Friday, August 31, 2012

Match Report: Liverpool 1 - 1 Hearts

Luis Suarez spared goalkeeper Jose Reina's blushes - and some of his own - with the late goal that fired the Reds into the Europa League group stage at the expense of Hearts.

Brendan Rodgers' side dominated the second leg of their qualifying round play-off at Anfield but were punished for not adding to their 1-0 aggregate lead when Reina let a David Templeton shot squeeze through late on.

With extra time looming, Liverpool rallied and Suarez made amends for missing two earlier gilt-edged chances with a fine finish in the 88th minute.

It was a victory the Reds thoroughly deserved, played out against the backdrop of Friday's impending transfer deadline.

With £35million club record signing Andy Carroll conspicuous by his absence - as it transpired, finalising a loan move to West Ham - Rodgers handed a first start to 18-year-old striker Adam Morgan.

With 17-year-old Raheem Sterling having featured in the two previous games, Rodgers has not been afraid to give youth a chance but there was still an experienced look to his side.

Captain Steven Gerrard and star forward Suarez, both rested for the first leg at Tynecastle, were included along with the likes of Reina, Jamie Carragher and Martin Skrtel.

With Rodgers having expressed a liking for "multi-functional" players, England winger Stewart Downing was fielded at left-back while Jordan Henderson, whose future has been the subject of speculation, was given a chance.

Hearts fielded the same side that started the first leg last week with captain Marius Zaliukas overcoming a thigh injury.

The Scottish side played some neat football and were not intimidated by Liverpool's reputation.

But aside from a dipping early shot wide from Callum Paterson, they lacked penetration and the hosts dominated.

Suarez tricked his way into the box but his shot was blocked for a corner.

Downing crossed for Morgan, who let the ball run for Gerrard but could not control the skipper's return inside.

Morgan's enthusiasm saw him catch Templeton with a late tackle but he escaped unpunished and grew in confidence playing in front of a fired up Gerrard.

Morgan headed back another deep cross from Downing and Suarez reached it to get a header on target but Zaliukas hacked off the line with Jamie MacDonald beaten.

Hearts appealed for a penalty when Paterson went down with Carragher in close proximity, but contact was ruled minimal.

Morgan tested MacDonald with a long-range shot as Liverpool came forward again but the goalkeeper managed to clutch the ball at the second attempt as Gerrard hunted the rebound.

Gerrard then weaved his way into the Hearts area to get in a shot but MacDonald blocked his shot - and the Scots breathed another sigh of relief when Morgan side-footed home in the 34th minute, only to have the effort ruled out as the ball had gone out before Suarez crossed.

Liverpool maintained the pressure in the second half with Jonjo Shelvey finding space to shoot wide from 25 yards.

The hosts seemed certain to take the lead in the 65th minute when Suarez, who had been goaded by the Hearts fans, timed a run perfectly to race through on MacDonald's goal.

As Manchester City's Carlos Tevez had done at the same end on Sunday, Suarez looked poised to take it round the goalkeeper and score but his touch was heavy and the chance was wasted.

Suarez's finishing ability was again brought into question just moments later, when after doing the hard part to beat Zaliukas, he blasted wide.

Sterling replaced Morgan to a huge ovation and immediately looked lively as he chased a first senior goal - denied only by a vital block by Daniel Grainger after one good run.

MacDonald tipped over a header from Skrtel but the Slovakian was ruled offside anyway.

Despite Liverpool's dominance Hearts were still only a goal away from taking the tie to extra-time.

Joe Allen escaped after Dale Carrick went down under his challenge outside the area but Sterling was punished for a push on Templeton 25 yards out.

Grainger lined up a shot but his effort was deflected for a corner off the wall.

That was a warning for the Reds and Hearts made them pay for their earlier profligacy six minutes from time.

Templeton seized on a clearance and took a couple of touches before firing at Reina.

It was well struck but the keeper should still have dealt with it, only it squirmed through his grasp.

Liverpool were forced to rouse themselves for one last push and Suarez made no mistake as he burst down the left and fired low across goal from a tight angle.

Rodgers Defends Reina After Hearts Blunder

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has defended keeper Pepe Reina after the Spaniard's blunder in the Reds' Europa League tie against Hearts.

With five minutes of normal time remaining, the Spain international managed to let a David Templeton shot squirm though his grasp and over the line before Luis Suarez saved his blushes scoring the winner three minutes later.

Rodgers told reporters: "Pepe has been brilliant since I’ve been here. He’s been a pivotal part of how we work. He’s been excellent off the field, a real good guy who understands the ideology of what we’re trying to do.

"Unfortunately for goalkeepers it’s part and parcel of the game. There’s no blame attached – unfortunately for goalkeepers they make a mistake and sometimes it leads to a goal.

“An outfield player makes a mistake and they’ve got their mates to recover. It will happen sometimes but we move on."

The former Swansea boss also hailed his side's work ethic and praised Suarez for his late clincher, although bemoaned a plethora of wasted opportunities earlier in the game.

Rodgers said: “One of the key things that I’ve noticed in the group is that they have hard work and integrity, I think the players have been absolutely magnificent since I’ve come in.

“They’ve given me everything and as each day goes on we’re getting closer as a group. That spirit really took us through Sunday’s game and took us through tonight’s game so it’s very important that when we went 1-0 behind we didn’t get disappointed.

“We came back and Luis’ most difficult chance he took, a wonderful run and finish. We probably could’ve put the game to bed earlier.”

Adam Morgan made his first start for the Reds in the match, and Rodgers revealed he will be looking to give more young players a chance in the team while he is in charge.

He added to ESPN:: "He’s a local boy, from Liverpool, and it’s important for me to give local boys who came through the ranks a chance.
"It was important for him to get his first start, and it’s important for me to give local boys a chance, and it’s something I’ll look to do."

German Youngster Signs For Reds

Liverpool have completed the signing of Samed Yesil from Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen.

The 18-year-old striker becomes the latest youngster acquired by Brendan Rodgers after passing a medical on Thursday.

Yesil is of Turkish descent and has scored 22 goals in 26 appearances for Germany at U16, U17 and U18 level.

He was second top scorer in last summer's FIFA U17 World Cup after netting six goals in Mexico and is excited to be linking up with the Premier League side.

Yesil told the club's official website: "The first thing is that I have to train and then in one or two years I hope, step by step, to be in the first team.

"It is my dream to play for Liverpool and I will give my all."

Reds Eye Sturridge Bid

Sky Sports understands Liverpool is lining up a move for Chelsea's Daniel Sturridge before Friday's transfer deadline.

Reds boss Brendan Rodgers has identified Sturridge as the man to replace Andy Carroll who left on loan for West Ham on Thursday.

Sturridge provides greater attacking flexibility due to his ability to play in a wide position as well as in a central striker role.

The 22-year-old England international could be interested in making a switch in order to play first-team football.

Chelsea have strengthened their attacking options significantly this summer with the likes of Marko Marin, Eden Hazard and Oscar all capable of playing in Sturridge's wide-right position.

Liverpool Back In The Hunt For Uruguayan Winger

Liverpool is to launch a renewed bid for Bologna star Gaston Ramirez with hopes of securing the winger before today’s transfer deadline.

The 21-year-old was seemingly on the brink of a shock move to newly promoted Southampton earlier in the month, but complications surrounding the deal have seen the move stall. Italian outlet calciomercato suggest that Brendan Rodgers’ side have reignited their interest, and are reportedly not far away from reaching an agreement.

Liverpool previously had two bids for Ramirez knocked back, the highest being an offer of €14 million, an offer that fell short of the Italian club’s €20 million valuation of the player. Calciomercato suggest Liverpool’s new offer to take the player on loan for a fee of €5 million, followed by a permanent transfer next summer for in the region of €10-15 million depending on appearances and achievements, has been met with a much more positive response.

Throughout the negotiations between Bologna and Southampton, Ramirez has maintained his enthusiasm to play in the Premier League, a promising factor as Liverpool continues negotiations with the club. Should the Uruguayan international move to Anfield, he would join up with compatriots Luis Suarez and Sebastian Coates.

West Ham Confirm Carroll Loan

West Ham have confirmed the signing of Andy Carroll on loan from Liverpool with a view to a permanent deal.

The Hammers have worked hard to do a deal for the England forward with Liverpool initially reluctant to do a loan deal for the man they paid £35million for last year.

But the newly-promoted side have persuaded the 23-year-old to move to London and confirmed they have an option to make the signing a permanent one for an undisclosed fee next summer.

The player himself insists he is just looking forward to playing games - and scoring goals for Sam Allardyce's side.

"It's great to be here at West Ham and all signed up - I just can't wait to get started now," Carroll told the club's official website.

"I want to be playing games and obviously hoping to score some goals. I know the manager well and some of the lads, so it is nice for me to come to a place where I know people.

"I'm hoping to add a lot of goals and create a few chances. I know Sam from Newcastle and he was a massive reason for me coming. When I worked with him at Newcastle it was great so it was a no-brainer really."

West Ham boss Sam Allardyce is delighted to have got his man and believes he has acquired the services of an all-round talent.

He said: "I think for all parties this is a great signing. Andy is an all-round footballer, but because he is 6'3" and one of his strengths is his aerial power, everybody dismisses the ability he possesses on the floor.

"Hopefully he can score goals for us and we will be in a very good position at the end of the year in the Barclays Premier League."

Spearing Agrees Bolton Loan

Sky Sports understands Liverpool midfielder Jay Spearing has agreed to join Bolton on loan. revealed earlier this week Bolton were one of five clubs hoping to sign Spearing before Friday's transfer deadline.

Bolton boss Owen Coyle is a big admirer of Spearing and sees him as a key addition to his side as he look to mount a bid for promotion back to the Premier League at the first attempt.

Liverpool are willing to let Spearing move on as the recent captures of Joe Allen and Nuri Sahin have pushed the local-born midfielder down the pecking order at Anfield.

A number of clubs were thought to be keen on signing Spearing on a permanent basis, but the 23-year-old has decided to go to Bolton on loan for six months as he sees his long-term future at Anfield.

Bolton are hoping to tie up a deal in time for Spearing to make his debut against Hull City this weekend.

Cole Rejects Moscow Move

Sky Sports understands Liverpool midfielder Joe Cole has rejected a move to Spartak Moscow.

Sky Sports had earlier indicated that the Anfield giants were ready to listen to offers for player before the close of the transfer window.

And it's understood that the Russians, who were drawn to face Barcelona, Benfica and Celtic in Group G of the Champions League, were keen on signing the experienced 30-year-old.

Cole enjoyed a successful campaign with French champions Lille while on loan from Anfield last season.

However, since his return, injuries have impacted the creative playmaker and it's believed the Reds had been looking to offload Cole before the end of the summer transfer window.

The Spanish coach of Spartak Moscow, Unai Emery, is reportedly a huge fan of the gifted Cole as he looks to strengthen his squad ahead of their European campaign.

It's believed the Russian runners-up had offered Cole a lucrative deal, but the player was not interested in a move to the Luzhniki Stadium.