Sunday, January 23, 2011

Match Report: Wolves 0 - 3 Liverpool

Liverpool's revival under Kenny Dalglish is officially under way after he secured his first win since returning for his second spell as Reds boss in the 3-0 victory at Wolves.

Having seen improvements on the pitch if not in results in his three previous matches in charge after taking over from Roy Hodgson the Scot finally got the victory he was craving.

Fernando Torres scored his eighth and ninth Premier League goals of the season either side of Raul Meireles capping a fine individual performance with a brilliantly-taken second-half volley.

It was only Liverpool's third away win in the league in 13 months and their first point outside Anfield since the 1-1 draw at Wigan on November 10.

The result does not paper over the obvious deficiencies in the squad - which Dalglish is trying to rectify with moves for Ajax forward Luis Suarez and Blackpool midfielder Charlie Adam - but reinforces the belief among the current players given to them by the appointment of the club legend.

Such has been the 59-year-old's influence he is even starting to get performances out of players who have failed to live up to their potential, with Christian Poulsen and Meireles in particular displaying that in this game.

Meireles, playing in the attacking midfield role given to him by Dalglish in the absence of Steven Gerrard, serving the final game of a three-match suspension, has now scored in his last two matches and his form presents his manager with a conundrum for the midweek visit of Fulham when the captain will be available again.

Poulsen's restoration to the starting line-up began badly with a fourth-minute booking but his day was to improve with the defence-splitting pass which created the goal.

It was a rare moment of quality in a first half which was spoiled partly by the poor state of the pitch and partly by the teams, neither of whom really got into their rhythm.

The Denmark international is intrinsically associated with Roy Hodgson's six-month reign of failure at Anfield but Dalglish believes he has more to offer - which is more than can be said for the former Fulham boss's other maligned signing Paul Konchesky who failed to make the squad.

Poulsen's repertoire is not renowned for having many creative interventions but the pass he picked out Meireles with was perfectly-executed through the inside-right channel.

The Portugal midfielder, played onside by full-back Ronald Zubar on the other side of the pitch, seized on the opportunity and raced into the penalty area before cutting the ball back to Torres who side-footed home one of his most straightforward chances of the season.

Meireles had a decent half without being dominant, certainly in the physical midfield battle with Wolves, but showed his class prior to setting up the goal with a brilliant 40-yard diagonal pass to pick out Torres only for the striker to cut inside and shoot straight at Wayne Hennessey.

He also flashed a half-volley wide of the goalkeeper's right-hand post as he continued his improvement in the advanced midfield role he prefers.

Wolves' two best efforts of the first half were Kevin Doyle's mis-hit cross from wide on the right which almost caught out Jose Reina, who did well to smother Steven Fletcher's close-range shot at the far post in added time.

Dirk Kuyt should have doubled the advantage early in the second half when put through one-on-one by Maxi Rodriguez but he delayed his shot and Hennessey charged out to block.

The Wolves goalkeeper was powerless, however, to do anything about the second when it came in the 50th minute.

Daniel Agger's long punt forward was only partially headed clear by Christophe Berra, under pressure from Kuyt, and Meireles lashed a brilliant dipping 25-yard volley inside Hennessey's left-hand post.

The Portugal international had been threatening to do something similar all season and the confidence from his maiden Liverpool goal in last weekend's Merseyside derby showed in the quality of that right-footed strike.

Wolves responded with a brief spell of pressure but although Liverpool have the league's worst record for squandering points from winning positions they held out.

Jonjo Shelvey, on as a substitute for Poulsen, should have put the game beyond doubt with only his second touch - his first having set up his chance from Meireles' pass - but blazed wide with only Hennessey to beat.

Torres continued to pose a threat on the counter-attack and in added time fired into the roof of the net after Kuyt's strong run into the area.

Victory has Liverpool looking up the table with more optimism under Dalglish than they had under Hodgson.

Dalglish Pleased By Shankly Spirit

Kenny Dalglish has hailed the efforts of his Liverpool players after their 3-0 victory over Wolves at Molineux.

Two goals from Fernando Torres and a cracking strike from Raul Meireles gave Dalglish his first win during his second spell as the club’s manager.

And he was delighted by the display his men put on for the travelling support and hopes it will help the Reds kick start their season.

Dalglish said: “Bill Shankly set the standards for this football club and it’s up to us to maintain them. The way the lads played today was a great credit to them and it showed they’ve got great respect for the supporters and the club and that’s important.

“Hopefully that will give them the confidence and the belief back again. We’re not going to be carried away or get complacent in any way shape or form.

“Getting a goal in front, sometimes you get a bit nervous but today they were determined not to lose that.

“[The players] really appreciate the win, their efforts, I think the fans really appreciate it as well and great credit to Pep [Reina] and the back four.”

Kenny Dalglish Backs Raul Meireles To Shine

Raul Meireles showed he has the potential to become a top Premier League player during Liverpool's 3-0 win at Wolves, according to Kenny Dalglish.

The Portugal midfielder moved to Anfield from Porto in an £11.5 million deal last summer, but has struggled to come to terms with the demands of English football.

However, he scored a superb volley and claimed the man-of-the-match honour in Liverpool's victory at Molineux on Saturday.

Dalglish was thrilled to see his side record their first success since he returned as manager and singled out Meireles as one of the main reasons for the Reds securing all three points.

'Raul played very well, he made the first and scored the second. He's a very good footballer,' the Scot told Sky Sports.

'It takes a wee bit of adjusting getting up to speed with the Premier League and he's getting up to that level - he's a talented footballer.'

Dalglish also had some words of praise for Fernando Torres, who scored the first and third goals, but was less forthcoming on the subject of Liverpool's reported interest in Blackpool midfielder Charlie Adam and Ajax striker Luis Suarez.

'If we've got business to do we'll do it behind closed doors. I know what's going on but that doesn't mean I have to tell you,' he said.

Ian Holloway Attacks Liverpool’s Bid For Charlie Adam

Blackpool manager Ian Holloway has launched an outspoken attack on Liverpool, claiming the club’s £4.5 million bid for Scotland midfielder Charlie Adam was “disgraceful”.

Holloway confirmed Liverpool caretaker manager Kenny Dalglish wants to sign Adam, who has enjoyed a fine season and scored from the penalty spot in his side’s 2-1 defeat against Sunderland yesterday.

But Holloway was unimpressed with Liverpool’s offer, having also rejected bids of the same amount from Aston Villa and Birmingham.

“I was thinking Liverpool and Charlie,” he said. “I thought: 'Fantastic, what a great club for him to go to’. Then when I heard the bid I thought it was disgraceful.

“I don’t think it was Kenny that put that offer in. Mr. (Damien) Comolli (Liverpool’s director of football strategy) should look at what is going on and get realistic.

“What they offered is about the price Charlie would have been worth when Kenny was last playing.

Frank De Boer Wants Swift Deal For Luis Suarez

Ajax manager Frank de Boer has admitted he wants any potential move by Luis Suarez to Liverpool to be conducted quickly.

The Reds have reportedly been in contact with the Dutch club regarding Suarez, however the clubs' valuation of the player is believed to still be some way apart.

The Merseysiders are anxious to add fire-power to their line-up as they have been over-reliant on Fernando Torres this season which has seen them fall down the Premier League.

De Boer told De Telegraaf that Suarez will not be allowed to leave Ajax unless he is sure a replacement for him can be found before the end of the January transfer window.

He said: "We won't let Luis [Suarez] go on 31 January at 23.55. It is logical and a deal which I made with Rik van den Boog [general director of Ajax].

"To replace Suarez will be difficult, but we are ready. We have a Plan B, we know what we want if he leaves."

De Boer’s side have been linked with moves for Bas Dost of SC Heerenveen or Eidur Gudjohnsen of Stoke City if Suarez does complete a move away from Amsterdam.

Comolli: We Considered Move For Darren Bent

Liverpool's director of football strategy Damien Comolli has revealed that the club discussed a move for Aston Villa's £18 million new signing Darren Bent and are prioritizing success in the Europa League this season.

Comolli, who was appointed at Anfield in November, admitted that it was likely to be the club's only way of playing European football next season.

In the same revealing interview with French channel Canal+ Sport where Comolli confirmed the club's interest in Luis Suarez and Ashley Young, he also said: “The Europa League is our main goal for the season.

"We have already won [the UEFA Cup] three times, and it's important for us to win it again. For us it is the shortest route – and perhaps the only route – that takes us back into to Europe next season.”

The Frenchman also admitted that the club had considered a move for Bent, who joined Aston Villa this week from Sunderland in controversial fashion, but Comolli felt that the England striker would struggle to play alongside Fernando Torres.

He said: “We thought of him, but we looked at his profile and thought that he would not be very complementary to Fernando Torres. He is a player who is, as the English say, a lone wolf. He needs to play alone in attack.”

Comolli reiterated the need to sign a number of players this January, after stating that the side was suffering from fatigue following last summer's World Cup in South Africa.

He added: “The match against Everton we deserved to win. This was not the case. Why? In my opinion, the team is still suffering from the accumulated fatigue of our players during the World Cup. And when you see the starting line-up, we see that eight players have gone to at least the last 16, and many have gone further.

“This team has quality. I am convinced that the squad left by Benitez is good, but it's true that we need reinforcements.

“I am surprised in a way, given our results, the number of top level players who want to join us. They say that Liverpool is an attractive club, and most are also telling me that ‘you’ve had a bad season, but you won’t have two’.”

The 38-year-old, who formerly worked at Tottenham and Arsenal, also praised Liverpool's American owners for providing the financial backing to improve the squad.

He said: "There is no more debt. The owners are willing to invest, there is plenty of money. When I first got here, the first question I asked was ‘do I have to lower the payroll?’ They said, ‘No, the important thing is to win.’ It was a great relief for me.”

Comolli remained tight-lipped on the future of Kenny Dalglish, after previously stating that no decision would be made on the caretaker manager's future until the end of the season.

He said: “There is no debate. When he came here, we told him that he had six months and after that we'd see. This does not mean he will leave.”

Rafael Benitez Backs Kenny Dalglish's Appointment As Liverpool Boss

Former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has backed the appointment of Kenny Dalglish as boss for the remainder of the season.

This is Dalglish's second stint as boss, having managed the club between 1985 and 1991. He is also the last Reds manager to have guided the Merseysiders to the league title, something he achieved three times, most recently 20 years ago in 1989-90.

Much has changed since he last managed the club, Manchester United having drawn level with Liverpool's record 18 English top-flight titles, and currently leading the way at the top of the Premier League table, so threatening to surge ahead and become the most successful team in England.

Liverpool, in contrast, failed to qualify for the Champions League last season and Benitez parted ways with the club, while Roy Hodgson - who was appointed as the Spaniard's successor - has been shown the door following a protracted run of poor results.

"It will be much better with Kenny because he knows the club and what the fans want," Benitez told BBC Radio Five Live.

"He can talk with the players and they will feel and understand what it means to be a Liverpool player.

"I think that Kenny has been a very good appointment and, hopefully, it will be successful."

One of the talking points of Benitez's reign at Liverpool has been his transfer dealings and the actual quality of the squad he left when he departed to coach Inter (a job he has since lost) last summer.

Now the former Valencia boss has defended his reign by citing what he believes is a "massive" squad, but admits that there were some mistakes.

"We know that we made some mistakes," said Benitez. "We are not happy with some of the signings.

"But we are really pleased with the majority of them, especially if you analyse the team now. [Pepe] Reina, [Glen] Johnson, [Martin] Skrtel, [Daniel] Agger, [Fabio] Aurelio, Lucas, [Fernando] Torres, Maxi [Rodriguez] and [Dirk] Kuyt. It is a massive team.
"The team is good, the value of the squad is really good and, we were making mistakes, but [also] signing fantastic players.

"We signed [Xabi] Alonso, Luis Garcia, Javier Mascherano and Yossi Benayoun and we had to sell if we wanted to buy new players."

Benitez Not To Blame For Liverpool's Woes

Rafael Benitez has denied responsibility for Liverpool's current woes, insisting: "It's not my fault, sorry''.

Benitez presided over a disappointing campaign in the 2009/10 season as Liverpool finished seventh. He was replaced by Roy Hodgson last summer.

Liverpool's fortunes have plummeted even further since then, however, with Hodgson sacked and replaced by Kenny Dalglish with the team only four points above the relegation zone prior to Saturday's clash with Wolves.

But Benitez, who joined Inter Milan in the summer but left before Christmas, admitted that not all of his moves in the transfer market were successful.

"I agree, so we know we made some mistakes,'' Benitez told the BBC. ”Sometimes, maybe one player is a good player and after he doesn't settle down, but if you see, we have a net spending of between 10, 12 million.

"So I think that this, for a top side ... it's not big money. And still I would say to you that we are not happy with some of the signings but we are really pleased with the majority of them.

"In the team now, Pepe Reina, Glen Johnson, Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger, Fabio Aurelio, Lucas Leiva, Fernando Torres, Maxi Rodriquez, Dirk Kuyt, so it's a massive, massive team.

"I am not taking all the credit, I think the team is good, the problem may be the mentality. So I think Kenny can change these things and will hopefully be good for the team.

"But the other thing is that Christian Purslow [the club's former managing director] and Hodgson, they signed seven players.

"Seven players are enough to change a squad, so you can take responsibility for signings in the past but seven players can change a squad. So you cannot continue with this story about the legacy. It's not my fault, sorry.''