Monday, October 18, 2010

Match Report: Everton 2 - 0 Liverpool

Liverpool's new owners were left with no doubt about the size of the task ahead as Everton emerged victorious from the 214th Merseyside derby.

John Henry, head of New England Sports Ventures, was at Goodison Park to witness first-hand a fiery encounter which Everton dominated for long periods and deservedly won.

Goals from Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta did the damage either side of half-time as the hosts outplayed and outfought their near-neighbours.

The defeat left Liverpool stuck in 19th place in the Barclays Premier League, with only a solitary victory over West Brom in eight games.

And their worst start to a season since 1953/54 - when they were relegated - undoubtedly got worse with defeat against a team who were only a place above them before the start of play.

One thing is certain and that is the new American owners, who invested heavily in the Boston Red Sox when they acquired the baseball team in 2001 prior to two World Series wins, will have to come up with funds for manager Roy Hodgson to strengthen in January.

All the focus, as it had been for the preceding week, will be on Liverpool's failure but Everton were worthy winners, ending a run of three successive derby defeats.

The opening 45 minutes were in keeping with most Merseyside derbies, with the first late tackle coming after just 11 seconds and several more proliferating the half.

Maxi Rodriguez and Raul Meireles earned themselves yellow cards while Cahill was booked for Everton as World Cup final referee Howard Webb tried to exercise restraint.

The actual football action was very limited with Arteta hitting a 20-yard free-kick into the wall and Everton centre-backs Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin both having half-chances with shots from inside the box.

Prior to Everton's opening goal it was the visitors who had come closest to scoring with their first attack - although it took them 23 minutes to create one.

Joe Cole's left-wing cross picked out the fit-again Fernando Torres at the near-post and his flicked header forced Tim Howard to tip over his crossbar.

Meireles had a 25-yard piledriver blocked by a wall of blue shirts from a half-cleared corner but that was the most Liverpool threatened.

It was just after their all-too-brief best spell of the first half that Liverpool went behind.

A slack piece of defending by Lucas Leiva and Paul Konchesky in the 34th minute allowed Seamus Coleman to run to the byline and cross for Cahill to hook home at the near post.

It immediately sparked chants of 'going down' from the home fans.

Diniyar Bilyaletdinov replaced Leon Osman for the second half, which was only four minutes old when Everton went 2-0 up.

Sotirios Kyrgiakos' headed clearance only reached the edge of the penalty area where Arteta was lurking to smash home a brilliant swerving volley.

Hodgson had spoken in the build-up of his hope of seeing his side not have to chase a game - which had cost them in previous matches - but now they had a mountain to climb.

Meireles' 30-yard shot failed to cause Howard any difficulty while Torres' effort from inside the area landed in the top tier of the Gwladys Street stand.

Joe Cole's inability to control a pass from Reina, allowing the ball to run out of play, summed up Liverpool's performance.

Everton continued to create the chances and Jagielka fired over from a corner in the last 15 minutes before substitute Jermain Beckford had claims for a penalty turned down after falling under a challenge from Martin Skrtel.

By contrast, Gerrard was woefully off target when teed up by substitute Ryan Babel on the edge of the penalty area while Torres shot straight at Howard when he should worked the goalkeeper more.

Beckford had chance to finish in style in added time but drilled his shot over.

This derby was billed as the most significant in three decades, considering the clubs' league positions.

Seasons do not succeed or fail on such occasions but it will prove a useful point of reference for Liverpool's new owners.

Hodgson Refuses To Panic

Roy Hodgson admitted after the defeat to Everton that the only way to shake off the term 'crisis' was to start winning games.

The ownership of Liverpool was finally resolved this week when New England Sports Ventures seized control from Tom Hicks and George Gillett, but there are still concerns on the pitch following a poor run.

The Reds remain in the relegation zone after going down 2-0 to Merseyside rivals Everton at Goodison Park, with Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta scoring the decisive goals.

Hodgson is refusing to panic and saw signs of encouragement in Sunday's clash, but accepts that difficult questions will continue to be asked until results improve.

He told Sky Sports: "I don't think it is a crisis, I thought the way we played today was not the level of a team in the bottom three.

"On the other hand it is six points from eight games and that is a very poor return.

"We need to start winning to climb the table and until we do the word 'crisis' will continue to be bandied around."

The new owners were in attendance at Everton, having already given their backing to Hodgson as the right man to turn around the situation.

"It is always nice to get a vote of confidence," said Hodgson.

"Whenever you lose a couple of games in a row these days your position is going to be questioned, so the new owners making it clear they thought I was the right man to do the job, you are always very happy to hear that."

He added with a smile: "Whether that has changed after today I don't know."

Reflecting on the match itself, Hodgson was satisfied with the effort of his players despite the disappointing scoreline.

He said: "We fell behind to a deflected block which fell kindly for Cahill so

I thought at half-time we were a bit unlucky to be a goal down because we had got back into the game well.

"In the second half we did everything the team could possibly do, we played well, created chances, we limited them to very few and put them on the back foot."

Star striker Fernando Torres again drew a blank but Hodgson believes he is just low on confidence rather than suffering from a physical problem.

"I don't think he is physically unfit, I think he showed that today, he did plenty of work and we don't have any injury problems with him," said Hodgson.

"He got battered during the World Cup and mentally he is probably a bit low and he needs a goal or two to get it back. Certainly today I would have no qualms about his performance."

Liverpool's New Owners Rule Out Groundshare With Everton

Everton manager David Moyes might be interested in the option, but Liverpool's new owners have rejected the idea of a groundshare with their city rivals.

"Groundshare seems to be controversial. From what I have heard it does not look very appealing to most people," said new Liverpool co-owner Tom Warner.

"There is an option to redevelop Anfield but we have to explore everything."

Moyes said Friday that a groundshare was something Everton would seriously consider.

Torres Suffering Crisis Of Confidence, Says Hodgson

Liverpool have welcomed new owners to Anfield but until they find the Fernando Torres of old, England's most successful club are likely to continue to struggle on the pitch.

The Spain striker has scored once in 10 appearances this season, a statistic that goes some way to explaining why Liverpool are second from bottom of the Premier League after losing 2-0 at Merseyside rivals Everton Sunday.

Torres is by no means the team's only problem, but Liverpool are sorely missing his assured finishing and ability to create goals out of nothing.

He scored 22 times for the team last season but, after suffering injury problems returned only in time to play a bit-part in Spain's World Cup triumph.

"He got battered in the World Cup for his performances for Spain and I think mentally he's a little bit low and he needs a goal or two to get his confidence back," Hodgson told Sky Sports.

"Certainly I had no qualms about his performance (against Everton). The chance at the end, if that had gone in, maybe that's the catalyst he needs to take him over the edge and get him playing at his very best.

"Fernando is going through a bad time, his confidence is low, he needs a goal, so if you are talking about him, I would have to agree."

It contrasts sharply with previous seasons. In 2008-09, Liverpool finished second to Manchester United and Torres scored 14 times in the league.

Liverpool's new owners, John W Henry and Tom Werner of New England Sports Ventures, were at Goodison Park for the derby defeat and it might not be long before Hodgson is asking them to release funds for players.

"The January transfer window is still two and a half months away and there is a lot of football to be played before then," Hodgson told reporters.

"We have the squad of players we have and, hopefully, they will work and win some games."

Henry Walks Into The Storm

At the end of a week of legal victories, Liverpool lost in the people's court. As Goodison Park bayed with delight, Liverpool discovered to their horror that they had left all their silk in the English High Court.

The finest QCs in England couldn't overturn a result greeted with a verdict often heard in court. "Going down,'' chanted the ecstatic members of David Moyes' People's Club.

In football's jungle, there is no law that states such an august institution as Liverpool are exempt from the threat of relegation. They are in a dogfight and must start scrapping for their lives. Quickly. Up next are Blackburn, Bolton, Chelsea and Stoke.

The January transfer-window cavalry is a long way off but Liverpool must start planning. Pepe Reina, Jamie Carragher, Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres need proper support. At least four of Roy Hodgson's starting XI, Paul Konchesky, Sotirios Kyrgiakos, Lucas and Maxi simply don't deserve to wear the famous shirt.

Liverpool's new owner, John W Henry, once spent $50m on a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox and he needs to lavish a similar sum on a striker, a winger, a holding midfielder and a left-back. For starters. Otherwise his investment will atrophy.

Henry met with Hodgson after the match and the manager's position remains safe, although comments such as "I refuse to accept we were outplayed or in any way inferior'' are insulting to the eyesight of his new employer and to the Liverpool fans forced to endure this derby humiliation.

What yesterday really highlighted is that Henry must rebuild the squad before even considering rebuilding Anfield or constructing a new stadium.

On buying a property, it's always polite to pop across to see the neighbours and Henry was royally entertained by Everton's chairman, Bill Kenwright. That was as far as the hosts' largesse extended. Do have some tea, seemed the gist of Everton's welcome, while we have the points.

Welcome to Merseyside, welcome to the Premier League and welcome to Liverpool's myriad problems. Henry stood in the directors' box at half-time, surveying one of the grand old stages of English footballing theatre, home to some of the quickest wits in sport.

"John, John,'' shouted an Everton fan from the cheap seats.

Henry turned and waved politely. "You bought the wrong club, John!'' came the reply to general merriment. At the final whistle, Everton fans unfurled a banner that read 'God Bless America', chorused "going down'' at the vanquished and serenaded Hodgson with "you're getting sacked in the morning''.

Unlikely. He has meetings planned with Henry to discuss what the team needs. It won't be a short meeting.

Henry, who sounds sensible, has promised no knee-jerk reactions but he must have been horrified by this supine display and thoroughly deserved defeat. Liverpool lacked all the adrenalin and passion patently coursing through their opponents' veins.

Everton's spine was strong and unbreakable. Sylvain Distin was immense at centre-half, a mobile road-block in Torres' way.

Tim Cahill was everywhere, scoring Everton's first and selflessly dropping back from his role in the hole to assist midfield and defence. Yakubu, resembling a swarm of particularly muscular bees, was outstanding up front, constantly embarrassing Kyrgiakos and Martin Skrtel.

Powerful through the centre, Everton also impressed out wide. Seamus Coleman was terrific driving down right midfield, creating Cahill's goal, while Leighton Baines was tireless on the left, tackling and creating.

If Moyes engendered a far more competitive mood in his charges than Hodgson achieved with his, Everton's manager also comprehensively out-thought his Liverpool counterpart.

Gerrard had no room to move such was the pressing of Cahill and company. When Liverpool finally awoke with 20 minutes remaining, Moyes simply sent on Jermaine Beckford to make a nuisance of himself, harrying Liverpool.

If Henry wanted to observe the depth of the Premier League drama, as well as the breadth of Liverpool's problems, he succeeded. The floodlights were on at lunch-time on a sunny day, ladies in historic costumes threw confectionery into the crowd and the sound of 'Z Cars' filled the air, closely followed by caustic ditties about certain stars. Welcome to English football, John.

And then the match started, the tone set after 11 seconds when Yakubu flattened Kyrgiakos. The whole sturm und drang of the English game was on parade. Carragher and Torres exchanged angry words as Liverpool came under immediate pressure. Raul Meireles was racing around, putting out fires, putting in important tackles. Still Everton dominated, Phil Jagielka and Yakubu going close.

Uncertainty coloured Liverpool's actions. Gerrard caught Mikel Arteta and was fortunate to escape a caution, fortunate that Howard Webb sought to manage the passion play with a mixture of understanding and authority.

When Maxi dived in on Baines midway through the half, Webb reminded the players of the presence of his yellow card. Overall, Webb handled a traditionally tricky fixture well.

For a brief period, Liverpool seemed to have walked through the storm.

Gerrard released Joe Cole, who delivered his one decent ball, lifting in a cross that Torres met with a flicked header only to be denied by Tim Howard.

But the force remained with Everton.

Their industry was rewarded when Coleman embarked on a marvellous run, eluding the hapless Lucas and then Konchesky.

Coleman's cutback was met perfectly by Cahill, whose shot flew into the roof of the net, lifting the roof off Gwladys Street. In derby collisions, the very least fans expect is commitment. Hodgson is a good manager but he singularly failed to motivate his men at the break.

Instead, Everton extended their lead. When Diniyar Bilyaletdinov swung over a corner, Kyrgiakos headed out but Liverpool were too slow to deal with the continuing threat.

As Meireles and Carragher dived in vainfully, Arteta neatly controlled the dropping ball and then sent it flying past Reina. Mikel the Merciless.

Hodgson could point to absent friends, notably Dirk Kuyt and Glen Johnson, but Moyes could simply list the names of Jack Rodwell, Marouane Fellaini, Steven Pienaar and Louis Saha.

The emotion Everton stir in everyone from players to chairman to supporters was embodied as the injured Fellaini headed to the exit, hugging stewards and fans after a famous victory.

As Everton climb the table, Liverpool have some work to do -- a lot of work -- to stop the rot.

Liverpool’s New Owners To Discuss Future With Roy Hodgson And Fans Today

Two of the key figures in the company that now owns Liverpool, John W Henry and Tom Werner of NESV, will meet with Roy Hodgson today, Monday, to start planning for the future and reassure him that he will be given some time to turn around a poor start to the season that got worse with yesterday’s 2-0 defeat to Everton in the Merseyside derby.

As Werner, chairman of the Boston Red Sox, made clear on Radio 5 Live yesterday: “He needs to be given time. We have a lot of confidence in Roy. Obviously, no-one can be pleased about the start of the season but the club ought to gel and we have a lot of confidence in him, and had a nice chat with him yesterday and look forward to talking to him today.”

A transcript of the interview is below.

Though there is already dissatisfaction with Hodgson among a growing number of fans – not helped by his assertion that yesterday’s display was Liverpool’s best of the season – it seems NESV are committed for now.

Werner and Henry will also begin to meet fans’ groups today to establish contact between the ownership team and the supporters, although there will be no firm promises of a fan-owned chunk of the club at this stage.

In terms of investment, Werner has said he won’t be afraid to write cheques for the future, citing the $100m investment in fee and wages at the Red Sox in 2006 in pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka alone.

And Werner insisted that that NESV will “increase the payroll” at Liverpool, saying: “We certainly realize that there is in some ways a very strong correlation between success in the Premier League and wages.”

He may well have read this Wall Street Journal piece (citing sportingintelligence’s Global Sports Salaries research that explores the relationship in major sports around the world between money and success, also mentioned here).

Certainly Werner seems to realize that winning costs money, and that success tends to be self-perpetuating at the highest levels in English and European football. But it’s also known that NESV have been attracted to Liverpool now specifically because of Uefa’s incoming Financial Fair Play rules, which will almost certainly help perpetuate the advantage of the biggest clubs, like Liverpool, while preventing overspending as part of the rules that govern the game.

Liverpool Line Up Frank Rijkaard as Replacement for Roy Hodgson

Liverpool are reportedly preparing the ground for a move to bring in Galatasaray Manager Frank Rijkaard to replace under fire Anfield boss Roy Hodgson. The club’s new owners are ready to give the current Liverpool boss until January to turn things around but will then look to bring in the former Barcelona boss ahead of the re-opening of the transfer window.

The 48 year old former Ajax and AC Milan playing legend has not had the best of times in Turkey and after taking his side to a disappointing third placed finish last term has seen his Istanbul outfit slump to an even worse start this time around.

The signs are that the Dutchman is ready to leave Galatasaray and would jump at a high profile job and a move to Liverpool would be a useful way to reignite a managerial career that already has some notable achievements. During his five year reign at the Nou Camp he led the Catalan giants to two La Liga titles and the 2006 Champions League title.

The attack minded manager would be a marked contrast to the more defensive pragmatic approach employed by Roy Hodgson who has presided over a truly woeful start to the Premier League campaign which leaves Liverpool second from bottom in the Premier League table.

It seems that the new owner John W. Henry is willing to take the financial hit that would come from the termination of Hodgson’s contract which is believed would set the club back £3m.

Alberto Aquilani Expects To Sign Permanent Deal With Juventus In March Or April

The agent of Juventus midfielder Alberto Aquilani believes his client will only speak about a permanent move to the Bianconeri in March or April.

Franco Zavaglia admits Aquilani was not a bad choice when he joined the Turin giants on loan late in the transfer window.

"We will only speak with management in the Spring: March or April, and not any time prior" Zavaglia told "He is playing well, and as long as he does this, Liverpool will not be giving us a discount.

"I had told the press he was not a waste. Everyone has now realised how good a player he is.

"He has the ability to change a team, and am pleased not only for scoring, but also because of how he is playing. I also thank [Juventus coach Luigi] Del Neri for the words he spoke about Aquilani, which have given him motivation."

Zavaglia is also pleased that the former Roma midfielder is also in consideration for a national team call-up.

"It is certainly an objective, but an Italian national team jersey is only awarded after continuity," he concluded.