Friday, August 20, 2010

Match Report: Liverpool 1 - 0 Trabzonspor

Ryan Babel handed Liverpool a slender advantage in their Europa League play-off - but Joe Cole's miserable week continued.

Babel, playing as a lone striker for a much-changed Reds side, struck in injury time of an otherwise dismal first half against Trabzonspor at Anfield.

Liverpool should have won more convincingly but big-name new signing Cole, sent off against Arsenal on Sunday and found guilty of speeding on Wednesday, missed a second-half penalty.

Debutant Christian Poulsen also had a goal disallowed as Liverpool carried a much greater threat after the break but the contest remains far from over with another 90 minutes to play.

Manager Roy Hodgson gave Steven Gerrard the night off and Liverpool's dynamic captain was conspicuous by his absence throughout a drab opening 45 minutes.

Little of note occurred until Cole slipped in Babel on goal with a fine ball in stoppage time at the end of the first half and the Dutchman calmly clipped over the advancing Onur Kivrak.

Prior to that a Liverpool side retaining only four of the XI which opened the Barclays Premier League season against Arsenal lacked drive and direction.

Liverpool showed patience on a surface made greasy by persistent rain and had a chance after five minutes as Sotirios Kyrgiakos tested Kivrak with a bouncing header.

Yet it was a rare moment of incision in the first period as both sides were restricted to long-range, and invariably off-target, free-kicks.

The more fluid attacks came from Trabzonspor and they gave Liverpool a scare when Reds right-back Martin Kelly was forced to head past his own post from a free-kick.

Selcuk Inan then flashed a header across goal from the resulting corner.

Yet neither goalkeeper had a save to make until Liverpool suddenly woke from their slumber with 45 minutes on the clock.

Cole found space and picked out the onrushing Babel with precision and the Holland international struck clinically.

Unfortunately for Babel, linked with a move to Wolfsburg this week, it proved to be his final touch of the game as he was replaced by Torres at the interval.

The Spaniard, feeling his way back into action after a groin injury, needed little time to show his class as he tested Kivrak with a long-range shot after a driving run.

Liverpool looked a different team from the one that had played out most of the first half and an unmarked Lucas headed a glorious chance wide from a Milan Jovanovic corner.

Poulsen then won possession and combined well with Jovanovic before lashing another effort over.

Liverpool should have had a penalty when Rodriguez was felled in the area after 50 minutes but the referee pointed to the spot barely a minute later after Serkan Balci brought down Lucas.

Cole, sent off against Arsenal and anxious to get his Anfield career up and running, stepped up to take the spot-kick but shot tamely at Kivrak.

Liverpool were almost made to pay just before the hour as Umut Bulut showed great control on the edge of the area to turn and shoot but Reina deflected the ball over.

Torres, looking a different player from the one who laboured through the World Cup, rose to meet a Jovanovic cross but Kivrak grasped his firm header.

Liverpool thought they had claimed a second after 72 minutes when Kivrak spilled a Kyrgiakos header and Cole nodded on for Poulsen to stab in.

The Dane, however, had inched offside and the goal was ruled out.

Aurelio then found good space but dragged a shot wide from 12 yards.

For all Liverpool's dominance, the tie was still far from safe ahead of next week's return trip to Trabzon.

The visitors played out the closing minutes safely, perhaps hoping for another chance on home soil.

Roy Hodgson 'Disappointed' Liverpool Could Not Find Second Goal Against Trabzonspor

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson admitted he was disappointed after watching his side record a narrow 1-0 victory over Trabzonspor in the first leg of their Europa League qualifier at Anfield.

Ryan Babel secured victory for the Reds in the first half before Joe Cole had a penalty saved and Christian Poulsen a goal ruled out in an eventful second half.

Speaking after the game to ITV Sport, Hodgson revealed he thought his side deserved to win the match and when asked if he thought Liverpool should have won by more goals, he said: “Yes I think we could have done.

“I think particularly in the second half we were good value for our victory and I think if you miss a penalty you only have yourselves to blame.

“It was a fairly fortunate penalty in the sense that it was just a bit of a clumsy challenge but it was a good opportunity to put the game beyond them. But we missed it and then we had a goal disallowed.”

Liverpool now travel to Turkey next Thursday for the second leg and Hodgson rued his side’s inability to secure a bigger lead.

“I’m a bit disappointed not to get the second goal because I think at 2-0 we would have been in a good position ahead of the second leg,” he added.

“One nil is not a bad result, it’s going to be tough for us over there as we saw they were a good team.”

Joe Cole Apologises For Missing Penalty In Europa League Win Over Trabzonspor

Joe Cole has apologized after missing a penalty in the Europa League on Thursday, but is keen to bounce back by helping Liverpool qualify for the group stage.

The Reds beat Trabzonspor 1-0 after Ryan Babel’s well-taken goal on the stroke of half-time. Lucas then earned a penalty minutes into the second half and Cole was given the chance to score his first goal for the club, but saw his weak spot-kick saved.

Speaking to ITV Sport, Cole admitted his penalty wasn’t the best, but is pleased to have won the game.

He said: “It was a bed penalty, I hold my hands up. It was predetermined [the penalty], but you can’t dwell on them things. We won the game 1-0 and we take positives from that.”

The former Chelsea star set up Babel to score Liverpool’s goal and is enjoying his new role playing behind the striker.

“[I’m] finding my feet in there, its my job to do that and make goals and it was nice to do that for Ryan and I’m enjoying my start here,” he said.

“I’ll try and do my best every game. I’m enjoying my football, getting fitter and getting stronger every game.”

Liverpool didn’t look convincing against their Turkish opponents and Cole insists the tie is not over despite the Reds’ advantage.

He added: “[It] wasn’t vintage by any stretch. A lot of players were changed, a lot of players needed a rest, but we’re far from through. It’s going to be tough in Turkey, so we’ve got to be on our game next week.”

Kuyt Agent Confirms Interest From Inter Milan

Dirk Kuyt's agent has confirmed that the Liverpool forward has the chance of moving to Treble-winning Inter Milan, although his client is yet to make any final decision over whether to leave Anfield.

Kuyt is a target for Inter coach Rafa Benitez, who brought the Dutchman to Anfield from Feyenoord for a fee of £9 million in August 2006 and relied heavily upon the hard-working forward.

Inter have stepped up their interest in Kuyt after seeing a move for Genoa's Giuseppe Sculli stall and the Netherlands international was conspicuous by his absence in Liverpool's Europa League tie against Trabzonspor on Thursday night.

Though Kuyt's agent insists the player is yet to make a decision over his future, it appears a move to Serie A is a distinct possibility for the 30-year-old.

"Dirk is being professional," Rob Jansen told Voetbal International. "Yes, there is real interest from Inter, but Dirk has not decided yet whether he does want to leave Liverpool. He must think carefully before leaving.

"This is also a complicated transfer. Dirk Kuyt is a Liverpool player. He has an ongoing contract and was recently in the World Cup final. There will be a transfer fee involved. The deal cannot simply go ahead.

"Regardless of the choice Dirk must first consider himself. He can move to Inter or just stay at Liverpool. This is a good position to be in. It is also an option that a player from Inter will be involved in the deal with Kuyt."

Aquilani Set To Return To Italy On Loan, Says Hodgson

Liverpool midfielder Alberto Aquilani, who was left out of the squad that faced Trabzonspor in a Europa League playoff on Thursday, is likely to be loaned out to a club in his native Italy, manager Roy Hodgson said.

The 26-year-old joined Liverpool for 20 million pounds ($31.10 million) from AS Roma before the start of last season as a replacement for Xabi Alonso but has failed to establish himself at Anfield.

"At the moment we are considering possibly loaning him to an Italian club," Hodgson said. "I didn't want to use him (against Trabzonspor) just in case the loan goes through, because for Aquilani this year it's very important that he plays regular football, every week, as the number one man on the teamsheet.

"I can't promise him that here so if a loan move to Italy could help him in that respect it might be good for all parties.

"It would certainly be what he needs, it would certainly protect the value of the player and when he does return to Liverpool no doubt we will see the Aquilani that we signed before he came here injured last year."

He missed the first two months of last season because of injury and only made 26 appearances in all competitions, scoring twice.

Juventus Step In For Liverpool Midfielder Alberto Aquilani

Liverpool's Italian midfielder Alberto Aquilani has attracted the attention of Juventus after a tough season settling in at Anfield. The playmaker has been tipped to return on loan to his homeland to get some regular football under his belt.

The ex-Roma star had been rumoured to return to Italy to an undisclosed club and today Corriere dello Sport have revealed that club is Juventus.

Despite the 26-year old's agent denying any move, Aquilani was left out of the Liverpool team yesterday for their Europa League play-off qualifier against Trabzonspor.

Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson explained his decision, "I didn't want to use him tonight in case the loan goes through because for Aquilani it's very important this year that he plays regular football, every week as the number one man on the team sheet.

"I can't promise him that here so if a loan move to Italy could help him in that respect it might be good for all parties. It would certainly be what he needs, it would certainly protect the value of the player and when he does return to Liverpool no doubt we will see the Aquilani that we signed before he came here injured last year."

Chances Of Royal Bank of Scotland Liverpool FC Takeover ‘Remote’

A taxpayer takeover of Liverpool FC is very low on the Royal Bank of Scotland agenda, it emerged yesterday.

As the Anfield board studies bids to buy the club, fears have grown about how long it will take to complete the process.

Yesterday, we revealed any deal could take months, possibly as late as October, before official agreement is reached.

This would mean key discussions extending beyond the October 6 deadline, set by RBS, when they could call in their £237m debt.

Then, the bank could choose to take control of the club, and as RBS are 83% owned by the taxpayer, it would effectively render Liverpool nationalized.

But the Daily Post understands RBS are not making any sort of preparation for such a radical scenario.

Seven weeks away from that deadline, RBS are confident Kop chairman Martin Broughton and Barclays Capital, the investment bank brokering the deal, will secure a buyer. The bank, however, have not ruled out fining American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett as much as £20m if they do not complete a sale by the end of August.

Reports have suggested Hong Kong- based entrepreneur Kenny Huang is growing impatient with the continuing due diligence by Liverpool FC, but his team appeared to distance themselves from such claims.

The Chinese mogul’s consortium is said to have increased the amount it is willing to pay from £325m to around £400m, which is still short of the £600m premium the Americans Hicks and Gillett want.

Publicly, Liverpool FC is not commenting beyond the statement released last Friday evening, when they confirmed a number of firm takeover proposals, possibly as many as five.

British Airways chairman Broughton has been keen to stress scrutinizing all offers, including those from Syrian Yahya Kirdi and American private equity group, Rhone Capital, will take time. Huang has claimed, in interviews, that he has submitted documents to Anfield bosses proving proof of finance, but he recently added he was only “50% confident” of buying Liverpool while acknowledging the strength of his competitors, known to be Mr. Kirdi and the American private equity group, Rhone Capital, hinting at his uncertainty with the process.

High on the priority list for Liverpool FC is identifying an owner who can pay off the £237m debt, finance a new stadium and provide cash for new players.

Those overseeing the deal are wary of a massive backlash from Liverpool supporters if any new ownership ultimately leaves the club in a financially precarious state.

The result of the protracted diligence is that newly-installed Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson is unlikely to have any significant funds to buy major new recruits before the transfer window deadline on October 31.

Peter Kenyon Fronting Kenny Huang’s Liverpool Bid

Former Manchester United and Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon is the face of Kenny Huang’s bid to buy Liverpool.

Chinese businessman Huang has launched a £400million offer to buy the club from current unpopular American duo Tom Hicks and George Gillett. Huang has said that he is 50% confident that his offer will be successful.

Former Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge supremo Kenyon is working on behalf of Creative Artists Agency, who is helping Huang to conduct negotiations at Anfield and Bloomberg reports that Kenyon has already held talks with Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton.

Current Liverpool owners Hicks and Gillett are reportedly not in favour of Huang's bid, as it will leave them with a smaller profit than other potential offers, including that of the other major frontrunner, Yahya Kirdi.