Sunday, November 21, 2010

Match Report: Liverpool 3 - 0 West Ham United

It was hardly a proper test of being able to cope without Steven Gerrard but Liverpool did more than enough to dispose of a woeful West Ham at Anfield.

With the captain out for a month with a hamstring tear manager Roy Hodgson called for his players to step up to fill the void and the Barclays Premier League's bottom side provide the perfect opposition.

First-half goals from Glen Johnson and Maxi Rodriguez, either side of a Dirk Kuyt penalty, were enough to wrap up the points in the first half.

The visiting fans were less than impressed and directed their anger at manager Avram Grant with chants of 'You're getting sacked in the morning'.

It is unlikely Liverpool will have an easier game this season and it was the ideal tonic for them after two poor performances in a 1-1 draw at Wigan and last Saturday's defeat at Stoke which ended a six-game unbeaten run.

Raul Meireles looked better in a more accustomed central position, filling Gerrard's place, while Johnson and Rodriguez also did well and even the much-criticized Christian Poulsen had his best game since joining in the summer.

If there was one criticism it was that Hodgson's side eased up so much after the break they lost all the momentum and rhythm built up in the first half.

But they never looked in danger of conceding and the clean sheet was Jose Reina's 134th in all competitions, taking him past Tommy Lawrence into fourth on the club's all-time list.

West Ham's league record at Anfield is woeful, as they have not won this fixture for 47 years and scored just four Premier League goals in 16 attempts.

The writing was on wall early on as David Ngog forced Robert Green into a low save to his left before Rodriguez and Fernando Torres both fired wide.

Green's goal was being peppered even if the goalkeeper was not being properly extended but that changed in the 18th minute when Raul Meireles' long-range effort was tipped over by the England international.

Meireles swung over the corner and Johnson chested it down before drilling a low shot straight down the middle of the goal with the goalkeeper unsighted by Danny Gabbidon.

It was the first time since the opening weekend of the season a Liverpool goal had not been scored or created by Torres or Gerrard.

England full-back Johnson, criticized by manager Roy Hodgson earlier this month for his poor form, appeared to have got the message on his comeback from a three-match injury absence.

He was a major force down the right in the first half and his cross set up Torres but he uncharacteristically fluff his first-time shot.

But the Spain international contributed to the second goal as it was his flick into the penalty area which bounced off Matthew Upson on to the arm of Gabbidon, allowing Kuyt to roll home a 27th-minute penalty.

Gabbidon was better placed to hook Torres' volley away from an empty net after Green failed to properly clear a Meireles free-kick.

The goalkeeper did better in blocking Torres' shot with his legs but was powerless to stop Paul Konchesky whipping in the rebound to the unmarked Rodriguez, the smallest man in the penalty area, who guided the ball inside the far post with his head.

When Victor Obinna blasted a shot from close range into the top tier of the Anfield Road stand despondent Hammers fans replied with 'That's why we're going down'.

The second half had much less to offer than the first as both teams knew the game was over and while West Ham continued to fail to pose a threat Liverpool were content to coast safe in the knowledge the three points were already wrapped up.

Had it not been for Green the score would have been double as he tipped Torres' fierce shot onto the crossbar at full stretch and, in the same move, then turned Poulsen's long-range effort around his left-hand post.

Substitute Fabio Aurelio, making only his second appearance since the end of August, also drove just over.

Liverpool missed the chance to claw back another position or two in the table by failing to improve their goal difference but that was the least of their worries after some indifferent recent performances.

For West Ham and Grant the problems continue to mount.

Liverpool To Make Significant Midfield Signing In January

Roy Hodgson could be set to end Stephen Ireland’s Aston Villa misery, by bringing him to Anfield this January. The midfielder has struggled to hold down a first-team place at Villa Park, after being brought to the club from Manchester City last summer.

New Villa boss Gerard Houllier does not apppear to be a big fan of the schemer, regularly selecting players such as Nigel Reo-Coker ahead of him.

Stephen Ireland showed during his time at Manchester City, that he is in fact a top-class Premier League player, and Liverpool would be the perfect club for him to get back on track. Hodgson is a long-time admirer of the dynamic midfielder, and would jump at the chance of signing him for the reported figure of around £8million.

The Liverpool boss will be given significant funds to strengthen his squad this January, and Ireland looks set to be his first major signing.

Another top priority will be a striker, with names such as Mario Gomez, and Fernando Llorente recently linked with a move to Anfield.

Roy Hodgson Hoping To Bring Steven Gerrard Back From Injury Earlier

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson is hoping that captain Steven Gerrard will return to action earlier than expected.

The skipper sustained an injury whilst on England international duty and was substituted after straining his groin during the 2-1 loss to France at Wembley.

The club had requested pre-match that Gerrard only be asked to play for 60 minutes of the match, yet England manager Fabio Capello decided to keep his vice-captain on the pitch after other players such as captain Rio Ferdinand and Gareth Barry picked up injuries just before the half-time break.

Liverpool appealed to the FA and are set to receive £500,000 in compensation for the injury.

However, Hodgson praised Gerrard’s efforts this season, which have seen the 30-year-old rescue his side from defeat or drive them to victory on numerous occasions.

“My hope is that because Steven is such a quick healer and is so desperate to get back quickly, it won't keep him out for as long as people are fearing. With injuries like this you can't take chances so it will be really important that the people who play in his place put in some excellent performances,” Hodgson told the club’s official website.

“He's been very good for us this year and was a big factor in the three straight wins that we had. It's a huge blow to be without him. That's in terms of his inspirational leadership, his energy, his enthusiasm and what he brings to the team in terms of technique.”

Vice-captain Jamie Carragher, who lead Liverpool out at Anfield to face West Ham on Saturday, will be making his 650th appearance for his club.

The manager was quick to praise the 32-year-old, claiming that Carragher does not receive anywhere near the credit he is due, probably because it is attackers and midfielders who generally attract the plaudits.

“I don't think he gets anything like the credit he deserves. A defender doesn't capture the headlines in the same way that forwards or attacking midfielders do,” said Hodgson.

“Jamie has been a superb servant for the club. From my point of view, in the five months I have been at the club I don't think I have seen him have a bad game for us. Furthermore, he's had to move between different positions across the backline, even playing at left-back.

It's great he's made 650 and I know he would be very happy to catch Cally's [Ian Callaghan] record [of 856 first team appearances] - but there's still a long way for him to go. With the Barclays Premier League being as intense as it is then he's going to have to keep himself very fit for the next few years."

“His major qualities are his ability and his understanding of the game. His desire to win is a very palpable one and it is obvious to everyone. Those types of players can help the team because they can drag other players up with them,” stated Hodgson.

“Steven is a quieter person but very inspirational with his play. Hopefully Jamie will fire people up out there, although the ones who can do that the most will be the 45,000 fans inside Anfield. When they get behind us like they did against Napoli, Blackburn and Chelsea then you really do feel that 12th man. But to get that 12th man you need to produce the goods on the field of play. If we can play well enough then they can make life very difficult for opponents.”

Glen Johnson Denies Rift With Manager Roy Hodgson

Liverpool defender Glen Johnson has denied there is any rift between him and his manager Roy Hodgson after the right back capped his Anfield comeback with a goal in the comfortable victory over bottom placed West Ham United.

Hodgson had criticized the England right-back last week saying he wasn't deserving of his call-up for the midweek friendly with France. Johnson, though, dismissed any fall-out.

“I didn’t need to hear it from the boss to know that I hadn’t been playing at my best, I’m an honest man and I know how well I can play, so it was nice to get a goal today," he told ESPN.

After marking his return to the side with a goal against the Hammers, he spoke about his delight at being back in the team, adding: “It’s always nice to come off the treatment bench and it’s obviously nice to come back with a goal. I missed the last six out of seven games, so I just wanted to get back into it.”

Johnson’s team-mate Dirk Kuyt also spoke about his penalty, after taking over the spot kick duties from injured skipper Steven Gerrard.

He said: “Normally Stevie is taking the penalties, so he gave me a little tip before the game and it helped. He said to shoot through the middle and that’s what I did.”

The Dutch international was also happy with his side’s performance, adding: “I thought that we played well in the first half, we were right in top of them and I thought that Glen scored a great goal. For there on in we kept playing football and creating chances.”

Some had labeled the Anfield team a two-man side, but Kuyt disagreed.

“Everyone knows that we will miss Stevie very much in the next couple of weeks, hopefully he will be back as quickly as possible, but I think today we showed that we are more than a two man team," he said.

Fernando Torres Backs Roy Hodgson To Remain As Liverpool Manager

Talking ahead of the team's vital clash with West Ham on Saturday, the Spanish striker denied recent reports of a split in the Anfield dressing room, reports the Daily Mail.

He told a radio station in his home nation it is never easy for a team to adjust when a new manager comes in, but he is hopeful Liverpool are beginning to move in the right direction.

Torres went on to clarify that he has 'no problem' with the former Fulham boss.

'He's a very serious coach who in the summer explained to me very clearly what he wanted from me. He has always trusted in me and that's very important for any footballer,' the star explained.

Torres said while Liverpool are not as high in the Premier League table as they would wish to be, he was hopeful the team could produce a run of victories to put themselves into a stronger position.

Earlier this week, Hodgson declared himself to be 'frustrated and even a little bit angry' at the hamstring injury sustained by Steven Gerrard while playing for England in the midweek friendly against France.

Lee On Pacheco Claims

Sammy Lee believes hard work on the training field and consistency is the key to Daniel Pacheco returning to the first team set-up.

The talented Spaniard hasn't featured in the first XI since the Carling Cup defeat by Northampton Town, but he looked more like his usual self when he produced an impressive display for the reserves against Blackpool at the Academy on Tuesday.

Lee told "Dani is working hard and he is a good lad who is willing to listen and hopefully his time will come.

"Consistency is the key for everybody. We are looking to get a consistent run of results together and that comes by consistent performances from everybody."

Pacheco has been utilised in a new role this season for the reserves playing on the left and right side of midfield.

Explaining the thinking behind changing his position, Lee added: "At the end of the day sometimes you have to play in a position that is not your natural one.

"You find out a lot of things about players when you play them in a different role. Dani has played in a number of different positions this season.

"He needs to improve, as do all of the players, and he needs to have more of an effect on the game. We have spoken with him about that and hopefully that will happen in the future."

Reflecting on his 90 minute outing against Blackpool, reserves boss John McMahon added: "Daniel did better and was more like his old self.

"He was lively and was a real threat to the opposition and hopefully he can push on from that encouraging performance.

"He can only get back to his best by working hard every day in training.

"When you have difficult spells the only way to get back to your best is to work even harder and do everything that is asked out of you."

U18s Held By City

Liverpool U18s played out an entertaining 2-2 draw away at Manchester City on Saturday morning.

The home side took a first half lead but Rodolfo Borrell's side stormed back in the second half and took the game to their opponents.

Craig Roddan equalized with a terrific half-volley from the edge of the box, then a sweeping team move started from the back ended with Kristjan Gauti Emilsson making it 2-1.

City came back though and equalized 10 minutes from time as the game ended 2-2.

Borrell told "We had some problems to hold them in the first half but in general we played really well against a very good side.

"They were very dangerous going forward but we pressed them all over the pitch in the second half and it was a great effort from the team."

Liverpool U18s: Belford, Poor (Regan), Smith, Sama, McGiveron, Coady, Sterling, Roddan, Ngoo, Emilsson (Adorjan), Silva. Subs unused: Stephens, Aylmer, Morgan.

Former Liverpool Co-Owner George Gillett Sued For £73.3m

Former Liverpool co-owner George Gillett has been sued for over $117 million [£73.2m] for allegedly failing to repay a personal loan he took to invest in the Merseyside club.

A hedge fund, Mill Financial, has made accusations that the American and 12 of his associates made guarantees that a $70m [£43.8m] loan extension in January 2008 would be repaid at an interest rate of 19 per cent, according to the court filing.

The court filing also shows that the lawsuit "arises from the defendants’ failure to honour their obligations pursuant to the unlimited, unconditional, and continuing personal guarantees which they executed in favor of Mill Financial," according to Bloomberg.

The last date for the complete repayment of the loan was reportedly August 13. And it is believed that by July 13 - which was the last time the loan was extended - Mill was already owed $89.9m [£56.19m]. Other fees in addition to legal expenses have taken this sum to £73.3m, which is the sum for which he has been sued.

Gillett and ex-Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks only recently lost control of Liverpool, in a deal that is thought to have seen the pair lose about £140m.