Thursday, September 22, 2011

Match Report: Brighton 1 - 2 Liverpool

Craig Bellamy's inspired performance helped Liverpool secure progression to the Carling Cup fourth round as they condemned Brighton to their first competitive defeat at the Amex Stadium.

The 32-year-old flourished on his second full debut for the club, having rejoined the Reds from Manchester City in the summer.

Bellamy broke the deadlock in the seventh minute with a neat finish from an awkward angle and performed with aplomb throughout, including a superb 30-yard free-kick that rattled the crossbar.

Despite having overcome Sunderland in the previous round, the Seagulls never looked likely to add another Premier League scalp in the first half but improved greatly after the break.

Craig Noone's superb curling effort hit the crossbar shortly after the restart and Ashley Barnes scored a late penalty, although Dirk Kuyt had already put the tie out of reach.

The Holland international was put free by Maxi Rodriguez with less than 10 minutes remaining and finished strongly to the delight of the 2,403 visiting Liverpool fans, who also saw talisman Steven Gerrard make his first appearance since March.

Heading into the match Kenny Dalglish made seven charges to the side that started Sunday's 4-0 defeat at Tottenham, with summer signings Sebastian Coates and Bellamy both handed their first Liverpool starts this season.

Brighton, who face Leeds in the npower Championship on Friday evening, also made alterations, with Gus Poyet handing a full debut for Steve Cook as part of his five changes from the side beaten 1-0 at Leicester.

The third-round encounter was the pair's first meeting in more than 20 years and one that Liverpool started strongly.

Jay Spearing blazed a long-range shot over in the fourth minute and only a last-ditch tackle prevented Rodriguez prodding goalwards after a melee in the box.

Liverpool's pressure paid dividends in just the seventh minute when Luis Suarez poked the ball through to Bellamy, who finished neatly from a tight angle.

The visitors continued to attack after breaking the deadlock and Kuyt saw a fierce shot blocked by Gordon Greer.

The Dutchman almost snuck in at the back post soon after and then had a shot cleared off the line from the resulting corner.

The visitors' attacking intent had Brighton pinned back and they came agonizingly close to doubling their advantage in the 26th minute.

Poyet's defence was being given a torrid time by fellow Uruguayan Suarez, who shot inches wide when up against goalkeeper Casper Ankergren.

The 24-year-old again came close six minutes later, glancing an inswinging Bellamy free-kick just wide of the far post.

The Welshman saw a rasping 30-yard free-kick rattle the crossbar as half-time approached, before Ankergren was forced to tip Spearing's superb left-footed drive onto the post.

Despite Liverpool's dominance of the opening period, the Seagulls almost equalized with their first attack of the game but Martin Kelly's last-ditch tackle in the six-yard box thwarted the home side.

They looked rejuvenated after the break and two minutes in Noone's 25-yard curling effort hit the crossbar.

Jose Reina was well beaten by the former Liverpool junior but was on his toes to save from Matthew Sparrow from close range shortly afterwards.

Brighton continued to press forward but saw attacking threat Will Buckley forced off in the 60th minute with a knock, resulting in former Spain international Vicente Rodriguez coming on for his debut.

Liverpool made a change of their own with 16 minutes remaining as Gerrard made his long-awaited return from a groin injury in place of Suarez.

The south coast side continued to search for an equalizer but Kuyt seemingly put the match out reach with less than 10 minutes remaining, latching onto Rodriguez's pass to beat Ankergren.

Substitute Barnes pulled one back from the spot in the 89th minute after Jamie Carragher was adjudged to have fouled Vicente, although the goal proved a mere consolation.

Kenny Delighted By Response

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish praised the way his side responded to back-to-back league defeats with a Carling Cup win over tricky Brighton on Wednesday.

Dalglish fielded a strong side against the Championship outfit and the Reds progressed to the fourth round with a 2-1 win at the Apex Stadium.

Craig Bellamy and Dirk Kuyt were on target in a game which marked the return of Steven Gerrard, who replaced Luis Suarez with 15 minutes remaining.

It was exactly the reply Dalglish had hoped for, having seen his side suffer consecutive defeats in the Premier League to Stoke and Tottenham, who embarrassed Liverpool with a 4-0 mauling at White Hart Lane on Sunday.

"For us, it was a fantastic response to what happened to us on Sunday - we're delighted," Dalglish told Sky Sports.

"I've great respect for Brighton, what Gus Poyet has achieved, and we wish them well for the season.

"Liverpool, in the first half, played some fantastic football. In the second half, Brighton had most of the play but Pepe [Reina] didn't have much of a save to make.

"They're a good side Brighton, they're well organized and have a bit of pace about them. We had to play really well to get through and the lads deserve great credit for the way they played."

After a late penalty which saw Brighton threaten a push for extra-time, Dalglish was relieved not to have Gerrard's cameo appearance turn into a 45-minute workout.

The Reds boss admitted had Liverpool been more comfortable earlier in the game, he may have handed Gerrard more time, but he insists the club cannot afford to be "irresponsible" with the club captain.

"If it had been four or five maybe we could have given him a wee bit longer but there was no way it was ever going to be four or five," said Dalglish.

Gerrard May Have To Settle For Liverpool Bench Role, Hints Dalglish

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish has hinted that Steven Gerrard may have to wait for a return to the starting XI, despite the midfielder making his comeback in the 2-1 win at Brighton.

The influential Reds skipper has sat out almost six months with a persistent groin injury, but came through his long-awaited return unscathed after replacing Luis Suarez with 15 minutes remaining.

The Merseysiders have suffered back-to-back defeats in the Premier League, and many fans are desperate for Gerrard to return to action, but Dalglish insists that while he’s pleased to have his captain available again, he won’t be taking any unnecessary risks.

‘We'll manage Stevie as we manage everybody else - we're not going to be irresponsible by throwing him in for more minute than he needs,’ said the Reds boss.

‘He's made terrific progress and we're looking forward to that continuing. We won't spoil it by being irresponsible, but it gives everybody a lift.’

Liverpool entertains Wolves at home on Saturday, and will have Charlie Adam available for selection after he served his one-match ban for his red card against Spurs last weekend.

Bellamy's Goal Delight

Craig Bellamy today spoke of his delight after scoring his first goal since his return to Anfield as Liverpool booked their place in the fourth round of the Carling Cup after a 2-1 win at Brighton.

It was the Welsh forward's first strike in a red shirt since his famous Champions League effort at Barcelona in February 2007, and he also played a major role in the vital second goal which saw Dirk Kuyt fire home.

"It was a nice goal and I was pleased with it," Bellamy told

"I managed to link up with Luis Suarez who is such an impressive player and it was a good feeling.

"I thought we steamrollered them in the first half. Our movement and everything was outstanding, but it just proves that when you are so on top you need to score the second and third goal.

"We faded in the second half and they played well. We gave them the incentive but we knew it was going to be a hard fought game.

"It was a bit of relief for us when we got the second goal on the break but we are delighted to get through.

"We had a lot of players out there like myself who needed the 90 minutes and I enjoyed it."

As to how far Liverpool can go in the Carling Cup this season, Liverpool's No.39 prefers to take things one step at a time.

He added: "We've still got a long way to go in the competition and we will try our best. We'll look forward to Saturday's draw now and see who we get."

Bellamy also reflected on his moment of magic which almost provided him with a September Goal of the Month contender when he sent a rasping 40-yard free-kick onto the bar.

"I thought it was in for a minute," he said.

"I've tried it a few times over the last few years which have gone quite well for me. The way these new balls move means if you catch it right you can score.

"Maybe I'll have a bit more luck next time but the most important thing was the team won."

Steven Gerrard Insists Liverpool Must Take Every Competition Seriously

Steven Gerrard has revealed that Liverpool are taking every cup competition seriously after manager Kenny Dalglish put out a strong side in their 2-1 victory over Brighton in the League Cup.

t was the Reds captain's first appearance after spending six months on the sidelines through injury, and he insisted that being at Liverpool is "all about winning trophies".

"For a club like Liverpool, we haven't been to a major cup final for a long time, so we've got to take every cup seriously - especially when there's no Europe - it makes it a little bit easier to put stronger sides out," he said after the match.

"Kenny's assembled a fantastic squad and now we've got a couple of good players in every position, so even when he mixes it round or rests people we can still put a strong side out like you saw tonight."

He continued: "It's drilled into you from a young boy when you play for Liverpool. It's all about winning trophies and that's the reason why we've got to take every cup seriously - that was the message from the manager tonight before we went out.

"We want to be one step closer to a major cup final and we've delivered tonight. As the captain I'd love nothing more than to get to Wembley with the lads and lift the cup."

"I've been really happy with what I've seen since Kenny's come in. There's been a lot of happy faces around the training ground, and the supporters are happy and I think 90 per cent of the performances have been fantastic.

"If you take Tottenham away and it's exactly what I've been hoping for, and that makes you even more desperate and hungry to get back and get in amongst the lads.

"So it's been frustrating, but it's also been nice to see that the lads have been progressing well and the signings we've made have been good; from top to bottom at the club now everyone's smiling."

Gerrard was also happy with the dominance Liverpool displayed in the first half, and the performance of Craig Bellamy, who scored his first goal since rejoining the Anfield club.

The captain added: "I thought in the first half we were fantastic, we could have had the game dead and buried and been three or four up, but you know in these cup ties the opposition are always going to have a spell of pressure.

"Credit to Gus Poyet, he's got a fantastic team here who play well and they'll probably find themselves hard done by that they didn't take us to extra time. Though that wouldn't have been the end of the world, I'd have got an extra 30 minutes.

"But we're glad to be in the draw for the next round, and looking forward to Saturday to see who we get in the draw.

"It's a fantastic performance from [Bellamy], that's why we've signed him.

"He's got pace, he's always dangerous, it was a great finish for his goal and he's unlucky not to score a worldie when he's cracked the bar so we're really pleased to have him here and I think the fans have had a taste of what he's going to offer us for the rest of the season."

African Hitman Makes Liverpool Comparison

Cameroonian international striker Samuel Eto'o has compared his new club's supporters to those of Liverpool.

The former Barcelona and Inter Milan forward became the highest-paid footballer when completing a move to Russia this summer, with Anzhi Makhachkala splashing out on the 30-year-old.

Concerns were raised over the reception the player would receive from supporters after the move was confirmed, but Eto'o admitted that both he and his teammates were grateful to their 2,000 traveling fans in the 1-0 defeat at Kuban.

The striker went as far as to compare the support to that of Liverpool at Anfield, a ground and atmosphere the player has sampled on a number of occasions in Champions League competition.

"Of course I felt their support," Eto'o told Anzhi's official website

"My team-mates and I personally are very thankful to them. Owing to our supporters we never feel lonely in away matches.

"They're like Liverpool fans with their famous hymn, 'You'll Never Walk Alone'."

Steven Gerrard Ready To End Liverpool Nightmare

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has expressed his delight about returning to action for the club, after describing his six-month injury lay-off as a “nightmare”.

"It's been a nightmare for me,” Gerrard lamented. “I'm not the best when I'm out injured and watching games.

"It's been tough and the last six months have been a rollercoaster. It's behind me now and I'm looking forward to getting match fit and getting back in the starting line-up.

"I'd been out a long time and it was fantastic to be out there in that kit again and it was nice to get a win as well."

The England midfielder has been sidelined since March with a groin injury after suffering a number of setbacks in his recovery. Dalglish was careful not to risk the inspirational midfielder but put him on for the final 20 minutes of Wednesday night's game.

Liverpool will return to Premier League duty this weekend and will look to get their title ambitions back on track following back-to-back defeats to Stoke and Tottenham.

And Dalglish has claimed Gerrard's return has given everyone at the club a lift but said he would not rush his recovery.

“Steven coming back in was fantastic for everyone connected with the football club,” Dalglish said.

“But we’re more pleased for Steven than anyone else because he has worked really hard to get here, he has had a few disappointments along the way and just to get the 20 minutes would have given him a lift.

“We’ll manage his situation as well as we have done to get him this far. We want the same as what he wants but we’ll need to be careful with it and we’ll not get carried away by the fact that he’s back for 20 minutes.”

Youngsters Suffer Wolfsburg Woe

Liverpool's hopes of qualifying for the NextGen Series knockout stage have suffered a blow following a 2-0 defeat in Wolfsburg on Wednesday night.

Two goals inside the opening 10 minutes of the second half did the damage as the Germans picked up the victory that saw them join the Reds on four points and move into joint-second place in Group 2.

Rodolfo Borrell's youngsters had gone into the contest expecting a tough encounter, but they dominated the first period and should have gone ahead when both Toni Silva and Suso missed good chances.

Raheem Sterling then had three one-on-one situations with the Wolfsburg goalkeeper but failed to find the net on each occasion.

The hosts had illustrated the quality they had at their disposal in last week's 1-1 draw at Anfield and they made the Reds pay for their profligacy within two minutes of the restart.

Andax Guleryuz sized up a free-kick 25 yards from goal before crashing home a superb strike that gave stopper Tyrell Belford no chance.

It was harsh on the visitors, particularly given their first-half pressure, but it got even worse just moments later when the German outfit doubled their advantage with a well-worked move.

Giovanni Millemaci raced down the left, cut inside and unleashed a fine shot that fizzed into the corner.

Liverpool pushed to force their way back into the contest but once again their finishing was lacking.

Sterling hit the crossbar while Adam Morgan and Silva both went close as Wolfsburg rode their luck to claim a somewhat fortuitous triumph.

Liverpool U19s/Reserves: Belford, McLaughlin, Sama, Wisdom, Smith, Coady, Roddan, Sterling, Suso, Silva, Ngoo.