Sunday, November 14, 2010

Match Report: Stoke City 0 - 2 Liverpool

Liverpool's stuttering mini-revival petered out in dismal fashion as they lost 2-0 to Stoke at the Britannia Stadium.

A six-match unbeaten run came to end as they were outfought, outplayed and outmanoeuvred by Tony Pulis' side.

Ricardo Fuller opened the scoring just after half-time and Kenwyne Jones completed a comprehensive victory in the final minute before Lucas Leiva was sent off for a second bookable offence.

The Potters were more than worth their win against a team who appear to have lost their way as quickly as they found it.

They have won away from home only once this season and only three times since last November.

Their first 45 minutes appeared to be a direct continuation of the second half at Wigan, where they had found themselves under almost constant pressure and were lucky to come away with a draw.

Only the returning Sotirios Kyrgiakos had not played in the previous two matches so there may have been an element of fatigue, especially as Stoke played a day earlier on Tuesday.

But no team in the Premier League, let alone a club like Liverpool, can expect to use that as an excuse for an abject and disjointed first-half display.

Roy Hodgson's side appeared unprepared and unable to deal with their hosts' brash, energetic approach which allowed them to dominate the game from first to last.

Stoke were appealing unsuccessfully for a penalty in only the second minute when Maxi Rodriguez leant heavily on Ricardo Fuller as they challenged for Rory Delap's long throw.

It was a sign of things to come as the visitors found themselves being forced back, looking worrying susceptible to Delap's trademark set-piece.

Midfielder Dean Whitehead benefited from weak headed clearances to fire in a low shot which Jose Reina turned around a post and then drill a similar 30-yard effort just past the angle of upright and crossbar.

Jones and former Reds winger Jermaine Pennant also had chances before Steven Gerrard registered Liverpool's first shot in the 29th minute, forcing Asmir Begovic to tip the low effort behind, although the goalkeeper dealt more comfortably with Raul Meireles strike from the resulting corner.

It was a brief retort which was soon forgotten when Jones rounded Paul Konchesky to cross low into the six-yard box, forcing Jamie Carragher to dive in front of Matthew Etherington to prevent the opening goal.

Less than two minutes into the second half Fernando Torres, who had been anonymous previously, was booked for tackling Pennant from behind.

But the real threat was still coming from Delap and Liverpool's inability to cope with his party trick finally cost them in the 56th minute.

A scramble saw the ball break to Etherington at the far post and his cross-shot bounced back off Konchesky to Fuller, whose had his first effort blocked but stabbed home the second from close range.

Despite the stereotype, it was Stoke's first goal from a Delap party-piece in 23 league matches.

Jones almost made it two when Martin Skrtel mistimed his jump but his left-footed effort beat both Reina and the far post.

Liverpool, as they did in the first half, had two chances in quick succession with Rodriguez shooting straight at Begovic from Dirk Kuyt's cut-back and Skrtel firing wide from Kyrgiakos' knockdown of Gerrard's free-kick.

David Ngog and Ryan Babel replaced Meireles and Rodriguez but with Liverpool still unable to gain decent possession of the ball it made little difference they effectively had four strikers on the pitch.

Their embarrassment was completed in the 90th minute when Gerrard gave the ball away and Jones was able to skip past Skrtel to fire home.

The dismissal of Lucas just compounded matters.

In terms of territory and control Liverpool have now lost the last five halves they have played in.

The 45 minutes prior to that had been the electrifying first-half display against Chelsea but team now appears to be on a downward spiral again.

It is a descent Hodgson has to arrest quickly. He left the Britannia Stadium with chants of "Dalglish" - a reference to former player and manager Kenny - ringing in his ears.

Hodgson: Fans Singing For Dalglish Does Not Help

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson has expressed his frustration at supporters who chanted for club legend Kenny Dalglish to be put in place as manager during his side's limp defeat at Stoke City.

The travelling fans were heard singing for the Scotsman, who led the side to league titles in the 1980s, during a second half in which the Reds conceded twice and failed to muster many chances to get back into the game.

Asked about the chants, the former Fulham boss told reporters: "That seems to be part of the life as Liverpool football manager.

"We're trying do the best job we can in the circumstances, but I don't think that that singing helps."

The veteran manager was also riled when asked to comment on Glen Johnson, a player he criticized in midweek for not hitting his top form this season, and admitted his disbelief that his frank criticism had hit the headlines.

"We all want Glen Johnson to find his England form," he said. "We've got a player with a lot of ability, and we want to use that to win.

He added: "He knows himself that he hasn't reached that ability - everyone's saying what is obvious."

Hodgson spoke of his disappointment that Liverpool's season had become stuck once again, but admitted that he knew that getting anything at Stoke would be difficult.

"I'm sad that a good run has come to an end," he said. "It was always going to be a tough task, because it's a battle and I knew we'd be hard pushed to win that battle.

"We did OK first half, we dealt with the pressure - in particular the throws, corners and long balls forward. When they scored from a long throw it was always going to be even more of an uphill battle.

"I thought the players stuck at it to the end and did the best they could."

He added: "I can't say my players threw the towel in, and I can't be seen to be making excuses, we lost to a strong team."

Hodgson also revealed that star striker Fernando Torres, who cut a forlorn figure throughout, had picked up a knock, but player and manager refused to countenance a substitution.

"I think we missed Fernando Torres in the second half after the kick he took," he said. "He didn't want to come off, and I didn't want to take him off when you need a goal, but I don't think he was firing on all cylinders."

You Cannot Compare Chelsea And Stoke - Roy Hodgson

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson believes that the unique challenge presented by Stoke City was the reason why his team were unable to continue their impressive recent form.

Goals from Ricardo Fuller and Kenwyne Jones condemned Hodgson’s side to their first defeat in four league games, just as it seemed the Anfield club were getting their season back on track.

Indeed, Liverpool had even beaten league leaders Chelsea last weekend as they put together a run of three league wins in a row, prior to Wednesday’s draw at Wigan Athletic.

As such, Liverpool’s 2-0 defeat against Stoke came with an element of surprise, but Hodgson believes you cannot compare the challenges presented by Tony Pulis’ and Chelsea, and that his team coped better with the latter than the former.

"Chelsea and Stoke are two very different teams, aren't they? Today we've been defending long throws and long balls that are knocked forward towards our backline, corner kicks and balls flying into our penalty area,” he told ESPN after the game at Stoke’s Britannia Stadium.

"Against Chelsea, it's a team who are moving the ball across the field and you have to control them - I don't think you can compare games against Chelsea with games against Stoke.

"Every team that comes here knows it's a very 'special' game. What you have got to do is defend as stoutly as we did in the first half and not concede that goal and do more than I thought we were able to do going forward.”

Hodgson believes that his side’s inability to prevent Stoke from getting the opening goal in the game left his side more vulnerable to conceding again.

"When the second goal came I was taking enormous risks and had the centerhalf playing as a centerforward.

"The first goal came again from a long throw, which before we'd been defending as well as we can, but unfortunately after that first goal goes in you have to take a few more risks and throw a few men forward, which almost got us back into the game.

"Unfortunately, it didn't, so we have to accept that we were beaten.”

The Liverpool manager was not looking to evaluate his side’s defeat too closely at this point, but he did not think fatigue was a factor in their loss.

"It's obviously a bad result - every time you lose it's a bad result.

"It is always difficult to give sensible assessments after you've been beaten.”

"I don't think it was a game too far [in terms of having the legs] because I felt we finished the game very strongly. I don't think it's a problem of legs, it's about coping with the problems that Stoke cause any team that comes here with the height and strength of their frontmen and backline.

"We don't have a long throw in our armory and had to deal with that from them and then try to use our weapons and we didn't do that well enough until the last 25 minutes."

Hodgson thought that one reason behind his side’s inability to get back into the game after going behind was an injury picked up by striker Fernando Torres. However, the Spaniard remained on the pitch for the entirety of the game and the Reds boss expects him to be fit for Liverpool’s next game against West Ham on Saturday.

"I don't know whether Torres' injury affected him in the second half, it probably did - so we missed him after the break.

"It's a kick to the ankle and he's also twisted it a bit, but we've got a week so hopefully he'll be OK.”

Liverpool Set For Merseyside Battle For New Torres Partner

Everton have emerged as Liverpool’s biggest challengers in the race to sign Pavel Pogrebnyak, according to Russian newspaper Soviet Sport.

The Russian striker has been linked as one of the strikers on Roy Hodgson’s shortlist but there will be competition from other Premier League clubs including Tottenham and Blackburn.

Now it has transpired that Spurs manager Harry Redknapp has pulled out of any potential deal and is concentrating on bringing other targets to White Hart Lane.

And Blackburn have seemingly been ruled out, with Sam Allardyce’s side considered as the least probable to bring the Stuttgart player to Ewood Park and Everton have emerged as the No.1 contenders.

With Liverpool having money to spend in January it seems a striker is on the agenda at Anfield and Pogrebnyak is top of their list.

And now David Moyes is interested in making sure he lands on Merseyside by making an offer to bring the 28-year-old to Goodison Park.

Stuttgart head coach Fredi Bobic has recently confirmed Liverpool are interested, saying: “I have been listening to rumours that Liverpool and Tottenham have their eyes on Pavel.

“It’s a fact. However, none of these clubs have been talking to us about him lately. He is a player of VfB Stuttgart,” the former Bolton striker admitted.

Liverpool Interested In Dortmund Hotshot Lucas Barrios

Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson is reportedly interested in signing Borussia Dortmund marksman Lucas Barrios. The Anfield manager is desperate to bring in a quality striker to offer support for Fernando Torres and has earmarked a move for the prolific Paraguayan international.

The well built 26 year old has been a remarkable success in the Bundesliga since his move from Cola Cola in the summer of 2009. Barrios has netted 31 goals in 50 matches for Dortmund and has attracted a great deal of interest as his form of late has helped take his side clear at the top of the table.

Roy Hodgson has been told he will receive significant funds to help improve the quality of his squad and the attacking third appears to be the area most in need of boosting. The Dortmund striker is rated at around £14m and his physical presence could help make him a good strike partner for Torres.

Liverpool may have had an upturn in form of late but are still finding goals very hard to come by, managing just 13 goals in 12 Premier League games thus far. Hodgson had attempted to bring in the likes of Roman Pavlyuchenko and Carlton Cole at the end of the last transfer window and now realizes he must try his hardest to bring someone in when the transfer window reopens in January.

Glen Johnson Unhappy At Liverpool

Following Roy Hodgson's questioning of his England slot, right-back Glen Johnson could leave Liverpool.

Johnson arrived at Liverpool last summer and performed solidly last season, having been signed from Portsmouth for a reported £18million.

However, according to the Sunday Mirror, Johnson was furious to hear Hodgson question his England selection and now the right-back has apparently asked for talks with Hodgson and new Anfield director of football strategy, Damien Comolli.

The Sunday Mirror also speculates that Johnson could be sacrificed and sold in order to help fund future Liverpool signings.

Johnson has been injured of late, with youngster Martin Kelly solidly deputizing for him in the Liverpool back four.

Guus Hiddink: Manchester City & Liverpool Approached Me During The Summer

Turkey boss Guus Hiddink has claimed that Liverpool and Manchester City made approaches about acquiring his services during the summer.

The former Russia boss previously had a short stint in the Premier League as an interim manager at Chelsea, where he steadied the ship following Luiz Felipe Scolari's exit to eventually win the FA Cup before resuming his international commitments.

During the summer, however, the Merseyside club was searching for a new boss owing to Rafael Benitez's exit, prior to the appointment on Roy Hodgson.

City, meanwhile, continued their mammoth spending under Roberto Mancini.

"In the summer City and Liverpool both came to me with an inquiry," Hiddink said, according to The Mirror.

"But at my age I don’t want to manage a club again for seven days a week over three years."

Hodgson and Mancini's futures at their respective clubs has been the subject of speculation in recent times.

Reds Suffer Last-Gasp Heartache

Liverpool U18s were left to rue missed opportunities as a last-gasp equalizer earned Everton a 1-1 draw in the mini-derby at the Academy on Saturday afternoon.

Craig Roddan had looked to have put Rodolfo Borrell's side on the road to victory when he powered home a diving header after his initial penalty was well saved on 55 minutes.

However, the Blues responded and snatched a share of the spoils when the hosts failed to deal with a 90th minute set-piece.

It was all the more frustrating for Liverpool after Conor Coady had failed to convert a first-half spot-kick.

Borrell told "It was difficult to take as I felt our overall display deserved more.

"We were the better side in the second half and we played some great football at times. I think the fans that came to watch us will have been happy with the way we played but disappointed to see us concede so late on.

"I think we deserved more and feel sorry for the lads because they did so well against a side that fielded three over-age players."

Liverpool U18s: Belford, Flanagan, Smith, Sama, McGiveron, Coady, Roddan, Sterling, Silva, Emilsson, Ngoo.

Unused substitutes: Stephens, Morgan, Sumner, Walsh, Regan.