Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Match Report: Blackburn 2 - 3 Liverpool

Liverpool's third-choice goalkeeper Brad Jones found himself thrust into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons but Andy Carroll ensured he was not alone as the £35million striker snatched a stoppage-time winner at Blackburn.

Alexander Doni, deputizing for the suspended Jose Reina, was sent off midway through the first half, meaning Jones had to make his Premier League debut just four days before the club's FA Cup semi-final against Everton.

He had a mixed night at Ewood Park, saving the penalty conceded by his predecessor but making a mess of a backpass and fouling Ayegbeni Yakubu to concede the second-half spot-kick which brought the equalizer.

The Australian, who had made just two previous appearances since being signed by Roy Hodgson in the summer of 2010, is now the only senior goalkeeper available to manager Kenny Dalglish for Wembley - which remains the club's priority despite a first league win in five league matches.

Jones is unlikely to be a great believer in fate, having tragically lost his five-year-old son Luca to leukaemia in November. He became a father again to another boy, Nico Luca, exactly a week ago.

He could not have imagined the night - or the week he was in for - after Maxi Rodriguez's two goals put Liverpool in command after just 16 minutes.

However, after saving a penalty he was twice beaten by Yakubu - who took his tally to 16 in the league - only for Carroll to rescue him and Liverpool with the winner two minutes into four minutes of added time.

Rodriguez, a bit-part player at best under Dalglish, made it four goals in just eight league games this season - and 14 in his last 20 appearances in all competitions going back to last April.

Martin Skrtel's long ball from well inside his own penalty area reached Craig Bellamy on the right and he charged forward before delivering an inch-perfect cross for the Argentinian to convert with a trademark close-range finish.

Rovers barely had time to recover before he struck again, having benefited from the industry of Jonjo Shelvey.

The Liverpool midfielder robbed David Dunn and ran 50 yards to force Paul Robinson to parry his low shot into the path of Carroll.

His effort was blocked by Bradley Orr into the path of Rodriguez, but once again the Reds' little Argentinian was in the right place at the right time to smash in a first-time volley with his weaker left foot.

But Liverpool's season has been anything but straightforward, winning the Carling Cup but seeing their league form take a dive, and events in the latter stages of the first half proved that.

Jon Flanagan, who had already been booked for fouling Marcus Olsson, left a backpass hopelessly short and Junior Hoilett seized on it only to be brought down by Doni, who was immediately shown the red card.

April 10 holds bad memories for Doni as exactly five years ago he conceded seven playing for Roma against Manchester United.

Jones, with one appearance apiece in the Carling Cup and Europa League last season, was brought on for Flanagan with effectively 65 minutes to prepare for Wembley having last played for the first team in December 2010.

He began well, however, by saving Yakubu's weak penalty but was beaten 11 minutes into his Premier League debut when the unmarked Yakubu headed in Dunn's free-kick after Bellamy had needlessly handled.

Jones spent much of the half-time interval getting some much-needed practice but at the start of the second half Liverpool's familiar problems resurfaced once more as Carroll headed wide Bellamy's corner from three yards at the far post.

The work during the break did not seem to have helped Jones much, however, as when he smashed Skrtel's backpass straight at Yakubu he palmed away the looping ball instead of catching it and in attempting to recover he brought down the Nigerian.

Referee Anthony Taylor was lenient in showing a yellow card but Yakubu was less so, drilling his spot-kick straight down the middle.

Jones redeemed himself by tipping over Carroll's defensive backheader as Blackburn ended the game making all the running, with their need for points far greater.

But for once it was Liverpool who snatched all three points as substitute Daniel Agger flicked on a cross and Carroll powered a header past Robinson to keep Rovers in the bottom three.

Kean Unhappy With Reds' Winner

Blackburn manager Steve Kean was left rueing a 'cruel' defeat after Andy Carroll fired a last-gasp winner to hand Liverpool a 3-2 victory at Ewood Park.

Kean was unhappy referee Anthony Taylor and his assistant had missed what he claimed was a foul on Grant Hanley by Martin Skrtel in the run-up to the Reds' late winner.

The manager claims Hanley would have got back to where Daniel Agger headed the ball in for Carroll to nod home.

He told Sky Sports: "It's cruel because we felt we had done enough (to get a point).

"I feel very aggrieved about the last goal.

"Grant had tried to get back up but he can't get back up because Skrtel's pulling him to the ground.

"As Agger heads it he's going to head it onto Andy Carroll, where Grant Hanley would be recovering. So we feel it's a foul that should have been picked up."

The defeat leaves Blackburn still struggling in the Premier League drop zone but Kean is determined to keep pushing to escape what is an increasingly tight relegation scrap.

He added: "It's so tight because a minute before that (Liverpool's winner) we've got a point that takes us up two places, such is how tight it is down where we are.

"We've got to pick ourselves up."

Kenny Tight-Lipped On Doni Red

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish refused to discuss goalkeeper Alexander Doni's red card after his 10-man side edged out Blackburn on Tuesday night.

Reds shot-stopper Doni, in for the suspended Jose Reina, was dismissed for a foul on Junior Hoilett and was replaced by Brad Jones who saved Yakubu's penalty.

Maxi Rodriguez had already scored twice to seemingly put Liverpool in control, but Yakubu pulled a goal back before half-time and then netted a second-half penalty, conceded by Jones, before Andy Carroll headed a dramatic winner.

Dalglish refused to answer any questions about the performance of referee Anthony Taylor.

"We're not going to discuss the decision of the referee," Dalglish told Sky Sports.

When pressed he added: "We are not going to discuss it now. I don't intend to discuss it."

Dalglish preferred to concentrate on the performance of his players.

He added: "To get a man sent off and come away from here with a victory speaks great credit for them. It's been a smashing day for us."

When asked about Jones' foul on Yakubu which led to the second penalty and to a yellow card for the Australian, Dalglish responded: "I don't think he deserved to be sent off. The referee made the right decision."

The success ended a miserable run of results for Liverpool which has seen them come under fire, having slipped down the Premier League table into eighth.

Dalglish was full of praise for his players for their display, adding: "We're just delighted with the victory and we're just going to give the boys all the credit they deserve.

"They've had a bit of abuse recently so let's give them a bit of credit."

Carroll Deserved Some Glory - Dalglish

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish has hailed striker Andy Carroll for refusing to let his head drop during a testing season for both player and club.

Carroll put his hand up for a start in this weekend's FA Cup semi-final against Everton by heading in the goal that earned the Reds a 3-2 victory over Blackburn in the Premier League on Tuesday.

The 23-year-old England international, who cost Liverpool £35 million, has struggled for goals during this campaign, netting just three in 30 Premier League appearances.

However, Dalglish insists Carroll has paid no attention to those who have criticized his form over the past few months. "I think Andy is really confident and got what he deserved last night," Dalglish said. "He worked really hard, and scored a fantastic header. I don't think confidence is a problem."

Meanwhile, Dalglish is adamant he has no qualms with throwing third-choice keeper Brad Jones in at the deep end for the clash against Everton. Having been forced into action following a red card for Alexander Doni, who was deputizing for Pepe Rena, Jones both saved and gave away a penalty against Blackburn.

"His first contribution in the league for us is to save a penalty," Dalglish said. "I'm sure he will remember that. There is no problem whatsoever with playing him at Wembley."

Jones Dedicates Penalty Save

Substitute Liverpool goalkeeper Brad Jones dedicated his penalty save to his late son after helping his side to victory at Blackburn on Tuesday night.

The 30-year-old Australian made his Premier League debut for the Reds at Ewood Park, coming on in the opening half after Alexander Doni, deputising for the suspended Pepe Reina, was handed his marching orders for a foul on Junior Hoilett.

He saved Rovers striker Yakubu's resulting penalty and the Merseysiders went on to triumph 3-2 thanks to Andy Carroll's late winner.

Jones, whose girlfriend gave birth to a son, Nico Luca, a week ago, following the death of his son Luca from leukaemia in November, thanked the Liverpool supporters for their support.

He told Sky Sports: "The supporters have been brilliant. It's been a difficult 18 months with my son passing away. That was for him."

The Australian drew on his time when he was a team-mate of Yakubu at Middlesbrough to help him guess which way the Nigerian would choose to shoot from the penalty spot.

He added: "On Fridays we used to practice penalties a lot so I knew his style and what he does."

Jones is in line to play for Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-final with Everton on Saturday and said of that game: "It's a big game and now it's just about preparing for that."

Match-winner Carroll was able to see the lighter side of the night's proceedings, as he said: "It was a funny old game, wasn't it?

"In the end we got the win we came here for. We kept on attacking all the way through.

"Coming here and winning, it's a great lift for the lads to go to Wembley."

Liverpool Face Losing Tello Battle

Barcelona youngster Cristian Tello won't be making a summer move to Liverpool, according to Sky Sports pundit Guillem Balague.

In a recent Q&A session, the Spaniard was asked to shed any light on speculation linking the 20-year-old forward with a potential move to Anfield.

Tello is out of contract at the Camp Nou at the end of next season, and has been targeted by several clubs, including Valencia, Malaga and Benfica in La Liga.

However, the Spanish youth international is also being lined up by Reds boss Kenny Dalglish for a move to Merseyside at the end of the 2011-12 campaign.

"I have followed Tello closely and there are many clubs interested in him," confirmed Balague.

Pep Guardiola has reassured the player that he has a bright future with Barcelona, and handed Tello his first-team debut earlier this year.

But, with the majority of his appearances coming from the bench, the youngster is growing increasingly frustrated, and so could push for a move away in June.

Balague thinks that a transfer remains unlikely, but revealed that talks with the players agent have been scheduled.

"Barcelona has set up talks with his agent to discuss a new deal so it is very unlikely that he will go anywhere."

Liverpool Striker Wanted By Dutch Side In Cut Price Deal

Liverpool forward Dirk Kuyt could be returning to Holland to join former club Feyenoord after being linked with a summer exit.

The Holland international has fallen down the pecking order under manager Kenny Dalglish as his seen his place on the right hand side go to summer arrival Jordan Henderson.

Recent reports have suggested that Kuyt has a release clause in his contract that allows him to leave for just £1million, a fee that would certainly represent good value for money.

The 31-year-old has experience at the very highest level with a number of appearances in the Champions League, while he is also a regular in the Holland squad and is expected to be a member of the side travelling to Euro 2012.

Kuyt scored 71 goals for Feyenoord and Talksport now suggests that the Dutch side will attempt to bring the forward back to the club at the end of the season.

Liverpool are currently on their worst run for more than 50 years and it seems the club are willing to sacrifice some of their more experienced players in order to freshen up the squad.

Roma and Fiorentina have been heavily linked with Kuyt, however, it seems that Feyenoord would like to try and bring the player back for what would be a popular move for all the fans.

Lucas Relishing Semi Showdown

Injured star Lucas is relishing this weekend's all-Merseyside FA Cup semi-final and is confident his teammates can pull off a third win of the season against our old rivals.

Lucas has been recovering from a knee injury since November and is set to watch from the sidelines as his colleagues take part in a second Wembley occasion of the season.

And the contest against Everton is one he can't wait for.

"I think it's a fantastic game for both sides, the first semi-final at Wembley," said Lucas in an exclusive interview in this week's LFC magazine. "It will be a special day for the clubs and the city. We're all looking forward to it. Hopefully we can play well and beat them for the third time this season."

"It's clear that we are not in a good moment," he continues. "But we've had difficulties in other seasons and got through them. We can do that this year. We can still get through to the final of the FA Cup. That would be a very good title to win. If we could win two competitions of the three we've entered it would be very important for the club."

The club's recent run of bad results has prompted some fans to wonder whether the team might have fared any better if Lucas had been available to play in the first-team.

"Yeah, fans say that [we would have done better], especially after a defeat. I think that's normal for supporters to say to an injured player. I don't think it's just because I'm out of the team that we've lost games," our No.21 said.

"I didn't play when we won the Carling Cup or defeated Man City, they were great results. Of course it's nice to hear and to know that people appreciate the work I was doing in the team. But I'd rather see the lads winning. I don't want to see the team on a bad run."