled with Arsenal's shock defeat at home to Hull City means Liverpool are now second in the table, just behind Chelsea on goal difference.

It is the Reds' best start to a league campaign since 1996-97 but the skipper is refusing to look too far beyond their next match against PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League on Wednesday.

"It's important to be humble now and not get carried away by the performance," he added.

"We've got a big game on Wednesday and then another important game against Manchester City. We've got to take each game as it comes and it's important no one gets carried away.

"There's a long way to go and we realise how tough it's going to be to still be in the hat come the end of the Premier League, so we need to keep going. But I think we set a standard today that we need to match week in week out."

Can Liverpool Finally Mount A Title Challenge?

Victory at Goodison Park in the Mersey derby means Liverpool are enjoying their finest start to the Premier League season since Rafa Benítez took over.

They're unbeaten, have won against their two biggest rivals, and are right in the mix at the top of the table – all without playing particularly well so far.

Their second-half performance, however, hinted at better things to come: Fernando Torres looked the player of last season for the first time this campaign, while Robbie Keane's promptings led to both goals.

Can Liverpool do what has been beyond them for the best part of two decades, and sustain a proper title challenge – especially if Keane starts scoring soon?

As for Everton, they've now lost their first three home league games of the season, and are in dire danger of being knocked out of the Uefa Cup by Standard Liege next week.

Is David Moyes simply suffering from lack of money, or is there something more fundamental wrong with the club – whose form alternates wildly, season by season?

Torres Double Overshadowed by Mike Riley

Fernando Torres two goals in three minutes is the difference as Liverpool take the short trip to Goodison Park and come out 2-0 victors that was marred by the horrific refereeing of Mike Riley. I am going to say it like I see it here, Mike Riley has officially ended the FA’s respect campaign over the last two weeks. Last week, Soccernet picked up 40 fouls Riley called between Chelsea and Manchester United. Today, Soccernet picked up 43 and the Guardian showed 39. Fact remains, the majority of fouls Riley has called over the last two weeks have not only been severely questionable at best, but have tested the patience of even the most patient people.

To make matter worse this week unlike last week, as far as I’m concerned, Tim Cahill was unjustly sent off ten minutes from the ninety. Yes the tackle was nasty, but it was just as bad as Arbeloa’s tackle four minute earlier. No one from Liverpool expected red, no one in the EPL Talk Chat expected red, and I’m convinced the only one who was convinced it was red is Mike Riley.

This is the second high profile match Riley has refereed in six days. As far as I’m concerned he’s made some serious errors in judgment that have to be taken into account. From the farcical ending to last week’s Chelsea/Manchester United fixture to Cahill’s sending off, Riley has made big mistakes that seem to be forgiven by the FA. Yes refereeing is a tough job and they deserve respect, but when a referee continues to make mistakes to the magnitude Riley has of late, it’s very hard to give Riley any at all.

As to the match itself, Riley’s whistle made sure there was no flow to the match. Liverpool though dominated from the kickoff. Everton only had about ten minutes where they were on the ascendancy, even then they were unable to test Jose Reina. Liverpool in the first half were unable to break Everton down in the final third. Everton’s back four and midfield were being way too forgiving and pretty much allowing Liverpool all the space they wanted when they were pushing forward.

Both Liverpool goals boil down too two fatal flaws. The first being losing possession in the midfield and the second being defenders abandoning their space giving Torres all the space in the world to do his job. On the first goal, Alonso gets the ball in the midfield and it’s Joleon Lescott abandoning his space trailing Kuyt’s run near post. How no one else was marking Torres I haven’t a clue. Torres with that much space and time one on one with any keeper in the world is rarely going to miss. On the second goal, it was Torres himself who starts the play in the midfield after Everton fail to possess a throw in. The final blow was when Joseph Yobo went in trying to clear a tackle when the ball fell perfectly to Torres. With Howard off his line, the finish was automatic.

Robbie Keane is starting to mold into the team, but Rafa has to let him be what he is, a forward. Playing on the wing has done him no favors, and it was only when he was able to get more central was when he was his most dangerous. Everton need to figure out a way to win at home. It would also help to get chances that challenge a keeper. Yakubu up front by himself is not going to work and hopefully once Louis Saha is fully fit, David Moyes will revert to a 4-4-2. Everton’s back line is also becoming a massive liability. It hasn’t helped Moyes that he is just now getting a chance to mold this squad.

A few other observations
1) As much as I slagged Riley off at the beginning of this piece, I have to give him all the credit for rightfully booking Yakubu to start the second half for diving. There was at least 2 feet of space between him and Jamie Carragher.
2) Marouane Fellaini just looks out of place. Unfortunately because of his price, expect him to continue to start.
3) Liverpool’s defense is reminding me of Manchester United’s form last season.

Article written by Jonathan Starling.

Torres Relieved To Have Found Scoring Boots

Speaking after his two goals sunk ten-man Everton Liverpool's Spanish striker Fernando Torres claimed it is a relief to have broken his duct by seeing off the Blue threat with a well-taken brace.

Liverpool head coach Rafa Benitez fielded £45million worth of talent in his two available striking positions and thus far this season neither had scored in the Premier League. Fernando Torres, who bucked that trend on Saturday, is relieved that he has opened his season's account, but states the team's position at the top of the table is more important.

Torres looked out of sorts in the first half, but grew in confidence in the second and returned to the Torres of old as he terrorised the Everton backline with his clever running and exquisite finishing.

After the match he told Sky Sports: "It is a relief to start scoring again after six games. This game is very important for the fans and now we are top of the table and we are happy for that."

"I want to keep going now and score in the Champions League and maybe improve on the goals from last season."

"To win the premier league we need to stay on top so the win was good for that," he said. "If in January we are still top and in the Champions League then we will be in a great position to push on [in the latter stages of the season."

Rafa Benitez, who masterminded the win, added: "We were in control, well organised, and knew what to do."

"We had the same ideas in the second half as we did in the first. It was important for Torres - and us - for him to score two goals in a derby."

History Is On Liverpool's Side

Liverpool can all but end PSV's Champions League interests with a victory that would put them on the brink of qualification for the next round.

The Dutch side arrive at Anfield on Tuesday for the second round of matches in Group D already smarting after being comprehensively beaten 3-0 in their opening home match with Atletico Madrid.

At the same time, Liverpool were winning 2-1 in Marseille, thanks to a Steven Gerrard double, to give themselves a flying start to the group matches.

And for PSV and their coach Huub Stevens, history is certainly not on their side.

Stevens admits his side have to learn fast from the disastrous defeat by Fernando Torres' former Madrid pals.

He said: "It was really disappointing to start the campaign with such a heavy home defeat.

"We know we just have to learn from what happened, because going to Liverpool will be even more difficult.

"But we have only played one match, there are still five to go so we can turn this round."

He added: "We can learn a lot. Madrid struck against us at the right moments, and we must not let Liverpool do the same to us."

However, PSV's record against Liverpool hardly gives a reason to be confident.

The two clubs had never met until the 2006-07 campaign, when they faced each other four times.

In the group stage, they played out a goalless draw in Eindhoven before Liverpool won the return match 2-0 through goals from Gerrard and Peter Crouch to secure first place in the section.

Rafael Benitez's team then earned a comprehensive 4-0 aggregate victory in the quarter-finals. Gerrard, John Arne Riise and Crouch all found the net in a 3-0 first-leg triumph in the Netherlands before Crouch struck the only goal of the return.

On a personal note, Stevens has never won a match in England, be it on the field or in the dugout.

As a player with PSV, he tasted defeat in UEFA Cup games at Wolves (1980/81), Nottingham Forest (1983/84) and Manchester United (1984/85).

As a coach, Stevens' Schalke side lost 3-2 at Arsenal in the 2001/02 Champions League group stage, with a subsequent 3-1 home win against the Gunners not enough to save them from elimination.

The next year he did enjoy some success with Hertha Berlin against Fulham in the UEFA Cup third round, holding out for a goalless draw in London following a 2-1 home victory.

If the tie goes to form and history, Liverpool will have six points by the end of the week, while Atletico Madrid must be confident of also beating Marseille at home.

That would leave the two group favourites six points ahead of PSV and Marseille with four games left each. If Liverpool then win their two final home games, qualification will be virtually assured.

Benitez maintains the crunch will come when Liverpool go to Madrid on October 22, saying: "If we can win our first two games and then not lose in Madrid, qualification will be within our grasp."

PSV keeper Andreas Isaksson may have his own personal fears over Tuesday's clash. The last time he faced Torres was when the Spaniard scored in a 2-1 win against Sweden in a Euro 2008 group match.

Isaksson's last match in England was Manchester City's 8-1 mauling at Middlesbrough on the final day of last season, with the keeper soon to be sold to PSV for £800,000.

Tough Test For Holders As Spurs Face Liverpool In Carling Cup

Carling Cup holders Tottenham face a tough task in the fourth round of the competition after being pitted against seven-time winners Liverpool in one of three all-Premier League ties.

Spurs, who defeated Chelsea to lift the trophy last season, took a break from their league troubles to dump Newcastle out in the previous round and must beat top-flight opposition again if they are to progress.

Liverpool travel to White Hart Lane as the most successful side in League Cup history, last winning the competition in 2005.

Arsenal's much-vaunted youngsters, who demolished Sheffield United 6-0 last time out, will get another chance to impress, this time against Premier League opponents Wigan at the Emirates.

Sunderland and Blackburn, managed by former Manchester United stars Roy Keane and Paul Ince respectively, will also face each other at the Stadium of Light, while United themselves host QPR.

Carling Cup 4th Round draw: Sunderland v Blackburn; Arsenal v Wigan; Chelsea v Burnley; Swansea v Watford; Man Utd v QPR; Stoke v Rotherham; Brighton/Derby v Leeds; Tottenham v Liverpool

Ties to be played during the week commencing the 10th November.

Pourie Sinks Railwaymen

Marvin Pourie scored twice as Liverpool Under-18s continued their good form with a 3-1 win at Crewe Alexandra.

It's now five wins out of six for Hughie McAuley's side and the Reds have scored 15 goals in the process.

Thomas Ince was also in good form on the left wing and was an inspiration on the day for Liverpool.

"We were poor in the first half and Crewe went 1-0 up," McAuley told "We didn't pass the ball well and lost too much possession. We created some good chances through Pourie, David Amoo and Adam Pepper but didn't score.

"We sorted one or two things out at the break and we were a lot better in the second half. We had a better tempo to our game and Ince in particular did well.

"Ince got our equaliser from a James Ellison cross and Marvin then scored two goals. He scored a penalty after he was brought down and then added another one with a good finish into the top corner of the net."

Liverpool Under-18s team: Dean Bouzanis, Jack Metcalf, Christopher Buchtmann (Michael Scott 70), Andre Wisdom, Joe Kennedy, Michael Roberts (Astrit Adjarevic 60), Adam Pepper, Marvin Pourie (Alex Cooper 80), James Ellison, Thomas Ince. Sub unused: Hakan Duyan.