Thursday, January 13, 2011

Match Report: Blackpool 2 - 1 Liverpool

The manager and the year may have changed but Liverpool's problems away from home continued as Kenny Dalglish's first Barclays Premier League match since returning as boss ended in defeat at Blackpool.

Liverpool's troubles on the road contributed to the departure of Roy Hodgson last weekend but the Seasiders showed October's win by the same score at Anfield was no fluke.

Fernando Torres had given Dalglish the ideal start with a third-minute strike but goals from Gary Taylor-Fletcher and DJ Campbell extended Liverpool's miserable away league record to just two victories in almost 13 months.

It was not the start the 59-year-old Scot was expecting on his return to the top flight after more than 12 years away.

Dalglish said when he took over at the weekend he did not think the game had altered much.

However, when he was last in charge of Liverpool almost 20 years ago, Blackpool were in the old Fourth Division and the times are changing as Blackpool secured their first league double over Liverpool since 1947.

It had all begun so well for the visitors, looking to bounce back from Sunday's FA Cup exit at Manchester United.

After that game Dalglish had promised to get Torres back to his best after a laboured season and he was true to his word as the Spaniard struck in double-quick time from the kick-off.

And the goal came from another of the manager's tactical decisions, which saw the returning Glen Johnson, whose partner gave birth to a boy last night, lined up in an unfamiliar left-back position after Martin Kelly's impressive display against United.

Dalglish was rewarded for keeping faith with youngster Kelly as he set up the opening goal.

When Dirk Kuyt span the ball out to the defender he advanced over the halfway line before rolling a pass into the inside-right channel.

Torres did not need a second invitation, racing into the area and even from a tight angle he was able to fire a ferocious shot past Richard Kingson and into the roof of the net.

It was only the Spain international's second goal in his last nine matches and just his seventh of the season.

The visitors' joy lasted only until the 12th minute, however, as when Raul Meireles carelessly gave the ball away to David Vaughan in midfield he played in Taylor-Fletcher to exact the ultimate punishment by running through the defence to roll a shot under Jose Reina.

All the players then ran to the touchline to hold up a T-shirt with the words '4 Butch you Bluenose RIP' - a reference to Macclesfield player Richard Butcher who died suddenly this week.

Blackpool had the better chances in the remainder of the half, with Campbell heading wide from five yards and Taylor-Fletcher almost catching out Reina with a lob from the right wing after the goalkeeper duffed his kick.

The home side stepped up the pressure after the break with Charlie Adam's left-footed drive beaten away by Reina, who then tipped over Vaughan's shot.

Liverpool almost produced an eye-catching response when Milan Jovanovic's left-wing cross to the far post saw Torres volley well over, with the Spaniard also forcing a low save from Kingson this time from the left of the area.

Meireles then cut in from the right to hit a left-footed shot wide while Kuyt's low effort forced Kingson to save at the expense of a corner.

With 21 minutes remaining the Seasiders struck the killer blow when Ian Evatt beat Martin Skrtel to Eardley's deep cross and Campbell headed home.

Meireles' header from Torres' cross at the other end was not as accurate and dropped just over the crossbar.

Liverpool could have had a penalty in the 79th minute when the ball hit Craig Cathcart's arm, which was raised well above his head, but referee Michael Oliver blew for a foul by Torres.

The Reds have now lost 10 of their 21 league matches and eight out of 11 on the road.

If Dalglish wants the job on a permanent basis he will have to find a way of eliminating results such as this.

Kenny Dalglish: Defensive Frailties Must Be Resolved

Kenny Dalglish has admitted Liverpool need to improve defensively after Blackpool defeated his side 2-1 in the Premier League.

An early Fernando Torres goal saw a dream start for the Reds, yet a quick equalizer by Gary Taylor-Fletcher followed by a late DJ Campbell header saw the Seasiders register an impressive home victory.

Roy Hodgson's replacement has now lost his first two games back in charge of the club where he gained legendary status as a player, following the weekend's loss to bitter rivals Manchester United in the FA Cup.

"We are disappointed we have come away from the game with no points", Dalglish said to the BBC.

"Their first goal we were on the verge of breaking clear, misplaced a pass and they turned it around, went up the pitch and got a break of the ball off Daniel Agger before their lad finished well.

"The second goal we cleared the corner quite sufficiently and then is has come back in and we've not picked up.

"Some of the problems you can solve yourself. I wouldn't be too harsh on the players as they've been a credit to themselves. A lot played for over an hour against 11 men on Sunday.

"We've had three days training and I'll get to know them a lot better through training and playing matches. It doesn't matter how good a player you are, if you haven't got the confidence it will take a little while to get there.

"I wouldn't be here if the club was flying. it might have fallen in league points, but it definitely hasn't fallen in the love people have of the place.

"I haven't had any conversations with Damien Comolli or the hierarchy about money or transfers this January. I don't know. I haven't asked and they haven't told me."

One positive from the night was Torres' early goal, which Dalglish was impressed with.

"It was fantastic start and a great goal from Fernando but more importantly great passing to get him in there," he told Sky Sports.

"We passed it well up to a point, the final ball wasn't as good as what the boys are capable of, but we'll work away and try and develop that and give them the confidence they need to go on and produce more positive results than that."

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain Link Grows Stronger At Anfield

Liverpool are reportedly preparing a bid for Southampton starlet Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

The England U18 international has been linked with an Anfield switch for close to a month now, but speculation in the British media has reached fever pitch today with new Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish reportedly ready to make a move.

Damien Comolli, director of football strategy at Liverpool, has made personal scouting trips to watch the player on a number of occasions, and the Frenchman now appears to have given the green light with regards to a move.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is also thought to be interested in the player dubbed 'the new Theo Walcott, whilst Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is also thought to be monitoring the situation.

However, it seems the Merseysiders are ready to make the first move for the player, who has made 22 League One appearances for the Saints in his fledgling career thus far.

New Liverpool owners NESV are keen to see young, attacking talent added to the ranks at Anfield, and have provided Dalglish with a transfer war chest in the region of £35 million.

An attacking foil for Fernando Torres is thought to be the priority for the Reds, and a flying teenage winger with the talents of Oxlade-Chamberlain would certainly be heralded as a coup by the Liverpool faithful as they hope for reinforcements this month.

Whilst neither club has confirmed the interest, it is thought that an initial fee of £10 million with add-ons of £2 million could be enough to bring the player to Anfield for Liverpool.

Liverpool Join Aston Villa & Birmingham In Pursuit Of Charlie Adam

Liverpool has joined Aston Villa and Birmingham in the race to sign Blackpool’s Charlie Adam, according to Sky Sports.

Adam has been a key figure at the club so far this season with a number of noteworthy performances that have helped Blackpool blossom in the top flight.

Manager Ian Holloway is firmly trying to keep hold of the 25-year-old, and has already declined a £2.5m bid from Aston Villa for the player and confirmed that he is looking to bolster his squad instead of weaken it.

New Reds boss Kenny Dalglish is looking to add creativity to the side and confirmed that he is eager to see fresh faces at the club in a bid to return to Europe’s elite.

Nathan Eccleston To Join Charlton Athletic On Loan Until The End Of The Season

Liverpool starlet Nathan Eccleston is set to join Charlton Athletic on loan until the end of the season.

The 20-year-old striker is down in London to finalize the deal and trained with the Charlton first-team on Wednesday morning.

Eccleston is expected to be available for the Addicks' trip to Sheffield Wednesday as the League One side look to mount a promotion push in the second half of the season.

The Manchester-born forward has made seven appearances for Liverpool so far this season, mainly featuring in the Reds' Europa League campaign.

But the Merseysiders want their young prospect to gain more experience and have a strong relationship with Charlton after they signed Jonjo Shelvey from the Londoners for £3 million in the summer.

Eccleston, who joined Liverpool when he was 15, spent last season on loan at Huddersfield and scored one goal in 12 appearances.

Liverpool’s Unwanted £18m Trio Wanted By Newcastle United, Aston Villa & Valencia

A queue is beginning to form in the pursuit of three Liverpool players who are seemingly surplus to requirements by the Anfield side. Kenny Dalglish and Damien Comolli are apparently willing to listen to offers for winger Ryan Babel, full backs Paul Konchesky and Emiliano Insua who are wanted by Aston Villa, Newcastle United and Valencia respectively.

Gerard Houllier is looking to freshen things up at Villa Park after a disastrous start to his Aston Villa reign and he apparently likes the look of Ryan Babel who has consistently failed to impress at Liverpool during his three and a half years at the club.

Alan Pardew is keen on left back Paul Konchesky who he knows from his time at West Ham and the Newcastle United boss may well feel he can purchase the former Fulham man relatively cheaply as it appears he is not wanted at the club after some sub standard performances. His place has recently been handed to Fabio Aurelio since Roy Hodgson left the club.

Valencia are eyeing up a move for Argentine youngster Emiliano Insua and given that Liverpool were ready to sell the 22 year old to Fiorentina then presumably as long as the La Liga meet their valuation then he will be heading for an Anfield exit. Insua is currently on loan at Galatasaray but is reportedly set to be sent back since the appointment of new boss Gheorghe Hagi.

Kenny Dalglish Considering Dietmar Hamann For Liverpool Return As Coach

Dietmar Hamann is a contender to return to Liverpool as part of Kenny Dalglish’s new-look backroom staff, UK can disclose.

Hamann, who is mid-way through a one-year player-coach contract at MK Dons, has not played since October 30 because of injury.

He has ambitions to move in to coaching full time when he hangs up his boots and is believed to welcome the opportunity to be reunited with Liverpool.

The former Germany international played 299 games in seven years at Anfield, where he was a firm favourite with supporters and was a key member of the 2005 Champions League-winning side and the team that won the treble in 2001.

Dalglish, who has already brought former Chelsea and West Ham No.2 Steve Clarke on to the Liverpool coaching staff as first team coach, has begun a shake-up of the backroom team in alliance with the club’s director of football strategy Damien Comolli.

Former chief scout Eduardo Macia, a key ally of ex-boss Rafael Benitez, left the club last week along with five other scouts, most of whom were appointed by the Spaniard. Roy Hodgson’s former No.2 Mike Kelly has also parted company with the Merseysiders.

Liverpool To Offer Claudio Ranieri Anfield Manager Post In June

Liverpool is reportedly been in talks with Roma coach Claudio Ranieri in relation to offering the 59 year old the managerial post at Anfield in the summer. The former Chelsea boss is free to leave his post at the Stadio Olimpico in June and is apparently open to a return to England according to Italian source Leggo.

Kenny Dalglish will remain in his post as caretaker manager until the end of the season and whilst the Scot will be considered for the position on a permanent basis, the club’s owners are also drawing up a short list of potential candidates which will apparently include Ranieri.

The much travelled manager has plied his trade across Spain, Italy and England and is well respected in the game. His current spell at Roma has been a success, he helped the Giallorossi to within 90 minutes of their first Serie A title in a decade before being pipped to the post by Inter Milan.

Ranieri’s stint at Chelsea helped lay the ground work for Jose Mourinho’s successful era at the West London club. The Stamford Bridge club registered Premier League finishes of sixth, sixth, fourth and second before ‘The Special One’ claimed the title in his first season at the club.

Other candidates linked with the Liverpool position are said to include Frank Rijkaard, Didier Deschamps, Owen Coyle and Martin O’Neill.

Liverpool Owners Set To Attend Kenny Dalglish's Anfield Homecoming

Liverpool's new owners will be present for Kenny Dalglish's Anfield homecoming on Sunday and have continued to restructure the club by sacking the majority of its European scouting network. They are also closing in on the appointment of a new chief executive, with Celtic's Peter Lawwell a frontrunner for the post.

John W Henry, Liverpool's principal owner, is expected to attend the Merseyside derby against Everton when Dalglish will take charge of his first home game since replacing Roy Hodgson last Saturday. The chairman, Tom Werner, may attend the game too. It will be the Scot's first appearance as a Liverpool manager at Anfield since a goalless FA Cup fifth-round tie against Everton in February 1991.

Henry has not visited Anfield since the 2-0 victory over Chelsea in November. He has subsequently had to bring forward plans to replace Hodgson, complete with another expensive pay-off to a Liverpool manager, amid poor results, falling attendances and open revolt against the 63-year-old by the club's supporters, before installing Dalglish until the end of this campaign.

The appointment of the Liverpool legend has been universally welcomed among the Anfield faithful but presents Fenway Sports Group (the subsidiary of New England Sports Ventures that manages the club) with a potential dilemma this summer. Dalglish made it clear at his official unveiling on Monday that he would be "delighted" to accept the Liverpool manager's job on a permanent basis unless the club identified "someone better" to take over and FSG is understood to be keen on a young coach to take the club forward. Damien Comolli, who will oversee the search for Hodgson's full-time replacement in his capacity as director of football strategy, also admitted the 59-year-old would be considered for the position.

A new chief executive, the managerial situation, possible transfers – such as Southampton's £10m-rated Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – and Liverpool's need for a new stadium will all be on Henry's agenda on his next visit to Merseyside. As the interest in Oxlade-Chamberlain demonstrates, the club's new owners want to invest in top-quality young talent and move away from the scatter-gun approach that arguably characterized Liverpool's recruitment policy before the overhaul of the youth academy under Frank McParland in 2009.

The arrival of Comolli in November was destined to have repercussions for the existing European scouting team. He quickly brought on board Steve Hitchen, who was Tottenham Hotspur's principal overseas scout and is based in France, and the former chief scout Eduardo Macia left the club shortly after Christmas. Macia has now been followed by all but one of Liverpool's European scouts as Comolli restructures that department.

Spencer Stuart, the global executive recruitment company, is believed to be close to ending its three-month search for a replacement for Liverpool's former managing director, Christian Purslow, who left the club within days of FSG's takeover in October. Lawwell was a leading candidate to become the Arsenal chief executive when Spencer Stuart conducted that process in 2008, before the job eventually went to Ivan Gazidis, and has been recommended to FSG.