Thursday, February 05, 2009

Match Report: Everton 1 - 0 LiverpooL

Teenager Dan Gosling won the Merseyside FA Cup battle with a winner deep into extra-time.

The 19-year-old from Plymouth, in only his fifth appearance for the club, scored in the 118th minute to finally break the spirit of 10-man Liverpool.

Everton now face Aston Villa in the fifth round on February 15.

Liverpool ended in disarray. Robbie Keane sold, Steven Gerrard limping away after just 16 minutes, while Fernando Torres was withdrawn, exhausted, in extra-time.

They had been facing defeat from the moment Lucas was sent-off with 14 minutes of normal time left.

The Brazilian midfielder became the 23rd player to be dismissed in Merseyside derbies, with 16 of those coming in the last 10 years.

It summed up a fourth-round replay that was a war of attrition from the start between sides meeting for the third time in 17 days.

Everton had Marouane Fellaini back from suspension after missing the two derbies last month, while Liverpool left out Javier Mascherano and Fabio Aurelio, utilising Lucas and Andrea Dossena.

A simmering disdain was obvious. A match that was once the friendly derby turned into a nasty, spiteful one.

Neither manager had helped in the build-up as they sniped away at each other.

Reds boss Rafael Benitez had moaned about Everton's defensive tactics and physical approach while David Moyes claimed Liverpool were treated leniently by officials while asking for referee Alan Wiley to take a firm stance.

On the pitch the atmosphere was no better, and the Staffordshire official needed to be right on top of things.

He booked Tim Cahill after just 19 minutes for a flaying arm into Jamie Carragher's face, and lectures were dished out to Xabi Alonso, Lucas, Fellaini and Steven Pienaar.

There had been disruption for both sides beforehand.

Everton left out Victor Anichebe from their squad following his training-ground bust-up with Moyes, while Liverpool were surely distracted by the Keane saga.

And with the ink barely dry on transfer forms that had taken him back to Spurs, it was predictable that Liverpool found need for the Irishman after just 16 minutes.

They suffered the a savage blow when Gerrard pulled up with a hamstring problem and was replaced by Yossi Benayoun. If Keane had been around he would have been the ideal replacement to play behind Torres.

As it was Dirk Kuyt was shifted into a more central role, and Liverpool had lost their driving inspiration.

Liverpool tried to impose their passing game on Everton, who responded in their usual way.

Pienaar was booked a foul on Lucas, while the only genuine shots in the first half came from Alonso with a 25-yarder that skidded wide, while Leon Osman volleyed over from the edge of the box.

The second period started with Benayoun and Kuyt switching roles while Phil Neville and Lucas both picked up bookings.

Everton were soon to lose the injured Fellaini, teenager Gosling taking over.

That left Everton without any real threat in the air, and they were forced into another change when Pienaar - who had seemed to be struggling with a hamstring problem - was replaced by youngster Jack Rodwell.

Tim Howard needed to make a decent smothering save when Alonso's angled pass sent Albert Riera into the box.

Mikel Arteta had been pushed forward to help Cahill, Everton's resources stretched almost to breaking point.

Chances were rare. A Gosling shot failed to worry Jose Reina, while Howard pulled down a Kuyt header.

Liverpool's own sloppiness eventually allowed Everton the best chance so far.

Possession was squandered and Arteta passed for Leon Osman to hit a post.

Arteta was booked for a foul on Riera, but after 76 minutes Liverpool were reduced to 10 men when Lucas's daft trip on Joleon Lescott gave Wiley no choice but to brandish a second yellow and then red.

Mascherano was soon sent on to shore up the centre, Riera being sacrificed.

The flow of cards continued. Alonso being cautioned for a foul on Tony Hibbert with a minute of normal time to go.

In the first period of extra-time, Everton penned Liverpool back, Cahill having two efforts wide and missing a Leighton Baines cross.

Osman also went close twice before Liverpool took off Torres - played off the park by Phil Jagielka - and sent on Ryan Babel.

Andy van der Meyde came on for Neville, Everton searching for the moment to break Liverpool's resistance. Hibbert became Everton's fifth booking for a foul on Alonso.

And in the 118th minute, Everton went ahead.

Van Der Meyde's cross from the right was controlled by Gosling on the left, and his deflected shot went in off the far post.

Cue mass hysteria.

West Ham Fend Off Liverpool Interest To Complete Herita Ilunga Signing

According to a report in British tabloid newspaper The Sun, left-back Herita Ilunga is set to extend his stay with east London-based outfit West Ham United.

It is reported that Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez had been impressed with the full-back’s performances since joining the Hammers on loan from Toulouse at the beginning of the season; however, the Irons appear to have persuaded the former Espanyol and Saint-Etienne defender to stay at Upton Park.

Apparently, West Ham will pay le Tefece €2.25 million (£2m) to complete the transfer on a permanent basis, with the 26-year-old poised to sign a four-year contract.

Scott Duxburry, the Hammers' CEO, told the club's official website, "[West Ham have] exercised the option to keep Herita Ilunga at the club [on a] long-term [basis]. We are very happy with the business we have done."

Manager Gianfranco Zola is quoted by The Sun as having said, "We really wanted to keep Ilunga; he has done fantastically well."

The 26-year-old has played in 21 of West Ham's 24 Premier League fixtures this season, in addition to two FA Cup appearances.

Liverpool Must Focus On Premier League & Europe, Fernando Torres Needs Games - Rafa Benitez

The Reds' cup dreams were shattered last night, and Rafa wants his troops - especially the sluggish 'El Nino' - to concentrate unwaveringly on their remaining chances of silverware.

Dan Gosling's 119th minute strike saw Everton dump Liverpool out of the FA Cup last night, thus ending the Anfield side's hopes of adding another domestic knock-out title to their haul.

That leaves the Reds alive in just two competitions: the Premier League, in which they trail Manchester United by two points; and the Champions League, in which they will face Real Madrid in the last 16.

And Rafael Benitez has urged his charges to buckle down and lift their game as they continue their quest to end a two-year trophy less streak.

"We now have to concentrate on the Premier League and the Champions League so there is still a lot to play for," the Liverpool manager told the club's official website.

"They are two massive competitions and we are in a very good position."

Fernando Torres will be vital to Liverpool's chances of contesting each title to the bitter end, especially now that Steven Gerrard looks set to miss a few weeks at least through injury.

However, the Spanish striker is yet to fully recover from his own hamstring problems, and he seemed a yard off the pace at Goodison Park last night.

Benitez conceded that Torres is yet to find his touch, but he is confident that the 24-year-old will back to his very best sooner or later.

"He needs to keep playing games and keep training because his match fitness is not the best but that will come," added the former Valencia boss.

Keane Not Treated Fairly - Staunton

Former Liverpool defender Steve Staunton says Robbie Keane wasn't given a fair crack of the whip at Anfield. Keane has headed back to Tottenham just six months after moving to Merseyside in a £20.3m deal - with Rafa Benitez suggesting he couldn't cope with the pressure of playing at such a big club. But Staunton, who spent two spells at Liverpool and also managed Keane for the Republic Of Ireland, is astonished at the way the striker has been treated.

"It's a surprise what has happened because as a lover of Liverpool I thought he was a good signing for them when he went there," he said.

"It was his dream move to Liverpool and you'll have to ask Rafa Benitez why it didn't work out because I don't know myself. Rafa has his own ideas, how he plays his system, and I don't think Robbie fitted into that system.

"Rafa has a system he plays and the main guy in it is Fernando Torres with Steven Gerrard behind him, so there was no room for Robbie and he never had the opportunity.

"I don't think he was given a fair crack of the whip to be honest. He had a few games but he never had a level playing field.

"Robbie is one of these guys who needs to be playing every week to get the best out of them and he didn't get that at Liverpool. But he'll get it at Spurs."

Staunton is certain Tottenham have bought themselves a top-quality player who will prove crucial in their bid to escape relegation from the Premiership and win the Carling and Uefa Cups this season.

He said: "I would say Harry Redknapp has got a gem of a player in the deal. Robbie is a leader as well as a very good goalscorer. He's a top bloke and he'll sort the dressing room out as well.

"He will play regular football and will get back to his best very quickly. He's one of those guys that want to play football every week. He gets very frustrated otherwise.

"I don't know about the politics at Liverpool, it obviously didn't work out. But he's lucky to have got away quickly. Time will tell if it costs Liverpool or not but it's certainly good for Spurs."

Robbie Keane Could Cost Himself A Premier League Winners' Medal

Tottenham Hotspur striker Robbie Keane could score the goal that costs him a Premier League winners' medal.

The former Liverpool player returned this week to Spurs, and the Premier League confirmed that if Liverpool win the title, Keane will qualify for a medal.

With the Premier League race still wide open, the title could go to the final game – when Liverpool face Tottenham at Anfield. Liverpool are just two points behind leaders Manchester United.

Premier League rules state that the champions will receive 21 medals for the players, manager and staff. The qualification rule for players is that they must have appeared in a minimum of 10 league games.

Already this season 17 players have featured in at least 10 games for Liverpool. That figure includes Keane, who arrived in the summer from Spurs for £20 million, and went on to start 16 games, coming on in a further three. He managed to score just five league goals before returning to North London on deadline day for £12 million.

Keane starts for a second time in a Tottenham shirt against Arsenal on Sunday, when he will be captain, after manager Harry Redknapp confirmed he will wear the armband. Ledley King, who has struggled with knee and hamstring injuries, will remain as club captain.

Still So Much To Play For - Liverpool FC Boss Rafa Benitez

Rafa Benitez urged his players to focus on Premier League and Champions League glory after their FA Cup agony at Goodison.

Benitez was crestfallen at Dan Gosling’s last-gasp winner but insisted he was proud that his players battled on after Lucas Leiva’s second half dismissal.

Benitez said: “To play for so long with 10 players and then to concede right at the end to a deflection you have to be disappointed.

“The players worked so hard and then we had some bad luck at the end - we have to accept this.

“I don’t think our confidence will take a blow. The players showed great character and when you lose in this way it won’t affect the confidence of the team.

“It’s very disappointing to be out of the Cup but now we have to concentrate on the league and the Champions League so there is still a lot to play for.

“They are two massive competitions and we are in a very good position.”

Liverpool’s hopes suffered a major blow when skipper Steven Gerrard was forced off with a hamstring injury after just 16 minutes.

The midfielder will undergo a scan today but is a major doubt for Saturday’s league trip to Portsmouth.

“I don’t know how long Steven will be out for,” said Benitez.

“He was injured and he asked to come off. He will have a scan and we will have to wait and see.

“When I took him off last week, people were saying he should be playing every single minute. Well now you see the consequences of that.”

Benitez was clearly unhappy with referee Alan Wiley’s decision to dismiss Brazilian Lucas for a second bookable offence 14 minutes from the end of normal time but bit his lip.

“The sending off was the turning point but I prefer not to say anything,” he said.

“It doesn’t matter.”

Benitez also defended his decision to replace Fernando Torres with Ryan Babel in extra time.

“Torres was really tired and that’s why I took him off,” he added.

“Clearly he needs to keep playing games and keep training because his match fitness is not the best. He’s not really sharp yet.”

Liverpool Fans Mock Everton's 'Sock-Robbers'

Some football supporters throw coins, others the odd bottle. In the old days it used to be toilet rolls. But at Goodison Park on Wednesday night, Liverpool fans targeted the Everton players with rolled-up socks.

Socks? Why socks? Was it a goodwill gesture from the richer half of Merseyside to their hard-up neighbours? Or an easy way of getting rid of unwanted Christmas presents?

None of the above - in reality it was a dig at Everton’s proposed move to a new stadium in Kirkby on the outskirts of Liverpool.

Residents of Kirkby, a mainly working class area whose famous sons include boxer John Conteh, former Liverpool captain Phil Thompson and playwright Alan Bleasdale, are sometimes derided as “sock-robbers.” This is a rather cruel reference to the way that burglars from the area allegedly put socks over their hands to avoid leaving behind finger-prints.

What started as a joke on a Liverpool supporters’ internet forum mushroomed into Wednesday night’s carefully-organised stunt, which was embellished with a raucous chant of “sock-robbers.”

It is not the first such dig. In last season’s league derby at Goodison, Liverpool fans released onto the pitch Tesco carrier bags filled with balloons - a jibe at Everton’s reliance on the supermarket chain to part fund the new stadium project. They also used Tesco’s slogan on a banner to taunt their blue rivals: “Every Little Helps.”

And older fans will remember the time in the 1960s when a Kopite ran onto the Anfield pitch to present Everton goalkeeper Gordon West with a handbag.

Gerrard Injury Doubt For England

Steven Gerrard is likely to miss England's friendly against Spain with a hamstring injury.

The midfielder limped off in the first half of Liverpool's 1-0 extra-time defeat at Everton in an fourth round fourth round replay.

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez claims tiredness was to blame and he will send his captain for a scan.

He said: "Steven was tired, and he gets injured. He was tired, too, at Wigan but when I took him off there everyone was saying he had to play every single minute of every match. Now you have seen the consequences.

"He asked to be taken off, you could see at Wigan he was struggling and the same thing happened here."

Gerrard will miss the Premier League game against Portsmouth on Saturday but Fabio Capello could still name in his squad for the trip to Spain.

That might anger Benitez because Liverpool decided Gerrard was not fit enough to play for England in a friendly against Germany in November but he was summoned to London so he could be assessed by Fabio Capello's medical staff.

Benitez said: "Maybe he will have go down to London again like last time for a scan to prove he is injured."

Liverpool Boss Benitez Admits He Has No Idea How Long Gerrard Will Be Out

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has admitted he has no idea how long captain Steve Gerrard will be sidelined after limping off at Everton on Wednesday night.

Gerrard was replaced by Yossi Benayoun after just 16 minutes and will have a scan on his hamstring today to determine the extent of the damage.

And Benitez insisted the injury to his talismanic skipper proves his decision to replace him against Wigan last week was justified.

'I don't know how long Steven will be out for,' Benitez said. 'He was injured and he asked to come off. He will have a scan and we will have to wait and see.

'Steven was tired, and he gets injured. He was tired too at Wigan but when I took him off there everyone was saying he had to play every single minute of every match. Now you have seen the consequences.

'He asked to be taken off, you could see at Wigan he was struggling and the same thing happened here.'

Liverpool Must Tighten Up Ahead Of FA Youth Cup Clash

Coach Hughie McAuley has urged his youngsters to tighten up ahead of tonight’s FA Youth Cup fifth round clash with Chelsea at Anfield.

The Reds will be looking to bounce back from last weekend’s 3-2 defeat to Everton in the Premier Academy League at Finch Farm.

McAuley’s side had looked on course for victory after Finnish striker Lauri Dalla Valle’s brace had cancelled out Tom McCready’s opener but James McCarten levelled before the break and Shane Duffy headed home a second-half winner.

“We lost the game to three set-pieces, which is always disappointing,” McAuley said.

“We were the best side, that is for sure, and dominated the game for large periods.

“We played very well and created some good chances. We scored two good goals from Dalla Valle and had more chances to equalise but we didn’t take them.

“But part of the game is defending and at set-pieces we didn’t do that and consequently that cost us.”

If McAuley’s youngsters beat Chelsea tonight they will earn another home tie at Anfield in the quarter-finals against Bolton.

The last time the two clubs met in the FA Youth Cup was in the fourth round two years ago when goals from Jimmy Ryan and Ray Putterill consigned Chelsea to a 2-0 defeat at Anfield.

Due to tonight’s tie Liverpool’s scheduled Academy League fixture with Stoke City on Saturday has been postponed.