Thursday, December 30, 2010

Match Report: Liverpool 0 - 1 Wolves

Liverpool's lack of match practice cost them dearly as they lost an eighth Barclays Premier League match of the season as bottom side Wolves won away for the first time since late March.

Snowy weather had forced the postponements of games against Fulham and Blackpool, meaning the Reds had not played in the league for 18 days.

That showed as they lacked invention and energy - even with the return of Steven Gerrard from six weeks out - but the visitors did have that spark and ended a run of six successive defeats away from home thanks to Stephen Ward's first Premier League goal.

The last time Wolves won at Anfield was 27 years ago next month when Steve Mardenborough scored the only goal of his Wanderers career.

But there could be no complaints from the home side who did not do nearly enough to extend a six-match unbeaten home record stretching back to their fateful loss to newcomers Blackpool on October 3.

Those were the dark days of the Reds' campaign, when they were lingering in the relegation zone after their worst start for 57 years.

Roy Hodgson cannot afford a return to those times with his side 12th in the table and owners New England Sports Ventures still deciding how much money they are willing to give the manager to strengthen the squad in next month's transfer window.

All but Martin Skrtel, Sotirios Kyrgiakos and Dirk Kuyt, had not seen any competitive action since the 3-1 defeat at Newcastle on December 11.

The aforementioned trio had played small parts in the goalless Europa League draw at home to Utrecht but the rest had spent the last two and a half weeks training at Melwood.

It was not apparent from this display as there was a lack of cohesion and fluidity which Wolves were only too happy to take advantage of.

The minute's applause for former Liverpool defenders Avi Cohen, who died aged 54 after a motorbike accident, and Bill Jones - grandfather of Reds right-back Rob Jones - who passed away aged 89 - had barely faded away before Raul Meireles had a chance to put the hosts ahead.

Maybe the lack of match practice contributed to his failure to open the scoring after just seven minutes but it was a poor excuse if so.

Fernando Torres' quickly-taken free-kick left George Elokobi floundering but the Portugal international shot straight at goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey and Richard Stearman cleared the loose ball.

Liverpool's strikers fed on scraps throughout - Torres did not have one opportunity - as Wolves pressurized the man in possession and defended solidly.

David Ngog's left-footed shot from 25 yards was easily claimed by Hennessey as Liverpool struggled to break down Wolves, who were enjoying plenty of possession themselves.

With the visitors finding room on their left it prompted a tactical switch, with Gerrard moving to the right and Meireles returning to the centre where he had enjoyed his best performances.

It lasted only until half-time as Gerrard reverted to the middle.

Again the Reds could have taken an early lead as Dirk Kuyt's pass to Glen Johnson inside the penalty area set up Ngog but he hooked wide from six yards.

Wolves defender Ronald Zubar was slightly closer with his shot on the turn as he at least forced Jose Reina, on his 200th Premier League appearance, into a low save.

It was an omen of things to come as in the 56th minute the visitors took the lead after a mix-up between Skrtel and Kyrgiakos allowed Sylvan Ebanks-Blake's through-ball to squeeze between them.

Ward raced in behind to poke home the first goal conceded at Anfield in 478 minutes in all competitions.

Ngog was replaced by Ryan Babel just past the hour, a decision met with derision by the Kop - who not for the first time this season briefly chanted the name of Kenny Dalglish.

Liverpool was wobbling and only a last-gasp block by Johnson prevented Jarvis making it 2-0.

Hodgson's final two substitutions sent on Joe Cole and Fabio Aurelio for Meireles and Paul Konchesky.

Two minutes from time Skrtel headed in Gerrard's free-kick but he was well offside.

Wolves fans sang "How bad must you be? We're playing away" and on the night it was difficult to argue with that.

The Kop appeared to be in agreement, responding with "Hodgson for England".

Hodgson Hits Out At Anfield Crowd After Liverpool Loss

Under-fire Roy Hodgson has blasted Liverpool's supporters for not supporting the team after his side suffered another humiliating defeat at the hands of Wolves.

Mick McCarthy’s Wanderers heaped further misery on the Anfield club after Stephen Ward’s goal condemned them to their eighth defeat of the season.

The home fans were understandably angry about the loss to the side who, before the match, were bottom of the Premier League, and made their feelings known during the game and at the final whistle.

Chants for Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish rung around Anfield and a chorus of boos greeted the defeat but Hodgson insists it is nothing new and asked the fans to keep supporting the club in the bad times.

He said: "I'm getting used to the negativity. Kenny [Dalglish] was a rival for the job and it was given to me. He's a Liverpool legend.

"But I don't like it. It's the Kop's way of showing they are not happy with what the team is doing. We've had to live with negativity ever since I came here.

"The famous Anfield support has not really been there – there were problems with the owners and they have been singing for Kenny.

"I can only hope these 'fans' become 'supporters' as well because this is a time when the club needs support.

"The negativity does affect confidence."

Hodgson revealed he was disappointed with how his players reacted after an extended break because of the winter weather disruptions.

"Disappointing is the buzzword at the moment. There is not a stronger word than that," he added.

"We came here hoping we would fly around the field and play well but we did the opposite. It's as bad a team performance as we've given, certainly here at Anfield.

"Rather than a disappointing 0-0 we let them in to score for an even more disappointing 0-1. That compounded the problem.

"Credit to Wolves, their gameplan was good. They won challenges. I don't think we had the tempo to our game to say we deserved anything more than we got."

Despite the lackluster defeat the former Fulham boss insists his side are desperate to show the fans they can move up the table.

He added: "It's a sad way to end 2011. We were desperate to show the supporters we can move up the table and we let them down.

"They made that perfectly clear to us. I can only empathize – if I was a supporter I would be extremely disappointed.

"But I've seen times like this. I have belief in my own ability, the players are working hard to bring me and the club success.

"It's going to be picking them up after they didn't do the job last night."

Liverpool Set To Sack Roy Hodgson And Turn To Frank Rijkaard Within Days

Liverpool are set to be sack Roy Hodgson and replace him with Dutchman Frank Rijkaard after the current Anfield boss was left bemoaning yet another limp display as his side lost to a struggling Wolves side at home. The club’s are ready to axe the 63 year old former Fulham boss and will do so within the next 48 hours.

Hodgson’s cause will not have been helped by his slamming of Liverpool supporters after last night’s game and owners New England Sporting Ventures will act fast to prevent the club from slipping further into the mire. The Merseyside club are now just three points from the relegation zone having lost an unprecedented eight matches out of their opening 18 fixtures.

Bookmakers William Hill have cut their odds on Frank Rijkaard becoming the next permanent boss to just 8/15 and Liverpool owner John W Henry will know that handing January transfer funds to embattled boss Hodgson makes little sense if he is then removed from his post shortly after so therefore the club will look to swing the axe in the very near future.

With the games coming thick and fast during the busy holiday period, with games against Bolton and Blackburn on the 1st and 5th of January respectively, the board at Liverpool will decide whether to wait until after those fixtures are completed or look to act in the next 48 hours. Their main fear being that having no one at the helm for the crucial upcoming games could be even more damaging than sticking with Hodgson.

Therefore it appears that the club is in deep deliberation as to whether tp wait until those two games have been played and then act to replace the former Fulham manager with former Barcelona boss Frank Rijkaard who is on the look out for a new post having been sacked by Galatasaray earlier in the season, or instead axe Roy Hodgson within the next 48 hours, which currently appears to be the more likely scenario.

Liverpool Make Ashley Young Their Top January Target

Liverpool have made Ashley Young their top target for the January transfer window and are confident they can land the Aston Villa winger, UK can reveal.

The Reds face stern competition from Manchester United and Tottenham for the England international, who will cost around £14 million as his contract at Villa Park runs out in 18 months' time.

Manager Roy Hodgson has been driving the interest from Anfield as he looks to add British talent to the squad but Damien Comolli, the club's director of football strategy, also supports the move for a player who will add much-needed pace to the side.

Liverpool are ready to meet Young's wage demands of £75,000-a-week – or £3.9m a year – and will make an official approach to Villa when the transfer window opens. Insiders at Anfield claim the club are confident the former Watford man is keen on a move and they believe Villa may feel compelled to sell because of his contract situation.

Young, 25, currently earns £65,000-a-week but has refused to sign a new deal at the Midlands club and there have been suggestions that he would be prepared to run down his contract and leave for nothing in the summer of 2012.

Gerard Houllier, the Aston Villa manager, insists it would take “crazy money” for the Premier League strugglers to sell their prize asset – but owner Randy Lerner may feel differently as Young's value plummets as he runs down his contract.

Liverpool will press ahead with plans to sign Young despite being on the verge of signing Rennes winger Sylvain Marveaux, who was in the director’s box for the 1-0 defeat to Wolves on Wednesday night.

That defeat exposed the lack of wide options at Hodgson's disposal as Dirk Kuyt and Raul Meireles were forced to play out of position in an embarrassing defeat that leaves the former Fulham boss fighting for his job.

But Villa are also having a woeful season and Young – who was the subject of a bid worth £20m from Spurs last summer – has all but decided that his future lies elsewhere. He was on the verge of signing a new five-year contract in October but turned his back on the deal at the last minute and is refusing to return to the negotiating table until next summer.

The former Watford man has made a huge impact at Villa since his £9.6m move from Watford in January 2007 but has been inconsistent this season in an unfamiliar role behind the main striker.

He has been sidelined with a knee injury during the Christmas period but is expected to be fit for the trip to Chelsea on Sunday.

Hodgson On Agger Rumours

Roy Hodgson has dismissed rumours linking Daniel Agger with a January transfer away from Anfield.

The centre-back has been the subject of press speculation recently, but the boss insists he's going nowhere.

Hodgson said: "Daniel Agger has not been 'offered' to anybody. Daniel Agger is a Liverpool player and there's a good chance he'll be in the Liverpool team on Saturday (against Bolton).

"So if ever you hear Daniel Agger is being 'offered', it's not by Liverpool Football Club - it's by unscrupulous people who are second guessing and looking at players who have not been in the team in the last couple of weeks and suggesting they might be available.

"But anytime you read that, it is untrue."

Hodgson Renews Interest In West Ham United's Cole

Liverpool has revealed that have renewed their interest in West Ham United striker Carlton Cole, according to Sky Sports News.

It is understood that an Anfield representative was at Craven Cottage on Boxing Day when Cole netted twice to give West Ham a much needed 3-1 victory over Fulham.

Reds' boss Roy Hodgson originally attempted to sign Cole - who has five goals to his name this season - in the summer, but a deadline-day deal could not be completed in time.

Hammers' manager Avram Grant has made it clear that he has no intention of letting transfer target Cole - or any other of his top players like Matthew Upson and Scott Parker - leave Upton Park as he bids to avoid relegation.

However, this decision could be taken out of his hands by the board.

David Sullivan and David Gold, the owners of the Hammers, have revealed that it would be difficult not to listen to offers in the region of £7 million to £9m (€8.2m-€10.5m) for Cole, as the club look to ease their financial troubles.

Hodgson has already stated that he wants to bolster his attacking options to take the pressure off the Reds' Spanish talisman, Fernando Torres, and sees the 27-year-old Hammers striker as an ideal candidate, along with PSV Eindhoven forward Ola Toivonen.

On the other hand, Hodgson has also said he does not plan to sign any ‘first-team material’ until the end of January.

Reds Teenager Joins Vitesse

Liverpool's teenage striker, Nikola Saric, has joined Eredivisie club Vitesse Arnhem on loan.

The 19-year-old was viewed as a potential star of the future when he first moved to Anfield from Danish club Herfolge in the summer of 2008 and he had been linked with Barcelona.

But Saric, who was born in Bosnia but has represented Denmark at Under 16, U17 and U18 level, has suffered with a succession of unfortunate long-term injuries in Liverpool's reserve team.

The forward will now join Vitesse at their Eredivisie winter break training camp on 8th January as he aims to rebuild full fitness and confidence in order to get his career back on track.

When Saric arrived at Liverpool he was compared in style to Sweden international Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Vitesse will hope the additional attacking option can help the club climb the Eredivisie table.

Ince Says Son Deal Is '50-50'

Notts County manager Paul Ince believes it is '50-50' whether his son Thomas extends his loan at Meadow Lane for the rest of the season.

The teenage midfielder has made six appearances for the Magpies since joining on loan from Liverpool, but his current deal expires next week.

Magpies boss Ince believes the 18-year-old is benefiting from first-team football and hopes to convince his Liverpool counterpart Roy Hodgson to agree to an extension.

"It's 50-50 at the moment," said Ince in the Nottingham Evening Post. "I've spoken to Roy and will speak to him again to try to sort out a deal to keep him here until the end of the season.

"At this moment Thomas is at the best place he could be and he needs to stay here.

"He was training with the first team but not playing games so he needed to get out on loan. That is why he is here, and he's doing very well.

"He's a flair player and he needs to be pushed to express himself. I think he is now starting to express himself here.

"He feels accepted by the players and fans, and they want to see him produce a moment of magic, which is a big thing for an 18-year-old."

Liverpool FC Mourn Loss Of Title Winning Defender Bill Jones

Liverpool mourned the passing of two title winning defenders last night.

Bill Jones, 89, and Avi Cohen, 54, were remembered in a minute’s applause before last night’s Anfield clash with Wolves.

Jones passed away from natural causes at the Countess of Chester Hospital on Boxing Day. Bill, whose grandson Rob Jones also played for Liverpool, stacked up 277 appearances and 17 goals during the 1940s and 1950s.

Capped twice by England he joined Liverpool in 1938 from Derbyshire club Hayfield St Matthews but immediately saw some of the prime years of his career wiped out by the war.

By the time the Football League resumed ‘normal service’ on the last day of August 1946, Bill was 24 years old. He immediately made up for lost time by helping his club win the First Division championship, playing in 26 of the 42 league matches, including the title ‘decider’ at Wolves.

Bill was a regular member of the side for the next seven seasons and was a versatile man who could play well in several different positions.

He played in Liverpool’s first-ever Wembley FA Cup Final against Arsenal in 1950.

In 1953-54 which proved to be Bill’s last season at Anfield, the relegation which had been narrowly avoided the previous season became a reality.

Bill’s 256th and final league appearance for Liverpool came on a day when relegation had already been confirmed; the Reds went down 3-0 at Blackpool, marking a sad end to a fine Anfield career.

Speaking proudly about his grandson Rob in the 1990s, he said: “We are very proud of his achievements and I have to admit he is a better player than I was. He is a lot faster for a start!”

But former Reds captain Don MacKinlay paid Bill Jones a stirring tribute in 1955.

“One of the finest centre- halves I have ever seen,” he declared. “I would have loved to have played behind him. What a tragedy it was he was moved about such a lot. Why Liverpool let him go this season I just don’t know.”