Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Match Report: Liverpool 1 - 2 Manchester Umited

Robin van Persie's late penalty secured Manchester United's first Anfield win since December 2007 against 10-man Liverpool on an emotional afternoon on Merseyside.

The hosts played 51 minutes with 10 men after Jonjo Shelvey's sending-off but still managed to take the lead through Steven Gerrard's volley seconds after the interval.

However, Rafael equalised soon after and Van Persie, one of three United players to miss from the spot already this term, scored his fourth goal in as many games against the Reds - although three of those had come for former side Arsenal - nine minutes from time.

In the end it was something of a relief the talking points were all generated on the pitch as Liverpool marked their first home match since the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel's report which exonerated fans in relation to the 1989 disaster.

Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra shook hands in a show of unity before the game - the Liverpool forward had refused to shake the United defender's hand in the league meeting between the sides at Old Trafford in February, having previously been found guilty of racially abusing Evra in the corresponding fixture at Anfield last season.

Thankfully there were none of the distasteful chants which have marred this fixture for years, although that did not mean there was not an edge to the game.

Evra was overlooked for the captaincy - some say diplomatically - in the absence of Nemanja Vidic so it was Ryan Giggs who released 96 red balloons with Gerrard prior to kick-off.

The result left Liverpool rooted in the bottom three as their worst start to a campaign for a century continues whereas United maintained their usual progress moving up to second.

It was harsh on Brendan Rodgers' side, who continued to take the game to their rivals despite being short on numbers as they desperately looked for their first league victory of the campaign.

United may have left Anfield wondering how they managed to win having hardly threatened in attack and failed to dominate midfield until the final quarter but those concerns will have been of little consequence.

For the first minute of the match three sides of Anfield held up 'The Truth', 'Justice' and '96' mosaics as representatives of the Hillsborough victims' families watched on from the directors' box.

Also present, for the first time since being sacked in May, was former manager Kenny Dalglish - intrinsically linked with the tragedy having played a major role in the aftermath during his first spell in charge.

What he saw in the first half would have been very familiar as for most of last season his sides dominated at home without scoring.

Once Giggs had flashed an early shot wide the momentum was all with the hosts as a Suarez cross-shot was stopped by Anders Lindegaard and headed away by Jonny Evans under pressure from Fabio Borini.

Gerrard drove a low effort from Shelvey's corner into the side-netting and Suarez looped a right-footed shot wide before a match which, possibly because of the all the pre-match commemorations, had lacked the usual hallmarks of a north-west derby ignited.

Shelvey robbed Giggs in midfield but as the ball broke free he launched himself at Evans and the inevitable outcome was a red card, though Evans also went in strongly.

The 20-year-old midfielder, who scored twice in Thursday's Europa League victory at Young Boys, departed down the tunnel having exchanged heated words with Sir Alex Ferguson.

Even with a numerical disadvantage Liverpool continued to pressurize United and Suarez drew Lindegaard into a low saw from his free-kick.

The visitors would have been pleased to reach the interval with their goal intact but it took just 50 seconds after the restart for that to change.

Second-half substitute Suso, making his Premier League debut three days after his first-team bow in Switzerland, saw his cross half-cleared to Glen Johnson.

A tackle from Paul Scholes, on for Nani at half-time, succeeded only in diverting the ball towards Gerrard who volleyed home left-footed in front of the Kop.

The Reds captain, whose 10-year-old cousin Jon-Paul Gilhooley was the youngest victim of the Hillsborough disaster, whirled away pointing both arms to the sky in celebration and remembrance.

It was short-lived, however, as within five minutes United were level when Shinji Kagawa laid the ball off for Rafael to brilliantly curl left-footed over Jose Reina and in off the far post.

Rodgers' determination not to just shut up shop and settle for a draw was reflected in the approach of his team who made light of the fact they were a man down with Suso having a shot tipped over by Lindegaard and Suarez continuing to trouble the visitors' defence.

But as the match entered the final 20 minutes United began to take more control, although their winner came from their opponents giving away possession on the halfway line.

Daniel Agger and Johnson collided to allow Antonio Valencia to race 50 yards into the area and although Johnson got back he could only bring down the Ecuador international.

Van Persie drilled home - although Reina went the right way and almost made the stop.

Rodgers - The Best Team Lost

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers was unhappy with some of the decisions that went against his 'heroic' side as they lost 2-1 to Manchester United at Anfield.

The Reds contributed a battling display on an emotionally-charged afternoon which marked their first home match since the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel's report which exonerated fans in relation to the 1989 disaster.

They were reduced to 10 men late in the first half when Jonjo Shelvey was handed his marching orders after a foul on Jonny Evans, but still took the advantage through Steven Gerrard when the influential captain scored soon after the break.

United managed to scrape their way back level through Rafael before Robin van Persie converted from the penalty spot after Antonio Valencia went down in the area following a Glen Johnson challenge.

Rodgers thought the result was unfair on his side and bemoaned some of the decisions made by referee Mark Halsey, particularly Shelvey's sending off.

The Reds boss feels the official was wrong in dismissing the Liverpool player but not Evans after the United man appeared to take both feet off the ground.

He told Sky Sports: "I thought the best team lost. I thought the players were heroic in terms of their performance and their spirit.

"Some of the decisions, I wouldn't want to go on too much, but if Jonjo Shelvey gets sent off then Jonny Evans has to go as well. I think both players' feet were off the floor.

"That was out of our control. I thought the players were brilliant and didn't get what they deserved."

Rodgers was also unimpressed by the penalty awarded to United, particularly after Luis Suarez was clipped in the box but nothing was given.

He added: "It was never a penalty and then Luis Suarez goes down the other end, gets a toe to the ball, the defender doesn't touch the ball, he goes down and it looks a penalty."

Neville - Fergie Won't Be Happy

Gary Neville says Sir Alex Ferguson will not be happy after Manchester United laboured to victory over 10-man Liverpool.

The home side played more than half the match with 10 men after Jonjo Shelvey was dismissed after 39 minutes, but claimed a surprise lead when Steven Gerrard struck shortly after the break.

A fine goal from Rafael and a Robin van Persie penalty saw the visitors turn the game around, but Sky Sports expert Neville felt his former team was below par for long periods of the match.

"I thought it was a poor performance," he told Ford Super Sunday.

"If ever there was a reminder of how difficult it is to play at Anfield it was today. They never got going in the first 50 minutes until Liverpool scored and it really wasn't good enough at all.

"Sir Alex Ferguson would have been absolutely livid, screaming the paint off the walls at half-time, I'm convinced of that. He made the change and Paul Scholes came on and even against 10 men and with Paul Scholes on the pitch they couldn't get control of the game.

"Even in the second half, Liverpool dominated possession which was incredible really. You never would have expected that.

"It's never easy to go to Anfield and Sunday was a huge reminder of that."

Both sides united to pay tribute to the victims of the Hillsborough disaster before kick-off, but tensions boiled over on the pitch when Shelvey was shown a red card for a high tackle on Jonny Evans shortly before the break.

Neville said it was sad to see a man sent off on such an emotional afternoon and argued that the referee could have been more lenient to the Liverpool midfielder because Evans had also made a dangerous attempt to win the ball.

"I didn't want a man to be sent off here today," he said.

"I think Shelvey went in over the top with his right foot and Jonny Evans came in and I don't think he was in control of the tackle.

"Personally, I think if he'd given both a yellow I don't think he'd have been out of order, although Shelvey went over the top and that's what Mark Halsey will have seen. I don't think Mark Halsey wanted to send him off, you could see his facials afterwards.

"But Jonny Evans came in with both studs showing and I'm not convinced that both players didn't come in out of control.

"That's where, as a referee, he might have said: 'Shelvey is out of control and it's a red. Evans is out of control and it's probably a red. I could give both a yellow or I could give one a yellow.'"

The home fans were also aggrieved when Halsey failed to award a penalty after Luis Suarez went down under an Evans challenge, but did point to the spot when Antonio Valencia was felled by Glen Johnson.

Neville said both incidents should have resulted in penalty awards, but says Suarez didn't help his case by falling theatrically to the ground.

"The problem is Suarez threw his head back and he didn't need to do that," he added.

"The referee thinks it's an unnatural movement and it's too much. That's his problem. I think it was a penalty.

"United's one is a penalty for me. The mistake Liverpool made is that Agger and Johnson should have taken Valencia out [on the half-way line]. That might sound a little bit cynical, but that's football unfortunately.

"Then Glen Johnson tackled from the wrong side. He's clipped his heel, there's a push in the back and Mark Halsey had no option other than to give a penalty."

Gerrard: Liverpool Fans Shouldn’t Panic

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has urged fans to remain calm following Sunday’s 2-1 defeat to Manchester United at Anfield.

The Reds, reduced to ten-men in the first-half following Jonjo Shelvey’s controversial dismissal, controlled possession for large spells and went ahead through Gerrard’s smart turn-and-shot from inside the box.

However, goals from Rafael and Robin Van Persie meant the points went back to Old Trafford, leaving the skipper disappointed but philosophical following a third loss of the season.

"We are not going to use any excuses; we know how many points we've got on the board and it's not good enough. A club like Liverpool, especially at home, should be looking to take maximum points off those sides – it doesn't matter how good they are,” said the England international post-match.

"But it is no time to panic. The fans can see what the manager is trying to do and they can see what the players are trying to do because they are educated supporters. We know if we keep applying that kind of effort and determination it will only be a matter of time before we go on a winning sequence. Not many sides will be able to live with us because we played some good stuff."

Gerrard was particularly disappointed to lose on a poignant day for Liverpool, with Brendan Rodgers’ side playing their first home game since the publication of the Hillsborough report, which cleared all fans of any wrong-doing when 96 innocent people lost their lives.

Jon-Paul Gilhooley, the youngest person to lose their life in the disaster, was Gerrard’s 10-year-old cousin, and winning the game would have had special significance for the 32-year-old.

"Playing against Manchester United and trying to get three points means a lot to me. But, because of the occasion and the timing, of course I'd have loved nothing better to get three points and dedicate it to all the families,” added Gerrard.

"So there is an extra disappointment but I thought both sets of fans behaved really well, which was important. Although we got beat I feel slightly different to usual because I am really pleased with how we played and we will win a lot of matches playing worse than that, so that is the positive we will take away."

Liverpool’s next match in the Premier League is against Norwich City, with Gerrard’s side travelling to Carrow Road on Saturday.

Liverpool Offer Ricardo Quaresma Second Chance

Ricardo Quaresma has cleared the way for a proposed move to Liverpool after rejecting Besiktas' latest contract offer.

The 28-year-old Portuguese winger has less than 12 months left to run on his current deal with Besiktas, with whom he has endured a fractious relationship following his £6 million move from Inter Milan in June 2010.

Quaresma is currently training with the club's youth team after an ugly spat with chairman Fikret Orman last week, in which Orman told the player he would 'finish his career' during a row over the winger's refusal to pen a contract extension.

It's just the latest in a long line of incidents troublesome Quaresma has been involved in, with his first year at Besiktas marred by an on-pitch fight with team-mate Nihat.

Three weeks later he was officially suspended after an altercation with then-manager Carlos Carvalhal in the dressing room following a Europa League defeat to Atletico Madrid.

The indiscipline has not put off Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers though, who tried to rescue the Sporting Libson product from his Turkish nightmare during the summer, only to baulk at Besiktas's £7 million asking price.

However, with Quaresma refusing to sign on after rejecting their latest contract offer over the weekend, Rodgers is ready to open talks over a pre-contract agreement in January.

Quaresma is desperate to try his luck in the Premier League once again, having failed to earn a permanent deal at Chelsea despite impressing during a six-month loan spell at Stamford Bridge in 2010.

The Reds could offer the winger attractive terms on a two-year-deal, with no transfer fee meaning they could match his current £80,000-a-week wages in Turkey.

Tottenham & Liverpool Lead The Race For Isco

Tottenham and Liverpool are leading the chase for Malaga’s Isco as they sent senior scouts to watch his Champions League debut on Tuesday.

Isco did not disappoint in the 3-0 victory with an impressive man of the match performance. He has four years left on his contract at Malaga, which has a £16 million buyout clause which could tempt the cash-strapped into negotiations with Manchester United, Arsenal and Juventus also interested.

Isco, still only 20, is a regular in the Spanish Under-21s and has been named in the senior squad but is yet to make his debut. He has made 32 appearances for Malaga this season, helping them to their best ever La Liga finish.

Malaga boss Manuel Pellegrini accepts Isco will be on his way and said: “He is a player who has a great future. Nobody knows what his limit is.”

Kelly Out Until 2013

Martin Kelly has been ruled out until 2013 after it was confirmed the Liverpool defender has ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

The England international had feared the worst after limping out of Sunday's defeat by Manchester United and tests have now revealed the extent of the problem.

Kelly will undergo a reconstruction process of his ligament which Liverpool say will require a 'significant period' on the sidelines.

The defender's absence is another setback for boss Brendan Rodgers, who has yet to win in the Premier League since taking over at Anfield this summer.

Rodgers has also been hit by the injuries suffered by Daniel Agger and Fabio Borini in the 2-1 loss to United, which also saw Jonjo Shelvey sent off.

Agger sustained 'a significant bone bruise to the left knee' and, although there is no ligament damage, further tests will be required to discover when he will return to full fitness.

Italian forward Borini has 'considerable swelling' to his right ankle but an X-Ray did not find any fracture.

The summer signing will undergo an MRI scan on Tuesday to assess any soft tissue damage and determine when he may be able to return to playing.

Daniel Agger Facing Long Lay-Off

Liverpool defender Daniel Agger could have suffered a medial ligament injury, which could rule him out for the rest of the season, after being stretchered off in his side's defeat to Manchester United.

Following the controversial 2-1 loss, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers talked about the injuries sustained by two of his players.

He said: 'Fabio (Borini) had a badly swollen ankle. Agger's doesn't look good, the medics were saying it might be a medial ligament. We'll see.'

Robin van Persie's late penalty secured Manchester United's first victory at Anfield since December 2007.

But the home side had to play 51 minutes of the game with ten men after Jonjo Shelvey was sent off for a lunge against Johnny Evans.

Despite this, Liverpool managed to take the lead through Steven Gerrard just after half time, but the Reds were then pegged back through a Rafael da Silva wonder goal.

United took the lead when Robin van Persie scored a penalty after Antonio Valencia had been fouled by Glen Johnson in the area.

United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, who had a confrontation with Shelvey after he was sent off, admitted his team had been far from their best.

'A win's a win, so we've got to be pleased with the result, but not the performance,' he told Sky Sports 1.

Liverpool To End Stadium Saga

Liverpool's American owners will end the club's 10-year stadium saga by committing to develop Anfield as a refurbished 60,000-capacity venue, including 7,000 'corporate' seats.

The club publicly maintains that no final decision has yet been made between refurbishment and a new stadium but detailed plans are in place for a phased expansion of the Main Stand and then the Anfield Road stand.

The work is expected to cost about £150 million, a huge saving on the estimated £400m that a new stadium in Stanley Park would cost, although an estimated £50m has been spent by the club on designs and planning for a new stadium.

Naming rights might have helped to subsidize a new venue but no suitable deal has been found.

Liverpool City Council have been working closely with the club on stadium options for years and for a long time were in favour of a new stadium, to be shared with Everton.

The council now believes that official confirmation on the refurbishment is imminent from John W Henry's Fenway Sports Group.

A council spokesman said: 'It does seem to be the case that the club has decided to stay at Anfield and that Liverpool officials are preparing to confirm the decision'.

The importance of resolving the stadium situation is highlighted by Sunday's sell-out game against Manchester United at Anfield, which will generate about £1.5m in revenues for Liverpool.

The corresponding match at Old Trafford will generate more than £3m not just because United have more seats but better corporate facilities for which the club can charge more.

Anfield's 45,000-seat capacity and structure limits the extent to which Liverpool can mount a realistic challenge to rivals including United (who have 76,000 seats) and Arsenal (60,000) – on and off the pitch.

Henry himself has long been supportive of the idea that Liverpool's long-time home should remain their home.

He feels the club can develop without moving in the way that his baseball club, the Boston Red Sox, have done at their home, Fenway Park.

Henry dropped another heavy hint in June that a refurbished Anfield was his preference when tweeting a link to a blog by a Liverpool architect, Peter McGurk, that suggested Liverpool should stay put.

McGurk has no connection to the club or redevelopment.

Council regeneration plans for the area around Liverpool have provided a solution to the long-running problem of freeing up land for Anfield's expansion.

The council intend to acquire property for demolition and refurbishment - and crucially now have the option of applying for compulsory purchase orders if required.

The council will be hoping to avoid any drastic action by offering residents the full market values of their homes plus compensation and relocation costs.