Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Match Report: Rangers 1 - 0 Liverpool

Lee McCulloch grabbed the only goal of the game as Rangers claimed victory over Liverpool in a friendly at Ibrox.

Both sides used the fixture to give game time to players who have not featured as regularly as others so far in their respective domestic campaigns.

Skipper David Weir made only his second appearance of the season for Rangers after spending the early part of the campaign sidelined through injury, while Matt McKay was handed his first start.

Danny Wilson was named in the starting line-up for Liverpool against his former club but another ex-Rangers player, Charlie Adam, started on the bench, while Steven Gerrard was not included in the squad.

Juan Manuel Ortiz tried his luck with a decent shot early on that Doni did well to smother, before the goalkeeper was called into action again to block from Steven Whittaker.

The breakthrough came from the resulting corner when Steven Davis delivered into the packed goalmouth and the ball broke for McCulloch who forced home with 20 minutes gone.

McKay should have doubled the advantage a few minutes later with a header from six yards but Doni produced a great save to deny the Australian.

Liverpool could have levelled through a deflected shot from Andy Carroll but Allan McGregor was able to block comfortably in the Rangers goal.

Davis ran onto a long ball from McCulloch in plenty of space and tried to lob the goalkeeper only for his effort to dip just over the crossbar.

Liverpool emerged for the second half unchanged, while Rangers made five changes at the break, including McGregor being replaced in goal by Neil Alexander.

The home side thought they had added to their lead 10 minutes after the restart when substitute Kyle Lafferty tested Doni at his right-hand post and the goalkeeper spilled the ball but referee Willie Collum ruled that the effort did not cross the line.

Doni injured himself while attempting to make the save and was replaced by Martin Hansen.

Both sides then made a number of changes with just over an hour gone and Adam's introduction to the action was met with one of the biggest cheers of the night from the Ibrox crowd.

Rangers continued to carve out the best of the chances and Lafferty saw his long-range shot graze the crossbar, with the woodwork denying the Northern Irishman on this occasion.

Liverpool almost levelled late on when Carroll teed up the shot for Jordan Henderson and his well-struck shot was deflected just past the upright.

Carroll then went to ground under pressure from Alexander but there was no penalty award as Rangers held on for the win.

Reina - Gerrard's A Born Winner

Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina is delighted to have club captain Steven Gerrard back from injury and has described him as 'a born winner'.

Gerrard started his first game for the Merseyside giants in seven months on Saturday against Manchester United at Anfield in the Premier League and also found the target, as the match finished in a 1-1 draw.

Reina is overjoyed that the England international midfielder has recovered from a groin injury and is hopeful of watching him in action regularly this season.

"Stevie is the badge of this football club, the soul of this team and we are more than happy to have him back in the team," said the Spaniard in the Liverpool Echo.

"Hopefully he will be back for a long, long time. Just by the fact that he is on the pitch it is an inspiration for us.

"He always leads by example and anything he does he does with passion and a lot of commitment. He is a born winner."

The draw with champions United has placed Liverpool in fifth spot on 14 points from eight matches, making Reina optimistic of further progress in the table as the season unfolds.

"It's a positive thing to be disappointed at having not beaten Manchester United," enthused the 29-year-old.

"It speaks well about the hunger of the team and the performance of the team that clearly we deserved three points. It was unlucky but we have to keep going.

"We have been consistent so far this season. We had just one poor game at Spurs (4-0 defeat in September).

"It shows without doubt the progress that has been made. We are all much happier than a year ago.

"It is not about belief. It is about the quality of the team and the squad and the strength we have as a group.

"We have to work on a daily basis to improve, keep going and compete more often with the people above us.

"We will find out at the end of the season and hopefully the distance won't be that big."

Liverpool Scouts Cast Eye Over Crystal Palace Starlet

Crystal Palace starlet Wilfried Zaha is reportedly edging closer to a move to a Premier League club after starring against Watford at the weekend.

The 18-year-old forward is thought to be attracting the interest of Liverpool, Newcastle and Tottenham with reports claiming a battle for his signature will begin during the January transfer window.

According to the Daily Star, Liverpool and Newcastle scouts were in attendance on Saturday when Zaha put in another dazzling display, scoring in their 2-0 victory at Vicarage Road.

However, Palace is determined to hold onto their prized asset and will attempt to hold off any interested parties in January.

Varoius reported claim the Championship side value Zaha at around £10m and will only entertain offers around that amount.

Reds Yet To Return For Chedjou

Aurelien Chedjou claims to have received no further contact from Liverpool, but admits Juventus have expressed an interest in signing him.

The Lille defender was a transfer target for the Reds last season, but eventually penned a new deal in France.

That agreement is due to run until 2015, but a clause inserted in the agreement means he is free to discuss a move next summer.

Chedjou is yet to decide what action, if any, he will take at that juncture, but admits he is open to offers.

A move to the Premier League would be his preferred choice, but he claims Liverpool have offered no indication as to whether they will be re-entering the chase.

"When I signed the extension did I reach an agreement to be able to leave next summer? Yes, we have such an agreement," Chedjou told L'Equipe.

"But I am not thinking I will play this season and then leave. I will try to play as well as possible and if there are offers, we will sit down and discuss them.

"I will not forget that Lille have shown great faith in me.

"Do I have news from Liverpool? No.

"The last contact from abroad came from Juventus. They contacted my agent during my holidays, but I gave my word to Lille when I signed the new contract and I am happy to stay for another season.

"We will see what happens, but England would be an exciting destination for me."

iverpool Touted To Move For Dutch Sensation

Liverpool is being touted with a move for PSV Eindhoven's Dutch starlet Georginio Wijnaldum.

The 20-year-old attacking midfielder, who has been likened to Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, is gaining the attention of a number of European clubs, after growing unsettled following his €5 million summer switch from Feyenoord.

Wijnaldum has been lauded for his attacking style and dribbling abilities, and is reportedly being lined up for a January move after only four months in Eindhoven.

While the player and his agent haven't mentioned any potential suitors as of yet, the Dutch international is believed to be keen on a move to Premier League giants Liverpool.

Wijnaldum is a huge fan of Dirk Kuyt, and following his success in the Premier League, has previously expressed a desire to follow in Kuyt's footsteps.

If Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish were to give the go-ahead for the player's transfer, it is expected that PSV would want to recoup most of his initial fee.

Despite not featuring regularly for Eindhoven this season, Wijnaldum was granted his first international cap against San Marino in a Euro 2012 qualifying match. He marked his debut with a goal in an 11-0 thrashing.

Italian Defender Responds To Liverpool Rumours

Torino defender Angelo Ogbonna has attempted to distance himself from rumours linking him with a move to Liverpool.

Reports in recent weeks have suggested the Reds are pursuing the Italian centre-back and could make an offer for his services in January.

And, despite initially suggesting Liverpool would be a 'dream club' to play for, the 23-year-old now says he was unaware of Kenny Dalglish's alleged interest.

"I didn’t know about the Liverpool link,” Ogbonna said when asked about his future. “I don’t follow the transfer market."

It has been claimed in Italy that Liverpool are willing to part with around €16 million to bring Ogbonna to Anfield as Dalglish identifies winter targets.

The Reds boss had a particularly fruitful summer transfer window, but is expected to dip into the market once more in the New Year.

Liverpool is also alleged to have earmarked FC Dallas forward Brek Shea and Brazil international Leandro Damiao as potential acquisitions.

Liverpool Midfielder Lucas Leiva Proving His Worth At Anfield

When Rafael Benitez signed Brazilian midfielder Lucas Leiva back in 2007, much was expected of the youngster, who made his international debut the year before whilst with Gremio.

A £5 million price-tag added further to the pressure, and whilst much higher figures are now spent on young players (think £16 million for Jordan Henderson), the fee suggested big things were to come.

"I am looking forward to seeing him score goals for Liverpool in the future and [we] believe he has the mentality and the character you need to do well in England," uttered Benitez at the player's unveiling.

Few would have believed it after his first few seasons at Anfield, but Lucas continues to prove the Spaniard right, and after a stellar campaign last year, the 24-year-old is again impressing on Merseyside, leading the Barclays Premier League tackling stats by a distance.

Of the top five tacklers in the division, Lucas has made over ten more successful challenges, with a 73% success rate from his 48. Youssouf Mulumbu, next on the list, has a 59% success rate from 37 efforts.

Whilst stats can only tell you so much in October, it's indisputable that Lucas has enjoyed a resurrection at Liverpool in the last season and a quarter.

His first season with the Reds was seen more as a bedding in period, but big things were expected of the Brazilian in the 2008/09 campaign after returning to the club with an Olympic bronze medal.

However, Lucas struggled to take opportunities when presented, and failed to impress in the shadow of Javier Mascherano, Steven Gerrard and Xabi Alonso. Booed off the pitch in a Barclays Premier League match against Fulham, Benitez was passionate in his defence of the player.

"People just don't know how good Lucas is. He is a fantastic player, he was captain of his club side at 19 and has already won full caps with Brazil. Not just any country, but Brazil," said Benitez after further criticism of the player came the Spaniard's way at a Charity event.

"He can tackle, he can pass the ball and he can win in the air. He is still a very young player learning to live in a different country.

"It is not easy for him to get into the team, considering the quality of the opposition he has to face in that department at Anfield."

Ian Doyle, writing for the Liverpool Daily Post at the time, went as far as to suggest a Champions League clash against PSV Eindhoven, which followed the Fulham draw, could decide his future at the club.

If that was the case, then it was lucky Lucas shined in a 3-1 win.

Confidence clearly grew, and a commanding display in-place of Xabi Alonso in the 4-1 win at Old Trafford in March certainly helped convince the fans that perhaps they mis-judged the hard-working midfielder.

Aldridge Impressed By Enrique

Liverpool legend John Aldridge believes that Jose Enrique was one of the best investments Kenny Dalglish made in the summer transfer window, with the manager finally finding a star to fill the left-back position in the Reds’ line up.

Enrique signed for Liverpool in early August, and has starred for the club since, as the Reds aim to steal a place in the top four and make the Champions League for the first time since 2010.

And Aldridge, who played for Liverpool in the 1980s glory days alongside Dalglish, believes that the side are a lot better off now they have Enrique on board.

“Every time I see Jose Enrique play he impresses me,” Aldridge told the Liverpool Echo.

“The Spanish left-back seems to grow in confidence with every game and he was great against Manchester United.

“He’s very solid defensively, physically strong and has got great quality going forward. In general we defended really well as a unit and it was just a pity we went to sleep from a corner and paid the price.”

Liverpool had their chances to steal a win from United at the weekend, but the game resulted in a 1-1 draw. Ferguson didn’t start his top forwards for the match, and Aldridge believes that this showed how much respect the legendary manager has for the Liverpool squad.

“Alex Ferguson paid Liverpool tremendous respect with the team he put out on Saturday,” he explained.

“He set his stall out to come to Anfield and nick a point. Thanks to some good fortune he got what he wanted.

“I’ve never seen United approach a game against Liverpool like that. By playing Phil Jones in a holding midfield role alongside Darren Fletcher, United were never going to pose much of a threat going forward. They simply set out to stop Liverpool playing.

“The bench they had was formidable with Rooney, Nani, Hernandez, Carrick and Valencia but Ferguson filled the team full of grinders. United had been bullied at Anfield in recent years. In March they were outplayed and outfought and Ferguson clearly feared a repeat.”

Liverpool Star Explains His Intention To Quit Team

International midfielder Joe Cole has explained his reasons for leaving Anfield to join French champions Lille on loan, insisting he hopes to move permanently as Liverpool are now a 'settled' team under Kenny Dalglish without him.

Cole evidently feels that he is no longer a part of that 'settled' squad, though his ongoing loan spell at Lille has been a resounding success with the English midfielder currently impressing in Ligue 1.

The crafty playmaker has now insisted that the tactical approach at Liverpool didn't suit his style of play, suggesting that injuries hindered his progress under both Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalglish.

"I just didn't play enough. I was suspended and then came back into a struggling side and, under Roy [Hodgson], the tactics didn't suit me.

"I'd never criticize him – he had a tough job at the time – but the team wasn’t playing well and, when that happens, the first players to be dropped are always the flair players and the youngsters. That's just the way it is."

Since arriving at Liverpool on a free transfer under Hodgson, Cole came under a lot of criticism for his inflated wages and persistent struggles with fitness. During his spell at Anfield, Cole cost Liverpool £157,000 per game played and £1.2 million per goal, but his form since joining Lille has shown he is still a player of immense talent.

The former England midfielder - who recently revealed he hopes to resurrect his international career - has claimed that he constantly felt the need to prove his worth under Kenny Dalglish, and is now looking forward to the prospect of permanently playing in France.

"Under Kenny [Dalglish] I'd had a few injuries and the side was settled. As a youngster, at West Ham and Chelsea, I'd been lucky enough to make an impact when I came on and earned the chance to stay involved. At Liverpool, I felt like a young player again.

"I always needed to do something special just to earn another chance. And it didn't happen for me. I'm not going to blame anyone else and I like the club and I'm sure they'll get where they need to go. But I had to come here and play again.

“I could join Lille permanently. If they are happy with me, and vice versa, I don’t see why not," Cole revealed to the People.

“Lille has quality players, and there’s an unbeatable mood in the dressing room. I benefit from it every day and I am enjoying myself. There is a superb team spirit at the club. I love playing here.”