Monday, October 06, 2008

Liverpool Comeback Shows They Might Just Be The Real Deal

A win is a win is a win but, as Morrissey almost said, some wins are bigger than others.

To see Liverpool's delirious celebration of Dirk Kuyt's winning goal at Eastlands today, after they had been 2-0 down at the end of a thoroughly miserable first half, was to see a side with an increasingly powerful belief that destiny is with them, and that it has decided their run without a league title will end at 19 years.

Liverpool did not play particularly well until Pablo Zabaleta was given a straight red for an appalling challenge on Xabi Alonso, after which they picked City apart at will, but that only adds to the worthiness of their victory. There is an inclination to talk of such victories as displaying the "mark of champions", when a team have played badly but willed or lucked their way to a win.

Yet what is just as important as the perception that a lucky victory is the preserve of the bona fide title contenders is the extent to which the confidence and sense of fate that can be drawn from such victories permeates through future contests. Liverpool will glean an immeasurable psychological boost from the manner of their win.

There are still issues with the team, not least at full-back, but this will only reinforce the growing belief on the Kop that this could be Liverpool's year. Late wins, comeback wins, lucky wins: Liverpool are ticking a lot of the boxes of the potential champion. The force is strong in these ones.

Every title-winner recalls one symbolic victory: recent examples include Manchester United's heist at Anfield in March 2007, Chelsea's show of bare-chested cheek after withstanding a physical battering at Blackburn in February 2005, and Thierry Henry's 4-2 victory over Liverpool in April 2004. Usually, by their very nature, they come in the second half of the season. But if Liverpool win the league this year, this might be the one.

Comeback wins (Liverpool have already come from behind three times to win this season) and in particular late goals offer a window into a very healthy soul – remember how many Manchester United's treble winners scored – and this is the third time in seven league games that Liverpool have won with a goal in the final 10 minutes, two of them in injury time. Ryan Babel's winner against United also came late, with 13 minutes to go.

Liverpool are gathering force through each game and, as a consequence, gathering an even stronger force for the long-game of the title race.

Frustrated Liverpool defender Agger Set For A Move To Real Madrid In New Year

Unsettled Liverpool defender Daniel Agger could be set for a move to Spanish giants Real Madrid in the January transfer window.

The Danish centre-back has fallen behind Martin Skrtel as Jamie Carragher's first choice partner, and the Sun have reported he has become unhappy with the lack of games.

Real vice-president Jose Angel Sanchez has admitted they would already have moved for Agger had they not spent the summer trying to resolve Robinho's future.

Sanchez said: 'We already had plans about buying Agger this summer, along with some other players.

'But the Robinho situation took so much attention and demanded so many resources from the club that we had to drop the plans for putting in a bid for him and the others we had in mind.

'Agger’s a player we have been looking at for a long time and it’s likely we will bid for him in January.

'He’s a world-class player and would fit into our system without a doubt. We need a defender and a striker - and Agger tops our list.'

Kuyt: Liverpool Can Aim For Title After Victory Over Manchester City

Liverpool's Dutch forward Dirk Kuyt, who scored the winner in his team's Saturday 3-2 victory over Manchester City, believes that that win proves that Rafael Benitez's team have the credentials to go on and win the Premier League this season. The stoppage time goal was Kuyt's first in the Premier League in 28 games.

Liverpool had been trailing 2-0 at the break, but two Fernando Torres goals brought them back in to the game. Going in to the international break, Benitez's team are top of the Premier League, four points ahead of Arsenal and six clear of champions Manchester United.

The 28-year-old said: "We try to make a statement every week. Every three games we have a big game. We had Everton and PSV last week, and our target is just to win every game and try to be there by the end of the season. But it was vital to keep pace with Chelsea before the internationals. We can leave with a good feeling.

"We've already had one international break and we came back in our first game after it and beat Man Utd, so I wouldn't say it comes at a bad time.

"Anyway, we don't need any excuses. We'll just keep on going and see how we do against Wigan in our next game."

Kuyt added: "We had a feeling at half-time that we could get back in the game if we scored a goal. We got that and were back in the game, and I think we deserved to win.

"All of the players worked really hard - even the substitutes. It shows what a good squad of players we have here.

"Fernando had a difficult time in the first half but that was the same for all of us. He just needed a little chance to score and it's great for a team if you have someone like that up front. He always seems to score when he gets his chances."

Skrtel - Worst Pain Ever

Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel has revealed his injury against Manchester City left him in the worst pain he has ever experienced.

The Slovakia international was stretched off late on at the City of Manchester Stadium on Sunday after falling awkwardly while shielding the ball from Ched Evans.

Skrtel's agony was obvious as he was given oxygen on the pitch and he has now informed Slovakia's team doctor that he went through a new level of pain after twisting his knee.

The Reds ace is set to go for an MRI scan on the injury on Monday where Liverpool will be hoping to ascertain how long he might be facing on the sidelines.

"I have already spoken with Martin and he told me he had never experienced such pain before," Peter Malinovsky told SITA.

"Martin will have an MRI scan on Monday and I don't really want to think about how long he might be on the sidelines.

"It might only be a week, but it could be a lot longer and I don't want to believe what the consequences of this injury could really be."

Match Review: Manchester City 2 - 3 LiverpooL

Dirk Kuyt scored his first Premier League goal since November to secure a dramatic victory for Liverpool.

The Holland striker rattled the ball home in stoppage time to stun 10-man City.

The home side had raced into a two-goal lead in the first half through Stephen Ireland and Javier Garrido.

Fernando Torres pulled a goal back before City's Pablo Zabaleta was sent off.

The momentum was then with Liverpool with Torres adding a second before Kuyt, who was guilty of a shocking earlier miss, having the final word.

Liverpool almost went ahead as early as the fourth minute when Albert Riera got a good touch and goalkeeper Joe Hart had to look alert to turn his effort around the post.

The visitors kept up the pressure and launched a swift counter-attack in the 15th minute. Javier Mascherano, who was preferred to Robbie Keane tried to send Steven Gerrard clear.

However Shaun Wright-Phillips showed his defensive qualities to get in a crucial challenge.

Three minutes later Kuyt should have put Liverpool ahead only to sky his shot over the top in front of the post after Riera had set up the opening.

City made the breakthrough a minute later thanks to Ireland's third goal of the season.

Wright-Phillips did well to cut the ball back from the by-line but it seemed to get stuck under Robinho's feet.

However it eventually fell to Ireland and the ever-improving midfielder rifled an unstoppable shot into the corner.

Whenever Liverpool did break forward City were defending in numbers from front to back. Xabi Alonso tried his luck from distance in the 38th minute but Hart was equal to his effort.

City extended their lead three minutes later after Wright-Phillips was bundled over Riera, who had a spell on loan at Eastlands.

Garrido stepped up and sent a superb free-kick over a stunned Reina for his first goal for the club.

However it was game on the 56th minute with Liverpool pulling a goal back through Torres.

England midfielder Steven Gerrard, a subdued figure in the first half, began the move by releasing Alvaro Arbeloa.

He skipped to the byline before delivering a cross into the path of Torres, who scored from close range.

It was the Spain striker's fourth goal of the league campaign and came on the back of his brace in the victory over Everton.

This was now a test of character for City, whose own form in the domestic campaign has been a little bit inconsistent.

However they hit back and Wright-Phillips skipped down the wing in the 65th minute, leaving Liverpool players trailing in his wake.

He picked out Robinho but he was unable to test Reina, his effort going over the bar.

The game took a dramatic twist in the 68th minute when City were reduced to 10 men.

Zabaleta was sent off by referee Peter Walton for what the official deemed as a two-footed lunge on Alonso, who needed brief treatment.

Keane was introduced at the expense of Mascherano in the 72nd minute and a minute later Liverpool were level.

Torres peeled away from his marker as Gerrard swung in the corner and thumped home a header.

He had a chance of completing his hat-trick in the 82nd minute only to send his effort at the back post wide of the target.

Kuyt then secured the points in stoppage time, smashing the ball high into the net after Torres' shot had bobbled off Dunne and into his path.

Reds Fear For Skrtel

Rafa Benitez fears Liverpool's Martin Skrtel could be set for an extended spell on the sidelines after injuring his knee against Manchester City.

The Reds stopper fell awkwardly late on when attempting to keep the ball away from substitute Ched Evans at The City of Manchester Stadium.

Skrtel was caught in the air by Evans and upon landing his right leg caught in the ground and he needed to be stretched off with his leg heavily strapped.

Benitez has confirmed Skrtel will have a scan on Monday, although should he require any length of time on the sidelines Daniel Agger is on stand-by to fill in.

"It seems serious. He's twisted his knee and now we have to wait for the scan," the Spanish tactician told Sky Sports.

Work On Liverpool Stadium Halts

Building work on Liverpool's new stadium has been halted because of the credit squeeze, but chief executive Rick Parry said the project isn't in danger.

While Liverpool's ownership and financial future remains in doubt because of the continued discord between American co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr., the worldwide crisis in the money markets have added to the problems facing the club.

"With the financial markets in the turmoil as they are, any major construction project at this time is difficult, it is risky,'' Parry told BBC Radio.”It is a case of a delay while things settle down. It is still a very, very good long term project. The economics of it still make underlying sense.''

Liverpool has planning permission to build a 60,000-seat stadium close to its current 45,000-capacity home at Anfield and hopes to increase it to 73,000. Building work has barely started on the Stanley Park site, however, and delays to the project have led to speculation that Hicks and Gillett, who remain in a dispute over the ownership of the club, have run into cashflow problems.

Parry said there were no intentions of making any major alterations to the project or groundshare with neighbor Everton, its most traditional and most bitter rival.

"I do not see any change in direction or any change in plans, and groundshare is not back on the agenda,'' said Parry, who added that there were no significant moves expected in the ownership dispute which has been dragging on for almost a year.

Hicks is blocking Gillett's moves to sell his 50 percent share to outside organizations.

"It has gone quiet and everyone is delighted,'' Parry said.”The focus at Liverpool should only ever be on football. All is relatively stable, I am not aware of anything that is happening regarding the sale of the club at this moment. My focus is on day-to-day things and making sure we deliver.''

Torres Is Priceless - Benitez

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez insists Fernando Torres is not for sale at any price and that he would not swap the Spaniard for anyone.

Benitez is a huge admirer of Torres and believes the striker is currently among the best players in the world.

Torres enjoyed a sensational debut season at Anfield last term netting 33 goals in all competitions and he carried that form into Euro 2008 helping Spain win the trophy in the summer.

Cash-rich Manchester City have been credited with an interest in signing Torres, but Benitez insists the former Atletico Madrid ace is 'unbuyable.'

"I do not want to put a price on him because people will want to think I want to sell him and that is not the case, so I will not say any price," Benitez is quoted as saying in the News of the World.

"I'm sure all the players have a value but not Torres. He is priceless to us. He is unbuyable.

"I would not want to swap Fernando with anyone else in the world because he is my player and I'm very pleased with him.

"There are good players in Europe and all the way around the world, but better than Torres? No."

Benitez is confident there is more to come from Torres and has tipped him to become even better in the future.

"Torres is very clever, but he is still young - he will get better," added Benitez.

"When he was at Atletico Madrid he was on his own up front. He was going to the wide areas too much.

"I felt he had to be closer to the box and he has worked on that. It makes him more dangerous."