Thursday, January 27, 2011

Match Report: Liverpool 1 - 0 Fulham

Liverpool's renaissance under Kenny Dalglish continued as victory over Fulham lifted them into their highest Barclays Premier League position of the season.

It was not the most notable of performances, although there were plenty of spells of good football from the hosts, as John Pantsil's second-half own goal divided the teams.

But the Reds registered back-to-back wins for the first time since early November to move up to seventh, within six points of fifth-placed Tottenham, and maintain the feeling of optimism which arrived when Dalglish replaced Roy Hodgson earlier this month.

The last time the legendary Scot faced a Fulham team at Anfield he was player-manager on the occasion of a 10-0 League Cup victory in September 1986 against the then third-division side - and he did not even score.

There was to be no repeat of those fireworks, understandably considering Liverpool's still fragile form and the Cottagers' precarious position.

Until Pantsil put through his own net the main talking point was the goal Fernando Torres had disallowed after just six minutes.

Liverpool's last match, the 3-0 win at Wolves, had prompted much debate - and subsequent sexism controversy - about female referee's assistant Sian Massey.

On that occasion she made the correct call in not flagging Raul Meireles offside for the Reds' opening goal at Molineux.

Male counterpart Mick McDonough was not so accurate as he wrongly ruled the Spain international was offside before he slotted Meireles' through-ball past David Stockdale.

Fortunately for the assistant referee, Pantsil prevented him making the headlines.

Portugal international Meireles was man of the match at the weekend and he started brightly again as he kept the advanced midfield role even on captain Steven Gerrard's return after suspension.

It was he who got on the end of Martin Kelly's right-wing cross to direct a low header goalwards which the goalkeeper turned around his post.

Stockdale was called into action again in the 25th minute when Glen Johnson, playing at left-back, cut inside to unleash a right-footed shot which the keeper tipped over.

Clint Dempsey forced Jose Reina into a low save just before the half-hour but the Spain international should not have been given a chance seconds later when Andrew Johnson cut the ball back to the penalty spot but Moussa Dembele hit his shot straight at the goalkeeper.

Daniel Agger fired a low 30-yard drive wide and Torres headed over from Kelly's cross in added time at the end of the first half as the hosts failed to make their dominance pay.

Maxi Rodriguez had a shot blocked by Aaron Hughes but when a cross was swung back into the area the Argentinian wasted his free header with an aimless looping effort.

But that was forgotten when Liverpool took the lead in the 52nd minute.

Dirk Kuyt's interception of Dempsey's pass touched the ball into the path of Torres on the edge of the penalty area and he unleashed a shot which deflected off Brede Hangeland and rebounded back off the post.

Pantsil and Stockdale got in the way of each other in the resulting melee with the defender, under pressure from Meireles, slicing an attempted clearance over his own goalline.

The Fulham right-back tried to make amends when his cross picked out Dempsey but the American volleyed straight at Reina.

Meireles' quick counter-attack from Reina's throw almost brought the second goal as his attempted pass to Rodriguez deflected off Hughes and had Stockdale scrambling at the foot of his left-hand post to recover.

The Fulham centre-back proved equally effective at the other end as his header forced Reina into a full-length dive to prevent the ball creeping inside the post.

Seconds later Meireles displayed his rarely-seen defensive duties by hacking Hangeland's header off the line with the goalkeeper beaten.

Liverpool hung on, something they have struggled to do in the past, as Dalglish's influence continued to be felt.

At the final whistle the PA system played Somewhere Over The Rainbow. Optimism is definitely growing at Anfield.

Dalgish Grateful For Lady Luck

Kenny Dalglish conceded Liverpool were fortunate to take maximum points in their Premier League fixture with Fulham.

The postponed clash saw the Reds clinch successive victories in the league for the first time in two months as John Pansil's 52nd minute own goal proved the difference at Anfield.

The win lifted Liverpool into seventh, their highest position of the campaign as Dalglish secured his first triumph on home soil since taking over the reins on a temporary basis.

And the Reds chief accepted his latest three-point haul in his second stint in charge came via a gift on his opponent's part.

Dalglish told Sky Sports HD: "I think Fulham might feel injustice and maybe they could have come with something from the game."

But the Reds boss also felt his side had enough of a case to suggest they were worthy winners on Wednesday night.

He added: "In the first half we had six good chances, Fernando gets one chalked off which was onside.

"The lads put in a great effort and they threw their bodies on the line and they didn't want to lose a goal."

The Scot admitted luck was on their side during the encounter, including two gilt-edged chances squandered by Moussa Dembele, as well as Brede Hangeland having his effort cleared off the line by Raul Meireles.

Dalglish claimed: "They've worked hard all season and I think that's one of if not the only game where they've had some good fortune."

"But we're delighted to be up to seventh and the players have been on a hard four games so they can be happy with the work and the three points."

Ajax Set Ultimatum For Liverpool To Improve Luis Suarez Offer

Eredivisie outfit Ajax have set an ultimatum for Liverpool to improve their offer for Luis Suarez before Saturday if they want to lure the Uruguay international away from his current club this winter.

The Reds recently made a €15 million offer for Suarez, but Ajax is holding out for a fee in the region of €35m.

"Luis will definitely not leave the club after Saturday. This situation has been going on long enough. Liverpool has to wrap up the deal in the upcoming two days or it won't happen," Ajax coach Frank de Boer was quoted as saying on a press conference.

The Ajax gaffer added that the Godenzonen won't even let go of Suarez after Saturday if a club matches Ajax's €35m asking price.

"We'll add €5m per day to our asking price from Saturday on until the end of the transfer window."

Reports from England suggested earlier on Wednesday that Suarez was set to open talks with Ajax in an attempt to get his asking price lowered, but De Boer denied any such rumours.

"He thinks Liverpool is a good club, but he understands our decision to hold on to him."

Liverpool Ready To Move For France Star

Liverpool are reportedly considering reviving their interest in Saint-Etienne midfielder Blaise Matuidi.

According to The Times, the Merseysiders are closely monitoring the France international as a move for Charlie Adam continues to stall.

Blackpool are growing increasingly irritated at the conduct of Liverpool in their pursuit of Adam, and the Reds are now ready to cut their losses and sound out another potential acquisition.

And, although Matuidi occupies a deeper midfield role to Adam, Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish is thought to be keen to add a more defensive minded midfielder to his ranks in order to take the reigns off Steven Gerrard.

Matuidi is well known to Liverpool director of football strategy Damien Comolli, who held the same role at Saint-Etienne before moving to Anfield, and he is an outed admirer of the 23-year-old.

However, since his departure to Liverpool, he has angered his former employers who will be reluctant to sell their best players to the Reds.

Matuidi is valued at around €8 million, but whether or not Liverpool is able to seal a deal for the midfielder remains to be seen.

Dalglish Battles Hughes And Bruce For "New Adebayor" understands that Sunderland, Fulham, and Liverpool are in a three-way battle to sign FC Cluj forward Lacina Traore while Aston Villa are also closely monitoring proceedings with the player’s representative hopeful of his client finalizing a deal with a Premier League club.

Sunderland have emerged as a new suitor for the giant Ivorian, dubbed the “New Emmanuel Adebayor,” since the departure of Darren Bent, while Fulham’s Mark Hughes and Liverpool’s Kenny Dalglish have also stepped up their pursuit of 20-year-old.

Reports this morning had suggested Hughes had won the race to sign Traore, however the player’s agent told that no deal had been concluded, with Liverpool and Sunderland still in the race for the front-man.

Traore has been watched closely by scouts from a number of top European clubs in the last 18 months including Bayern Munich, Arsenal, while the reds, Aston Villa, Cottagers and now, the Black Cats, are the latest sides to join the chase for the giant front-man.

“There is now a lot of interest for Lacina. The situation is that we have not received the right offer for him to leave FC Cluj at this time. Thomas Boehm told

“There are plenty of talks between clubs, but nothing concrete. There is a lot of movement at the moment, and there are not many strikers of quality available. I am hopeful that we can conclude a deal, but remember while our goal is to bring him to the UK, there is interest from abroad.

The 20-year-old 6ft 8in striker was linked heavily with a move to Arsenal in last year’s January window, however Gunner’s boss Arsene Wenger ruled out making a move for a striker having purchased Moroccan hit-man Marouane Chamakh on a free transfer in the summer.

New Liverpool Director of Football Strategy Damien Commolli is an admirer of the forward and has had scouts watch the Ivorian, while Villa boss Gerard Houllier, Cottagers chief Mark Hughes, and now Steve Bruce are also among the interested parties.

The Ivorian, who has yet to be capped by Cote d’Ivoire, began his career at ASEC Mimosas under Jean Marc Guiilou, a close friend of Wenger who has helped develop the likes of Manchester City pair Kolo and Yaya Toure, Arsenal’s Emmanuel Eboue, and Chelsea’s Salomon Kalou.

Agent Alerts Suitors To Arda Turan Availability understands that Galatasaray captain Arda Turan looks set to be made available in the summer following a number of enquiries during the January transfer window according to the player’s chief representative.

The Premier League quartet of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur have been perennially linked with the 23-year-old playmaker who has performed well in a poor campaign for Galatasaray thus far which sees the Lions sitting in seventh place in the SPORTTOTO SuperLig.

“Of course there has been a lot of interest, from the Premier League and Spain, but the club does not want to sell Arda at the moment. In six months we will see.” Ahmet Bulut told

“He has two years left on his contract. For sure, he will stay until the end of the season then after we will see. At the moment he is staying because he is the captain of the team, but then we will see.

Turan, 23, had been quoted previously as saying it would be a dream to move to Anfield while Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp had an offer which included Giovanni Dos Santos rejected in the summer. Chelsea and Arsenal are also monitoring the situation.

Turan is an icon in Turkey and one of the most exciting prospects the country has produced, with many Galatasaray fans drawing comparisons with former Gala playmaker and Romanian international Gheorghe Hagi, currently his manager at the Turkish giants.

Ola Toivonen: Last Summer Was Not The Right Time To Join Liverpool

Swedish international Ola Toivonen appeared to be set to leave PSV for Liverpool during the summer transfer window, but the attacker eventually stayed at the Eredivisie outfit when both clubs failed to agree terms.

Toivonen wasn't too disappointed that the transfer fell through and has revealed that it was not the right time to join Liverpool.

"Initially, I really didn't know how to act when I heard about Liverpool's interest. PSV and Liverpool hadn't agreed terms yet, but that seemed a realistic option. I didn't know whether it was the right thing to do to leave PSV for Liverpool," said Toivonen to Voetbal International.

"I discussed it with a lot of people and eventually reached the conclusion that it wasn't the right time to sign for Liverpool. I could have caused problems that PSV didn't want to sell me, but I had plenty of reasons not to do so.

"It was good to see that PSV considered me to be an important player. Additionally, the timing wasn't right. Pre-season had already ended and all first team places were pretty much taken."

Konchesky In Talks With Fulham

Paul Konchesky is in talks with Fulham about rejoining the club and ending his miserable five-month spell at Liverpool as the signing who came to represent Roy Hodgson's brief and unsuccessful time at Anfield.

Konchesky left Craven Cottage in late August to become Liverpool's new left-back but his performances under Hodgson, previously his manager at Fulham, led to him being heavily criticized by the club's supporters and demoted from the team.

The 29-year-old has not played since Kenny Dalglish took over from Hodgson earlier this month and Fulham are hoping a deal can be arranged to take him back to London before Monday's transfer deadline.

Officials from the two clubs were due to hold talks about the deal before tonight's game at Anfield and, if everything goes through, Liverpool will get back in contact with Aston Villa about Stephen Warnock returning to Anfield on a loan deal for the rest of the season.

Nottingham Forest are considering whether the Konchesky deal, in turn, could enable them to take the 19-year-old Fulham left-back Matthew Briggs on loan. Chelsea has refused to let Ryan Bertrand join the Championship promotion contenders now that Patrick van Aanholt, another of Ashley Cole's understudies at Stamford Bridge, has moved to Leicester City on loan.