Monday, September 13, 2010

Match Report: Birmingham City 0 - 0 Liverpool

Liverpool were indebted a superb display from goalkeeper Jose Reina for earning a point from a goalless draw with Birmingham in a Barclays Premier League clash at St Andrew's.

Reina produced excellent reflex saves to keep out point-blank range headers from Cameron Jerome and Craig Gardner.

The home side was also left to regret spurning a hat-trick of clear-cut chances and was the more impressive of the two sides.

But on this evidence new Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson has plenty of work to do to make the Merseysiders a force to be reckoned with.

Barry Ferguson and Gardner bossed the midfield while James McFadden and Cameron Jerome linked well up front.

Reds skipper Steven Gerrard tried to spark his side into life but Fernando Torres still looks short of full sharpness with Scott Dann excellent at the back for Birmingham.

The first decent chance fell to Torres after 12 minutes after Glen Johnson made a good break down the right flank before sending in a low cross.

But the Spaniard failed to make a clean contact on his attempted shot which he dragged a couple of yards wide.

Reina kept Liverpool on level terms with a superb reflex save away to his right to keep out Jerome's powerful header from Lee Bowyer's left-wing centre.

Blues midfielder Gardner became the first player to be yellow carded after 28 minutes for a challenge on Lucas.

Birmingham continued to look the more dangerous and Gardner dinked a shot over the bar after being teed up by Sebastian Larsson.

But Reina made another outstanding save to keep out a close range header from Gardner after another dangerous cross from Larsson.

In a rare threat to the home goal Roger Johnson's tackle prevented Torres from turning and shooting from inside the box although replays suggested he may have had claims for a penalty.

Roger Johnson missed a good chance when he turned a Ferguson cross over from close range.

Blues keeper Ben Foster made his first save in the opening minute of the second half in clinging onto a dipping drive from Gerrard.

But City was soon back on the attack and Liam Ridgewell had a powerful header blocked from a Larsson free-kick.

Paul Konchesky got forward to good effect for the first time and his pass almost played in Milan Jovanovic but he failed to take the ball in his stride.

But Liverpool continued to look uncomfortable at the back and Dann missed another good chance for the home side.

He found himself unmarked from a Larsson free-kick but his downward header bounced over the crossbar.

The Reds enjoyed their best spell of the game and Foster beat out a rising shot from a narrow angle by Torres after he had been found in space by Gerrard.

Another chance went begging for the home side when Jerome headed wide at the far post from Stephen Carr's cross after Konchesky had given the ball away.

Raul Meireles made his Liverpool debut after 76 minutes in place of Lucas. A minute later Konchesky limped off to be replaced by Daniel Agger.

Reina again did well in racing out of his area to chest clear from Jerome.

Foster went down to keep out a late drive from Torres although he failed to make full contact.

Roy Hodgson Refuses To Criticise His Side After Uninspiring Draw Against Birmingham City

Liverpool were held to a goalless draw against Birmingham City at St Andrew's on Sunday, and manager Roy Hodgson has praised his side's opposition in keeping the Reds attack quiet.

In the first half, Liverpool had Pepe Reina to thank for denying the home side the lead on a number of occasions, and Hodgson cited the pressure that the Blues were putting his side under as a factor in stopping his side playing their own game.

"They played extremely well the first half. We started well but around 15 minutes before half-time they really pressurized the ball well and made life very difficult for us," Hodgson told Sky Sports after the game.

"We were dependant on two very good saves from Pepe Reina, from two excellent crosses and headers, he made really good saves.

"I thought we kept our shape well during that period and kept working at it and I thought the longer the game went on, maybe the stronger we were getting.

"But I have got to say it was a good performance in particular from the Birmingham team but I'm not that disappointed with our performance either."

Hodgson added that he needs time to get his ideas across at Liverpool, with only four games into the season gone.

"It's early days for me, we have a lot of players coming into the team and trying to come to terms of what we are asking of them. But in the end I think it was a very entertaining nil-nil." Hodgson added.

Hodgson Defends Lacklustre Torres

Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson leapt to the defence of striker Fernando Torres after he was widely criticized for a disappointing display in the goalless draw with Birmingham on Sunday.

Torres tested Blues goalkeeper Ben Foster twice in the second half but looked off the pace as he continues his return from a groin injury sustained in the World Cup final.

Despite a largely uninspiring display at St Andrew's, Hodgson was satisfied with the contribution of the Spain frontman and believes he will continue to get "better and better.''

"Fernando came into the centre on a few occasions and, when he did that, he caused havoc," Hodgson said. "You've got to give the back four of Birmingham credit. They worked very hard to contain him and pressurize him.

"But he is looking much fitter with every game and I thought he looked dangerous and I thought, the longer the game went, the stronger he became. I think he is working hard for the team. He is a constant thorn in the side of defenders.

"We know he lacks match training. He missed matches at the end of last year and during the World Cup. But I'm not at all concerned about Fernando Torres. He will get better and better.''

Liverpool needed two superb first half saves from Pepe Reina to earn them a point but Hodgson was satisfied with his side's overall performance.

"I thought they really pressurized well for a spell in the first half and we were dependent on two exceptionally good saves from Pepe Reina. But we kept our shape well during that period and the longer the game went on, the stronger we were getting.

"It was a good performance from the Birmingham team but I was not that disappointed with our performance either. We kept to our task well. It is early days for me and the team. We've had players coming into the team trying to come to terms with what we are asking of them.

"A lot of teams will come here and find it very difficult. This is a tough place and they are unbeaten here for goodness knows how long (12 months). I've got to say my expectations were not that high anyway. I would have been disappointed to lose the game but certainly not that disappointed to draw it.''

Hodgson Looks To Take Advantage Of Poor West Ham Start

Liverpool will launch an £18m double West Ham swoop this January as Roy Hodgson hopes to take advantage of the poor start to the season the Hammers have experienced. The Anfield boss tried to lure Carlton Cole to Anfield last month but failed in a last ditch bid but will return with an offer for the England international striker as well as utility player Valon Behrami.

Hodgson will initially look to use some of his squad as part of a swap deal, an option that has even more credence given recent comments made by the Liverpool manager who questioned the quality (or lack thereof) of large chunks of his squad. Failing that he will hope to garner funds from whoever is controlling the purse strings by January, to help sign off on the deal.

The likes of Ryan Babel, Lucas and David Ngog may be used as potential make weights in such a deal but a lot depends on how they perform from now until January. Carlton Cole didn’t push for a move in the summer transfer window as he wanted to see what the new regime, headed by Avram Grant, would bring. Four defeats in four have left him wondering if he was right to stick around.

Former Lazio man Behrami was actively seeking a move back to Serie A but was told to stay put, much to his chagrin, and the 25 year old would jump at the chance of a move to the Merseyside club and Hodgson is said to be a big admirer of the adaptable Swiss international.

Again a lot could depend on whether the Hammers boss can pull the club out of it’s nosedive and that too depends on whether the Israeli is given the time to do so by co-owners David Sullivan and David Gold.

Xherdan Shaqiri Keen On Cut-Price Liverpool Move

Exciting Swiss winger Xherdan Shaqiri is hoping that Liverpool revive their interest in him and make a move to sign him during the January transfer window.

Shaqiri was one of the youngest players to go to the World Cup, testament to his potential. The 18-year-old's pace and dribbling ability helped FC Basel to the league and cup double last term as he contributed six goals and five assists in his debut season.

Liverpool was reportedly taking note of Shaqiri last season, but their interest faded with the Anfield exit of Rafa Benitez.

Now, the News of the World reports that Shaqiri hopes that his spectacular goal against England last week will be enough for Liverpool to revive their interest. He will reportedly be available for around £2million in January.

Current Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson will certainly have no problem doing his homework on Shaqiri, having previously coached the Swiss national team.

Stevie In The Shadows

Steven Gerrard is not forceful enough to be the England captain.

That was the verdict of The Sun's Shaun Custis as the Sunday Supplement looked at just who should lead the national side once Rio Ferdinand is fit again.

Gerrard was handed the armband for the first two Euro 2012 qualifiers and was instrumental in England picking up maximum points against Bulgaria and Switzerland.

But with Rio Ferdinand ready to return to action the Liverpool skipper is expected to step back down to vice-captain for the next qualifier, against Montenegro in October.

And Custis believes that is the right decision, simply because Gerrard is not comfortable taking charge of a dressing room that contains some of the biggest names - and egos - in the game.

"One of the feelings about why Steven Gerrard has been flourishing as captain at the moment is because Frank Lampard is not there, John Terry is not there, Rio Ferdinand is not actually there and he feels able to exert his authority if you like, when the big boys are not there," he told the Supplement.

"When they are not there of course, he is the major senior player; he is the one that can go round the dressing room saying do this, do that, to the other players. But when the others are there they have a massive standing in the game.

"When they're back in the squad - and they will be back in the squad - does Steven Gerrard go back slightly into his shell and think 'the big men are back in town'? I'm not sure he feels he is the man that can go round to Ferdinand, Terry, Lampard and say do this, do that. I think he feels intimidated.

"John Terry didn't have any qualms about that and Rio is similar when he's in charge - although there is also a feeling that he pulls everybody together, north and south, and there's a good spirit with him.

"I can see the argument for Steven Gerrard but I think you have to reserve judgement and see how he reacts when all the big players are back."

Terry was of course stripped off the captaincy before the World Cup, but still stunned the football world with his infamous press conference in South Africa.

Ferdinand was injured before a ball was kicked but has since said he expects to reclaim the armband when he is fit enough again.

And Custis pointed out that Gerrard himself has kept tellingly quiet on the whole issue.

"Do you see that he doesn't always exert himself?" he questioned.

"You could see in his leadership the other night, he was really bossing the game. But he's already opened the door for Capello to return to Rio.

"He was asked a question the other day about how he would deal with something and he said pretty much said 'It's alright, Rio will be back soon'.

"It's not like he said I want to keep this job; he could've said that but he didn't. Now when Rio was stand-in captain I seem to remember him saying 'I like being England captain'!"

Gerard Houllier: 'No Problem' With Old Liverpool Acquaintances

Gerard Houllier insists he’ll have no problem working with players he has managed previously when he finally takes charge at Aston Villa.

Defender Stephen Warnock and goalkeeper Brad Friedel played under Houllier at Liverpool, while the Frenchman managed striker John Carew at Lyon.

Warnock and Friedel’s first-team opportunities were limited at Anfield while Houllier allowed Carew to leave Lyon and join Villa.

Houllier said: ‘At Jamie Carragher’s testimonial last weekend, I came across a few players that had left during my time at Liverpool.

‘There was not a problem and there will be no problem here. Stephen Warnock was too young [at Liverpool]. Brad, I got on very well with. Don’t forget, Brad had to leave because we couldn’t renew his work permit. As for John Carew, he is an outstanding talent.’

Houllier was due to meet the Villa players yesterday before flying back home to tie up the loose ends with the French Football Federation after quitting as their technical director.

Caretaker boss Kevin MacDonald will, therefore, take charge for Monday’s league match at Stoke, for which midfielder Stephen Ireland (hamstring) is a doubt.

MacDonald will again be at the helm for next Saturday’s home match with Bolton, although Houllier hopes to attend that game.

Houllier revealed: ‘If all goes to plan the Carling Cup match [against Blackburn on Wednesday week] will be the first game I pick the team for.’

Former Liverpool Midfielder Jamie Redknapp Rips Through 'Diabolical' Fernando Torres

Jamie Redknapp has branded Liverpool striker Fernando Torres' performance against Birmingham City as "diabolical", while accusing the forward of not being committed to the club's cause.

The Reds favourite has the distinction of being the fastest in the history of the club to have hit the 50-goal mark, and is widely regarded as being one among the best marksmen in the world.

The 26-year-old has been in and out of the treatment room for some time now, as he saw a portion of last season playing through pain to push his side further up the table - in a season that eventually turned out to be a gloomy one on Merseyside.

Torres may have scored the only goal against West Bromwich Albion with a fantastic volley, and topped it with a strong performance for Spain by scoring twice against Liechtenstein.

But the recent goalless draw at St Andrew's somehow saw the footballer turned television pundit launch a stinging attack on the forward.

Redknapp is quoted by The Sun as saying: "Fans will suffer to a certain extent when you give the ball away, but they won't suffer from a lack of effort.

"For 45 minutes he was terrible. He didn't get hold of the ball, he didn't chase.

"He's been diabolical. I'm his biggest fan and I love seeing him.

"Of course you have to give the defenders credit but he's shown no appetite for the game. He has looked frustrated, sloppy and lethargic."