Sunday, December 12, 2010

Match Report: Newcastle 3 - 1 Liverpool

Andy Carroll and Joey Barton combined to hand Alan Pardew a winning start to his Newcastle reign as jeers turned to cheers at St James' Park.

The 21-year-old England international's 10th goal of the season cemented a priceless victory for the Magpies after Scouser Barton's 80th-minute strike had restored their lead.

Skipper Kevin Nolan, another native Liverpudlian, had got the Magpies off to the perfect start with a 15th-minute opener, but Dirk Kuyt looked to have snatched a point for the visitors when his 50th-minute shot was deflected past keeper Tim Krul by the unfortunate Steven Taylor.

A delighted crowd of 50,137 had arrived determined to voice their fury at owner Mike Ashley's decision to sack Chris Hughton, and they did just that.

However, they left delighted with what they had seen as Pardew's charges responded in the only fashion they could.

As traumatic weeks go - and Newcastle have had a few in recent times - the last one on Tyneside has been right up there with the most trying, and there was a rebellious air around St James' once again in the run-up to kick-off.

The Toon Army made their feelings abundantly clear outside the stadium before the game, and did so in greater numbers once it was under way.

There were repeated choruses of "Stand up if you hate Ashley", "Get out of our club" and "There's only one Chris Hughton" among some less savoury offerings, while one banner read simply, "Thank you, Chris".

Indeed, as Pardew made his way to the dug-out for the first time, he did so almost unnoticed.

But both he and Ashley, sitting alongside managing director Derek Llambias, were on their feet within 15 minutes as the focus turned to what was happening on the pitch rather than off it.

The opening goal may have been fashioned on Merseyside, but it did not go to the men in red as two Scousers combined to open the door.

Barton's free-kick was floated perfectly to the far post for Carroll to win a muscular challenge with Sotirios Kyrgiakos and head down for Nolan to fire home his eighth of the season from close range.

The sense of unity fostered by Hughton during his tenure was there for all to see as Nolan was mobbed by his team-mates with the Toon Army celebrating.

Krul had earlier had to palm away a Kyrgiakos snapshot after referee Lee Mason, whose display was at times mystifying, awarded the visitors a soft free-kick for Jose Enrique's challenge on Glen Johnson.

But in an open encounter, both keepers had to remain alert throughout with Liverpool moving the ball well in an attempt to create space for the returning Fernando Torres, while Newcastle relied largely upon the physical presence of Carroll and strike partner Shola Ameobi.

The pair combined to great effect on the half hour when Carroll blasted in a low drive from Ameobi's lay-off which forced Jose Reina into a smart save, and the latter saw a 36th-minute effort fly just wide after it clipped Martin Skrtel's heels with the keeper already committed.

In the meantime, Enrique had been in the right place at the right time to keep out Raul Meireles' shot after it had been deflected towards goal by David Ngog, and Kyrgiakos headed a Meireles corner across the face of goal in first half injury time with Liverpool making a big push.

That trend continued after the restart and the visitors were level within five minutes, thanks in part to a slice of good fortune.

Kuyt did well to trick his way past Sol Campbell, but his shot was deflected past Krul by the unwitting Taylor and crept inside the far post.

Liverpool flexed their muscles and could have taken the lead twice within seconds as Torres first headed straight at Krul and then failed to beat him one-on-one after getting in behind a ragged home defence.

However, the Magpies responded and went close themselves when Barton crossed from the left for Carroll to dive in and head over as the ball dropped just over Skrtel's head.

Substitute Nile Ranger, on for the injured Ameobi, might have announced his arrival in style when he ran on to Carroll's 64th-minute knockdown and eased Skrtel off the ball, but his shot from a tight angle flew wide of the far post.

But they took the lead once again with 10 minutes remaining when Carroll and Ranger both helped on Krul's clearance and Barton stole in to snatch all three points.

The stage was set for a nervy conclusion, but Carroll prompted a collective sigh of relief when he crashed home a superb left-foot strike from 25 yards to wrap up a vital win.

Hodgson Unhappy With Liverpool's Second-Half Performance In Defeat To Newcastle

Roy Hodgson vented his frustration at Liverpool's poor defending in their 3-1 defeat to Newcastle United on Saturday.

Despite the visitors equalizing through Dirk Kuyt, two late goals from Joey Barton and Andy Carroll condemned Liverpool to their third consecutive league defeat on the road, as new Newcastle boss Alan Pardew enjoyed a dream start to his tenure at St James’ Park.

Hodgson highlighted Liverpool’s inability to produce the same level of performance as they showed in the first half, coupled with defensive mistakes, for his side’s downfall.

“I was disappointed with the second half,” Hodgson told reporters after the game.

“I thought we dominated the first half, we certainly had a lot of the ball and we certainly had the ball in the opposing half of the field and when they actually scored the goal from the free-kick, it was probably the first time that the ball had been in our penalty area.

“We’d asked a lot of questions, at that stage, of their back four. So I was thinking, even at half time, that we’re not looking that bad, we’re playing the right sort of football, we’re getting in behind them on lots of occasions, getting into shooting and crossing positions.”

However, despite getting back into the match through Kuyt’s deflected strike after the break, Liverpool subsequently conceded two late goals to hand Pardew victory in his first game in charge of Newcastle. And, Hodgson believes that the new Magpies boss will be delighted with his side’s display in the second period of the game.

“He’ll [Pardew] be very pleased with the way they came back after the [game went to] 1-1, the fighting spirit they showed and I suppose that was encapsulated in the second goal where, really and truly, that’s a ball which should’ve been cleared by us on at least two if not three occasions before Barton toes it home.

“So I’m sure he’ll be delighted with their second half performance and their effort and their fighting spirit, but I think unfortunately a lot of that is down to the fact that we didn’t produce the level of performance that we produced in the first half where we not only kept them quiet, but I thought, gave them lots of problems to deal with.”

Liverpool’s defeat at St James’ Park came on the back of an impressive 3-0 victory over Aston Villa in their last league game, something that compounded the misery of their second-half surrender to Newcastle in the eyes of Hodgson.

“It’s a major setback and it’s a major blow because we’ve had a couple of good games recently and we’re on a good run and the way the second half went, with the early equalizer I had high hopes we’d continue to play at the level we’ve played at recently.

“But we didn’t, we let Newcastle back into the game and furthermore we conceded a second goal the like of which you don’t really want to see when you’re a coach.”

Hodgson Ignored Board's Advice To Sell List Of Players

Manager Roy Hodgson claims Liverpool's recent improvement is a direct result of his decision to ignore the board's request to sell a number of players in the summer.

Hodgson has revealed that former managing director Christian Purslow handed him a list of players to sell in the transfer window, prior to John W Henry's Anfield takeover in October, but chose to ignore the advice.

"I got a list from Christian," Hodgson told the Guardian. "He had been here for just over a year and was a big fan of the club as well as being managing director. He had very strong opinions about lots of players and he gave lots of opinions about them. I listened but I made it perfectly clear that I wouldn't act on it.

"To some extent, he was saying what a lot of other people might have done. But now when he rings or texts me, to be fair, he says what a good job [that] we didn't do the things that had been suggested."

The Liverpool manager did not reveal the names on the list but following the 3-0 victory over Aston Villa on Monday night Hodgson heralded the likes Lucas Leiva, David Ngog and Ryan Babel, who all started in the Anfield victory.

Although some of Liverpool's previously maligned players have started to flourish under Hodgson the Liverpool boss has urged new owners NESV to strengthen the squad in January.

"There are still areas of the squad where we are not so rich," Hodgson said. "If we hit a couple of bad spells with injury we could be in quite a bit of trouble. I'm not certain our depth is what it should be and we certainly don't have the depth of Tottenham, Chelsea or Arsenal.

"My message to them [NESV] would be - and it is not a secret because I have had discussions with John [W Henry] about it - if the right players become available and we really think they will push us on, we should go for them."

Liverpool Wonderkid Target Now Available On Free

African starlet Rabiu Ibrahim is now a free agent after failing to agree a new deal at Sporting Lisbon.

The 19-year-old playmaker has been monitored by the cream of Europe in previous years, with Liverpool one of the Premier League clubs thought to be interested in the player.

Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal were also thought to be tracking Ibrahim only a few years ago, with all of the Premier League big four setting their sights on the player after a stunning U17 World Cup for Nigeria back in 2007.

The Super Eagles produced a major upset to win the tournament, and Ibrahim emerged as the star, leading to speculation that Liverpool would make a move for the player in the British press at the time.

Sporting landed the player on a youth contract however, a move that was seen as a major coup at the time.

Injuries have hampered the attacking midfielder's further development in Portugal though, and the player has reportedly failed to agree terms on a new contract at the Estadio Jose Alvalade.

His signature would be seen as a gamble by most, but still only a teenager, the player has the chance to continue developing.

Liverpool recently appointed Damien Comolli as Director of Football strategy at Anfield, and any decision on a potential move could fall into his directive.

It is also unknown as whether the Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson would be interested in the maverick African talent.

Celtic have also been close to signing the player in the past, and could challenge Liverpool or any club with interest in the player due to his current situation.

Inter Milan To Challenge Liverpool For Bolton Striker Johan Elmander

Former Liverpool manager and current Inter Milan boss Rafa Benitez will reportedly look to pip his former club to the signing of Bolton Wanderers striker Johan Elmander.

Elmander's contract at Wanderers expires at the end of the season and he has so far turned down a one-year extension. Although the Swedish international has taken a while to settle down at the Reebok Stadium, he has had a stunning start to the season, with eight goals and three assists for Owen Coyle's side.

Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson and his No.2 Sammy Lee have reportedly watched Elmander closely this season and would like to pair him with Fernando Torres.

However, according to the Sunday Mirror, former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez will look to bring Elmander to the San Siro. Samuel Eto'o is rumoured to be on the verge of leaving Inter Milan and should the Cameroon striker be removed from the wage bill, Benitez will be able to make Elmander a large offer.

Liverpool Have Made Initial Offer For Luis Suarez

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson has apparently already made an offer for Ajax's star striker Luis Suarez.

23-year-old Suarez is one of Europe’s most coveted strikers. He scored a remarkable 49 goals in all competitions for Ajax last year and bagged three in the World Cup for Uruguay. This season, he has hit 11 goals in 22 games this season, but has not scored since the middle of October.

In the meantime, Suarez has also been banned by Ajax for biting a PSV Eindhoven player and coach Martin Jol resigned last week, generating further uncertainty at the Amsterdam club which is already suffering from financial difficulties.

According to Italian website Tuttomercato, Liverpool have already made a €15million offer for Suarez and although Ajax will look for a further €10million to prize their star striker away, he could apparently leave for less if it is to a destination of his choosing.

Anfield boss Hodgson has highlighted the need for a new striker at Liverpool to reduce the goalscoring burden on Fernando Torres. Suarez's top level experience, movement off the ball and ability to play-off an out and out striker makes him a top target.

Arsenal Set To Lose To Liverpool In Race For New Makalele

Blaise Matuidi has been linked with a move to Arsenal for some time now, yet Arsene Wenger’s hesitance to take a chance on the player dubbed the new Claude Makelele has encouraged Liverpool to emerge as rivals for the player’s signature.

The France international would seem to be just the kind of player both clubs need: a defensive midfielder who breaks up opposition play and starts counter attacks, who is also very comfortable with the ball at his feet and is an accomplished passer of the ball.

The player’s disciplinary record is also very impressive for such a tough-tackling midfielder, as he has never been given more than 5 yellow cards in any one season at Saint Etienne.

A composed, accomplished tackler, able to sit in front of defence and hit a pass to anywhere on the pitch: Arsene Wenger and Roy Hodgson would surely see Matuidi as the missing piece in their respective midfield line-ups.

But it looks increasingly likely that the Arsenal manager has left it too late to sign the midfielder, and after Wenger’s declaration that he will not be making any signings in January, Liverpool are poised to sneak in with a bid of £8m in and snatch Matuidi from under Wenger’s nose.

Carl Crawford Wears Liverpool Tie To Red Sox News Conference

New Red Sox outfielder Carl Crawford is already showing how much of a company man he can be.

According to Hall of Famer and NESN correspondent Peter Gammons, the new Red Sox signing couldn't find the right color tie for his introductory news conference on Saturday, so he turned to one of his new bosses.

"Carl Crawford wanted to wear a red tie to his presser," Gammons tweeted. "[Red Sox executive VP and COO] Sam Kennedy gave him a Liverpool FC tie, thus merging MLB and Premier League."

Liverpool FC, of course, is the English Premier League soccer club purchased by Red Sox owner John Henry and his business group Fenway Sports Ventures.

It was a busy day for Red Sox ownership with the Crawford news conference at 10 a.m., followed by a 12:30 p.m. ET kickoff for Liverpool's match with Newcastle.