Thursday, January 06, 2011

Match Report: Blackburn 3 - 1 Liverpool

Roy Hodgson has survived many low points in his short spell as Liverpool manager but Wednesday night's 3-1 defeat at Blackburn would seem to be one disaster too far and could hasten his exit from Anfield.

Even before Saturday's injury-time winner against Bolton the suggestion was club owners New England Sports Ventures were actively looking for a replacement.

On this performance they will probably have to speed up that search as two goals from Benjani Mwaruwari, who had not started since November 6 and scored once in 12 previous appearances, and one from Martin Olsson condemned the Reds to a ninth Barclays Premier League defeat of the season, despite Steven Gerrard's late consolation.

The now almost-obligatory chants for club legend Kenny Dalglish surfaced in the second half and at one point it seemed all four sides of Ewood Park were singing "You're getting sacked in the morning" to Hodgson.

Liverpool had lost just one of their previous 24 league meetings against Blackburn but even that was not enough encouragement for the travelling fans.

They voted with their feet, as they had done against Bolton on Saturday when Anfield was about 8,000 below capacity, and for the first time failed to fill the Darwen End at Ewood Park.

Pity the poor souls who made the short journey east as they had to endure a result more demoralizing than the 1-0 defeat at home to Wolves last week.

Despite coming up against one of the most lightweight midfields in the Premier League - Olsson, David Dunn, Morten Gamst Pedersen and Junior Hoilett - Liverpool failed to impose themselves on the game.

Fernando Torres, who was on the end of some tough tackling but nothing over the top, flashed an early header wide but spent most of the game complaining to referee Andre Marriner.

Rovers looked far more threatening and after Dunn had volleyed over from the edge of the penalty area and Mame Biram Diouf had bundled an eight-yard shot straight at Jose Reina they found their shooting boots.

Defender Ryan Nelsen was given plenty of time in the centre circle to play the ball out to Diouf on the left and when he knocked it on Olsson raced past the static Glen Johnson to fire past Reina in the 32nd minute.

Five minutes later it was Sotirios Kyrgiakos' turn to be slow to react as Benjani controlled Pedersen's cross on his chest and turned to lash a ferocious volley past Reina.

By contrast the most work Rovers' inexperienced goalkeeper Mark Bunn, deputizing for the injured Paul Robinson, had to do was fingertip Joe Cole's angled shot wide of the far post.

The Liverpool manager's misery was complete when in the 57th minute Hoilett went around Martin Skrtel and Johnson as if they were not there and from the byline crossed for Benjani to sidefoot home his second of the night.

In almost an exact replay of Benjani's second goal Diouf ran into the left of the area and crossed into the six-yard box but Hoilett could not get his outstretched foot on the ball.

Gerrard, on his 550th Liverpool appearance, fired in an 80th-minute consolation when Torres' shot was blocked but that barely raised a cheer from the travelling support.

When the captain ballooned over a penalty five minutes later, after being fouled by Salgado, any hopes of an Istanbul-style fightback were dashed.

But even an occurrence such as that would have done nothing to mask the malaise the club are currently in.

Hodgson, as both Fulham and Liverpool manager, has now won just two away league games since the start of the 2009/10 season.

That has contributed significantly to his problems but a failure to win over fans and impose a suitably offensive style of play has also been a factor.

This result and the embarrassing sound of Rovers fans singing "Can we play you every week" and "Are you Burnley in disguise" will not have gone unnoticed in the Boston headquarters of NESV.

The next move is surely theirs and it is one Hodgson will be dreading.

Liverpool Owners Consider Roy Hodgson's Future

Liverpool's owners are considering whether to sack manager Roy Hodgson but no decision has yet been taken, BBC Sport understands.

Liverpool is 12th in the Premier League table following Wednesday's 3-1 loss at Blackburn - their ninth defeat in 20 top-flight games this season.

With over half the campaign gone, the 18-times league champions are currently four points above the relegation zone.

Hodgson left Fulham to take charge at Anfield in July.

The 63-year-old replaced Spaniard Rafael Benitez but has struggled to win over the Liverpool fans as his side has laboured in mid-table.

A 1-0 home defeat by Wolves on 29 December piled the pressure on Hodgson before Saturday's last-gasp 2-1 win over Bolton looked to have earned him some breathing space.

However, following the poor performance at Ewood Park, Hodgson refused to discuss his future and said only that he felt "dejection, bitter disappointment, frustration" at the result.

The former Inter Milan, Blackburn and Switzerland boss was appointed by Liverpool before the current owners, New England Sports Ventures, took over the club in October.

Liverpool Prepare Shock Move For Out-Of-Favour Premier League Star

Liverpool is being linked with a January move for Aston Villa midfielder Stephen Ireland.

The former Irish international has found it difficult to settle at Villa Park under French manager Gerard Houllier, and the Metro reports that Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson has targeted the player as someone who can strengthen the Reds in the centre of the park.

Ireland joined Villa as part of the deal that saw James Milner move to Eastlands, but his in-ability to secure a first team spot under the former Liverpool chief has led to speculation that he is to leave the Midlands.

Heavily linked with a move to Anfield last summer, the player remains on the radar of the Merseysiders despite the summer change in manager.

With a valuation in the region of £4.5 million thought to be placed on Ireland's head, Liverpool are more than capable of meeting the fee following the arrival of NESV as the club's new owners.

John W. Henry and his consortium are thought to have pledged a transfer war chest in the region of £35 million at the disposal of Hodgson, despite his Liverpool future currently being unclear.

The Reds chief is thought to have drawn up a shortlist of 'five or six' players to target this month, and whilst an attacking foil for Fernando Torres is believed to be the priority, Hodgson is also looking to strengthen in several key positions.

Keisuke Honda, Mamadou Sakho and Yann M'Vila are all midfielders linked with a Liverpool move in January, and it remains unclear as to which player the club will move for first.

Liverpool Supremo Schedules Part Exchange Talks With Samba Star

Liverpool is ready to enter into talks with Juventus about the future of Alberto Aquilani with striker Amauri also on Damian Comolli’s agenda, according to Sky Italia.

Aquilani is currently on loan at the Old Lady and has admitted he is enjoying his time back home and would relish a permanent move to Turin.

Liverpool is unlikely to block Aquilani’s move and will enquire about the prospect of taking Amauri to Anfield, possibly in a loan deal.

However, Juve are ready to counter that offer with a suggestion of a swap deal, possibly involving Liverpool centre back Daniel Agger.

Agger yesterday revealed he would be willing to leave Anfield if he did not regain his place in the Liverpool first team saying: “If I'm not playing in the Liverpool team on a regular basis then I am ready to move on.

“I have only just returned from three months out injured so I am in no position at the moment to say I must be in the side for every game.

“But once I have made a few appearances and regained full fitness, I would expect to be starting games. If I'm not playing, I can't see a reason for staying.”

The 30-year-old joined Juventus in controversial circumstances from Palermo and, after impressing during pre-season, has endured a torrid time at the famous club.

The one-time Italian international ended a seven-month goal drought in October 2009 but Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson is an admirer of him and is keen to link him up with Fernando Torres, or at least use him as an alternative to the World Cup winner.

Earlier this week Hodgson admitted he will have to rest Liverpool’s goal ace Torres at times throughout the rest of the season and he needs someone to come in and take the goalscoring burden off his shoulders.

“I think we will have to rest Gerrard and Torres at times," said Hodgson. "We have to hope that the supporters understand that.

“Fernando had a very serious knee injury, which seems to be in the past, but when you've had an injury there's always the little risk of recurrence.”

Liverpool Tipped To Swoop For Ferguson Prodigy

Liverpool is preparing a bid for Preston teenager Adam Barton, according to The Mirror.

The 19-year-old Northern Irishman is hot property after a string of impressive performances for the Championship side and now - reports The Mirror - he could be set to leave Deepdale in January.

Barton was given his chance in the first team by former Preston boss Darren Ferguson and the midfielder's commanding debut led his manager to wax lyrical - something the starlet was overwhelmed by.

"The family rang me up saying about what the Gaffer said and I am just over the moon with that," Barton said at the time. "To play 45 minutes and to be seen as effective was something brilliant for my debut."

With Barton seemingly gathering admirers on a weekly basis, Liverpool are thought to be leading the chase for the youngster, although the Anfield club is reportedly trying to convince Preston to lower their £5 million asking price.

New Liverpool owners NESV have identified the development of young players at their Academy as a priority - tasking director of football strategy Damien Comolli with bringing teenage stars to Anfield.

Comolli is renowned for having an eye for talent in its infancy - something which Liverpool Academy director Frank McParland paid testament to.

"His [Comolli's] philosophy is to bring through young talent and he's since told me that we will be seeing a lot of him here at the Academy," he told the official Liverpool website.

"That can only be good news for us. He has a strong interest in young, elite players and we are already in the process of looking to sign some very talented teenagers.

"He has a great network in Europe and when you combine that with what we already have in place here, it promises to be very exciting times for us."

Liverpool have also been linked with Southampton starlet Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lille sensation Eden Hazard as they step up their pursuit of young talent.

Teenage Strike Sensation Backed To Make Surprise Liverpool Switch

Liverpool is reportedly eyeing a surprise swoop for Watford teenager Marvin Sordell.

According to The People, Birmingham are also monitoring the 19-year-old after his nine goals this season helped fire the Hornets into promotion contention.

The striker is thought to have impressed watching scouts with his eye for goal and technical ability and - despite a recent dip in form - Liverpool are reportedly monitoring his progress.

Sordell is the latest prodigy to be linked with Liverpool as the Anfield club look to invest in young talent in order to build a squad for the future.

Preston midfielder Adam Barton and Southampton winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are also thought to be on the Reds' radar after Liverpool owners NESV outlined their intention to bring Europe's top youngsters to Anfield.

"On the field we have to be smarter," NESV supremo John Henry told the Liverpool Echo.

"Arsenal and Man U have depth that is young and capable. We do not. We have a lot of work to do there. A lot of work. And we will, but we have to be smart about it. We are here for the long term.

"Everything we do is for the long term. Our biggest responsibility is to bring in the right people to the club on and off the field.”

Director of football strategy Damien Comolli has been tasked with identifying potential targets as Liverpool attempt to add to their stable of starlets which includes Spanish duo Dani Pacheco and Suso.

Reds Make Huth Enquiry understands Liverpool have made a firm enquiry for Robert Huth.

However, Stoke appear intent on keeping the Germany international.

Huth has played over 20 times for the Potters already this season and is proving he is well over the fitness concerns which blighted his previous spells with Chelsea and Middlesbrough.

The towering centre-back moved to the Britannia Stadium in the summer of 2009 when Stoke paid Boro £5million for his services.

Tony Pulis has been delighted by Huth's impact but his form has attracted the attention of rival clubs, including Liverpool. understand that the Reds made an enquiry earlier this week.

It is believed the struggling Anfield outfit would have been willing to pay £5million, but it is understood Stoke would want double that before even considering doing a deal.

Liverpool Plan January Bid For Newcastle United Winger

Liverpool are being linked with a January move for Newcastle United winger Wayne Routledge.

The 25-year-old joined the Toon a year ago from Championship outfit QPR, and now Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson is reportedly ready to make an offer for the player.

An £8 million valuation is believed to have been placed on the player’s head by Alan Pardew, who has used the winger sparingly since his arrival at St James’ Park.

The Metro claims the Hodgson’s interest in Routledge has peaked after the Anfield outfit was priced out of a move for Charles N’Zogbia, and the Liverpool boss is keen to add width and pace in the transfer window.

Arsenal Plan Move To Sign Liverpool Defender

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger will make enquiries into signing Liverpool defender Daniel Agger who appears unhappy at not being guaranteed first team football. The Danish international spoke out about the club’s style of play under Roy Hodgson and in doing so appeared to anger the veteran manager and now the former Brondby man, back from injury, has stated that he will look for a move if he is not a regular in the Anfield starting eleven.

Wenger has previously been linked with a move for Agger who can play effective at left back but much prefers his usual role in the centre of defence and given that the Gunners boss has been openly looking to strengthen his back line a move for the disaffected Liverpool man makes a great deal of sense.

Some sources have stated that Roy Hodgson would be open to offers for a player who appears to be low down in the club’s central defensive pecking order with the likes of Martin Skrtel, Jamie Carragher and even Greek international Sotirios Kyrgiakos getting the nod over Agger.

Arsenal’s defence has been noticeably shaky this season with new signings Sebastien Squillaci and Laurent Koscielny on occasion making mistakes and the Emirates boss has made it clear he would like to bring in reinforcements and given Agger’s proven Premier League credentials a move for the £10m rated Dane would make a great deal of sense.