Saturday, July 31, 2010

Match Report: FK Rabotnicki 0 - 2 Liverpool

David Ngog struck twice as Roy Hodgson began his reign as Liverpool manager with a comfortable victory from a potentially tricky Europa League test.

The Frenchman found the net in each half as an under-strength Liverpool side overcame FK Rabotnicki with little alarm in the first leg of their third qualifying round tie in Macedonia.

With 17 days still to go before their Premier League opener, Liverpool were without 10 of their World Cup players but their blend of youth and experience coped well in a game of little drama. Hodgson's decision to leave behind the likes of Steven Gerrard and Joe Cole was fully vindicated.

Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, Sotirios Kyrgiakos, Alberto Aquilani, Lucas and Ngog were the established players to start, while new signing Milan Jovanovic was handed his debut alongside David Amoo, making his first senior appearance.

Diego Cavalieri, Martin Kelly and Jay Spearing made up the team but it was a sign of the times that the side on show at the Philip II Stadium - an old arena halfway through an impressive rebuild - was still worth £41million.

Liverpool, playing in black, began with Aquilani operating in an advanced role behind Ngog on a balmy evening in sweltering Skopje.

Rabotnicki had the first opportunity but Ze Carlos' optimistic shot from a 40-yard free-kick was blocked by Lucas.

Wandeir dos Santos attempted to beat Kelly on the left but the young right-back stood up well.

Liverpool's first serious chance came when Kyrgiakos headed wide from an Aquilani corner.

The visitors took the lead in the 17th minute when Ngog raced through a static Rabotnicki defence to reach a Lucas free-kick.

The Frenchman ran into the box unchallenged and clipped the ball past a half-hearted attempt at a save from Martin Bogatinov.

Brazil-born Ze Carlos found space as Rabotnicki tried to respond but shot tamely at Cavalieri from distance.

Vladimir Tuneski also tried his luck from the edge of the box but fired wide.

Amoo made his first dangerous run after switching from the right to the left wing as half-time approached.

He reached the byline and pulled the ball back across goal but Jovanovic was unable to get around a defender to reach it.

Amoo showed a glimpse of his potential early in the second half as he set off on a run down the right after a neat turn on halfway.

The 19-year-old Londoner cut inside to beat one man and then went outside another but his cross was too long.

Another good run by Amoo created an opening for Lucas but the Brazilian's touch let him down.

Liverpool were almost caught out as Dos Santos ran onto a long ball into the box but he lost balance and Cavalieri gathered.

Liverpool countered through Jovanovic but Aquilani could not control and Lucas shot over.

Dos Santos had another chance for the hosts but missed the target from the edge of the box.

Liverpool doubled their advantage just before the hour as Ngog volleyed in a fine second.

Kelly found space on the right and whipped in a ball which the striker nimbly turned in.

Kelly worried Rabotnicki with another good run but his cross was deflected and Bogatinov claimed.

The referee played on when half of the floodlights went out with 10 minutes remaining and any fears the game might be abandoned were quickly dispelled as some of the failed power was quickly restored.

Many Rabotnicki fans knew the game was over, however, and had left long before the final whistle.

And a lot of those that remained seemed to have had enough as they tried to fool the players by blowing for time with their own whistles.

Liverpool eased to walking pace and the real final whistle eventually came to signal a winning start to the Hodgson era.

Hodgson Happy With Team Effort

Roy Hodgson hailed the performance of David Ngog after the Frenchman's double got the new Liverpool manager's reign off to a winning start.

Ngog, playing alone up front, struck in each half as an under-strength Liverpool emerged from a potentially tricky Europa League test against FK Rabotnicki in Macedonia with a 2-0 win.

Ngog's future has been uncertain since Hodgson took charge a month ago with reports linking the 21-year-old with a move to West Brom.

The player, however, has expressed a desire to remain at Anfield and Hodgson said: "I can't stop players being linked with other clubs. I certainly have never discussed him leaving.

"I think Ngog has done well in the pre-season matches so far and he has worked very hard in the training sessions.

"I was pleased that he crowned his performance with two goals.

"I thought his target play, his general movement and his ability to keep the ball for us was also very good.

"But front players need goals and that will be a very big weight off his mind.

"It will mean he doesn't have to worry too much about the coming matches."

With their Barclays Premier League opener still 17 days away, Liverpool were without 10 of their World Cup players for the third qualifying round first leg.

The likes of Steven Gerrard, Joe Cole, Jamie Carragher and Glen Johnson were left to train on Merseyside while Fernando Torres, Jose Reina and Dirk Kuyt are still on holiday.

Ngog was one of only a handful of recognized senior players on duty along with Lucas, Sotirios Kyrgiakos, Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger and Alberto Aquilani.

Youngsters David Amoo, Jay Spearing and Martin Kelly all took the chance to impress against a limited Rabotnicki side and Hodgson's selection was fully vindicated.

"I am very satisfied," Hodgson said. "It was a game that could have been very difficult for us.

"It was a big crowd and some of our players that played are not used to big crowds.

"I was really pleased with the way everyone went about their business and we can go back to Anfield with a margin of victory which will enable us to feel a little more comfortable."

UEFA Set To Investigate Alleged Racial Chanting In Liverpool Clash With Rabotnicki

UEFA have confirmed they are aware of claims racist chants were directed at Liverpool's players during last night’s Europa League qualifying game against FK Rabotnicki in Macedonia.

The governing body are waiting to assess reports from both the UEFA delegate and the referee before taking any action against FK Rabotnicki.

Liverpool won the first leg of their third qualifying round tie against the Macedonian side thanks to a brace from David Ngog.

But pictures emerged after the game that showed Rabotnicki fans appearing to direct so-called ’monkey taunts’ at Liverpool players.

The Reds started the game with two black players in Ngog and impressive 19-year-old winger David Amoo.

A spokesman for UEFA said: “We are aware of the matter but we are waiting for the reports from the delegate and the referee.”

Once UEFA have assessed the reports, a disciplinary case could be opened against FK Rabotnicki.

Macedonian football has had problems with racism before and their governing body was fined after England players Emile Heskey, Ashley Cole and Sol Campbell were subjected to abuse during an international in 2003.

Roy Hodgson Adamant That David Ngog Will Not Leave The Club This Summer

Roy Hodgson insists that striker David Ngog will not be leaving Liverpool this summer after enjoying an impressive pre-season.

The Frenchman’s double against Rabotnicki in Macedonia gave the Reds an impressive 2-0 win to open up their Europa League campaign on Thursday.

Hodgson was pleased with the performance of his young side in Skopje, and was especially impressed with Ngog’s display.

The 21-year-old has been tipped to leave Anfield this summer, but Hodgson is adamant that Ngog will not be leaving the club.

"I can't stop players being linked with other clubs, but I never discussed him leaving Liverpool,” Hodgson told The Mirror.

"I have been very impressed with him. I think Ngog has worked very hard in training and done very well in the pre-season games, and he crowned his hard work with an impressive performance.

"The goals will be a big weight off him mind, and give him confidence. Front players need goals, and he has got them, which means he can relax.

“He has shown us that he has the movement and touch, and quality, and I'm pleased for him."

Hodgson Tipped To Land Bridge In City Exodus

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson has been tipped to secure the signing of former England international Wayne Bridge in the coming days with sports bookmakers slashing odds on the former Chelsea star arriving at Anfield during the summer transfer window.

Bridge is just one of a number of City stars who look set to face the chop at the Eastlands stadium, with Craig Bellamy, Stephen Ireland, Roque Santa Cruz, Nedum Onouha, and Shaun Wright-Phillips all fighting for their futures under manager Roberto Mancini.

Mancini swooped to sign Serbian international Aleksander Kolarov from Lazio, with the 24-year-old left back expected to start for City next season. Mancini has already signed David Silva, Yaya Toure and Jerome Boateng this summer, with Kolarov's arrival increasing his spending to approximately £75million since the end of last season.

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson is looking to strengthen his Anfield squad with Fabio Aurelio having left the club on a free transfer, leaving only Emiliano Insua as the only recognized left back in the reds squad.

Pacheco Advised To Join Sociedad By Xabi Alonso

Liverpool starlet Dani Pacheco has been winning rave reviews for his performances at the European Under-19 championships and may now be seeking his fortune outside of Anfield.

The 19-year-old, originally poached from Barcelona in the summer of 2007, is yet to win much in the way of first-team football and is now wanted by Real Sociedad back in Spain. And Pacheco has turned to former team-mate and one-time Sociedad player Xabi Alonso for advice about heading to San Sebastian for a loan move he clearly fancies.

"He is the person who is helping and advising me. If a person such as he has been happy there, anyone can be happy," Pacheco said of the World Cup winner to El Mundo Deportivo. "I have heard very good things about the head coach Martin Lasarte. I've been told that he focuses on young people who have character, who like to play good football."

"Of course, the chance to move to Real Sociedad appeals, no doubt. It is a team where I can come in handy. I have heard great things about the club, the city, the people and if things go well, I'll be happy to play there."

Pacheco will play in Friday evening's U19 final between Spain and France after scoring four goals in his team's march to the final in Caen.

Fiorentina Resolve Contract Issues With Liverpool's Emiliano Insua

According to Violanews, Fiorentina and Pantaleo Corvino have managed to find a solution for the transfer of Liverpool's young Argentine defender Emiliano Insua.

The deal had stalled after the two clubs had agreed a deal but the hefty wage demands of the 21-year-old meant Fiorentina couldn't agree terms with the player. However, today Violanews has claimed it's "mission accomplished" and Insua will be a Fiorentina player in the coming hours, something they have published before, so only time will tell.

Issues are still being raised concerning the size of the squad with the likes of Juan Manuel Vargas, Adrian Mutu and Ndiaye Papa Wiago all being linked with moves away, for one reason or another, to trim numbers.

Stuttgart May Rekindle Interest In Liverpool's Philipp Degen

Stuttgart are allegedly interested in signing Liverpool defender Philipp Degen.

The Swabians were keen on signing the 27-year old defender in January, but never made an official offer. However, following the sale of Sami Khedira to Real Madrid, Stuttgart will be looking to reinforce their squad, and should have sufficient funds to do so.

Since arriving at Liverpool two years ago, Degen has made just 13 appearances, and following the signing of Glen Johnson, has become surplus to requirements. Recently, coach Roy Hodgson confirmed that the Swiss full-back will leave Liverpool this summer.

Inter To Use Mario Balotelli Cash To Snare Liverpool Attacker Dirk Kuyt

Inter intend to use the £25 million from Mario Balotelli's sale to reunite head coach Rafael Benitez with Dirk Kuyt, according to the Daily Mail.

The Spaniard brought Kuyt to Liverpool when he was in charge and intends to kick off his San Siro reign with his signature. With Balotelli poised for a big money exit to Manchester City, Benitez has a void to fill up front.

Kuyt's ability to play on the wings or as a striker was on show in the Netherlands charge to the World Cup 2010 final. Inter had previously targeted a more skilful replacement but Benitez is set to successfully lobby president Massimo Moratti to sanction a bid for the 30-year-old.

Kuyt has previously stated his intention to end his career at Anfield and new boss Roy Hodgson would be reluctant to let him go. Inter will hope Champions League football will sway the ex-Feyenoord man to force through the switch.