Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Match Report: Manchester City 3 - 0 Liverpool

Normal service was resumed for 10-man Manchester City as they once again put daylight between themselves and rivals Manchester United at the top of the Barclays Premier League table with victory over Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium.

After just one point and no goals from two matches, they were given an easy ride on their way to opening up a three-point cushion over their neighbours, who will try to reduce the gap again at Newcastle.

Despite their recent wobble Roberto Mancini's side are still a formidable force, especially at home, and they extended their 100% home league record this season to 10 matches and made it 55 points out of a possible 57 in at the Etihad Stadium in the last year and three days.

It was only the second time this season Liverpool had conceded more than one in a league match - and their worst result since losing 4-0 at Tottenham in September - but it could easily have been more.

Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure did the damage in the first half after benefiting from defensive lapses and even after Gareth Barry was sent off, City added a third with James Milner's penalty.

Mancini's side were fortunate to escape from Anfield with a 1-1 draw in November but this encounter was not even close as they recorded only their second win in 14 matches against the Merseysiders.

Prior to kick-off Liverpool confirmed they would not be appealing Luis Suarez's eight-match suspension for racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra.

If this is what life is like without the Uruguay international then the Reds could be in for a difficult six weeks, although the quality of opposition will rarely be matched.

In a battle between the league's top scorers and the meanest defence, something had to give but few would have predicted it would be the usually reliable Jose Reina.

Having already denied Edin Dzeko at the foot of his right-hand post, the Spain international made a complete hash of judging Aguero's 25-yard dipping shot and the ball flew underneath his body.

That was in sharp contrast to counterpart Joe Hart's reactions in denying Stewart Downing moments earlier when his England team-mate threatened to score having been played in by Jordan Henderson.

The goal had a more positive effect on Liverpool, who enjoyed their best spell of possession, than it did City but Reina was almost exposed again when Dzeko's shot deflected off Glen Johnson but crept just wide of the post with the goalkeeper completely wrong-footed.

While Liverpool were creating half-chances, with Hart pushing away Charlie Adam's low free-kick, City were more threatening thanks to the prompting of David Silva and Martin Skrtel was lucky to escape conceding a penalty when the ball bounced up on to his raised arm as Aguero tried to go past him.

Reina went some way to redeeming himself with a sharp save from Vincent Kompany's glancing header but was left helpless by Toure's powerful header off the underside of the crossbar from Silva's corner in the 34th minute.

Kompany showed his value at the other end of the pitch just before the interval by blocking Dirk Kuyt's close-range shot from Andy Carroll's knockdown.

In the technical area Reds boss Kenny Dalglish, hood up on his coat, gave the impression of a man trying to remain anonymous. Unfortunately for him most of his team had been equally nondescript in the first half.

Ten minutes into the second half Adam was replaced by Gerrard, who had been the catalyst for victory over Newcastle on Friday, and former City striker Craig Bellamy came on for Kuyt.

The substitutions produced the required lift but with City content to hold their lead and hit them on the break it remained a long way back for the Reds.

Liverpool appeared to have gained the momentum when Barry, having been booked late in the first half, was sent off for a second caution after blocking Daniel Agger.

But seconds later the result was wrapped up when they conceded possession inside City's half and Skrtel fouled Toure on the breakaway to allow Milner to make it 3-0 from the spot.

The hosts made their numerical disadvantage imperceptible and almost added a fourth when substitute Adam Johnson's shot beat Reina but rebounded off the post.

Gerrard responded with a long-range drive and substitute Maxi Rodriguez from much closer in but, like Liverpool's performance, they failed to hit the mark.

Even with the match won, City's concentration did not waver and Hart produced a point-blank block to deny Rodriguez.

The result highlighted the difference between title contenders and top-four hopefuls but worryingly for Liverpool they still have to face City twice more this month in the Carling Cup semi-final.

Dalglish Wants Finishing Touch

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish called on his team to be more clinical after they were defeated 3-0 by Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.

The visitors enjoyed a large share of possession but again failed to make it count, which has been their Achilles heel for most of the season.

It was Liverpool's first game without Luis Suarez after the club decided against appealing his eight-game ban for racially abusing Patrice Evra.

In his absence the team struggled for a cutting edge and Dalglish reckons they need to find one sooner rather than later.

"We have got to be clinical, and we have got to get that into our make-up - we didn't have that," he told Sky Sports.

"We had a good chance early on and then we lose a goal. The second one came from a corner. Pepe made a great save from the previous corner, and then they go down to 10 men, which is a bit unfortunate for them.

"But they go down to ten men and almost immediately we give away a penalty kick from our free-kick.

"It was difficult, but we have to be more clinical, if we are going to get to where we all want to go. It's a lesson learnt for us, and we have to take it on the chin and make sure we don't have a repeat of it."

Reina was at fault for City's first goal as he allowed Sergio Aguero's shot to squirm under his body, before Yaya Toure added a second with a powerful header.

James Milner added the third from the penalty spot moments after Gareth Barry had been dismissed for his second booking.

However, the Reds chief refused to criticize his Spanish 'keeper for City's opener.

"We are not going to come out and be critical of anybody," he added.

"There is not a player that's ever played that's not made a mistake, and that is the most important thing.

"The ball took a helluva dip, but for us I think that sums up what the night was all about.

"I think there were a lot of mistakes made by a lot of our players. Unfortunately when a goalkeeper makes one, there is not much comeback from it."

Redknapp Wants Reds To Step Up

Jamie Redknapp has called on some of Liverpool's goal-shy players to step up and fill the void left by Luis Suarez.

The Uruguayan - Liverpool's top scorer this season with eight goals - will miss the club's next seven games after they chose not to appeal against his suspension for racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra.

Suarez served the first match of his ban in Tuesday's 3-0 defeat at Manchester City when Andy Carroll led a toothless Liverpool attack.

It was the sixth time that Kenny Dalglish's side have failed to score this season and former Reds midfielder Jamie Redknapp says the likes of Carroll, Dirk Kuyt, Craig Bellamy and Stewart Downing must now offer the team some cutting edge in Suarez's absence.

"They've got to produce performances," Redknapp told Sky Sports.

"It's alright playing somebody, but they've got to want to do it and they've got to do it. Against City we saw the first glimpse without Luis Suarez and at times it was difficult.

"Away from home of late, Liverpool has looked very good. Suarez gives them something completely different, he is a wonderful footballer.

"Without him you've got Carroll up front and at times they get caught between playing long, trying to play up to him and using his aerial ability.

"They struggled at times against City and that's why I think Bellamy may play up front, then they can play quicker passing football. Carroll, at the moment, is not in the best of form.

"Kenny talks about having players that are clinical, but they haven't got that. Downing's not scoring goals, Kuyt's not scoring goals.

"Players now need to chip in and start scoring some goals."

Fellow Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville does not believe Dalglish needs to dip into the transfer market to cover for Suarez.

He says the Liverpool manager should put his faith in Carroll, a £35million signing from Newcastle last January, as well as the likes of Kuyt and Bellamy.

"They need a run of games, those players," Neville said.

"Carroll hasn't had a run of games since he's come to the club. I think he's now got to play him in these next six or seven games, get him a run of games and have belief in him.

"There's no point spending a load of money. He's got the players there, he's just got to have belief in Kuyt, Bellamy and Carroll and give them games."

Reds Reiterate Suarez Stance

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish has reiterated the club are firmly behind banned striker Luis Suarez.

Dalglish maintains Suarez has not been treated fairly and claims the full facts of the affair have not been made public.

The club has chosen not to appeal against the Uruguay international's eight-match suspension for racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra during the 1-1 draw in October.

That decision came after they analyzed the 115-page document released by the independent commission on New Year's Eve.

It meant the forward began his ban immediately, missing Tuesday's 3-0 defeat at Manchester City.

But despite the commission's report damning Suarez for providing "unreliable" and "inconsistent" evidence at the hearing, Dalglish claims the report does not tell the full story.

Both the club and Suarez issued statements on Tuesday evening in which they refused to accept responsibility and criticized the whole process.

However, Dalglish refused to say exactly what the report failed to contain, citing further retribution from the Football Association for his reticence.

"We have made a statement and I think it is there for everyone to read," he said.

"Luis has made a brilliant statement and we stand by him.

"There are a lot of things we'd like to say and a lot of things we could say but we don't want to get ourselves into trouble.

"We know what has gone on; we know what is not in the report and that is important for us.

"But without me getting myself in trouble, that is me finished.

"It is unfortunate that you don't actually know the whole content of what went on at the hearing.

"I am not prepared and I cannot say. I cannot go any further."

When asked whether the statements issued would only ensure the row would rumble on, the Scot added: "I don't think we are digging a bigger hole - it is unfortunate we cannot be more forthcoming."

Dalglish also defended the much-criticized decision by the players and himself to wear T-shirts in support of Suarez at the Wigan match before Christmas.

"If one of your guys was in trouble would you help and support him if you knew it was the truth and you knew it was right," he said.

"If they want to show their support for their team-mate, what is wrong with that?

"I think it is a fabulous statement to make visually of your support for a guy who is endeared in the dressing room."

Liverpool Legend Urges Dalglish To Add Reinforcements

Liverpool legend Tommy Smith has urged Kenny Dalglish to add a 'proven' striker to his ranks this month in order maintain their challenge for a top four finish.

Despite spending in excess of £50 million on the dual striker pairing of Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll in January last year, Liverpool has toiled for goals all season.

Smith believes Liverpool would hugely benefit from having an active transfer window this month and they did in the last and intimates Kenny Dalglish should add at least two players to the Anfield ranks over January.

Liverpool have spent in excess of £100 million since the Fenway Sports Group took control of the club and although Smith is not expecting a similar expenditure on that scale, the former Anfield enforcer believes one or two new faces would be massively beneficial.

"I wouldn't expect the earth to move for us again next month, I would still love to see us make a couple of reinforcements." Smith told the Liverpool Echo.

"It's in midfield where we need strengthening. It's great to have Steven Gerrard back again but with Lucas out for the rest of the season, we (Liverpool) need another body in there.

Although Smith feels Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson are gradually adapting to life at Liverpool, he suggests Dalglish needs to add a greater attacking purpose to his midfield area.

"Charlie Adam is a good player who has made a positive impact, while young Jordan Henderson is still getting used to life at Anfield and has looked a bit overawed at times." The Liverpool icon continued.

"With Jay Spearing seemingly still fighting to convince one or two people that he can make the grade - and I'd love the lad to succeed - we really could do with strengthening.

"In particular, we've got to offer a more attacking threat from midfield. We're defending well from there but no one is contributing much to a poor scoresheet."

In addition to bringing in another midfielder, Smith, who won four league titles and two European Cups with Liverpool, believes the club would benefit from having another striker in their ranks, not least because it is an area they have struggled in this season.

"A proven striker would also be on my list because if we do buy again, the accent must be on attack and getting the goals we clearly need." The Anfield hero concluded.

Reds Accept Suarez Sanction

The Football Association has announced that Liverpool will not be appealing Luis Suarez's eight-match ban for racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra.

The Reds have reluctantly accepted the sanction handed out to their Uruguayan forward after analyzing the FA's 115-page document which detailed their reasons for taking action.

Liverpool has offered unwavering support to Suarez since the race row hit the headlines in October, but they will not be taking the matter any further.

"Liverpool FC has informed The FA that they will not be appealing the decision of an Independent Regulatory Commission in relation to the recently proven misconduct charge against Luis Suarez," read a statement released on the FA's official website.

"Suarez will be suspended with immediate effect for a period of eight matches, starting with the fixture against Manchester City. Suarez was also fined £40,000 and was warned as to his future conduct."

The FA published the reasoning behind their decision to suspend Suarez on New Year's Eve and Liverpool were given until 13th January in which to lodge an appeal.

The Anfield outfit will not be taking such action, but they have released a statement of their own, in which they once again state their belief that Suarez has been wrongly singled out as a racist.

"Liverpool Football Club have supported Luis Suarez because we fundamentally do not believe that Luis on that day - or frankly any other - did or would engage in a racist act," read a statement released on the club's official website.

"Notably, his actions on and off the pitch with his team-mates and in the community have demonstrated his belief that all athletes can play together and that the colour of a person's skin is irrelevant.

"Continuing a fight for justice in this particular case beyond today would only obscure the fact that the Club wholeheartedly supports the efforts of the Football Association, the Football League and the Premier League to put an end to any form of racism in English football.

"It is time to put the Luis Suarez matter to rest and for all of us, going forward, to work together to stamp out racism in every form both inside and outside the sport.

"It is for this reason that we will not appeal the eight-game suspension of Luis Suarez."

Andy Carroll Could Be On His Way Back To Newcastle United

Liverpool striker Andy Carroll could be in line for a shock return to Newcastle on a short-term loan reports talkSPORT.

The 22-year-old has struggled to rediscover his best form since making his £35million move to Merseyside last January, and is said to be willing to return to the North East.

Magpies boss Alan Pardew is a huge admirer of the former Newcastle hitman, and has always left the door open for Carroll to return to St James' Park.

"You never want to lose great players and we never wanted to lose Andy," he said. "I'd take him back if I had the chance.

"If the fee offered by Liverpool had not been so high, he'd still be here."

With just five goals to his name since making his move to Anfield, Carroll has grown increasingly frustrated, despite receiving backing from Reds boss Kenny Dalglish that he will return to his best.

However, a loan move back to Newcastle may benefit both parties, with Pardew short on striking options, as top goalscorer Demba Ba prepares to leave for African Cup of Nations duty, and Liverpool linked with a big-money move for Darren Bent.

Liverpool In £8m Madrid Midfielder Link

Liverpool target Esteban Granero is available for transfer this month and can be bought for around £8million according to talkSPORT.

The 24-year-old Spanish midfielder has been told he is surplus to requirements at the Bernabeu by Los Blancos boss Jose Mourinho, but is unwilling to let the former Getafe man leave the club on loan.

Reds boss Kenny Dalglish was recently credited with an interest in bringing Granero to Anfield as midfield cover for Lucas Leiva, who has been ruled out for the remainder of the 2011-12 campaign.

Add to that, Steven Gerrard's precarious fitness situation and Liverpool are a little short on central midfield options, and would be boosted by the addition of the Real star.

However, the Merseysiders face competition for the former Spanish U21 starlet's signature from relegation-threatened Blackburn, as Steve Kean looks to make an audacious transfer coup for his struggling side.

Madrid paid £4million for Granero back in 2009, and will demand double that fee from Blackburn and Liverpool if either club wishes to land him.

Liverpool Striker In Line For £10m Anfield Exit

Liverpool striker Dirk Kuyt could be in line for a shock Anfield departure during the January transfer window with Galatasaray showing an interest, according to reports in The Metro.

Since arriving at Liverpool from Feyenoord for £10million in 2006, Kuyt has been one of the key players for the Anfield outfit.

Kuyt has however found himself with limited chances and moving down the pecking order at Liverpool since the summer arrivals of Stuart Downing, Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson.

The 31-year-old striker who can also operate on the wing is keen to feature for Holland at Euro 2012 but his lack of first-team football with Liverpool could prevent him doing so.

However Turkish giants Galatasaray are ready to offer Kuyt a lifeline and are willing to pay £10m along with a number of further payments for the player’s services.

Liverpool Reignite Interest In Exciting Young Winger

Liverpool is once again being linked with a move for talented young midfielder Ryad Boudebouz who was heavily linked with a switch to Anfield over the summer.

The 21-year-old impressed many with his superb performances for Sochaux last season and was reportedly close to leaving the Ligue 1 side in the summer but in was convinced by the clubs management to stay.

However, the French club is struggling this season and has amassed just 18 points from 19 league games as they sit second bottom of the table with just four league wins all season.

Boudebouz is a regular for Algeria after making the switch having represented France at Under-19 level on 10 occasions. The attacking midfielder leads the clubs scoring charts with five goals and three assists and is once again being linked with a move away from Sochaux.

Well respected Ligue 1 expert Jonathan Johnson has suggested on that Liverpool could rekindle their interest in the winger, but could face competition from French giants Paris Saint-Germain.

It is believed that Sochaux are ready to cash in on the midfielder before the clubs poor form means his value is diminished even further.

Liverpool had been hoping that Stewart Downing would provide plenty of width for the club this season, however, the former Aston Villa man has struggled to replicate his best form and it seems the club could further strengthen their squad in January.

The youngster certainly fits the Reds transfer policy and would be available for a relatively low fee.

Liverpool Transfer Target Says He's Staying In Brazil

Liverpool face a major battle to sign Brazilian teenage sensation Lucas after the talented midfielder revealed he is happy to stay at Sao Paulo.

Lucas is rated as one of the best young talents in South America and has been linked with a number of big European clubs, including the Anfield giants.

But Kenny Dalglish will probably have to switch his attentions elsewhere after Lucas revealed he is happy to stay at Sao Paulo and challenge for silverware.

Lucas said: "I expect a better 2012 for myself and the club. Our squad is strong, and with more signings we will get even better.

"I will stay at Sao Paulo. You will see a more motivated Lucas who has a desire to succeed. We lacked a title in 2011 and that is objective for the New Year."

Gerrard Inspiring Henderson

Working alongside Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is acting as a learning curve for midfielder Jordan Henderson.

The England Under-21 international is still finding his feet at Anfield after his summer move from Sunderland.

He has made 22 appearances, 18 of which have been from the start and he has played the full 90 minutes in Liverpool's last eight matches.

However, he has still to rediscover the performances which prompted manager Kenny Dalglish to spend £16million to bring him to Anfield last summer.

But the return from injury of Gerrard, with whom he has played only 151 minutes this season, could provide a significant step forward.

Henderson provided the well-timed pass to pick out the captain's run from deep for the final goal in Friday's 3-1 win over Newcastle and is looking forward to linking up more regularly in the future.

"You learn things in training off different players and I have learned a lot from him in training and when he has come on in games," said the 21-year-old.

"There are some great players here who I try to learn from and Stevie is one of them.

"Of course I have to learn from players like that, but I have to concentrate on my own game and keep improving and hopefully Stevie will help me do that.

"I don't have to speak for how good he is; he is an outstanding player and everyone can see that on the pitch.

"He is an inspiration to everyone. You can see when he comes on he lifts the game and the whole atmosphere picks up.

"I think it shows how good he is that he can change games and he is a massive player for Liverpool.

"Whenever he is on the pitch he is a massive threat for opponents and it is a real plus for us that he is back."

Liverpool FC & Konica Minolta Sign Long-Term Partnership

Liverpool FC has teamed up with the global print and document management company, Konica Minolta, to create a unique partnership that will benefit both companies.

The long-term relationship will see the Club working with Konica Minolta to help raise their profile as a provider of print and document management services to SMEs, public sector, commercial and enterprise business through brand affinity and engagement with Liverpool supporters.

The partnership will also see Liverpool FC benefiting from Konica Minolta's skills, experience and expertise in their role as the Club's Official Print and Document Management Partner.

Ian Ayre, Managing Director of Liverpool Football Club, said: "We are excited about working with a brand that has such an innovative and fresh approach to business solutions and the Club will provide Konica Minolta with significant brand visibility and access to our supporter base."

Neil Dingley, Konica Minolta's Operations Director & Company Secretary added: "Our partnership with LFC supports our corporate vision of developing long-term partnerships that optimize mutual profitability as we will be able to improve efficiencies and reduce operational costs associated with managing print and document management for the Club. At the same time, we will be able to raise our own profile in the B2B arena as the market leader."

A Unique Ffriendship

The Liverpool FC/Borussia Moenchengladbach fourth consecutive Fan party in Liverpool has been declared 'an outstanding success'. Fan party organizer Graham Agg said it was an honour for the Liverpool supporters to once again host our friends from the Borussia Moenchengladbach Official Supporters Club. The Gladbach fans were making their 20th consecutive friendship visit to Liverpool to support the Reds since 1992, and after watching Kenny Dalglish's side beat Newcastle United, they continued their celebrations with a party in town.

This special Friendship started in 1991 when a delegation of Borussia Moenchengladbach supporters flew to Liverpool to present a cheque for 21,000 Deutsch Marks (approximately £7000) to the families of the Hillsborough disaster - an amazing gesture that has never been forgotten on Merseyside. This year the Borussia supporters even brought their own band from Germany, 'The Drunken Lullabies'. They sang Irish folk music and were truly outstanding as the packed audiences in Flanagans Irish pub on Mathew Street were soon dancing along to their music.

Legendary Borussia supporter Jonny Polcher, who is the solitary supporter who has attended every single friendship visit to Liverpool since 1992, addressed the assembled audience. Organizer Agg, also spoke and thanked the Borussia supporters for their continual support and friendship. Agg said: "Borussia Moenchengladbach are currently riding high in fourth position in the German Bundesliga with real hopes of qualifying for the 2012-2013 Champions League.

"With Liverpool also just outside the Champions League qualifying places it is real hope for these supporters that possibly both clubs could meet in Europe's Premier competition next season and show the rest of Europe a friendship that is absolutely unique in world football."

The 2012 and sixth consecutive LFC supporters friendship visit to Moenchengladbach will take place from Friday, April 27, to Monday, April 30, when Borussia are hosting FC Augsburg in their last home match of the 2011-2012 Bundesliga season.