Monday, April 30, 2012

Match Report: Norwich City 0 - 3 Liverpool

Luis Suarez netted a stunning hat-trick as Liverpool warmed up for the FA Cup final with a comfortable 3-0 win at Norwich.

The Uruguayan struck twice in the space of four minutes midway through the first half to put the Reds in command.

After Norwich - who are all but secure of a place in the Barclays Premier League heading into their final two games - rallied briefly, Suarez completed his treble eight minutes from time with an audacious lob from just inside the Norwich half to give Kenny Dalglish's men the perfect tonic ahead of their Wembley date with Champions League finalists Chelsea next Saturday.

Reds captain Steven Gerrard had been restored to the starting XI after being rested for last weekend's disappointing home defeat by West Brom which was a seventh in 10 Premier League games.

The Carrow Road pitch had been drenched for several hours this afternoon, making for testing conditions during the opening exchanges.

Norwich winger Anthony Pilkington slipped as he looked to cut back inside after getting clear down the left, before keeper John Ruddy was also on the floor at the edge of the penalty area as the ball squirmed loose.

On eight minutes, Norwich left-back Adam Drury pulled up with a groin injury and was eventually replaced by Russell Martin.

Despite Liverpool having the better of possession, Norwich fashioned the first real opening when Pilkington got away down the left again, and his low centre was hacked clear by Jamie Carragher with Steve Morison waiting at the back post.

Craig Bellamy - who came through the Norfolk club's youth team before being sold to Coventry for £6.5million in August 2000 - moved down the Norwich left and floated a cross into the area, but Stewart Downing lost his footing and somehow could only hack the ball back out of the box.

The visitors went in front on 24 minutes.

Gerrard battled to win the ball out on the left from David Fox, and fed Suarez, who took one touch on into the Norwich area before lashing home into the top-right corner.

It was almost 2-0 soon after when Suarez stretched the hosts again down the right and crossed for Gerrard, whose goalbound effort hit Ryan Bennett and flew behind, as the Reds appealed for what would have been a harsh handball against the defender.

Liverpool, though, did double their lead on 28 minutes.

Again Suarez was proving too much for the Norwich defence to handle, as this time he robbed Elliott Ward following a short pass out on the right and darted into the box, before this time drilling a low strike across Ruddy and into the bottom corner.

Liverpool's quick double salvo had silenced the home crowd and the visitors were now in cruise control heading into half-time.

Norwich made a change for the start of the second period as former Everton striker James Vaughan, back from a series of niggling injuries, replaced Fox.

It was a lively return by the home side, who forced a couple of corners.

Elliott Bennett forced Jose Reina into a full-stretch save with a fierce 20-yard strike, while Bradley Johnson glanced his header wide from the resulting corner.

Liverpool almost put the game beyond Norwich on 51 minutes when was played in down the right and his cross caused panic in the Norwich six-yard box before Jonjo Shelvey headed against the crossbar.

The former Charlton midfielder then somehow failed to make contact with a low ball across the face of goal from Jose Enrique.

Ruddy made another good stop to deny Downing as the England man cut in from the right and flashed in a low shot.

As the hour mark passed, it was all Liverpool.

Suarez was played through on goal in the 65th minute.

However, the Uruguay forward tried a cheeky chip from 12 yards, which floated over the keeper and cleared the crossbar - much to the amusement of the Norwich faithful behind the goal.

With 15 minutes left, Norwich sent on captain Grant Holt, who had scored in the 1-1 draw at Anfield earlier this season, as he replaced Morison.

Bradley Johnson let fly from 25 yards, but was well off target, which just about summed up the afternoon's display by the home side.

Suarez completed his hat-trick on 82 minutes as this time his perfectly-weighted lob over Ruddy from just inside the Norwich half dropped into the net.

Dalglish Praises Whole Team

Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish preferred to hand praise to his whole team rather than single out hat-trick hero Luis Suarez after their 3-0 win at Norwich.

The Reds went into the game at Carrow Road having won just three of their last 15 Premier League matches, losing nine in that run.

But the manner of the Merseysiders' performance pleased the Scot more than the Uruguayan's goalscoring heroics as they ran out easy winners.

"It's all part of the team performance, they were three great goals for us," Dalglish told ESPN.

"It was a fantastic performance but we've played like that plenty of times this season, there've been games we've played even better and come away without anything.

"It's even more credit to them that they keep going out there and believing in their ability and we've won easily on Saturday."

Liverpool still managed their habitual strike of the woodwork when Jonjo Shelvey headed against the crossbar, and the midfielder also failed to find an unguarded net when sliding into the six-yard box.

Dalglish said: "We'll forgive it when we're 2-0 up - we've done it again but at least we've won on Saturday and got the three goals."

Gerrard Hails Special Suarez

Steven Gerrard revealed he was ready to give Liverpool striker Luis Suarez both barrels when he let fly from 45 yards to complete a sensational hat-trick against Norwich at Carrow Road.

Liverpool warmed up for next week's FA Cup final against Chelsea with a comfortable victory at Carrow Road.

The Uruguay international netted twice in the space of four first-half minutes before brilliantly chipping goalkeeper John Ruddy from just inside the Canaries half late on.

Suarez had wasted an earlier opportunity to add to his two clinical first-half strikes when he lobbed over the bar from the edge of the penalty area, but Gerrard told ESPN: "That's the type of player he is, but I still had confidence he could get the third."

Recalling the eventual spectacular clincher, he added: "It was just on the tip of my tongue to give him a b******ing but then he did that.

"He's a special player, his movement's first class and it makes my job as a midfielder easier alongside him.

"He's a top player, one of the best in the world on his day, and today was his day. It was great finishing and we as a team could have had more."

A home game with Fulham on Tuesday night represents Liverpool's final dress rehearsal for Saturday's Wembley date with Chelsea and Gerrard continued: "We've got to beat Fulham first, we'll take each game as it comes and we want to go into the cup final in good form.

"We're excited, we've done really well in the cups this year and we deserve to be in the final but it would be silly and naive to focus on the final with league games to come."

Spearing Never Considered Switch

Jay Spearing insists leaving Liverpool has never crossed his mind, despite seeing a number of international stars drafted into the Anfield ranks.

A product of the Reds' academy system, Spearing has faced a fight to be noticed at senior level.

While the likes of Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher have paved the way for home-grown stars, Liverpool has bolstered their squad with big-money additions on a regular basis.

A number of those - such as Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam - have been brought in to swell the midfield options at Anfield, providing direct competition to Spearing.

The 23-year-old has stepped up to the challenge, though, and claims he has never considered quitting the club in order to find regular games elsewhere.

"With the club that I'm at, I knew there'd be big players going to want to come to this club," Spearing told the Independent on Sunday.

"I thought to myself I would get myself ready and fight and earn the place I personally think I deserve.

"I had that confidence to prove to the boss exactly what I could do. There was never any inkling to move on. Liverpool is where I have always wanted to be a part of.

"I want to get better and follow in the footsteps of players like Steven Gerrard, who also came through the academy like me, and if I can do that I will be very happy."

Spearing rightly considers the 2010/11 campaign to have been a breakthrough year for him, with 20 appearances made and his progress rewarded with a new contract.

"I was fortunate enough last season for the manager to put me in for the last 10 or 11 games on the bounce and that gave me a lot of confidence going into the summer," he said.

"I sat down with my family and my agent and we said that this year was going to be a big year to show exactly what I'm all about.

"We knew new players would come in and that was something I'd have to deal with. I had to show my capabilities of competing against them and try to get in the first XI before they do.

"It took a little while to stamp my mark but towards Christmas I hopefully proved to people what I'm all about."

Maxi Considers Future

Liverpool midfielder Maxi Rodriguez has admitted that he is considering quitting the club this summer.

The Argentine has been restricted to just seven Premier League starts this season, but he has still managed to claim four goals for The Reds.

But the former Atletico Madrid ace is not happy about being a squad player at Anfield.

"I'm not playing the amount of minutes that I want to play," he told The People.

"When I play, I take my chances and do a good job. I score goals.

"I don't know if I will stay for next season, that's the truth. I will decide at the end of the season.

"All the people here have treated me well, but I want more minutes."

Feyenoord Miss Out On Kuyt

Feyenoord sporting director Martin van Geel said Dirk Kuyt is unlikely to leave Liverpool at the end of the season.

The Rotterdam side has earmarked the attacker as the perfect replacement for on-loan star John Guidetti, who is expected to return to Manchester City this summer.

Van Geel admitted, however, that financial issues complicate matters.

"Dirk would fit in really well here, and we would love to see him return this summer. However, our chances of re-signing him this summer are very slim," Van Geel told Eredivisie Live.

"Even if we manage to qualify for the Champions League, which will not increase our budget for new players.

"We don't include income from European games in our budget, so we can't afford any big expenses."

The 31-year-old Kuyt has also been linked with clubs such as Roma and Hamburg in the past few months.

Reina Makes Form Claim

Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina insists the Reds are a better team now than they were this time last year.

The Reds form in the Premier League has been poor since the turn of the year but they have excelled in the Cups, winning the Carling Cup and getting to the final of the FA Cup where they face Chelsea next month.

The Reds are currently eighth in the Premier League, but the Spaniard believes the Cup success shows they are a better team than they were 12 months ago.

"There's no doubt we've improved from last season already," Reina told LFC Magazine. "We've won the Carling Cup with the possibility of a second while also qualifying for Europe.

"The target of the club is still to get back in the Champions League. But before the start of the season, if someone had said we'd win the Carling Cup, reach the final of the FA Cup, as well as getting seventh, probably most people would have taken that.

"It's always good to go back to winning days. Some people might say the Carling Cup is not that important but, at the end of the day, it's a trophy. We knocked out Stoke, Chelsea and Manchester City.

"It was not easy. So it was a well-deserved success and I was pleased to be part of it."

Johnson Eyes Champions League

Glen Johnson admits getting back into the Champions League remains Liverpool's priority but he is satisfied with this season.

Reds defender Johnson admits Liverpool are disappointed that they have not secured a top-four finish this season and will not be taking part in the Champions League next season.

However, the defender feels if Liverpool can win the FA Cup the current campaign can be considered a success, having already landed the Carling Cup title this season.

"Of course, we'd like to be in the Champions League - and that was the aim at the start of the season, to finish in the top four," Johnson told the club's official website.

"But we can't do that now and if we come away with two medals then you can't say it's a negative season. Last season we didn't have any medals or the top four.

"It's an improvement on last season but the main priority is still to get in the top four."

Dalglish Reveals Liverpool Transfer Fund

Kenny Dalglish has revealed Liverpool have the funds to delve into the transfer market once more this summer.

Liverpool have spent big since Dalglish took over the club last January, and splashed over £100 million on the likes of Andy Carroll and Jordan Henderson in 2011.

However despite that heavy investment the Reds have failed to make an impact on the Premier League table and currently occupy eighth spot, although they have secured a place in the FA Cup final to go along with their Carling Cup success in February.

“We will have money to spend, whoever it’s on,” Dalglish told the Daily Mirror.

“Whether it’s the FA Cup money, Raul [Meireles] being sold to Chelsea [last summer] or from commercial sources, it doesn’t matter where it comes from.

“It all goes into the coffers. The money which is there for us to spend ... we will get whatever they can give us,” he added.

The Liverpool boss also confirmed that, despite the departure of director of football, Damien Comolli who dealt with the club’s transfers, that they hadn’t been twiddling their thumbs ahead of what could be another busy summer.

“We’re not idle,” Dalglish said. “The owners haven’t decided how they are going to replace Damien, but that doesn’t mean the work has stopped.

“Anything we have got to do, we will continue to do the best we can until the owners make the decision on how they want Damien replaced.

“Then whoever comes in will just take up the conversations we have had. We know where we are going.

“We’re not happy with the number of points we have, but the performances have been really pleasing”

He added: “There are not a lot of changes needed but, like every other football club in the summer, there’s going to be transfer activity because that’s what players expect.

“They look at the football club and say ‘who are they going to bring in this summer?’ They want to be excited as much as the supporters want to be excited.

“We’ve only been at it since August. Although nobody is happy with the results we have had at home, I don’t think it’s been a bad turnaround.”