Monday, October 08, 2012

Match Report: Liverpool 0 - 0 Stoke City

Liverpool endured a frustrating afternoon at Anfield as Stoke's renowned battlers fought their way to a goalless draw.

A stalwart defensive display made it five draws in seven matches for Tony Pulis' men, while a point will be scant consolation for Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers.

It could have been worse for Liverpool, who twice almost pushed the self-destruct button, but ultimately this will be viewed as another disappointment in a stop-start season.

Rodgers made eight changes from the side beaten by Udinese on Thursday, after which he called his players "lazy", and one of his targets, Stewart Downing, was not even on the bench.

Liverpool had been on the receiving end of a kicking from their manager in midweek, and got another one at Anfield at the hands of Stoke, who took their renowned physical approach across the line of legality on plenty of occasions.

But if Liverpool were keen to escape the sharp edge of their manager's tongue, they hardly helped themselves.

Twice, goalkeeper Jose Reina attempted to pass the ball out to a midfielder; twice, Stoke scented a weakness and pounced, and twice it was only the reactions of the Spaniard which saved Liverpool.

Stoke had clearly anticipated Reina would refuse to launch the ball long, and the first time it was Nuri Sahin who conceded possession, giving Charlie Adam a chance to humiliate his former employees. The Scot advanced toward goal, but Reina was quickly out of the blocks to narrow the angle and parry the shot.

Liverpool committed the same mistake again soon afterward. This time it was Steven Nzonzi snapping into the challenge as another Reina pass went awry and Michael Kightly tried to flight the ball into the goal, but the keeper recovered to turn it over at full stretch.

Having passed up those chances, Stoke reverted to type, striking long balls and stopping their opponents by foul means as often as fair, and the game disintegrated as a spectacle.

Liverpool's frustration increased, while the away fans chanted 'You're not famous any more', and all that there was to give the Reds fans some hope before the break was a sweeping shot by Steven Gerrard turned aside by Asmir Begovic, and a toe-poke from Daniel Agger that bounced wide.

Proper football threatened to break out in patches in the second half, as Stoke toned down their challenges, and it was Liverpool who had just about all the chances, although none were clear-cut.

First, a terrific combination between Gerrard and Luis Suarez was just thwarted. Gerrard then picked out Glen Johnson's run with a pass of arrow-like precision, but his England team-mate, on the run, could not keep the shot down.

A run of genuine brilliance by Suarez, the most gifted person on the pitch by some distance, nearly brought a superb goal, but he just bent the shot wide of the angle.

Raheem Sterling was presented with perhaps Liverpool's best opportunity after Agger's driving run, but he tried to drill it inside the near post and only found the side-netting.

Suarez then showed the best and worst of his talents in the space of a couple of minutes, first with a dive in the penalty area that was embarrassingly obvious, then bursting down the right and powering a shot against the outside of a post from a tight angle.

Martin Skrtel nearly snatched a winner at the end when he hooked Joe Cole's ball back across goal, but it dropped, agonizingly for Liverpool, the wrong side of the post.

A dreary goalless draw at home will hardly provide much succour for Rodgers - and Michael Owen, missing an Anfield return due to injury, can only be thankful he was not playing.

Rodgers: We Won't Change Passing Style To Win Points

Brendan Rodgers insists he has no intention of changing his passing style in order to pick up points after Liverpool's disappointing 0-0 draw with Stoke at Anfield on Sunday.

Rodgers is seemingly struggling to implement his passing style on the Merseyside club, having taken over from Kenny Dalglish in the summer.

The Reds have won just three home games at Anfield in 2012, while so far this season they have won only one of their first seven Premier League outings, picking up just 6 points to leave them 14th overall; their worst league start in over 100 years.

Liverpool were left frustrated against Stoke as they failed to find the net for the third league game this season, but Rodgers denied the lack of a ‘Plan B’ is affecting his side’s chances of picking up maximum points.

Despite the stalemate with Stoke, Rodgers insisted he was happy with his side’s efforts, and praised their commitment in a bruising encounter which saw the Potters pick up six yellow cards.

“We’re disappointed we didn’t win the game,” he said. “The attitude and application of the players was terrific and we stood up to the real physicality of the game, which was a big plus.

“If you can play against Stoke physically, especially with so many young players in the team, then you know you’re going to be alright in your other games.

“I thought as the game wore on we got into good spaces and moments in good areas of the field, but just our final touch or our decision-making at the end of it didn’t quite allow us to score.

“We’re disappointed not to win, but there were a lot of real positives from the game – and it was our first (league) clean sheet of the season, which was important too.”

Pulis Slams Suarez Over 'Dive'

Tony Pulis hit out at Luis Suarez after the Liverpool striker appeared to commit a blatant dive in the 0-0 draw at Anfield.

The Stoke boss has previously led calls for players to be banned by the Football Association for acts of simulation.

Pulis said: "The one in the penalty box was an embarrassment and how he wasn't booked I don't know. It was really, really disappointing.

"I think that should be highlighted, as I have said before. The FA should be looking at this. Give him three games (banned) and he will stop falling over."

By contrast, Pulis had nothing but praise for Suarez's team-mate Glen Johnson for his reaction to an earlier clash.

He added: "There was a challenge in the first half in front of us, Jon Walters and Glen Johnson both went up for a header, it was a proper old-fashioned challenge.

"Glen Johnson did absolutely fantastic, just bounced back up on got with the game, it was a proper, proper challenge.

"I went over to him and said 'well done, brilliant' - not only did he play exceptionally well but his behaviour was fabulous."

Rodgers Grateful For Support

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has hailed the loyalty of the club's supporters after another Anfield encounter passed without a win.

The Reds are yet to claim three points at home in the Premier League under Rodgers this season, while they have only won two league games on their own turf in 2012.

They enter the international break 14th in the standings after Sunday's goalless draw with Stoke and the manager has hailed fans for their ongoing support despite testing times.

He told the Daily Star: "This is a club that has only won two Premier League games at Anfield this calendar year and it's been nearly a year since the club has won consecutive Premier League games.

"So to still get the support and backing of the supporters with that type of record, there are not many clubs who'd get that."

Sunday's encounter saw six Stoke players booked but Rodgers refused to condemn their physical approach.

He said: "They're a bunch of big men who make it difficult for you. There's no right or wrong way to play football.

"They choose to play a totally different type of game.

"But what I was proud of was that our young guys stood up to that and we coped while still trying to play our game."

Rodgers Hints At January Striker Move

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has revealed he may dip into the transfer market come January to improve his striking options.

The Reds managed to avoid a fourth straight loss at home for the first time in nearly 90 years and kept their first clean sheet in nine games, but could not break down a stubborn Potters defence.

The Anfield club appeared to have got over their scoring woes in recent weeks, with defensive issues being more pertinent, but Rodgers admitted they ran out of ideas near the end.

However, he insisted his Liverpool side would stick to their principles and continue to pass the ball when he was asked if the absence of Andy Carroll meant he did not have a “Plan B”, though he did admit he would be looking at his options come January.

“In my career, I’ve won a number of games, especially against big teams, by continuing to play and waiting for those moments at the end of the game,” he is quoted as saying in the Liverpool Echo.

“I don’t really do the desperation one where it becomes a war in the last 10 minutes of the game by taking it longer.

“We work with what we’ve got, look to find different ways and solutions to score, and then when January comes we’ll see if we can re-visit that.”

The Northern Irishman will now have a couple of weeks to plan a victory in their next Premier League fixture against Reading at Anfield, as many of his players will be away on international duty.

Liverpool Scout United Defender Target

Liverpool sent scouts to run the rule over Torino centre-back - and reported Manchester United target - Angelo Ogbonna, at the weekend clash against Cagliari, according to Italian newspaper Tuttosport.

The 24-year-old has attracted interest from a host of top European clubs, and has been heavily linked with a move away from Serie A, even after the club's sporting director Gianluca Petrachi slapped a £16million price-tag on the defender.

Manchester United were rumoured to be monitoring Ogbonna's progress, with Sir Alex Ferguson keen to strengthen his back line. However, his plans to bring the Italian international to Old Trafford in January may be thwarted by the advances of Premier League rivals Liverpool.

With Brendan Rodgers also keen for defensive additions, Anfield scouts were deployed to take a closer look at Ogbonna, with a view to making an offer for his services when the transfer window reopens in the New Year.

When recently questioned about reported interest from England, Ogbonna made clear he remains happy in Italy, but would love to one day test himself in the Premier League, whether that's at Manchester United or Liverpool.

"I would go willingly [to play abroad in future], to learn about foreign cultures," he said. "The English world fascinates me. It [the football] is similar in style to in Turin. And I speak English."

He added: "I have always been happy here [at Torino]. I have a long contract. I will give my all this season – my dream is to do well in the present, live day by day and we'll see."

Croatian Starlet Rejected Liverpool Offer

Liverpool starlet target Josip Basic rejected the chance to travel to Anfield and an offer from the Reds.

Two separate sources revealed the surprise scenario, including the player’s father as Basic looks to continue his own personal development at Hadjuk Split.

“A representative from Liverpool was monitoring Josip, and got in contact with me,” Basic Snr told Slobodna Dalmacija back in July.

“Liverpool asked Josip to come with them on a training camp in late July and early August, but it wasn’t an option.”

Despite the rejection from the player, it's now been revealed that Reds boss Brendan Rodgers still made an offer to the club for the player, but it was swiftly rejected, as Hari Vukas confirmed this week.

“Liverpool made an offer, but Basic refused to travel to Liverpool, he refused the offer and decided to stay and prove himself at Hajduk,” youth coach Vukas told

Basic is widely regarded as one of the top prospects in Croatia, and is captain of the country’s Under 17 side.

Had the player decided to take his chance on a move to Merseyside, he would have joined a number of promising young players at Anfield, with the likes of Raheem Sterling, Andre Wisdom and Suso all making their mark on the senior side under Rodgers.

However, Basic will continue his development at Hajduk as planned, and it’s unclear if Liverpool will continue to monitor his situation over the coming years.

Liverpool Star Reveals Chelsea ‘Did Not Want Me’

Liverpool striker Fabio Borini has revealed that Chelsea did not want him when Carlo Ancelotti took charge at Stamford Bridge.

The 21-year-old worked with Brendan Rodgers during the Reds manager’s spell as a coach with the Blues, but admits he was quickly demoted when the Italian manager took charge at Stamford Bridge because he wouldn’t sign a new contract.

"Carlo Ancelotti told me that, above him, they didn't want me in the first team,” Borini told The Daily Mail.

"They said I had to play in the Chelsea reserves because I hadn't signed a new contract. It was a hard period for me and it wasn't even the manager's choice."

Borini spent time on loan at Swansea City, again working under Rodgers, before returning to his homeland with Roma when Chelsea finally sold the youngster.

However, Rodgers got the Liverpool job in the summer of 2012, and spent in the region of £10 million bringing the forward back to England.

The one-cap Italy international has since found himself in the wide positions at Anfield, but he’s eager to show his worth in the central positions when given the chance by his manager on Merseyside. Luis Suarez currently plays in the position, with only one place available in a 4-3-3 formation.

"I've always played in the middle. I find things come more naturally to me there," Borini added.

"If the ball drops in the box, I can sense how it will bounce, what a defender will do. I can read it early, it is a kind of instinct. When you play wide, you end up far away from the goal."

Borini was forced to watch his side’s latest match from the substitute’s bench, with Liverpool drawing 0-0 against Stoke City on Sunday.

Jonjo Shelvey Set For England Call Up

England boss Roy Hodgson looks sets to call upon Liverpool midfielder Jonjo Shelvey for Friday's World Cup qualifier if Frank Lampard does not recover for the knee injury he suffered on Saturday.

It was believed that due to the suspension of Steven Gerrard and retiring of John Terry, Frank Lampard would captain the side but after picking up a knee injury in Saturday's 4-1 victory over Norwich Hodgson is considering giving the captaincy to Joe Hart or Wayne Rooney.

Shelvey has been in impressive form since the start of the season and boss Brendan Rodgers appearances to see the former Charlton man as an important player for his side. Shelvey is currently suspended for the Under 21's European qualifier with Serbia is now muted to be the replacement for the injured Chelsea star.

Former Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish began to show faith in the youngster towards the end of last season and it seems he has grown with the confidence shown in him by current boss Rodgers, it will be interesting to see how the midfielder finds the jump up to international football.