Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Match Report: Aston Villa 0 - 1 Liverpool

Fernando Torres scored an injury-time 50th Premier League goal for Liverpool to give his side a Champions League lifeline against Aston Villa.

The Spaniard drilled a low shot across Villa keeper Brad Friedel in the 93rd minute to become the fastest player in Reds history to score a half century of league goals.

It means Rafael Benitez's side are only two points behind Villa and four adrift of fourth-placed Tottenham in the race for European places.

Liverpool keeper Jose Reina had earlier produced two crucial saves to deny Villa who were searching for their first home win over the Reds for nearly 12 years.

The Spaniard somehow kept out a close-range volley from Stewart Downing in the first half and then denied Villa's top scorer Gabriel Agbonlahor after he had broken clear midway through the second period.

And Liverpool appeared to have strong first half claims for a penalty after a challenge by Villa central defender Richard Dunne on Dirk Kuyt.

Villa lacked sharpness and perhaps having a day less than Liverpool to recover from their opening game of the festive program - a 3-0 reversal at Arsenal - may have taken its toll.

Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard tried to inspire his side in conditions that became increasingly difficult underfoot.

But it was Torres who produced the moment of magic after capitalising on a loose pass from former Liverpool defender Stephen Warnock.

Villa, 3-1 winners at Anfield in August, made a promising start in the blizzard-like conditions.

Downing lined up a shot just outside the Reds box but his fierce drive was blocked by Alberto Aquilani.

Torres failed to make proper contact on an overhead kick from a deflected Gerrard centre.

Luke Young was out quickly to block a shot on the edge of the Villa box from Lucas Leiva after Dunne had headed clear a Gerrard corner.

Reina was called into meaningful action for the first time after 14 minutes in blocking a header at the far post from Dunne following another Downing corner.

Gerrard tried his luck with a 30-yard free-kick but his shot deflected off the Villa wall and out for a corner.

But it needed a fine save from Brad Friedel to deny Liverpool from taking the lead after 17 minutes.

Torres teed up Gerrard just outside the Villa area and his curling first time shot was tipped over the bar by the former Liverpool keeper.

Reina got his body behind a low drive from James Milner.

Villa skipper Stiliyan Petrov was off target with a bicycle kick after Nigel Reo-Coker had played the ball into the Liverpool area.

However, it needed a magnificent reflex save from Reina to prevent Downing from giving Villa the lead after 31 minutes.

Milner's corner was met at the far post by Downing and he could not have struck his volley more cleanly but Reina somehow managed to fist away his shot from close range.

Dunne became the first player to be booked after 41 minutes for a challenge on Lucas.

Then Lucas followed the Villa defender into the referee's notebook for a foul against Agbonlahor.

Liverpool appealed in vain for a penalty after a challenge by Dunne on the recalled Kuyt eight minutes before the interval.

Liverpool, unbeaten at Villa Park since February 1998, enjoyed the majority of possession at the start of the second period without seriously threatening the home goal.

There was a three minute delay wile Reina was allowed to change his footwear, much to the annoyance of the Villa fans in the Holte End.

Gerrard was on the receiving end of a knee high challenge from Carlos Cuellar just outside the Villa box but Aquilani's free-kick dipped over the bar.

Villa suddenly came to life with Reina producing his second excellent save of the night to deny Agbonlahor after he had shaken off the challenge of Jamie Carragher.

From Milner's inswinging centre, John Carew was inches wide of the far post with a flick header.

But that was effectively the end of the goalmouth incidents until Torres' dramatic finale.

Alberto Aquilani Giving Rafa Benitez A Headache For Aston Villa Clash As £20m Man Struggles To Fit In

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez admits he must assess the risk of using Italian midfielder Alberto Aquilani in tonight's critical Barclays Premier League clash at Aston Villa.

The £20million summer signing from Roma finally made his first league start in Liverpool's 2-0 victory over Wolves.

He has struggled with fitness and injury all season and had to be substituted with six minutes to go on Boxing Day complaining of a hamstring problem.

Benitez is aware that although Aquilani adds flair and creativity, he has been considered too lightweight at times for the English game during his opening months at Anfield.

Benitez said: 'Aquilani did well against Wolves, but he needs match fitness. He was trying to be involved, passing and creating chances, but the Premier League is difficult and he will settle down little by little.

'It is a difficult decision with the Villa game coming so quickly. Some of our players were very tired after the Wolves match, while some had little injuries. We will need to assess them all.

'We will have to manage them carefully but clearly if Javier Mascherano is not available for the next three games through suspension, then Aquilani will obviously have more chance of time on the pitch.

'But against Wolves he was worried about his hamstring, he was concerned and I wanted to protect him. That is why we took him off."'

Benitez would prefer to utilise two holding midfield men in what promises to be a tough match against Villa.

Lucas was troubled by a stomach upset ahead of the Wolves match and Liverpool looked weak in midfield at times. Benitez could solve that problem by playing Steven Gerrard in a deeper role.

The Spaniard said: 'Maybe we would normally have two holding players for such a game, but we have options. Gerrard can play in that role, we will see.

'Lucas was tiring against Wolves, he was not well, but now we must see how he recovers and whether he can have more energy now. It all depends on how the players feel and react after the Wolves game.'

Inter Plan Summer Swoop For Liverpool Captain Steven Gerrard - Report

According to today’s edition of the Corriere dello Sport, Italian champions Inter are plotting a sensational move for Liverpool star Steven Gerrard.

The newspaper alleges that Liverpool’s troubles this season – the Reds have crashed out of the Champions League and are lagging behind the top four in the Premier League – are likely to further compound their reported financial woes and the club directors might have to cash in on their prized asset next summer.

Inter boss Jose Mourinho has always had a penchant for the England international and has advised the Beneamata's powers that be to get a head start on negotiations in case the Anfield supporters’ worst fears are truly realised.

Inter are expected to invest heavily to strengthen their midfield deaprtment next summer and Gerrard definitely fits the bill.

But the Nerazzurri will face fierce competition from Spanish heavyweights Barcelona and Real Madrid, who have also been alerted to Gerrard’s potential availability.

Liverpool Do Not Deserve This Season's Woe - Alberto Aquilani

Liverpool midfielder Alberto Aquilani feels that fate has been unkind to the Reds so far this season and only hard work will see things improve.

The Italian made his first Premier league start for the Reds in the Boxing Day win over Wolverhampton Wanderers, following his summer move from Roma.

He is delighted to be in action at last after his long spell on the sidelines and is looking forward to building his fitness and helping Rafa Benitez's side climb the table.

"The team does not deserve its current low standing. We’ve had difficulties, but we will come out of this," Aquilani told The Liverpool Echo.

“On my part, I am happy as I had been out so long. It’s important to play, so I can get back to my best condition.

“I have a good relationship with Rafa Benitez and all my team-mates, champions like Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard, who welcomed me and helped me merge into this group. It is important we do well from now on.”

Dossena Linked With Spain Move

Andrea Dossena's agent has claimed the defender is close to moving to an unnamed Spanish club.

The Liverpool full-back has been the subject of constant speculation and seems certain to leave Anfield during the January transfer window.

Dossena has failed to live up to his £7million price tag since joining the Reds from Udinese 18 months ago and a return to his native Italy had been touted as the most likely scenario.

However, one of Dossena's agents, Federico Pastorello, has labelled a move to Serie A club Napoli as 'impossible'.

"A move to Napoli is impossible," he told "The negotiations for a possible move for Dossena to Napoli are over.

"If I was to make a prediction I would say that Andrea will not return to Italy.

"We are in negotiations with several foreign clubs, with a very important Spanish club who are not in European competition - the deal is even at an advanced stage."

The 28-year-old Italy international is keen to move away from Anfield as he looks to secure his place in the Azzurri squad for the 2010 World Cup.

Liverpool To Spend £10m On Galatasaray Star Arda Turan Once Ryan Babel, Andriy Voronin And Andrea Dossena Are Sold

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez will hope to snap up Galatasaray winger Arda Turan after the Turkey midfielder revealed he wants to move to Anfield.

The 22-year-old is reported to be a target of Arsenal but is only interested in one Premier League team.

He said: 'When I've finished my business at Galatasaray, I will be happy to move on.

'I most want to play at Liverpool because of the culture of the club and the fans.'

Benitez will offload at least three players to fund the £10m move for Turan, with Ryan Babel, Andrea Dossena and Andriy Voronin all set to be shown the exit door next month.

Turan has scored 55 League goals in 88 appearances for Galatasaray and has five in 34 starts for Turkey.

Liverpool's Andrea Dossena Would Like To Work With Roma Boss Claudio Ranieri - Agent

The agent of unsettled Liverpool left back Andrea Dossena, Federico Pastorello, has told the press that the former Udinese star would prefer a move to Roma.

"Andrea Dossena has always liked Ranieri, although I haven't heard from anyone [at Roma]," he revealed to

"Roma tried to acquire Andrea before he moved to Liverpool, but preferred [John Arne] Riise. My client, over the past year, has had several requests, including from Napoli. Ranieri tried to take him to Juventus, so I wouldn't be surprised if he was still among his favourites."

The player's representative explained that the 28-year-old is still hoping for a place in the World Cup squad, after featuring for the Azzurri last summer in the Confederations Cup.

"At Liverpool he is just collecting appearances on the bench. The Reds are asking about €5 million for his signature," he continued.

"Lippi has called him up several times, the next few months will be vital for South Africa."

Rafa Benitez: Dani Pacheco's Premier League Debut A 'Real Positive' For Liverpool

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez may have his fair share of problems at Anfield at the moment, but he has hailed the first-team progression of a young player as a positive for the Reds.

Dani Pacheco made his Premier League debut against Wolverhampton Wanderers last week with a late cameo from the bench.

Benitez is delighted that the 18-year-old has built on his Champions League appearance against Fiorentina earlier this month.

"Dani is a player with quality who has played really well for the reserves," Benitez told his club's official website.

"He was going forward and is not scared to go against the defenders. It was a real positive because he has shown he has quality."