Friday, September 17, 2010

Match Report: Liverpool 4 - 1 Steaua Bucharest

Midfielder Joe Cole scored the quickest European goal in Liverpool's illustrious history to set his under-strength side up for a 4-1 victory over Steaua Bucharest at Anfield.

The England international took just 25 seconds of their opening Europa League Group K match to find the net for his first strike since joining on a free transfer from Chelsea in the summer.

Cristian Tanase equalized for the Romanians in the 13th minute but David Ngog took his tally to five in as many games in this competition and substitute Lucas Leiva scored the other for a victory which was not as easy as the scoreline suggested.

Manager Roy Hodgson risked criticism with his team selection, which had just three survivors from the weekend's goalless draw at Birmingham with neither Fernando Torres nor Steven Gerrard in the squad.

The Reds boss' decision, with a huge game at Manchester United on Sunday, was ultimately justified but for a 30-minute period either side of half-time when the match hung in the balance.

Prior to the game Hodgson had stressed Steaua, the 1986 European Cup winners, would provide a tough test but it took precisely 25 seconds for his words to be disproved.

Octavian Abduran, under pressure from Cole, left his back-pass woefully short and the midfielder nipped in to sidefoot a shot past goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu and in off the far post.

The Romanians were reeling and Sotirios Kyrgiakos had a downward header from Maxi Rodriguez's corner blocked by Eric Bicfalvi and Jay Spearing fired a long-range shot over.

But Liverpool could not press home their advantage and a defensive lapse in the 13th minute allowed Steaua to equalize.

Kyrgiakos and Kelly allowed Tanase to nip in between them to collect Bogdan Stancu's through-ball and he neatly chipped over Reina.

The goal gave the visitors the confidence they needed to start knocking the ball around as Liverpool lost their way.

Cole, released down the middle by Spearing, but with no-one in support, had to shoot from distance and that - and subsequent efforts from range from Ryan Babel and Rodriguez - failed to trouble the goalkeeper sufficiently.

It was a sign of the way things were going that when Spearing implored his team-mates to "pick it up" the call was heard all around a half-full Anfield, who responded with an encouraging round of applause.

Abduran's foul on Rodriguez earned him a booking and Liverpool a 25-yard free-kick just before the interval but Paul Konchesky shot well wide.

Cole was Liverpool's most inventive player, although he did not have much competition in that department, and his good work in holding the ball up early in the second half allowed Rodriguez to fire in a shot straight at Tatarusanu.

They were gifted the chance to go ahead in the 55th minute when Pantelis Kapetanos pulled back Kyrgiakos as he challenged for Rodriguez's corner.

When Ngog stepped up to take the spot-kick - the last one at Anfield was missed by Cole against Trabzonspor - there was an audible groan.

However, the young French striker shrugged off the concerns of the Kop to expertly dispatch the ball into the left-hand corner before wheeling away with a celebration which may have included a gesture towards his doubters.

It was the 21-year-old's fifth goal of the season and fourth in five European games so far.

Raul Meireles almost marked his first start since arriving from Porto last month with a goal as his 30-yard volley was kept out by Tatarusanu's low dive to his right.

Hodgson made his first change of the night when he sent Lucas Leiva on for Babel, moving Cole out to the left and pushing Meireles further forward.

The substitute has an instant impact as he picked up a weak clearance 20 yards out to drive a shot past Tatarusanu with nine minutes to go.

Hodgson was true to his word as he used the latter stages to give experience to youngsters Dani Pacheco and Nathan Eccleston, players who will have an important role to play in this competition.

Ngog fired home his second in injury time to give the scoreline a more convincing appearance.

It was a night when all the manager's decisions proved to be right.

However, making all the right calls at Old Trafford on Sunday will be a much bigger challenge.

Roy Hodgson Praises Second-String Team After Steaua Bucharest Rout

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson feels vindicated in his decision to rest players after a fringe Reds side secured a comfortable 4-1 victory over Steaua Bucharest in the Europa League.

The Reds secured three points in Group K at Anfield thanks to a brace from David Ngog, a Lucas Leiva thunderbolt and Joe Cole's first strike for the club.

And Hodgson, who is looking ahead to the mega-clash with Manchester United on Sunday in the Premier League, praised those players called upon to fill in front of the Kop on Thursday evening.

"I was delighted that those who stepped in ensured we still had the right result," Hodgson said, as quoted by Press Association Sport.

"I think it is important you make decisions and make them for the right reasons. I had no doubt that, given the fact we have so many players who play international football, this was the moment to give them a rest and allow them to prepare properly for Sunday's game.

"The ones who came in did a good job and got a good result and in my opinion the decision would have been just as valid even if we had not got a good result.

"They made us work hard to contain them but even in that period Joe showed some good touches. I'll start thinking about the weekend come tomorrow. I'll just enjoy the victory tonight."

Ngog has impressed this season, bagging six goals in just seven appearances for Liverpool, and Hodgson reserved special praise for the burgeoning 21-year-old talent, whilst also lauding a top performance from Cole.

"I thought Ngog's confidence grew after the penalty but I don't think he looked that confident in the first half," added the Reds boss.

"But certainly his confidence grew the longer the game went and we had so much possession in the second half that for forwards it is good when you have that much dominance in the midfield.

"It was nice for Joe Cole to get his first goal for the club, I thought he was lively. We substituted Lucas because we wanted to make certain we shored up the midfield and to give Ryan Babel a rest - the decision was made for defensive rather than offensive reasons, it is just a coincidence Lucas scored a great goal."

Joe Cole Delighted To Score His First Liverpool Goal

Liverpool’s Joe Cole admitted he was happy to open the scoring for the Reds on Thursday night in their 4-1 victory over Steaua Bucharest in the Europa League and hailed the result as “massive” for Roy Hodgson’s men.

The former Chelsea man opened the scoring after just 27 seconds and although the visitors equalized through Tanase in the first half, Liverpool went on to secure victory courtesy of a Lucas strike and a David Ngog brace.

Speaking to Channel Five after the game, Cole admitted he was simply happy to be on the pitch after sitting out recent games due to a domestic suspension picked up for a red card against Arsenal on the opening day of the Premier League season.

“I’ve been really a month without playing so I’m happy to get a first goal for the team and a great start in the Europa League,” he said.

“I think teams come here and try and sit back and they [Steaua Bucharest] put a lot of work in to stopping us playing in the first half and we managed to break them down more and more and the game opened up and we managed to get the goals.”

The win gives Liverpool a great start to their European campaign and they next face a trip to FC Utrecht at the end of the month with Cole knowing exactly what his team will need to do to qualify from the group.

“It’s massive [beating Steaua] you’ve got to win your home games it’s very important,” he added.

“If you can win your three home games and get one away draw that can see you through. It was a tough game tonight but a good result.”

Liverpool After Young Ghana Defender

Liverpool are monitoring young Ghana defender Isaac Vorsah who has been putting in some splendid performances for his German club side Hoffenheim this season. Roy Hodgson, Liverpool’s manager is particularly interested in the young International and according to reports in Germany has instructed the club scouts to keep an eye on the 22 year old.

Vorsah will however be closely tracked by quite a few clubs as his contract with Hoffenheim expires next June and he will be able to sign a pre contract deal as early as January and for a club like Liverpool, that are in serious debt, that is a huge attraction.

Vorsah has not been a regular with his national team having played just 15 times for Ghana in the last three years, however he was in the Ghana World Cup squad and only injury in his first game prevented him playing any further part in the competition.

Hodgson has made no secret of the fact that he will be over hauling the Liverpool squad and has already intimated that more players will be leaving Anfield in January and by the same token, further players will be brought in and Vorsah fits the bill when it comes to the sort of player Hodgson is looking for.

Udinese Chief Larini Hints At Liverpool Approach For Inler

Udinese chief Fabrizio Larini has confirmed Liverpool's interest in Gokhan Inler.

The Switzerland midfielder admitted Liverpool were keen on the player during the summer.

And Larini said last night: "His name never seems far from the transfer rumours. For Inler, there was involvement from a couple of big clubs, including foreigners. But it was talk only."

Udine sources say the foreign clubs involved were Liverpool and Steve McClaren's Wolfsburg.

Hull City Aim To Extend Ayala Loan Deal

Hull City are hoping to extend the loan spell of Liverpool's Spanish defender Daniel Ayala.

The 19-year-old scored his first goal for the Tigers in Tuesday's 2-0 win over Derby County in only his second appearance for the club.

Hull manager Nigel Pearson told BBC Radio Humberside: "I'll be doing everything I can to keep him.

"I think he's got off to a very good start, he's got an appetite to play and I'm pleased to have him here."

Ayala joined on an initial one-month emergency loan but Pearson is already exploring the chances of extending that until the end of the season.

Kuyt Hopeful Of Return Against Utrecht

Liverpool forward Dirk Kuyt has admitted he is in the dark as to when he will be fit to return to action, but has not given up hope of getting the green light to face former club Utrecht in the Europa League at the end of the month.

The Dutchman damaged his shoulder on international duty and was told it could be six weeks before he is back in action.

He is working on a tailored rehabilitation program, but is in unsure as to when he will be allowed to take part in contact activities.

"I am very disappointed to be injured as you miss games like this [Steaua Bucharest] and the one coming up at the weekend [Manchester United]," Kuyt told Five.

"It is difficult to say how long it will take to heal. It is normally four to six weeks, but I am hoping to be back for the Utrecht game.

"So far it is going well and I am trying to work hard."

Kuyt began his career at Utrecht before moving to Feyenoord in 2003 and on to Anfield three years later.

Tom Hicks Set To Make A Move On George Gillett's Stake In Liverpool

Liverpool co-owner Tom Hicks is thought to be ready to snap up George Gillett's stake in the club.

Gillett is believes to be struggling under financial pressure in the United States as next month's deadline on a £75 million loan that was taken against his stake in the club.

The American is reported to have taken a £75m from U.S. Hedge Fund Mill Financial when the two owners were pushed into reducing the debt with the RBS.

Now The Mirror claims that Hicks is now trying to push through a refinancing package and take control of the Merseyside club.

It has been reported that the former Corinthians top boss wants to pick up his partner's stake so as to buy some time to make a profit by selling the club.

Liverpool's are believed to be more than £350m in debt.