Monday, December 19, 2011

Match Report: Aston Villa 0 - 2 Liverpool

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish celebrated his first league win as a manager at Villa Park as first-half goals from Craig Bellamy and Martin Skrtel ensured a comfortable 2-0 victory over Aston Villa.

Bellamy and Skrtel struck inside the first 15 minutes to seal the Reds' fifth away win in the Barclays Premier League this season.

But the star of the show was striker Luis Suarez who tormented the Villa defence and hit the bar and the post.

Former Villa winger Stewart Downing was booed by the home fans after his £20million summer move but he and Craig Bellamy caused problems down both flanks.

Villa missed the forward duo of suspended Gabriel Agbonlahor and injured Darren Bent and seldom looked like breaching what is the tightest defence in the Premier League with just 13 goals conceded.

But they were also guilty of frequently giving the ball away and only skipper Stiliyan Petrov had composure in midfield.

Villa started promisingly and Petrov curled a free-kick past the defensive wall and forced Pepe Reina to save away to his right.

Downing managed Liverpool's first effort on goal following a cross-field ball from Bellamy when he forced Brad Guzan to save at the foot of the post.

Then after 11 minutes Downing played a part in Bellamy giving Liverpool the lead.

His corner found Suarez inside the box and a back heel forced a fine instinctive save out of Guzan but Bellamy reacted first to the rebound for a simple tap-in.

Villa winger Charles N'Zogbia was yellow-carded for bringing down Glen Johnson two minutes later.

After 15 minutes Liverpool doubled their lead through Skrtel - and from another corner.

Villa failed to pick up the central defender as he attacked a Bellamy cross and his glancing header flew past Guzan.

The home side tried to counter-attack and Nathan Delfouneso had a 20-yard shot deflected wide and a long-range attempt from N'Zogbia was just off-target.

Delfouneso teed up the over-lapping N'Zogbia whose shot contained plenty of power but flew into the side-netting.

Charlie Adam was booked after 28 minutes for bringing down Emile Heskey.

Two minutes later Bellamy was yellow-carded for fouling Alan Hutton to the right of the Liverpool box.

But Delfouneso could not keep his header down from Albrighton's free-kick.

Villa were trying to get a foothold in the game but Liverpool continued to look more dangerous and Richard Dunne blocked a first-time attempt from Shelvey after he ran on to Suarez's pass.

Liverpool began the second half on the offensive and twice went close to adding to their lead.

Bellamy's pace took him clear of the Villa defence down the left flank and his cross was headed wide by Daniel Agger.

Then Suarez showed sublime skill in evading the challenges of Dunne and James Collins and from 10 yards out he crashed his shot against the bar.

Villa were giving the ball away too easily and a mistake by Stephen Warnock allowed Johnson time to line up a shot which was turned aside by Guzan.

Reina was forced into a rare save in getting his body behind a low effort from N'Zogbia.

But Suarez was denied by the woodwork again after chipping Guzan following a pinpoint 40 yard ball from Downing.

Guzan turned aside Shelvey's cross-shot and Adam had shot deflected wide when Shelvey was unmarked 10 yards out to his left.

Dalglish brought on Andy Carroll after 74 minutes for Suarez who was given a standing ovation by the Liverpool fans.

Villa substitute Barry Bannan appealed in vain for handball when his shot struck Agger and flew out for a corner.

Dalglish Hails Deserved Win

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish believes his team were good value for their 2-0 win at Aston Villa in the Premier League.

First-half goals from Craig Bellamy and Martin Skrtel sealed a comfortable success for Dalglish's team at Villa Park.

Luis Suarez also hit the woodwork twice after the break as the Reds dominated proceedings against a toothless Villa missing strikers Darren Bent and Gabriel Agbonlahor.

The victory, Liverpool's third win in four away games, moved Dalglish's side up to sixth in the table.

The Scot said: "We passed the ball and moved it and hit the bar twice - I think it was a well-deserved three points for us.

"I think the first goal was a little bit fortunate but the second one was a good flick-on from Martin.

"We get pleasure taking three points and that's the greatest reward you can get from the work you do in training."

And Dalglish, whose side boast the top-flight's best defensive record having conceding just 13 goals, was pleased with another tight display at the back.

He told Sky Sports: "We'll go forward as a team and defend as a team. If we don't have the ball the first person is the first defender.

"There is no point having one part of the team good and another rubbish. We do everything together and we'll move forward together."

Reds Chase Newcastle Midfield Star

Liverpool have entered the scramble to sign Newcastle's Cheick Tiote in the January transfer window.

Tiote became an instant hit at St James' Park following his £3.5m move from FC Twente in August 2010.

And the Ivory Coast international - valued at £25million - is wanted by Reds boss Kenny Dalglish to inject some momentum in the Anfield club's season.

Dalglish will face stiff competition however from title-chasers Chelsea, and Manchester United, according to reports in the Sunday Mirror.

The news comes after Tiote went to seek help from a witch doctor in a bid to regain full fitness.

Tiote was given permission by club owner Mike Ashley to fly back to his homeland to seek help to sure his persistent injury.

The 25-year-old has fluid on his right knee which is causing pain and restricting his movement when twisting and turning.

His appearance in the 0-0 draw with Swansea was his first game for the club since they beat Wigan 1-0 in October.

Liverpool & Spurs Both Scouting George Whiteoak

Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur are keeping tabs on Macclesfield Town’s emerging young talent George Whiteoak, reports the Daily Mirror.

The 16 year-old centre-half is drawing attention from some of Britain’s top clubs having impressed for the League Two side at youth level and is now on the verge of making his senior debut. Town’s youth team boss, John Askey has been responsible for the development of Whiteoak and had this to say,

“He’s already attracting a lot of interest, so we’re delighted to have him here at the football club.”

Liverpool’s interest comes as no surprise. Following the appointment of Damien Comolli, the Red’s have placed an emphasis on scouting the globe for fresh young talent so they can then be nurtured through the ranks at the Melwood Academy. Liverpool’s setup has received some high praise from the football world and none coming higher from that of Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola.

Speaking to Catalan radio he was quoted as saying that Liverpool’s Academy is the only one who can compete with Barca’s ‘La Masia’ setup.

Spurs are another club who have invested heavily in their youth system. First-team player Kyle Walker is one of the success stories brought through the ranks at White Hart Lane and has established himself as the Lily Whites first choice right-back this season.

Tottenham’s involvement in the UEFA Cup has also seen boss, Harry Redknapp, blood many of the Academy’s future prospects giving them an opportunity to gain valuable first-team experience.

Whiteoak’s future at either academy would be well looked after should the teenage prospect decide to move on. Money eventually talks and Macclesfield will cash-in, but at this moment in time it is unclear of how much the Silkmen’s will inherit for their emerging young star.

Liverpool In Shock Move For Real Madrid And Germany Superstar

Liverpool have been alerted to the possible availability of Real Madrid star Mesut Ozil, after the creative midfielder was warned by manager that his performances needed to significantly improve or else he would be sold.

The German international was one of the stars of the 2010 World Cup and was signed by Madrid for €15million from Werder Bremen. Ozil went on to make a total of 53 appearances last season, scoring 10 goals but this year his form has dipped.

Ozil is yet to fins the back of the net in the league and the midfielder took plenty of blame for his performance in the 3-1 defeat to rivals Barcelona last weekend.

The People believes that these inconsistent performances have led Mourinho to hand him a warning that he must improve or else risk being sold in the summer.

The news has certainly caught the attention of Liverpool's director of football Damien Comolli who believes Ozil is the type of player that can further improve the Red's first team and can help fire the club back into the top four.

Liverpool know that they can offer the 23-year-old guaranteed first team football, something he does not always get at Madrid with a host of fellow midfielders, and manager Kenny Dalglish is keen to monitor his situation over the coming months.

It is believed that Madrid would want to make a profit on the midfielder and would demand in the region of £18million for the talented German.

Liverpool Ready Bid For PSV Eindhoven Stars

Liverpool are monitoring PSV Eindhoven pair Kevin Strootman and Georginio Wijnaldum hopeful of a potential £22m bid to sign the duo.

The raid to sign the pair could take place in January or in the summer. Boss Kenny Dalglish has brought in a number of youthful additions to the Liverpool squad over the past year and sees Strootman as a central midfielder with a great deal of potential. A bid for the 21 year old may be made next month as the Merseyside club looks to bring in a replacement for long term injury victim Lucas Leiva.

Wijnaldum is an adaptable attacker who can play either in an advanced floating midfield role or more effectively out on the wing. The 21 year old moved to PSV Eindhoven in the summer, from Feyenoord, and has been a consistent performer in the Eredivisie for the past four seasons.

Both players have only been at PSV Eindhoven for six months but Comolli believes that Liverpool could lure the young duo to Liverpool and the Premier League side is willing to shell out around £22m for two players.

Medics May Have Saved Gerrard's Career

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish believes the club's medical staff may have saved Steven Gerrard's career by quickly identifying the extent of his ankle infection.

Club captain Gerrard has been sidelined for over six weeks as a result of the problem, picked up just a month after he recovered from a groin injury that kept him out of the early part of the season.

Set to resume full training next week ahead of a return to first-team action at the start of next month, Dalglish believes Gerrard could have been out for a lot longer had the club's medical staff not been so sharp in their diagnosis and treatment of a rare problem.

"If it hadn't been dealt with quickly and properly it could have ended up more serious," Dalglish told The People. "But he got fantastic treatment and it's been sorted and solved.

"The credit goes to our medical people who identified it and reacted. It was unknown territory for us."

Dalglish believes Gerrard's mental strength has been a key factor in his ability to recover from such setbacks and resume performing at the highest level.

He added: "When you consider what he has been through he has done unbelievably well. But he has a strong character and that is reflected in coming through what he's been through. He is desperate to play but we need to manage it properly."

Houllier Backs Reds For Success

Former boss Gerard Houllier believes Liverpool will finish in the top four this season and challenge for the title next year.

The Frenchman, who managed Liverpool between 1998 and 2004, feels this year is a season of transition under boss Kenny Dalglish, who returned to the club in January to replace Roy Hodgson.

The Scot invested heavily in the club over the summer in an attempt to rebuild the side, with the likes of Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson signing on at Anfield.

Houllier, who had a spell in charge of Aston Villa last campaign, is impressed from what he has seen so far from the new-look Reds, who are currently seventh in the table, and feels they will soon be capable of challenging for the title.

He told the Sunday Mirror: "Kenny is doing a good job. He is trying to change the team and this is a transitional season for them.

"By that, I don't mean they won't reach the top four - they could do that. When Steven Gerrard comes back, they will be even better, they will get back their leader and an exceptional player. But, in any case, they are making good progress.

"I don't believe they will be able to challenge for the title - not this season. But they have made the right choices regarding players, so, as they gel, then next season should be better.

"When a club has a culture, a history, and a philosophy of winning silverware, which is what everybody aims for. There is no question of being happy with anything else.

"It's a good pressure because players arrive at the club knowing they are expected to perform and to win."