Sunday, September 27, 2009

Match Report: Liverpool 6 - 1 Hull City

Liverpool striker Fernando Torres scored a brilliant hat-trick to blow away struggling Hull at Anfield.

The Spain striker scored twice in the first half either side of Geovanni's equaliser and added a third soon after the interval.

Captain Steven Gerrard scored a fourth just before the hour and substitute Ryan Babel added two late goals as Liverpool made it four league wins - including 16 goals - in succession.

But the day belonged to Torres, who took his tally for the season to eight in seven matches and an incredible 33 in 34 matches at Anfield.

This was also his fourth Liverpool hat-trick and the third he has scored in the Premier League.

The writing was on the wall for Hull, who have not won in their last nine away matches, from the 11th minute when Liverpool took the lead with a neat passing move and a clinical finish from Torres.

Dirk Kuyt and left-back Emiliano Insua combined to allow Albert Riera to cross to the near post where Torres shimmied past Ibrahima Sonko to coolly fire past Boaz Myhill.

This season Liverpool have leaked goals through defensive mistakes and another one cost them just four minutes later when Martin Skrtel's weak header dropped to Geovanni eight yards out and he volleyed home the equaliser.

The goal unsettled the home side but Lucas should have done better in the 23rd minute when he tamely side-footed Insua's cross straight at Myhill from 15 yards.

But if there is one Liverpool player you can rely on to hit the target it is Torres and his individual brilliance put his side ahead again in the 28th minute.

Yossi Benayoun's incisive through-ball picked out the Spaniard's run into the penalty area but there was still plenty of work to do.

Torres cut back inside, beating Sonko, Myhill and then 18-year-old debutant Liam Cooper to poke home from close range.

Frailties were still apparent at the back, however, and twice Riera gave the ball away 10 yards outside his own penalty area only to be saved by Jamie Carragher and poor shooting from Kamil Ghilas.

Two minutes into the second half Torres scored his third, again with an assist from Benayoun.

He raced into the inside-right channel and, with everyone in the ground expecting him to shoot right-footed, he turned inside Sonko and fired through Paul McShane's legs and into the far corner.

Torres continued to terrorise the Hull defence and was only inches over the crossbar with a looping 58th-minute header from Skrtel's cross

On the hour Gerrard, who had been quiet by his standards, added a fourth when he curled a shot into the far corner from wide on the left wing after his original corner had only been half-cleared to Insua.

Hull then seemed to self-destruct with McShane, who had been having a running disagreement with Riera all afternoon, lucky not to be sent off after being booked for a clash with Carragher and then appearing to show dissent to referee Peter Walton.

With a Champions League clash away to Fiorentina on Tuesday, Torres departed to a standing ovation in the 68th minute as he was replaced by Babel with Gerrard following soon after.

By then the hard work had been done, although Babel had a point to prove and added a fifth by turning in Kuyt's right-wing cross late on.

The Dutchman scored a fortunate second in injury time when he deflected Riera's shot over Myhill.

But even the former Ajax forward would admit he is not in the class of Torres, who once again showed how intrinsically linked he is to Liverpool's ambitions.

John Aldridge: Fiorentina Clash Will Be Tough Test

The Champions League trip to Fiorentina on Tuesday is going to be a real test for the Reds.

The Italians are going well in Serie A and are strong at home. They might have lost their first match away to Lyon but they fought hard after the sending off of Alberto Gilardino and only went down 1-0.

Fiorentina will be fired up and we’ll need to be at our best to avoid a repeat of what happened in Besiktas a couple of years ago.

The fact that we’ve got experience of playing against AC Milan, Inter and Juventus should stand us in good stead.

Whatever happens against Hull I hope Rafa doesn’t make many changes.

Aurelio and maybe Agger if he is fit could come back in but we need to get to 10 points as soon as possible.

Fiorentina Duo Mario Santana & Gianluca Comotto Likely To Miss Liverpool Match

After picking up injuries in the 2-0 win over Sampdoria, Fiorentina midfielder Mario Santana and defender Gianluca Comotto are likely to miss the matches against Livorno and Liverpool, according to Rai Sport.

Comotto will definitely miss both matches, being out of action for ten days, but there is a slight chance that Santana may be available for the Champions League match next Tuesday at the Stadio Artemio Franchi. However, he will certainly miss the Tuscan derby against the Amaranto.

It is a bitter blow for the Viola, who were already without suspended striker Alberto Gilardino against the English outfit.

Fiorentina lost their opening group stage match in the Champions League to Olympique Lyonnais and will want a positive result in order to keep pace with the French side and Liverpool in Group E.

Gerrard Hails Benitez's Methods

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard believes Rafa Benitez operates on a 'different level' to other managers after revealing how he has adapted to his boss' methods.

Former Valencia chief Benitez arrived at Anfield in 2004 and has since guided the Reds to UEFA Champions League glory and an FA Cup win, while also transforming a struggling side into genuine Premier League title contenders.

England international Gerrard has been an inspirational on-field influence throughout the Spaniard's five-year tenure and has risen to a status as one of the best players in the world.

But the Liverpool skipper confesses that he found it difficult to adapt to Benitez's meticulous methods before realising that his manager's dedication is what is required for success.

"Even after five years with Rafa, I still feel I want to please him, that I want to impress him in every game I play," Gerrard told the Daily Mail.

"The great managers are like that. There are a handful operating on a different level and I am lucky enough to play for two of them, Benitez and (England boss) Fabio Capello.

"It is when you see what they put in, some of the little things they spot, that you realise how hard they work. Rafa will make a point, and you'll be thinking, 'has this guy not got a life?' because it seems so minor, but it is what sets him apart.

"I can have a good game - tell you what, I'll be big-headed, say I've had a fantastic game - we've won 2-1 in the last minute and I've scored both.

"I come back into the dressing-room and I'm buzzing, bouncing off the walls, thinking, 'I feel good today', that is when Rafa comes up and starts talking about a throw-in when they changed the play and I pressed far too late. He'll say, 'if you want, we'll go out there and I'll show you'.

"Or you'll have a run of 10 games when you're in form and flying and he'll pop you a DVD of your recent play and it's broken up into sections good and bad. And you're thinking, 'hang on, bad? I didn't do anything wrong'. But you'll watch it and you're out of position in one match, or you pressed late or you let a man go at a set-piece. You wonder when the guy sleeps.

"At first when he did things like that, I'd be asking, 'has he not watched my last 150 games for Liverpool?' There is a danger that you think he has it in for you because he pulls you so much.

"When he arrived, he would keep saying to me, 'left foot, left foot' or I'd shoot and he would say, 'hit the target' and I'm thinking, 'look, mate, I'm trying to hit the target'.

"I would say to people, 'I'm 26 - if he doesn't think my left foot's working now, it's never going to work' but then a few weeks later I scored with my left and he came up with a little smile and said, 'lucky goal today, left foot and it hit the target' and then the penny dropped.

"Finally, I realised it was the way he helped push you on and as a player, you either recognised it or fought it and, with these guys, if you fight it there is only one winner."

Liverpool FC Defender Daniel Agger To Make Injury Comeback

Daniel Agger is set to make his comeback from injury next week.

The 24-year-old Liverpool defender has missed the start of the Premier League season after undergoing back surgery last month.

However, he has made good progress and is closing in on a return to action.

Saturday’s Premier League clash with Hull at Anfield will come too soon for the Dane but he could pull on a red shirt on Tuesday night – either in the Champions League clash away to Fiorentina or for the reserves at Manchester City.

Boss Rafa Benitez said: “Daniel is training really well and improving.

“He has a specific programme with weights to strengthen his back. He is doing well and progressing but the main thing for him now is match fitness.

“We have to be careful with him and we have been talking with the doctor and the fitness coach Paco (De Miguel).

“We are hoping he could be back playing next week. When and where we still have to decide but we have the match against Fiorentina and also the reserves game on the same night.

“It will be very positive to have Daniel back.”

Benitez has been handed another fitness boost with the news that Alberto Aquilani has stepped up his rehabilitation following an ankle injury.

The £20million signing has started running but the manager is refusing to put a date on a possible debut.

“There has been a massive improvement and we’re really pleased with him,” Benitez said.

“Clearly he is a player with quality we are desperate to see on the pitch but we won’t push him too much and we haven’t set a target.

“He has to go one step at a time and we will see how he progresses. We knew he had the problem when he signed – but we knew we were signing a player for five years, not five weeks.”

Pundits Will Be Sorry To Write Stalwart Jamie Carragher Off

Knee-jerk reactions are increasingly common in the modern game. It seems you are either a world beater or a no-hoper; the middle ground has never been smaller.

After the opening weekend defeat at Spurs, critics were queuing up to claim Liverpool would be consigned to a season of struggle without “lynchpin” Xabi Alonso.

Fast forward five weeks and on the back of five successive wins the Spaniard barely merits a passing mention.

Steven Gerrard has a rare off night against Aston Villa and inquests are held on the airwaves into why he’s “lost his way”.

One swing of his right boot at Bolton and those same pundits are lauding the skipper as the greatest midfielder on the planet.

Fernando Torres goes two games without scoring and is said to be fatigued and in need of a rest.

A devastating two-goal burst at West Ham and Rafa Benitez is asked if Torres is now favourite for the Golden Boot.

This week it was Jamie Carragher’s turn to be on the receiving end of some misguided flak from the “experts”.

The 31-year-old centre-back didn’t need to be told he wasn’t at his best against the Hammers.

He had an off day in the capital but the fact that he was once beaten for pace by 20-year-old Jamaican speed merchant Javon Hines was seized upon as somehow proof that Father Time is catching up with him.

Former Reds striker Stan Collymore, who retired at the age of 30 having never fulfilled his own potential, was one of the first to stick the boot in.

“As much as I respect Jamie Carragher and everything he’s done for Liverpool, I do think he’s starting to dip,” he said.

“It makes me wonder if Rafa Benitez shouldn’t take whatever transfer budget he will have in January and spend it all on a top quality centre-half.”

Former Manchester City goalkeeper John Burridge chipped in with: “I think Jamie Carragher is finished. His legs are gone and he’s going the way of Sami Hyypia. He is coming to the end of his career now.”

Of course being written off is nothing new for Carragher. He has seen the lot since he broke into the Liverpool side back in 1997.

There was the frustration of being played out of position by Gerard Houllier.

It took him the best part of five years to stop letters to the Echo saying Liverpool would never win major honours with players like him in the side.

Not only did he emphatically win over supporters but he established himself as the ultimate player of the people.

A home grown defensive rock who wears his heart on his sleeve and gives his all regardless of whether he’s up against Burnley or Barcelona.

A man brave and honest enough to front up when things go wrong, while happy to slip into the shadows and let others take the plaudits on nights of triumph.

The Kop love him because he’s one of them and he boasts a medal collection the likes of Collymore and Burridge can only dream of.

When things don’t go right he hurts. After his own goal in last year’s 2-2 home draw with Hull he couldn’t bring himself to attend the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards at the Echo Arena.

“I couldn’t get out of the house, couldn’t look at anyone,” he said.

But Carragher has no reason to beat himself up about Liverpool’s defensive problems so far this season. Nine goals conceded in six league games isn’t acceptable but then this is a new look back four.

Glen Johnson is still settling in following his summer move and his burning desire to attack can leave the Reds exposed. On the other flank Emiliano Insua has made great progress but is still a rookie with only 25 appearances under his belt.

Injury has meant that Carragher has already had three different centre-back partners in Martin Skrtel, Sotirios Kyrgiakos and Daniel Ayala.

Liverpool’s backline is a work in progress and to suggest Carragher is on borrowed time is ridiculous.

He will make his 586th appearance for the club against Hull on Saturday. He is currently ninth in the club’s all-time list and before the end of the season should overtake Alan Hansen (620) and Bruce Grobbelaar (628).

With Daniel Agger coming back to fitness, competition for places is about to hot up. A defensive partnership of Agger and Skrtel, who are both 24, may represent the future but it’s a long way off.

Carragher took up boxing this summer to ensure he was in peak physical condition for the start of the campaign and expect the gloves to come off in the coming weeks as he proves the critics wrong.

Arsenal To Meet Liverpool In League Cup Fourth Round

The draw for the fourth round of the League Cup has provided stiff opposition for Arsene Wenger's young guns, as Arsenal take on Liverpool at home.

Mark Hughes, aiming for a first tournament win with fiscal superpower Manchester City, has been offered, on paper, a relatively straightforward encounter with Scunthorpe United. Their local rivals Manchester United, meanwhile, travel to lower league Barnsley.

Other all Premier League ties include Bolton Wanderers' trip to Chelsea, Sunderland's hosting of Aston Villa, and Tottenham Hotspur's home tie with Everton; a side who harbour hopes of claiming the competition, as David Moyes indicated earlier in the week that the League Cup would be taken seriously.

Darren Ferguson could be hoping for a showdown with his father, Sir Alex, providing his Peterborough United outfit negotiate a path into the fifth round pot. Blackburn Rovers stand in their way.

Fixtures: to be completed on week commencing October 26

Arsenal - Liverpool

Barnsley - Manchester United

Blackburn Rovers - Peterborough United

Chelsea - Bolton Wanderers

Manchester City - Scunthorpe United

Portsmouth - Stoke City

Sunderland - Aston Villa

Tottenham Hotspur - Everton

Gerrard: Trial Made Me Better Man

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has revealed he is a changed man after his recent court case, which he found "frightening and intimidating".

The England midfielder found himself charged with affray following an altercation in a Southport bar after the Reds' 5-1 victory over Newcastle in December last year.

Gerrard, who insisted he was acting in self-defence during the incident, was found not guilty at Liverpool Crown Court and the judge told him he could walk away with his reputation intact.

But the events of that night and the following police investigation and court case have clearly left their mark on the talismanic midfielder.

"The trial changed me. I had to learn from it, learn from being in the wrong place at the wrong time. What hour I am out, where I go out, I will be more careful in future," he told the Daily Mail.

"From now on, if we win 5-1, if I score two goals and we go top of the league, I won't try to enjoy it in a bar with my mates anymore. I'll go for a meal and be in my house by half past ten. We get paid very well and there have to be sacrifices.

"Throughout the trial I kept telling myself that whatever happened I would never be back in one of these rooms again. It was not a pleasant place to be, the whole experience was very frightening and intimidating.

"I have never been through anything like it. I kept thinking of my team-mates away in Thailand playing football, and me being so far from where I should be.

"You have to be able to let your hair down like anyone else but I have always tried to treat people as they treat me. I think I have had respect because I give respect back.

"There have been very few instances when I have had problems, but I will think about my spare time, even my holiday time, more carefully now. I reckon I have another six years as a professional footballer. It is not so long to make those choices."

Gerrard's burning ambition on the field remains to end Liverpool's 20-year wait for the league title, despite having enjoyed continental and domestic cup success.

And while the Anfield favourite has no intention to leave the only club he has ever played for, he accepts that if he did ever move on and taste Premier League glory elsewhere, it would not be as sweet.

He admitted: "If I never won the league title, there would be regrets and an empty space, I admit it.

"Yet even if Liverpool were no longer challenging I would still find it difficult to leave. I could win 90 per cent of my medals here and one league championship elsewhere and that last medal would not mean as much.

"I've been part of this club since I was eight. I remember my first final, the Worthington Cup against Birmingham City in Cardiff. Swarms of people around the coach, me looking out at their faces.

"It was at that moment I felt I was part of something more than a football team. I would have been one of them, but I was just better at kicking a ball. That could have been me standing on the street. I felt responsible. I still do."