Thursday, July 23, 2009

Match Report: Thailand 1 - 1 LiverpooL

Sutee Sumsomkit's second-half equalizer saw Thailand secure a battling draw with Liverpool in a pre-season friendly at Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok.

Ryan Babel put the Barclays Premier League side in front after six minutes but substitute Sutee struck with a consummate finish midway through the second period to ensure the encounter ended all-square.

Thailand had the first sight of goal with just a minute on the clock when Diego Cavalieri's poor clearance fell straight to Datsakorn Thonglao but he shot wide from 30 yards with the Liverpool 'keeper scrambling back towards goal.

The visitors took the lead when Jamie Carragher hit a long diagonal ball that picked out Babel's run after he had got in front of Suree Sukha.

The Dutchman's touch took him away from the defender before he beat Kosin Hathairattanakul with a low finish.

Babel could have doubled the lead five minutes later when Krisztian Nemeth collected a weak headed clearance and played the winger in down the left but Kosin got down well to block.

He had another chance after 20 minutes when he met Lucas' perfectly flighted ball from the left in space at the far post but cushioned his volley wide.

Datsakorn then fired a 25-yard free-kick over the bar as the Thais were unable to convert a decent amount of possession into clear chances.

Liverpool made a host of changes at the break but Martin Skrtel lasted only 10 minutes before limping off and fellow substitute Nabil El Zhar was replaced two minutes later.

Javier Mascherano warmed Kosin's hands with a stinging drive but the second half was proving a low-key affair until the 71st minute when the hosts equalized.

Sutee played a neat one-two with Teerasil Dungda and the former's left-footed finish found the bottom corner beyond substitute keeper Peter Gulacsi's outstretched hand.

Andrea Dossena was sent clear by Andriy Vornonin following a swift interchange but shot straight at Kosin before the Ukrainian wasted a glorious chance nine minutes from time when put clean through by Fernando Torres but missed from 10 yards and Glen Johnson curled an effort wide in injury time as Thailand held on.

Liverpool's Martin Skrtel Suffers Hamstring Injury In Friendly

Liverpool lost central defender Martin Skrtel to a hamstring injury in today's 1–1 draw with Thailand in a pre-season friendly. The Slovak international came on as a half-time substitute but lasted only 10 minutes on a rain-soaked afternoon before grabbing the top of his right hamstring and walking gingerly off the field.

Nabil El Zhar came off soon after with an injured right knee after attempting a bicycle kick. The club's medical staff are assessing the players but the Liverpool manager, Rafael Benítez, admitted his disappointment at the injuries. "They were not the best conditions here today and the worst thing was to lose Skrtel and El Zhar. The idea of the game was to improve match fitness, so to lose two players is bad news," he told the club's official website.

The midfielder Xabi Alonso, subject of intense transfer speculation about a move to Real Madrid, did not make an appearance. Fernando Torres made his first appearance of the pre-season, coming on for the latter stages of the second half.

Liverpool's starting team contained five regular first-team players: Jamie Carragher, Dirk Kuyt, Lucas Leiva, Ryan Babel and Daniel Agger. The opening goal came in the sixth minute as Carragher played a long ball into the path of Babel, who outpaced the defence, controlled the ball and slotted past the goalkeeper. But Liverpool looked rusty, struggling to combine effectively in the attacking half. Babel volleyed another long pass wide and had another effort stopped by the goalkeeper.

Thailand's equaliser came in the 72nd minute as substitute Sutee Suksomkit played a neat one-two and calmly placed his shot past the onrushing substitute goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi.

Liverpool changed 10 players at the break, with their new signing Glen Johnson coming on and playing in an unfamiliar left-back position, while Javier Mascherano and Andriy Voronin were among those also given a run-out in the second half.

Rafael Benitez Urges Liverpool To Step Up Premier League Preparations

Liverpool have lost their opening two games of their pre-season, and although manager Rafael Benitez isn't concerned by the results or the performances, he wants to see his side return to winning ways when they take on Thailand this evening.

Speaking to the clubs official website, Benitez said, “We know there is going to be a fantastic crowd here and that they will be giving us great support, so of course we want to win for them.”

The Liverpool boss went on to give his reaction to the club's support in Thailand, saying, “When you come to a country like Thailand and see all the supporters then it again makes you proud to be the manager of the club. I hope we can put on a show for the fans tonight, but it won't be easy.”

Reflecting on his team's preseason so far, Benitez added, "The only thing wrong with our games so far have been the results, especially the last one in Vienna. The players are working hard in difficult conditions out here, but we are preparing them properly for the season which is when it really matters."

Latest On Steven Gerrard Court Case

Liverpool FC Steven Gerrard was in a "huff" before he attacked a man with a barrage of punches, a court heard on Wednesday.

Gerrard, 29, confronted Marcus McGee after he refused to give him control of a stereo at the Lounge Inn bar in Southport, Merseyside, last year.

The England midfielder was drinking in the early hours of December 29 with a throng of friends to celebrate his team’s 5-1 drubbing of Newcastle.

He downed bottles of Budweiser and a Jammy Donut shot.

Gerrard - who said he was seven out of 10 on a drunkenness scale - returned to confront businessman Mr. McGee and threw three punches at him, the player said.

On Wednesday, Liverpool Crown Court heard from barman Nathaniel Lockie who relived the attack and claimed Gerrard was in a "huff" after not getting his own way.

He said: "Gerrard grabbed the back of his jumper and pulled it over his head, pulled him down and started uppercutting him.

"While that happened I ran round to the other side of the bar trying to help and he (Gerrard) was dragged off into the restaurant."

Mr. McGee, 34, said when he refused to hand over control of the music Gerrard asked him: "Who the f*** do you think you are?"

He said of the attack several minutes later: "I remember a barrage of punches coming in at my face but I didn’t know who has done what.

"Having watched the CCTV it was obvious Steven Gerrard hit me a couple of times, maybe three times but I couldn’t honestly say on the night.

"I didn’t know who did what."

The first shot was actually thrown by Gerrard’s friend John Doran, 29, of Huyton, Liverpool.

He and four other men have admitted affray and threatening behaviour.

The victim said the millionaire midfielder tried to grab a card controlling the stereo from him.

"I didn’t give it to him, no," he said.

"It wasn’t my permission to be giving it out to somebody else, it was my job so I didn’t hand it over.

"He made a move to try to grab the card to take it away and I remember it slipped on the floor at one stage."

He denied punching back at Gerrard when they clashed violently.

But in a police interview read to court, Gerrard claimed it was the other way round.

The father-of-two said he had permission from manageress Sabrina Malik to pick some songs and Mr. McGee was arrogant and rude to him.

He told detectives: "He grabbed my music menu off me and said ’You are not f****** deciding what music goes on in here’."

He added: "When he grabbed it I said ’What’s your problem, why can’t I change it?’

"He basically said to me ’I am not putting your music on.’

"It was quite aggressive, and I said ’What’s the f****** problem, why can’t I put my music on?

"He said ’Because you f****** can’t, you’re not allowed.

"I said ’I have permission to do it’."

The seven women and five men of the jury heard that Gerrard felt upset and "gutted" about what happened.

The player told detectives Mr. McGee proceeded to stare at him through a gap in a partition wall.

Gerrard, married to model Alex Curran, wanted to sort the problem out so went back to discuss it with Mr. McGee, he said.

"I didn’t go over there intentionally to have another argument or start fighting," he said.

"I was having a good night but I was gutted and just wanted to straighten it out with him."

Gerrard said he believed Mr. McGee was going to attack him.

"He stood up quite aggressively out of his stool and I thought to myself ’I am not going to be able to sort this out in the way I wanted’," Gerrard said.

"I thought he was going to give me a smack.

"He was shouting back and I didn’t know what he was saying but he started arguing and I thought he was going to hit me so that’s why I threw a punch."

Mr. McGee lost a front tooth crown and suffered a cut face in the melee.

Gerrard’s police interviews end with his solicitor, Richard Green, saying the star was "deeply apologetic" about what happened.

"He understands his obligations and responsibilities and this is completely out of character and out of the blue," he said.

"He is extremely remorseful for what actually happened and certainly there wasn’t any intention for events to turn out that way."

The court heard that when arrested Gerrard was "totally co-operative" with police.

He is expected to go into the witness box on Thursday morning.

Glen Johnson Amazed By Liverpool Fan Support In Thailand

Liverpool's latest major acquisition has been overwhelmed by the fanfare that the club has received in Thailand, where they will play a pre-season friendly.

"It's unbelievable," beamed Glen Johnson to the club’s official website. "The lads were saying before we came out that we had a great support over here and it's incredible to see so many fans everywhere we go.”

The 24-year-old went on to speak of how the fans influence him to perform on the pitch, saying, “Of course when you see such support it makes you even more determined to do well.

"I want to play with the consistency I had at Portsmouth but I want to improve both the defensive and attacking side of my game. I want to establish myself in the team."

Johnson also commented on the Reds’ prospect of challenging for the Premier League title during the coming season.

"Last season Liverpool only made one or two minor errors and if we can improve on that, we have a great chance [to win the title]," he concluded.

Mascherano Wants To Quit Reds - Agent

Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano is keen to secure a move to Spain as he has grown "tired of life in England", according to his agent.

The Argentina international is a reported target of Real Madrid and Barcelona, but the enforcer remains part of Reds manager Rafa Benitez's plans.

However, Mascherano's representative, Walter Tamer, has claimed the 25-year-old has grown unsettled in the Premier League and is eager to move abroad.

Tamer is quoted by as saying: "Barcelona is the easiest deal to set up as Javier wants to go to Spain. He is tired of life in England.

"His wife has not been given a permanent visa. She has to go through an odyssey each time she wants to go.

"Liverpool refuse to sell, this can be overcome with an extraordinary offer."

Carragher Wants Xabi Alonso Saga Sorted Out

Liverpool FC defender Jamie Carragher wants Xabi Alonso transfer to stay at Liverpool FC but hopes the saga won't drag on through the summer.

Alonso’s future on Merseyside has been the subject of intense speculation with Real Madrid reportedly interested in a £30million deal, while the Spaniard’s name has also been linked with Chelsea and Manchester City among others.

Boss Rafael Benitez has so far sidestepped the issue during Liverpool’s two-match tour of Asia, only going so far as to confirm the 27-year-old will remain a Red until after the game against a Singapore XI on July 26.

However, Carragher believes a decision on Alonso’s future needs to be made sooner rather than later with the new Premier League season less than a month away.

"The feeling within the squad, he is a top player and you do not want to lose your top players and hopefully it can be sorted out as quickly as possible," he said.

"If the club thinks it is in the best interests of the club sometimes you have to do what is in the best interests of the club.

"But that’s a personal matter for the manager and the club. We all go through these situations - well hopefully not me - and as I said, I just hope it gets sorted out sooner rather than later."

Alonso did not feature in Liverpool FC’s 1-1 draw with Thailand in a pre-season friendly in Bangkok due to a slight ankle injury, lending further weight to the notion he is about to leave Anfield.

However fellow midfielder Javier Mascherano, another whose Liverpool FC future has been cast into doubt, did play although the Argentinian elected not to speak to the media following the game.

Ryan Babel, who has been tipped by Benitez to play a significant role this season, opened the scoring for the visitors with six minutes gone at the Rajamangala Stadium and spurned two further chances to add to his tally before Sutee Sumsomkit levelled in impressive fashion midway through the second period to leave the Reds still searching for their first pre-season victory.

There was a further setback when Martin Skrtel limped off 10 minutes after coming on at half-time and while Benitez said it was too early to tell how long the defender could be ruled out for, it was nevertheless an unwanted blow.

"I’m really disappointed because Martin has had a problem with his hamstring and a little bit with the ligaments in his knee, so we have to wait," he said.

Carragher echoed his manager’s disappointment over his centre-back partner’s exit.

"That’s part and parcel of football. It’s disappointing but hopefully he will be ready for the start of the season because he’s a top player," he said.

Despite being held by Peter Reid’s team and seeing his charges spurn a number of chances, Benitez was nevertheless pleased with Liverpool FC’s performance.

"We had some chances, we were playing against a team that was well organised, and they play quick," the Spaniard said.

"So you come to a new continent and conditions are different, always more difficult, but I was pleased with the performance of some players.

"We knew that physically they are strong, they are quick, and then the pace of the other team is important. So we had to have some really good movement and I was really pleased with them."

Benitez, though, was reluctant to talk up his side’s Premier League title chances this term following last season’s impressive campaign.

"We have to keep working and try to be contenders," he added.

"I don’t think that we need to put any pressure on anyone. So we just keep improving and then we can stay there."

Manchester City To Launch Ambitious Bid For Liverpool's Xabi Alonso

While the football world is expecting Xabi Alonso to move to Real Madrid, Manchester City are plotting an audacious bid of their own for the Liverpool star.

The Alonso saga has dragged on all summer, with the player appearing keen to move to the Bernabeu.

However, as that deal continues to linger in limbo, Man City are preparing a bid. According to The Daily Express, the Citizens are now willing to match Alonso's £35 million valuation, and could even increase their bid to fend off Los Merengues.

It is unlikely that Alonso would choose City over Madrid, but should Los Blancos pull out of the race, Mark Hughes' side are ready to pounce.

Dirk Kuyt Is Starstruck In Presence Of Liverpool FC Legend Kenny Dalglish

Dirk Kuyt admitted even he was star struck after he warmed up for yesterday’s clash with Thailand by putting local youngsters through their paces in Bangkok.

The Reds striker was joined by new club ambassador Kenny Dalglish for the adidas sports clinic held in sweltering conditions at the Chulalongkorn Stdaium.

“The standard was quite high and the most important thing was to see the kids enjoying themselves and having fun,” said Kuyt, who was presented with a cake to mark his 29th birthday.

“It was a bit strange giving the clinic alongside Kenny because he was a hero of mine.

“To be with him helping the kids was fantastic.

“We really enjoyed ourselves out there, and it’s great that the club can do so many positive things while we are over here.”

Dalglish, who received a rapturous ovation, took the chance to show off his skills and pass on some tips.

“We put them through their paces for a bit and the lads did well,” he said.

“It’s never easy in this heat but everyone seemed to be having a good time and it was fun to be involved.

“Dirk probably did a bit more than me because he has younger legs, but it was good to get back out onto the field again and run around a bit.”

Dalglish admits even he has been stunned by the welcome the Reds have had from the Thai people.

“It really opens your eyes to the support and the feelings people have for Liverpool from all over the world,” he said.

“When people attach themselves to a club, no matter how far away they are you want to be able to do things for them and if us being here makes the people of Thailand happy then that’s great.

“I’d heard about the Thai fans and their support of Liverpool before but had never actually seen it. It has been fantastic from the minute we arrived at the airport.”

Liverpool Need At Least One Good Striker If They Are Going To Compete

Tony Cascarino, a football league veteran of over 600 games for the likes of Aston Villa and Chelsea, believes Liverpool are overly dependent on the fitness of Fernando Torres, and suggested they will need to add a top level striker should they wish to compete for the Premier League.

Speaking to Cascarino said: “The striker situation remains a problem for Rafa Benitez.”

“Fernando Torres is absolutely top drawer but you just can’t rely on him all season with his hamstring problems.”

“Another striker is a necessity and he has to be of a standard to perform in the first team rather than someone with potential as Torres is unlikely to stay fit for an entire season.”

“The problem is that prices for established strikers are just so huge and I don’t feel that Benitez will want to splash out £25m on a forward after having his fingers burned last season by the purchase of Robbie Keane.”

“David Ngog certainly doesn’t look ready but Ryan Babel could be an alternative as a central striker.”

“I’ve seen him play there before and he certainly possesses lightning pace and a powerful shot but it would seem Rafa is not a fan judging by the few opportunities the Dutchman has been given.”

“Whether Alonso goes or not, Liverpool need to bring in at least one good striker if they are going to compete for the title once again.”

Reds To Deal In Ayala

Liverpool are ready to reward young defender Daniel Sanchez Ayala with a new deal, understands.

Sanchez Ayala joined Liverpool at the start of 2007/08 campaign after being snapped up from Sevilla.

The 18-year-old is highly rated by the Liverpool coaching staff and has established himself as a regular in the reserves in the last couple of seasons.

Sanchez Ayala has yet to make his first-team debut, but he has featured in Liverpool's first two pre-season friendlies this summer

Reds boss Rafa Benitez is a big admirer of the central defender and is keen to tie him to a new long-term contract.