Monday, October 25, 2010

Match Report: Liverpool 2 - 1 Blackburn

Striker Fernando Torres ended his six-match goal drought with the winner against Blackburn to provide a much-needed boost at Anfield.

Goalkeeper Paul Robinson had kept the Reds at bay until Sotirios Kyrgiakos' 48th-minute header and although a Jamie Carragher own goal quickly levelled things up Torres struck only his second of the season soon after.

It ended a run of seven matches without a victory in all competitions and although it was still not enough to lift Liverpool out of the bottom three the result came as a welcome relief.

Torres, starved of service, has looked woefully out of form with his only goal coming in the 1-0 win over West Brom at the end of August.

However, if the Spain international could have chosen any team to play against it would have been Rovers, against whom he has now scored five times in their last four meetings.

And it can be no coincidence Liverpool's only two Barclays Premier League victories have been as a result of Torres applying the decisive finish.

It was the very least representatives of New England Sports Ventures, in the crowd after their £300million buy-out just over a week ago, will have wanted to see.

It may have been for their benefit that there was a guest appearance by Gerry Marsden to sing a live rendition of You'll Never Walk Alone.

The change in the pre-match routine appeared to have the desired effect on Liverpool but, although it was as positive a first half as they had put in under manager Roy Hodgson, it still failed to produce a goal.

That was in part due to Robinson, who was at his sharpest to deny the hosts on several occasions.

His best save came in only the eighth minute when Torres' ball around the corner to Maxi Rodriguez saw the Argentina international cross low for Joe Cole but his first-time shot was blocked by the goalkeeper and a stretching Raul Meireles drove the rebound wide.

Kyrgiakos's header from Steven Gerrard's corner was also kept out by Robinson, with the goalkeeper then diving to his left to deny Gerrard who had launched a quick counter-attack from a Rovers corner.

Blackburn were content to sit back but their task was made slightly more difficult when they lost defensive midfielder Steven Nzonzi to a hamstring injury.

The Red tide continued up to half-time with a Meireles piledriver pole-axing Michel Salgado and Lucas Leiva just failing to get his header on target from Kyrgiakos' flick-on of Gerrard's resulting corner.

After the interval Benjani Mwaruwari came on for Nikola Kalinic but the second half was only three minutes old when Liverpool finally took the lead.

Kyrgiakos had been a threat in the air all afternoon and when he rose to powerfully meet Gerrard's corner Martin Olsson could not keep the ball from going into the net.

Two minutes later it should have been 2-0 as Robinson only half-saved Rodriguez's header from Gerrard's quickly-taken corner and Kyrgiakos appeared to be fouled by Phil Jones in challenging for the rebound.

The ball dropped to Rodriguez but his effort was charged down.

Such has been Liverpool's luck this season that Rovers went straight down the other end and scored as Paul Konchesky's goalline clearance from El-Hadji Diouf's shot cannoned back off Carragher and into the net.

But a sign the Reds' fortunes were changing came in the 53rd minute when Torres ghosted in at the far post to side-foot home Cole's cross.

Cole was replaced by David Ngog with 11 minutes remaining but it was Blackburn who were the ones pushing for the next goal.

It was not entirely comfortable for Liverpool, who were restricted to the counter-attack with one Gerrard pass almost picking out Torres, but they found the resilience which had been missing for most of the season.

Hodgson had described the match as "must win". His side did that and, despite their lowly position, are just six points from fifth-placed Tottenham.

However, they are going to have to build on this by putting a run of good results together if their campaign is really going to turn a corner.

Hodgson, whose position has come under increased scrutiny in recent weeks, is not out of the woods yet.

Steven Gerrard Calls On Liverpool To Build On Blackburn Victory

Steven Gerrard has admitted "enough is enough" after Liverpool's poor start to the season and has called on the team to rise to the challenge which faces them. Yesterday's 2-1 victory over Blackburn was only their second in the Premier League this campaign and, although it was not enough to lift them out of the relegation zone, it has put them within three points of seventh place.

Confidence has started to return to the squad, as demonstrated by the first 70 minutes against Rovers. Gerrard knows the players now have to build on that performance, with three of their next four league matches against Bolton, Wigan and Stoke. "The three points will have done wonders for everyone," the captain said.

"It is all about getting a sequence of results and we will find out now whether we are capable of doing it. That is the challenge for this team. If you do that, you will find yourself climbing the table really fast. Three or four wins on the bounce and you will find yourself in a very healthy position. It is early days and there are still plenty of games to play. If we play like we can at Bolton [next Sunday] we can do really well. Enough is enough – we want to put that sequence together."

After a run of seven matches without a win the players understandably became more edgy as the game against Blackburn entered its final phase. Gerrard admitted confidence had been dented by four league defeats in eight games. "I think it's normal when you find yourself down in the bottom half of the table and it was just about the three points yesterday," the 30-year-old said. "The performance wasn't important; it was just vital that we got a win.

"It was a big bonus that we were terrific for 70 minutes – more of that and I'm sure we'll climb the table really fast. It was disappointing to concede the goal but we showed tremendous character to come back and get the second. A lot of individual players came away with their confidence boosted and it was great to see Fernando [Torres] get on the scoresheet and Joe [Cole] set him up."

The club's ownership has dominated talk at Anfield this season but, now New England Sports Ventures has completed its £300m takeover, Gerrard hopes it will signal an improvement on and off the pitch. "We have got to use the last two performances as a fresh start but the last thing the players have done is hide behind the fact we've had a bit of an issue off the field," he told the Liverpool Echo. "We find ourselves where we are in the league because we haven't been good enough. Of course it is nice and refreshing to know things are sorted out off the pitch and the fans are happy."

Roy Hodgson: ‘Depressed’ Fernando Torres Finding His Joy Of Playing Again

Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson believes Fernando Torres has found his joy of playing again after scoring in the 2-1 win over Blackburn Rovers on Sunday.

The Spaniard has received criticism for his below-par performances this term, having only netted once before the clash with Sam Allardyce’s men.

Hodgson admits heavy scrutiny on a player “tends to depress people somewhat”, and hopes Torres can continue to add to his tally.

"He played an awful lot better [Torres]," he told BBC Sport.

"That was his best performance for the team this season.

"He will be very happy tonight that he caused as many problems as he did and looked as likely to score as he did.

"We will need him to score many more goals if we are to get into the position where we think we should be.

"He was very down when he came back from the World Cup.

"Maybe people do get a bit down when they're constantly criticised left, right and centre.

"It tends to depress people somewhat.

"He was affected by the amount of criticism he took at the World Cup and the criticism of himself and the club at the start of this season.

"Maybe he's just beginning to come out of that and find his joy of playing again, his energy and intensity.

"You can talk about it, ask for it, demand it, but he's the one who has got to find it in himself when the match starts.

"Today he did that very well."

It looked like being one of those days for Liverpool as they squandered a host of chances in a first half they dominated before Sotirios Kyrgiakos gave the Reds the lead in the 48th minute. Jamie Carragher then scored a bizarre own goal before Fernando Torres was back among the goals with the winner.

Hodgson added: "It was a very deserved victory and one that was really needed.

"If we had come in at half-time several goals up no-one could have said a word, so I told them at the break they were going the right way and if they carried on they would be fine, which they were.

"It's the three points that count and I'm very happy with that."

This game could and should have been out of sight by half-time, but as the final whistle approached the tension around Anfield became almost visible, a feeling that Hodgson was all too aware of as he spoke in his post-match press conference.

"We played very well for 70 minutes but anxiety crept in – that happens when you're fighting at the bottom of the table and want to get out of it," he said.

Villa Quit Interest Leaving Liverpool Favourites To Land £14m Rated Hitman

Recently, Gerard Houllier has stated his interest in signing Paris Saint-Germain striker Guillaume Hoarau, but views to an immediate move are expressly subdued by the price of the towering 26-year old.

Initially, a price tag of £10 million was slapped on Hoarau, but upon learning of Premier overseas interest, PSG promptly bumped the price up to £14 million – just out to Aston Villa’s immediate range.

It seemed as though Hoarau was destined to stay put, but Liverpool (Houllier’s former club) have now emerged as serious contenders for the Frenchman’s signature. With NESV issuing a (so far merely verbal) statement of intent, Hoarau is now reportedly written in indelible ink on the hitlists of Roy Hodgson and new club owner John Henry.

With 23 goals in 50 appearances for PSG, Hoarau is quickly developing into a much prolific striker, shedding his “second-striker” tendencies and becoming an all-out hitman. On paper, he is committed to PSG until 2013, but at 26 he is ripe for the picking. With a good ten (or so) years left in the tank, could he be one of those who will get better with age? Only time can tell.

Hodgson Scouts £9m Rated Premiership Winger

Following NESV’s takeover of Liverpool, John Henry is reportedly ready to give Roy Hodgson £25million for new players in January; and Hodgson has already identified West Brom winger Chris Brunt as a top priority when the transfer window opens. The 25-year old is a key player at West Brom, having scored 13 goals in the Championship last season and playing an important role in their impressive start to this season.

Hodgson is desperate to add some much-needed width to his Liverpool side: new signing Milan Jovanovic has often looked slightly uncomfortable playing wide on the left, and Maxi Rodriguez has looked off the pace at times.

Brunt is one of West Brom’s best players, however, and Roberto di Matteo is unlikely to be relishing the prospect of losing one of the biggest talents at his disposal. Liverpool, therefore, might need to come in with an offer of at least £9million in order to tempt Brunt away from the midlands. The Northern Ireland international would also give Liverpool a bit of versatility in midfield, with the ability to play on either flank, as well as in the hole behind the strikers.

Liverpool certainly need a spark, and players who can get the ball into Torres: Brunt would be a step up from the underwhelming Maxi Rodriguez.

Liverpool Boss Interested In Signing Everton Midfielder In January

Liverpool are reportedly considering an audacious swoop for Everton midfielder Steven Pienaar. The South African international seems set to run down his Goodison Park contract and Roy Hodgson is readying a move to bring the 28 year old across Merseyside to add more creativity to his Anfield squad.

The under fire manager may well attempt to snap up the former Ajax and Borussia Dortmund man in January when Pienaar would be available for around £4m and if that failed would then attempt to bring him to Liverpool on a free.

Clearly the chances of such a deal succeeding would depend greatly on if Hodgson can steer the club out of it’s nosedive and back up the Premier League table. David Moyes has inferred he would rather let the Johannesburg born star run down his contract rather than accepting a small fee in January and this could lead to a deal being struck in the summer instead.

A number of clubs are Everton’s reigning player of the season with the likes of Tottenham, Inter Milan and Juventus all being linked with Pienaar in recent weeks. Roy Hodgson was also strongly linked with the player during his time at Craven Cottage and Rafa Benitez was also apparently keen on bringing the player in at the end of last season before left the club.

Liverpool Were Not In Danger Of Going Out Of Business Despite Financial Woes, Insists Premier League Chief

Liverpool were never at risk of going out of business despite the financial uncertainty surrounding the recent takeover, according to Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore.

But there is nothing in place to stop another debt-funded buyout, such as that which saw Tom Hicks and George Gillett assume control at Anfield in 2007, taking place in the world's most famous league.

Liverpool - whose fans feared they could go into administration and incur a nine-point penalty - were eventually taken over earlier this month by New England Sports Ventures who guaranteed to pay off the club's £237million acquisition loan from the Royal Bank of Scotland, which had been taken out by Hicks and Gillett.

Scudamore explained: 'The club was never at risk. There were bidders for it and the outcome was always what was likely to happen.

'There is nothing in place per se to stop another Hicks and Gillett happening. When they came along they passed all our tests and they would pass out current tests in terms of them as individuals.'

Scudamore, however, believes the sort of buy-out put together by Hicks and Gillett could not take place in the current financial circumstances. And he insists there are stricter controls in place at the Premier League.

Scudamore said: 'What is different now is the extensive meetings we have with any prospective new owners and the future financial information which is required.

'The world has moved on. That sort of borrowing against that sort of asset is just not available in the market place anymore.

'Those were different times. There is no way that sort of borrowing could be obtained now to put that sort of deal together.'

There are no moves, however, to ban debt-funded takeovers. 'They are allowed,' Scudamore told BBC Radio.

'But if we deem the level of leverage to be too high and the business to be unsustainable then we have much more power as a board to either prevent that from happening or to apply some pretty stringent controls on the club.

'I am not sure that (the level of debt) was going to threaten the existence of Liverpool Football Club. I would prefer everything to be done in cash. I would prefer everybody to pay their bills on time, but we have to live in the real world and football has always attracted investment.

'Leveraged debt per se is not bad. It is the level of it, the terms of it, the short term nature of it. Anybody who borrows that amount of money (£237million) and has to repay or refinance in 12 months is certainly at the risky end of the business.'

Scudamore admitted if he was in charge of a Premier League club he would run it cautiously.

He said: 'I would not be paying out for the big world super stars. I wouldn't be taking the risks. I am risk averse.

'The Premier League is run on a risk averse basis. We have solid contracts and a very tight budget. We don't spend more than we need to spend. We don't owe a penny, we pay our debts on time.

'But we don't have to compete in dog-eat-dog across our clubs and across Europe. We're not in the business of putting on a show which is a Premier League match. You can't run a club like I run the Premier League.

'We generate the money at the Premier League. We distribute it to the clubs, they then put on the fantastic show they put on. But they have to take huge risks.

'Even if our 20 clubs got it all right half the clubs would end up in a league position less than they expected to, some would get relegated even if they were all run as perfect businesses.
'There is an element of football which is irrational. It is the sporting element.