Sunday, April 26, 2009

Match Report: Hull City 1 - 3 LiverpooL

Dirk Kuyt struck twice as title-chasing Liverpool ground out a crucial Barclays Premier League victory at Hull on Saturday afternoon.

The Reds were given a rigorous test by the relegation-threatened Tigers, who were reduced to 10 men, but held on to keep the pressure on Manchester United at the top of the table.

Kuyt put Liverpool 2-0 up after a controversial Xabi Alonso strike in the first half but Hull battled hard and pulled one back through Geovanni after Caleb Folan was sent off.

But Kuyt sealed the win in the closing minutes from close range.

Liverpool, perhaps feeling the pace after Tuesday's pulsating 4-4 draw with Arsenal, were second best for large periods.

Hull sensed they had nothing to lose but their performance should at least offer encouragement for their remaining four games.

Yossi Benayoun created the first opening with a weaving run into the box but his shot was blocked and Fernando Torres lifted the rebound over the bar.

Benayoun, who has emerged as a strong creative force in the continued absence of the inspirational Steven Gerrard, then curled another shot over soon after.

Yet Hull, anxious for points after just one win in 17, showed an energy that belied their position and Folan spurned a chance when he failed to control in the area.

Jose Reina also needed to deal with a dipping cross from Craig Fagan and Dean Marney scuffed a 20-yard shot after being put clear by Geovanni on halfway.

Geovanni went closer himself with a ferocious shot after a clearance fell to him 30 yards out, his half-volley flashing just wide of target.

Hull also tested the Liverpool defence with a corner and a couple of long Sam Ricketts throws during a prolonged spell on the front foot but a final touch was lacking.

Geovanni then seized on a poor Reina throw only to slip as he looked to deliver a cross and Lucas almost caught the hosts on the counter-attack when he screwed a shot wide.

Kuyt then tried his luck with a fizzing a shot from the edge of the box but Boaz Myhill was not tested.

Liverpool finally made the breakthrough in the last minute of the first half, although Hull were far from happy when Javier Mascherano was ruled to have been fouled on the edge of the area.

Alonso fired the resulting free-kick into the wall but the rebound fell kindly and the Spaniard lashed home from 25 yards.

Hull continued their protests after the half-time whistle and Barmby was booked for dissent by referee Martin Atkinson.

The second half began tamely with Torres firing one half-chance too high and clipping another just over.

But the atmosphere changed markedly just before the hour as Folan was sent off for kicking out at the recalled Martin Skrtel and Atkinson threatened to lose control.

There could be no debate about the red card after Folan tussled with the defender trying to intercept a Jamie Carragher pass and then lashed out as the Slovakian went to ground.

Hull were furious at a perceived injustice and Fagan was booked moments later for clashing with Skrtel.

The hosts then switched off after Kamil Zayatte conceded a corner and a weak clearance allowed Skrtel to shoot and Kuyt to turn in the misdirected effort.

Hull still felt aggrieved and Atkinson was under intense pressure as the tackles flew in and the crowd scrutinised his every decision.

Tigers boss Phil Brown had attempted to shake things up just before Kuyt's goal by introducing Daniel Cousin and Bernard Mendy and the pair combined for Geovanni to score after 73 minutes.

Mendy found Cousin with a long ball and the Gabon striker raced into the area before pulling back for an unmarked Geovanni to turn in.

It was the least Hull deserved but Torres almost finished them off on 80 minutes when he headed against the bar from a Kuyt cross.

Kuyt wrapped up the points two minutes from time from in front of goal after Alvaro Arbeloa's deflected shot was pushed out by Myhill.

Hull City's Phil Brown Blames Poor Refereeing After Liverpool Loss

Hull City manager Phil Brown feels his side could have got something from their match against Liverpool, had it not been for the poor refereeing of Martin Atkinson.

The away side opened the scoring when Spanish midfielder Xabi Alonso's thunderous strike found the net on 45 minutes.

The home side were then reduced to ten men after Caleb Folan was giving his marching orders for kicking out at Martin Skrtel.

Things then got worse for the Tigers when Skrtel's mis-timed shot was headed in from close range by Dirk Kuyt.

Brazilian midfielder Geovanni gave the Tigers slim hopes of a revival when he found the back of the net but all hope died when Alvaro Arbeloa's shot fell to Kuyt, who scored his second of the game to give the Reds all three points.

After the game, Brown stated his side needed a lot of picking up at half-time, after what he saw as some poor refereeing decisions.

Speaking to BBC Sport, Brown said, "We were having to pick players up at half time after an injustice was done.

"We knew it was going to be tough and somebody has let them off the hook. I cannot see a free-kick there."

The Tigers boss however, felt the sending off was justified.

"I have no excuses for the sending off. I feel it was justified and it will be dealt with in-house. That killed us, 10 against 11, and Caleb made it a little bit easier for them."

The result leaves Hull perilously close to the drop zone, sitting in 17th place and just three points above Middlesbrough.

Rafael Benitez Plays Down Steven Gerrard Absence

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has stated that his side are able to cope in the absence of captain Steven Gerrard.

The Reds have come under criticism for their results of late and the overwhelming conclusion to the dip in form has been the absence of influential captain Gerrard.

The 28-year-old has been struggling with an injury for the past couple of weeks, meaning he has missed key games in the club's season. Liverpool have crashed out of the Champions League and lost ground in the Premier League title race and many have suggested this is due to Gerrard's absence.

The England international will again miss out on the Reds trip to the KC Stadium this afternoon, as they face Hull City looking to regain lost ground in the title race.

Benitez argues that, although Gerrard is a special player for the Reds, he does not carry the team and said he has confidence in his squad to be able to get a result against the Tigers.

Speaking to Sky Sports, Benitez said, "Gerrard is a key player for us, especially attacking, but the team is doing well.

"The team know they have to attack and they have to win and it doesn't matter Gerrard is not there. All of them try to push and try to help."

Liverpool sit in second place in the Premier League table, just three points behind Manchester United, but the Red Devils have a game in hand over their rivals.

Rafael Benitez Wants Yossi Benayoun To Stay At Liverpool

Liverpool’s Yossi Benayoun has reportedly been informed by manager Rafael Benitez that he has a long-term future at Anfield.

The Israeli’s future has been the subject of much debate this season, after he admitted he was unhappy to be starting so many games from the bench.

Benayoun arrived at Liverpool on a four-year-deal in 2007 for a fee in the region of £5 million but has struggled to nail down a place in the starting XI during his time at Anfield.

However, he has been in stunning form in recent weeks and appears to have won over his manager after producing several match-winning performances for the Reds.

The News of the World reports that Benitez now sees the Israeli international as a vital member of his squad and has informed him that he does have a future at the club.

The 28-year-old has been crucial to Liverpool’s title hopes in recent weeks, scoring a last-gasp winner at Fulham and hitting a brace in Wednesday’s thrilling 4-4 draw with Arsenal.

Benayoun also hit the winner for Liverpool in the Bernabeu against Real Madrid in the Champions League and appears to be in the form of his life at the moment.

The former West Ham United man's presence in the team has also meant that skipper Steven Gerrard’s absence has been lessened.

Benayoun was in action again yesterday and, once again, he played a pivotal role in Liverpool's 3-1 win over Hull City, which temporarily took the Reds to the top of the Premier League.

Liverpool Linked With Indian Takeover

Liverpool have reportedly entered negotiations about a possible takeover with the owners of an Indian Premier League cricket side.

According to a report in the News of the World, representatives of the billionaire owners of the Delhi Daredevils met with Anfield officials last week.

The paper claims that officials from the GMR group were also present at Anfield in midweek, as Rafael Benitez’s men drew 4-4 with Arsenal.

The British tabloid quotes a 'Kop source' as revealing that members of the GMR group had been invited to the game by Tom Hicks.

The report also goes on to suggest that GMR view Liverpool as a perfect investment opportunity and that they are keen to move into English football.

“The GMR group were invited by Hicks, and their representative watched the Arsenal match in the directors' box with Hicks' son Tommy,” claims the paper’s source.

“It was quite clear the representative was a fan.

“When you look at the company's commitment to sport, they're exactly the type of partner Tom would be looking for.”

The News of the World also claims that Hicks originally made contact with GMR with a view to discussing a sponsorship deal, but that this could now lead to a buy-out.

Daniel Agger Snubs New Liverpool Deal

According to The Sun, Liverpool centre-back Daniel Agger has knocked back a four-year deal with the Anfield outfit.

Owing to the Reds' poor financial situation at the moment, it is understood that the board at the Merseyside club are holding back on big-money deals until the club's debt has been discussed at length with the Royal Bank of Scotland.

And with reported interest from Italian clubs AC Milan and Juventus, the 24-year-old defender may be swayed towards an exit from Liverpool if a better offer is not tabled soon - the original figure supposedly reaching heights of £10 million.

Alvaro Arbeloa is in a similar position as Agger, due to Rafa Benitez being made to wait before any monetary commitments are made, at least until the club has been advised on how to manage their £350 million debt.

Financial Cloud On The Anfield Horizon

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez's summer spending plans - and even the future of star players such as Fernando Torres - will not be made any more certain by new doubts over the finances of co-owner Tom Hicks's American sporting empire.

Hicks played down the significance of his Hicks Sports Group failing to make an interest payment on £350million of loans at the end of last month, but reports in the United States claim the crisis dates back many months to when US regulators made a damning assessment of HSG's ability to meet its obligations.

The Hicks camp insist what is happening in the US has no bearing on his stake in Liverpool, but it is inconceivable that the news will have made the Royal Bank of Scotland and Wachovia any more willing to refinance the £350m loan facility they set up with Hicks and cochairman George Gillett to help them buy and run the club.

The American owners attended Liverpool's 4-4 draw with Arsenal last week, but the primary purpose of their visit is believed to have been further talks with RBS about extending the agreement beyond July.

The ongoing uncertainty off the pitch could lead to RBS and Wachovia taking financial control of the club in a bid to claw back as much of their money as possible.

Rafa Explains Gesture Row

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez has explained the reason behind his arm-waving gesture which outraged Blackburn boss Sam Allardyce.

Allardyce accused Benitez of showing a lack of respect as a result of gestures made by the Spaniard following Liverpool's second goal in the 4-0 win at Anfield.

Manchester United chief Sir Alex Ferguson also accused Benitez of showing contempt to Allardyce with the gesture, but Liverpool assistant manager Sammy Lee defended Benitez claiming the Reds boss was communicating with his own players.

Benitez has now revealed he made the gesture in reaction to Xabi Alonso not agreeing to his orders when taking a setpiece.

"Xabi Alonso and Emiliano Insua were standing over a free-kick and I was shouting orders to them in Spanish," Benitez told the Daily Mail.

"I kept saying, "Play it short" because I thought there could be a surprise element. But Xabi just whipped it straight into the area and when Fernando Torres headed it in, he turned round and gave me a big grin.

"I had to laugh and I just made a sign to say, 'OK, don't listen to me'."

Fernando Torres Burn Out Fear As He Faces Another Busy Summer

Liverpool star Fernando Torres faces another summer without rest, amid fears he risks burn-out.

Torres will be forced to travel with Spain to the Confederations Cup, and that will mean him playing on until the end of June.

Worse still, Liverpool are committed to a preseason trip to Thailand and Singapore less than a month later.

The host countries have inserted clauses in the contract that Torres MUST play.

The Spaniard will get barely a fortnight off, as the first game against Thailand is on July 22.

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez said: "The Spanish players have to go to the Confederations Cup, so we will see how we manage.

"We can't change the situation, we have to accept it, but it's always us that has to adapt."