Friday, August 27, 2010

Match Report: Trabzonspor 1 - 2 Liverpool

Liverpool escaped what could have been an embarrassing Europa League exit with two late goals to beat Trabzonspor 2-1 on the night and 3-1 on aggregate.

However, it was far from convincing and it needed a own goal by Remzi Kacar and a strike from Dirk Kuyt to secure their passage.

Their one-goal advantage had been wiped out in the fourth minute when Teofilo Gutierrez side-footed past Jose Reina but the late doule salvo ensured manager Roy Hodgson did not become the first Reds boss to exit Europe before the end of August.

The victory was Liverpool's first in Turkey against Turkish opposition and their hosts' first defeat at home in 2010.

Liverpool had chance to put the tie to bed in the first leg but taking a 1-0 lead to Turkey was never going to ensure a comfortable night.

And despite finding themselves under huge pressure in the opening 45 minutes they should have wrapped things up a lot sooner than they eventually did.

David Ngog missed two second-half chances which Fernando Torres, the man he was standing in for with the Spaniard resting back on Merseyside, would probably have buried.

Prior to that Sotirios Kyrgiakos - one of five changes from Monday's Manchester City defeat - could have scored in only the second minute but he directed a weak downward header from Fabio Aurelio's corner straight at Onur Kivrak.

Trabzonspor made no such mistake two minutes later when Kuyt gave the ball away and Gustavo Colman's intended shot sliced open the heart of Liverpool's defence and Gutierrez side-footed past Jose Reina.

The enthusiastic Trabzonspor support did not need encouragement to ratchet up the volume as Liverpool's task suddenly looked a whole lot more difficult.

A quick counter-attack from an Aurelio corner almost brought a second for Trabzonspor with Jamie Carragher deflecting Ibrahima Yattara's shot behind and then Colman drilling in a low effort which Reina turned around his left-hand post.

The Liverpool goalkeeper was receiving some unwanted attention from a fan with a laser pen and Croatian referee Ivan Bebek instructed the UEFA delegate to put out a warning that the game could be stopped as a result.

Hodgson's side struggled to gain a foothold in the game and spent the remainder of the first half under pressure.

That continued after the break as Burak Yilmaz burst through on goal three minutes after the restart but was flagged offside.

In the 52nd minute Ngog should have given Liverpool some much-needed breathing space when Cole stood up a cross to the far post but the Frenchman headed wide from close range when it seemed easier to score.

Ngog then turned his marker inside-out on the edge of the penalty area but, faced with a clear shot at goal, rolled his effort wide.

Liverpool were, however, growing in confidence as Trabzonspor began to drop deeper and deeper.

But the longer it went without a goal, the more pressure they put on themselves.

Hodgson made his first change with 13 minutes to go when he sent on Dani Pacheco for Aurelio.

But the breakthrough eventually came eight minutes from time when pressure by Ngog forced an own goal.

Johnson's run and cross down the right was turned in by Kacar via the near post.

And things were wrapped up late on as Kuyt tapped in after Kivrak could only parry out Pacheco's shot.

Liverpool Agree Fee With Barcelona For Javier Mascherano

Javier Mascherano's long-awaited transfer to Barcelona is set to be completed this weekend after Liverpool accepted a bid from the Catalans.

The midfielder almost joined the La Liga champions 12 months ago only for former manager Rafael Benitez to eventually price him out of a move.

However, with the 26-year-old keen to move for personal reasons – he constantly complained his family had not settled in England – the club came to an agreement with him that if they received an acceptable bid they would allow him to leave.

After rejecting an initial bid of £16m from Barcelona last weekend an offer has now been forthcoming which comes close to their valuation of £25m.

The player was never likely to stay once he became aware of Barcelona's initial bid and told Hodgson he did not want to play in Monday's defeat to Manchester City.

But Liverpool was never going to accept anything less than they paid for Mascherano when they rescued him from West Ham's reserves for £18m three and a half years ago.

"Liverpool Football Club has agreed terms for the transfer of Javier Mascherano to FC Barcelona," said a Liverpool statement. "The Spanish club has now been given permission to speak to the Argentina midfielder."

This week Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola admitted he was in the market for a defensive midfielder having been thwarted in his attempts to sign primary transfer target Cesc Fabregas from Arsenal.

Reports in the Spanish media earlier this week claimed Mascherano had already agreed a four-year, £85,000-a-week contract and, now Liverpool have accepted a fee, the Argentina captain will travel to Barcelona for a medical this weekend.

A statement from Barcelona appeared to confirm that, with the Catalans even suggesting Mascherano played a part in the final negotiations.

"FC Barcelona and Liverpool FC have reached an agreement in principle for the transfer of Javier Mascherano to the club for the next four seasons," it said.

"The deal was closed after intensive efforts made by the club in the final hours and through the player himself in the negotiations.

"Barcelona will report the details of the operation once the player passes the medical and the transfer is concluded.

"It is hoped Javier Mascherano will arrive in Barcelona this weekend."

Liverpool To Sign £26m Trio Using Mascherano Cash

It seems, according to many journalists anyway, that if Javier Mascherano does move to Barcelona that Roy Hodgson will then be like a kid in a candy shop, spending the cash on a number of new Anfield arrivals, however the reality may be that the Merseyside club’s owners may take the lions share of the transfer to cover interest on debts the club has accrued since Tom Hicks and George Gillett arrived at the club.

Of the three players named perhaps Dickson Etuhu is the most likely to actually come to fruition as he would clearly be a like for like replacement for Mascherano, albeit the Fulham man is in an entirely different league to the Argentine captain.

Carlton Cole has continuously linked with a move away from Upton Park without any deal seeming to take form. West Ham are not going to sell the former Chelsea man on the cheap and the likes of Stoke City and Sunderland have distanced themselves from such a move due to the valuation placed on the England international forward.

Hatem Ben Arfa is a long shot but he is at least almost certain to leave Marseille who are unhappy with the manner in which the French international playmaker has conducted himself over a prospective move to Newcastle United that never took shape.

FC Twente Star Bryan Ruiz Waiting To Make Liverpool Move

FC Twente winger Bryan Ruiz is waiting to make the move to Liverpool.

Ruiz knows he is a target for Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson and hopes to see a switch to Anfield happen before the summer market closes.

Liverpool won't splash out until Javier Mascherano is sold, with Barcelona and Inter Milan both keen.

Ruiz has also been mooted as a potential replacement for Inter target Dirk Kuyt.

Racing Genk Want Liverpool Pair On-Loan As Part Of Partnership Deal

Racing Genk is in talks with Liverpool about a co-operation agreement.

Genk, which has had a previous partnership with Blackburn Rovers, are in contact with Liverpool about an alliance.

The Belgians hope to take Liverpool's best young players on-loan to accelerate their development and also lift their own league chances this season.

Genk aim to take Chris Mavinga and Daniel Ayala on-loan from Liverpool to kickoff the association.

FC Utrecht Expect Liverpool Offer For Ricky van Wolfswinkel

FC Utrecht attacker Ricky van Wolfswinkel is interesting Liverpool.

Liverpool had scouts in the stands to see Van Wolfswinkel in action on Saturday against Willem II.

Utrecht expects Liverpool to make an offer for their Holland international before the summer market shuts. They're ready to sell for around £8 million.

Van Wolfswinkel has struck six goals in his last seven games.

Dirk Kuyt Confirms He Wants To Stay & Win Trophies With Liverpool

Dutch forward Dirk Kuyt confirmed his future is with Liverpool following the Reds' 2-1 win over Turkish outfit Trabzonspor in the Europa League.

The World Cup finalist's future at Anfield had been the focus of speculation in recent times, with rumours of interest from Inter becoming a cause for concern for many Liverpool supporters.

But Kuyt, who grabbed a goal as the Reds progressed to the group stages of the Europa League in Turkey, confirmed his future is with Liverpool despite the reports linking him with a move away from Anfield.

"Everyone's said a lot about my future but as far as I know my future is at Liverpool," Kuyt told ESPN.

"I've had a great time so far and hopefully my future will be great here.

"All I want to do is win trophies with Liverpool."

Kuyt also stated it was important for everyone at the club to ensure the team stays in the Europa League.

"It's very important for all of us because we want to challenge for trophies and we definitely want to be in Europe," he added.

Stand-in captain Jamie Carragher also declared his pleasure at beating their tough Turkish opposition, especially without star players such as Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres.

"To beat them on their own patch especially with some of our top players not playing it was a great result," Carragher said.

Ryan Babel: I Want To Stay At Liverpool

Ryan Babel has revealed that he is feeling revitalised at Liverpool and there is no way he wants to leave Anfield now.

The Dutchman scored the goal which gave the Reds a 1-0 victory over Trabzonspor in the first leg of their Europa League tie last week. The forward had been linked with a move to German outfit VfL Wolfsburg, but insists he is enjoying a new lease of life since Roy Hodgson became manager at the club.

"I have been through a difficult time at Liverpool but I look upon this year as a new chapter," Babel told reporters.

"I am trying to be positive and look forward. I have two years left on my contract and I love Liverpool. I am settled here.

"If I had the feeling I had done everything I can here then, maybe, I would look at something else.

"But I don't have that feeling at all. I feel I can be important for Liverpool."

As for the potential deal taking him to Wolfsburg, Babel was as surprised as anyone when reports suggested that the deal was almost concluded.

"I Googled it and it said the deal was almost done!" he added.