Monday, March 21, 2011

Match Report: Sunderland 0 - 2 Liverpool

Dirk Kuyt and Luis Suarez fired Liverpool to victory at Sunderland as the Reds made amends for their beachball disaster on Wearside last season.

Kuyt set the visitors on their way with 33 minutes gone when he converted a hotly-disputed penalty, and Suarez completed the job with 13 minutes remaining.

But the Black Cats trudged off the pitch on the final whistle hugely aggrieved at the penalty decision with defender John Mensah, who was later shown a straight red card for a professional foul on Suarez, appearing to trip Jay Spearing outside the box.

However, while they may have had reason to feel hard done by, Steve Bruce's men were rarely a threat despite enjoying the greater share of possession, and Reds goalkeeper Pepe Reina did not have a save worthy of note to make until he plucked substitute Lee Cattermole's long-range effort out of the air four minutes from time.

Liverpool were much more effective despite £35million man Andy Carroll enduring a quiet afternoon on his league debut for the club, and home goalkeeper Simon Mignolet had to pull off good saves from Kuyt, Suarez and Spearing to keep the scoreline respectable in front of a sell-out crowd of 47,207.

Sunderland went into the game having ended a run of four consecutive league defeats with a hard-earned point at Arsenal a fortnight ago, and with Danny Welbeck back in the starting line-up and skipper Cattermole on the bench after injury, there was genuine optimism on Wearside for a repeat of last season's victory over the Reds.

That day, of course, they enjoyed the most outrageous slice of good fortune when Darren Bent's shot found its way into the back of the net with the help of a deflection off a beachball.

This time around, they had plenty of luck, but all of it bad.

By the time 22 minutes had elapsed, Bruce had been forced to use two of his three substitutes as first Sulley Muntari and then Kieran Richardson limped off.

To their credit, the home side was not unduly affected as Cattermole, playing for the first time since December 28, and Steed Malbranque were drafted in and Stephane Sessegnon and Welbeck were particularly lively.

However, despite enjoying the better of the possession, the Black Cats created little of note before the break with Welbeck's 17th-minute cross from the left which just eluded Richardson as close as they came to troubling Reina.

By contrast, the visitors struggled to get the ball anywhere near Carroll and Suarez, the latter of whom spent much of his time wide on the right, where he was largely effectively shackled by full-back Phil Bardsley.

However, it was they who created the better opportunities with Kuyt the main beneficiary.

Keeper Simon Mignolet bravely blocked the Dutchman's fifth-minute shot at point-blank range after Carroll had headed down Raul Meireles' corner, and Kuyt headed over from the resulting set-piece.

It was he who eventually broke the deadlock, but he did so in controversial circumstances.

Mensah's poor control allowed Spearing to burst towards the penalty area, and the Ghana international brought him down in his efforts to make amends.

Replays suggested the contact had taken place outside the area and referee Kevin Friend pointed to the spot on the advice of his assistant.

Kuyt sent Mignolet the wrong way to give the visitors the lead, and it might have been 2-0 before the break had the Belgian not got down well to palm away Suarez's well-struck 37th-minute effort.

Malbranque miskicked when presented with a 48th-minute half-chance after Jordan Henderson had worked a short corner move with Anton Ferdinand as Sunderland started the second half brightly.

However, the game might have been over three minutes later had Cattermole not managed to block Carroll's header on the line with his knee after the striker had been allowed to meet a Meireles corner unmarked.

The same pair could have put the result beyond doubt with 54 minutes gone when, after Mr Friend had allowed play to continue when Titus Bramble felled the striker, the midfielder fired over the top.

There was fury inside the Stadium of Light when the official then awarded the free-kick, which Suarez curled just wide.

Substitute Ahmed Elmohamady saw a header and then a follow-up shot blocked from Jordan Henderson's 65th-minute corner, but the points were safe with 13 minutes when Suarez squeezed his way into the box and blasted past Mignolet from a seemingly impossible angle.

A bad day for the Wearsiders took a further turn for the worse with 81 minutes gone when last man Mensah hauled Suarez down and was promptly shown a straight red card.

Kenny Dalglish Encouraged By Partnership Of Suarez And Carroll

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish has hailed striking duo Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll after the pair made their first start together at the club in the 2-0 victory over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.

With a combined fee nearing £60 million, the Uruguayan and former Newcastle man Carroll have earned the praise of their boss, who believes they have shown "encouraging signs" as a partnership.

Speaking following the victory over the Black Cats, which leaves the Reds in sixth place, four points behind Tottenham, the Scot couldn't contain his excitement over the pair's potential.

He said: “They showed encouraging signs. Andy played 90 on Thursday and 70 there, and Luis chipped in with a fantastic goal. The pair showed encouraging signs of what we can look forward to.

“They didn’t do too badly today. There is not a set time for partnerships. It either happens or it doesn’t.

“The lads linked up well at times. Suarez looks a good player and scored fantastic goals. We have a lot of enjoyable viewing to come from them. One is 5ft the other 6ft something, they compliment each other. People get carried away about Andy’s aerial asset, he is proficient on the floor too.

“The way all the players went about their job today was great credit to them and showed how much pride and respect they have for this football club and the people who support it."

The win on Wearside signalled 20 league points won out of a possible 30 for Dalglish since he replaced Roy Hodgson at the Anfield helm in January, and the Kop legend has insisted that it is the players, not him, who deserve the credit.

“It is OK, but it would be better if it was 30 points I suppose! You don’t get everything you want. The response from the players is fantastic and they have talent and ability and allied that to determination and they have got their reward for it. They deserve the credit," he said.
“With regards the job, I have seen I have asked for four years, well I don’t know who I am supposed to have asked. I have seen I was offered two, don’t know where that has come from.

“People ask if I have spoken to the owners and of course I have I speak to them regularly every week. It is their club, and they are fantastic owners, very supportive. There have been no detailed discussions about next season.

"Until there is something to be said there is nothing. For me that is not a problem. For me the club is most important, bar one instance when I left the club last time. There is no pressure on anyone.”

Lucas Thanks His Teammates

Lucas Leiva has thanked his Liverpool teammates after they dedicated Sunday's goal celebrations to his new son Pedro Lucas.

The Brazil international became a father for the first time this week when his wife Ariana gave birth in a Liverpool hospital.

And so after both goals during our 2-0 win in Sunderland the players joined him in a 'rock the baby' celebration which was made famous by Brazilian World Cup winners Bebeto, Romario and Mazinho during USA 1994.

Once the match had finished Lucas tweeted: "Great result and even better celebration thanks Dirk and Luis for the goals and all the team for the tribute."

Jamie Carragher Admits Liverpool Were Fortunate To Be Awarded Penalty In 2-0 Win Over Sunderland

Jamie Carragher has admitted that Liverpool were fortunate to be awarded a penalty at the Stadium of Light as Kenny Dalglish's beat Sunderland 2-0.

Referee Kevin Friend controversially reversed his decision of a free-kick to a penalty after talking with his linesman when Black Cats defender John Mensah fouled Jay Spearing. Dirk Kuyt scored the contentious spot-kick in the 34th minute changing the game after the Reds had begun the game slowly.

Carragher told Sky Sports: “I thought it was a penalty but then I found out at half-time, I don’t think it was, was it? It was just outside. That’s gone for us there, so we have to take that today, as they say it evens itself out. I’m sure Sunderland will be disappointed with that but it went our way there.

“Everyone knows that goals change games, I mean up to that point it was pretty even Sunderland were creating and were putting a little bit of pressure on.

“It was a pretty even game, every week we can look at different incidents and we can always say it changes the game, maybe I think that one has gone our way but thankfully we got the other one to make sure so you could say we still would have won 1-0.”

The veteran defender also praised the scorer of Liverpool’s second, Luis Suarez, who has settled into Kenny Dalglish’s side well after joining in January from Ajax for £23 million. He also admitted the Uruguayan’s presence was missed in their Europa League clash with Braga last Thursday.

Carragher added: “He’s a top player and he’s given everybody a lift. It was obviously disappointing to lose a player like Fernando but he’s gone to Chelsea now so we have to look at the players who’ve come in.

“I thought Andy Carroll was very unlucky not to score, I’d probably have preferred him to score as he needed to get off the mark, he (Suarez) had already scored. He’s a top player and I think we missed him in midweek in Europe, I think that showed but he’s a made a difference today."

Liverpool Eye Europe's Most Wanted Starlet

Dutch giants Ajax have signalled their intention to keep hold of young Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen despite reported interest from Premier League side Liverpool.

The 19-year-old playmaker, who starred for his homeland in their recent defeat to England, has been a consistent and impressive figure in the heart of the midfield at the Amsterdam Arena with scouts from across Europe checking his development.

It is believed that Kenny Dalglish has identified the Odense protégé as a possible summer target with the Scottish tactician eager to add a youthful flourish to his reshaped Anfield outfit.

Nevertheless, aware of the interest from England, Eriksen recently insisted that he was happy to stay in Holland although could be tempted to quit Ajax if reigning La Liga champions Barcelona were to come calling.

Speaking to the Danish media recently, he stated:

"If I got an offer from Liverool right now, I believe I would reject it.

"Ajax is a good club for me at the moment and I believe it will be that for a couple of years.

"If I did move, it would have to be to FC Barcelona.”

Liverpool Ready To Outbid Spurs For Adam's Services

Kenny Dalglish is ready to outbid Tottenham for Blackpool skipper Charlie Adam this summer.

The Liverpool boss visited Blackburn on Saturday to see the midfielder score twice in a 2-2 draw.

Dalglish still feels Adam is the best long-term solution for the Reds’ lack of creativity – despite having a £9million offer rejected on transfer deadline day.

Spurs’ chief scout Ian Bloomfield was also at Ewood Park to watch Adam return from a two-game ban.

Tottenham Plot Move For Liverpool Star

Tottenham are hoping to lure Liverpool right back Glen Johnson to White Hart Lane this summer. White Hart Lane boss Harry Redknapp feels that the England international would help resolve what he considers a problem area on the right hand side of his defence.

Redknapp has used Alan Hutton and Vedran Corluka in the right back spot this season and has not been overly pleased with either’s contribution and has previously purchased Johnson when he was Portsmouth boss and knows the 26 year old well from his time at West Ham when he was advancing through he youth set up during his spell as Upton Park boss.

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish may be amenable to a sale for the right price given the impressive form shown by youngster Martin Kelly which forced Johnson into an unaccustomed spot as left back but any sale would have to be for a fee similar to that which was spent to bring the former Pompey man to Anfield.

Rafa Benitez spent £17.5m for Johnson in the summer of 2009 and his career at the Merseyside club has had more downs than ups and he may well jump at a chance of a return to London. Tottenham are apparently willing to spend up to £12m for the attack minded full back but the North London side may also consider offering a player as part of any deal with the likes of Niko Kranjcar and Peter Crouch both recently linked with interest shown by Liverpool.

Fresh Developments In Liverpool Pursuit Of £26m Star

Reported Liverpool target Fábio Coentrão will be the subject of a summer bid from Chelsea, it has been claimed.

According to talkSPORT, Benfica are bracing themselves for bids for the versatile wideman when the transfer window reopens and Chelsea will be among the first clubs to make their move.

Along with Chelsea, the Portuguese is thought to have been on the radar of Liverpool for a number of months after initially reported that they had shown interest in the 23-year-old.

Coentrão has since been quoted in the French press expressing his 'love' for Liverpool and suggested the Anfield club have 'earmarked' the Portugal international for a summer transfer.

Liverpool are currently short on recognized left-backs after the failure of Paul Konchesky to make a lasting impression at Anfield saw him loaned out to Nottingham Forest.

This would suggest that Liverpool will be in the market for reinforcements when the transfer window reopens, and Coentrão would be an exciting successor for the beleaguered Konchesky.

However, Liverpool are expected to have to spend big to land Coentrão, who has a buyout clause of £26 million written into his contract, which expires in 2016.

Liverpool, though, have demonstrated their financial clout under the ownership of New England Sports Ventures and are likely to provide stiff competition for Coentrão's other reported suitors.

Real Madrid, AC Milan and Bayern Munich are alleged to be prepared to battle with Liverpool and Chelsea for Coentrão's signature as a summer of heavy spending awaits.

Kenny Dalglish In No Hurry To Begin Contract Talks With Liverpool

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish is happy to leave his contract talks until the time is right after guiding the club to another Premier League victory.

The Reds took their tally under the Scot to 20 points from ten league games with a 2-0 win at Sunderland which leaves them four points adrift of fifth-placed Tottenham.

They did so amid much speculation over Dalglish’s future but the Liverpool boss is relaxed, saying: ‘I have seen in the papers I have asked for four years. Well, I don’t know who I asked.

‘I saw I was offered two [years] – I don’t know who sent that in. Somebody said have I spoken to the owners – of course you speak to the owners, you speak to them regularly. 

But there have been no detailed discussions about next season. There is no pressure on anyone. I don’t have a problem if it is in the best interests of the football club.’

The case for Dalglish to be handed the job on a permanent basis was only strengthened at the Stadium of Light.

His men went ahead in controversial fashion in the 34th minute when John Mensah tripped Jay Spearing and referee Kevin Friend gave a free-kick but was persuaded by his assistant to award a penalty – despite replays suggesting contact was made outside the area.

Mensah, later dismissed for a professional foul on Luis Suarez, was booked before Dirk Kuyt calmly dispatched the penalty.

Suarez then secured victory with an effort from the tightest possible angle 13 minutes from time.

Sunderland boss Steve Bruce was upset about the penalty decision and said: ‘I knew and [fourth official] Martin Atkinson knew within five seconds it was outside the box with the technology we’ve got. Surely it has got to be time for those sort of things to be brought into play.’

Residents Demand Answers To Liverpool Stadium

Liverpool Football Club’s new owners, Fenway Sports Group, have been urged to announce any future stadium plans by local residents.

The community surrounding the iconic Anfield wants to know what the future holds for their neighbourhood as no official decision has been announced. Original plans for a new stadium were first revealed by the club’s previous owners but never materialized due to lack of available funding.

Ros Groves, chairman of the Anfield and Breckfield Physical Regeneration Group, told the BBC: "What I would like is if they could just come out and tell us what’s going on. We just need to be kept informed over and above by the media - we just need to be kept in the loop."

In December, Liverpool co-owner and chairman, Tom Werner said: "We're hard at it, we've had a lot of meetings and we are moving forward with various options. It's too early to go in one direction or another in terms of whether or not to build a new stadium or refurbish Anfield, but we are making progress."

As part of Liverpool’s growth – either whilst staying at Anfield or with a new stadium – the nearby area would be redeveloped, with money invested into the local community, transport links and facilities for residents. John Henry and Fenway Sports Group are still considering all stadium options, and have previously stated they will do what the fans want.