Monday, April 18, 2011

Match Report: Arsenal 1 - 1 Liverpool

Arsenal saw their Barclays Premier League title hopes all but extinguished after Dirk Kuyt secured a point for Liverpool with a last-gasp penalty just moments after Robin van Persie's own spot-kick had looked enough for victory.

The Gunners - now six point points behind leaders Manchester United having played the same number of games - had plenty of possession and hit the bar in the first half through Laurent Koscielny, but were unable to make their dominance count until deep into eight minutes of stoppage time when van Persie crashed home a spot-kick.

However, Liverpool - who had earlier seen captain Jamie Carragher carried off following a nasty clash of heads - snatched a point with the final kick of the match after Emmanuel Eboue had pushed Lucas Leiva.

While the match ended in high drama, before kick-off there was a minute's silence in memory of late Arsenal director Danny Fiszman, who passed away following a battle against cancer and also remembering the 96 Liverpool supporters who died 22 years ago this week in the Hillsborough tragedy.

The sale of Fiszman's holding in the Gunners' parent company led to American Stan Kroenke crossing the takeover threshold, but it remains to be seen whether the Denver-based entrepreneur will be able to complete his proposed £730millon buyout.

When the action got under way, Arsenal - unbeaten in 14 matches and yet to lose in 2011 - started well, with Abou Diaby glancing a header wide from Samir Nasri's curling free-kick.

Arsenal were careless in possession far too often, with Liverpool quick to capitalize on the break.

The hosts sparked into life, though, after 12 minutes when Theo Walcott stung Pepe Reina with a fierce 25-yard drive which the Reds keeper spilled and van Persie hooked the loose ball back across an open goal, which was headed behind.

From van Persie's right-wing corner, Laurent Koscielny got up above the Liverpool defence and in front of Reina to crash a header against the bar.

Liverpool were forced into a change on 21 minutes when full-back Fabio Aurelio limped off with a recurrence of his hamstring problem, replaced by 17-year-old Jack Robinson for a second senior appearance.

Luis Suarez's slip allowed van Persie and Cesc Fabregas to open up the Liverpool defence, but the Arsenal skipper drilled his 20-yard shot wide.

Liverpool were being pegged back, with Walcott firing a low ball in from the right which was booted behind.

It continued to be one-way traffic with Liverpool defending deep, but Arsenal could not find a telling pass in the final third.

In first-half stoppage time, Eboue's angled drive at the near post was deflected across the face of goal and away.

It was again a bright opening by Liverpool after the restart. Suarez created space for himself at the edge of the Arsenal penalty area, but dragged his shot wide.

There was a scare for the visitors when Andy Carroll went down after twisting his knee and ankle when challenging for a loose ball in the box. After some treatment, though, the £35million England man was back in the action.

Reds skipper Carragher then appeared to have been knocked unconscious after a clash of heads with John Flanagan, sparking more anxious scenes on the visitors bench as the medical staff from both teams attended.

The former England defender was eventually carried off on a stretcher, his neck in a brace and given oxygen. Sotirios Kyrgiakos came on as a substitute.

With 20 minutes left, Carroll was replaced by Jonjo Shelvey before Arsenal made a double change when Jack Wilshere and Walcott were replaced by Nicklas Bendtner and Andrey Arshavin, the Russian making his 100th appearance for the Gunners.

Wojciech Szczesny got down well to beat away an angled shot from Suarez as Liverpool looked to snatch all three points.

Reina made a decent block when van Persie was played into the left side of the Liverpool area, before at the other end, Suarez spooned his shot high and wide in space at the near post.

Because of the injury to Carragher, there were some eight minutes of stoppage time, and just when that seemed to be running out, Fabregas went tumbling over Jay Spearing's leg and this time, the referee pointed to the spot.

Van Persie stepped up to send Reina the wrong way and seemingly keep Arsenal in the title hunt.

However, there was more late drama after Alex Song tripped Lucas right on the edge of the area.

Suarez's free-kick went into the wall, but Eboue then pushed over Lucas to conceded another stoppage-time spot-kick which Kuyt dispatched.

It proved the last action of an amazing end to the game, which leaves Arsenal all but out of the title race and left a dejected Arsene Wenger confronting the officials - and opposite number Kenny Dalglish as they walked off.

Kenny - We Are Still The Kings

Kenny Dalglish insists Liverpool remain the 'best club in English football, if not the world.'

This came ironically after Liverpool's dramatic 1-1 draw at Arsenal pushed arch-rivals Manchester United close to the record breaking 19th league title.

The Liverpool boss insists that another title for United, which will see them move ahead of the Merseyside giants, would not have any impact on their own place at head of the English footballing table.

"Sadness? In my eyes we are still the best club in English football, if not world football, so I am not very sad at that," said the Scot.

"The surprise is that they [Liverpool] have not won the title for a long time, that is the surprise, but it's not sadness, it's just a fact of life.

"They never acquired enough points in any season since 1991 to win it.

"They came close a couple of years ago when Rafa (Benitez) went close, had a fantastic record against the so-called top four, but just couldn't get it over the line.

"It will be fantastic to get back there, but you need to hit the standards other teams have set.

"That is four games - United, [Manchester] City, Arsenal and Chelsea. We only dropped two points and that was here."

Dalglish Plays Down Touchline Row After 'Frustrating' Wenger

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish played down a touchline spat with Arsenal counterpart Arsène Wenger at the final whistle of the sides' 1-1 draw.

Wenger was furious that Liverpool had been awarded a penalty in the 13th minute of stoppage time, and the pair had an altercation as referee Andre Marriner finally blew his whistle for full-time, immediately after Dirk Kuyt had equalized for the visitors.

TV footage seemed to show Dalglish saying "Piss off" to Wenger, but the pair later shook hands and after the game the Liverpool temporary manager dismissed the row.

"I don't repeat what was said. I don't know why a conversation between managers on the bench is of any relevance after a game like that," Dalglish said. "I just told him there I still owe him dinner. There's no problem."

The long period of stoppage time came after Jamie Carragher had been knocked unconscious on the pitch when he had smacked his head against team-mate John Flanagan. Carragher was eventually stretchered off with his neck in a brace but had recovered in time to join his team-mates in celebration at the final whistle.

Carragher said: "I'm fine, it was a little clash of heads and these things happen in football. The main thing, and I saw it from the dressing room, was to get the three points.

"I can't remember anything. As soon as I came round I was absolutely fine. I went out on to the pitch at the end because I wanted to celebrate with the lads. I watched their penalty in the dressing room and then saw that we got our own. I was just praying that we scored because to get four points out of six from the last two games is fantastic."

Dalglish added: "He's as right as rain now, or as right as rain as he ever is."

The Liverpool manager was also unconcerned that his team's point might have handed an historic 19th title to Manchester United. "We never handed anything to anyone. In fact, we beat them 3-1 at Anfield so I don't know how we handed them anything if we beat them," he said. "We'll look after ourselves and if anyone gets any advantage from our results then so be it. We can only look after ourselves and that's what we always do. In my eyes we're still the best club in English football, if not world football."
Wenger said the result felt like a defeat, and branded Liverpool's containing tactics as defensive. "Liverpool defended very deep. We had the ball all the time. We played against eight or ten men in their half, like we do in every game here," Wenger said.

Dalglish responded by saying that he must be doing something right if Wenger is annoyed. "That's good, if we're frustrating the opposition manager. We'll take that every day of the week," he said. "We'll do the best for us that we can do. If someone else has a problem with us, I can't help them."

Dalglish paid tribute to the character of his team, which contained young players such as Flanagan, Jay Spearing, Jonjo Shelvey and Jack Robinson.

The Liverpool manager said: "I don't think there's any team anywhere that's shown the same attitude and commitment that our team showed today."

Wenger did not concede Arsenal's title hopes are over, but he did admit his team's form at home, where they have drawn their last three games, is costing them dear. "It's about us winning our games.

"We are on a 15-game unbeaten run but we have not taken enough points recently," he said. "The players are very disappointed."

Jamie Carragher Insists He’s Fully Recovered From Head Injury

Liverpool stalwart Jamie Carragher says he is fine after his horror injury sustained against Arsenal at the Emirates and insists that team-mate Dirk Kuyt is the man to deal with high pressure situations following the Dutchman's penalty which secured a point with the final kick of the match.

Carragher left the play in a neck-brace halfway through the second-half after an ugly clash of heads with young full-back John Flanagan – an incident of which the 33-year-old has no recollection.

Quizzed on how he was feeling, Carragher said: “I’m fine, you know better than me because I didn’t see too much of it.

“I’ll look at the TV when I get home but I feel fine now and can’t really remember it.

“It’s just one of those things, that’s football.

“The main thing is I’ve seen us get the two pens at the end and I thought we’d just lost it late on so I was delighted we got the result.”

Following the result, Lucas Leiva quickly posted the news of Carragher’s recovery on twitter, saying: “Carragher is fine, that's good news”

Carragher left the field with the score line at stalemate and watched on from the dressing room as referee Andre Marriner awarded two penalties during 12 minutes of added time.

Robin van Persie converted after a Jay Spearing foul on Cesc Fabregas, before Kuyt handled the pressure to fire past Wojciech Szczesny – an outcome which didn’t surprise Carragher.

Discussing Kuyt’s finish, Carragher added: “He must be one of the best penalty takers I’ve ever seen.

“I can’t really remember him missing one to be honest. I just hope I’m not putting a jinx on him for the next one.

“He’s so cool under pressure," Carragher added "He took that one in the last minute and two against Everton in one game, a Champions League one against Chelsea. He’s definitely the man for pressure games and big games.”

Liverpool’s resources were stretched to the limit during the ninety minutes as Carragher and Fabio Aurelio left the field with injuries before Andy Carroll was taken off as a precaution after jarring a knee, which fan’s favourite Carragher believes adds merit to the result as Kenny Dalglish called on academy starlets John Flanagan and Jack Robinson.

He added: “With the injuries we’ve got at the moment and the team we’ve got out, young lads who can probably still play for the youth team this season - to play against [Manchester] City and Arsenal two of the best teams not just in this country but probably in Europe and get four points is a great testament to the lads, the club and also the work people are doing at the academy.”

Liverpool Plan Mass Clearout: Eight To Leave To Create £40m Transfer Fund Injection

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish is expected to be offered the manager’s position at Anfield on a permanent basis in the coming weeks and the Scot is determined to conduct a significant clear out at the end of the season. He then hopes to use funds raised by the sales, along with a transfer budget handed to him by the club’s owners in order to dramatically improve his current squad.

American owners Fenway Sports Group did not have to pump a great deal of cash into the big money purchases of Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll as those moves were in the main covered by the sales of Fernando Torres to Chelsea and Ryan Babel to Bundesliga side Hoffenheim, they are therefore amenable to providing funds to the Anfield boss.

Dalglish and director of football Damien Comolli have identified players who they deem as either ‘surplus to requirements’ or are simply not good enough to represent a team they are looking to make genuine top four chasers for next term and perhaps unsurprisingly a number of those players were brought in during the brief Roy Hodgson regime.

Milan Jovanovic will be offered for sale and the likes of Atletico Madrid and Hamburg are said to be interested in the powerful Serbian attacker. Midfielder Christian Poulsen is set for the axe and Liverpool will hope to recoup the £4.5m they paid for the Juventus man last summer and La Liga side Valencia are thought to be ready to make just such an offer. Paul Konchesky is thought to have no future at the club and could well find himself on his way to Nottingham Forest on a permanent basis although his former club Fulham are also said to be keen on the left back.

Philipp Degen is likely to make his loan move to Stuttgart a permanent one especially if they manage to pull away from the relegation zone and avoid the ignominy of a drop to the second tier of German football and Emiliano Insua is unlikely to be offered a new contract when his current deal runs out in the summer.

Liverpool are also likely to sell Italian midfielder Alberto Aquilani who is currently enjoying a loan spell at Juventus but is also a target of Man City boss Roberto Mancini. Argentine Maxi may also be sacrificed after an unconvincing spell at the club and there is some talk of a possible return to Spain where he enjoyed eight seasons with Atletico Madrid and Espanyol.

The jury appears to still be out on Joe Cole and with the former England regular unable to win a place in the starting eleven and therefore unable to prove his worth, it may be that any reasonable offer would be considered and in January the 29 year old attacking midfielder was linked with a move to West Ham and Newcastle United.

Of these eight saleable assets only Alberto Aquilani cost a significant fee and as such any sales would represent a positive return on original investments, making the potential for a clear out all the more palatable.

Manchester City Plan £14.5m Bid For Liverpool Midfielder

Manchester City is planning to make an offer to sign Liverpool Alberto Aquilani this summer. Roberto Mancini is known to be an admirer of the Italian international and hopes to lure the creative midfielder to Eastlands but will first have to persuade Kenny Dalglish to sell to a rival to their top four ambitions.

Currently on loan at Juventus, 26 year old Aquilani is thought to be keen on securing a permanent deal with the Serie A giants, however the Turin side are as yet unwilling to meet the €16m (£14.5m) fee that Liverpool are looking for which has led to Mancini’s move to enter the race to sign the former Roma man.

Alberto Aquilani arrived at Liverpool last term whilst still injured and when fully fit was strangely overlooked by Rafa Benitez and made just nine Premier League starts and was then taken on a season long loan by a Juventus side looking to recapture their place at Italy’s top table under the new management of Luigi Delneri. However the Old Lady of Italian football has had a poor season as a whole and currently sits in seventh spot.

Aquilani’s personal form has though been consistent and noteworthy and has led to a recall to the Italian national team and much interest from prospective buyers with the likes of Inter and AC Milan both supposedly keen on the Liverpool man.

Kenny Dalglish’s return to Anfield has led to a huge improvement from midfielder Raul Meireles and Lucas and therefore makes the chances of Aquilani returning to Merseyside seemingly unlikely. Man City boss Roberto Mancini is seemingly keen to add a more cultured edge to the centre of his midfield to sit alongside the more aggressive combative abilities of the likes of Nigel De Jong and Patrick Vieira.

Aquilani’s is adept as a holding midfielder as well as being able to link midfield and attack in a more offensive manner make him a very attractive proposition. Summer signing James Milner has not had the best of seasons and Mancini may feel that the Italian international has more to offer.

Liverpool Sign Carragher's Son

Liverpool have recruited Jamie Carragher’s young son to their Academy.

In a move that is sure to delight the Reds faithful, the Kop icon’s little boy is now playing for the under 8s, and enjoyed his first training session with the club last Thursday.

"On Thursday night we signed up our latest U8 players and Kenny Dalglish and Jay Spearing came along to welcome them,” said Liverpool Academy chief Frank McParland.

"Jamie Carragher was also in attendance as we have just recruited his son to play here.

"I'm sure supporters would love the idea of another Carra coming through the ranks. He is here on merit and Jamie was keen to avoid any special treatment for himself at the signing. He was here with his wife and they both remained in the background alongside all of the other proud parents."

With Jamie one of the all-time greats to pull on a Liverpool jersey, the Carragher family’s affiliation with the Anfield club could be set to continue for many more years to come.

Carragher has made 661 appearances for Liverpool in a distinguished Anfield career.

Suarez Eyes Carroll Goal

Luis Suarez has spoken of his desire to form a lethal partnership with fellow Liverpool new boy Andy Carroll in the years to come.

The Uruguayan and England strikers joined the Reds in the January transfer window from Ajax and Newcastle respectively.

While Suarez proved an instant hit with Reds' fans, Carroll was injured at first but notched his first goals against Manchester City on Monday.

Suarez now hopes the pair can push on and form a partnership which will terrorize defences in years to come.

He told the Sunday Mirror: "I really want one thing to happen here. I want to form a really good partnership with Andy Carroll.

"We are both new here. We both know we need time to adapt to each other's playing style.

"In Holland I used to look at him when he was playing for Newcastle United on TV. I used to think how big and strong he is.

"He is a typical No. 9, a great player to link up with. He is the sort of player who I like to combine with.

"I am prepared to work hard for Andy and for this club. It is not all about me, it is now all about the team.

"The day I leave this club in so many years I want the fans to say that I worked so hard across every meter of grass on the field.

"And about the goals I have scored because I still like scoring goals."

The Uruguayan believes he can also form 'a brilliant combination' with boss Kenny Dalglish.

He added: "Dalglish is a legend here and I have soon found out why. He gives you so much confidence and is such a big football guy.

"Everything I had heard about him is true. I have now discovered that as a manager and as a player we can form a brilliant combination.

"The players like it that he wants to bring back the old Liverpool style of pass and move - attractive football as a way to get results."

Suarez also praised the ambitions of his boss as he seeks to bring the glory days back to Anfield.

"The manager is so ambitious, I love it. A man who is so convinced that he can bring success back at this club, you don't want to disappoint."

Liverpool's Kenny Dalglish Reminds Me Of Johan Cruyff - Gary Lineker

Former Barcelona and England striker Gary Lineker says Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish reminds him of Johan Cruyff.

Several great players have had to endure difficult careers as a manager, but Dalglish and Cruyff - both superstars on the pitch - then managed to achieve success guiding their respective teams to silverware.

And having witnessed the Reds' revival since the appointment of the Scot, Lineker has lavished praise on the 60-year-old.

"I've been in Kenny Dalglish's company many times around the world and one thing never ceases to amaze me," he wrote in his column for The News of the World.

"He'll know every player, where they came from, their strengths and weaknesses and how the manager sets his team out. To describe his knowledge as encyclopaedic is to do him a disservice.

"Tactically, he's so sharp that he leaves the rest of us for dead. He's one of those rare breed, a truly great player who made the transition to become a truly great manager. In a way, he's similar to Johan Cruyff who I worked with at Barcelona."

Lineker encountered some problems with Cruyff when the Dutchman was appointed as manager of Barcelona in 1988. Nevertheless, the ex-England international retains a healthy respect for the legendary orchestrator of 'Total Football' in the 1970s.

"I didn't get along with him as a person or a manager, basically because he wanted me out as soon as he took over and played me as a winger for six months to try to force me to quit.

"But even though we were never going to see eye-to-eye, I respected him for his incredible vision. Cruyff laid the foundations for the Barca style of today and his teams created so much space on the pitch, it was frightening.

"Like Kenny at Liverpool, he was revered at the Nou Camp as a former wonderful player and both men were a seamless fit as a manager.

"In Kenny's case, he still is."

'Title Triumph Is Not Our Priority'

Pep Segura admits it would be fantastic to top Barclays Premier Reserve League Northern Group B - but insists it is not the priority as the second-string prepare for tonight's clash at Manchester City.

The Spaniard secured his first win as the Reds' temporary reserve team boss in their last outing against Bolton, leaving them within sight of leaders Blackburn Rovers with two games remaining.

Segura acknowledges that a victory at Hyde FC's ground would put his side in a strong position but was keen to reiterate that he remains focused on the overall objective of player development.

He told "It's difficult to change a philosophy and style in just a few weeks.

"The most important thing is how the players develop, not just in games but every day in training.

"It was nice to win our first game against Bolton but that is not our priority."

He continued: "It is possible for us to win our last two matches and win the league - but we could lose those matches. They are difficult games and we know we will have to perform well to get points from them.

"We have a bit of handicap because some of our players, like John Flanagan and Jack Robinson have stayed with the first-team.

"If we have all of our best players available and go on to win the league then that is fantastic. But with so many objectives with the U18s and the first-team, we will not know who is available until the last moment."

Adam Morgan continued his phenomenal goalscoring run with the winner against Bolton on his league bow for the reserves and he was also on target for the U18s in their 6-0 rout of Manchester United on Saturday.

The 16-year-old has made great strides over the course of the past six months and Segura is confident he will continue to be a prolific marksman in the years ahead.

"We need to understand that Adam Morgan is a natural goalscorer who has quality," he said.

"We are very happy with how he is improving. He is scoring for the U18s and did it for us in the last game against Bolton.

"He has done very well, especially when the U18s lost Michael Ngoo through injury earlier in the season. He is a fantastic player and someone who can have a bright future."

Segura was an interested spectator the last time Liverpool Reserves faced Manchester City.

The Reds secured a 1-0 victory in the Lancashire Senior Cup contest at Hyde back in January and the Spaniard accepts it will be a tough test for his fledgling outfit.

"I have seen this team before," he said.

"They are a strong side. We know how we want to approach the game and hopefully we can put our ideas into practice in the game.

"We have many games left for the U18s and the reserves. We will have to rotate the players. The likes of Krisztian Adorjan and Morgan were tired after playing for both teams last week.

"It will be difficult but we must cope."