Thursday, September 23, 2010

Match Report: Liverpool 2 - 2 Northampton (p)

Northampton plunged Merseyside into deeper misery as the League Two club stunned Liverpool with a memorable penalty shoot-out victory in the third round of the Carling Cup.

Ian Sampson's minnows produced a merited and major giant-killing, which equated to Brentford's spot-kick win over Everton on Tuesday night, and they came from behind to do so.

Goals from Billy McKay and Michael Jacobs seemed set to send Northampton through after extra-time at Anfield, having cancelled out Milan Jovanovic's early opener, but David Ngog took the match to penalties.

Ngog and youngster Nathan Eccleston both missed from the spot, allowing Abdul Osman to score the crucial winning penalty and send the noisy travelling supporters into dreamland.

For the first time in five years Liverpool have not got past the third round, denying them a chance in a competition they were thinking about winning.

Those chances were increased by the exits of the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham but an under-strength team failed to deliver.

It would have not been so bad had the Cobblers come to Anfield and given a particularly stirring performance but they were only really energized by McKay's goal, growing in confidence as their opponents' gradually receded.

Worryingly for manager Roy Hodgson, Northampton goalkeeper Chris Dunn was hardly tested.

The Liverpool boss, as he has done in the Europa League, handed the responsibility to a number of fringe players after opting to rest all those who started in the defeat to Manchester United on Sunday.

If he was looking for a reward he did not get one as the team laboured in failing to dispatch opponents 69 league places below them.

The signs were there before the start as the Cobblers had already beaten higher-placed opposition in League One Brighton and Championship side Reading.

Their league form, however, was worse than Liverpool's with only one win in their last eight games and that was indicative of the way they started as the home side dominated.

Prior to the match there had been much fuss about nothing when centre-back Daniel Agger had felt the need to publicly clarify comments he made on Sunday, which were misrepresented as him saying he would not play Hodgson's long-ball game.

Not that he needed to prove a point but he did with a perfectly-judged defence-splitting pass through the inside-left channel which Serbia international Jovanovic collected and fired past Chris Dunn and into the far corner of the net.

Despite dominating possession, Liverpool's rearranged defence gave their opponents too much time on the edge of the penalty area.

Twice Jacobs was allowed to turn and shoot but on both occasions he failed to hit the target, although his curling effort from the left angle of the box briefly had debutant Brad Jones worried as it arced towards the far corner.

Ryan Gilligan also blazed wide from 12 yards after Wilson failed to clear a free-kick.

The second half began similarly until McKay struck in the 56th minute. Kevin Thornton out-jumped Sotirios Kyrgiakos to head Liam Davis' hanging cross into the path of the striker and he blasted home from close range.

In an instant the match appeared to turn on its head as Northampton then became the team in the ascendancy as Liverpool toiled.

Only in the last five minutes of normal time did they push for the winner but the visitors' defence held out to force extra-time.

There was a feeling an upset was on the cards and a second Northampton goal duly came in the 98th minute.

Wilson, a central defender playing at left-back, was too easily beaten by substitute Courtney Herbert.

Jones parried the cross, Martin Kelly stopped Thornton's half-hit shot, but Liverpool could do nothing about Jacobs' follow-up.

Kyrgiakos headed wide and Kelly fired into the side-netting before Ngog hauled Liverpool level with a headed goal from substitute Jonjo Shelvey's corner.

Even then both sides could have snatched a win at the death but Kelly cleared off the line from Nathaniel Wedderburn's shot and Davis deflected over a header from Kyrgiakos.

Northampton's Steve Guinan and Liverpool's Ngog missed the first spot-kicks but when 19-year-old substitute Eccleston hit the crossbar with Liverpool's fourth effort Osman stepped up to send the Cobblers into the last 16.

The result will only increase the scrutiny on Hodgson, whose side have had a disappointing start to the Premier League and are currently 16th.

Roy Hodgson Apologizes To Fans For Liverpool FC’s Display In Defeat To Northampton In Carling Cup

Roy Hodgson last night apologized to fans for the club’s Carling Cup exit at the hands of npower League Two Northampton, admitting he and the players had to accept responsibility for the defeat.

Hodgson fielded an under-strength side which still included first-team regulars like Daniel Agger, David Ngog, Ryan Babel and Lucas Leiva and went ahead when Milan Jovanovic scored his first goal for the club in the ninth minute.

However, the Cobblers hit back 10 minutes into the second half through Billy McKay and Michael Jacobs’ goal in extra-time appeared to have done enough until Ngog spared Liverpool’s blushes four minutes from the end.

But it was only a temporary reprieve as Ngog and Nathan Eccleston missed their spot-kicks, allowing Abdul Osman to net the decisive penalty.

“I don’t think we came anywhere near what I hoped to see apart from in the last 15 minutes of extra-time when we made a superb effort after going 2-1 down,” he said.

“When it goes to penalties and you are at home and in front of the Kop your hope is that at least the players will have the composure and confidence to win the penalty shoot-out but we didn’t.

“All I can do is congratulate Northampton and apologize to everyone; the fans came expecting to see us win and I expected us to win but it wasn’t to be.

“These players have to accept responsibility. I accept responsibility for changing a lot of players in the team, I did it because I honestly thought the players I put on the field were good enough to win the game and they weren’t.

“The obvious conclusion to that was I shouldn’t have changed that many players but we should have been strong enough to get a result.

“We must all take our responsibility. I am just bitterly disappointed that the team I had so much faith in did not repay that faith this evening with the exception of one or two performances.”

Hodgson has endured a mixed start to his reign as Liverpool manager after taking over from Rafael Benitez in July.

He became the first Reds boss to win his first five European fixtures – albeit four were Europa League qualifiers – but his side has registered just one victory in five domestic games and are 16th in the Barclays Premier League table.

Hodgson accepted their Carling Cup exit was another setback.

“We wanted to do well in the Carling Cup and we haven’t done,” he added.

“We were given a kind draw against a team three leagues below us, were expected to win and when you don’t you can expect to be criticized from the top downwards.

“It is a major setback for the club.

The Carling Cup is a competition we are capable of doing well in and we were playing lower league opponents.

“Whatever happens, if it doesn’t result in a victory it is a very negative thing and a setback for the club, one of many we are facing at the moment.”

Northampton manager Ian Sampson rated the win as one of his top moments in football.

“It is certainly up there as one of the best nights of my career,” he said.

“I won a play-off final at Wembley as a player for Northampton and it ranks right up there with that occasion.

“To be a manger and win at Anfield after only one year in the job I’m absolutely delighted, it is a particular highlight.

“Full credit to the players, they are a young team, with the attitude and desire they showed I can’t praise them highly enough.”

Purslow - Reds Talks Ongoing

Liverpool managing director Christian Purslow has revealed there are 'a small number' of parties exploring a possible takeover of the club.

Current Reds owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett have been trying to sell the Premier League club since April, but have yet to receive a suitable offer.

Hicks had reportedly been trying to arrange a deal to buy Gillett's stake in the club only for the Blackstone investment group to rule out financial support.

The owners must pay off £237million owed to the Royal Bank of Scotland in mid-October and Purslow is waiting to see if the current interest will lead to a formal takeover bid.

"The process remains underway and there are a small number of potentially interested parties working seriously and privately - doing what is called due diligence - looking at the business in detail from a financial and legal standpoint," Purslow told the club's official website.

"My hope is that one of those parties steps forward with a proposal to buy the club which is attractive to the board and which would be good for the club.

"I must say that the single most important aspect of the possible sale of the club - and I consider it the most important thing I will ever do in my business career - is to make sure that if we're going to sell the club we get the sale right. The only thing worse than no sale is the wrong sale.

"Do I know whether any of those parties are going to get over the finishing line? No. Can I make someone write a cheque? No.

"My job is to present the club to possible investors in the best possible light because I passionately believe it's a fantastic opportunity for investment and new ownership."

Purslow also played down fears that, if there is no sale in the near future, Liverpool could become the second Premier League club to go into administration.

He added: "Liverpool Football Club is a very healthy business. We have cash, we are solvent, we have banking facilities which last beyond the end of next season and we are heavily scrutinized by the Premier League.

"To achieve our Uefa license we went through that process and they were very happy with what they saw - so I cannot conceive of a situation where Liverpool Football Club could go into administration.

"Liverpool Football Club is not going bust. We have an extremely healthy business with record revenues and we are highly profitable."

Liverpool In €20m Strike For El Matador

Reports in Italy and Germany have suggested that Liverpool Football Club are preparing a transfer bid of around €20m for Uruguayan goal predator Edison Cavani, aptly nicknamed El Matador with a move that could happen as soon as January to add forward support to that of Fernando Torres.

Although Liverpool seem to have financial problems at the moment it seems that the Anfield manager, Roy Hodgson, has been given some cash to invest in more talent he feels would boost the Kop outfit, having already bought players such as Raul Meireles and Milan Jovanovic.

The sale of ex Liverpool player Javier Mascherano to Barcelona will also have provided Hodgson with a lump sum and it looks as though the Kop boss will use it to effect in providing some firepower up front.

Cavani is currently playing his football in Napoli, on loan from Palermo, and his recent performances for Napoli have raised eyebrows on Merseyside. He is a big six footer, strong, powerful and could compliment both Liverpool Skipper Steven Gerrard and Torres up front.

With Liverpool only having picked up five points from a possible fifteen, Roy Hodgson sees the need for more goals in the Premiership and El Matador, it seems, could be the answer.

Liverpool Have Not Reached Deal To Sign Napoli Striker Edinson Cavani

The agent of Napoli striker Edinson Cavani insists his client has not agreed a deal to join Liverpool in January.

Cavani, 23, only joined the Serie A side from Palermo this summer for a fee believed to be in the region of €17 million (£14.3m) but has already been linked with a move away from Italy.

Reports suggested that Liverpool were set to were set to offer €24m (£20.3m) to secure the striker’s services, but his agent, Claudio Anelucci, has dismissed the speculation.

“It’s just fantasies because Liverpool have not reached any deal,” he told tuttomercatoweb. “Edinson is fine in Naples, he is doing well at the club and is getting on very well with everyone.

“We are only in the third round of Serie A games, there are no problems and this is not the time for the transfer market."

“Is Napoli seen as a springboard for another move? No, Naples is a destination,” insisted Anellucci.

However, Cavani’s agent refused to rule out a future move for the Uruguay international.

“If Napoli get any bids then we will decide what to do. But I do not think the club should sell Edinson,” he said.

Christian Purslow Admits Liverpool Can Barely Service Loans

Liverpool’s managing director, Christian Purslow, admitted today that the club can barely service the debts and interest which were loaded on to the club by Tom Hicks and George Gillett when they took over Liverpool in February 2007.

"Can we afford to meet [our loans, interest costs and bank charges]?" Purslow said. "Just about. Do I wish that every penny spent on interest was available to spend on players? Passionately."

In a series of strikingly frank answers to emailed questions from anxious supporters published on Liverpool’s official website, Purslow acknowledged that the "leveraged buyout" employed by Hicks and Gillett, loading their own £185m loans onto the club to repay, is a severe financial problem.

That principle has been consistently denied at Manchester United, where the chief executive, David Gill, has argued the £716m debts and £400m interest, costs and bank charges imposed by the Glazer family’s takeover are not a burden on the club. "We are highly profitable," Purslow said. "The issue is that too much of that profit is being used to service loans put into place when the club was bought."

In the first public acknowledgement of the boardroom divide at Liverpool between Hicks and Gillett and the three directors who can outvote them, Purslow said he, the chairman, Martin Broughton, and commercial director, Ian Ayre, would reject any proposal from the owners to replace the club’s £237m bank debts with further borrowings from elsewhere.

"Can you, Ian Ayre or Martin Broughton oppose the refinancing of the debt by the current owners?" one supporter asked. Purslow replied: "Any incurrence of indebtedness by Liverpool Football Club needs full board approval. The non-owner directors have made it clear that’s not what we want to see happen."

Asked whether the owners could refinance the debts and secure new borrowings against the club’s assets – the players, stadium or training ground – Purslow stated: "That would require board approval and the other members of the Board have made it clear that’s not what we want to see happen."

Throughout, however, Purslow stressed Liverpool is not close to being insolvent, saying it made record income in the year to July 2010, and will not sell players, including Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres, to pay off debt.

Purslow said all the directors, including Hicks and Gillett, are committed to selling Liverpool, and a "small number of potentially interested parties," whom he declined to name, are carrying out due diligence. Deutsche Bank, rumoured to be in refinancing talks after Hicks was apparently spotted outside their New York offices, are understood not to be involved.

Purslow hinted at the power wielded by Royal Bank of Scotland, to which Liverpool owes the bulk of the £237m, when he confirmed that the board’s reorganization into its current structure, in which Hicks and Gillett can be outvoted, followed the owners’ rejection of a proposal by Rhône Group at Easter to pay £100m for 40% of the club. RBS is said to have pushed after that for the club to be sold.

Danny Wilson Delighted To Have Jamie Carragher As His Liverpool Mentor

Liverpool defender Danny Wilson is relishing the opportunity to learn from veteran defender Jamie Carragher.

Wilson was named in Roy Hodgson's side for the League Cup tie with Northampton Town on Wednesday, a game which marked his competitive debut for the Reds.

The 19-year-old has already begun to pick up crucial tips from Carragher at the training ground.

"Jamie is great and you don't always need to speak to him about things because you can just look at him during training and in matches and learn," Wilson told the club's official website.

"I have been trying to do that and watching him closely.

"You can see the experience he has got and during the games he knows exactly where he should be and he tells the other players that as well.

"He is great in training. Every session he gives it 100 per cent and that's something as a young player you need to learn because he has been doing that at the top level all of his career.

"That is something I want to try and emulate and get to the level Carra has myself one day."

The former Rangers centre-back is also enjoying working with manager Roy Hodgson, himself a summer arrival at the club, and is settling well on Merseyside, a place he sees as similar to Glasgow.

"I've been here almost two months now and it has been great. I have settled in well, I'm enjoying the training and things are going really well," Wilson added.

"Liverpool is very similar to Glasgow because the people are very friendly and make you feel welcome.

"I was out shopping the other day on a street that looked very similar to Glasgow, so I felt at home. But I wasn't too bothered when I signed for Liverpool that it was similar because I'm just happy to be here at this great club.

"The manager has been great with me. He will talk to you and tell you what he thinks you are doing well and what you are doing wrong.

"It's good for a player because you need to be told when you are doing things right and wrong.

"All of the boys here really like him and we like the ideas he is trying to implement here."

Wilson has also enjoyed a touch of banter with Liverpool and Scotland legend Kenny Dalglish, still at the club in an off-field role.

"I've seen him a couple of times at the game in the main stand and he has been great with me," he revealed.

"Kenny gives me stick because he comes from Glasgow and I'm an Edinburgh boy. He has cracked some jokes with me about how Glasgow is so much better.

"I always point out to Kenny that even though I was raised in Edinburgh, I have lived in Livingston all of my life.

"He is a Scotland legend and it is great to be able to speak to him when I get a chance.

"He has always said to me if I need anything he is always there for a chat but I have settled in well so I haven't needed that, but I'm sure if I had any problems I could go to him. That is good for me."