Thursday, February 03, 2011

Match Report: Liverpool 2 - 0 Stoke

Luis Suarez scored on his debut as Liverpool concluded a turbulent few days with a valuable victory over Stoke.

The Uruguayan slotted home the Reds' second goal of the game in front of the Kop to ensure Fernando Torres' £50million move to Chelsea was no longer the major talking point.

And if questions were being asked about how the Reds would cope in their former striker's absence then efforts by Suarez and Portugal midfielder Raul Meireles - with his third goal in four matches - provided a swift answer.

Record £35million signing Andy Carroll's introduction to the crowd before kick-off was the closest he is likely to get to the pitch for a month as he recovers from a thigh injury.

Unfortunately for Liverpool this was exactly the sort of game from which they would have benefited from the 6ft 3in powerhouse striker.

Conversely, it did not seem that suited his fellow new arrival, although arriving as a second-half substitute with his side already ahead made the task much easier.

The ball spent much of the first half in the air, which benefited Stoke far more than it did their hosts, and as a result Dirk Kuyt found his role as lone frontman a frustrating one at times.

Saying that, he had at least three chances of which at least one would probably have been converted by Torres.

Manager Kenny Dalglish had tailored Liverpool's formation specifically for the Potters, lining up 3-4-2-1 with Lucas Leiva and Fabio Aurelio holding in midfield and Steven Gerrard and Meireles supporting the Holland international up front.

The first chance fell to Sotirios Kyrgiakos, returning to the team in that back three to combat the aerial threat of John Carew, as he headed Gerrard's corner goalwards only for former Liverpool midfielder Salif Diao to clear two yards out.

Jon Walters fired over an angled shot from 10 yards and Carew headed over another ex-Red Jermaine Pennant's right-wing cross, with the hosts having penalty claims turned down when the ball appeared to hit Robert Huth's hand.

Stoke's tactics of keeping everything compact squeezed the life out of Liverpool and disrupted their passing game.

Suarez's appearance off the bench to jog down the touchline brought a standing ovation from the Kop, who as a result almost missed Asmir Begovic's brilliant reaction save to keep out Glen Johnson's close-range header.

Kuyt nodded wide Gerrard's cross and volleyed over from close range before shooting straight at the Stoke goalkeeper when a rare passing move involving Brazilians Lucas and Aurelio cut open the defence.

Within two minutes of the second half resuming Diao was booked for bringing down the advancing Daniel Agger and from the resulting free-kick Liverpool, somewhat fortuitously, took the lead.

Gerrard's low, driven free-kick deflected off Marc Wilson on the end of the wall to Kyrgiakos 12 yards out and although Huth nicked the ball off the defender Meireles was on hand to smash home left-footed.

Carew almost snatched an equalizer on the counter-attack with a shot which flashed across goalkeeper Jose Reina and wide of the far post before, just after the hour Suarez got his chance to start repaying his £22.8million transfer fee - a club record for a few hours on Monday.

His first contribution was to engage Abdoulaye Faye in a sprint which resulted in the Stoke centre-back pulling a hamstring.

One clever backheel to set up Martin Skrtel showed the Uruguayan was not short of confidence, despite not playing a game since December 8 because of a seven-match suspension for biting an opponent while playing for Ajax.

His next involvement was more decisive and was what the Kop had been waiting for.

Kuyt's through-ball sent the forward racing through and having gone round Begovic he rolled the ball goalwards.

For a few seconds it appeared Wilkinson would cut out the shot but his desperate clearance came back off the post and bounced over the line.

While the crowd were still celebrating Reina ensured there was no frantic final few minutes by punching away Walters' shot.

Glen Lauds 'Fantastic' Suarez

Glen Johnson lauded the performance of Luis Suarez after he capped a dream debut with a Kop end strike during the 2-0 win over Stoke City on Wednesday night.

Entering the field to a standing ovation after 63 minutes, Liverpool's new No.7 settled quickly into his stride.

His big moment arrived after 79 minutes when he rounded Stoke 'keeper Asmir Begovic and found the net despite the attempts of Andy Wilkinson to keep it out.

"Luis was fantastic," Johnson told

"It is difficult sometimes to make your debut in a tight game but he came on and he quickly settled in.

"For him to come on and get a goal was brilliant and we are all delighted for him.

"It's definitely his goal. The law says if the ball is going on target it's your goal so he will take that.

"I think in Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll we have made two fantastic signings and I'm sure they will do very well for this club.

"I thought we did really well on the night. We tried to set our stall out from the beginning and we are pleased with our performance.

"We kept another clean sheet and it's another three points - we need to keep it going now."

Raul Meireles struck the first goal with a great hit and Johnson believes the new attacking role given to him by Kenny Dalglish is paying off with rich dividends.

He added: "Raul has got more of a free role now and he scored another great goal. That's three goals in four games now so the longer he keeps that up the better."

Johnson played in a new position himself during the victory over Tony Pulis's side and he did an excellent job for the team at left wing-back.

He said: "I enjoyed it. I'm pleased to play anywhere so I will try and do a good job whatever position I play."

Luis Suarez And Andy Carroll Can Frighten Defences, Insists Dalglish

Kenny Dalglish watched Luis Suarez make a goalscoring debut for Liverpool – then backed his new-look strikeforce to frighten teams at Anfield.

Uruguay international Suarez took just 16 minutes to score after stepping off the bench as a 63rd-minute substitute to secure a 2-0 win for Dalglish’s men against Stoke City last night.

A third goal in four games from Raul Meireles had given Liverpool the lead two minutes and set them on their way to a third successive Premier League victory.

Suarez completed a £22.75million transfer from Ajax on Monday, his fee eclipsed later in the day by the £35m signing of Newcastle United’s Andy Carroll as Liverpool prepared for life without Chelsea-bound Fernando Torres. And a delighted Dalglish said: “I think we will start to frighten some of the opposition when they come here and we’ve got Luis, Carroll, Gerrard, and Meireles. They are four really good players who will compliment each other really well.

“Andy’s going to be a few weeks but we didn’t buy him for that, but for five-and-a-half years.”

Dalglish scored on his Anfield debut against Newcastle back in August 1977, and dismissed the suggestion Suarez’s strike could be taken away from the Uruguayan as the ball was eventually knocked over the line by Andy Wilkinson’s desperate attempts to clear.

“Was it his goal? Well, I gave him it!” said the Liverpool manager. “It was going in – he can have the first goal as well if you want!

“It’s great to score on your debut. Him and Dirk Kuyt linked up very well too, it’s not been too bad a day for us.”

Suarez had not even trained with his team-mates before being named on the bench, and hadn’t played club football in more than two months due to a ban in Holland for biting a PSV Eindhoven player.

And Dalglish said: “I’m delighted for him. The lad’s not even had the opportunity to train with us yet because of administrative issues to sort out. He only got his work permit yesterday, and was straight in the squad tonight.

“When he starts training with the lads will see him improve. He’s got big smile on his face every day, he’s a happy guy and a good guy.

“We were never going to put any timescale on him, he’ll be fit when he’s ready – but he’s not doing too bad as he is.”

Last night’s win moved Liverpool to within two points of sixth-placed Sunderland, and Dalglish said: “Is the table looking healthier? Just a touch. It’s an old adage, but we are taking each game as it comes. It stood us in good stead for many years here. That’s what we will do.

“We cannot afford to and we will not get carried away. There’s a lot of hard work to be done. The lads enjoy winning and it’s a good habit to be in.

“The players did really well. Stoke are a difficult team to play against, you have to compete with them and then get your own game going.”

Dalglish added: “Soto was brilliant, with his presence and command of everything that came in the box.

“Three clean sheets is always a bonus and a help. Tonight it was very important for the defenders to do their job properly, and they did that. It’s been a busy week and great credit to the players they haven’t let everything get to them. The way they competed and went about it was great.

“The supporters realise we have players here who want to compete and get as much as we can from every game.”

Stoke manager Tony Pulis had no complaints with the result. He said: “We did okay in the first half until the last 10 minutes and our keeper made a great save. But to come out and concede just after half-time gave them a lift and up until the second goal. I watched Suarez in the World Cup and also for games at Ajax and he is a top player. It will take time for him to settle but he is going to be a top player for Liverpool.”

Liverpool Target Bundesliga Star As Their Next Big Recruit

Liverpool were very active in the transfer window this winter and the overhaul at Anfield will continue right through the summer, with Marko Marin of Werder Bremen being touted as the next target on Kenny Dalglish hit list.

Marin has been much sought after this season and according to the German media it is now Liverpool that has moved ahead of Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United as the favourites to sign the 21 year old.

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish has already been involved in £100 Million worth of transfers since taking over from Roy Hodgson and has made it clear that Liverpool need a complete rebuild, meaning that the buying is going to continue.

Liverpool will not have a clear route to Marin, competition will be fierce, but as we all know Liverpool football club remains a very big pull for most players.

Charlie Adam 'Desperate For Liverpool Transfer

Charlie Adam was 'desperate' for a move to Liverpool during the January transfer window, his agent has claimed, suggesting the Blackpool captain feels he was 'seriously mucked about' by the club.

Liverpool was continually linked with Adam throughout last month and had two offers for the midfielder turned down by the Seasiders.

Blackpool manager Ian Holloway was desperate to hold onto his influential skipper and told Liverpool they would have to add an extra £10million to their offers of first £4million and then £6million if they wanted to sign Adam.

After the Liverpool fell through, Spurs were reportedly minutes away from signing the 25-year-old but could not complete the deal before the transfer window closed.

Despite telling Blackpool fans he remains totally committed to the club, even though he almost joined two other Premier League sides, his agent Kenny Moyes has now suggested the midfielder is currently suffering a ‘world of hurt’.

‘Charlie loves Blackpool and the Blackpool fans, but he was desperate to move to Liverpool - who wouldn't feel that way when a club like that comes calling?’ the Sun quote Moyes as saying.

‘But he was seriously mucked about. Blackpool refused to put a figure on how much they wanted for him and would not enter any meaningful negotiations. It has been a major stress for Charlie, a real emotional roller-coaster. As well as being angry he feels gutted and badly let down as the only player to put in a transfer request and have it ignored.’

Moyes said his client would continue to give his all for Blackpool but added he hoped the club would ‘be fair’ when it came to a possible transfer in the summer.

Commenting on the late Spurs bid on Monday, Moyes rejected manager Harry Redknapp’s claims that Adam was all set to join Tottenham and would now be at White Hart Lane if it hadn’t been for a few Blackpool shareholders failing to sign the deal before the close of the transfer window.

‘They came in far too late. I've seen the stories about how Blackpoool couldn't locate two directors to approve the deal, but we hadn't even talked personal terms with Tottenham. So it couldn't have happened anyway,’ he said.

‘Charlie is naturally a bit down at the moment, but he'll be fine for the West Ham game. He played as well as ever against Sunderland and Manchester United while all the transfer talk was going on, and it will be just the same now.’

Kenny Dalglish Praises Support Of Owners In Transfer Market

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish believes the owners of the Merseyside club are fully committed to continue rebuilding the squad in the summer.

Fenway Sports Group have already broken the club's transfer record to secure the £35 million signing of Andy Carroll from Newcastle United and also brought in Uruguayan star Luis Suarez from Ajax for £22.8m.

The departure of Fernando Torres to Chelsea for £50m and Ryan Babel for £6m means the Reds' big money signings have not hindered the transfer budget in the future.

And Dalglish now believes more activity will follow in the summer.

"The owners have been fantastically supportive during this window, which was busy but I think very beneficial to the football club," said the Scot.

"In fact they may be slightly disappointed they didn't get someone else.

"Anyone who had any doubts about hunger or anybody taking this club forward, they're gone now. In the summer we'll be looking forward to trying to enhance what we've got."

Skrtel - No Torres Shock

Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel says Fernando Torres' exit came as 'no surprise', but feels he could end up regretting his move to Chelsea.

The Spanish striking ace sent shockwaves through Anfield on transfer deadline day when he completed a £50million move to Premier League rivals the Blues.

The 26-year-old has penned a five-and-a-half-year deal at Stamford Bridge and fired a parting jibe at Liverpool by expressing his delight at joining 'one of the biggest teams in Europe'.

But Skrtel, while admitting he saw Torres' departure coming, believes the former fans' favourite could lament leaving Merseyside in the future.

"I expected it," Skrtel told

"There had been plenty of talk for a long time before and when he was not training with us in the last two days, nor was he in the training centre, the speculation just seemed to come true.

"We all feel sorry because he's a player of world class ability but, to be honest, it was no surprise (to see him go).

"I wish him all the best but do not wish any success to Chelsea. Maybe Fernando will regret making this step sometime in the future."

Liverpool has recently enjoyed an encouraging run of results after a miserable start to the season, and Skrtel believes it was that period of turmoil that pushed Torres towards the door.

He said: "There were some hints of him leaving already in the summer when Chelsea claimed interest in him but he agreed with Liverpool on staying.

"However, this season has not been going according to our wishes and expectations and that convinced him that it is the right time to move elsewhere. This is how he explained it to us."

Torres is poised for his Chelsea debut against his former club at the Bridge on Sunday, and Skrtel is determined to keep his ex-colleague off the scoresheet.

"It will be different because so far I have been playing against him only in training," he added.

"I hope he appears on the pitch and, since Chelsea wanted him so much, it is very likely that he will.

"I'm looking forward and firmly believe I won't let him score."

While acknowledging Liverpool will miss the striker, Skrtel is confident new signings Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez can plug the gap left by the Spaniard.

"Such a player would be missed at every club, that's for sure," he said. "On the other hand, we have captured Suarez and Carroll.

"I believe these two will replace him and we will be at least as strong as we were with Nando."

Mark Lawrenson: Fernando Torres Has Made It Difficult For Liverpool Fans To Forgive Him

There’s no good way of leaving Liverpool for Chelsea. There’s no reason you can give that would convince the Anfield faithful that switching their adulation for Stamford Bridge is a wise move.

But what you don’t have to do is completely alienate those supporters by engineering a move at the most inopportune time and coming out with daft statements to back it up.

Fernando Torres is almost 27 and wants to win trophies and play in the Champions League. Fair enough.

But he knew that at the start of the season. If he’d made it absolutely clear then that he wanted to go instead of waiting for Chelsea to come in at the end of January maybe, just maybe, he would have resurrected a bit of respect and understanding concerning his motives.

I’m not saying that anyone should expect undying loyalty from a footballer these days, we know that they have to put their own career first and that makes Torres no better or worse than anyone else.

However, there are ways of going about it.

Last summer, Liverpool was in limbo. Rafa Benitez was on his way, the club was desperately trying to find a new buyer to rid itself of the George Gillett/Tom Hicks debacle and the team had failed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in years.

The fans were disillusioned and couldn’t have blamed the players for feeling likewise.

And if Torres, fresh from a World Cup win with Spain, had come back, surveyed the mess and said, “sorry but I’m off” I don’t think too many would have blamed him.

There certainly wouldn’t have been the same level of antagonism there will be towards him now.

He has scored a few this season, but a finisher of his class can score goals with his eyes shut.

The reality is, he never really gave his all for Roy Hodgson and has sloped around looking uninterested for most of the campaign. If that was his attitude, he should have gone before a ball was kicked.

You can’t have a disillusioned figure running down the dressing room. If someone would rather play for Chelsea than Liverpool you have to let them do that.

But to declare undying love for a club one minute then declare that you’ve “joined a big club now” while sat in front of a giant Chelsea badge the next, is just silly.

For Liverpool, however, it makes it easy to wash their hands of him and move on.

What I like about the deals to bring in Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll is the investment in young, hungry potential.

If this is the direction the new owners want to go in then it can pay off both on and off the field.

Financially, while Carroll especially comes at a very high price, the sales of Ryan Babel and Torres will offset the outlay, and bringing in young players always gives you the time to cash in on them if they don’t prove a success. Babel is a good case in point, he can still fulfil his potential elsewhere.

And on the field, Liverpool will go from relying on one injury-prone – and as we now know uncommitted – striker to having two international forwards.

Kenny Dalglish knows how to get the best out of forwards and he also knows how to overcome the loss of a massively influential player.

That was the status Graeme Souness had at Anfield when he left in 1984 for Italy. He seemed irreplaceable at the time and, similarly in the case of Torres, there wasn’t really anyone who could come in directly and give what he gives to a team.

But it’s about sometimes getting in two players to do that similar job and adapting the side accordingly. You move on and, as I think we’ll see Liverpool do now, you move up.

What Kenny knows more than anything, however, is that nobody is bigger than the club. He is the man who has come closest to having that status, but he still couldn’t manage it.

So he’ll have no trouble making sure Torres is swiftly consigned to the history books.