Thursday, August 20, 2009

Match Report: Liverpool 4 - 0 Stoke City

Liverpool put the misery of their opening day defeat at Tottenham firmly behind them with a convincing victory over Stoke at Anfield.

Last season Tony Pulis' men grabbed a 0-0 draw in this corresponding fixture, one of the results boss Rafael Benitez maintains cost Liverpool the title.

This time around there was no mistake. Steven Gerrard created two of the goals and new boy Glen Johnson had an outstanding game surging down the right at will.

Benitez bought Johnson, he claimed, to provide that extra adventure in difficult home games. And the England defender underlined just what his new manager meant.

He scored a close range goal on half-time on his home debut, to add to Fernando Torres' fourth-minute opener, and aided Gerrard's advance to set up the third for Dirk Kuyt.

Johnson's run and cross in injury-time presented substitute David Ngog with the fourth to cap an outstanding home debut for the new full-back.

Spanish youngster Daniel Ayala made his full Liverpool debut, with Martin Skrtel failing to recover from a damaged jaw sustained in Saturday's defeat at Spurs.

Ayala, 18, came on as a substitute at White Hart Lane for the injured Skrtel for his first senior appearance for Liverpool.

Yossi Benayoun replaced Ryan Babel, while Stoke made two changes from the side that beat Burnley - Glenn Whelan and Richard Cresswell replacing Liam Lawrence and Ricardo Fuller as Pulis reverted to a more defensive system.

Liverpool fans' group, the Spirit of Shankly, organised a mass distribution of red cards ahead of the game to be waved by supporters protesting at the George Gillett-Tom Hicks ownership of the club.

Resentment runs deep at Anfield at the financial mess the club are in and Benitez's limited transfer budget.

But it was his record signing, Torres, who struck quickly to give the Reds the lead.

Lucas Leiva had seen a skidding 20-yarder held by Thomas Sorensen before Liverpool were ahead after just four minutes.

Gerrard burst through on the right to pull the ball back for his Spanish side-kick to drill past a helpless Sorensen.

Dean Whitehead was booked for an ugly 12th-minute foul on Javier Mascherano and Liverpool should have been two goals up when they broke at pace from their own box.

Torres racing away on the right to fire over a cross that full-back Emiliano Insua sidefooted inches wide having made the same high-speed run down the other flank.

But Stoke maintained their determination and organisation, with Liverpool trying to hit them on the break. Much of the hosts' adventure was coming through Johnson.

Kuyt and Torres had shots saved and from a 44th minute corner they struck again. Kuyt's low header was blocked by Sorensen on the line and the ball fell for £17million signing Johnson to hook home from six yards.

Stoke came out after the break determined to get back into the game. A string of dangerous corners resulted in Jose Reina making an outstanding save to his right to keep out a fierce Delap drive.

Johnson then had to clear on the far post as a James Beattie cross-shot fizzed across the area.

But Liverpool increased the tempo of their game and were running at Stoke from all angles.

Gerrard fired in a 20-yard effort which Sorensen blocked, with Johnson now attacking down the right at every opportunity.

The Reds threatened to run away with things as Torres saw a lofted shot saved and Johnson cut into the box again to force Sorensen into a low save.

The third goal arrived after 78 minutes, with Johnson sending Gerrard into the box with a clever pass. The Liverpool captain powered on to drill in a low cross which Kuyt slid past Sorensen from close range.

Liverpool sent on Andriy Voronin and Albert Riera for Gerrard and Kuyt with nine minutes left, then three minutes later Ngog replaced Torres.

And it was Ngog who headed home from under the bar after another fine run and cross from Johnson had deflected into his path in injury-time.

Liverpool's Albert Riera And Andriy Voronin Not For Sale

Rafael Benítez is unlikely to approve any further sales of Liverpool players as his team struggles to cope with a growing injury list.

The Anfield manager has dismissed speculation that the winger Albert Riera and striker Andriy Voronin could be leaving, with Barcelona and Hertha Berlin, respectively, showing interest.

Riera was left out of the squad that lost 2-1 at Tottenham last Sunday, but Benítez maintains that was purely because of his lack of training last week due to a minor injury. Voronin, who came on as substitute at White Hart Lane, was on loan to Hertha last season and there have been suggestions the German club are preparing a £3m bid.

But Benítez's current squad has been weakened by injuries and it has been revealed he has not been able to spend the transfer budget this summer he was expecting.

Benítez said: "Nobody will be sold because we need all our players. We can't afford to lose anyone else. The Premier League is very difficult and we have to keep everyone we have at the moment."

Liverpool FC Star Torres Told To Shut Defenders Up With Goals

Liverpool FC striker Fernando Torres has been told by boss Rafa Benitez to shut defenders up by putting the ball in the back of the net.

The Spanish striker has become increasingly frustrated at his treatment by Premier League defenders and has been involved in a number of verbal spats.

Benitez said: "I have told him that he has to stop this. He knows he has to improve this aspect of his game and that the way forward is to respond to any intimidation by scoring."

He added: "Sometimes it is not easy to deal with everything opponents do but he knows he must deal with it in a different way.

"In his first season, he was really focused and I think he will be again now. He is a star now and defenders are really worried about him but that is part of his game these days."

Liverpool Snap Up Greek International Sotiris Kyrgiakos

Liverpool have today pulled off a surprise transfer coup, and swooped for Greek international Sotiris Kyrgiakos from AEK Athens, as manager Rafa Benitez looks to reinforce his rearguard, weakened by injury in recent days.

Kyrgiakos has spent only a year back in Greece, after a career which has seen him play in Germany for Eintracht Frankfurt and in Scotland with Rangers. Greece reports that the player has cost the Reds €3million, after they Merseysiders made an initial bid of €1.5million. AEK themselves began the negotiations holding out for €5million.

The move has seemingly emerged from out of the blue, surprising Greek observers who had little or no inkling that the swoop was on the cards.

Stoke City travel to Anfield on Wednesday night with doubts surrounding the fitness of Martin Skrtel, who has a jaw injury, though he could possibly play, and Daniel Agger, still sidelined with a back injury.

Liverpool FC Supporters Union Spirit of Shankly Protest Against Club's American Owners

Tonight’s first home game of the season at Anfield will see Liverpool FC supporters' union Spirit of Shankly leafleting outside the ground to garner support amongst Reds fans against the club's American owners.

The Union issued a statement yesterday blasting Tom Hicks and George Gillett for manager Rafa Benitez's apparent lack of a substantial transfer budget this summer, with the Spaniard seemingly not even permitted to have at his disposal the full amount he has raised himself in the transfer market.

The statement also accused former Chairman David Moores of 'sitting back and doing nothing while the fans fight for the club's life' and called on all Liverpool supporters to stand together to bring about change at the club.

The Union's call to arms aroused much debate on our LFC blog site, Liverpool Banter.

Bob described the Union as 'pseudo-militant idiots', saying

"Distributing leaflets?? Yeah that'll get rid of them.

"SOS want to help ShareLFC own the club, which would ultimately leave the club in a lot more debt than we are in now, it's a pipe dream which is so unfeasable i can't believe anyone would back it, let alone a group supposedly representing the best interests of Liverpool fans."

However the general mood of the comments was supportive towards the Union's position.

Jim said, "While there may be room for legitimate debate as to what form of action would be most effective it can't be an acceptable response to just sit back and do nothing while Hicks and Gillett drag us down to mid-table mediocrity at best or to the level of Newcastle/Leeds at worst. "There truly are fearful times for the Club."

Eddie added, "Why decry people who are actively trying to something useful and fight for the club we've had sold from under our feet by Moores and Parry.

"What do you suggest we do? Nothing?"

Other fans had their own suggestions of how fans could take action.

Red said, "The only way to get rid of them is to stop going to matches and, if necessary, to form picket lines to stop other people going to games.

"Leaflets won't work - only meaningful financial statements!"

Mitchell disagreed saying, "Avoiding the matches does nothing but hurt our chances of winning.

"Instead we should protest the Yank's presence at every opportunity before the game, half-time and at the end. Make them uncomfortable and unwelcome. We should also protest the club's board members for being ineffectual and useless.”

Liverpool's Lucas Leiva Admits It's Tough At The Top

Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva has admitted the club found it tough at the top of the league last season.

Lucas revealed that the pressure of the chasing pack has helped the Reds learn how to cope at the top of the league and believes the club have the ability to get back there.

The Brazilian international told Liverpool's official website, "It's difficult when you are at the top to stay there. We were there a long time and that gave us a lot of experience. We can learn from our mistakes. We know we can't give any team a chance.

"The big problem for us last season was drawing games at home. Away we had a good record but at Anfield the teams come to defend more. We have to be patient because we always get chances. We have to take them."

Leiva has scored just three goals for the Anfield outfit and is looking to become more of an attacking influence after the departure of Xabi Alonso.

"We know how important the midfield is for the team. I have the freedom to go forward sometimes. Hopefully I can help in attack as well as in defence," he explained.

"I want to score as many as I can, and of course I want to get more than the three I got last season. It's difficult to say how many you want to score but hopefully I'll improve on last season.

"Sometimes, with the way this team plays, there are good chances for the midfielders to score. Maybe you get chances outside the box, or players like Stevie [Gerrard], Fernando [Torres] and Yossi [Benayoun] make clever movements and open space for you."

Liverpool Youngster Ryan Crowther Leaves Anfield

Liverpool prospect Ryan Crowther has come to a mutual agreement with the Merseyside outfit that has allowed the 20-year-old to leave the club, according to Sky Sports.

The Reds beat an assortment of other high profile clubs to the highly rated winger's signature in 2007.

However, despite the hype and having become Stockport's youngest captain during his time at Edgeley Park, Crowther failed to break into Liverpool's first team - although was a regular feature for the reserves.

Both parties are said to have reached a friendly conclusion that will see Crowther depart ways with Liverpool in search of first team action elsewhere. It is unclear at this point if any other clubs are interested in signing the youngster.

FA Grill Liverpool Boss Rafa Benitez Over Ref Rage

The Sun claims that the Football Association (FA) could sanction Rafael Benitez over his antics following Liverpool's Premier League loss to Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.

The Spanish tactician made no attempt to hide his anger that the referee, Phil Dowd, failed to award a penalty for Benoit Assou-Ekotto's shoulder charge on Andriy Voronin.

Benitez's ire was compounded when, shortly after his first escape, Spurs' Cameroonian defender went unpunished for a possible handball in the 18-yard box.

During the post-match interview, the former Valencia coach took out his spectacles and pointed them at the assembled reporters when asked for his opinion of the officiating at White Hart Lane.

It is understood that the FA has asked Benitez to explain his actions, which could be interpreted as disrespectful in light of the governing body's crackdown on public criticism aimed at referees.