Sunday, August 14, 2011

Match Report: Liverpool 1 - 1 Sunderland

Striker Luis Suarez gave Liverpool the perfect start to their season but they wasted the opportunity to press home their advantage as they were pegged back by Sunderland.

With £49million worth of new signings on the pitch there was a feeling of optimism around Anfield and it was therefore fitting Suarez, the January acquisition who ignited the second half of last season, should score the first goal of the new Barclays Premier League campaign.

Having missed a fifth-minute penalty the Uruguay striker made amends by heading in a free-kick from Charlie Adam - one of three summer signings in the starting line-up.

Suarez's fellow January arrival Andy Carroll had a goal disallowed and another July new boy Stewart Downing rattled the crossbar with a long-range shot as Sunderland struggled to keep themselves afloat in the opening half-hour.

But Liverpool's flowing, passing football evaporated well before the break and they failed to rediscover it as the Black Cats sensed their chance and seized it, securing a point thanks to Sebastian Larsson's brilliant equalizer 12 minutes into the second half.

It somewhat pricked the pre-season bubble which had begun to develop at the club after owners Fenway Sports Group spent more than £50million in bolstering the squad.

Of those acquisitions, Adam impressed, Jordan Henderson began brightly before fading, Jose Enrique was solid at left-back while Downing was quietly effective having been employed in a number of roles.

But it was former Ajax forward Suarez who had honour of scoring the first goal of the season in the Barclays Premier League.

The star of the Copa America, which his nation won, only returned to training on Monday but showed no ill-effects of having a short lay-off.

His only blemish was that missed spot-kick but after eventually opening his account his goal is likely to be the first of many.

Recent fixtures between these two teams have not been without controversy, with Darren Bent's beachball-assisted strike two years ago and last season a mistaken backpass which led to Dirk Kuyt scoring at Anfield and a dubious penalty for Liverpool's first at the Stadium of Light.

The 2012 edition was no different as after just five minutes the hosts were awarded a penalty when Suarez charged down Kieran Richardson's clearance, with a slight suspicion of an arm, on the halfway line only to go down in the area under the challenge of Richardson after rounding Simon Mignolet.

Referee Phil Dowd showed the left-back a yellow card but Suarez blazed the penalty over.

But the £22.8million striker was not to be denied and when Adam whipped in a low, inswinging free-kick from the right in the 12th minute he nipped in at the near post to head in off the legs of Mignolet.

Carroll thought he had opened his account for the season when he chested down Adam's left-wing cross before smashing home but the flag had already gone up for the slightest of touches on Anton Ferdinand.

Adam had Mignolet clutching his 35-yard shot at the second attempt while Downing was even closer, crashing a shot off the crossbar after a driving run down the inside-right channel from five yards inside his own half.

But somehow, from a position of dominance, Liverpool appeared to lose their way and the interval certainly put paid to their dwindling momentum.

Sunderland seized their opportunity to gain a foothold in the game and should have equalized in the 53rd minute when John Flanagan's mistake at right-back allowed Sebastian Larsson, one of Sunderland's new signings, to get forward and cross but Asamoah Gyan headed straight at Jose Reina from close range.

If that was a warning to Kenny Dalglish's side they did not heed it as just four minutes later they conceded an equalizer.

Ahmed Elmohamady hung up a deep cross to the far post and Larsson found himself in enough space to superbly volley back across goal and past Reina.

From that point it appeared Sunderland were the most likely winners.

Liverpool regained more control late on as they pushed for a winner but with Suarez having been replaced it was left to Carroll to lead the line.

The £35million club-record signing huffed and puffed a lot but could fashion only half-chances as his side laboured.

It is, of course, early days but these are the sort of matches Dalglish knows his side has to win this season if they are to haul themselves back into the top four.

Dalglish Admits Debutants Were Nervous In Draw Against Sunderland

Kenny Dalglish believes that nerves may have affected Liverpool's new signings in their 1-1 draw with Sunderland on the opening day of the season.

Four summer signings - Jose Enrique, Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam and Stewart Downing - made their Liverpool debuts at Anfield on Saturday.

"The four boys who came in would have had nerves. It's a big ordeal coming out to play your first game at Anfield, especially for Jose Enrique who only signed yesterday," Dalglish said. "I thought they all did something in the game that you will remember them for. We are happy with them and they will improve."

Liverpool took the lead in the 12th minute through Luis Suarez's glancing header but was pegged back by a fierce volley from Sebastian Larsson 12 minutes after the restart. The Liverpool players appeared to tire in the second half.

Dalglish Angry At Referee After Suarez Penalty Decision

The new Premier League season may be less than a day old but Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish has already called for clarity on rules after his side's 1-1 draw at home to Sunderland.

Just five minutes into the match at Anfield Kieran Richardson brought down Luis Suarez as he rounded goalkeeper Simon Mignolet. Referee Phil Dowd pointed to the spot but only booked the defender and Suarez subsequently missed the penalty.

The Uruguay international made up for it by heading in Charlie Adam's free-kick seven minutes later but despite their first-half dominance the Reds were pegged back by Sebastian Larsson's volley just after the interval.

It was the latest in a list of controversial incidents in fixtures between the two teams and Dalglish felt it raised the thorny subject of interpretation again.

"You don't want to see people sent off and I don't know what the rule book says about a clear goalscoring opportunity when Luis Suarez is one on one with the goalkeeper I don't see a clearer goalscoring opportunity than that," he said.

"They may say he is taking the ball away from goal so it is a yellow card but if you are in the middle of the goal and want to go around the goalkeeper you have to go away from goal.

"I suppose nine-and-a-half out of 10 would have given Kieran the red card but we need to know where we stand and how they are going implement the rules and word them in the books - that is what we asked for."

Liverpool Prepare Move For £18m Rated Premiership Defender

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish is set to step up his pursuit of a centre back and has made a move for Stoke defender Ryan Shawcross, according to reports in the Daily Mail.

Dalglish has been one of the busiest Premier League managers during the summer transfer window and has already brought in the likes of, Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing, Doni, Charlie Adam and Jose Enquire on top of January signings Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez.

However it doesn't seem like Liverpool's spending spree has finished for this transfer window and during pre season it has been highlighted the Reds are in need of a top centre half and Dalglish has set his sights on Shawcross.

The Potters defender has been in impressive form over the past couple of seasons and his performances last season were an important factor in Stoke getting to the FA Cup final and a place in this season’s Europa League.

Kop boss Dalglish is keen to acquire the 23-year-old, former Manchester United player and it is believed Liverpool is preparing a bid of around £10million.

It is however believed that Stoke manager Tony Pulis and the board value one of their prized assets at £18m.

Last season the England Under 21 international made 44 appearances for Stoke in all competitions and scored two goals.

Poulsen Seeks Reds Exit

Liverpool midfielder Christian Poulsen accepts his future lies away from the club and hopes to seal a move this month.

The Denmark international made little impact in his first season after being signed by former Reds boss Roy Hodgson last summer.

With current boss Kenny Dalglish now possessing a wealth of talent in the centre of midfield, Poulsen is surplus to requirements.

The former Juventus man accepts his misfortune, and will push for a transfer before the summer transfer window shuts on 31st August.

"My future needs to be resolved in August and preferably as soon as possible," Poulsen told Danish television station TV2.

"I have to get to play matches regularly. It's obvious that I would really like to play football."

Andy Carroll Still Looking To Let Out His Inner Monster For Liverpool

In January's great striker sale, £85m worth of goalscoring talent passed through Anfield. Fernando Torres went out for £50m and Andy Carroll came in to break the record fee for an English footballer. There is no certainty of a return on either splurge.

Starting a new campaign in the No9 jersey, Carroll was sometimes lumbering, off-target with his heading and often loose in his distribution of the ball. This is not to say that the £35m bank-transferred from Liverpool to Newcastle United is already burning around the edges. Plenty of good judges say this giant pony-tailed bruiser is England's next top-class centre-forward. But already we see that his evolution from home-town prodigy to big-stage star is going to be more complicated than Kenny Dalglish might have liked.

Dalglish's faith in Carroll expressed more than a desire to hit straight back after Torres fled to Chelsea. His acquisition was no desperate grab at the nearest available tool. But as Dalglish's predecessor, Roy Hodgson, is fond of saying, "you can lead a player to water but you can't make him drink". Carroll, not Dalglish, is the ultimate master of his own destiny, and to fulfil his potential he will need to practise dedication as well as knocking opponents out of the way.

From the pictures and general reports, it would be fair to say the £35m man didn't spend his summer at a yoga retreat. Not that he returned to training fat or dissolute. The point is that at this high level every nuance is visible, on and off the pitch. His huge price tag intensifies the scrutiny, especially here at Anfield, where Carroll's shortage of speed across the pitch and lack of accuracy stood out in a Liverpool display featuring intermittently bright contributions from Charlie Adam and Stewart Downing.

Dominant for one half, Liverpool lost rhythm and purpose after the interval. There were league debuts for Adam, Downing, Jordan Henderson and José Enrique, the new left-back who spent much of the game taking positional lectures from Jamie Carragher. As the young right-back, John Flanagan, began to struggle against Sunderland's Sebastian Larsson, Henderson failed to impose himself and Luis Suárez (the first-half goalscorer) started to tire following his exertions at the Copa América, it fell to Carroll to seize the narrative in classic Anfield fashion, but the task was beyond him.

Liverpool's injured captain, Steven Gerrard, can explain the special expectations that all players carry into combat here. In adversity, the top names are meant to make the difference. Starting alongside Suárez in a 4-4-2 formation, Carroll was expected to be the beneficiary of Downing's arrival on the flank. In the most obvious analysis he would mooch around the box waiting for Downing to locate his forehead. Rarely will it be that simple. The modern striker is no static finisher.

Mobility is the religion, and Carroll's handicap is that his size can make him appear laboured at full gallop. Some of this may be attributable to a lack of match-sharpness. To acquire that he will have to stay fit, eager, and attentive to the wisdom Dalglish and his coaching staff impart on the training ground.

The Carroll-Suárez partnership is certainly promising. "Andy came to the club injured and he's a lot fitter now. Those two will be all right," Dalglish said in the wake of Larsson's acrobatic equalizer. Alan Shearer, who managed Carroll for eight games at Newcastle, says: "He will get better. He will score goals as well because he's not frightened to miss. That's very important in a striker.

"You can see strikers who shirk away because they're frightened to miss chances because of the reaction, not only of their own players but the crowd as well. He's not bothered about that, which is a great sign. You can see strikers who miss a chance and don't want to get in there for another in case they miss again. He's not like that."

Immunity to crowd pressure is an asset in these parts. Liverpool started the campaign cheerily. Not every Kopite is yet convinced by the new signings, but there is an authentic sense of stability and renewal.

Henderson started ahead of Dirk Kuyt, the warhorse in residence, but will need to offer more to keep his place. There is little of the outside-right about Henderson, so picking him on the flank may be Dalglish's way of handling an excess of central midfielders. Nor could Raul Meireles claim a first XI jersey here. When Gerrard returns the surfeit in the centre will grow. Dalglish's challenge is to find a shape that best accommodates these individual assets; and plans B and C for when things go wrong.

Chasing a winner, he tried several combinations against an increasingly assertive Sunderland: Downing in the hole with Kuyt right, then Downing right with Kuyt central and Meireles marauding on the left. In all this time (33 minutes, from Larsson's equalizer) Carroll remained willing but was unable to shake off Wes Brown, a Manchester United discard who displayed his latent class at centre‑half.

With nine minutes left, Carroll set off on a hopeful dribble but lost the ball and fell over. On the touchline Dalglish shook his head. Next weekend brings an opportunity for this £35m weapon to terrorize Arsenal's defence again in London.

There is a monster of a striker inside Andy Carroll. But only he can let it out.

Daniel Ayala To Leave Liverpool For Norwich City

Liverpool defender Daniel Ayala is on the brink of completing his transfer to Norwich City in a move worth a reported 800,000 pounds.

The Spaniard was the subject of a bid from Championship side Hull City last week, provoking a flurry of offers from the likes of Swansea City and Ipswich Town.

Ayala enjoyed impressive loan spells at both Hull and Derby County last season, with his performances catching the eye of Canaries boss Paul Lambert.

Norwich has confirmed that his signing will now be going through, subject to the completion of the relevant paperwork.

"He's a young player and obviously played against us for Hull and Derby and I thought he was strong and aerial as well, he was somebody we thought could benefit the football club," Lambert told reporters before Norwich's 1-1 draw against Wigan Athletic.

The 20-year old defender is capped at under-21 level by Spain and joined Liverpool in 2007 after progressing through Sevilla's youth ranks. He rejected the offer of a professional contract with the La Liga club in favour of a move to Anfield.

Ayala appeared five times for Liverpool's first team in the Premier League and made a combined 29 Championship appearances last season between Hull and Derby, scoring one goal. He becomes Norwich's sixth permanent signing of the summer and the first defender to join the club permanently since its promotion to the top flight.

U18s Draw Watford Blank

It was a day of frustration in front of goal for Liverpool U18s as they ended their pre-season program with a goalless draw against Watford.
Mike Marsh's side played some good football on the day but they just couldn't find the breakthrough against a good Hornets outfit.
Adam Morgan had a rare luckless day in front of goal as he came close to winning it for the Reds in the closing stages.
Marsh's side starts their league season next Saturday when they welcome Cardiff City to the Academy.

Lincoln Loss For Ladies

Two preventable set-piece goals meant Liverpool left Sincil Bank with nothing after a highly entertaining game in front of the ESPN cameras on Saturday.

Despite first-half goals from Katie Brusell and Nicky Twohig, Robbie Johnson's side were unable to build on last week's first WSL victory as they were twice denied by the woodwork in a 4-2 defeat to Lincoln.

The cagey opening to the game replicated the even nature of the reverse fixture at Skelmersdale in May, which Lincoln won thanks to a late Lucy Staniforth goal.

The first chance was created by Liverpool captain Vicky Jones, whose cross was spilled by Imps goalkeeper Nicola Hobbs. Kelly Jones was first to latch onto the loose ball, but despite getting plenty of power behind her shot, Hobbs was able to block.

In terms of possession, the Reds were firmly on top, and they made that advantage count after 13 minutes. Chloe Jones swung a probing free-kick towards the back post, where Twohig rose highest and was able to guide her header into the unguarded net.

Neat play between Sue Smith and Jess Clarke created the home side's first half-chance midway through the first period, but Reds goalkeeper Dani Gibbons was more than equal to Clarke's cross.

Gibbons was more severely tested a minute later, but a fine double save saw her first deny Jodie Taylor from close range, then stop Clarke's angled drive, which was heading for the bottom corner.

Another Chloe Jones delivery caused chaos in the Lincoln box on the half hour. Hobbs again failed to gather, and Emma Jones saw her hooked shot cleared off the line. Suzanne Lappin then set up Nicki Harding, whose 18-yard drive cannoned back off the crossbar.

Lincoln immediately capitalised on their lucky break as a Sue Smith corner beat everyone and nestled in the Liverpool net. One of either Leandra Little or Vicky Jones may have got the final touch, but the goal was credited to England winger Smith.

The visiting captain needed treatment after the goal, but thankfully was back on her feet within minutes.

Another Smith corner then caused more problems for Liverpool. A deeper delivery found Little, whose header back into the danger zone caused panic until the referee adjudged that Gibbons was being fouled as she tried to claim the ball.

Both teams could have then taken the lead after 39 minutes, as the game became more stretched. First, Lynda Shepherd came close to restoring Liverpool's advantage when she fired just over from 20 yards.

Lincoln then counter-attacked and Smith, who was proving a constant menace, floated over a cross that Clarke headed over.

That was only a temporary respite for the Reds though, as they fell behind on 40 minutes.

A corner from the left was half cleared as far as Little, and when her shot was blocked on the line by Vicky Jones, England vice-captain Casey Stoney was at hand to turn home the rebound.

That lead lasted all of two minutes as an entertaining first half took yet another twist. Harding dispossessed her marker before driving forward and laying the ball off to Brusell.

With plenty still to do, Brusell outpaced two Imps defenders before hitting a shot that found Hobbs' top corner, possibly via a deflection - Brusell's first WSL goal.

The home side could still have taken a lead into the break had Taylor's close range header from Clarke's looping cross not dropped the other side of the post, but as it was, a dramatic first 45 minutes ended all square.

As with the first half, the second 45 minutes started in scrappy fashion, but when the first chance arrived, it was for the home side.

Taylor was clean through down the right flank, but instead of shooting she chose to square the ball to the onrushing Smith. However, Sam Chappell just got enough on the ball to put Smith off, and the experienced winger lifted her shot over the bar.

Cheryl Foster then replaced Harding for the Reds, but Lincoln kept up their early momentum. Smith and Clarke again proved the main threats as a move ended with Staniforth firing at Gibbons. Twohig then had to be alert to deny Smith with a perfectly timed sliding tackle, before a Smith corner proved Liverpool's downfall again.

This time she floated her delivery into the near post, and a jumping Vicky Jones could only head into her own net via the underside of the bar.

On the hour, Chloe Jones made way for Michelle Evans, and, after taking over set piece duties, Evans caught Hobbs out with an inswinging corner that the goalkeeper managed to gather at the second attempt.

However, Lincoln were still on top and Clarke's trickery almost created a fourth goal midway through the half. She beat Vicky Jones on the right wing before firing in a low cross that was cleared over the bar - and over the stand - by Evans.

Gibbons then had to be brave to deny the home side again, as she just beat Megan Harris to claim a Clarke knock-down in the six yard box.

On 76 minutes, Lincoln did extend their advantage. Staniforth's low cross was met by a diving Little, and when her header struck the foot of the post, Clarke was able to turn in the rebound and claim the goal that her performance merited.

Liverpool almost responded immediately through more hesitant goalkeeping by Hobbs. Evans' free kick evaded the keeper's gloves and bounced just wide of the far post.

Kelly Jones's close-range effort was then deflected over as the Reds pushed for a deficit-halving third, and they were incredibly unfortunate not to get it with ten minutes remaining.

Evans managed to hook a half volley goalwards, but her shot hit the bar and bounced down onto the line, with Brusell's follow up being cleared.

Gibbons then saved from Little and Smith as Lincoln were able to expose the gaps in the Reds defence with the clock ticking down.

Substitute Gemma Watson, Brusell and Twohig all had half chances for Liverpool as the game entered stoppage time, but they finished on the losing side as the Imps were able to close the game out and pick up their second triumph over Liverpool this season.

Liverpool remain bottom going into the season's final fixture - a home tie with title-chasing Arsenal.