Monday, February 28, 2011

Match Report: West Ham United 3 - 1 Liverpool

West Ham produced arguably their best display of the season to haul themselves back off the bottom of the Premier League and all but end Liverpool's faint Champions League hopes.

Goals from Scott Parker, Demba Ba - rapidly developing into one of the signings of the January transfer window - and Carlton Cole secured a 3-1 win at Upton Park and kept the pressure on the Hammers' relegation rivals.

Glen Johnson pulled one back for Liverpool but their late rally was in vain as their revival under Kenny Dalglish suffered its first major setback.

The defeat left the Reds eight points behind fourth-placed Tottenham having played a game more, while Avram Grant was able to celebrate a result that moved the Hammers level on points with fourth-bottom Wolves.

The hosts certainly did not lack for confidence in the opening moments, Thomas Hitzlsperger - making his Premier League debut for the club - unleashing an outrageous 40-yard volley that flew into the arms of Jose Reina.

A minute later, Raul Meireles looped a header wide from the fit-again Steven Gerrard's pinpoint 50-yard ball before Martin Skrtel was booked for tripping Frederic Piquionne in full flight.

Meireles also fired straight at Robert Green, Gary O'Neil's shot hit a Liverpool defender and Glen Johnson saw a header from a corner blocked before the game settled down.

A Hitzlsperger rocket was again too close to Reina before Parker showed the kind of precision his team-mate had been lacking to give West Ham a 22nd-minute lead.

He and Hitzlsperger played a neat one-two on the edge of the box and Parker floated a delightful finish right into the far corner with the outside of his foot.

Dirk Kuyt hit the side netting from 20 yards following a lightning Liverpool break when team-mates were arguably better placed.

The recalled Piquionne then sent a wicked ball across the six-yard box, which just evaded Ba.

Liverpool struggled to respond, Luis Suarez repeatedly coming off second best in his personal battle with the impressive James Tomkins.

Right-back Martin Kelly's low drive was too close to Green as the interval approached, while Mark Noble curled a free-kick wide at the other end.

Liverpool suffered another blow when Kelly pulled a hamstring and was replaced by Joe Cole, Dalglish switching his formation from 5-3-2 to 4-4-2.

That was not the end of their woes, with the unmarked Ba powering home a header on the stroke of half-time from O'Neil's cross.

Liverpool began the second half on top but nevertheless made a quick change when David Ngog came on for Meireles.

With Wolves having won 4-0 yesterday, West Ham needed another goal to climb out of the drop zone and Ba almost provided it when he drilled inches wide from 25 yards.

Tomkins, Piquionne and Ba were all close to connecting with a corner as the home side hit back.

But they had Green to thank for preserving their two-goal lead when Suarez finally beat Tomkins with a quick turn and unleashed a rising drive which the goalkeeper tipped behind.

Piquionne missed a glorious chance to kill the game when he glanced Noble's corner wide midway through the half but West Ham's commitment was summed up when Parker threw himself in front of a goalbound Gerrard shot.

Gerrard was making his presence felt and Green tipped a dipping volley over the bar from the England star.

Reina had to be equally alert to beat Ba to the ball from a Hammers break but he almost produced an absolute howler when he spilt Piquionne's shot goalwards before recovering.

It was all Liverpool at this stage and Grant responded by withdrawing Piquionne for Jonathan Spector after Cole had mishit a volley for the visitors.

But the Reds' pressure paid off six minutes from time when Suarez crossed for Johnson to tap into an unguarded net.

West Ham ran down the clock by bringing on Cole for Ba - although time-wasting was the last thing on the substitute's mind as he left Skrtel in a heap and drilled home at Reina's near post in stoppage-time.

There was still time for Suarez to test Green again but the points had already been lost.

Kenny Dalglish Wants Team To Learn From Mistakes

Disappointed Kenny Dalglish has urged Liverpool to learn from their mistakes after their eight-match unbeaten run was brought to a shuddering halt.

First-half goals from Scott Parker and Demba Ba sent West Ham United on their way a convincing 3-1 victory at Upton Park yesterday.

Glen Johnson's 84th-minute strike – his second goal of the season against his former club – did threaten a comeback until Carlton Cole's injury-time clincher.

And Dalglish has warned his players there can be no repeat of the failings that gave Liverpool too large a task to overcome after the interval.

“The last 20 or 25 minutes we started to play a wee bit like we can,” said the Anfield manager.

“We got the goal near the end and we thought we might steal a point, but then Carlton scored. There were a couple of shouts for a penalty, things that are outside our control that you can’t manage, but we’ll try and correct the mistakes we made today.

“I don’t know if it was an aftermath to Thursday night, but we just didn’t seem as good as we have been.

“We still had a few opportunities up and around their box. Obviously we’re disappointed at losing, but it was the way we played as well. Don’t take any credit from West Ham, though.”

Injuries to Martin Kelly and Raul Meireles added to the gloom for Dalglish, although the Liverpool manager was pleased to see Steven Gerrard return from a three-match absence and Johnson recover from an Achilles problem.

The game came too soon for Andy Carroll, with Dalglish refusing to rush the £35million into his debut having been sidelined since December by a thigh complaint.

“We’re analyzing Andy every day,” said the Scot. “He’s better than bang on schedule. We never pencilled in a date when he’d play.

“If he’s okay, then as soon as he is he’ll be involved.

“We just have to wait and see. There’s been nothing that’s happened since he came in that’s had an adverse effect on his progress.

“We never had him in mind for this game.”

Remarkably, yesterday's defeat was only Liverpool's sixth in their last 47 meetings with West Ham.

Kelly Hoping For Speedy Recovery

Martin Kelly is hoping a scan on his injured hamstring will give him positive news as he looks to continue his excellent form under Kenny Dalglish.

The England U21 international was forced off the field in the first half during Sunday's 3-1 defeat at West Ham United after he pulled up while mounting an attack down the right wing.

"I knew straight away I had injured my hamstring," Kelly told

"I took Scott Parker on down the right and when I took my last touch I felt a pull in my hamstring and there was no way I could carry on.

"I will have the scan and hopefully it won't be too bad.

"I'm usually a quick healer and we have good medical staff at the club so hopefully I will be back soon."

While the defeat at Upton Park ended Liverpool's excellent recent run, which had seen Kenny Dalglish's side go eight games unbeaten, Kelly insists the squad are determined to make an instant response and show their true colours in next Sunday's Anfield showdown with arch rivals Manchester United.

He added: "We were all disappointed with the result and our performance on Sunday and we've got to put this behind us and look forward to the big game against Manchester United at Anfield.

"It's at home, we will have our fans behind us and hopefully we can give them the result we all want."

Meireles Shining Bright Under King Kenny

Liverpool ace Raul Meireles has revealed how the arrival of Kenny Dalglish has brought the best out of him.

The Portuguese international, a contender for the ESPN PFA Fans' Player of the Month in February, signed for Liverpool under former manager Roy Hodgson, but believes the change at the top has worked in his favour.

A lack of backing from the now West Brom boss is highlighted as a reason for his slow start to life at Anfield, but the 27-year-old has become influential in a more advanced position for the Merseysiders.

"It is certain that under Dalglish I get more chances than I did in Hodgson's time," Meireles told the People.

"The system we play now is different. We play more in attack, which helps me. I don't know why, but perhaps Hodgson didn't think too well of me. But I am the same now as I was then."

Signed from Porto, Meireles spoke of the relationship 'King Kenny' has with the players, and how his style of training is also benefiting the players at Liverpool despite the defeat to West Ham yesterday.

"Kenny Dalglish is closer to the players and he also speaks to them a lot more in training. The relationship between the players and coach is more direct. Hodgson is a veteran coach, an old-school gentleman, and was respectful towards the players. But the injuries and bad start to the season damaged our work with him."

The £11.5 million acquisition is now an integral part of the Liverpool line-up, and his five goals in eight appearances suggests Dalglish really has made all the difference.

Charlie Adam To Turn Down Spurs For Liverpool Move

The Blackpool captain Charlie Adam was chased by the Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish for some time during January transfer window, but Ian Holloway was not impressed by the amount of money on offer and simply refused to allow him to move to Anfield.

Then the Spurs boss Harry Redknapp made an attempt to take Adam to White Hart Lane in the final hours, but yet again the paperwork was delayed enough by Blackpool to prevent any move happening before the final deadline.

Both teams are expected to return with new offers in the summer, especially as Harry Redknapp surprisingly named Adam in his top three players this year in the PFA awards, but according to today’s People, Adam will refuse a move to North London in favour of Liverpool as he is desperate to sign for the club he supported as a boy, and to work under Kenny Dalglish.

Adam is presently suffering from a mystery injury, but if he recovers well, it is nearly certain that Liverpool will return with a new bid for him in the summer, but they will have to match whatever Tottenham offer before Holloway will let him leave Blackpool.

Liverpool Target Opens Door For Big-Money Move

Aston Villa midfielder Ashley Young has reiterated his desire to wait until the end of the season before deciding whether he will commit his future to the Midlands club.

The announcement comes amidst heavy media speculation that Young is a transfer target for Liverpool, with Kenny Dalglish keen to bring the England international winger to Anfield reports the Metro.

Young’s current contract expires in the summer of 2012, and Villa chiefs will be keen to extend his deal after recent stunning performances has raised his profile even further.

If however he decides his long-term future lies away from Villa Park then boss Gerard Houllier may be forced to sell Young in the summer, or risk losing their prized asset for nothing in just sixteen months time.

"I have always said I will leave talks until the end of the season and that's how it is," Young explained in an interview with The Sun.

His reluctance to commit his future has alerted Liverpool who are keen to further strengthen their attacking options with a particular focus on recruiting a winger.

Director of Football Strategy Damien Comolli has given the green light on a summer approach for Young, who has delivered some scintillating performances in the Barclays Premier League this season.

He scored twice in Saturday’s 4-1 victory over Blackburn Rovers, helping to extend Villa’s recent return to form, but Young is said to doubt his current club’s long-term ambition and capabilities reports

A move to Liverpool could be favourable with Anfield owners NESV making a statement of intent in the recent January transfer window when they spent in excess of £50m for the capture of Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll in a bid to return the Reds to their former glories.

Long-term Liverpool Target Back On Anfield Radar

Want-away winger Sylvain Marveaux could still complete a move to Liverpool after Rennes chiefs admitted he would never again play for the Ligue 1 club.

The 24-year-old Frenchman emerged as an Anfield target in the January transfer window after the arrival of Director of Football Strategy Damien Comolli.

Comolli was thought to be keen on using his contacts in France to persuade the player that Liverpool was the place to be, and Marveaux was reportedly in the Director’s box at Anfield for Liverpool’s home defeat against Wolves back in November.

Searching for a move away from France, Marveaux was left out-in-the-cold at Route de Lorient, rarely featuring for Les Rouges et Noirs this season.

And having now been ruled out for the rest of the campaign with a groin injury, Rennes General Manager Pierre Dreossi admitted, “We will never see Sylvain Marveaux in the jersey of Rennes again.”

The former France Under-21 international has spent his entire career to date at Rennes, but with his contract set to expire in the summer Liverpool now look to be the favourites to land the player’s signature.

According to, Marveaux’s representatives have already entered discussions with a number of potential suitors.

Should Marveaux make the switch to Anfield, he is likely to provide Liverpool with an exciting attacking option – possessing bags of creative ability as well as an eye for goal.

Newcastle United had also expressed an interest in the former France U-21 international, with Alan Pardew looking to use some of the money generated from the sale of Andy Carroll to Liverpool to considerably improve his current wage.

But that offer looks to have been placed on hold with Marveaux now likely to be heading to Anfield in time for next season.

Arsenal Planning £20 Million Move For Liverpool's Pepe Reina

Arsenal is plotting a £20 million bid to bring in Pepe Reina from Liverpool, according to the Daily Star.

The Gunners have struggled in the goalkeeper position since Jens Lehmann left the club at the end of the 2007-08 season, with 20-year-old Wojciech Szczesny now the first-choice shot-stopper.

With Manuel Almunia and Lukasz Fabianski having both failed to impress at the Emirates, it has been reported that the north London outfit are willing to break the bank for a world class goalkeeper.

It is thought that Reina is high on Arsene Wenger's wish-list and with the Reds' European aspirations having taken a blow with Birmingham's qualification for the Europa League as a result of their win at Wembley, Arsenal are reportedly ready to swoop.

Reina is said to have been offered a new £110,000-a-week deal to stay at Anfield but the Spaniard has made clear in recent weeks that he does not want to wait to play in the Champions League.

Manchester United have also been heavily linked with the former Villarreal man, who has become one of Liverpool's most consistent performers despite their erratic league form this season.

LFC Youngster Joins Hull On Loan

19-year-old Liverpool attacker David Amoo has joined Hull City on loan until the end of the season.

The deal is still subject to Football League clearance, but is expected to go through later today.

Amoo recently spent some time on loan at MK Dons, making three appearances, but now joins Championship side Hull in their quest for promotion.

Hull are currently ninth in the league, five points off the play-offs.

Amoo made his debut for Liverpool’s first team in the Europa League qualifier against Rabotnicki last summer.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Premier League Preview: West Ham United vs Liverpool

West Ham will continue their increasingly anxious fight against Premier League relegation when they host a Liverpool side which could feature Steven Gerrard.

Avram Grant's side have spent almost the entire season in the drop zone, but are still only eight points adrift of 10th-placed Stoke.

The fact that safety has remained tantalisingly within reach therefore provides reason for West Ham to be optimistic, but also frustrated that they have been unable to find any form of consistency.

Liverpool's season has been equally confusing as in the first half of the campaign they produced dreadfully uninspiring form for Roy Hodgson, but they have now gone eight games in all competitions without defeat under Kenny Dalglish.

That form has propelled the Anfield club into the top six and they are just eight points adrift of Tottenham, who sit in fourth place and crucially occupy the last UEFA Champions League position.

Liverpool, who defeated Sparta Prague on Thursday night to reach the last 16 of the Europa League, have refused to get carried away by talk of the top four, but there cause could be boosted by the return of captain Gerrard from his groin injury.

Injury news

The England international has missed the last three games and watched the win over Sparta from the stands, but is expected to feature at Upton Park.

There is less positive injury news for West Ham as they will again be without Matthew Upson due to an Achilles injury.

On-loan striker Robbie Keane, who spent an unhappy 18 months with Liverpool earlier in his career, will not face his former club as he remains absent with a calf strain.

German midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger is expected to make his Premier League debut for West Ham after overcoming injury to feature in Monday's FA Cup demolition of Burnley.

Liverpool will check on Martin Kelly and Daniel Agger, who were both forced off against Sparta, and Glen Johnson (Achilles).

Fabio Aurelio (adductor) is out and Andy Carroll (thigh) is still unlikely to make his debut, but Luis Suarez returns after being ineligible for the recent European games.

Possible starting XIs:

West Ham: Green, Reid, Tomkins, Jacobsen, Bridge, Sears, Parker, Noble, Hitzlsperger, Cole, Ba.

Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Skrtel ,Carragher, Kelly, Lucas, Gerrard, Maxi, Meireles, Kuyt, Suarez.

Kuyt Relishes Luis Partnership

Dirk Kuyt believes he can strike up a formidable partnership with new signing Luis Suarez because they speak the same language - that being Dutch.

The 30-year-old feels the capture of the Uruguayan is the key to reigniting Liverpool's stuttering season.

Having played for Feyenoord in the Eredivisie, Kuyt says he and former Ajax striker Suarez can create a deadly double Dutch partnership because they are on the same wavelength.

"Sometimes it is helpful to speak in the same language because defenders can't understand what you are saying," the Dutchman told the Daily Mirror.

"I know I can help him. He speaks Dutch after his time in Holland, and that is good in terms of partnership.

"He played for the rival Ajax but every week I watch the Dutch league and I know how well he has been playing. The time we played together, I thought it went well and it will only get better.

"I was excited when he signed and the first thing I told the lads and everyone around the club was that we had signed a top, top player."

Kuyt is in no doubt that the Reds have pulled off one of the signings of the season having paid £23 million for the 24-year-old's services.

And in turn he believes Suarez has joined one of the biggest clubs in Europe.

"I phoned him just before the deal was completed and told him he was signing for a big club," Kuyt said.

"And I am sure it is just a matter of time before we get back in the Champions League."

Frustrated Cole Hoping To Hammer His Former Club At Upton Park

Joe Cole is hoping for another opportunity to ignite his Liverpool career against first club West Ham on Sunday.

The England midfielder has endured a frustrating season at Anfield after a high-profile free transfer from Chelsea last summer.

The 29-year-old was sent off on his Barclays Premier League debut for the club in August and has since been hampered by injuries and poor form.

Former boss Roy Hodgson became reluctant to use the player but the appointment of Kenny Dalglish as caretaker manager seven weeks ago has offered a fresh chance.

Cole had to wait until Thursday's Europa League clash with Sparta Prague for his first start under Dalglish due to a knee problem but lasted the full 90 minutes and could continue at Upton Park.

Dalglish said: 'Joe Cole coming back is a real bonus for us. It has been a stop-start season for him.

'It is a great credit to him the way he finished Thursday's game - he ran almost the full length of the pitch to almost score in the last minute.

'There is not much wrong with his fitness, he just needs to get back into match practice and the lad will be OK.

'I don't think he needed to show anybody he wanted to play.

'It has been frustrating for the wee man, sent off in his first game and then he picked up two or three injuries.
He never really got going.

'It's the first opportunity I've had to have him in the squad and he's a great asset to have.'

Dalglish's return for a second spell as manager has transformed the mood at Anfield after a dismal six months under Hodgson.

The Reds are unbeaten in eight matches in all competitions and back in with an outside chance of a top-four finish in the Barclays Premier League.

Confidence is growing and supporters have certainly united behind Kop hero Dalglish, but the Scot does not want to take much credit for the change of atmosphere.

Dalglish said: 'I don't think there has ever been any doubt about the quality here but there is no point having quality if you don't have the application.

'I think the boys have really applied themselves brilliantly since we came in.

'They have responded brilliantly to the work on the training ground with Steve Clarke and Sammy Lee and let's just carry that forward.

'I think they deserve a great deal of credit for the way they've turned it around.

'They are the ones that play, they are the ones that get results.'
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is hoping to prove his fitness to return at West Ham after three games out with a groin injury.

Striker Luis Suarez is back in contention after being cup-tied for the last two games against Sparta.

Defenders Martin Kelly, Glen Johnson and Daniel Agger will all be assessed but the match is likely to be too soon for £35million record signing Andy Carroll to make his debut.

Dalglish is expecting the relegation-threatened Hammers to provide a stern examination of his team's credentials.

He said: 'We go into every game knowing it is going to be difficult and West Ham is no different to any other, irrespective of league position.

'It is a magnificent club we are playing against and we will always treat them with respect.

'But the most important team to get ready is our team. We will do our best to do that.

'West Ham is a fantastic football club that have not had the best of seasons but that doesn't mean to say they can't turn it on their day.

'I just hope their day isn't Sunday.'

Sunday will be the first time Dalglish has prepared a team to play the weekend after a midweek European game.

The 59-year-old did not manage in Europe during his first spell in charge from 1985-91 due to a ban imposed on English clubs.

Much is often made of the hangovers Premier League teams have suffered from playing in Europe but that is not an issue concerning Dalglish.

He said: 'We have not done anything we wouldn't have done if it was a normal league game.

'There are a few players that could be back on Sunday that could be helpful and freshen the team up a bit.

'But if you are going to win matches you are going to have to play more.'

Kenny Dalglish To Be Handed A Two-Year Contract At Liverpool

Liverpool is believed to be in line to hand Kenny Dalglish a two-year deal to prolong his stay as the manager of the club.

The 59-year-old was asked to step in and take the reins after former boss Roy Hodgson parted ways with the Reds, owing to a difficult set of results that had curtailed the Merseyside outfit to a mid-table position.

The Scot has since come in and breathed new life into the players, who have managed to put in some strong performances and lift the club to sixth in the Premier League.

Now The Mirror reports that the Reds - who had brought in Dalglish only to manage until the end of the season - will hand him a two-year deal to make his job permanent.

It has also been reported that the deal could be done before the clash against Manchester United, which is scheduled to take place on March 6.

Andy Carroll Told To Lose Weight Before Making His Debut

Liverpool is reported to have told their new striker Andy Carroll that he needs to lose weight before making his debut for the club.

The 22-year-old arrived on Merseyside after the Reds reached a record £35 million agreement with Newcastle United for the transfer of the imposing forward on deadline day last month.

The Gateshead-born player has been prevented from making his debut for the Reds by a thigh injury, but is expected to return to action within the next two weeks.

Having not played a single game this year, the forward is thought to have accumulated a little excess weight. And now The People reports that he has been told to shed some of it before making his first appearance for the club.

Apart from the big money acquisition of Carroll, Liverpool also brought in Luis Suarez from Ajax during the winter transfer window.

Moussa Sissoko Admits He Has Been In Contact With Liverpool

Moussa Sissoko has admitted he would be "delighted" at the prospect of moving to England to play for a big Premier League club and has revealed sides have already been in contact with him, including Liverpool.

The 21-year-old French international has been linked with a move to England previously with Tottenham and Manchester City both rumoured to be interested in signing the defensive midfielder.

Speaking to France Football, Sissoko admitted that a move to England may prove to be too tempting to resist but insisted he was concentrating on Toulouse at the moment.

"I would be delighted if one day I am lucky to join a big English club," he said.

"But I don't think about it so far. I had contacts with English clubs, notably Liverpool, but I preferred to commit myself to Toulouse, the club where I have been educated, to get more experience.

"It is up to me to go on improving, to become a world class player, to play in the biggest clubs and to join the French team as soon as possible."

Tommy Smith: Steven Gerrard’s Class Is Impossible To Replace

The old saying ‘you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone’ has been highlighted at Liverpool in our last three matches.

We struggled to overcome Sparta Prague on Thursday, ground out a deadly dull goalless draw in Prague last week and were held at home by Wigan a few days earlier.

And for me it was no coincidence that Steven Gerrard was missing from all three with a groin injury.

I took my 12-year-old grandson Matthew to Anfield with his pal on Thursday and I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so quiet!

There was very little to excite him and while I don’t subscribe to the theory that Liverpool are a one man team, we’re certainly a less potent team with Steven Gerrard sat in the stands.

Ultimately we got the job done without him – and it was an important victory.

I firmly believe that with Stevie back playing regularly and Andy Carroll available for selection we have a very good chance of winning the Europa League – or UEFA Cup as I still prefer to call it!

We are still slowly climbing out of a deep hole of two Texans’ making, but we are climbing out, slowly but surely.

A run to the latter stages of this competition would confirm that Liverpool is a club on the rise once again.

In that event a 1-0 home win over Sparta Prague would be quickly forgotten, but it could prove to be a pretty significant result in the long term.

What Thursday’s game did underline, however, is that we don’t have the men currently available in the squad who can have the same impact on a match that our skipper has.

Lucas is clearly not the same type of player, while Christian Poulsen, I’m afraid, has nothing like the same class or quality.

His passing on Thursday was very disappointing.

The message is clear.

Steven Gerrard, get well soon!

Martin Kelly Is Worthy Of England Call

It wasn’t difficult to work out what brought England boss Fabio Capello to Anfield on Thursday night.

With Steven Gerrard and Glen Johnson ruled out through injury, there were only two Englishmen lining up against Sparta Prague.

It’s highly unlikely Capello had been lured up north by the chance to run the rule over Joe Cole.

After all the midfielder has only recently regained fitness and has produced nothing in a red shirt over the past seven months to warrant adding to his 56 caps.

Cole will need to start holding down a place in the Liverpool side before his country come calling again.

Capello undoubtedly took his seat in the directors’ box to cast his eye over Martin Kelly and the young defender ensured his trip was worthwhile.

The 20-year-old from Whiston has been a revelation this season.

Kelly is already an under-21 international and senior honours can’t be far away.

Over the past decade Liverpool fans have longed for a homegrown talent to follow in the footsteps of Gerrard and Jamie Carragher. Someone capable of ensuring the side still possesses a Scouse heartbeat after those two loyal servants have hung up their boots.

Academy graduate Kelly looks capable of carrying the mantle.

The presence of the woeful Paul Konchesky limited his chances under Roy Hodgson earlier in the season. Ten of his 12 starts before Christmas came in either the Carling Cup or Europa League.

Many players have flourished under Kenny Dalglish over the past seven weeks but none more so than Kelly.

Since being handed a starting spot for the FA Cup tie at Old Trafford in Dalglish’s first game at the helm he hasn’t looked back. The boss’ faith in him has been emphatically rewarded.

Such has been his impact that England’s first choice right-back Glen Johnson has found himself shifted out to the left. It might not only be his Reds spot which Kelly takes from the £18million man.

Starting nine out of 10 games under Dalglish, he’s been a model of consistency and is now one of the first names down on the manager’s team sheet.

During the opening 45 minutes against Sparta on Thursday night he was Liverpool’s standout performer.

He made one crucial defensive interception but it’s his attacking qualities which are earning him rave reviews.

At 6ft 3ins, Kelly is a tall and strong but also a great athlete and packs an impressive turn of pace. Carragher is one of the youngster’s biggest fans and recently described him as “turbo charged”.

Sparta couldn’t handle him and but for some woeful finishing Kelly’s quality from wide areas would have helped kill off the tie.

A twinge in his leg forced him off at the break and he was sorely missed in the second half as Liverpool toiled in search of a breakthrough.

Kelly’s enthusiasm and determination to impress is clear. That burning desire to succeed has been crucial because progress hasn’t been plain sailing.

As a teenager in the youth team he missed two years of football due to back problems prior to his promotion from the academy to Melwood in 2007.

His eye-catching full debut against Lyon in October 2009 ended with him limping off. Injuries have hampered him but Kelly has kept fighting.

Being short listed for the PFA Young Player of the Year award and getting a call from Capello ahead of next month’s clash with Wales would be just reward for a youngster with a big future.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

John W Henry Praises Kenny Dalglish On Facebook

John W Henry has given further validation of Kenny Dalglish's Liverpool reign by praising the "total team effort" that has transformed the club's season in under two months.

Liverpool's owners, the Fenway Sports Group, are due to announce a permanent replacement for Roy Hodgson at the end of the season but may revise that time frame in light of the impact made by Dalglish.

Liverpool have risen from five points off bottom place to sixth in the Premier League since the Scot took temporary charge and head to West Ham on Sunday on the back of an eight-game unbeaten run. That sequence yielded a place in the last 16 of the Europa League at the expense of Sparta Prague on Thursday night and has prompted another endorsement of Liverpool's management team from Henry. The club's principal owner, posting on his Facebook page, said: "Over the last seven matches, I believe, only one goal (and that may have been offside) has been conceded. Terrific effort on defense with increasing aggressiveness."

Dalglish has been consulted on Liverpool's long-term plans by the owners and was instrumental in the combined £57.8m deadline-day outlay on Luis Suárez and Andy Carroll. However, he insists there have been no discussions over his expected promotion from temporary to permanent Liverpool manager. His immediate concern is West Ham where Suárez, who is ineligible for the Europa League, will be recalled to a side that toiled in attack against the Czech champions. Liverpool will give late fitness tests to Steven Gerrard, Martin Kelly, Daniel Agger and Glen Johnson before the game, with the captain still rated as doubtful having missed the last three matches with an adductor strain.

Kelly and Agger were both injured against Sparta and the match-winner Dirk Kuyt believes their contributions have been invaluable to the side's improved away form.

Under Hodgson Liverpool won one league game away from home in 10 attempts. At West Ham they will be seeking a third consecutive victory in four away league games under Dalglish. "The team is in a much better shape right now," said Kuyt. "The other thing is that we are not satisfied with the results we have been getting. We are hungry to keep progressing and we are working hard in training. It's good that we have had six [league] games unbeaten but we won't be satisfied until we have more.

"We have much more confidence. We have had a lot of clean sheets and defensively we are much stronger. That gives you confidence up front. We have got players to come back and on Sunday, Luis can play. We have got some strength."

Raul Keen To Extend Goal Spree

Raul Meireles will aim to extend the hot-streak that has seen him plunder five goals in his last six league matches when Liverpool visits West Ham on Sunday.

The Portuguese ace has been in scintillating form since Kenny Dalglish took control of first-team affairs and has been a major player in the Reds' eight match unbeaten run.
Earlier this season the Reds won 3-0 at Anfield with goals from Glen Johnson, Dirk Kuyt (pen) and Maxi coming in the opening 38 minutes.

Last season at Upton Park Liverpool emerged 3-2 winners with Fernando Torres (2) and Dirk Kuyt earning the points. Liverpool was twice pegged back before Torres netted the winner with 15 minutes remaining.

The Reds look to record their fifth league double over the Hammers in the last seven seasons.

Liverpool have won five of the last six clashes at Upton Park scoring 13 goals and conceding five and lost just once in the last eight visits.

In the last 46 league meetings home and away Liverpool have lost just five.

Liverpool has failed to score in only 2 of the last 12 league visits.

In those last dozen games the Reds have managed only 2 clean sheets.

In the last 6 meetings home and away Liverpool have prevented West Ham from scoring on 5 occasions, recording 5 wins and a draw.

Three Liverpool players have scored hat-tricks for Liverpool at Upton Park-Roger Hunt in 1965, John Toshack (1976) and Michael Robinson (1983).

Liverpool's biggest wins on this ground came in September 1965 and January 1976 when they won 4-0.

Their heaviest defeat saw them lose 7-0 in September 1930.

The last red cards issued in this fixture came in the same incident when Luis Garcia and the Hammers' Hayden Mullins were dismissed for an altercation.

Joe Cole played for the Hammers on 149 occasions scoring 13 times between 1998 and 2003.

Glen Johnson began his career at Upton Park making 16 appearances before his 2 year spell at the club ended in 2003.

Johnson's last goal for Liverpool came against today's opponents at Anfield in November.

Daniel Agger scored his first Liverpool goal against West Ham in a 2-1 win at Anfield in 2006.

Raul Meireles has scored in 5 of his last 6 league appearances for the Reds including games against 2 of the other W's - Wolves and Wigan.

Dirk Kuyt made his Liverpool debut against West Ham at Anfield in August 2006 while Jamie Carragher made his league debut against the Hammers at Anfield in January 1997.

The Reds are unbeaten in the last 6 league games since losing at Blackpool last month and have taken 14 points out of the last 18.

Liverpool is aiming to record a 3rd successive away win for the first time since May 2009.

Thursday's win over Sparta Prague extended their unbeaten run to 8 games.

Vic Watson is the only West Ham player to score a hat-trick against Liverpool, doing so September 1930 in the 7-0 win.

West Ham's last win over Liverpool came at Upton Park in January 2008 when Mark Noble scored a 93rd minute penalty for the Hammers to secure a 1-0 win.

That victory is their only success against the Reds in the last 17 league meetings home and away.

The Hammers are unbeaten in their last 3 away league games but at home have won just 1 of the last 5 (2-0 against Wolves on New Years Day).

They have scored 14 goals in the last 5 games in all competitions including 5 against Burnley in the F.A. Cup last Monday.

In the Barclays Premier League they have kept one clean sheet in the last 14 games.

Their 3 home wins in the top-flight have come against Tottenham (1-0), Wigan (3-1) and Wolves (2-0).

Frederic Piquionne is the Hammers leading scorer in the league with six goals - his last came in a 2-2 draw at Everton last month with his goal celebration seeing him pick up a second yellow card.

They have scored 14 goals at home this season - only Birmingham (13) have netted fewer in front of their home fans.

Pepe: Confidence Key To Form

Pepe Reina today reflected on Liverpool's eight-match unbeaten run and insisted: 'It's all about confidence.'

The Reds beat Sparta Prague 1-0 at Anfield on Thursday night to extend their undefeated sequence and successfully navigate a passage into the last 16 of the Europa League.

And Reina feels a swell in self-belief has been the main contributing factor to their excellent form.

"We have to go little by little and keep progressing," said the custodian.

"We've had a couple of months of the level we're supposed to be at. It's about confidence. We've said it many times this season but finally we've got the confidence back and results are improving.

"We are winning games and that's what makes a difference to the confidence in the dressing room. Let's keep that momentum and keep progressing."

Liverpool's form has been assisted by six clean sheets in their last seven outings.

Reina added: "Any team that wants to be successful has to build from the back and to defend well is the first step to improve things.

"The understanding between us all is really good and whoever plays always does really well."

Next up for Reina and co is a trip to Upton Park to take on relegation-threatened West Ham United.

"It will be a tough game," said the stopper. "They are involved in the fight to avoid relegation, are under enormous pressure and they need to win points.

"For us it's the same because we need to keep climbing in the table and getting higher."

Kuyt Could Be Pivotal In Liverpool's Bid For Dutch Prodigy

20 year old Georginio Wijnaldum has been immersed in the World of football from the age of six and is another example of Holland’s majestic youth development system. Two-footed, fast and skilful he is also level headed and intelligent.

When asked in 2008 about interest from the likes of Real Madrid and Liverpool he explained that he still had a lot to learn in the Dutch League and would be ready to take the next step in a couple of years.

With great strength and agility he would be a force in the Premier League and will be successful wherever he goes. Liverpool fans should be excited to know that his football icon happens to be Dirk Kuyt who moved to Liverpool from Feyenoord in 2006.

With one more year on his contract Feyenoord may want to cash in while they can whilst Wijnaldum may be interested in a move away due to his club’s dismal form this season. At the moment Feyenoord are languishing in 14th place but out of 18 teams – one place above the relegation play-off places. The 10 – 0 defeat to PSV in October can’t have gone very far in assuring Wijnaldum that now isn’t the time to leave.

With over 100 senior appearances in the Eredivisie he may feel that he has improved enough to a move abroad to one of the bigger European clubs in order to gain some Champions League familiarity. Liverpool will have to work hard to capture his signature, however, and any slip up will be capitalized upon by the likes of Real Madrid and Milan.

With Kuyt no doubt whispering in Georginio Gregion Emile Wijnaldum’s ear Liverpool would seem the most likely destination and if it comes off he would be a welcome addition to Liverpool and the Premier League.

Jose Enrique Nears Anfield Switch

Liverpool is reportedly close to completing a deal for Newcastle defender Jose Enrique.

According to talkSPORT, reports in the Spanish press claim the 25-year-old is poised to seal a switch to Anfield in the summer after the two clubs agreed a fee in the region of £6 million.

Enrique's contract is set to expire in 2012 and it appears Newcastle is ready to cash-in on the Spaniard after Liverpool made their interest known.

Manchester United have also been linked with a move for Enrique - as have Aston Villa - but Liverpool look to have won the race for his signature.

Liverpool has been in the market for a recognized and reliable left-back in order to permanently fill the problematic role.

The departure of Paul Konchesky - albeit temporarily - from Anfield has left Liverpool short on options at full-back and the acquisition of reinforcements remains a priority for the Merseyside club.

Glen Johnson has been deployed on the left by Kenny Dalglish of late, but the Liverpool boss is after a more long-term solution and it now seems Enrique may be the man to plug the gap.

Liverpool have also been linked with Celtic's Emilio Izaguirre and former Kop favourite John Arne Riise, but it looks increasingly likely that Enrique will become their latest recruit when the transfer window reopens in June.