Sunday, November 06, 2011

Match Report: Liverpool 0 - 0 Swansea

Striker Andy Carroll was the fall-guy for Liverpool after missing a first-half sitter in the goalless draw at home to Swansea.

For the second successive home match against a newly-promoted team Kenny Dalglish's side failed to convert their chances.

Carroll's was the miss everyone will remember, although there were enough opportunities created afterwards to have prevented a third home draw in a row.

The £35million club-record signing side-footed against the crossbar from just six yards with the goal at his mercy.

In the end they were fortunate to escape with a draw as Swansea improved as the game progressed and could have snatched victory in the closing stages.

It was only the second point away from home this season for Brendan Rodgers' side but, on the strength of their performance alone, they were well worth it.

Liverpool have hit the frame of the goal more than any other team this season and they made that unwanted tally 10 in only the seventh minute with a chance which Carroll should have buried.

Charlie Adam's through-ball down the inside-left channel was picked up by Stewart Downing whose low, teasing cross into the six-yard box required only the simplest of touches to convert but the big striker leant back and somehow crashed his shot against the crossbar.

Swansea were confident enough in possession without really opening up the home defence but it was a different story at the other end with Luis Suarez flashing a long-range shot just wide, Downing having an effort deflected behind and Lucas Leiva's header dropping the wrong side of the post.

Only a brilliant one-handed reaction save from Jose Reina, on his 163rd consecutive league appearance, kept out Wayne Routledge's inswinging cross intended for Danny Graham.

But Swansea counterpart Michel Vorm, who kept a clean sheet for Utrecht at Anfield in the Europa League last season, showed he was equally adept as he got down superbly to tip wide Suarez's shot wide after the Uruguay international had reacted first to Adam's blocked shot on the edge of the penalty area.

Joe Allen was next to try his luck for the visitors with a low, right-footed shot but there was just not enough curl on the ball to get it inside the far post while just before the interval Downing's weak far-post header from Jose Enrique's deep cross was easily picked up by Vorm.

It was no surprise to see Dirk Kuyt replace the ineffective Jordan Henderson for the start of the second half as the Reds resumed their pressure on the visitors' goal with Suarez heading Adam's free-kick into the arms of Vorm.

While Liverpool have been their own worst enemies up front they nearly compounded that problem at the other end when Graham almost robbed Reina just a couple of yards off his goalline as the goalkeeper tried to clear a Daniel Agger backpass.

Swansea were starting to ask more questions of the Liverpool defence and in the 64th minute Dyer's diagonal right-to-left run allowed him to collect a through-ball but Reina deflected his shot behind off his body.

Suddenly the Spaniard was the busier of the two goalkeepers and when he only half-saved Dyer's shot he had to react swiftly to blocked what looked like being a certain goal from Graham on the follow-up.

Carroll's hopes of redeeming himself for that first-half miss were ended in the 74th minute when he was replaced by former Cardiff striker Craig Bellamy.

Carroll did not hang around to see how the Wales international would do as he headed straight down the tunnel.

Liverpool cranked up the pressure with Neil Taylor's last-gasp clearance denying Kuyt, Agger heading over and Adam having a free-kick deflected wide.

With six minutes remaining Mark Gower should have snatched victory for the Swans but he could not keep his shot down from Graham's knockdown.

Kuyt thought he had scored the winner in the 88th minute but he was correctly flagged offside from Agger's header by assistant referee Sian Massey.

There was still time for Vorm, emulating Norwich goalkeeper John Ruddy a fortnight ago, to pull off a brilliant save to deny Suarez and an even better one to tip over Johnson's volley.

Liverpool felt they should have had a penalty in added time when Suarez went down in the area but referee Phil Dowd waved away appeals.

It may have been an eighth successive match unbeaten for Dalgish's side but four dropped points at home to two of the promoted teams does not make good reading for Liverpool's top-four prospects.

Reds Must Improve, Says Dalglish

Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Swansea condemned Liverpool to their third successive home draw in the Barclays Premier League, leaving Kenny Dalglish to call for improvements from his players.

Another frustrating afternoon at Anfield with the Reds again unable to break the deadlock, was compounded when Andy Carroll missed a guilt-edged chance when he lashed against the crossbar - the tenth time Liverpool have been denied by the woodwork in 2011-12.

"Our performance was disappointing," Dalglish admitted. "Swansea played the way we expected them to play but we didn't play the way we expected to play.

"Maybe if the chance went in early doors it would have changed the complexion of the game but as well as paying credit to Swansea we have to look at ourselves.

"Anything we're good at we didn't do much of today. We're usually good at passing and movement but there wasn't much of that there. When we got it back we gave it away quickly."

For all Liverpool's promise, and endeavour that has been on show in the past few weeks on their home turf, Dalglish was disappointed that his players lacked a cutting edge against the Swans.

"We've got to understand, realize and accept that that level of performance isn't acceptable," he added. "Even at the death the goalie's made a couple of good saves.

"We must be getting closer if the goalkeeper was tested today - usually we miss the target! The most important thing is to create the chances, the next is to put them away.

Downing: We'll Keep On Working

Stewart Downing acknowledged his disappointment at Saturday's 0-0 draw with Swansea City - but pledged that Liverpool will keep working hard at Melwood to ensure they turn chances into goals over the coming weeks.

While the England winger accepts the Reds were not at their best against the Swans, he cites several good goalscoring opportunities as proof that Kenny Dalglish's side can perhaps consider themselves somewhat unfortunate not to have taken all three points.

As a result, Downing remains unwavering in his belief that the goals will soon start to flow for the Reds.

He told "It was disappointing to draw, but although Swansea played quite well, if we had put our chances away and scored early it might have been different.

"Probably the pleasing thing for the manager and the team is that we are creating chances. But we're not putting them away.

"We'll just have to keep working on it and keep getting ourselves in the right positions and hopefully they'll turn into goals soon."

Andy Carroll had Liverpool's best chance of the game when the No.9 cannoned a close-range effort against the crossbar with just six minutes on the clock.

Meanwhile, Glen Johnson was left holding his head in his hands after seeing his late volley thwarted by a stunning stop from visiting goalkeeper Michel Vorm, while substitute Dirk Kuyt also had an effort ruled out for offside.

Downing added: "If Andy had scored with that early chance, it may have been a different game - Swansea might have had to change the way they played.

"It was a brilliant save from Glen's shot. I think the goalkeeper has probably been their best player this season, which shows how well he's done.

"But we had chances through Daniel (Agger), Glen as well as Andy's right at the start, and I'm not sure if Dirk's goal was offside or not.

"Swansea are a good footballing team and they've played well this season, but with no disrespect to them we need to be winning games like that at home if we want to get to where we want to be, so it was a bit disappointing for us not to get the three points."

Dalglish Refuses To Blame Carroll

Kenny Dalglish refused to blame £35million striker Andy Carroll missing a first half sitter for Liverpool's laboured 0-0 draw against Swansea.

England international Carroll blew a golden opportunity to put his team ahead when he smashed a seventh-minute strike across the crossbar with the goal at his mercy.

It did not get much better for the Anfield crowd from then on, with the home side missing a number of chances in a disjointed performance against the Premier League newcomers.

And Swansea was unlucky not to punish Liverpool further in an impressive second-half display.

Mark Gower wasted their best chance when he lacked composure and blazed over the bar on 84 minutes.

Dalglish said: "Our performance was disappointing. Swansea did well - they passed and moved it well.

"They had one chance in the second half where perhaps they would expect the lad to do a little better.

"We had the first chance of the game and if we had taken that it would have changed the outlook.

"But we've got to look deeper than the opportunity early on.

"There were other phases of the game where we might have had a goal."

Swansea keeper Michel Vorm stood up to everything thrown at his goal and denied Glen Johnson a certain winner with a brilliant acrobatic save in the dying stages.

The Liverpool boss added: "He made a couple of good saves at the end. At least we're testing him and getting a bit closer.

"We had some decent opportunities but I don't think we passed it as well as we could.

"When we lost possession they came at us quickly but when we got it back we gave it away too cheaply and too quickly."

The point extends Liverpool's unbeaten home run to six matches, but four of those have been frustrating draws.

Asked how Liverpool can turn these stalemates into wins, Dalglish said: "We score more than the opposition."

Real Madrid Planing Liverpool Raid In January

It is being reported this morning that the Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho is aiming to raid Liverpool in January because he is desperate for another right back, and has been impressed with Glen Johnson since his return to the Liverpool squad and sees him as the perfect competition for Alvaro Arbeloa.

Arbeloa was not very popular at Anfield, amongst the Liverpool players or fans, but he has flourished since moving to Madrid and is now a well respected member of the squad.

But he is now 28 and Jose Mourinho is aware that he needs a younger, faster version and is hoping that Johnson is still smarting from the treatment he received from Rafael Benitez and Roy Hodgson while he was injured.

The People reports that Mourinho had a meeting with the Real Madrid president Florentino Perez to tell him to begin talks with Liverpool for Johnson, and also to try and arrange a loan deal with Man City for Carlos Tevez.

Gerrard On The Mend

Kenny Dalglish claims Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is recovering well from an ankle infection.

The Reds' boss gave a positive update on the England international midfielder, who was ruled out of Saturday's goalless draw against the Swans at Anfield on Saturday and is set for another fortnight on the sidelines.

Dalglish said: "He's fine. Everything been checked and the figures are hugely encouraging and well on his way to recovery."

Meanwhile, the Scot backed his Liverpool players to return to winning ways in the near future.

The Reds are unbeaten at Anfield but have now dropped eight points and sit in sixth spot in the table going into the international break.

However, after watching Swans goalkeeper Michel Vorm produce two excellent late saves to deny Luis Suarez and Glen Johnson, Dalglish backed the side to come good.

He said: "We just need to keep working on it and keep getting in there. But we haven't got in there as often as we have done in the past games. The problems there are problems we can solve ourselves.

"We have to look at ourselves and expect better performances than what we produced there."

Dalglish added: "Anything that we were good at, we didn't do too much of, passing and moving, we didn't do too much of that.

"The keeper was tested a few times and usually we are missing the target. That's 11 times we have hit the post or bar this season.

"If we had scored early on it might have changed the way the game went but we never scored so it is hypothetical.

"No-one has ever in the history of football deliberately missed a chance."

Reina: It's An Honour

Pepe Reina admits he feels privileged to be a regular member of Spain’s all-conquering squad.

The Reds stopper is bemused that some players retire from international duty due to a lack of action and remains adamant he will continue to answer the call from La Roja for as long as his country needs him.

Reina said: "I can't understand why 'keepers retire early from international football because they don't feel they will have the chance to play too often.

'Just being in the national squad for any country is an honour and there is always pleasure to be taken from being involved in the best players from your country."

He added: "I will not retire from international football no matter what. When the time comes Spain will have to retire me because I will not walk away from them."

John Henry Boxes Himself In At Liverpool Over Kenny Dalglish

This is why Liverpool should’ve looked into the future rather than back to the past.

There’s a section of Liverpool fans who will stand-by Kenny Dalglish regardless of how he performs as manager. That’s laudable really, especially in an age where fans are more fickle than ever. However, John Henry must surely be starting to doubt the wisdom of installing Dalglish, because the pricey team that’s been assembled grows more underwhelming by the week.

It’s interesting to compare the treatment of Dalgish by the Liverpool fans with the comparative relationship between Arsene Wenger and the Arsenal faithful. One heralded as a saviour regardless of contemporary results, and the other derided because of them. The past is Wenger’s enemy, whereas for Dalglish it’s a saving grace. Arsenal and Liverpool are currently level on points.

Can you imagine how Anfield would’ve reacted to a Roy Hodgson team that failed to beat Swansea, Norwich, and Sunderland at home? Or how the fans might have responded to getting humiliated at White Hart Lane?

The problem John Henry has, is that anytime you appoint a club legend as manager you complicate the situation. Getting rid of Dalglish, should he ever want to, is almost impossible given the fans emotional investment in the man himself. Sacking someone like that would put the ownership in direct opposition to a considerable percentage of the fanbase – and owners do that at their peril.

Some may argue that even talk of dismissing Dalglish is premature, but since when is this kind of form acceptable to a club of that stature? The Champions League grows a more remote objective by the week, and you could certainly make a case for saying that Liverpool are currently – on form – the seventh best side in the league. That’s not good enough for Liverpool. It’s definitely not acceptable when you’ve spent an absolute fortunate on putting a team together.

At times, and apologies for this being a laboured point, Andy Carroll looks little more than a Championship player. Stewart Downing is a mid-level player at best, Charlie Adam – for all his much-heralded set-piece qualities – is a passenger in that midfield, and Jordan Henderson has done so little in a Liverpool shirt that you can’t really have an opinion. Luis Suarez is a fantastic player, but he’s actually limited by what goes on behind him.

That’s an awful lot of money for very little product, and on the basis that you can’t eat out on the 1980s forever, there eventually has to be some accountability for how this team is performing. Trouble is though, how much of that accountability can John Henry put on his manager?