Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Match Report: Rapid Vienna 1 - 0 LiverpooL

Liverpool slumped to a 1-0 defeat against Rapid Vienna in their latest pre-season friendly in Austria.

Rapid skipper Steffen Hofmann netted the only goal with a second half free-kick to see off a strong Reds side which included Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and Yossi Benayoun.

Gerrard and Carragher played the first 45 minutes while Benayoun and Holland international Dirk Kuyt came on at the break as manager Rafael Benitez plenty of changes.

England defender Glen Johnson was not part of the matchday squad, however, after Benitez opted not to risk him after he took a slight knock to his Achilles in Wednesday's goalless draw against St Gallen.

Rapid had the better of the first half with Erwin Hoffer seeing a goal disallowed for offside while the same player saw a close-range effort well saved by Liverpool goalkeeper Diego Cavalieri.

The goal came after 57 minutes when Hofmann curled a low free-kick past Cavalieri's replacement Peter Gulacsi.

Stefan Maierhofer had another goal disallowed for offside before, at the other end, Benayoun saw a free-kick well saved by Raimund Hedl.

Benitez introduced Javier Mascherano with 25 minutes to go and the Argentinian's appearance roused the visitors with Kuyt twice coming close.

Benayoun also came close late on but Liverpool could not find an equalizer.

Rafa Benitez Hails Performance Of Liverpool Youngsters Despite Loss To Rapid Vienna

Liverpool were beaten 1-0 this evening in Austria, as they lost to Rapid Vienna in a pre-season game in which they struggled to build momentum and find quality.

Nevertheless, manager Rafa Benitez was delighted with the displays of several of the younger members of his squad and felt that the game was a valuable learning experience, despite the defeat, with performances of young Spanish duo Daniel Ayala and Daniel Pacheco attracting particular praise.

"I don't like to talk too much about individuals but both players were doing well," the coach told the Reds' official website.

"They're both young and when they come with the first team you always want to see something different. I am pleased for them and also with Jay Spearing because he played as a left full-back as we have some problems in this position at this moment.

"The other positives were to play a lot of players we wanted to play - it is all part of our preparations. We needed match fitness and we changed the majority of the players after 45 minutes - that was the idea.

"In terms of what we wanted from the game, only the result was wrong."

New right-back Glen Johnson was missing from the game, but Benitez insisted that nothing sinister should be read into his absence, concluding, "He has a small problem with his Achilles tendon but it is not serious," said Benitez. "Him not playing was a precaution."

Dirk Kuyt Hopes Liverpool Can Hang Onto Javier Mascherano & Xabi Alonso

Key Liverpool duo Javier Mascherano and Xabi Alonso, respective targets for Barcelona and Real Madrid, played pivotal roles in the club's success last season, and tireless forward Dirk Kuyt explained today that it is great to have the pair back with the squad in time for pre-season training.

Alonso had, earlier this week, intimated his pride at being a prominent member of Real Madrid's wishlist, as the Spanish giants hone in on further Galactico recruitments following the mega-money acquisitions of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, and Kaka.

The Reds' ambiguous financial future - with parent company Kop Holdings Ltd's fiscal numbers reportedly dwindling - it has been speculated that at least one of the two will be sold, and Mascherano crops up on Barcelona's wishlist, too.

However, Dirk Kuyt today explained to the Liverpool Echo that, “It’s really good to have them back and it’s good to see all the other lads also.
“We have a very good team which we showed last year and now we want to improve in the coming season and hopefully we can do that,” he concluded.

Alonso was close to a move last summer, where Arsenal allegedly attempted to prise the deep-lying playmaker away from Anfield for a cut-price £15 million fee. The Spaniard is now likely to fetch £30 million.

Xabi Alonso: Real Madrid’s Project Is Impressive But I Won’t Force Liverpool Exit

Real Madrid have spent the last few weeks haggling with Liverpool to take Xabi Alonso to the Santiago Bernabeu.

The Spanish giants are hell-bent on acquiring the Spanish international, but the Merseysiders have stubbornly refused to lower their asking price as the two clubs continue to wrangle back and forth.

The midfielder himself has so far refused to demand an unceremonious departure from Anfield, but he did admit that he is particularly interested in Florentino Perez’s Galacticos reincarnation.

“It’s always a great feeling when Madrid want you, especially considering the phase of the career I am in now,” he told AS in a brief interview prior to his trip to Vienna to join up with the rest of the Reds squad for pre-season preparations.

“But at this point, as I have always said, whether or not that can happen is not up to me. It’s a matter that involves three parties, including myself.

“I do not like to force the issue. I prefer to talk.

“Madrid’s project is certainly impressive. But beyond that, I can’t tell you anything else.”

Xabi reaffirmed that he intends to hold discussions with Rafael Benitez to persuade the gaffer to let him go.

“I will talk to him, sure, but the first thing to do when I arrive [in Austria] is to greet him,” he professed.

“But I imagine that in the next few days, there will be time for all that, even though in reality, there’s nothing in particular to talk to Rafa about. It’s the clubs who have to negotiate to reach an agreement.”

And when he was asked why the Reds had declined to accept Madrid’s prior bid of €27 million, Xabi replied, “I am not the man who can answer these questions.

“The truth is that I cannot say much, because every little thing can be misinterpreted. And I do not know how things will turn out either because I am not a fortune teller.”

Andrea Dossena Calls Roma Ace Alberto Aquilani To Liverpool

Despite flirting with Juventus this summer, Liverpool and Italy left-back Andrea Dossena is now expected to remain in England and has urged Roma midfield star Alberto Aquilani to try his hand in the Premier League.

Speculation is rife in the peninsula that the Reds have set their sights on Aquilani and are set to lodge a formal bid to lure ‘Il Principino’ to Anfield.

“Aquilani is destined to improve even more and could do so even more quickly under a great coach like [Liverpool boss Rafael] Benitez,” Dossena told laroma.net.

“A player like him can comfortably play for Liverpool or any other club. He was sidelined due to physical problems last season and could not be at his best, but he has proved to be a great footballer.

“Aquilani can do well in the Premier League, even though it is a more physical league than Serie A.”

Aquilani is reportedly Benitez’s first choice to replace Xabi Alonso, who is being courted by Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid.

“Benitez is very good at setting up the team and moving it around,” mused Dossena.

“He has many solutions at his disposal and could employ Aquilani in different ways.”

Press reports are suggesting that Liverpool are prepared to table an €18 million bid for Aquilani and offer him a lavish five-year deal worth €3m-per-year.

Liverpool Boss Rafael Benitez Rules Out Move For Valencia Striker David Villa

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has ruled out a move for Valencia striker David Villa.

The 27-year-old Spain international has been linked with a whole host of Europe's top clubs throughout the summer, but Benitez has ruled out Liverpool as potential suitors.

"David Villa, he is not our target," the 49-year-old former Valencia manager told PA Sport.

England defender Glen Johnson is the only major arrival at Anfield so far this summer, however, Benitez has not ruled out the possibility of more new faces joining the club before the end of August.

"We have already signed Johnson, an international for England. He is a good signing and Andriy Voronin is coming back, he was one of the best players in the German league, so we have two good additions," he said.

"You never know in football, we still have some time and we need to keep working on other names.

"We have fantastic players and hopefully we can keep the level of last year, and with one or two additions we could improve a little bit. At the moment we are very pleased."

Meanwhile, the Reds manager has refused to discuss the long-term future of Spanish midfielder Xabi Alonso.

Real Madrid are reportedly eager to finalize a deal to land the 27-year-old as soon as possible, and Alonso has admitted that a move to the Spanish capital would be an interesting proposition.

Despite all the speculation, Benitez has confirmed that Alonso is part of the Reds squad embarking on a two-match tour of Thailand and Singapore, insisting that the Euro 2008 winner remains a Liverpool player, for now at least.

"Xabi Alonso is here with us so he will be available," Benitez said.

Carragher Targets Final Step

Jamie Carragher is determined to help Liverpool end their title drought in the 2009/10 campaign.

The Reds came agonizingly close to landing the top flight title for the first time in 19 years last term, only to be pipped by old foes Manchester United.

There is an air of expectation around Anfield that the Holy Grail is now within sight, though, with United having parted company with Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez this summer.

With Arsenal still in a transition period, and with Chelsea yet to spend big in the transfer market, Liverpool are widely expected to be among the frontrunners once again this season.

Carragher believes Rafa Benitez's men are capable of mounting a sustained title tilt and admits everyone connected with the club will be doing their utmost to bring the Premier League crown to Merseyside.

"We had a very good season in the league last year but we realize that if we can improve that by one or two per cent that may be enough and that's what we're trying to do," he said.

"We took Manchester United very close last year and we realize them and also Chelsea will come back and maybe Manchester City as well so there's a lot of competition

"Hopefully the pre-season games we can improve and get better and make sure we're ready for Tottenham (the first game of the new season) and go one step further than we did last year."

Phil Brown Denies That Hull City Have Contacted Liverpool About Andriy Voronin

Hull City manager Phil Brown has denied that the Yorkshire club are targeting Liverpool striker Andriy Voronin, as they look to bring in striking reinforcements ahead of the start of the new Premier League campaign next month.

Brown has missed out on a number of strikers so far this summer, with Frazier Campbell, Michael Owen, Daryl Murphy and Marc-Antoine Fortune all opting for destinations other than the KC Stadium, after being targeted by the Tigers' manager.

Voronin spent a fruitful season on loan at Bundesliga outfit Hertha Berlin last campaign, after being deemed surplus to requirements by Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez. He has returned to Anfield now though, and has vowed to fight for his place in the Reds' first team.

"We have not made any contact with Liverpool with regards to Andriy Voronin," Brown told Sky Sports.

Despite that denial however, Brown did acknowledge that the Ukrainian was a player in whom he would be interested were he available, stating, when asked if Voronin was a player who could interest him, "Of course he would."

Gerrard Appears In Court On Affray Charges

England midfielder Steven Gerrard was in the dock on Monday as jurors waited to be called to try his affray case.

The Liverpool captain, 29, stood next to his six co-accused at Liverpool Crown Court in a dark grey suit and black suede shoes.

The millionaire star took his place behind the glass sealed dock in courtroom 4:1 as Judge Henry Globe QC, the Recorder of Liverpool, adjourned the hearing for legal discussions.

The midfielder arrived early at court to meet his solicitor Richard Green for discussions ahead of the trial opening. The father-of-two is accused of affray - which he denies.

It is alleged Gerrard was involved in a nightclub melee in Southport in the early hours of December 29 in which businessman Marcus McGee, 34, was injured.

Gerrard was celebrating Liverpool's 5-1 demolition of Newcastle when trouble began.

Gerrard, of Formby, Merseyside, is jointly charged with Accrington Stanley goalkeeper Ian Dunbavin, 28, of Guildford Road, Southport and midfielder Robert Grant, 18, of Enstone Road, Litherland.

Also on trial are John Doran, 29, of Woodlands Road, Ian Smith, 19, of Hilary Avenue, John McGrattan, 33, of Rimmer Avenue, and Paul McGrattan, 31, of Linden Drive, all of Huyton, Merseyside.

Following further legal submissions, the case was adjourned again until Tuesday morning without a jury being sworn in. The trial is scheduled to last between two and three weeks.

Napoli Are Interested In Liverpool Defender Andrea Dossena

The press continue to link Liverpool defender Andrea Dossena with a move back to Serie A and the player's agent, Roberto Laflorio, has confirmed interest from Napoli.

"Napoli like the player, but if they want him they must speak with the British club first," he told Radio Marte.

"I don't know if the English club really want to sell him. I spoke with Andrea and he said if an offer from Naples comes then he will discuss it with his family."

Dossena has struggled since moving to the Reds last summer, only managing 16 appearances in the Premier League in 2008-09. Napoli director Pierpaolo Marino has confirmed that the club will bring in a left-back, but has not named anyone specifically.

The 27-year-old has 10 caps for Italy since making his national team debut in 2007.