Sunday, August 07, 2011

Match Report: Liverpool 2 - 0 Valencia

Liverpool concluded their pre-season schedule with a victory and a clean sheet after overcoming Valencia at Anfield.

Andy Carroll netted his third goal of the summer by capitalizing on a mistake by David Albelda in the sixth minute, the striker picking up the ball, hitting it against the post off goalkeeper Diego Alves and finishing at the second attempt.

The hosts then made it 2-0 in the final minute of normal time thanks to a goal which was announced as Dirk Kuyt's, even though replays suggested Sotirios Kyrgiakos had got the last touch.

The game proved to be a comfortable workout for the Reds ahead of their Barclays Premier League opener against Sunderland next Saturday and manager Kenny Dalglish - who had seen his side ship 15 goals in their previous five friendly matches - will take encouragement from the fact that they did not concede.

Dalglish made only two changes to the starting line-up from Monday's 3-3 draw with Valerenga in Oslo, with former Valencia man Fabio Aurelio - featuring for the first time in pre-season - and Alberto Aquilani coming into the team.

Jack Robinson and Kuyt dropped to the bench, where they were joined by Lucas Leiva, who had returned to training with the Reds earlier in the week following his participation for Brazil in the Copa America.

Juan Mata, a reported target for several Premier League clubs over the summer, was included in the visitors' first XI.

Liverpool made a positive start and had the lead when an error by Valencia captain Albelda allowed Carroll to pounce.

Making a hash of a back-pass, Albelda played the ball straight into the path of the England international, who saw his initial shot through Alves' legs come back off the post but was alert enough to tuck away the rebound.

Moments later Dalglish was forced to make a substitution, Glen Johnson picking up an apparent calf problem and coming off for Martin Kelly.

Valencia then enjoyed a spell of pressure before Jordan Henderson drilled an effort wide for the hosts.

Another defensive lapse by the Spanish side let Carroll in again, but the 22-year-old could only shoot at Alves.

Carroll then received a yellow card after lunging in late on Adil Rami and getting into a skirmish with the Frenchman, before being on the end of a hefty challenge himself, Albelda flying in and also getting booked.

Lucas and Robinson were introduced at the break for Jay Spearing and Aurelio and soon after the restart Dalglish made four more changes, David Ngog, Maxi Rodriguez, Kuyt and Joe Cole coming on for Carroll, Stewart Downing, Henderson and Aquilani.

The substitutes were quickly into the action as Ngog shot wide from Rodriguez's tee-up.

Daniel Agger then lashed an effort over the bar, and Kelly struck a low drive towards goal which Alves dived to smother.

Kyrgiakos and John Flanagan entered the fray to replace Agger and Adam, and Tino Costa sent a free-kick over the bar for the away side.

Valencia substitutes Sofiane Feghouli and Roberto Soldado looked like they might threaten late on, but Liverpool wrapped up the win in the 90th minute, Kyrgiakos and Kuyt seemingly bundling the ball in between them from close range.

Dalglish admitted after the match that the shutout at the back was just as important as the goals scored.

"I think the boys deserve great credit for the work they have done out there," Dalglish said.

"I think they have got their reward for the hard work they have done in training by not losing any goals, and that is as pleasing for us as it is to score two at the other end.

"We are delighted with everyone's attitude and commitment, and for us to go and win against a very good side will not do us any harm."

In the remaining days before the Sunderland game, Dalglish will be welcoming striker Luis Suarez - who helped Uruguay win the Copa America - back to training and crossing his fingers that his players get through the midweek international fixtures unscathed.

"We have still got Luis to come back in so we will see how he is - he should be back in Monday or Tuesday I think," Dalglish said.

"Lucas has been back a week and it has been great to see him back and play 45 minutes.

"We are where we would like to be with most of them. We could have done without midweek internationals, but we just have to live with that and hope that no-one comes back injured."

Dalglish revealed that Johnson had in fact injured his thigh and would be assessed on Sunday.

Carroll, meanwhile, looks to be shaping up well.

"We were absolutely delighted with Andy's performance," Dalglish said.

"You can see he has gotten over his injury problems - he was flying about out there, which is great for us."

Dalglish Bemoans Midweek Internationals Before Premier League Campaign

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalgish has bemoaned the timing of the upcoming mid-week friendly internationals as he prepares for the start of the Premier League season.

The Reds finished their pre-season schedule with a 2-0 victory at Anfield against Valencia on Saturday. The match came a week before they kick-off their domestic campaign with a trip to Sunderland.

Speaking to reporters after the match, Dalglish voiced his frustration at seeing many members of his stellar squad depart on Sunday after they have been assessed alongside fresh thigh injury victim Glen Johnson.

"We could have done without a mid-week fixture for friendly internationals but we've just got to live with that and hope no-one comes back injured," the Scot stated.

"Everybody is in today and we'll assess how they are before they start to leave for international duty if they're called up as a lot of them are on standby at the moment."

Liverpool had endured a pre-season to forget beforehand, with victories in the Far East followed by defeats to Hull City and Galatasaray and a draw with Valerenga. Dalglish stated his troops deserved "great credit" for Saturday's result against the La Liga giant.

He said: "I think the boys deserve great credit for the work they've done out there.

"I think they got the reward for the hard work they have done in training by not losing any goals and that is just as pleasing for us as it is to score two at the other end. We're delighted with everybody, and their attitude and commitment.

"For us to go and win against a very, very good side, that won't do us any harm."

Carragher: The Best Way To Stop Manchester United Is To Be Winners

Jamie Carragher believes that the best way to stop Manchester United from continuing to win more Premier League titles is for Liverpool to win it themselves.

The Reds recently relinquished their status as the team with the most number of league titles in the history of English football, as the Old Trafford club won a record 19th championship last season.

That took them one ahead of the Merseysiders, and the defender hopes to remedy the situation quickly.

"If we want to stop them being champions then the best way to do it is to finish top ourselves," Carragher told The Sunday Mirror.

"It’s the same with the Champions League. I don’t want to be sat here in 10 years’ time talking about the fact that United have won more European Cups than us – and the best way to stop that is to qualify for the Champions League and win it again.

"It has been too long for a club like Liverpool not to win the league, but we can’t become obsessed with them in the way they used to be about Liverpool when they couldn’t win the title.

"What was it for them – 26 years was it? We’ll be doing what we can to make sure we don’t break their record! I think during that time, they also got relegated. I don’t think that will ever happen to Liverpool – and you can quote me on that. I won’t stop hoping or believing, but I am realistic enough to know that time is running out for me to win it.

"And to be honest, I’ll have still had a great career. The most important thing isn’t Jamie Carragher, it’s Liverpool Football Club."

For now, however, the 33-year-old insists that manager Kenny Dalglish has been addressing the problems in the squad through his signings.

"I think what the manager has been quick to address is the fact that we haven’t had the same strength in depth as other top teams. It can’t be just about 1 to 11," said Carragher.

"It’s a squad game now because of all the matches and the boss has really prepared for that.

"In the past we have perhaps relied on the likes of Stevie (Gerrard) or (Fernando) Torres a bit too much and I think that’s something the manager has been looking to address with the signings he’s made."

Tottenham To Lodge Surprise Bid For Liverpool Star

Tottenham are weighing up an approach for Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva.

The Londoners are preparing for the seemingly inevitable departure of Luka Modric to Chelsea, who are believed to on the verge of submitting a £30m bid for the Croatian, and have identified Lucas as an option. With Wilson Palacios also likely to leave White Hart Lane with Stoke City interested in taking him on, the need to bolster the squad becomes clear.

Lucas has been at Liverpool for four years though has spent much of that time being derided by fans and observers alike. That perspective has changed over the last 12 months with the player integrating himself into the side to greater effect and warming to the demands of manager Kenny Dalglish.

At 24, the Brail international still has a career ahead of him and Spurs boss Harry Redknapp would like that to be in North London. Though Dalglish remains a fan of his player, the Liverpool midfield is stretched to bursting point after the summer additions of Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson.

A bid of around £9m might be enough to convince the Scot to part company with his charge.

Liverpool Agree Fee For Jose Enrique

Liverpool has finally agreed a £5.5million fee for Newcastle defender Jose Enrique.

The two sides have been at loggerheads all summer over a price for the attack-minded Spaniard.

But with Enrique refusing to sign a contract and going on Twitter to criticize his club, the Magpies have decided to take the money on offer from the Reds.

And Kenny Dalglish is now in a position to tie up the deal having moved the money- draining contract of Milan Jovanovic off his wage bill.

Enrique has been Liverpool’s top target to solve their left-back position throughout the summer.

The stopper, 25, arrived at Newcastle from Villarreal in a £6.3million deal in 2007 and made 119 appearances.

Gattuso: 'Milan Need An Aquilani'

Gennaro Gattuso warns Milan they need to bring in “Alberto Aquilani or Riccardo Montolivo, someone with quality.”

The Rossoneri fought back to beat Inter 2-1 in the Italian Super Cup on Saturday, but their sluggish first half performance raised questions.

“The way I see it, Milan need a new man in midfield,” Gattuso told the Gazzetta dello Sport.

“We more or less all have the same characteristics in that area. We need a player who can get the team moving a bit more.”

Following Andrea Pirlo’s move to Juventus, they have been linked primarily with Liverpool outcast Aquilani and Fiorentina’s want-away former captain Montolivo.

“Perhaps Aquilani pushes up more, while we all know Montolivo, as he has been an Italian international for years.

“Aquilani and Montolivo are both players of great quality.”

Liverpool Accept City's Offer For Ayala

Liverpool have announced via their official website that Hull City’s offer for Daniel Ayala has been accepted.

The Spaniard has been given permission to discuss personal terms with The Tigers, with Pearson likely to aim to conclude the deal before Saturday’s trip to Ipswich Town.

City had initially bit £500,000 for Ayala and with Liverpool holding out for a seven figure sum, a compromise has now been reached to bring in a player who will challenge James Chester and Jack Hobbs for a starting place.

Ayala made 12 appearances for The Tigers last season when joining on loan from Liverpool, scoring once against Derby County.

U16s Secure Semi Berth

Liverpool are through to the semi-finals of the Swiss U16 Cup after clinching first place in Group B on Saturday.

The Reds recorded an emphatic 5-0 victory over St Gallen in their opening game of the day in Ruggell to ensure they'd finish top, meaning their 2-1 defeat to Rapid Vienna had no impact on the final standings.

Academy manager Steve Cooper told "It was quite a difficult game against St Gallen because they are the local team here.

"They've struggled a little bit in the tournament, but they dropped off us, sat back and made it really difficult for us to play, so we had to be patient.

"We managed to score in the first half and fortunately goals came a little bit easier for us in the second.

"It was a good experience for us to have to adapt to something different, but the boys did well and I was pleased with them.

"I thought we did okay against Rapid Vienna and we probably played some better stuff and created better chances than we did against St Gallen.

"But we've got a few knocks and a couple of boys that have played a lot of football over here, so I could see there were a few tired legs out there.

"We made a couple of mistakes, but that's something we can talk about and hopefully put them to bed come tomorrow."

Liverpool secured top spot after winning four of their five clashes in a group that also contained FC Zurich, Team Vorarlberg and Wolfsburg in addition to Saturday's opponents.

Cooper admits the manner in which his side has dealt with several different playing styles over the course of the tournament so far is cause for satisfaction.

He added: "What has been pleasing is we have tried to play the right way - and we have done that most of the time we've been on the pitch.

"It's good recognition for everybody that we're through as group winners and hopefully we can take that into tomorrow.

"But as I've said previously, the most important thing is the boys get the experience of playing in a different environment against different styles and cultures - and they've certainly acquitted themselves really well up to now."