Sunday, October 23, 2011

Match Report: Liverpool 1 - 1 Norwich City

Liverpool lost ground on the top four as their leaky defence and a failure to capitalize on numerous opportunities cost them victory at Anfield.

Kenny Dalglish's side hit the woodwork three times among several other chances but had only Craig Bellamy's late first-half goal against his former club to show for their efforts.

And a side which has kept only two clean sheets all season should have known what was coming as a result.

They were punished on the hour when Grant Holt headed home just three minutes after coming off the bench to spoil what would have been perfect story for Bellamy on his first Liverpool start since May 2007.

The Wales international left Carrow Road 11 years ago and on his travels around various clubs in the Premier League spent one season at Anfield.

He admits he returned this summer with unfinished business and appeared to have resumed his mission in ideal fashion with his first league goal of his second spell.

However, what he could not count on was a defence which has so far only kept clean sheets against Arsenal and Everton, both of whom had been reduced to 10 men, and neither of which has been at Anfield.

Norwich were undoubtedly encouraged by this statistic and looked much more of a threat once they had drawn level.

The omens were good for Liverpool before kick-off as they had won their previous four meetings against the Canaries, although the last of those was in January 2005.

Had it not been for the woodwork the Reds would have enjoyed a much more comfortable evening as twice within the opening 12 minutes they came within inches of scoring.

With less than two minutes gone Martin Skrtel's glancing header from Charlie Adam's right-wing corner crashed against the crossbar.

Luis Suarez's first sight of goal saw him uncharacteristically miss the target from the left side of the penalty area with an ambitious shot with the outside of his right foot.

But the Uruguay international's next effort required the combined efforts of John Ruddy and the frame of his goal to prevent him breaking the deadlock.

The Canaries goalkeeper had to be at full stretch to get his fingertips to the shot and deflect the ball onto his left-hand post.

Norwich briefly threatened when Wes Hoolahan's shot and Steve Morison's header were both fumbled by Jose Reina, although in between that Suarez had fired across goal in front of the Kop.

Apart from that brief spell Norwich, who had won three of their last four matches, had to play second fiddle to a Liverpool side who dominated but came up just short in the final third.

But just when it seemed the hosts had failed to take advantage Bellamy struck in first-half added time.

Suarez's nuisance factor in the Norwich defence saw him tussle with Russell Martin, allowing the ball drop to Bellamy on the edge of the area and his low shot took a deflection off Tierney on its way past Ruddy.

The woodwork denied Liverpool for a third time in the 51st minute when Suarez's run left Leon Barnett baffled but the Uruguay international's shot deflected off Martin and onto the post.

However, within three minutes of Holt coming off the bench he had punished the Reds for failing to take their chances.

The striker powered home a 60th-minute header after Reina came for - and missed - Anthony Pilkington's cross with Jamie Carragher and Glen Johnson in close attendance.

Holt almost doubled his tally six minutes later but this time Reina dealt with his far-post header and, as the game opened up, Ruddy was relieved to see Suarez's toe-poke roll behind after squirming through his fingers.

Suarez's 78th-minute shot was turned past the far post by Ruddy with Gerrard lurking outside the six-yard box as the hosts tried to make up for missed opportunities.

Substitute Andy Carroll's header in the fourth minute of added time summed up Liverpool's match as he powered wide from six yards.

As if to rub salt into the wounds Ruddy produced a brilliant save to tip over Suarez's volley even later.

But like against Sunderland on the opening day of the season and - to a lesser extent - Manchester United last weekend a failure to take their chances cost them the win.

Such dropped points could dearly cost Liverpool's bid to regain Champions League status.

Kenny Rues Missed Chances

Kenny Dalglish admitted his frustration after Liverpool failed to turn a succession of chances into goals and were held to a 1-1 draw by Norwich City on Saturday.

Craig Bellamy put the Reds into a deserved lead in first-half stoppage time, but substitute Grant Holt's towering header secured a point for the visitors at Anfield.

Liverpool could have clinched victory had it not been for a stunning save from Norwich 'keeper John Ruddy to thwart a Luis Suarez volley at the death while substitute Andy Carroll went close with a close-range header.

Dalglish told his post-match press conference: "I think on the balance of the game we deserved to take three points from it. We played really well up to a point, created an awful lot of chances and there was some great passing and moving.

"But when you are only one goal in front it gives them a bit of encouragement. They were hanging on in there.

"If we don't convert our chances we're always going to give the opposition a chance. They took it.

"Even then we came back and the goalkeeper has made a fantastic save from Luis late on and big Andy almost scored with a header as well.

"We're disappointed but I am sure we'll play a lot worse than that and win matches."

As well as being thwarted by Ruddy's late heroics for Norwich, Liverpool also struck the woodwork three times during the course of a contest they dominated for long periods.

However, Dalglish is confident the Reds will soon start to turn their opportunities into goals.

He said: "You work to get the chances on the day. It's difficult to assess how you're going to react when you get the chances, but hitting the post three or four times as well doesn't help.

"But if we keep creating the chances, we've got enough people there who can finish them."

Dalglish: Luis Suarez Needs Protection From Referees

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish believes Luis Suarez is not getting adequate protection from referees.

Suarez felt aggrieved that decisions were not awarded in his favour during the Reds' 1-1 draw with Norwich - and Dalglish thinks the Uruguayan deserves more respect from referees.

"He needs protection and I don't think he got that out there," said Dalglish.

"His integrity has been called into question and I think maybe he is suffering from that at the moment."

Suarez remonstrated with referee Peter Walton on several occasions, claiming he was manhandled by the Norwich defenders. And Dalglish feels his player's reputation may have gone before him.

Dalglish added: "It is their integrity that needs questioning not his. On the football pitch he is exemplary, a fantastic footballer and we have 100% faith in Luis and the way he conducts himself."

Grant Holt rescued a point for Norwich at Anfield after Craig Bellamy had opened the scoring on his return to the first team.

But, for all their late pressure, Suarez could not inspire Liverpool to victory against a well-organized Norwich side.

"He is a terrific footballer and he's created a lot of chances out there," said Dalglish.

"For 90 minutes he was a thorn in their side he just couldn't finish the chances off."

Liverpool started strongly and threatened to run riot as Norwich struggled to get to grips with the home side, but Paul Lambert's side hung on to frustrate Liverpool.

Dalglish's opposite number was thrilled with his side's display and insisted Norwich deserved to take away a point.

"I am proud of the players to come here and play the way we did - they were fantastic," said Lambert.

"I think in the first half there was a bit of stage fright but in the second we were excellent we played with no fear. I don't think we know how to play any other way, there's players in the dressing room who have been absolutely colossal for us.

Following encouraging displays at Manchester United and Chelsea, Lambert believes his side finally got what they deserved.

"We had chances at Old Trafford and at Stamford Bridge and we lost the games but gave it a go. We were always going to come here and do the same and I think we deserved a point," added the Scot.

"The lads ran themselves into the ground and John Ruddy made a few saves. If we'd have come away with anything less than a win we'd have been disappointed.

"We have been playing well all season and we've always got a goal in us. If we keep doing that then we will win more games than we lose."

Luis Suarez To Be Questioned By Football Association

Liverpool forward Luis Suárez is expected to be interviewed by the Football Association next week as investigations continue into allegations of racist abuse made by Manchester United defender Patrice Evra following last Saturday’s 1-1 draw between the two clubs at Anfield.

Suárez has strenuously denied accusations made by Evra that he uttered racial insults during the Premier League fixture, with Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish insisting on Thursday that the club remain “totally and utterly behind” the Uruguay international.

But with representatives of the FA’s disciplinary unit travelling to Manchester to speak to Evra on Thursday, it is understood that Suárez will also be asked for his observations by the FA to maintain the integrity of the investigative process and avoid accusations of an unbalanced inquiry.

There is no suggestion that the FA has received new evidence which supports or weakens the position of either player.

With Evra, who was accompanied by Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, reporting the alleged racist abuse to match referee Andre Marriner after last week’s fixture, Suárez will be given the opportunity to offer his version of events when he meets the FA.

It remains unclear as to what Evra told the FA during his meeting on Thursday, however, with both United and the governing body yesterday adhering to an agreement not to discuss the investigation.

Ferguson said on Monday that Evra was determined to follow through with his complaint against Suárez, but the French defender will have to supply secondary evidence to support his claims of racist abuse in order for the FA to consider action against the Liverpool player.

While Ferguson has insisted that United regard the matter as one between Evra and Suárez, rather than a club versus club issue, the rhetoric from Liverpool has been strong, with Dalglish also defending Suárez against United’s accusations of “diving all over the place”.

But despite Liverpool’s unswerving support of Suárez, Dalglish has made it clear that the club will “co-operate 100 per cent” with the FA during the investigation.

Dalglish Expects To Splash Cash

Kenny Dalglish is confident he will continue to be backed by Liverpool's owners in the transfer market.

Dalglish spent big in the last two windows, bringing in the likes of Andy Carroll, Luis Suarez, Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam for sizeable fees.

The Reds boss feels he has a quality squad at his disposal, but would not be afraid to raid the market again and expects Fenway Sports Group to back his judgement.

"We are happy about the strength of the squad we have got," Dalglish said. "The more players I have to choose from the more difficult my job is but the better it is for everyone. We have a fit squad at the moment but I am sure that won't last too long.

"There is a window coming up in January and if we feel the need to use it I am sure we will get full support (from the owners)."

Liverpool To Move For £12m Defender

Liverpool is reportedly preparing a £12 million swoop for Newcastle United defender Fabricio Coloccini.

The Argentinian has been earmarked as a target by Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish, who is looking to bolster his defence.

Coloccini has 18 months remaining on his current deal at St. James' Park, and Newcastle boss Alan Pardew is growing concerned that he could lose the 29-year-old.

Liverpool has struggled with defensive injuries this season, and with doubts over the prolonged fitness of Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel, Dalglish is keen to add Coloccini to the Anfield ranks.

The former Deportivo La Coruna defender is likely to cost Liverpool around £12 million, and has impressed during his time in England.

Should the powerful centre-half leave Newcastle, it would be a massive blow for the club, who bough the player in 2008.

Thomas Linked With Liverpool Again

According to today's Daily Mirror, Liverpool is still interested in Coventry City's talented midfielder Connor Thomas.

When Thomas was sent to Liverpool on loan last January, it was the catalyst that causes a board room struggle to come to a head and ended up with a change of chairman and vice chairman.

The move fell through though when Thomas was injured during training and had to return to Coventry for treatment.

He also had difficulty in settling in the North West, preferring to live in Coventry.

However, the 17 year old, who turns 18 next week, is set to turn down the move to Liverpool.

He has been offered a contract by Coventry City and he is expected to sign on the dotted line sometime next week.

Glen: Kenny Inspires My Best

Glen Johnson claims Kenny Dalglish brings the best out in him – by allowing him to play his natural game.

The full-back admits he was sometimes asked to curtail his attacking instincts under previous boss Roy Hodgson.

Johnson said: "Kenny knows I am an attacking full-back and he wants me to attack whereas maybe Roy didn't want me to attack as much. That jarred the team a bit. I've always been an outlet on the right and everyone knows that.

"When I wasn't getting forward as much I wasn't there for them to hit the diagonal passes so it slowed the game down. Now I'm able to do what I do - to just play.

"Kenny has helped me like he's helped everyone here. He's a good guy. He's always there having a joke with the lads but he lets you know when it's time to knuckle down and work hard. It's just a more relaxed approach which I think makes everyone relax and perform that bit better.

"Training is miles different now than it was. It's a lot shorter and sharper, you are bouncing from one exercise to another. There's a lot less waiting and standing around. You get more touches and it's livelier. It's more enjoyable."

Johnson had offers to join other clubs before signing for Liverpool in 2009 - but he is still convinced he made the right decision despite a trophyless start to his Anfield career.

"If I had gone to Chelsea, I wouldn't have had to move house and things would have been easier," he said.

"Leaving London was a big move but I still believe I made the right decision. I was pleased to do it then and I'm still pleased now.

"I came to this club to win trophies. No-one signs for a club like Liverpool and is happy with not winning anything.

"The good thing is that everybody is pushing towards that. We all want the same thing.

"The new owners have come in, we've signed some great players and we've got a brilliant team.

"On and off the pitch things are going in the right direction."