Thursday, January 21, 2010

Match Report: Liverpool 2 - 0 Tottenham Hotspur

Dirk Kuyt's double strike injected new life into Liverpool's stuttering Premier League campaign as it secured a 2-0 victory over Tottenham.

The Holland international fired home in the sixth minute from the edge of the area and then converted a twice-taken penalty in second-half injury time.

Victory lifted the Reds to within one point of fourth-placed Spurs and eased the pressure on manager Rafael Benitez after early exits from the Champions League and FA Cup.

The importance of the match to Liverpool's top-four aspirations had been outlined by Benitez on Tuesday and his players responded in fine style.

It was a match the Reds could not afford to lose, having dropped two points thanks to Stoke's late equaliser on Saturday, and they did not disappoint an appreciative Anfield crowd.

There was a brief early scare when Jose Reina spilled a Gareth Bale cross under pressure from former Liverpool striker Peter Crouch, but he reclaimed the ball bravely from the challenge of Jermain Defoe.

Reina picked himself up to hoist a long kick downfield which Kuyt knocked back to Aquilani, playing in the hole behind the striker.

The Italian's close control took him past Michael Dawson, who brought down the playmaker, but the ball rolled to Kuyt on the edge of the penalty area and he fired low past Heurelho Gomes' right-hand to give his side the lead.

Jermaine Jenas was booked in the 27th minute for bringing down Philipp Degen as he raced over the halfway line but Liverpool failed to make the free-kick count.

And moments later Defoe was lucky to escape with just a talking to from referee Howard Webb after diving in and standing on Degen's foot.

The Switzerland international was on the end of yet more rough treatment in the 34th minute when Bale clashed heads with the makeshift midfielder, which led to the Wales defender being cautioned.

Javier Mascherano became the first Liverpool player to be booked when he lost possession and then slid in on Crouch.

In first-half injury time Kuyt's header from Albert Riera's inswinging corner was stopped by Bale yards from the line and Martin Skrtel blazed the rebound over.

Moments later Luka Modric's shot was saved well low to his left by Reina.

Liverpool have made a season of failing to hang on to leads and they almost gifted Spurs an equaliser straight after the restart.

Sotirios Kyrgiakos dithered on the ball before surprising Reina with a short back-pass which immediately put the goalkeeper under pressure from Defoe.

Fortunately for the Spaniard the Tottenham striker was adjudged to have fouled him seconds before Crouch rolled the ball into an unguarded net.

Wilson Palacios was next to go into Webb's notebook for pulling down Lucas as he attempted to run through the Spurs defence on the halfway line.

Riera almost doubled Liverpool's lead in the 52nd minute when his header from Jamie Carragher's cross beat Gomes but crashed back off the crossbar.

Considering their recent habit of conceding in the last minute the hosts desperately needed a second goal to give them a cushion but the longer the game went on without one the more confident Spurs became.

The danger was highlighted when Jenas' first-time shot from 25 yards had Reina going the wrong way before he stuck out a hand to deflect it behind.

Having sent on Alan Hutton for Vedran Corluka, Spurs boss Harry Redknapp then replaced Niko Kranjcar with ex-Reds striker Robbie Keane.

Liverpool should have made it easier for themselves in the 66th minute when Kuyt robbed Dawson on halfway to race clear but he opted to play in Degen to his right instead of shooting and over-hit his pass.

Liverpool continued to press and Kuyt volleyed over at the far post after Degen had flicked on Aquilani's free-kick while Riera was just wide with a 25-yard swerving left-foot shot.

Spurs, however, continued to threaten and Hutton's spectacular volley curled around the outside of Reina's right-hand post.

Substitute David Ngog almost secured victory within minutes of coming on when he turned fellow substitute Sebastien Bassong but curled a shot across the face of goal.

However, he won a crucial penalty in the first of five minutes of injury time when Bassong brought him down.

Kuyt scored the first effort only to be ordered to re-take by Webb, but the Dutchman held his nerve to send Gomes the wrong way and Liverpool heading in the right direction up the table.

Liverpool FC Managing Director Delighted As Money Rolls In For Struggling Team

Christian Purslow, the managing director of English soccer club Liverpool FC, has praised the club's off-field performance in a season that has seen them struggle to perform on the field.

Though Liverpool failed to reach the knock-out stages of the Uefa Champions League, have been eliminated from both domestic cups and have seen an expected title challenge become a scrap for fourth place, the Anfield club has secured a record shirt sponsorship deal with Standard Chartered worth £80 million.

Liverpool have also secured lucrative commercial deals with the likes of 188Bet and TurespaƱa, while a new website has attracted millions of users and the club's first steps into social media have seen its Facebook page become the most popular of any Premier League club. The various innovations and partnerships have left Purslow claiming things on the business side "could not have gone better".

However, the club has still been unable to secure financing for a new stadium, with Purslow saying last week that he expects new investment into the club, currently owned by American businessmen George Gillett and Tom Hicks, to be a necessary forerunner to any bank providing the funds for the project.

"Obviously the most important aspect of any club is how we are doing on the field and I don't think any of us had expected the first half of the season that we have had," Purslow told the Liverpool FC official website. "That said, I'm very confident now that the vast majority of our players are fit and well, we'll see a transformation in our results in the second half of the season.

"But in terms of the business side of Liverpool, day to day things could not have gone better. Commercially, I think the business is better than I expected and performing better than I expected. And obviously my number one priority remains the strategic issue of bringing in new investment - and that is probably about where I would have expected it to be.

He added: "Going into the New Year I hoped that the initial process would have identified a smaller group of serious people who are interested in investing in Liverpool - and that's where we are today. While there can be no guarantees, I am confident and optimistic that in the next couple of months one of them will be brought to fruition."

Liverpool Skipper Steven Gerrard Denies Bust-Up With Rafael Benitez

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has laughed off rumours linking him with a move away from the club following an alleged row with Rafael Benitez at half-time during the FA Cup loss to Reading.

'Captain Fantastic' has set things straight by pledging allegiance to the Kop, while explaining that the team had a "good laugh" over the 'speculation' concerning his future at Anfield.

"I've heard about a dozen versions of the same rumour and they're all as daft as each other," Gerrard is quoted in The Mirror as saying.

"I'd love to know who comes up with this kind of stuff because they must have an unbelievable imagination.

"And if anyone thinks this nonsense unsettles either me or the club then they're mistaken. If anything it's brought everyone even closer together because we've all had a good laugh about it."

He added: "In the time since he's been here I've never had a problem with the manager or his staff, and certainly not at half-time in the Reading game when I was actually receiving treatment for the injury I'd picked up during the first half."

The England international is currently sidelined and is hoping to get back into action at the earliest opportunity.

Gerrard continued: "The important thing for me now is trying to get myself fit as soon as possible so I can get back to working with the manager and the team to try and improve our situation.

"All the stories about me leaving are unfounded. The fans can be assured that I am doing all I can to get back to top form and help Liverpool finish the season on a high."

Rafa Benitez One Of World's Best, Says George Gillett

Liverpool FC co-owner George Gillett believes Rafa Benitez is one of the top five managers in the world and that this season’s disappointing results are just a "blip".

The club have endured a difficult campaign so far and have fallen well off the pace in the Barclays Premier League, compounded by early exits from the Champions League and FA Cup.

Liverpool FC manager Benitez has been unmoved in his belief that he will turn things around and now he has received the backing of Gillett.

That is significant as Gillett has always been seen as less enthusiastic in his support for the Spaniard than fellow co-owner Tom Hicks, who has been behind Benitez from the moment the two Americans’ relationship began to become strained.

"We believe if you were to put a list together of the top five coaches, managers in the world, he would definitely be on that list for us," said Gillett, who was united in his agreement with Hicks to give Benitez an improved five-year contract towards the end of last season.

"And we think he’s been tossed a curve ball by circumstance, injuries and so forth.

"I think that’s been a real challenge to the coach. He’s had to really make some innovations and play some players out of position and so forth.

"And notwithstanding that, they’ve generally played with a lot of passion. I really believes it’s a blip."

Injuries have certainly compounded Liverpool FC’s problems with striker Fernando Torres, captain Steven Gerrard, right-back Glen Johnson and midfielder Yossi Benayoun all currently sidelined.

But they have also been unlucky in other areas, such as when a beach ball on the pitch at Sunderland back in October contributed to the only goal of the game for the Black Cats.

"That was a real low blow," Gillett said.

"He (Benitez) has had a struggle getting the morale of the boys back up but we’ve got a great group of young men."

Reds Hold Jovanovic Talks

Milan Jovanovic's representatives have held talks with Liverpool, understands.

The Standard Liege star is out-of-contract in the summer and has made it clear he intends to take up the option of a Bosman transfer.

Valencia had hoped to land him in January, but now Jovanovic is holding talks with a number of interested parties.

AC Milan and Atletico Madrid are among the sides keen to seal a deal and are also believed to have discussed terms.

Now Liverpool have met with the Serbian's representatives with a view to bringing him to Anfield in the summer.

Despite holding talks this week, Jovanovic is unlikely to give Liverpool or any of his suitors a decision this month.

The 28-year-old, who can play on the left or up front, could even wait until after the World Cup - where he will be featuring for Serbia.

Federici Shrugs Off Liverpool Talk

Reading goalkeeper Adam Federici has pledged his immediate future to the Royals after reports linked him with a move to Liverpool.

The Australian goalkeeper impressed in both FA Cup games against the Premier League side but Federici is adamant his future lies at Madejski Stadium.

"I have worked so hard to be number one, why would I want to go up there, sit on the bench and start over? I'm enjoying my time as number one and I want to keep this up and go on from there," Federici told the Evening Post.

"It has been quite interesting reading about myself, but I have had no contact from anyone.

"It's good seeing your name in the paper and it is fantastic to be linked with a team like that, but I am a Reading player and am sure I will be for a long time."

Krasic's Agent In England

Milos Krasic's agent, Dejan Joksimovic, has revealed that he has been to England to talk to a number of clubs interested in the Serbian.

The CSKA Moscow winger was hugely responsible for helping the Russians qualify for the last-16 of the UEFA Champions League this term in a group that contained English champions Manchester United.

The 25-year-old, who scored four goals in six Champions League group games this season, was awarded for his sterling performances when he collected the Serbian Player of the Year title last month sparking more interest in his services.

CSKA are thought to want to keep hold of their prized asset until June in order to give themselves the best possible chance in Europe but a January move is not out of the question according to Joksimovic.

"Was I in Italy? No I was in England. Many English teams like Milos," he told

"Roberto Mancini is thinking of him but currently neither Manchester City nor the other interested teams have elaborated an official offer.

"CSKA Moscow want to keep him until June. If he leaves in January, Italian clubs are virtually cut off because the player has no EU passport and he costs a lot."

As well as Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United are all reportedly tracking Krasic.

Reds On Huntelaar Alert

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is ready to quit AC Milan to save his hopes of playing for Holland at the World Cup.

Arsenal and Liverpool will no doubt be alerted by the 26-year-old's concerns as they look to add to their attacking options.

And both Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United have made moves for Huntelaar in the past.

The striker is concerned that his Holland place is in doubt as he has started just four of Milan's 19 Serie A matches this season.

Huntelaar has scored just three times since a £15million summer move to the San Siro from Real Madrid.

'I'm thinking of leaving,' he said. 'When I spoke with (Milan) officials, they comforted me and said they have faith in me. I played a little more, but I want more.

'It's important for me because, as our national team coach explained to me, to go with the national team it's important to play a lot for your club.

'I would like to stay in an important league to show I can be a player for Milan. I'd like to be loaned and then come back.'

A loan deal could suit Arsenal, who are a striker light since Robin van Persie ruptured ankle ligaments in the autumn - an injury that could rule him out till the end of the season.

Liverpool also want short-term cover for Fernando Torres, though they are at an advanced stage to take Kenwyne Jones from Sunderland.

Spurs tried to sign Huntelaar in the summer and may revive a deal if injury concerns scupper a move for Real Madrid striker Ruud van Nistelrooy.

Guus Hiddink's Agent 'Has Spoken To Liverpool' About Replacing Under-Fire Rafa Benitez

Guus Hiddink's agent last night suggested he had been approached by Liverpool.

The claim would cast serious doubts over the future of beleaguered Anfield manager Rafa Benitez.

Cees van Nieuwenhuizen confirmed that Turkey were interested in appointing former Chelsea manager, but said they were just one of nine suitors for his client.

'I have spoken with representatives of four clubs and five national federations,' Van Nieuwenhuizen told Sovetskiy Sport.

'Almost all of the options have previously been mentioned in the press - Manchester City, Liverpool, Juventus, etc.

'However, as I have repeatedly said, we have not held talks with anyone.

'To all we have said that there must first be talks with the new president of Russian FA and to know his position on the future.'

Hiddink rejected an approach by City before Roberto Mancini was appointed at Eastlands a month ago because the timing was not right.

But the 63-year-old recently admitted he was keen to work again in England, provided it was with the blessing of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.

The Russian FA elect a president on February 3, but former Zenit St Petersburg president Sergey Fursenko is a shoo-in and Hiddink is keen to hold talks with him in the next few days.

Fursenko has broken his silence to say Hiddink should remain in his post at least until the end of his contract in mid-July, if not beyond. But Hiddink is still waiting for face-to-face talks with his would-be boss.

'Guus is ready to fly to Moscow at any time,' said Van Nieuwenhuizen. 'He is currently in Amsterdam, because in Russia at this time, no one plays football, and at the Russian FA, nothing happens because they are waiting for a new president.

'Guus is waiting for an invitation from Mr Fursenko, who for sure will become the new head of the Russian FA.

'There is a vital work, such as preparing for the friendly matches on March 3 and in late May. And in between these tasks he can ask the new head of the Russian FA and about whether he intends to continue cooperating with Hiddink.'

Turkey are believed to have offered to pay Hiddink a staggering £7million a year after having two offers knocked back since before Christmas.

Hiddink's salary with Russia is £6.25m a year after tax, already exceeding the wage of England manager Fabio Capello, whose £6m a year will make him the highest-paid coach at the World Cup this summer.

But Van Nieuwenhuizen said: 'Hiddink has already received better financial proposes than he receives now with the Russia team, but we are not discussing them all the same.

'The coach has an employer. Hiddink will fulfill his contract with Russia and then everything depends on negotiations with the future president of the FA.'

Van Nieuwenhuizen was keen to stress that no option was being discounted and he rejected any suggestion that Hiddink is too old to return to club management.

'It all depends on how a club is organised,' said the agent. 'For example, if the model is like Manchester United and Alex Ferguson, then Guus would be interested.

'After all, Sir Alex is not so much a coach at his club than a manager or technical director, identifying the club's transfer policy and organising the entire workforce.

'Ferguson does not even attend first-team training every day. This is a well-known fact!

'But Sir Alex is older than Guus. So I can easily imagine Hiddink leading a serious European club under such a model.

'But for now I see no point in speculating about it, because Guus's contract with the Russian FA is until the summer and perhaps it will be extended.'