Friday, December 03, 2010

Match Report: Steaua Bucharest 1 - 1 Liverpool

Liverpool secured top spot in Group K of the Europa League with a draw against Steaua Bucharest in Romania but required a helping hand from their rivals after a howler from goalkeeper Jose Reina.

Milan Jovanovic's first-half header was cancelled out when the Reds captain on the night allowed Eder Bonfim's effort to escape his grasp and creep over the line.

A point would have been enough to put Roy Hodgson's side through but Utrecht's 3-3 draw with Napoli ensured they could not be caught at the top of the table with a match still to play.

The Reds boss put his faith in fringe players and reserves having travelled to Romania without eight first-teamers, only three of whom were injured, and he was rewarded by the likes of Jovanovic and Babel.

Neither has made much of an impression to date in their Anfield careers, although Jovanovic admittedly has only had a little more than four months to settle in.

However, they both did a decent enough job on a night when they could easily have gone missing again.

The same could not be said of Joe Cole, returning from a five-week lay-off with a hamstring injury.

Hodgson had admitted before the game the England international was low on confidence after a suspension and injury-interrupted start to his Liverpool career and that showed in his performance.

Despite playing in his supposedly favourite position behind the striker Cole cut a peripheral figure and was unable to affect the game in any way before he was replaced 15 minutes from time by David Ngog.

The opening exchanges were unremarkable except for plenty of non-harmful Steaua possession and Reina, captaining the side in the absence of the injured Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, being targeted by a fan with a laser pen.

It was the second occasion this season the Spain international has had to contend with the irritation, the first coming in their Europa League play-off against Trabzonspor in August.

A complaint to Turkish referee Bulent Yildirim and a stadium announcement thankfully appeared to halt the offender.

By that time, however, Steaua should have been ahead but Eric Bicfalvi headed over left-back Iasmin Latovlevici's cross from eight yards.

It proved to be a costly miss as Liverpool took the lead with their first chance in the 19th minute.

Jovanovic, whose only previous significant contribution since joining in the summer was to score in the ill-fated Carling Cup exit to Northampton, started and finished the move.

The Serbia international, who has been linked with a move back to former club Standard Liege despite only leaving in the summer, worked the ball out to Babel on the right.

When the Dutchman crossed to the far post Jovanovic headed home and celebrated by kissing the badge on his shirt, pointing at the handful of travelling Liverpool fans and then the floor - intimating that he wanted to stay at Anfield.

Babel almost had a hand in creating a second goal but his pass which picked out Cole on the penalty spot was miscontrolled and Dani Pacheco eventually bundled a shot wide from the edge of the area.

But Liverpool had a lucky escape in the dying seconds of the first half when in-form striker Bogdan Stancu, scorer of 12 goals in 17 league appearances, somehow stabbed wide from eight yards when it seemed easier to score.

Early in the second half Reina saved low from Geraldo Alves' header and tipped Stancu's shot, which looped up off Fabio Aurelio, over the crossbar.

The Steaua striker played a significant part without actually touching the ball in the home side's 61st-minute equalizer.

Stancu was positioned in front of Reina - played onside by Danny Wilson - when Eder Bonfim launched his header but the goalkeeper, distracted by his opponent's presence, allowed the ball to squirm out of his grasp, through his legs and over the line.

Sotirios Kyrgiakos powered a header at the crossbar and over from Aurelio's corner as the visitors responded.

But ultimately Liverpool were happy to hang on for a third point in as many Group K away matches, maintaining their unbeaten run in Europe this season, and that was enough to achieve their objective.

Liverpool Youth Gamble Paying Off, Says Roy Hodgson

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson believes his decision to play a less experienced side in the Europa League is starting to pay off.

An under-strength team drew 1-1 against Steaua Bucharest last night which was enough to ensure they progressed to the last 32 as Group K winners with one game to spare.

Milan Jovanovic's 19th-minute header was cancelled out after goalkeeper Jose Reina allowed Eder Bonfim's effort to squirm from his grasp.

Hodgson left eight first-team players at home - either injured or rested - but felt the likes of youngsters Jonjo Shelvey, Danny Wilson, Dani Pacheco and Martin Kelly showed they have the potential to play a bigger part in future.

"I think it gives confidence and I think we have seen the emergence of people like David Ngog and Martin Kelly and I think that has come through these Europa League matches because they have been given a chance," said Hodgson.

"I think you have to add the name of Dani Pacheco because he not had many chances but he did not let the team down last night, and neither did Nathan Eccleston when he came on.

"Danny Wilson has had one game in the first team and that was at left-back (in the Carling Cup defeat to Northampton). It was a tough game for him to come in at centre-back and I am really pleased.

"I was most interested in the performance and whether the players could stand up to the challenge and I think they did."

Prior to the game Hodgson had challenged his fringe players to take the chance to prove themselves, although he denied some of them were playing for their futures after failing to impress.

Jovanovic and Ryan Babel, starting in his preferred central striker's role, at least gave some cause for optimism.

"In particular I was delighted for Ryan Babel, a player who has not had many opportunities to show what he can do and he took his opportunity with both hands," said Hodgson.

"It is good for me to know the work we are doing day in, day out on the training field is having some effect and the players are getting more and more comfortable with what we are trying to do - even those who don't get a chance to play every week."

Cole Shrugs Off Concerns

Liverpool midfielder Joe Cole has rejected claims that he is struggling for confidence and believes a regular run in the side will help him find his best form.

Reds boss Roy Hodgson suggested earlier this week the summer signing from Chelsea was struggling for confidence after a difficult start to his Anfield career.

Cole has failed to hit the heights since his much-publicized move to Anfield due to a combination of form and fitness.

The 29-year-old made his comeback against Steaua Bucharest on Thursday after five weeks out with a hamstring problem and Cole has dismissed concerns about his state of mind, believing that a consistent run of games will soon bring the best out of him.

"No, not at all," was his response when asked whether his confidence had taken a knock.

"I am happy with everything at Liverpool, I just have to stay fit and keep playing well.

"No footballer likes being injured, it is a pain, but you have to keep going and keep working hard.

"I got through 75 minutes last night having only trained once so I'm happy with the way things have gone.

"It was nice to come back and be out there. I just need to kick on and keep myself fit, which is the main thing.

"If I can do that and get games I'll be very happy as I'll be able to stay on the pitch and help the team to win something."

Liverpool Boss Scouts French Wing Wizard

Liverpool are reportedly monitoring Sylvain Marveaux with a view to a potential free transfer in the summer.

The French starlet has been earning rave reviews for his performances in Ligue 1, and Reds boss Roy Hodgson has been seen at the Route de Lorient after a recommendation from new Director of Football strategy at Liverpool, Damien Comolli.

Reds boss Hodgson has been linked with a string of French players following the arrival of Comolli at Anfield, with Blaize Matuidi, Adil Rami and Mamadou Sakho all thought to have appeared on the Liverpool radar.

24-year-old Marveaux joined the Rennes youth setup in 2001, making his senior debut for the club in 2006. A French U21 international, the winger is tipped for full Les Bleus honours in the future.

Yet to agree a new contract with his current club, Rennes could attempt to cash-in on the player in January if he fails to sign a new deal. The player could also sign a pre-contract agreement in the opening month of 2011, leaving him free to make an exit in the summer for nothing.

It is this scenario that is thought to appeal most to Liverpool, and SkySports reports that the Reds are weighing up their options ahead of the transfer window re-opening.

Hodgson is keen to build on his attacking options at Anfield, with the Merseysiders chief thought to have a wishlist in the region of 'five or six' players at Liverpool.

A foil for Fernando Torres is thought to be the priority, and the French youngster could prove to be a great free option for the Liverpool manager.

Liverpool 'Offered' Former Arsenal Star On Loan

Liverpool and Tottenham are locked in a shock fight to keep Manchester City striker Emmanuel Adebayor in the Premier League on a loan deal, according to the Mirror.

The Togolese forward is disillusioned with life on the fringes of the first team at Eastlands and wants to leave in January.

In fact, he is so desperate to move to a Champions League side that he is set to force a loan move to Tottenham next month.

The former Arsenal hitman has even asked Manchester City to pay half of his £120,000 per week wages until the end of the season while he is on loan at White Hart Lane.

However, City do not want their player at Spurs and would rather he moved to Juventus, who have stated their interest already, or Liverpool.

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson has not been linked with Adebayor yet, despite a plethora of names being touted as possible Anfield targets, but the deal could work.

With one world class player expected to arrive on Merseyside in January, Liverpool will not have a lot of money to bring anyone else to the club.

And, with City willing to subsidize some of Adebayor’s wages, it may be a deal the club finds appealing enough to take Roberto Mancini up on.

He would be a cheaper option than the likes of Carlton Cole for Liverpool and, arguably, a better and more proven option too.

Former World Cup Winner Favours Liverpool Move Over Benitez

Liverpool have re-ignited their interest in former France international striker David Trezeguet but face competition from Inter Milan, according to reports.

Trezeguet’s agent has admitted he has been approached by the reigning Italian champions but has insisted his client is happy to stay with current club Hercules of Spain.

Liverpool were close to agreeing a deal with Trezeguet in the summer when he was negotiating a deal away from former club Juventus but chose instead to move to Spain.

And he has been in great form for the newly promoted side, bagging six goals in just eight games and Liverpool feel he would be able to continue that form in the Barclays Premier League.

However, former manager of the Anfield club Rafael Benitez wants to bring Trezeguet to add some much needed firepower to Inter’s attack.

The 33-year-old scored 123 goals in 214 Serie A games for the Old Lady so he is a proven, experienced player in Italy.

However, agent Antonio Caliendo has refused to discuss his client’s future halfway through the season – but insists he has no intention to return to Serie A, giving Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson some encouragement.

"David is only thinking about Hercules at the moment and he is having a great time in Alicante as he is getting back to his greatest after being sent away by Juventus," Caliendo told

“Away in January? I feel like excluding this. He has taken on a task and he is serious," added Caliendo.

"We are always talking about the market, Inter have called me many times, and I cannot exclude he is wanted by big clubs, but we will see what happens when the market opens.”

Carlton Cole 'Priced Out Of Liverpool Move' As Hodgson Eyes Philipe Mexes

Carlton Cole looks to have priced himself out of a move to Liverpool, with manager Roy Hodgson more keen to add a high-profile defender to his squad in January.

Cole scored twice in West Ham’s 4-0 Carling Cup demolition of Manchester United on Tuesday, and as a result the Hammers look set to stand firm over keeping their top striker at the club.

The England international could well cost more than £10million for any potential suitors in the transfer window.

Hodgson wanted to add Cole to his attack, but has limited funds and desperately needs a centre-half to replace the injured Jamie Carragher.

But he cannot afford to make two major signings, having already been told he will not have much money to spend before next summer.

The former Fulham boss is now turning his attention to other targets in his preferred position, with Roma centre-half Philippe Mexes now top of his list.

The 28-year-old Frenchman could come at the bargain price of around £2million as he is out of contract in the summer.

And with Hodgson needing reinforcements at the back, Mexes looks a sound buy and one whose experience could allow him to settle quickly.

Agent - No Offer For Honda

Keisuke Honda's agent has stamped on rumours that Liverpool have tabled a £10million offer for the Japan midfielder.

Honda, who joined CSKA Moscow from Dutch club VVV Venlo, has impressed in the Russian top flight since his arrival in January on a four-year deal.

The 24-year-old has attracted interest from top outfits across Europe, with Liverpool the reported front-runners to secure his signature, prompting CSKA to reveal on Wednesday they are willing to let him go for the right price when the transfer window opens.

However the player's agent, Kees Ploegsma, insists no offer has yet been received from Liverpool or any other club.

"There is nothing, these are just rumours," Ploegsma told

"The situation is quiet. To date, there is no offer for Keisuke from Liverpool, nor from other teams.

"The player has a contract with CSKA Moscow (until 2013) and is now on vacation."

When pressed further on Arsenal and AC Milan's alleged interest in the forward, Ploegsma replied: "They are all great clubs but, I repeat, we are not in contact with anyone."

Broughton Calls For Groundshare

Former Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton has called for the club to strike a groundshare deal with cross-town rivals Everton.

Broughton believes both sets of fans must place their emotional standings to one side and consider the options as they look to move forward in the future.

With new owners New England Sports Ventures looking at options to redevelop Anfield and build on a new site in Stanley Park, the British Airways chairman wants to see if the two parties can come together and reach agreement.

"If that's not possible, then in my personal opinion, ground sharing should be seriously considered," he said.

"Fans are understandably emotional about this issue, but this has to be addressed. It's not the case of being red or blue. You can be red one week, and blue the next.

"It's up to people like Kenny Dalglish to communicate the business sense of all this. It would mean open minds on all sides."