Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Match report: Liverpool 0 - 2 Tottenham

Tottenham seized the advantage in the race for the final Europa League spot as Liverpool's first match since the appointment of Kenny Dalglish as permanent manager ended in defeat.

However, referee Howard Webb could have been accused of having a helping hand in deciding the outcome with a series of questionable decisions which culminated in the award of a very favourable penalty for the visitors' second.

Rafael van der Vaart's volley had given Harry Redknapp's side an early lead only for Liverpool to wrest back control of the game until 11 minutes after the interval when Webb controversially pointed to the spot and Luka Modric converted.

Spurs moved a point ahead of their rivals into fifth place as they inflicted a first home defeat for Dalglish, who signed a three-year contract on Thursday, since he replaced Roy Hodgson in early January.

That formidable home record - 20 points from eight matches prior to this encounter - counted for little as the visitors took the early initiative on their way to their first Anfield victory in 19 games stretching back to 1986.

Injury robbed Dalglish of midfielder Raul Meireles, which meant he had to break up the recent successful partnership of Luis Suarez and Dirk Kuyt and bring in fit-again club record signing Andy Carroll.

It undoubtedly had a detrimental effect as the £35million England international lacks the mobility and energy of Kuyt in a front two and denied the Reds the high pressing game they have employed of late.

Spurs enjoyed their extra time on the ball and put it to good use in the early stages, dominating possession.

Van der Vaart fired well wide early on but the next time he did not disappoint with his ninth-minute shooting opportunity.

When Modric's right-wing corner skimmed off the head of Martin Skrtel he brought the ball under control with his first touch and with his second volleyed it over the crowd - helped by a deflection off Glen Johnson - past Jose Reina's left hand and into the far corner of the net.

In recent weeks everything had gone right for the Reds, unbeaten in five with 17 goals scored, but the opposite was true on this occasion.

Tottenham's closing down and tight marking prevented the hosts producing the flowing pass-and-move football which has returned under Dalglish.

The only stroke of fortune they enjoyed was the leniency of referee Howard Webb, who chose to only book Suarez for his petulant kick at Michael Dawson while he was on the floor having been angered by the defender's apparent dive to win a free-kick.

Having been brilliant in front of goal in the last month the knack appeared to have deserted Liverpool as Carroll slashed wildly at Maxi Rodriguez's pass and failed to connect properly while midfielder Jay Spearing bundled a shot wide with his weaker left foot.

The same should not have been expected of Carroll though, who wastefully headed over from six yards from Skrtel's cross.

Suarez was closer with a free-kick which flashed just wide on the stroke of half-time but the Reds needed a change as distinctive as Dalglish swapping his tracksuit for jacket and tie at the interval .

Van der Vaart lasted just five minutes into the second half before limping off to be replaced by Jermain Defoe.

Anger at Webb's officiating reached a peak in the 55th minute when he penalised John Flanagan for a foul on Pienaar when the offence appeared to be both outside the penalty area and in favour of the home side.

Modric struck home the spot-kick to give Tottenham a two-goal cushion they barely deserved.

Liverpool surged forward, enraged at the perceived injustice, and Suarez fired over from Flanagan's low cross while substitute Jonjo Shelvey was narrowly off target with a long-range effort.

Chasing the game Dalglish sent on David Ngog for Rodriguez, giving his side every opportunity to score with four strikers on the pitch.

Carroll's ineffectual display meant he was lucky to still be on when he managed his first shot on target in the 87th minute but Carlo Cudicini held it comfortably and the target man immediately replaced by Joe Cole.

Having missed out on the Champions League the Europa League may be of some consolation for Tottenham, if they can better Liverpool's result next week.

There has been an argument put forward that both sides would prefer to miss out on Europe's second-tier competition to concentrate on their league form next season.

Having tasted his first home defeat, and only the fourth of his second spell in charge, Dalglish is unlikely to be in agreement.

Kenny: Slow Start Costly

Kenny Dalglish admitted Liverpool were made to pay for a slow start as Tottenham Hotspur dented their European aspirations with a 2-0 victory at Anfield on Sunday.

A volley from Rafael van der Vaart and Luka Modric's penalty secured the points for Spurs to ensure the race for Europa League qualification will go right to the wire.

In order to finish fifth, the Reds must now better Tottenham's result against Birmingham when Dalglish takes his charges to Aston Villa next Sunday.

"I think they started better than we did, scored a goal and we didn't start to play for 25-30 minutes," the boss told his post-match press conference.

"We started to look a bit better, but then at the start of the second half they got the second goal and that gave them a real foothold in the game.

"It was difficult for us to break them down. We didn't have enough on the day to break them down and penetrate their goal, but I don't think Pepe was overly busy either.

"We never played as well as we can play and that's a disappointment for the players because it would have been a fitting way for them to finish the last game of the season at Anfield for the efforts they've put in since January. But maybe it was too much of a fairytale.

"We're disappointed we never got the result because it would have been a fitting way to end."

He added: "We don't know why we didn't start as well as what we have done and are capable of, but I suppose like in everything else, you get days like that."

Dirk Kuyt Refuses To Give Up On Europa League Qualification For Liverpool

Liverpool forward Dirk Kuyt is refusing to give up on securing a Europa League place for the club after Sunday's 2-0 defeat at Anfield to Tottenham gave the Londoners the edge.

Goals from Rafael van der Vaart and Luka Modric ensured that if Spurs beat Birminghan City at White Hart Lane on Sunday then it shall be Harry Redknapp's side competing in the Europa League next season.

However, if they fail to take three points against Alex McLeish's relegation threatened side, then a victory at Villa Park for Liverpool will mean it is Kenny Dalglish's team playing in Europe next season.

"Obviously the result was very disappointing," Kuyt told the club's official website.

"We all hoped for a good result and a win, but it didn't happen.

"There's still one game to go and hopefully they [Spurs] will draw next week and we win and get into Europe next season.

"It's disappointing. We gave everything but it wasn't as good as the last couple of weeks."

Dalglish Angry Over Tottenham Penalty Award

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish chose not to publicly criticize referee Howard Webb after his side's 2-0 defeat to Tottenham at Anfield but claimed officials "get away scot-free'' by not having to explain their decisions.

The Reds trailed 1-0 when Webb awarded a soft penalty for a foul by John Flanagan on Steve Pienaar, which appeared to take place outside of the area.

"I'm not here to sponsor the FA,'' said the Scot, clearly unhappy at the official's handling of the game. "It is unhelpful to everyone that we cannot express our true thoughts and it is even more disappointing that the officials get away scot-free without having to come in and explain their decisions.

"I think it is safer for me to leave it at that. We cannot legislate for refereeing mistakes but we could have been a greater help to ourselves if we had started the game better.'

"They (Tottenham) started better than we did and scored a goal and we didn't start to play for 25 minutes,'' Dalglish said. "We started to look a bit better and then at the start of the second half they got the second goal and that gave them a real foothold and we didn't have enough to break them down.

"I don't think Pepe Reina was over-busy either but we never played as well as we can play. That is a disappointment for the players because it would have been a fitting way to finish the season at Anfield - maybe it was too much of a fairytale. We feel we have short-changed the fans by not getting the result.''

Dalglish's first home defeat since returning in January put Spurs in pole position to secure European football next season. Tottenham have missed out on the Champions League, having done so well in the competition this season, but Harry Redknapp will take Europa League qualification.

"It was a big win for us. We had to win today to try to finish above Liverpool and we have given ourselves a chance,'' he said. "We now have a tough game against Birmingham, who need a result after today. We are not fighting for the Europa League, we are fighting to finish fifth. You want to win every game and finish as high as you can, that is your pride.

"It is not ideal playing Thursday and every Sunday [in the Europa League] is not what you want but we are there [at the moment]. That is better than [qualifying via] the Fair Play League because you start three weeks earlier.

"I scared them before the game by saying if we don't win today we are top of the Fair Play League, which means we come back in two weeks' time and start playing - they thought I was joking. That is going to be a nightmare for someone, I just hope it isn't us.''

Liverpool Reportedly Outbid By Manchester City For Juan Mata

Liverpool has been outbid by Manchester City for Juan Mata, according to reports.

The Spanish midfielder, who plays predominantly on the left flank, has been coveted by a number of clubs across Europe, with Reds boss Kenny Dalglish thought to be keen on bringing the 23-year-old to England.

However, Manchester City have joined the race for the player, and The People claims Roberto Mancini has tabled a £22 million offer for the player. The paper goes on to claim the Eastlands outfit has spoken to Valencia president Manuel Llorente over the move.

It's reported in the same story that Liverpool director of football Damien Comolli offered £17 million for Mata, although a lack of European football could now be a major stumbling block for the Anfield outfit.

Liverpool has been linked with a number of wingers in recent weeks, with Ashley Young, Eden Hazard and Xabi Prieto all speculatively placed on the Reds' summer wishlist.

City have also been linked with a number of more high-profile targets, with Barcelona star Xavi thought to be one of those on the club's radar.

Mancini's spending power places the club in a position of dominance, and is likely to lead to Liverpool missing out on Mata.

With Valencia's financial stability still uncertain, the La Liga outfit is likely to sell to the highest bidder, leaving Liverpool to look elsewhere when the transfer window re-opens.

Jose Enrique Has Had No Contact With The Reds

Reported Liverpool target Jose Enrique has refuted suggestions that he has already negotiated a summer move to Merseyside.

It has been widely speculated that the Newcastle defender will join the Reds during the transfer window as they look to draft in a new first-choice left-back.

Liverpool legend Phil Thompson has since claimed that a deal was already in place to bring the Spaniard to Anfield, although Enrique has denied this is the case.

"Liverpool is a big club but I am not negotiating with them at the moment, I am calm at Newcastle," the 25-year-old told Radio Marca.

"My dream is to play for the Spain national side and I think that I have a chance.

"I have improved as a footballer since my arrival to England. The Premier League is more competitive than La Liga and I have not received offers to return to Spain.

"The referees in England are not so strict on the field because they permit more action."

According to The People, Manchester United is ready to challenge Liverpool in their pursuit of £15 million-rated Enrique, who continues to gather plaudits for his performances in the Barclays Premier League.

Liverpool Blow As Barcelona Youngster Wants Nou Camp Stay

Barcelona youngster Jeffren is set to snub a summer move to Liverpool in a bid to make his name at the Nou Camp.

The 23-year-old has been linked with a move to Liverpool who are set for a £50million summer spending spree, according to reports.

Old Firm duo Rangers and Celtic were also keen on bringing the Venezuela-born forward to the SPL on loan but Jeffren insists he wants to stay at Barcelona despite his lack of first-team football.

"I do not want to go because I want to succeed in this club," said Jeffren, who has started just three La Liga games this season.

"I hope to have more minutes on the pitch and my biggest wish is to remain at Barca."

Stars Forget Rivalry For Luca

Footballers from both sides of Stanley Park forgot rivalry for one night on Sunday for Liverpool goalkeeper Brad Jones and his son Luca.

Luca was diagnosed with leukaemia last year. A donor was found but sadly the five-year-old's cancer came back in February and once again he is facing an incredibly difficult fight.

That's why the likes of Jamie Carragher, Joe Cole, Pepe Reina, Phil Neville, Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta went along to the Hilton in Liverpool for a charity dinner.

Money was raised through tickets and a silent auction at which guests could bid for memorabilia signed by Maradona, Nelson Mandela, Winston Churchill, Charles Dickens, Nirvana, Pele, Lionel Messi and loads of other icons.

As well as collecting cash, the aim of the evening was to highlight the Anthony Nolan 'Give a Spit, Save a Life' campaign and how easy it is to become a donor by encouraging young men and women to take part in a simple spit test.

Brad told Liverpoolfc.tv: "It's great to see so many people here from the club and Everton as well - they've shown great support.

"Things are tough, but Luca is doing his best to battle through and being a little soldier. We're hoping and praying this treatment works because unfortunately there are not too many things after this that can help him.

"This last year has put everything massively into perspective. Football has kind of taken a back seat but Luca is the most important thing in my life so I've got to make sure I do everything I can for him."

The Hilton was packed with footballers, the odd soap star, photographers from OK Magazine and entertainment including Paige from last year's X-Factor.

Despite the 2-0 defeat to Spurs earlier in the day there was a good turnout from the Liverpool dressing room, including Joe Cole and his wife Carly.

"When it's one of your mates, you turn up for them," said Joe. "Jones is trying to raise money for charity and we're all teammates and all in it together.

"Football is football and we all enjoy it but you can't put a price on your health and the health of your children and family. That's the main thing. This is life and I wish him and his family all the best.

"He's a good lad and we all feel for him and what's he's going through."

Everton's players heard about Luca's plight through Brad's international teammate Tim Cahill.

Phil Neville said: "It's a great cause. Tim with the Australia connection has told us a lot about it. There is a lot of rivalry between the two clubs but on a night like tonight we all join together for a good cause."

Brad has been supported through the last year by his partner Dani Lawrence, who recently ran a marathon in aid of Luca and Anthony Nolan.

"It's amazing how everyone has come to show their support tonight," said Dani. "Anthony Nolan have been so good to us that we just wanted to give something back."

Semi-final Despair For Reds

Liverpool Reserves crashed out of the International Soccer Sevens tournament in Hong Kong at the semi-final stage on Sunday.

Pep Segura's side had topped their group to reach the knockout stage on Sunday and they started brightly with a 2-1 win over Citizen.

However, they lost in the semi-final 2-1 to local side Kitchee.

The game finished 1-1 after normal time, but Kitchee grabbed a golden goal to knock the Reds out.

Nathan Eccleston was top scorer for Liverpool with four goals, followed by David Amoo who netted three.

Law Firm Acts For Dalglish On New Liverpool FC Deal

Law firm Bermans acted on one of the most eagerly-anticipated football deals of the season – for new Liverpool FC manager Kenny Dalglish.

Corporate Partner Kieran Donovan and Employment Associate Ansar Ali were retained by Mr. Dalglish to handle his new contract with Liverpool Football Club.

Bermans has offices in Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow and has acted on behalf of other prominent sports stars in recent years. The firm’s head of employment, Nicky Benson, has previously advised Everton and Tranmere Rovers football clubs.

Mr. Ali said: “It was a privilege to advise Mr. Dalglish on his contract and to be involved in something which means so much to millions of fans across the world and is so important to the fabric of the city and its economy.”

Mr. Donovan said: “Being retained to act for Mr. Dalglish in respect of his new contract with Liverpool FC is a reflection of the increasingly high-profile clients and transactions we are attracting to the firm.”