Friday, October 22, 2010

Match Report: Napoli 0 - 0 Liverpool

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson's gamble in leaving at home a handful of his senior players - including Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard - paid off in some respect as his side claimed a well-earned Europa League 0-0 draw against Napoli in the Stadio San Paolo.

Many tipped the hopelessly out-of-form Reds for defeat after bringing a weakened side to Naples, but they withstood long spells of pressure to leave with a point.

The closest they came to conceding was in first-half added time when Paul Konchesky cleared Marek Hamsik's shot off the line in the nick of time, while Ryan Babel could have snatched victory with 20 minutes to go but shot too close to goalkeeper Morgan de Sanctis.

Hodgson had admitted in his pre-match press conference that the Barclays Premier League had to take priority because of their woeful start to the season, with just one win in eight games leaving them 19th in the table, and that was why he had rested Torres, Gerrard, Raul Meireles and Lucas Leiva.

He said if they lost in Naples he would expect to receive criticism. He avoided the former but it is unlikely the latter will dissipate any time soon as even a win over Blackburn on Sunday will probably not end the growing murmurings of discontent within Anfield.

At least this performance, unlike the Merseyside derby defeat last weekend, showed some grit and determination and keeps Liverpool on course for progress to the knockout phase as they have taken five points from their three group matches so far, and still have home games against Utrecht and Napoli.

It is a competition which has so far been much kinder to Hodgson but, unfortunately for him, if he cannot turn around the team's domestic form, no number of good performances in Europe are going to ease the pressure on him.

Getting to the latter stages of the Europa League but still being stuck in the lower reaches of the Premier League is unlikely to carry much weight with new owners New England Sports Ventures, who expect to see more from their £300million investment.

After the previous night's attacks on fans and some limited patches of trouble prior to kick-off, the atmosphere inside the stadium was equally as daunting for the players as the streets of Naples had been for supporters.

However, the visitors did a good job of negating all that early fervour with a disciplined, solid start and the whistles which greeted any spell of Liverpool possession were deafening.

Ezequiel Lavezzi's corner saw Cristian Maggio divert the ball goalwards only for Edinson Cavani to head it away as he tried to get a decisive touch.

Napoli were starting to take control but Lavezzi's long-range strike flew well over Jose Reina's crossbar.

In the 33rd minute Jonjo Shelvey combined with Jay Spearing but the shot with his weaker left foot was straight at goalkeeper De Sanctis.

He was obviously not short of confidence as he tried to lob De Sanctis from the halfway line but hardly extended the goalkeeper let alone tested him.

But they had a lucky escape in first-half stoppage time with a controversial incident which will again bring up the issue of goal-line technology.

Maggio's corner fell to Cavani who beat Jamie Carragher and fired in a low cross which Hamsik diverted goalwards and it was unclear whether the ball had crossed the line before Konchesky cleared.

Carragher was replaced for the second half by Sotirios Kyrgiakos as Napoli seized the initiative again.

Cavani wasted a good chance before Michele Pazienza was booked for a wild lunge which caught Spearing in the face as he stooped to head the ball and, after initial concerns about the midfielder, he was able to continue after treatment.

Napoli continued to press but Babel should have snatched the lead with the best chance of the night when he was played through by Jovanovic in acres of space on the left of the penalty area.

The Holland international opted to shoot right-footed across De Sanctis but placed his effort too close to the goalkeeper, who saved with his feet.

Ngog also went close when he turned in the area only for his shot to be charged down by Salvatore Aronica.

Jonjo Shelvey Admitted He Is Hungry For More At Liverpool FC

Jonjo Shelvey admitted he is hungry for more as he reflected on his “memorable” first start for Liverpool.

The young midfielder rose to the challenge in Stadio San Paolo last night as he played a key role in the Reds’ 0-0 draw with Napoli.

Liverpool remain top of Group K and are odds-on favourites to qualify for the Europa League’s knockout stages and Shelvey hopes that means he will get to another chance to prove his worth.

He was one of seven changes to the side that had lost 2-0 to Everton last weekend but, showing no fear, Shelvey caught the eye throughout and vindicated Hodgson’s decision to pitch him in.

But while he was thrilled to have helped secure a confidence boosting result, the 18-year-old has made it clear he does not want it to be a one-off experience.

“It’s a hostile place to come and you knew that with the way the crowd were,” said Shelvey. “They were banging on the bus when we were on the way to the stadium.

“So it was very satisfying to get a result. It’s massive for everyone at the club. Personally I’m delighted as I’ve been waiting for my chance to show the Gaffer that I am good enough.

“This is a platform. The next task is to make sure we get three points on Sunday. The Gaffer told us we played well as a team and that we deserved the draw.

“You could tell Napoli are a good team by the way they moved the ball about but we had a game plan and it worked. In many ways, we were unlucky not to win as we had a few good chances.”

Signed from Charlton Athletic in the summer, Shelvey has been around Liverpool’s squad ever since Hodgson came to the club and he revealed the manager has been a constant source of encouragement.

“He told me personally to stay confident and keep doing my best,” said Shelvey. “I want to push on more now and get a few games under my belt. Hopefully I will get another chance soon.

“I’m not really someone who gets nervous and I have got faith in my ability. I know I can do a job and I’m desperate for another go.”

No Reds Move For Rijkaard

Frank Rijkaard's agent insists they have not been approached by Liverpool about possibly replacing Roy Hodgson at Anfield.

Hodgson's future at Liverpool has come under intense scrutiny following a disastrous start to the season.

Rijkaard has been mentioned as a possible replacement with the Dutchman being made the strong favourite by Sky Bet following his departure from Galatasaray earlier this week.

However, Rijkaard's representative, Perry Overeem, insists he has had no contact with Liverpool and that the former Barcelona boss will not be rushing any decision over his future.

"We have not been approached by Liverpool," Overeem told Sky Sports News HD.

"Frank's not thinking about any job at the moment - he wants to put what's happened in Turkey behind him.

"Frank's still in Turkey.

"Whenever we are approached, if we are approached, we will deal with that then but it's not helpful to get into rumours at this stage."

Babel Coy On Future

Ryan Babel insists he is not concerned about people talking about his future at Liverpool.

The Reds forward, who has struggled to establish himself at Anfield, was given a rare start on Thursday against Napoli in the Europa League.

Babel failed to score in the 0-0 draw in Naples and looks set to return to the bench as Liverpool face Blackburn on Sunday.

And the Dutchman is refusing to discuss whether his future lies at Anfield.

"It is always the same story, this is your chance, this is your chance," he told Sky Sports News.

"I don't see it like that any more, it is just another game and I do it for myself.

"My situation is clear for everyone so I don't need to talk about it, I have said enough things in the past so I don't want to talk about it."

Ex-Red Calls For Dalglish Intervention

Former Liverpool defender Dominic Matteo has suggested that the club should replace embattled manager Roy Hodgson with someone like Kenny Dalglish who has closer ties to Anfield.

Despite only arriving this summer as Rafael Benitez’s successor, Hodgson has endured a torrid start to life as Liverpool boss, with Sunday’s dismal 2-0 Merseyside derby defeat leaving the Reds languishing in 19th place in the Premier League.

Speaking exclusively to, Matteo stated his belief that handing the reigns to someone like Dalglish could prove to be a good temporary measure until a big name manager can be found.

He said: “I feel a bit sorry for Roy Hodgson – he’s taken on a tough job and he hasn’t signed that many players, although he has signed a few that I personally wouldn’t call Liverpool players.

“He’s got a tough job and you’d like to see him being given a bit more time but maybe it’s time to bring someone in who’s a bit closer to the club.

“Maybe someone like Dalglish for the time being until they can get a big name in to manage the club properly.”

Liverpool Join Race To Sign Talented Tel Aviv Striker Itay Shechter

Liverpool are considering making a move for Hapoel Tel Aviv striker Itay Shechter in the January transfer window.

The 23-year-old has impressed Anfield boss Roy Hodgson but the club face competition from Tottenham Hotspur, Everton and West Ham United according to reports in Israel.

Shechter bundled in a late consolation goal in Tel Aviv’s 3-1 defeat to Schalke in the Champions League on Tuesday night.

He is contracted to Hapoel until the end of the 2013/2014 season and is valued at around £3m.

Fernando Torres In Kop Crisis Talk

Liverpool’s new owners plan showdown talks with Fernando Torres next week.

The club’s new American owner John Henry wants to know whether his star striker intends to quit the club.

Starsport understands both Barcelona and Manchester United are interested in the Spanish sensation, who looks fed up with life at Anfield.

And Liverpool have fixed up a meeting next week with Torres’ advisers – Bahia International.

Torres was rested for Thursday night’s 0-0 Europa League draw against Napoli, with boss Roy Hodgson saving him for Sunday’s Premier League clash with Blackburn.

Henry has said he will tackle United and Chelsea head-on to restore Liverpool to the top of the Premier League. So the last thing he wants to do is lose one of the club’s best players.

Henry and Liverpool’s new chief operations officer, Joe Januszewski, want to tell Torres and his team their plans for the club in a bid to appease his concerns about the direction of the club.

Liverpool are second from bottom of the Premier League after losing to local rivals Everton.

A source close to Bahia International said: “Liverpool want a meeting. They want to find out about all the speculation about Torres leaving the club.

“We are not taking any notice of that. Torres has a contract with Liverpool so they will be the ones who decide his future. Torres is more concerned about making a full recovery from his injury in the summer, which he feels is affecting his performances.”

At the moment the player is believed not to have a problem with under-fire manager Roy Hodgson. Barcelona have made Torres their No.1 target, rather than the now available Wayne Rooney.

Bahia International know of the Spanish champions’ interest in Torres, and Barca are confident that if he does leave Anfield then he will want to return to La Liga rather than to United.

Torres would never consider a move to Real Madrid because he grew up at rivals Atletico.

Roy Hodgson Insists He Will Not Resign

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson insists he will not quit the club despite his side's poor start to the season.

The Reds are 19th in the Premier League having won only one of their eight league games under Hodgson.

But the Merseysiders are top of Europa League Group K after they earned a 0-0 draw against Napoli on Thursday.

"Resignation has never once entered my thoughts and never will. I'm here for the long haul," declared Hodgson after the match.

"I came here believing I can help Liverpool rebuild. The players are behind everything we're doing."

Hodgson included several youngsters in a side which earned a hard-fought point at Napoli, with the Reds boss having left Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres, Raul Meireles and Lucas Leiva back home ahead of the Premier League game against Blackburn at Anfield on Sunday

Hodgson has endured a tough time since leaving Fulham in the summer to take charge at Liverpool and he is under pressure to turn things around at Anfield, especially following the takeover of the Merseysiders by New England Sports Ventures.

"We're going through a very bad passage in the league," stated the 63-year-old.

"Things haven't gone our way for a variety of reasons and that's why we find ourselves down the bottom and desperate to get away

"But the new owners have already done a little for the club, they've given us a lift.

"Even before the Everton game there was a new buoyancy and good feeling that we can get a lift.

"On Sunday we have an opportunity but Blackburn will have something to say about that, but we've shown against Napoli that we're far from dead as a club and I know all the players who play on Sunday will be chomping at the bit to run and work and fight.

"I just hope the result will go our way to give us a bit of breathing space to move up the table instead of finding ourselves marooned at the bottom of the table."

Danish midfielder Christian Poulsen, who joined Liverpool from Juventus in the summer, backed his manager.

"I don't think you feel that he's really under pressure," said Poulsen. "He has a lot of experience, he's a really good motivator and I think we can turn it around together. Hopefully we can start on Sunday against Blackburn."

Meanwhile, Hodgson sympathized with the club's supporters and praised them for their behaviour, particularly after reports emerged that there had been attacks on Reds fans in Naples.

"I was aware and I was concerned [about the attacks]," he said.

"These supporters have done a fantastic job. It was always going to be tough asking them to come to Naples as they know they are coming to a potentially dangerous situation.

"All I can say is how grateful we are for their support and how sympathetic and sad we were to hear they had been attacked and some of them seriously.

"These are the things you don't want to see in football. We've had our share in England but you see it much less these days.

"We don't want violence on the pitch or off the pitch. We certainly don't want situations where supporters don't want to go and support their team because they are frightened of getting injured.

"In the news conference on Wednesday, a question was asked of me in Italian - and I answered in Italian - as to whether I was concerned drunken Liverpool supporters would cause trouble.

"I find it faintly amusing I should be defending Liverpool supporters when in fact they are peaceful people who come here to watch the game and some of them end up being stabbed."