Saturday, January 07, 2012

Match Report: Liverpool 5 - 1 Oldham

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard put more than two months of frustration behind him to score on his first start since October as his side beat Oldham 5-1 in the third round of the FA Cup.

After three substitute appearances following recovery from an ankle infection the 31-year-old finally reclaimed his place in the team and expertly dispatched the penalty which put his side into a lead they did not surrender despite a valiant effort from their League One opponents.

Gerrard did the same thing back in October when, on his first start after six months out after a groin operation, he scored against Manchester United.

On that occasion he played only one more match before succumbing to the ankle problem which sidelined him until Boxing Day.

The England international will be hoping recent history does not repeat itself as Liverpool have an important few months ahead of them, starting with a two-legged Carling Cup semi-final against Manchester City next week.

Almost exactly a year ago manager Kenny Dalglish marked the start of his second spell in charge at the club with a third-round exit at Manchester United 24 hours after replacing Roy Hodgson.

There was no recurrence against a side 52 places below them in the league - although for a fleeting moment the visitors threatened a shock with a brilliantly-taken goal from Robbie Simpson which would not have looked out of place had it been scored at Wembley itself.

A week ago the 26-year-old Simpson was not even registered to play for the Latics but he re-signed on loan from Huddersfield and his 30-yard strike will have done no harm in securing him a permanent move.

If the Latics had held on for longer than two minutes they may have stood a chance but a freakish deflected equalizer via Craig Bellamy and Gerrard's penalty put the Reds in control and Jonjo Shelvey's first goal for the club and late efforts from substitutes Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing wrapped things up.

With Gary Ablett's family watching from the stand there was a minute's applause for the former Liverpool defender who died on New Year's Day aged 46 after losing a 16-month battle with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

The Reds may be unbeaten at home this season but they have often struggled at Anfield and they were fortunate not to go behind after just 10 minutes.

Experienced striker Shefki Kuqi outmuscled Sebastian Coates and wrong-footed Jamie Carragher but wastefully shot into the side-netting with only Jose Reina to beat.

Right-back Tom Adeyemi had an equally good chance from Simpson's 14th-minute corner but planted his free header just over while Chris Taylor also fired wide.

Oldham deservedly took the lead in spectacular style in the 28th minute when, after receiving Dean Furman's pass, Simpson took one touch before unleashing a left-footed half-volley which flew past Reina.

The goal had the Oldham contingent in the directors' box - and the 6,132 visiting fans - on their feet but they were soon pegged back by a huge stroke of luck.

Shelvey cut in from the right and speculatively aimed for the far post only for the shot to take a huge deflection off Bellamy's chest and leave Alex Cisak helpless.

Gerrard put his side ahead just before the interval when, after Maxi Rodriguez was pushed by Adeyemi, he expertly converted only the second of six penalties the Reds have been awarded this season.

Bellamy, Dirk Kuyt and Martin Kelly all had chances early in the second half - the latter brilliantly denied by Cisak - before Shelvey smashed home from Bellamy's 68th-minute cross.

Late in the second half Adeyemi appeared to take offence to something shouted from the Kop and despite reassurance from his team-mates, Kuyt and Gerrard, the 20-year-old right-back seemed visibly upset.

There then appeared to be discussion between the fourth official and a police officer down by the tunnel.

In the 89th minute Carroll smashed in a low shot from outside the area barely two minutes after coming on before Downing, also coming off the bench, wrapped things up even later.

Kenny - Scoreline Flattered Us

Manager Kenny Dalglish admits the 5-1 scoreline in Liverpool's FA Cup third-round triumph over Oldham at Anfield flattered his side.

The League One visitors took a deserved lead through Robbie Simpson's brilliant strike in the 28th minute but a freakish deflected equalizer from Craig Bellamy soon after was followed by Steven Gerrard's penalty just before half-time.

Jonjo Shelvey and Stewart Downing both scored their first Liverpool goals either side of Andy Carroll's 89th-minute effort to clinch victory.

"The scoreline is a bit flattering really," said Dalglish, who made eight changes to give some of his fringe players a run-out.

"Oldham did their club and their manager proud.

"They created one or two threatening situations for themselves, especially in the first half, so getting back as quickly as we did with the equalizer helped us.

"But the scoreline does not reflect the distance between the two teams on that performance."

Dalglish gave Fabio Aurelio his first appearance of the season while the likes of Jon Flanagan, Martin Kelly, Sebastian Coates and Jamie Carragher were given valuable pitch time.

"It was important for some of the players who haven't played as much as the others to get a game and Fabio Aurelio got his first 60 minutes (of the season)," said the Scot.

"For us there were a lot of positives to come out of it: Stewart Downing scoring, Andy getting a goal, Jonjo scored and Steven got a penalty.

"They just need games. Every single one of them will be better for it.

"There was nothing wrong with their application but you can train as much as you want but you can't replicate what happens on a pitch."

Gerrard marked his first start after two months out with an ankle infection with a goal and was praised by his manager.

"It is fabulous what he has done and how hard he has worked to come back - playing a full game is fantastic is for him," he added.

Paul Dickov Slams Liverpool Penalty Award

Oldham Athletic manager Paul Dickov has hit out at referee Neil Swarbrick’s decision to award a penalty to Liverpool in his side’s 5-1 defeat to the Reds at Anfield.

With the game at 1-1 on the stroke of half-time, the referee awarded the hosts a penalty, which was converted by Steven Gerrard, after an apparent push by Tom Adeyemi on Maxi Rodriguez.

Dickov said: "The penalty’s a joke. I thought he [Maxi] fell over, Tom’s [Adeyemi] looking at the ball, there’s no chance he can see him. I’ve been told by the referee that he’s got two hands and pushed him in the back, which is never a case.

"I know by the reaction of my players, especially when decisions go against them, they are an honest bunch. If they come in at half-time and Tom would have held up his hand and say ‘sorry’ then the boys would have said ‘yes it was a penalty‘, but they were livid it was given, just before half-time as well."

Liverpool, who had levelled thanks to a quickfire Craig Bellamy goal in the first half after a stunning opener from Oldham’s Robbie Simpson, went on to score second-half goals through Jonjo Shelvey, Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing after Gerrard’s penalty.

Dickov expressed his delight at his side's start to the game and suggested his players may have lost their discipline after conceding so soon after scoring.

The 39-year-old said: "I thought the first 20-25 minutes we played some tremendous football, we had three or four really good chances before we scored.

"Thirty seconds after we score our goal we concede, it puts you on the back-foot. Then as a group I think we lost our discipline a little bit, the things that put us in front and created us chances and a disciplined performance off the ball, but with making the right decisions and passing the ball that got us in front.

"Then we started lashing at things and hitting long balls which are things we never practice."

However, Dickov paid tribute to his players for having a go at the Premier League outfit, conceding they were killed off when trying to push forward.

He added: "They picked themselves up, I told them to keep doing the right things. We know what a good team Liverpool is so we just wanted them to have a good go.

"But the third goal kills us. We put as many forwards as we can on the pitch being a cup game trying to put ourselves back in it, but they broke away twice and scored the fourth and fifth which I was gutted about, which doesn’t reflect the performance my boys put in."

Reds And Police Probe Incident

Liverpool and the Merseyside police are investigating alleged racist abuse of Oldham's Tom Adeyemi at Anfield on Friday night.

Adeyemi appeared to take offence to something shouted from the Kop late in the second half of the Reds' 5-1 victory in the third round of the FA Cup.

The Latics midfielder, on loan from Norwich, was reduced to tears despite reassurances from his team-mates and Liverpool duo Dirk Kuyt and Steven Gerrard.

There then appeared to be discussion between the fourth official and a police officer down by the tunnel while the match was continuing.

Liverpool announced that no arrests had been made but confirmed in a statement they are investigating the incident with the Merseyside police.

The statement read: "An incident occurred in the second half of the match which is now being investigated by both the club and the police.

"We will continue to work closely with the police and establish the details of what actually happened and will make a further statement in due course."

A senior Liverpool official also told The Guardian: "We will do everything in our power to investigate the matter and ensure the appropriate action is taken."

The incident comes at a sensitive time for Liverpool, who have recently seen striker Luis Suarez suspended for eight matches by the Football Association for racist abuse of Manchester United defender Patrice Evra.

Liverpool In For Colombian International Striker Martinez

Liverpool has held talks with the representatives of Jaguares striker Jackson Martinez.

The Colombia international, 25, has also attracted strong interest from Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal but his club have raised the price since negotiations were opened in September.

He was originally available for a bargain £5.5million but Jaguares now want £8.5million.

Liverpool are desperate to add to their attacking options with Luis Suarez currently serving an eight-match ban and £35m Andy Carroll struggling for form.

The club has expressed an interest in Aston Villa and England frontman Darren Bent but it is unlikely that Villa will want to sell.

Martinez has a decent return of five goals in 10 appearances for his country and has scored nearly a goal every other game for Jaguares.

Liverpool will have to move quickly if they want to secure a deal as Porto are reportedly close to agreeing a fee.

Reds Keen On Inter Striker

Liverpool is looking into the possibility of loaning Inter Milan forward Mauro Zarate, according to The National.

However, for any deal to happen, Inter would have to release Zarate back to his parent club Lazio because the 24-year-old is currently on a temporary contract at the San Siro until June.

Liverpool is looking into possible replacements for Luis Suarez who is in the midst of his eight-match ban from the FA.

Zarate, who spent time on loan at Birmingham City in 2008, could be the answer with his similar direct style of play.

Liverpool Seriously Considering Young Right-Back

Merseyside club Liverpool are seriously considering a move for young Welshman and Celtic right-back Adam Matthews and sources suggest the club are contemplating a bid for the 19 year old.

However Matthews has only just joined Celtic from Cardiff City and his performances have shown he is a player that could make him one of the Celtic legends if he were to remain.

Capped five times by Wales this year, Matthews, who turns 20 next week, appears to be the ideal type of player that Dalglish would purchase, young, British and full of great potential.

Liverpool will find it difficult in prising him away from the SPL so soon but should a big enough offer come in from the Anfield side then Celtic are sure to consider it if the profit is worth considering.

Liverpool Launch Raid For £10m English Wonderkid

Liverpool is making progress on establishing grounds to negotiate a deal for Birmingham City winger Nathan Redmond, who is being valued at £10 million by the midlands club.

Redmond has 2 years remaining on his current deal at St. Andrew’s, but has recently attracted interest from Manchester City and other Premier League clubs. His development through the youth system at Birmingham eventually led to him being handed his debut in August 2010, aged 16 years and 56 days.

Since then, nineteen appearances and two goals have helped Redmond get himself noticed by some elite clubs in the Premier League. Still just 17, Redmond has been likened to “one of those wingers like an Aaron Lennon or an Ashley Young,” by Birmingham Academy manager Terry Westley.

Former manager Alex McLeish expressed his delight over the progress of the talented youngster, claiming; “Has he got a big future? It looks like it. He's electric. He's a right winger but he showed his versatility coming in off the left and going in and hitting shots.”

Liverpool reportedly made an enquiry in the summer about Redmond’s availability, although found themselves snubbed by Birmingham boss Chris Hughton who wanted to see how Redmond developed in the early stages of this season.

However, with Hughton fully aware that the club will likely sell given the financial incentives of agreeing a deal with either Liverpool or Manchester City, a deal for the England youth international looks highly likely.

Liverpool already trumped Manchester City in a deal agreed with 16-year-old Wycombe youngster Jordan Ibe, and it has been suggested that Redmond is favouring the same path.

Liverpool Given Grounds For Hope At Stanley Park

Liverpool are now concentrating their efforts on financing a new stadium in Stanley Park, where they have planning permission, rather than redevelop Anfield.

American owners Fenway Sports Group had been keen to renovate the current ground like they did at their baseball franchise, the Boston Red Sox.

But property and land acquisition difficulties and other environmental problems have made a refurbishment highly unlikely. Liverpool is in talks with companies for a naming rights deal to help fund a new 60,000- capacity ground.

Liverpool council, who favour the move to Stanley Park to spark a re-generation of the area, have been pressing for a definitive decision to end the long uncertainty for local residents.

The fall-out from Liverpool's inept handling of the Luis Suarez racism and the damage it might do to the club's reputation won't help discussions with potential sponsors.

So Liverpool are lucky their kit sponsors Standard Chartered Bank, who have a big presence in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, have been supportive throughout the controversy and even want to be involved in the naming rights talks.