Monday, November 21, 2011

Match Report: Chelsea 1 - 2 Liverpool

Glen Johnson scored a sensational late winner to earn Liverpool three vital Barclays Premier League points at his old club Chelsea.

Former Blues full-back Johnson netted a brilliant solo effort to inflict his old club's third defeat in four league matches and leave both teams 12 points behind Manchester City.

Each side committed bad defensive errors to concede earlier goals, with Maxi Rodriguez giving Liverpool a half-time lead on his first league start of the season and substitute Daniel Sturridge equalizing shortly after the break.

A draw was arguably a fair result but that had also been the case in Chelsea's games against Manchester United and Arsenal this season when they also ended up on the losing side.

This loss cast further doubt on manager Andre Villas-Boas' Stamford Bridge revolution, with the Blues now looking set to drop out of the top four, something billionaire owner Roman Abramovich is unlikely to tolerate for long.

The Russian watched his prize asset left on the bench as Fernando Torres and Liverpool's Andy Carroll both failed to start.

The game did bring together the two players accused of racially abusing an opponent in recent weeks.

Both John Terry and Luis Suarez, who strenuously deny the allegations made against them, were both spared the kind of hostile reception from rival fans they might expect against other opponents.

Liverpool made the more impressive start, almost exploiting Chelsea's now notoriously high defensive line by twice Rodriguez getting beyond Suarez and Bellamy.

It took 10 minutes for the home side to seriously threaten, Juan Mata drilling Florent Malouda's cross dangerously back across goal.

At the other end, Branislav Ivanovic got a vital touch on Bellamy's cross before Johnson wasted a great opportunity to tee up a team-mate after a barnstorming run.

Liverpool, wearing black armbands in memory of the son of goalkeeper Brad Jones, who died of leukaemia on Friday, were looking more than comfortable, although Drogba hit the stanchion with a free-kick some supporters thought had gone in.

Terry, whose error cost Chelsea dearly against Arsenal in their last home game, made another gaffe in the 28th minute when he was robbed by Kuyt but David Luiz snuffed out the Liverpool attack.

Lucas was booked for clattering into the defender but the visitors' pressure was beginning to tell and they took the lead five minutes later after more horrendous defending.

John Obi Mikel dwelt on Petr Cech's pass and Charlie Adam robbed him, fed Craig Bellamy, who played a one-two with Suarez before feeding Rodriguez to clip over the goalkeeper.

An angry exchange between Terry and Bellamy, who have had more than one run in down the years, was calmed by referee Lee Probert.

With Chelsea's title bid threatening to unravel entirely, Villas-Boas hauled off Mikel for Daniel Sturridge at half-time.

It almost paid off four minutes in when Frank Lampard and Mata combined to find Drogba, who curled over from a good position.

The home side still looked uncertain whenever Liverpool broke but their pressure told in the 55th minute thanks to some rotten defending from the visitors.

Malouda was allowed to advance into the box and his cross-cum-shot was tapped home by Sturridge.

A wonder-save from Jose Reina stopped Ivanovic glancing home Drogba's free-kick two minutes later as Chelsea continued to dominate.

Ramires was booked for a late tackle on Martin Skrtel, with Kuyt following suit after hauling back Malouda.

Liverpool threw on Jordan Henderson for Bellamy in a bid to stem the tide, although Malouda went close with an audacious overhead kick.

The winger then sent a half-volley from Ivanovic's cross back across the face of goal and over the heads of waiting team-mates as Torres and Carroll both warmed up on the touchline.

They were made to wait even longer as the next change saw Stewart Downing replace Rodriguez before Ivanovic was cautioned for a nasty tackle on Suarez.

With just six minutes remaining, Torres finally arrived - along with fellow Liverpool old boy Raul Meireles - with Drogba and Ramires making way.

The visitors missed a great chance when Kuyt dragged wide after great work down the right from Henderson before Johnson produced one of the goals of the season to win it three minutes from time.

The full-back brought down Adam's pinpoint crossfield ball superbly, nutmegged Ashley Cole, and drove goalward before slotting into the corner.

Reds Delight Dalglish

Kenny Dalglish saluted his Liverpool side after they overcame Chelsea 2-1 at Stamford Bridge courtesy of Glen Johnson's superb late goal.

The spoils looked set to be shared after Daniel Sturridge cancelled out Maxi Rodriguez's first-half opener before Johnson's intervention.

The former Chelsea full-back collected Charlie Adam's raking cross-field pass, nutmegged Ashley Cole and the slotted home after driving into the box.

Dalglish's side is now level on points with the fourth-placed Blues in the Premier League table and it was a sweet moment for the Scot.

He guided his side to a 1-0 victory in West London shortly after returning to the Anfield hot seat last season, but took more pleasure from the victory this term.

"We wanted the same belief and positivity as last year. I think they surpassed that and were better this year than they were last year," Dalglish told Sky Sports.

"It is a great credit to them to come away from here with three points.

"In the first half we got a goal and were playing really well. In the second half they changed a little bit, put a bit more pressure on us and got the equalizer.

"But we hung on in there and to their credit they kept going. And at that stage of the game to have our right full-back up there and slotting it away is a great credit to the players and how much they want to move forward.

"I thought we played really well in the first half, and I don't know if anyone would object to us taking the three points.

"I was just pleased with the way they played, their attitude and their commitment. It was 'Dad's Army' really, with a lot of the old boys playing. Then the young boys came on and they never let us down either.

"It was a good day for Liverpool football club."

Duo Dedicate Win To Jones

Glen Johnson and Charlie Adam dedicated Liverpool's 2-1 victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge to Reds goalkeeper Brad Jones.

The visiting players wore black armbands during Sunday's Premier League encounter in memory of Jones' young son Luca, who died on Saturday after a battle with leukaemia.

Johnson scored the winning goal three minutes from time when he collected Adam's raking cross-field pass, nutmegged Ashley Cole and drove into the box before sliding the ball past Petr Cech.

Adam also had a hand in the first as he robbed a dozing John Obi Mikel before releasing Craig Bellamy, who played a one-two with Luis Suarez and then played in Maxi Rodriguez for the opener.

"I'd like to dedicate that to Brad. He's had a difficult week so that's for you," the Scotland international told Sky Sports.

And Johnson added later on Twitter: "I want to dedicate my goal and the win to Brad and all his family! My love is with all of you!!! X"

Adam felt that the Anfield outfit's grafting was the key, with the Reds showing great resilience to go on and claim all three points after Daniel Sturridge had cancelled out the opener.

He said: "Hard work was the difference. We had good shape.

Glen Johnson Delighted To Be Returning To Full Fitness

Glen Johnson says he is nearly back to full fitness after grabbing an 87th minute winner for Liverpool away to Chelsea on Sunday.

With the build-up to the game focusing on ex-Liverpool players who now ply their trade at Chelsea, in the form of Fernando Torres and Raul Meireles, it was the former Blues man who grabbed a dramatic winner for his side.

Liverpool took the lead in the first half through Maxi Rodriguez, before substitute Daniel Sturridge equalized after the break, but Johnson's late goal helped the Reds move level on points in the table with their opponents.

The England international, who returned to action after a lengthy absence through injury in October, says his fitness levels are improving every game.

“I was the last name in people’s minds but I like to get forward and I’m very grateful for the goal,” Johnson told Sky Sports.

“Obviously I’ve had a few difficult months but I’ve been feeling better game by game and I finally feel I’m getting back to full fitness.

“We knew we dominated the first half but we knew they would get a kick up the backside at half-time and we expected a reaction, and once they get into that gear they are difficult to stop. The lads showed great character to bounce back and get the late goal.

“It’s two big clubs chasing each other and we know we know we are in a good position. We could have been better with results but we are happy with the result and we will take it.”

Charlie Adam was also a stand-out performer for Liverpool, playing a vital part in both of his side's goals.

“It was difficult because Chelsea is a good team,” Adam said. “We knew it was going to be difficult but we’ve got good players ourselves and I thought we played terrific and it’s a good way to bounce back after a difficult few weeks because the result against Swansea was hard to take.

“We were told to press and you always think you’ve got a chance and I was fortunate enough to get [the ball]. Maxi did well to finish it and we did well to bounce back after conceding the goal [early in the second half].”

Liverpool Join The Race To Sign PSV Star Midfielder

Liverpool are the latest club to be linked with a move for in-demand midfielder Kevin Strootman who has been attracting interest from a number of European clubs are starring for PSV Eindhoven.

The 21-year-old only joined the Dutch club in the summer after coming through the youth system at Sparta Rotterdam and has so far impressed both for his club and for his country with some assured displays for Holland.

The central midfielder has already made six appearances for Holland and recently scored his first international goal against Finland in September 7.

Holland manager Bert van Marwijk is a huge admirer of the midfielder and has praise on the player vision and ability on the ball. This has led to a number of reports linking him with a move away from PSV with The People reporting that Liverpool have been watching the player in action.

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish sent assistant manager Steve Clarke and coach Kevin Keen to Hamburg last week to watch the midfielder in action against Germany and the pair were said to have been impressed with what they say despite the 3-0 loss.

PSV paid €13million for the midfielder during the summer and Liverpool would certainly have to make an improved offer if they were to convince the Dutch club to part with the talented youngster.

Liverpool Planning Surprise Swansea Raid For Nathan Dyer

Liverpool are believed to be preparing to make a shock bid for Swansea City's Nathan Dyer after the winger's impressive performances in recent weeks caught the attention of manager Kenny Dalglish.

Dyer, 23, has been one of the star players during Swansea's impressive start to their first season in the Premier League and Reds boss Dalglish apparently sees the young wideman as exactly what he is looking for to complement his existing squad.

Dalglish signed Stewart Downing from Aston Villa in the summer and the England man has been a top performer on the left, while fellow new recruits Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam have been regulars in the centre.

But the Liverpool boss is reported to be keen on bringing balance to Liverpool's team with pace and width on the right and he has identified Dyer as the man to offer that.

The Scot has personally scouted the player already this season and saw him up close when Swansea earned a 0-0 draw at Anfield earlier this month.

Dyer was again impressive as the Swans lost narrowly at home to Manchester United on Saturday.

However, Dalglish may have to move quickly if he is to secure his services, with both Everton and Newcastle also said to be keen on making a bid.

LA Galaxy Target Kuyt As Their Next Premiership Signing

LA Galaxy are ready to make an effort to sign Liverpool’s Dutch International Dirk Kuyt with a view to signing the player in January but loaning him back to Liverpool for three months.

Kuyt’s time at Liverpool is coming to and end and it was always thought that he would return to his native Holland, however the speculation is that it is LA Galaxy that he is destined for.

LA Galaxy will be looking to bring in a couple of new players this winter, especially with David Beckham set to leave, and have identified Kuyt as the perfect choice, he may be 31 years old, but they feel that he could offer them at least two good seasons before he retires, possibly even three.

It would be an interesting dilemma for Kuyt, he has expressed the wish to return to his old club Feyenord, but it seems their interest is minimal and it was always going to be difficult for him to set up camp at Ajax, another club linked with the 31 year old.

LA Galaxy have a habit of going for players coming to the twilight of their careers and it makes sense that they would want Kuyt, question remains, would he go to the USA?

Liverpool Fans Wearing “Evra Is A Liar” T-shirts

Liverpool fans showed up at Stamford Bridge on Sunday wearing “Evra is a liar” t-shirts, which stewards made them remove ahead of kick-off.

Despite Luis Suarez admitting he called Evra a name in Spanish and the FA charging the Liverpool striker with directing racial verbal abuse at Evra, Liverpool fans have predictably rolled out their usual hero worship for their player.

Fellow Uruguayan Gus Poyet spoke out in defence of Suarez earlier this week, claiming his countryman isn’t racist, rather they “treat people of colour in a different way” back in Uruguay.

“I played with a player, and nobody knew him as Fernando Cáceres,” Poyet said. “Everyone knows him worldwide as Negro Caceres. Is that racist? In England it is but in the rest of the world, in South America or Spain, it’s not.

Some Liverpool fans have quickly claimed that “negro” or “negrito” is not racist terms in Uruguay, in fact, they are words you would use to address a friend.

The Kop: “In Spanish-speaking countries such as Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay where there are few people of African origin and appearance, negro is commonly used to refer to partners, close friends or people in general. It is similar to the use of the word “nigga” in urban communities in the United States.

For example, one might say to a friend, “Negro Como andas?” (literally “Hey, black one, how are you doing?”). In this case, the diminutive negrito is used, as a term of endearment meaning “pal”, “buddy” or “friend”. Negrito has come to be used to refer to a person of any ethnicity or color, and also can have a sentimental or romantic connotation similar to “sweetheart,” or “dear” in English.

It seems to me if Luis Suarez did use either word it would be more in the context of a term of endearment rather than a racial slur.”

Hold on, aside from the fact it is irrelevant to the FA what terms are or are not seen as acceptable in Uruguay, why on earth would any Liverpool fan think that Suarez was referring to Evra as “buddy” or “sweetheart”? With the pair of them at each other all game, it would be ridiculous to seriously try and claim that Suarez was using a “term of endearment” when talking to Evra that day.

Evra was visibly worked up whenever he came in to contact with Suarez, with the referee having to separate them on a number of occasions. For argument’s sake, let’s imagine Suarez didn’t think there was anything offensive about what he was saying. It wouldn’t have taken him long to work out that what he was calling Evra wasn’t going down very well and he needed to stop. Regardless though, pleading ignorance where racist terms are concerned doesn’t cut it and if Suarez called Evra “negro” or “negrito” he needs to be punished accordingly.

Sir Alex Ferguson recently criticized Liverpool for not doing as United had by obeying the FA’s request not to talk about the case. Kenny Dalglish has astonishingly repeatedly claimed that if Suarez isn’t found guilty, Evra should be punished. If Suarez is found guilty, the Liverpool manager and fans have put themselves in a very embarrassing position in vehemently supporting a racist.