Thursday, September 24, 2009

Match Report: Leeds United 0 -1 Liverpool

David Ngog struck the only goal as a much-changed Liverpool side sneaked past a fired-up Leeds in the Carling Cup on Tuesday night.

The Premier League giants were outplayed by the League One leaders for much of the third-round tie but Ngog netted against the run of play after 65 minutes.

Leeds spurned a number of chances as Elland Road enjoyed a big-game atmosphere once again, but a lack of composure in front of goal cost them.

Leeds striker Jermaine Beckford endured a particularly frustrating night as he missed several good chances and had a goal in the first half disallowed.

It was Liverpool's first visit to Leeds since their hosts were relegated from the top flight in 2004 but the atmosphere generated by the 38,168 crowd rekindled memories of a once intense rivalry.

Leeds, looking upwards again after an unbeaten start to the season, played like they had a point to prove against a Liverpool side showing nine changes.

Jamie Carragher, who took over the captaincy, and Javier Mascherano were the only survivors from the Reds side which won at West Ham last weekend.

Manager Rafael Benitez, however, had big guns Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Glen Johnson on the bench in case not all went according to plan.

It seemed a sensible insurance policy as for large parts Leeds, with Robert Snodgrass a constant danger on the right, exploited the unfamiliarity in the Liverpool ranks.

There was a huge roar inside the opening minutes when Beckford went down in the area but referee Alan Wiley gave nothing.

Leeds were keen to attack and gave warning when Snodgrass broke free, although his cross was easily claimed by Liverpool keeper Diego Cavalieri.

Ngog, starting up front alone, then got into the game with a couple of breaks but saw a long-range shot after a neat turn blocked.

Leeds then missed a glorious chance to take the lead when Snodgrass delivered a perfect cross but Michael Doyle headed wide from about eight yards.

The Yorkshire side had the ball in the net after 11 minutes when Beckford turned in Michalik's goalbound header from close range but Wiley ruled the striker offside.

Luciano Becchio also tried his luck for Leeds but curled wide from 20 yards.

Ryan Babel, hoping to stake a claim for a regular place, created Liverpool's first serious chance after a run from deep but Shane Higgs dealt comfortably with his tame shot.

Snodgrass caused further alarm in the Liverpool defence with another deep cross from a clever Beckford flick but Cavalieri just did enough to frustrate Becchio.

Albert Riera should have given Liverpool the lead, against the run of play, on the stroke of half-time after meeting a Fabio Aurelio free-kick but Higgs saved his firm header.

The outstanding Snodgrass weaved his way into the Liverpool box soon after the restart but the visitors eventually managed to crowd him out.

Leeds continued to look the most likely side but Liverpool youngster Jay Spearing got a shooting chance from a Riera lay-off, only to fire well over.

Beckford then raced on to a long bouncing ball but scuffed his shot when any firm contact might have beaten Cavalieri.

The Leeds striker had another gilt-edged opportunity when Bradley Johnson crossed from the byline after 63 minutes but, after turning brilliantly, he sent his shot over.

Leeds paid the price as Liverpool went ahead two minutes later.

Mascherano mis-hit a shot from the edge of the area but Ngog reacted quickly and seized on the ball to tuck past Higgs.

Leeds tried to respond as Johnson controlled a Michalik long ball outside the area but shot straight at Cavalieri.

Liverpool brought on Johnson and Gerrard in an attempt to see out the game but Leeds continued to push.

Johnson needed to intervene to head back to Cavalieri as Liverpool struggled to clear another Leeds attack.

Liverpool did break out again with Babel winning a free-kick on the edge of the area but Aurelio's shot was deflected wide.

Gerrard almost made doubly sure of victory as time ran down but fired into the side-netting and then straight at Cavalieri after powerful runs.

Benitez Heaps Praises On Whites

Leeds turned the clock back to the start of the decade as they gave Liverpool a stern examination in third round Carling Cup action last night.

A second-half goal from French striker David Ngog eventually settled the third-round tie in the Barclays Premier League side's favour but it was the fallen Yorkshire giants who took most of the plaudits.

"The atmosphere was fantastic, Leeds were really good," admitted Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez.

"They are good team with good players and they worked really hard."

The League One leaders, roared on by the majority of a raucous 38,168 crowd, dominated large parts of game and spurned a number of good opportunities.

Striker Jermaine Beckford endured a particularly frustrating night with several clear-cut chances wasted and a goal disallowed.

It was Liverpool's first visit to Elland Road since Leeds were relegated from the top flight in 2004 but the passion of the occasion rekindled memories of a once intense rivalry.

Benitez Backing For Ngog

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez believes David Ngog has a big role to play for the side this season.

Ngog helped Liverpool reach the fourth round of the Carling Cup with the winning goal in the 1-0 victory over Leeds on Tuesday night.

The Frenchman has found first-team chances limited at Anfield with most of his appearances coming off the bench.

Benitez feels Ngog, who joined Liverpool from Paris St Germain in the summer of 2008, is making steady progress at Anfield and he believes he has the quality to be a success on Merseyside.

"He is a young player, but he has quality," said Benitez. "That is something we knew. He showed character.

"He was trying to keep the ball and get into positions. He was really tired at the end but he did a fantastic job.

"He knows the Premier League is very difficult but here he showed he can do it.

"Cup competitions are always very difficult. You have to win, everyone is working so hard.

"He is still a young player, he has quality."

Spearing Revels In Reds Start

Liverpool starlet Jay Spearing has hailed his first start for the club against Leeds as a 'special night'.

Highly-rated midfielder Spearing played the full 90 minutes of Liverpool's Carling Cup victory over Leeds at Elland Road.

Spearing impressed against Leeds and he is hoping to earn a regular run in Rafa Benitez's plans.

"It was a very special night for me to make my first start for the club," Spearing told the Liverpool Echo.

"To play the full 90 minutes was fantastic and we had to work hard for the win.

"The atmosphere was unbelievable and it was a great cup tie to play in.

"When I was warming up it was more excitement than nerves to be honest.

"We trained in the formation we used on the night on Monday so I thought I might have a chance of starting, and then when we got to the hotel the boss told me I was playing.

"It has been a long time coming waiting for my first start but I've had to keep grafting hard and wait for my chance. I knew it was going to come soon and thankfully we got the result we needed.

"I thought we battled well and it was a team effort. We wanted to get through so we can play more games in this competition.

"I felt I did alright and hopefully I've proved to the boss and the supporters that I can do it for the first team.

"I worked hard and just tried to show the manager what I'm capable of. Hopefully I will get another chance but I have just got to keep working hard and then take the chance when it comes."

Liverpool's Mascherano Could Face Three-Game Ban For Jermaine Beckford Clash

Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano could face an FA charge of violent conduct, after appearing to catch Leeds United's Jermaine Beckford on the back of the head with his elbow at Elland Road last night.

The Reds made hard work of beating the League One outfit 1-0 in the League Cup third round tie, thanks to a David Ngog strike, but Mascherano could be in trouble after Beckford appeared to pull him back at a throw in. The Argentine swivelled and his arm seemed to strike Beckford's head.

The striker tumbled to the ground clutching his head, but referee Alan Wiley took no action and the game continued. It was unclear whether Wiley had seen the incident or not.

Should Wiley report to the FA that he saw the incident then no further action can be taken. However, should Wiley's report state that he didn't see it, then video evidence can be used to review what happened.

That could leave Mascherano looking at a charge of violent conduct and a likely three-game ban.

His manager, Rafa Benitez, claimed that too much was being made of the incident, saying, according to The Guardian: "I think it is just nothing."

Leeds boss Simon Grayson saw things a little differently, and felt that the Liverpool midfielder might well be in trouble. He said: "Mascherano's turned and put his arm up; it went a bit too high. I've looked at replays. I'm not saying it's malicious and I'm not saying it's not, you can't really tell. Some players have been sent off for that, some haven't, sometimes these things go your way, sometimes they don't."

Torres: How Rafa Has Improved Me

Liverpool's No.9, who was in blistering form against West Ham at the weekend, told LFC Weekly magazine: "Under Rafa I've started to play much more in the middle. I've scored a lot of goals from this position, rather than playing further out towards the wings.

"I like to play between the centre-backs and keep them busy and leave some space for the midfielders. That can make it easier for me to receive a pass when we attack.

"You have to play to your strengths. I don't know how to play in another position. Striker is the right position for me.

"Maybe I don't have the same qualities as Stevie to play between the lines or like Yossi to come in from the wing through the middle.

"I guess it is the same for players like Emmanuel Adebayor or Didier Drogba. If they were to play on the wing or in between or behind the lines, they may not be the same players as when they play as a striker.

"But from the first day I arrived here, I have always been improving.

"I am a better player now than when I was at Atletico. I hope to continue to keep improving with the manager and my teammates who can all help me get better and better."

Liverpool: Standard Chartered Explain Backing Of Club With ‘Huge Following’

Standard Chartered, the bank that has signed a world record sponsorship deal with English soccer club Liverpool, has moved to explain the reasoning behind its move into soccer.

The bank will pay Liverpool more than US$130 million over the next four years as it seeks to increase its business. Its sponsorship of Liverpool, who has been the English champions 18 times and European champions five times, is tailored not at either of those regions, but at Asia.

"From a Standard Chartered perspective, Asia is our home," senior group brand manager Nicola Apostolis told Asia Sponsorship News. "We opened our first branches in 1858 in Shanghai and Mumbai; and in Hong Kong and Singapore in 1859. Today, 80 per cent of our business is done in Asia.

"The Liverpool sponsorship is a perfect match in terms of geographic footprint, as the club has a huge following in many of our markets, particularly across Asia."

Liverpool claim to have 58 million fans in China, the country identified by many analysts as the next key market for the English Premier League. Asia Sponsorship News quotes a study reporting that 90 per cent of Asian sports fans identified the Premier League as the sports competition they follow most closely.

The bank has confirmed it will sell Liverpool shirts in its Asian branches, providing another revenue stream for the club.

Liverpool Owners Planned Ticket Rise As Debt Refinancing Loomed

Liverpool’s owners proposed increasing the soccer club’s average ticket price by 8 percent and raising 100 million pounds ($163 million) from investors and loans as pressure built to refinance debt of 290 million pounds.

The team’s U.S. owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks considered selling equity in the 18-time English league champion to pay down their debts with Royal Bank of Scotland Plc and Wachovia Corp., according to documents prepared by the club’s bankers and obtained by Bloomberg News. Jonathon Brill, a spokesman for Liverpool’s owners, declined to comment. He confirmed the documents.

Gillett and Hicks paid 50 million pounds in July to get a year’s extension to the debt facility they used to purchase and run the club since their February 2007 takeover. Liverpool owes about 240 million pounds to the banks. Fans of the five-time European champion have criticized the owners for backtracking on a pledge not to raise the club’s debt and delaying work on a new 72,000-seat stadium. Ticket prices stayed the same in the end.

“It would have been a very unpopular move” to increase prices, said Rogan Taylor, director of the Football Industry Group at Liverpool University and a member of a supporter-led group trying to acquire the club. “It looks like they took some wise advice not to do it.”

The proposed hike, which came as the majority of the 20 English Premier League clubs decided to freeze or reduce the price of some tickets for the 2009-2010 season, was one of a number of revenue-boosting plans outlined in the document. Liverpool may convert 1,000 regular seats into corporate seating by July 2011 and establish its own soccer academies.

The March 2009 prospectus drawn up by investment banks Rothschild and Merrill Lynch tells potential investors that for 50 million pounds they would get a minority stake in “one of the world’s most successful football clubs.” The document says Liverpool was considering raising another 50 million pounds in high-interest payment-in-kind loans that would’ve ended up costing 104.4 million pounds by the end of a five-year term.

In June, Kop Football (Holdings) Ltd., the club’s parent company, reported a loss of 42.6 million pounds for the year ended July 2008 on interest charges of 36.5 million pounds.

According to the document, all but 5 million pounds of the new 100 million pounds the club was trying to access would have gone toward reducing its debts. U.K. media have reported that the new money would kick-start the stadium project.

Liverpool last week announced a record sponsorship with Standard Chartered Plc, which will pay about 20 million pounds a season to replace Carlsberg A/S on the front of the players’ shirts. The document reveals Liverpool had forecast that it would retain the brewer by charging it 14.2 million pounds a season. Other forecasts in the prospectus include player wages and manager Rafael Benitez’s transfer budget until 2014.

According to management, Benitez would have about 20 million pounds a season to spend on new players, a figure that “will grow together with increases in broadcast revenues,” the document said.

Liverpool made a profit in the last transfer window after the purchase of defender Glen Johnson was offset by the 30 million euro ($44 million) sale of Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid. Player wages will increase to 115.2 million pounds from the current level of 81.7 million, the club estimates.

Other details of Liverpool’s future commercial strategy are outlined in the document alongside the increased corporate seating and Liverpool-branded academies. New secondary sponsors will be targeted and catering facilities improved to increase commercial revenue to 111.4 million pounds from 59 million pounds in the next five years.