Monday, August 13, 2012

Match Report: Liverpool 3 - 1 Bayer Leverkusen

Out-of-favour striker Andy Carroll capped a comfortable 3-1 victory for Liverpool over Bayer Leverkusen in their final pre-season friendly before they kick off their Barclays' Premier League campaign.

It took just three minutes for the home side to break the deadlock at Anfield through youngster Raheem Sterling. The 17-year-old latched on to an incisive ball from Jose Enrique down the left before cutting inside to curl a shot into the bottom corner past Bernd Leno in the Leverkusen goal.

Liverpool's second of the match came on the 29th minute from a free-kick won by Luis Suarez who was brought down by Daniel Schwaab on the edge of the area.

The cleverly worked set piece found Suarez unmarked in the area, who got the ball stuck under his feet before it was deflected into the path of Lucas who side-footed home into an open goal from six yards out.

A goalkeeping blunder allowed Liverpool to get their third of the match on 65 minutes when Carroll turned nicely on the ball before firing a routine shot from outside the area goalwards that Leno fumbled into the back of the net.

The visitors snatched a consolation through Gonzalo Castro on 75 minutes when he shrugged off Jamie Carragher and unleashed a fierce left-footed shot that sailed past Pepe Reina in the Liverpool goal.

Carroll Adapting To Style

Brendan Rodgers believes he is seeing evidence of his inherited Liverpool squad, including Andy Carroll, adapting to his preferred style of play but he remains determined to sign more players.

The new Anfield boss on Sunday oversaw a 3-1 victory against Bayer Leverkusen on Merseyside as the Premier League club concluded their pre-season with a win.

Teenager Raheem Sterling opened the scoring in style before Lucas Leiva took another step on his return from injury with a goal and substitute Carroll then added a third.

England international Carroll is not thought to figure in Rodgers' plans and the £35million striker is a target of West Ham United, while a return to Newcastle United is also possible.

But Rodgers thinks the tall and powerful 23-year-old, who has been accused of only being able to play in a direct system, showed good skill when turning and firing a comparatively straightforward shot which was fumbled by Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno.
Rodgers said of Carroll on Liverpool's official website: "It was a terrific goal from him. It was a nice, clever piece of play by Charlie Adam as the ball came into him and he flicked it around the corner.

"Maybe eight or nine times out of 10 he would have expected that (the ball) back, but big Andy showed his skill and ability as well.

"He's got stick that he can't play this way, but it was a wonderful piece of skill letting the ball go through his legs, getting the shot on target and tucking the ball away very well. It was very pleasing all round.

"The players had a wonderful idea of the game tactically and I am seeing an improvement every single day in terms of our passing game."

Rodgers' £15million signing, Joe Allen, was in the stands at Anfield to watch the win over Leverkusen having followed his manager to Liverpool from Swansea after a transfer was confirmed on Friday.

And Rodgers, who had already signed another former Swansea player in Fabio Borini, remains determined for the Wales international to not be the final new face at Anfield before the end of August.

He said: "Joe will fit into the group very well. I like technically gifted players, and he is exceptionally technically gifted.

"But I also like good people and he is a very humble young guy. He knows he is 22 years of age and has an awful lot to learn but he will be with us every single day in the journey to make this club better.

"He is a very talented boy and he comes into an excellent group. Hopefully we can add one or two more before the end of the window."

Rodgers was also full of praise for Brazilian midfielder Lucas, who was ruled out from last November after suffering a serious knee ligament injury.

He joked: "He has been brilliant. He is a terrific guy and he is prolific from seven yards with no goalkeeper!

"You have seen the growth of him as a player and a person, and the journey he's been on at this club is incredible. He still feels he has a lot to offer. How I work in liking to play this high, intense pressing and passing game brings on his fitness.

"I think if you look at him now, he is in a real good moment. Hopefully he can stay fit and strong and keep pushing on for us."

Hyypia: I Like Brendan's Style

Sami Hyypia believes Liverpool's style of play under Brendan Rodgers will make them one of the toughest teams to beat in the Barclays Premier League this season.

The Kop legend watched on as his Bayer Leverkusen side was dismantled 3-1 by the Reds in a friendly contest at Anfield on Sunday afternoon.

Afterwards, Hyypia conceded Liverpool had made it difficult for his players - but he doesn't think the Germans will be the last team to leave Andfield having endured a hard afternoon.

He told reporters: "Liverpool played very well yesterday. He (Rodgers) has changed the face a little bit and created a new system which is difficult to play against.

"It is good to be back, but I came here to win the game. It was a friendly so the most important thing was to prepare the team for the season, which starts in a week's time.

"Of course, from defeat you can't take that much self confidence for the season, but there were a lot of good things in the game today.

"Time will tell (if Liverpool will be successful), but I hope so. Since I left, I've always hoped Liverpool will do well - and hopefully this season they will."

Hyypia was given a warm reception by Liverpool fans as he returned to Anfield for the first time in an opposing capacity since leaving the club in 2009 after 10 years of sterling service.

He added: "I have always had a good relationship with the fans and they were great, as always. I am grateful I had the chance to come back here."

Liverpool's Wish To Play Allen In Friendly Against Leverkusen Was Blocked

Joe Allen was blocked from making his Liverpool debut on Sunday after Swansea City refused to grant special dispensation for him to play in a pre-season friendly.

Allen signed for his new club after a 5pm deadline on Friday. He needed to be registered with the Premier League before then so he could face Bayer Leverkusen at Anfield yesterday.

Despite being signed outside Premier League office hours, Allen would still have been free to play had the selling club given Liverpool their permission.

Still upset by Allen’s departure, Swansea City refused a request by the Merseyside club and the Wales international was forced to watch from the stands.

Liverpool won, with Andy Carroll among the goalscorers, and Allen will now join the Wales squad to face Bosnia in midweek.

His debut for his new club is now likely to be the first Premier League game of the season against West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns next Saturday.

Although frustrated he was unable to integrate Allen into the squad, Brendan Rodgers, the Liverpool manager formerly in charge of Swansea, was pleased the £15 million signing was finally complete.

“Joe will fit in very well. I like technically gifted players and I like good people, and he is a very humble young guy. He is a very talented boy,” said Rodgers.

Hodgson Happy With Liverpool's Carroll Report

Roy Hodgson has revealed he approached Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers for a report on striker Andy Carroll.

And the England boss claimed Rodgers was glowing in his praise for the 23-year-old Geordie.

Carroll’s future at Anfield has been the subject of constant speculation throughout the summer with potential moves to Newcastle and West Ham leading the headlines.

And having named the forward in the 23-man England squad for Wednesday night’s friendly against Italy, Hodgson took the time to get an update on his club form.

"I checked Andy out with Brendan Rodgers and Steven Gerrard because I realize there is a situation there," Hodgson told Sky Sports.

"They were both happy with Andy in training and the way he is going about his business."

And despite the fact that none of his three chosen strikers - Daniel Sturridge, Jermain Defoe and Carroll - is a regular starters at club level, Hodgson remains happy with his options up front.

"We have to accept that a lot of our front players aren't first choices at their clubs," the former West Bromwich Albion manager continued.

"There are a lot of foreign centre-forwards at the big clubs in the Premier League so it's not easy for our boys sometimes.

"But Andy Carroll did well when he played in the Euros and I have no worries putting him in this squad."

Hodgson is using the friendly against Italy to gain a closer look at some potential young stars, with Tottenham’s Jake Livermore called up after receiving similarly excellent reports from his club’s coaching staff.

"Jake did well at Tottenham last year," added Hodgson.

"I had a long chat with Andre Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood about him. They are impressed so it was a good chance to have a look for myself.

"A couple of players dropped out so Jake has been promoted up from the reserve list."

The Italy game has largely gone under the radar with the country being gripped by Olympic fever, but Hodgson is delighted with what has been a wholly successful Games for Team GB.

"I'd love to tap into the whole Olympic atmosphere," said Hodgson.

"I've been really impressed by the whole organization, the coaches and in particular the athletes, who have done an outstanding job.

"The impressive aspect is the manner in which they have won medals and embraced their victory.

"It's been very refreshing to see talented people showing a good face to the nation and the world at large.

"The way that Team GB have conducted themselves in a home Olympics must make the world of athletics very pleased and proud.

"So many of them have done such a great PR job."

Rodgers To Offer Adam As Bait

Liverpool is ready to offer Fulham cash and Charlie Adam in an attempt to wrap up a deal for Clint Dempsey.

After concluding a move for Joe Allen, Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers will now step up his attempts to land the American international, who is keen to leave Craven Cottage for a bigger club.

Liverpool have been keen on the forward ever since Rodgers took charge but have been unable to agree a deal with Fulham, who value Dempsey in the region of £10million.

However, Rodgers now hopes to twist their arm by throwing in 26-year-old midfielder Adam as part of the deal.

Fulham want a new creative midfielder to replace Danny Murphy and Adam would fit the bill perfectly.

Adam no longer figures in the plans of Rodgers following the £15million arrival of Allen from Swansea, and as long as the former Blackpool man is open to a move to Fulham, a deal could be on the cards.

Liverpool Lining Up Shock Move For Michael Dawson

Tottenham's Michael Dawson has emerged as a transfer target of Liverpool, who fear they are about to lose Daniel Agger to Manchester City.

The Premier League champions are keen to reinforce their defence and see Agger as the ideal option.

However, that would leave Anfield chief Brendan Rodgers extremely light at the back, so he has moved to set the wheels in motion for a bid for Dawson.

Liverpool are asking for £22million plus Adam Johnson on loan in return for letting Agger leave - and Caught Offside noted it is not yet known whether City will agree to such a demand.

If they do and Agger heads for the Etihad Stadium, it seems Dawson is the ideal replacement.

Although he is not unhappy at White Hart Lane, new Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas is worried that his lack of pace means he will not fit in with the high defensive line he likes to deploy.

As such, Dawson could be available for transfer, with Villas-Boas confident that he can rely on the likes of Younes Kaboul, Jan Vertonghen and Steven Caulker in the heart of his defence.

Earlier reports suggested Dawson could have been in line for the Spurs club captaincy, but with talk of a move intensifying that now seems unlikely and Scott Parker is likely to take the role instead.

Liverpool Still Keen To Lure Theo Walcott

Liverpool remain keen to sign Theo Walcott from Arsenal, despite being unable to make progress on the deal all summer.

Reports suggest new Reds boss Brendan Rodgers wants to add pace and width to his new-look Anfield squad and the England international fits the bill.

He has been linked with a move for the ex-Southampton man for several weeks, but the fact no deal has yet been done is not putting Rodgers off.

Chelsea were also rumoured to be interested in luring Walcott away from the Emirates Stadium this summer, but they have since turned to other targets and look set to bring in Victor Moses from Wigan.

Although Walcott has not expressed a desire to leave north London - and is in fact said to be settled in the capital - his place in Arsenal's first eleven could come under threat when the new season gets underway.

The Gunners have signed attackers Santi Cazorla, Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski in the current transfer window, all of whom could be vying with the Englishman for a spot in Arsene Wenger's team.

Rodgers, meanwhile, is finally making progress on his first Liverpool team, having recently added Fabio Borini and Joe Allen, and wants to make Walcott his next acquisition.

Inter Milan To Rival Liverpool For Theo Walcott

Inter Milan are reportedly planning a bid for Arsenal winger Theo Walcott, who remains a transfer target for Liverpool.

The England international has less than 12 months remaining on his current contract at the Emirates Stadium and little progress has been made in negotiations about an extension.

New Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers is keen to add the 23-year-old's pace to his squad and the Anfield club is expected to make a formal offer this week.

Reports in Italy suggest the Reds will face strong competition from Inter, who are in the market for a creative player.

Nerazzurri officials are attracted to Walcott because his contract situation means he could be available for a cut-price fee, and are said to be confident of beating Liverpool to his signature because Arsenal would prefer not to sell to another Premier League club.

Gunners boss Arsene Wenger has readymade replacements in the form of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and new signing Santi Cazorla.

However, he would prefer Walcott to sign a new deal and commit his future to the club, rather than risk losing him, together with Robin van Persie, who is wanted by Manchester United, and Barcelona target Alex Song, just before the transfer window closes.

Hearts Learning Lessons

John McGlynn does not want Hearts to make the same mistakes against Liverpool as were made in the Europa League qualifying rounds last season in a thrashing by Tottenham Hotspur.

The SPL club has drawn English opponents in the play-offs for the second year running, with the first leg at Tynecastle on 30th August and return at Anfield seven days later.

Hearts were three goals down inside 27 minutes last season on their way to a 5-0 home defeat by Spurs before a youthful side restored some respectability with a goalless draw in North London.

McGlynn took over from Paulo Sergio this summer amid huge cutbacks to the squad, with an experienced spine to the team complemented by many of the youngsters who performed at White Hart Lane.

And he will make sure as much as possible is learned from that game when they meet Liverpool.

"It's a similar type of tie," he said. "Unfortunately for Hearts it kind of died very, very quickly.

"There was a great build-up and atmosphere at Tynecastle but the way Tottenham went about their business, the game was finished very quickly.

"Hearts restored their pride by going down and getting a draw. I would hope we would learn from that."

There was certainly no dread about facing one of the top seeds in the draw among McGlynn or the Hearts players despite the painful memory of that Tottenham defeat.

Midfielder Scott Robinson said: "It's brilliant, that's the tie we wanted. Liverpool is a dream tie.

"You either want a big team like Liverpool or someone you think you're going to get through against. But we'll do the best we can."