Sunday, August 30, 2009

Playing With Ten Men Always Difficult - Bolton Wanderers Manager Gary Megson

Liverpool came from behind to beat Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok Stadium 3-2 on Saturday.

Bolton were reduced to ten men, after Sean Davis was sent off for his second bookable offence.

After the game, Bolton boss Gary Megson was full of praise for Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, who was said to be out of form by Rafael Benitez.

"Being reduced to 10 men, at this level, always has an impact and when it happens against a team of Liverpool's quality, even more so," Megson told BBC Sport.
"We were man-marking Steven Gerrard up until that point, and he was under a measure of control.

"But when Davis was sent off, we were unable to use [Fabrice] Muamba as a man-marker from then on, you can't do that when you only have 10 men," revealed Megson.

"Steven is clever, he dropped deeper and deeper and orchestrated the game from then on," concluded the Bolton boss.

Steven Gerrard Gives Reds A Resounding Response

Steven Gerrard responded perfectly to having his early season form questioned by boss Rafael Benitez when he belted in Liverpool's winner at the Reebok Stadium.

But the visitors were made to fight desperately hard by a Bolton side who were reduced to 10 men for much of the second period.

Gary Megson's side had been ahead twice through Kevin Davies and Tamir Cohen, and Liverpool only really got on top when Sean Davis was dismissed for a second bookable offence.

Glen Johnson fired in one equaliser in the first half, before Fernando Torres pulled Liverpool level at 2-2 a couple of minutes after Davis angrily trudged off.

Then Gerrard struck with a fierce drive seven minutes from the end to lift at least some of the pressure from Benitez.

Bolton made one change from the side that won at Tranmere in the Carling Cup in midweek, with Cohen replacing Mark Davies.

Liverpool, who lost disastrously at home to Aston Villa last Monday, gave new Greek signing Sotirios Kyrgiakos his his debut in place of Martin Skrtel, while Spanish winger Albert Riera replaced Yossi Benayoun on the left flank.

Riera soon knew he was in a game. He was clattered by a strong Sam Ricketts tackle and then collected the Welsh international's boot in his ribs minutes later.

Predictably Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba was detailed to man-mark Gerrard, just as he did in both matches between the sides last season.

Liverpool soon had chances. Riera's cross was missed 12 yards out by Lucas, and the ball was returned into the box by Johnson for Torres to see a glancing header skim wide.

Torres was next in the wars, cut down by Gary Cahill, with the defender one of three Bolton first-half bookings alongside Davis and Muamba.

The visitors had plenty of possession, but without making many clear-cut chances. One through-ball from Lucas saw Torres shake off Cahill and attempt to chip Jussi Jaaskelainen from just inside the box, but the goalkeeper saved the effort.

At the other end, a Taylor free-kick was headed away for a corner by Torres - and that gave Bolton their breakthrough.

Taylor's curled the corner to the far post where Johan Elmander headed it down into the six-yard box for Davies to turn past Jose Reina from a couple of yards out.

Liverpool surged back looking for an equaliser, and it almost came when Torres chested down Johnson's cross - but he fired across goal and wide of the far post.

But the visitors were level in the 42nd minute when a corner was cleared only as far as Johnson just outside the box, and he fired a low shot inside Jaaskelainen's near post.

Bolton caught Liverpool asleep at the beginning of the second period. Liverpool's failure to clear a right-wing cross saw them go behind again just two minutes after the break.

Davies was able to flick the ball across the box, where two defenders failed to stop Cohen lashing the ball home from eight-yards.

Bolton were reduced to 10 men after 54 minutes. Lucas was racing towards the Bolton box when Davis clipped his heels from behind. Referee Alan Wiley produced a second yellow and then the red card.

Davis was furious. He had confronted the Brazilian before receiving his marching orders and ran towards Lucas again, before being halted by a team-mate and ushered away.

It was the incentive Liverpool needed. Gerrard hit the bar before Torres took a chest-down from Dirk Kuyt and steered the equaliser past Jaaskelainen in the 56th minute.

Next into the book was Gerrard for a foul on Muamba, before Benayoun replaced Riera after 63 minutes.

By this point Liverpool were in command and Andriy Voronin was sent on after 74 minutes to replace Javier Mascherano as the pressure on Bolton increased.

Torres and Kyrgiakos both had chances, and Bolton sent on another defender, Gretar Steinsson, for Cohen.

Liverpool's pressure paid off when Benayoun's corner was headed down by Torres and Gerrard crashed the ball home from 12 yards to provide another decisive contribution.

Carling Cup Third Round Draw

Liverpool will travel to League One leaders and old rivals Leeds United in the third round of the Carling Cup.

Championship side Preston will be hoping to stun Premier League high-flyers Tottenham, while Portsmouth face a long trip to League One Carlisle.

There are five all-Premier League ties with holders Manchester United hosts to recently promoted Wolves.

In the pick of the other ties, Chelsea host west London rivals QPR and Blackburn go to Nottingham Forest.

Barnsley will be looking to take the Premier League scalp of Burnley at Oakwell, while Port Vale, the only League Two club still in the competition, travel to Scunthorpe.

Carling Cup third round draw:

Arsenal v West Brom
Chelsea v QPR
Bolton v West Ham
Barnsley v Burnley
Hull v Everton
Leeds v Liverpool
Manchester United v Wolves
Manchester City v Fulham
Sunderland v Birmingham
Peterborough v Newcastle
Carlisle v Portsmouth
Nottingham Forest v Blackburn
Stoke v Blackpool
Scunthorpe v Port Vale
Preston v Tottenham
Aston Villa v Cardiff

Ties will be played week commencing Monday, 21 September

Liverpool The Latest To Consider Roma’s Julio Baptista

Roma’s Julio Baptista has been linked to a number of clubs over the course of the summer, most notably Inter from Italy’s Serie A, and more recently from the English duo Tottenham and Everton.

Despite the Brazilian affirming that he is not interested in returning back to the Premier League, Liverpool have also expressed interest in the 27-year-old in the past few hours.

According to the latest reports from Sportsmediaset, the Reds are willing to offer around €7-8 million for his signature, and they are confident of striking a deal with the Romans, as a result of their good relationship with them.

Alberto Aquilani left the Italian capital only a few weeks ago to join the English outfit, so if Baptista were to make the move, he would have the opportunity to immediately reunite with his former team-mate.

The two clubs involved are yet to make an official statement regarding these latest rumours.

Sotirios Kyrgiakos Has Title Know-How To Boost Liverpool FC

New Liverpool defender Sotirios Kyrgiakos says he has title-winning experience to boost the Anfield club’s already flagging Premier League challenge.

The 30-year-old, signed last week from AEK Athens for £2m, has won titles with Rangers and Panathinaikos and could make his Liverpool debut at Bolton tomorrow.

He said: “I have a little experience of winning titles from my previous career in Greece and in Scotland.

“I won one title with Panathinaikos and two in Scotland when I played with Rangers. I hope that the experiences I had in Scotland will help me begin well at Liverpool.

“I believe that I have the qualities needed to play in the Premier League.

“My time in Scotland will help because it is a similar style of football to here. It is true that the Premier League will be more difficult than the SPL because the game is faster here and there are more quality players.

“In Scotland you had Rangers, Celtic and Hearts and it was very rare for us to lose to anyone – and if we did it was normally to one of those teams. In England, everyone is capable of beating everyone else.”

He added: “I watched a lot of last season’s Premier League on TV and Liverpool were very close to the title.

“From what I have seen this season we are equipped to go even better. In my experience of winning titles, you need a great team spirit in the dressing room and I have seen this already among my new team-mates.

“Everyone works hard and gives everything. That is the most important thing you need for such a long battle as the title race.

“After that, you need to be brave and have a little bit of luck along the way.”

John Aldridge: Liverpool FC At The ‘Must Win’ Stage Already

It sounds daft to say it so early in the season but Saturday’s match at Bolton really is a must win game.

Two defeats in the first three games isn’t the start any of us were expecting and the players have to put things right.

Teams have won the league despite losing five games in recent years but there is now little room for error if we are going to challenge at the top.

When you lose to the likes of Tottenham and Aston Villa you put yourself under pressure when you go into the big games against Manchester United, Man City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Everton.

We’ve got four league games before we go to Stamford Bridge on October 4.

It’s imperative that we beat Bolton, Burnley, West Ham and Hull just to ease that pressure a bit before facing Chelsea.

Bolton are feeling the heat as well at the moment but for different reasons.

They have started poorly and could find themselves in a relegation battle this season.

Bolton hasn’t progressed as a club since Sammy Lee left and if anything they have gone backwards.

The match against Villa on Monday was hugely disappointing.

We created more than enough chances to win the game but we gave away three very poor goals.

It was a silly foul Lucas gave away for the first one. We gave that referee too many opportunities to give free-kicks against us in dangerous areas.

Villa had a huge slick of luck with the own goal and then we switched off at a corner.

It was a seriously bad goal to concede at a seriously bad time.

After that it was an uphill task and the penalty killed it.

Steven Gerrard will hold his hands up for that mistake.

It’s too easy for people to say we’re missing Xabi Alonso.

There were too many basic errors and it’s up to everyone to roll their sleeves up and prove we have the quality to bounce back.

Liverpool Forced On The Defensive Over Transfers

Christian Purslow, the managing director of Liverpool, has defended the club’s spending in this summer’s transfer market.

Purslow denied that Rafael Benítez, the Liverpool manager, has been starved of funds and insisted that net outlay is in keeping with previous years. Liverpool have made two significant signings since June with Alberto Aquilani, the Italy midfield player, and Glen Johnson, the England full back, moving to Anfield for a combined sum of about £36 million. In the past week, Sortis Kyrgiakos has also been signed for a fee of £1.5 million from AEK Athens, a bargain basement capture necessitated by continuing injury problems to key defenders.

With Xabi Alonso and Álvaro Arbeloa having joined Real Madrid for fees of £30 million and £3.5 million respectively, Sebastian Leto signing for Panathinaikos for £3 million and several other fringe players departing Anfield, it appears that Benítez has balanced the books at the very least. Purslow, though, is adamant that this is not the case, contending that the Liverpool manager has in fact spent a net £20 million on reshaping his squad.

“We’ve spent pretty much the same as we’ve spent every year over the past four or five years,” said Purslow, who took up his new post at Anfield in June. “We’ve spent about £20 million more than we’ve generated, which is what we expected. We’ve bought players the manager wanted to buy and sold players the manager wanted to sell and it has cost us almost to the penny what we expected it to cost.

“In fact, some of our competitors haven’t spent any money and we have. Spending isn’t the panacea everyone thinks it is, but we’ve spent £20 million and that’s real money. There are lots of costs associated with buying players and extending players that all go into transfer funds.”

Speaking before yesterday’s Premier League meeting with Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok Stadium, Benítez said it was unlikely that Liverpool would make any more signings before the transfer window closes on Tuesday. Despite having seen his team lose twice in their opening three games, the Liverpool manager retains confidence in his team and has been heartened by their reaction to the defeat at home to Aston Villa on Monday.

“The players were really good during the week,” said Benítez, who criticised his senior stars after the Villa game. “They were talking and working together, and I’m sure they are the first people that will have been disappointed with the defeat. In every training session, we have had good intensity.

“I was asked on Monday if teams had worked out our tactics. But the most common system in England is 4-4-2, most teams use that. So most teams are using the same tactics against each other, and still lots of goals are scored. We have to change something if it’s necessary. We’re trying to do this. But we have to work together and push harder, and I’m sure we will start winning games again. We need more at this moment from everyone, the team and the staff. We have to push in the same direction.

“The main thing for me is to react and show we can manage and improve. We have all been working very hard, the staff have analysed data and tried to give confidence to the players, and the players have shown in training that they are doing well.

“We can get back in the title race but we have to start as soon as possible. If you can win, one weekend can change everything. But you have to win.”