Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Match Report: Man City 3 - 0 LiverpooL

Manchester City flexed their enormous muscles at Eastlands to delight the man who made it all possible and deliver their biggest beating of Liverpool since 1937.

Sheikh Mansour could not have picked a better night to watch the team he has spent £1billion on in a league game for the first time.

With James Milner enjoying an outstanding debut, City were far too good for a Liverpool side who have a week to get themselves into some sort of shape given Javier Mascherano's absence seems like the next step in a big-money move to Barcelona.

Milner set up Gareth Barry for City's opener before Carlos Tevez claimed to have got a touch to Micah Richards' goalbound header just after half-time.

A brilliant double save from Joe Hart snuffed out any chance of a revival before Tevez sent Pepe Reina the wrong way from the spot after Martin Skrtel had fouled Adam Johnson.

It capped a performance that proves City have the credentials and the talent to win the biggest prize they can this season, if manager Roberto Mancini can keep his vast squad happy.

Had he so wished, Manchester City's immensely rich owner could have had his pre-match meal at the new 'City Square' on Joe Mercer Way, part of the £20million stadium revamp that has taken place since he took control from the discredited former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Rather more costly were the players he has helped assemble.

Nine of them were part of Roberto Mancini's starting line-up - Richards and Hart the two exceptions - a sign of the revolution that has taken place in the past two years.

Long-standing City fans are still pinching themselves at having the opportunity to watch the likes of Yaya Toure and Tevez.

But down the years, they have taken a huge amount of pride in their academy, which has produced so many first-team players, Richards among them.

The level City is operating at now means continuing that work is going to be tough. Instead, pleasure has to be derived in different ways.

So to have the stamp "Made in England" embossed on their first Premier League goal of the season was an achievement to be noted.

That the goal came about because of a momentary failure from Steven Gerrard just brought added poignancy.

Johnson spotted Milner advancing just beyond the Liverpool skipper and found him with a smart pass.

Milner delivered the perfect cut-back into an area he hoped a team-mate had filled.

Barry obliged and did the business from 10 yards with a neat side-footed finish.

It was the high point of a one-sided first-half.

Tevez and Johnson both found the side-netting from an acute angle. Johnson had earlier driven a fierce shot wide and Milner's running was intelligent and incisive.

Liverpool could certainly not have complained if they had been further adrift.

Roy Hodgson's men struggled to retain any source of possession, which just confirmed the gaping hole Mascherano will leave should he get his wish to start another phase of his career away from Anfield.

Liverpool appear too deficient in too many areas for Hodgson to waste much time persuading someone intent on leaving that his future remains on Merseyside.

In a meagre first-half, the visitors created just a single chance, which the returning Fernando Torres set up for Gerrard, who wasted it.

The only time Liverpool got any nearer after half-time was in the flurry of activity that followed Gerrard's explosive free-kick that thudded against the post.

Hart was beaten on that occasion but not when David Ngog had a go.

England's new number one palmed that away, straight into Torres' path. It seemed a certain goal but Hart stood firm again, repelling the Spain striker with a magnificent save with his left hand.

That this all came after a second City goal, which Tevez claimed even though any touch to a Richards header from Milner's corner was so faint as to render it impossible to spot.

Reina could not keep it out anyway.

Nor did the goalkeeper do any better when Tevez sent him the wrong way from the spot after Johnson had been fouled by Skrtel.

All summer, the football talk around these two clubs has centered around breaking into that top four.

On this evidence, only City are capable of that. And, thanks to Sheikh Mansour's largesse, they are capable of much more besides too.

Roy Hodgson Rues Defensive Display

Roy Hodgson was left to rue his side’s defensive display in Monday night’s crushing 3-0 defeat at Manchester City.

“We defended poorly for the goals and they took their chances when we defended poorly,” Hodgson said.

“I thought Man City played solidly and strongly throughout. They were strong physically and took charge.

“We were always fighting to get back into it and sometimes you have to accept that on the night we weren’t able to produce the level performance necessary to get a good result.

“But I didn’t think we were under the cost to the extent that 3-0 might suggest.

“We were a little bit unlucky with that wonderful double save from Joe Hart that we didn’t get back into the game at 2-0.

“You are talking about two teams of similar level. We were playing away from home tonight and Manchester City played well.”

Hodgson handed Fernando Torres his first start of the season following the groin injury he suffered in the World Cup final.

The Spaniard was denied by a stunning save from Hart and Hodgson admits he’s still searching for match fitness.

“Torres still has a way to go but we knew that,” he added. “He is still in the middle of a preparation period.”

Roy Hodgson Admits He Does Not Want To Sell Javier Mascherano After Manchester City Humbling

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson still hopes to keep Javier Mascherano at the club after the midfielder was left out of the club's 3-0 loss to Manchester City.

The Argentina international was not included in the squad and not present at Eastlands as Hodgson revealed prior to the game that his mind "isn't right" following speculation linking him with a move to Barcelona.

But Hodgson still wants to keep Mascherano on Merseyside, and hinted offers for the player are thus far below the club's valuation of one of their most prized assets.

"It'll get resolved as quick as it can get resolved, I would like Mascherano to stay, that's my wish, that's my hope," he told Sky Sports.

"We don't want to sell him, certainly we don't want to sell him for the type of fee that's being suggested at the moment.

"I'm hoping, maybe hoping against hope, but still hoping that Javier Mascherano will still play for us because he's such a good player and he'll make us into a better team."

One player definitely staying with the club for another season is Fernando Torres, who made his first start of the season in the disappointing away defeat.

Hodgson admitted the Spain striker is far from full fitness currently, and believes the best is yet to come from him.

He said: "We are forcing him [Torres] back into action earlier than we would have liked.

"He showed moments of what he's capable of but of course he's way below the type of performance he'd want to give and we know he can give, but we've got that to come."

On the game itself, in which Liverpool succumbed to two Carlos Tevez goals and a strike from Gareth Barry who nearly joined the club before settling for City, Hodgson felt his side did not deserve to lose by such a wide margin.

"I thought we were a little unlucky to get beaten so heavily," he said. "I don't think we really deserved to get beat by three goals.

"Pepe Reina wasn't called into action that often, I thought we had one or two good spells in the game and we played against a very strong and effective Manchester City side and of course they scored the goals at the right time.

"The second goal from the corner made it an uphill task for us. [Joe] Hart made that incredible double save, at 2-1 it might have put some more life back in the game.

"In the end of course we paid the price for conceding the penalty...and there's not much else to say but to congratulate Manchester City on a good performance and a good win.

"I thought we lacked the cutting edge in the box. I thought we passed the ball around quite well, I thought we lacked the cutting edge and unfortunately we lacked the organization I would have liked to prevent them getting through us down that left-hand side."

Despite the demoralizing defeat, the former Fulham boss insisted it is too early in the new Premier League season to start reading his players the riot act.

Muntari Rejects Reds Swap Deal

According to reports in the Italian press, Inter Milan midfielder Sulley Muntari has rejected the opportunity to move to Liverpool despite the reigning European champions offering the Ghanaian international in part exchange for Duch international Dirk Kuyt.

While speculation in the British tabloids has suggested that Roy Hodgson is unwilling to sell Kuyt, it appears that former boss Rafael Benitez has not given up hope of doing a deal for the versatile attack-minded midfielder and has come up with a variety of plausible deals to tempt the Reds into selling.

25-year-old Muntari had initially been dangled as bait in an attempt to appeal to Liverpool’s midfield squad shortage. However, the former Udinese and Porstmouth man still feels he has unfinished business at the San Siro having struggled to hold down a first team place under Jose Mourinho.

It is believed that Inter are now ready to offer approximately £8 million in cash for Kuyt although the Anfield hierarchy are eager to hold out for a fee in excess of £10 million. Last week the World Cup star’s representative Rob Jansen hinted that he was indeed considering his future on Merseyside with the prospect of testing himself in Italy obviously inviting.

Kuyt’s current contract sees him tied to Liverpool until the end of next season, although unlike Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard has yet to publically confirm his desire to stay at Anfield.

Lille Full-Back Mathieu Debuchy Coveted By Liverpool

Lille are bracing themselves for an approach from Liverpool over full-back Mathieu Debuchy, L’Equipe reports.

Reds boss Roy Hodgson apparently feels that his defence is lacking competition on the right hand side and he sees Debuchy as the kind of player who would act as a good back-up to Glen Johnson.

At 25-years-old, the Fretin-born player has never featured for any club side other than les Dogues, whom he joined when he was only eight. Debuchy’s development has been impressive, however, and he can frequently be found as a useful attacking outlet down the right flank, with his start to this campaign particularly bright.

Often going unheralded, Debuchy received recognition for his efforts earlier this month when Laurent Blanc called him into the France squad to face Norway, though he would not get an opportunity to showcase his talents in a side deprived of all of its World Cup stars.

Debuchy’s contract expires in 2012, but Liverpool is expected to make an official approach in the coming days.

Juventus With €16.5M Alberto Aquilani Option

Alberto Aquilani is set to complete the final stage of his medical at Juventus today and it has emerged that the Turin club have an option to purchase the Italian in their loan agreement with Liverpool.

The 26-year-old will, as expected, have his wages paid by Juventus. However, should the Old Lady be happy with Aquilani’s impact then they will be able to send €16.5M over to Anfield to make the deal permanent.

Aquilani’s arrival at Juventus has been greeted with delight amongst the club’s fans and the former Roma midfielder remains rated, when fit, as one of the finest in all Italy. For Aquilani the loan is a chance to push his way back into the Azzurri picture and also convince Juventus to make the move permanent.

With Liverpool set to lose Javier Mascherano before the transfer window slams shut, the decision to offload such a highly rated midfielder on loan will surely be the subject of further scrutiny before the season is out.

Liverpool Want €30m Cash For Javier Mascherano

Liverpool have told Barcelona that they want £24.5 (€30) million in cash for Javier Mascherano after rejecting the Spanish club’s opening player exchange offer.

Despite reports that Barca’s opening bid was £12m, Goal.com UK understands that the Primera Division champions offered £18.8m plus Aliaksandr Hleb for the 26-year-old Argentine.

But Liverpool is adamant that they do not want a player-plus-cash deal and will only consider a straight cash offer for the midfielder.

Barcelona are expected to return with a second, improved bid in the next 48 hours as they close in on a transfer that they hope to complete by the end of the week. It is understood that the player has already agreed personal terms with the Catalan giants.

Liverpool sources say the club accepts that Mascherano has played his last game for the Merseysiders – the 1-1 draw against Arsenal eight days ago – and appreciate that the player’s value will only diminish if he is held at Anfield against his will until January or next summer.

The Argentina captain told Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson that he did not feel his mind was right to figure in Liverpool’s Premier League match at Manchester City.

Manager Roy Hodgson said before the game: “He's not here because obviously there is some speculation about his future and at the moment his mind isn't right, so it wasn't correct to select him.

"Hopefully matters will get resolved, certainly before the end of the transfer window and I'll have a chance to pick him again, but Monday night would not have been a good time to select him."

Hleb has been offered as a makeweight in the deal after failing to make an impression at the Nou Camp following his switch from Arsenal two summers ago.

The Belarus international was told last month that he has no future under Barca coach Pep Guardiola after spending last season on loan with VfB Stuttgart.

'Roy Hodgson Biased Toward English Players,' Blasts Chris Mavinga

Liverpool youngster Chris Mavinga has expressed his disappointment at his lack of opportunities he is being given by Roy Hodgson and says he wants to leave the club.

"I am disappointed. I thought that with the success [of France's Under 19s Championship triumph] and my performances there I would be given the opportunity to train with the first team and play parts of games," the 19-year-old French defender told France Football.

"But a new coach arrived. Roy Hodgson, who replaced Rafael Benitez, and he is changing the organization of the club, trying to encourage English players at the expense of foreigners, unlike his predecessor. He clearly stated he wants to remake Liverpool as an English club. You already feel it in the reserves, although it's a choice, we must respect."

Mavinga said he tried to talks to Hodgson about the situation, but to no avail.

"Yes, I spoke with him briefly, but he did not say much," he said. "The problem is that there are too many players training with the first-team squad, 28! So, while Rafael Benitez allowed me to train with the pros during the second half of last season, I have now returned to the reserves."

"I am disappointed and angry. So I want to leave, why can't they loan me out? I love this club, but if the situation requires me to go, I will."

"I'm not asking to get straight into the first-team. I just want a fair opportunity to train with them," he continued. "I hope to find another club."

However, Mavinga vowed to continue to work hard even if he doesn't secure a move away from Anfield.

"It's difficult, given the market situation. In addition, Liverpool are not keen on loaning me out. If I don't leave this summer, I hope I can do it in January," he said. "But I will not stop working even if I stay with the reserves. I want to reach a good level."