Thursday, December 22, 2011

Match Report: Wigan 0 - 0 Liverpool

Liverpool striker Luis Suarez was the centre of attention after receiving his eight-match ban but the Uruguay international cut a frustrated figure as his side were held to a goalless draw at Wigan.

Perhaps understandably the Reds' top scorer, playing just 24 hours after learning of the lengthy suspension handed down by the Football Association, faded as the game wore on.

Charlie Adam had the chance to take some of the focus off his team-mate but missed a penalty early in the second half as Liverpool's disappointing run against the Latics continued.

They have taken three points from last four matches against them and have not won at Wigan since September 2007.

For the Latics is was a second successive home draw against one of the 'big' teams - having held Chelsea on Saturday, and another point towards their survival battle.

Suarez remains free to play while the club decides whether to appeal against the punishment for misconduct for using insulting words to Patrice Evra, which included a reference to the Manchester United defender's colour.

Prior to the match the Liverpool squad had issued a joint statement fully supporting their team-mate in which they said: "We have lived, trained and played with Luis for almost 12 months and we don't recognize the way he has been portrayed. We will continue to support Luis through this difficult period."

As if to press home their message, every player, including the striker himself, wore white T-shirts with the image of a celebrating Suarez in red on the front and the player's name and number seven on the back.

But whatever the club's decision, the stain on the player's character is unlikely to be removed as the Wigan fans, hardly the most aggressive in the Premier League, targeted him with barbed chants and booed him throughout.

If Suarez was expecting any sympathy from his opponents he did not get it and fellow South American Antolin Alcaraz's challenge inside the second minute left the striker clutching the back of his head.

The 24-year-old was involved in many of Liverpool's early attacking as, after Adam drilled a free-kick into the wall, Suarez, Maxi Rodriguez and Stewart Downing combined to set up Jordan Henderson but his shot was parried behind by Ali Al Habsi.

Adam had another goalbound free-kick headed away by David Jones while Rodriguez and Henderson both fired over ambitious volleys from the edge of the area.

Dirk Kuyt had the best chance from Downing's cut-back but Al Habsi did enough to turn aside the shot.

But for all their dominance the visitors began to lose a grip on the game and could well have gone into half-time behind had referee Michael Oliver deemed Martin Skrtel's challenge inside the area on Victor Moses - in which there appeared to be contact - a foul.

Maynor Figueroa and Mohamed Diame both tried their luck from distance before Moses ran 60 yards into the heart of the Reds' defence before forcing Jose Reina to punch clear.

Only Daniel Agger's last-ditch tackle denied Conor Sammon after James McCarthy had robbed Rodriguez 15 yards outside the penalty area as Wigan finished the first half strongly.

Soon after the restart Al Habsi tipped over a Suarez free-kick but it was the hands of Wigan captain Gary Caldwell which made a more decisive intervention in the 50th minute.

Suarez's attempted overhead kick hit the centre-back on his left arm and Oliver pointed to the spot but Adam's penalty was saved by Al Habsi.

Kuyt then volleyed over Adam's chipped free-kick from close range before the Dutchman and Rodriguez were replaced by Craig Bellamy and Jonjo Shelvey for the final 20 minutes while Hugo Rodallega, Wigan's scorer in two of their last three meetings with Liverpool, came on for Sammon.

The Colombia international almost came up trumps with a far-post header from Moses' cross which was deflected behind by Glen Johnson.

Moses then stabbed wide from the resulting corner as Liverpool looked like crumbling before Suarez was substituted for Andy Carroll three minutes from time to a chorus of boos.

Greater tests on and off the field await the Uruguayan but for Wigan it was another deserved point.

Dalglish - No Suarez Complaints

Kenny Dalglish insists Luis Suarez has never been a disappointment for Liverpool, as the storm of controversy continues to surround the striker.

The Uruguayan started his club's 0-0 draw at Wigan on Wednesday less than 24 hours after being hit with a Football Association ban of eight matches and a fine of £40,000 for allegedly racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra.

Suarez was unable to influence the match at the DW Stadium and was targeted by Wigan's fans with incessant booing and chants, leaving Dalglish less than impressed with the home followers.

But the Liverpool boss is adamant he will never have any complaints about Suarez, who was a £22.8million signing from Ajax in January 2011, as the club consider whether to appeal his FA punishment.

"It is all very well and good telling players to control themselves. I think the FA better start controlling crowds," Dalglish told Sky Sports in his post-match interview when asked about Suarez's display of character.

"But Luis Suarez is somebody that has never disappointed us since the day he came in the door and he won't ever do that."

Charlie Adam saw a second-half penalty saved by Wigan goalkeeper and man of the match Ali Al Habsi to ensure Liverpool's miserable run of form against their North West rivals continued.

It was the fourth time out of five that the Reds failed from the spot this season, but Dalglish played down any concerns about the issue.

He joked: "I suppose the goalkeepers are helpful, aren't they? If they don't put a goalkeeper in, then we have got a chance.

"We are not out there to miss penalty kicks, but at least we are getting them. Obviously we would much rather we put them away.

"It is the difference between maybe one and three points."

Liverpool And Chelsea Warned Off River Plate Strike Starlet

Liverpool and Chelsea have been told to look elsewhere after River Plate insisted that Brazilian teenage sensation Lucas Ocampos is not for sale in January.

Ocampos is rated one of the best young strikers in South America and has already been dubbed the 'new Cristiano Ronaldo'.

Liverpool look certain to step up their search for a new striker after star forward Luiz Suarez was given an eight-match ban, after being found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra.

Chelsea have also been strongly linked with a move for the teenage hot-shot, who has a formidable record for his club side and has also been one of the star performers for the Argentina Under-17 team.

But River Plate vice president Diegoe Turnes insists they are determined to keep Ocampos at the club and will reject any big offers in January.

Turnes said: "We have had offers from Italy and England but the kid will not leave the club."

Poyet Blasts Suarez Ban

Ex-Uruguay international Gus Poyet has blasted the FA's decision to ban Luis Suarez for eight games after being found guilty of misconduct.

Poyet, who manages Brighton, has labelled the hefty suspension as 'disproportionate' while he has also criticized Patrice Evra, claiming he is no 'saint'.

The 44-year-old insists there are cultural differences between England and Uruguay and anything Suarez may have said would have been perfectly 'normal' back home.

The ex-Tottenham and Chelsea midfielder thinks with Suarez being new to England it was too early for him to gauge exactly what is acceptable to say, remarking his language could even have been construed as 'affectionate'.

"The ban is incredible, shocking, it's disproportionate. I back Luis to death," Poyet told Ultimas Noticias.

"Things have happened before with Evra. He is not a saint. He is a controversial player.

"I don't know in which world we are going to live in from now on people. People will accuse each other of anything.

"Suarez just arrived [in the Premier League] and there are things that he has to learn when you are in another country because they might be normal in your country but perhaps they are not considered that way in other parts of the world.

"I have tried to explain that we live with coloured people in Uruguay. We share different experiences with them. We play football, we share parties.

"We are born, we grow up and we die with them. We call them 'blacks' in a natural way, even in an affectionate way. That is the way we were brought up. We are integrated and there are no problems from either side.

"I've explained how the Uruguay people and the South Americans experience these situations with coloured people. I've been many years in England and I understand them. I know how to deal with it, but Luis has only recently arrived here."

Uruguay's national director of sports, Ernesto Irurueta, called the ban "exaggerated, absurd and out of place."

Uruguay's head coach Oscar Tabarez said he would continue to support Suarez.

Tabarez said: "He has out full support and solidarity because seen from a distance this seems like an excessive punishment."

Uruguayan Footballers Defend Suarez

Footballers in Uruguay hit back at FA for giving their team-mate, Luis Suarez an eight-match ban and a £40,000 fine for racial abuse.

An FA independent regulatory commission found Suarez guilty of racially abusing the Manchester United player Patrice Evra during the Premier League match at Anfield on 15 October.

The six-day hearing was told that Suarez used "insulting words" that made reference to Evra's skin colour.

Footballers in Uruguay came out in support of the Liverpool striker following the news, implying the incident was a cultural misunderstanding rather than a racist slur.

"They're making a big mistake. It's obvious that in England there's a racism problem they're trying to eradicate, and that's good, but this sentence has no solid arguments," the Uruguay captain Diego Lugano, who also plays for Paris St Germaine, wrote on his blog.

Lazio winger Alvaro Gonzalez also stuck by Suarez. "All of us who know Luis, we know that if he made this remark it wasn't (meant to be) insulting," he was quoted as saying in the Montevideo newspaper El Pais.

"We Uruguayans, and more so in football, use terms that can be wrongly interpreted by people from other's not a reason to call a Uruguayan a racist. Uruguayans often call friends 'negro' affectionately," he added.

"Maybe we end up paying for entering other, perhaps more closed cultures and which surely have discriminated against Evra at some moment for him to feel attacked in this situation."

Liverpool Land Ibe Deal

Wycombe Wanderers have announced Liverpool have signed highly-rated teenager Jordan Ibe.

As revealed by earlier this month, Liverpool has won the race for the 16-year-old, fending off interest from a number of their Premier League rivals.

Ibe became Wycombe's youngest-ever goalscorer when he netted against Sheffield Wednesday in October aged 15 years and 325 days on his first start for the club.

Liverpool have shown in recent months they are planning to bring in the best young British talent around and Ibe is the latest new face to make the move to Merseyside.

Wycombe boss Gary Waddock admits they could not stand in Ibe's way of a move to Anfield and he has tipped him for a big future in the game.

"It's a fantastic move for him. He's a phenomenal talent which is why we gave him a chance to show what he can do at first-team level," Waddock told the club's official website.

"Obviously we wanted to keep him, but we didn't want to stand in the way of an opportunity he deserves.

"I have no doubt in my mind that he will go on to become a big star and I will be keeping a close eye on his progress. I would like to wish him and his family all the best for the future."

Dalglish Praises Carragher's Influence On Skrtel & Agger

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish has praised Jamie Carragher’s influence on central defensive pairing Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel after a solid beginning to the season.

In 16 league matches this season, Liverpool have conceded just 13 goals, better than any other team in the Premier League, with Agger and Skrtel starting a combined total of 25 fixtures.

Despite managing nine starts this season, Carragher has struggled to solidify a place in the starting XI, but Dalglish is convinced he is still having an effect, particularly on those in his place.

Speaking to reporters, Dalglish said: “I don't think they have ever looked a bad pair but the both of them are playing very well.

“They know how to play. Jamie being beside them when they came in at first has been a fantastic help to them, as he has been for a lot of people here.

“You can't under-play what Jamie has done for the two of them but they are more than capable of standing on their own two feet.

“Competition is always helpful but it is not as though the two boys are novices, they are seasoned international players and Daniel is going to Euro 2012 [with Denmark].”

Dalglish has also been pleased with his defenders' eagerness to get forward and attack, particularly on corners as Agger tried his luck and Skrtel scored versus Aston Villa.

He continued: “As soon as we lose the ball we start defending together and when we have it everyone can go forward if they want.

“Daniel Agger got forward a couple of times on Sunday [in 2-0 win at Aston Villa] and Martin scored a goal.

“They have been good defensively but they have been good in attack as well.”

Barnes Pride At New LFC Role

Kop legend John Barnes has spoken of his pride after taking over the presidency of Liverpool's Disabled Supporters Association.

At a gala Christmas dinner at Anfield last week, attended by first team defender Sebastian Coates and outgoing president Alan Kennedy, Barnes addressed over 200 members of the LDSA and revealed the huge sense of honour he feels at being asked to assume such a prestigious position.

"I was asked six weeks ago and I didn't need to think twice," he said. "I know Alan Kennedy has done a great job as president and if I can do half as well then I'll be pleased.

"Football is all about the fans. Fans are the club. The only people I think who should kiss the badge are the fans. Players come and go, as we've seen, but fans are the heartbeat of the club - and especially at this club.

"Liverpool fans are special. Shankly started it and you can see today how the fans identify with the players and identify with the club. They get their strength from the club.

"I appreciate how difficult it is for disabled supporters to get around and to get to games, but they always show their commitment by turning up in their droves. It was the least I could do to become the LDSA president and I'm really looking forward to the next twelve months."