Sunday, April 24, 2011

Match Report: Liverpool 5 - 0 Birmingham

A Maxi Rodriguez hat-trick inspired Liverpool to their biggest win of the season and further prove, if anyone was still in doubt, that Kenny Dalglish is the man to lead the club forward.

The little Argentinian was not necessarily brilliant but just put himself in the right places to capitalize on some impressive team play by a side brimming with the confidence instilled by the 60-year-old Scot.

There were positives all over the field with Dirk Kuyt scoring his seventh goal in six league matches while even substitute Joe Cole, who has endured a disappointing maiden season, got among the goals with a late deflected effort.

Five goals and all this achieved without £35million record signing Andy Carroll, who was unavailable due to an injury sustained in last Sunday's draw at Arsenal which allowed Kuyt to move back up front.

Adaptability was the name of the game as the Reds adopted a midfield diamond formation to get the best out of Raul Meireles' attacking intent.

Crucial to making it work, however, were the superb Lucas Leiva at its base and Rodriguez and Jay Spearing.

Rodriguez is becoming something of a lucky charm for the side he joined in January 2010 as although his goals are few and far between - just seven in 49 matches - they have all coincided with victories.

He is more suited to the midfield set-up which Kenny Dalglish went with at the start but it also brought the best out of Spearing, who had a hand in the opening goal - although not as much as Foster in the seventh minute.

Kuyt's lay-off saw the 22-year-old midfielder fire in a swerving shot which the Birmingham goalkeeper spilled into the path of Rodriguez who made no mistake from close range for his first goal since December 3.

Birmingham briefly responded, without really threatening, before they were caught by a classic Liverpool counter-attack in the 23rd minute.

Jose Reina intentionally picked out Meireles just over the halfway line and he flicked on into the path of Luis Suarez who did well to hold off the challenge of Martin Jiranek.

Foster may have been at fault for the first but he saved well from the Uruguay international and again from Kuyt's follow-up but he could do nothing to prevent the Holland international getting up to slot home the rebound.

The England goalkeeper injured himself in the process and was replaced 10 minutes later by Colin Doyle, who watched one Kuyt header sail across goal and wide of the far post before gratefully clasping Suarez's shot to his chest just before the end of the half.

Almost unnoticed in all the pass-and-move mayhem Liverpool were creating was the performance of the Reds' teenage full-backs, 18-year-old John Flanagan on the right and Jack Robinson, a year younger.

The latter certainly did not look like a youngster making his first start after two substitute appearances 11 months apart when, in the opening minutes, he coolly dispossessed the far more experienced Alexander Hleb as Birmingham threatened an early attack having swept through the inside-left channel.

Having moved into a comfortable 2-0 lead Dalglish almost immediately reverted to more orthodox 4-4-2 formation to ensure Blues were afforded no way back.

Alex McLeish's side provided more of a challenge in the second half but was always chasing the game and their cause became a lost one in the 66th minute when Rodriguez scored his second.

Suarez was played onside by Carr, trailing slightly behind his defensive colleagues, and the forward raced onto Martin Skrtel's pass and crossed to the far post where Rodriguez side-footed home.

Rodriguez saved his best goal for last, collecting Suarez's 73rd-minute pass and shooting low at Doyle who half-saved his effort only for Meireles to force the ball back into the danger area for Rodriguez to convert.

There have not been many instances since his arrival when Suarez has been outshone and as if to remind people of his talents the Uruguay international produced an audacious behind-the-leg shot which would have really rubbed salt in Birmingham's wounds.

That honour was left to Cole who, within seconds of replacing Meireles, cut in from the right to hit a deflected shot past Doyle for the fifth.

While this result was a barometer of the confidence at Anfield it will have done little for spirits within the Birmingham camp, with the club still looking over their shoulders five points above the relegation zone.

Dalglish Hails The Strength Of Liverpool’s Squad

Kenny Dalglish has praised the strength and depth of his Liverpool squad following their 5-0 win over Birmingham City.

Argentine midfielder Maxi Rodriguez grabbed a hat-trick in his first appearance for over a month while out of favour Joe Cole also notched late on for Reds.

And Dalglish was pleased that players who haven’t been in the first team of late were able to make such an impact.

“The win was pleasing, I don’t know if we were deserving of 5-0 though,” said Dalglish. “Other people can judge that.

"We passed and moved really well at times and it’s important for us also not to lose any goals at the back, it’s important for Pepe [Reina] who’s been fantastic for the last month or so.

“It’s a great credit to Maxi who has not played too often in the last few weeks but his training has always been very good, he’s an intelligent footballer and the same goes for wee Joe [Cole]. He came on and he got a goal, it might have been an error from the goalkeeper but it still goes down as Joe’s goal.

“[The result shows] the strength of the football club, the quality of the players, the desire of the players and I don’t think you can ask for more than what we got yesterday.

“We’ve got our reward yesterday, we can enjoy it and on Monday morning we start looking forward to Newcastle.”

Kuyt Won't Get Carried Away

Dirk Kuyt insists Liverpool will keep plodding along, despite seeing fifth place become a reachable target.

The Reds closed the gap on Tottenham, the current occupants of the final Europa League place, on Saturday with a comprehensive 5-0 victory over Birmingham.

Kenny Dalglish's side is now just three points adrift of Spurs with four games remaining.

Kuyt, though, has been quick to play down talk of European qualification, with there still much work to be done before the campaign comes to a close.

He told Sky Sports: "The most important thing for us is to focus on our own games.

"The next one is Newcastle at home and we have to make sure we get the three points.

"We still have Spurs at home, but if we want something we have to win our own games and take things one game at a time. If we do that I think we will get really close."

Kuyt was among the goals against Birmingham on Saturday, helping to cover the loss of Andy Carroll, who was rested.

He added: "Unfortunately Andy wasn't ready for this game, hopefully he will be for the next one.

"It was good for the manager to see that he has more options. I thought the team was terrific today.

"Andy has already shown quality and hopefully he will be back soon and our team will get better."

Maxi Rodriguez's hat-trick stole the show against the Blues, but youngsters John Flanagan and Jack Robinson put in promising displays to enhance their blossoming reputations.

"It's unfortunate for the lads who are injured but the way the young lads are playing, Flanno and Robbo, it's terrific," said Kuyt.

"Jay Spearing is doing very well at the moment and Martin Kelly was unfortunate to get injured, because he has done well. It's good to see so many young lads coming through."

Liverpool Striker Target Romelu Lukaku Set To Make England Switch

Belgian international striker Romelu Lukaku is set to make a Barclays Premier League move this summer.

The teenage prodigy has attracted interest from the cream of Europe, with Real Madrid, AC Milan, Juventus and Barcelona all monitoring the Anderlecht forward in the past year.

A handful of English clubs have been tracking the player for some time, with Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea all thought to be keen on bringing the player to their club.

In January, following the arrival of Kenny Dalglish as manager at Anfield, the Daily Mirror reported that Liverpool made contact with the Belgian club over a potential £20 million move.

The Purple and White resisted offers for the player dubbed 'the next Didier Drogba', but famed agent Fabrizio Ferrari has claimed that the player is set for a move to British shores at the end of the season.

“Juventus are interested in Lukaku but Anderlecht says they will sell him in the summer to a club in the Premier League, at his request, because he believes his characteristics are most suited to the Premier League," Ferrari told Tuttosport in Italy.

"He is a wonder, with his speed and technique; he reminds of the when I first saw the Brazilian striker Adriano at Inter Milan.”

Ferrari's comments back-up the words of Anderlecht general manager Herman van Holsbeeck, who stated at the start of the month that England would be the 17-year-olds most likely destination.

"We know that Real Madrid are interested, but I think his future would rather be in England," Van Holsbeeck told Sudpresse at the time.

"Teams like Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool are interested, but if two Manchester clubs enter the race it might be interesting. The Lukaku price in the market is €30 million (£26m)," Van Holsbeeck concluded."

Damien Comolli, director of football at Liverpool, was behind the Reds' pursuit of the player at the turn of the year, and will again be instrumental in attempting to lure the player to Merseyside alongside strikers such as Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll.

Fenway Sports Group, the club's owners, proved in January that they are willing to back the manager financially in the transfer market, and could be called upon again to bring one of the brightest young talents in world football to Liverpool and continue the club's growing policy of developing young talent.

Bayern Enter Chase For Liverpool Target Enrique

Bayern Munich is ready to challenge Liverpool in the battle to lure Jose Enrique from Newcastle United.

And Toon boss Alan Pardew, already in a fight to hang on to key midfielder Joey Barton, is facing up to the fact that top scorer Kevin Nolan is now a target for West Ham.

It had seemed that Anfield boss Kenny Dalglish was in pole position to land Enrique this summer, despite AC Milan’s interest in the Spanish left-back.

But Bayern, who can boast a £100million transfer kitty, have other ideas.

Enrique enters the final year of his Newcastle contract this summer, and is on record as saying he wants to play Champions League football.

Bayern hope that could swing the deal for them – the German giants also believe they will snatch third place in the Bundesliga this term and qualify for next season’s Champions League.

Officials from Munich were represented at St James’ Park on Tuesday night, watching Enrique in Newcastle’s 0-0 draw with Manchester United.

West Ham have been checking out 28-year-old Magpies midfielder Nolan recently, and fancy pairing him with Football Writers Player of the Year Scott Parker next season if they beat the drop.

Nolan, who has two years of his contract to run, is in talks over a new deal with the Toon top brass.

Barton was on West Ham’s radar earlier in the season, and has stalled on his contract talks stating: “I’ll wait and see if players like Kevin Nolan, Cheik Tiote and Jose Enrique stay.

“If Nolan signs a new deal, I will as well.”

Jeremy Menez Eyed By Liverpool As He Seeks Roma Exit

Reds manager Kenny Dalglish and director of football Damien Comolli have made signing a new wideman to supply Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez their top priority for the summer transfer window.

Comolli has been monitoring the progress of Menez for some time and the 23-year-old has now indicated he is ready to move to England.

The France international was non-committal when recently asked about his future, but has now fallen out with both his boss and Roma's fans.

He was involved in a bust-up with coach Vincenzo Montella during the 1-0 loss to Inter Milan in the first leg of the Italian Cup semi-final and the club's Ultras later pelted his car with stones.

Menez was not hurt in the attack but, according to the Daily Mail, it was the final straw and he has now decided to move on in the summer.

Liverpool are likely to face competition from Arsenal in the race to sign the ex-Sochaux and Monaco star, while Manchester United have been linked with him in the past.

The Anfield club have also been credited with an interest in Aston Villa's Stewart Downing and Fiorentina's Juan Vargas in their search for a new winger.

Brad Smith Yet To Decide Between Australia or England

Liverpool fullback Brad Smith has left the door open to playing for Australia - despite making England's U17 European Championship squad.

The left-back joined the Reds last year and has quickly caught the eye of England scouts.

Given the complete change in his surroundings it is perhaps no surprise to learn that he has yet to decide where his true allegiance lies.

"I was born in Australia and lived there for 14 years before moving over here," he told

"I went on to play for the same school as Jack Robinson but I'm completely focused on playing here now.

"I suppose I'm half English and half Australian! I don't know who I would support if the two teams played each other."

Pacheco Loving Norwich Experience

Dani Pacheco is loving his loan at Norwich City.

The Spanish striker hit his first goal in the 5-1 derby thrashing of Ipswich Town.

The on-loan Liverpool star, who joined the action as an 84th minute substitute was quick to air his delight with the result on his personal twitter account.

"Great result tonight. Amazing atmosphere, love derbys! Our fans were amazing! Happy for my goal as well. 3 games left, come on boys!!"

Pacheco's final tweet of the night read: "what a great day. Time to sleep now and rest for Monday. Thanks to everybody for the support today, fans been amazing. More of that Monday!"

Liverpool Held By Bristol Women

Grace McCatty's stoppage-time goal earned Bristol Academy a 1-1 Women's Super League draw with Liverpool.

The Reds took the lead through Michelle Evans' well-struck 20-yard half-volley on 42 minutes.
But the home side pressed their opponents in the second half and their equalizer came when McCatty's low shot was deflected into the Liverpool net.

The result gave Bristol their first point of the campaign but still leaves them bottom of the eight-team table.

Academy trounced their opponents 3-0 in last Sunday's FA Cup semi-final and, in their first home game of the season, were out to impress in front of an expectant crowd of 707.

But they found the going much tougher in this rapid re-match.

Bristol hit back after Evans had broken the deadlock and almost equalized when Liverpool goalkeeper Andrea Worrell had to save a mis-directed headed clearance by her team-mate Cheryl Foster.

Bristol continued to press but the visitors held firm and looked set to claim a slice of revenge for their FA Cup dismissal as the game went into stoppage time.

But McCatty grabbed her last-gasp equalizer following a Helen Bleazard corner.

Despite having to settle for a point, Liverpool has leapfrogged Chelsea and Lincoln into fifth place.