Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Match Report: Liverpool 1 - 0 Reading

Forward Raheem Sterling scored his first Liverpool goal to give manager Brendan Rodgers his maiden home league win against former club Reading.

The England Under-21 international, at 17 years and 317 days old, as a result became the club's second-youngest Premier League goalscorer behind Michael Owen.

His strike should not have been the Reds' sole effort but such are their problems up front this season - prior to kick-off only Sunderland (two) and bottom club QPR (one) had scored fewer at home - win-less Reading remained in the game right up until the final whistle.

The first half was virtually one-way traffic but the hosts lacked a cutting edge, too often over-complicating matters with one pass too many in and around the penalty area.

Sterling found himself in the best attacking positions on several occasions but managed to get a shot off on target just once and Alex McCarthy easily held.

Auxiliary left-back Glen Johnson was also enjoying a lot of possession in the final third but he looked more threatening when cutting inside on his right foot.

During an injury break for Jem Karacan, who was eventually forced off by the effect of Steven Gerrard's block tackle, Rodgers took the opportunity to pass on some advice to Sterling.

Whatever he said appeared to have the desired effect as in the 29th minute the England Under-21 international finally made the breakthrough.

Suarez's delicate flick-on was seized by the teenager who raced through the inside-right channel and fired a shot across McCarthy and into the far corner of the net.

There were two main talking points prior to the game and both duly cropped up.

Firstly, Reading substitute Jason Roberts carried out his vow not to wear a Kick It Out T-shirt in the warm-up in protest at his perceived lack of action in combating racism in football.

While the rest of his team-mates - and all their Liverpool opponents except goalkeeper Brad Jones - donned the tops for the pre-match drills the 34-year-old went without, although Garath McCleary and Karacan removed theirs soon after entering the field.

Second hot topic, which has become a regular theme this season, of the week was whether Suarez dives or not.

The Uruguay international had seen one challenge by Kaspars Gorkss go unpunished, from which the striker curled a shot onto the roof of the net, and another given - prompting a sarcastic standing ovation from Anfield before he drilled the free-kick into the wall.

But the third instance, just before half-time, was the most contentious with Suarez going to ground under a challenge from his Latvian marker close to the byline.

Referee Roger East waved play on and then was soon waving away protests from a cluster of Liverpool players as he whistled for the interval.

Suarez, accompanied by the club doctor, gingerly hobbled off well after both teams had left the pitch but returned for the second half, which was less than a minute old when Sterling should have made it 2-0 having turned smartly in the penalty area but fired straight at the goalkeeper.

The South American did not appear to show any ill-effects with only his vision apparently affected as he opted to shoot at McCarthy when he should have squared to the unmarked Nuri Sahin.

Liverpool were almost caught by a swift counter-attack with substitute McCleary forcing an immediate save from Jones, on his first league start for the club in the absence of the injured Jose Reina, who also punched away a Jobi McAnuff shot.

The home side redoubled their efforts as Martin Skrtel flashed a header wide, substitute Jonjo Shelvey, caught in two minds, mis-controlled Suarez's cross and Gerrard saw a narrow-angle shot squeeze through McCarthy's fingers but wide of the post.

Further chances fell to Johnson, Suarez, who missed the target from 10 yards, and Gerrard but needless to say none were created.

Rodgers said he felt his side would "fly" once they secured their first home win.

They will need to as next weekend they make the short trip to near-neighbours Everton, who even after this win are still five points ahead with a match in hand.

Gerrard Praises 'Exciting' Liverpool Starlet Sterling

Steven Gerrard has heaped praise onto 17-year-old Raheem Sterling, after the youngster claimed his first goal for Liverpool in a 1-0 win over Reading during the weekend.

Sterling has developed into a first team regular under Brendan Rodgers, who has overseen the youngster’s remarkable rise this season.

After making his first team debut last March, the former Queens Park Rangers starlet has gone to receive call-ups for both the senior England side and Stuart Pearce’s U21 side after impressing for the Anfield club on a regular basis.

Club captain Gerrard has been blown away by the 17-year-old’s rapid progress and his seamless transition to first team football.

"I think Raheem has been a great surprise to everyone," Gerrard told the Liverpool Echo. "Not that he's doing so well at this level - as we always knew he was going to be good enough to play for the first team - but I don't think anyone expected him to break through so early.

"When they are young and small sometimes they get eased in towards the end of a season to give them a taste. But the new manager has come in, seen what he's done in pre-season and said 'yeah, he's ready now,” Gerrard added.

"He's given him his chance and Raheem's not let anyone down. He's been sensational so far.

"We all know he's exciting, that he can run at players and if he gets in one on one situations he's deadly. If he can add goals and assists to his game as he grows then he can go all the way to the top."

Sterling delivered a virtuoso performance as Liverpool sealed their first home win of the season over Reading Saturday afternoon, where his first half winner made him the second youngest goal scorer at the club.

Rodgers Praises Hero Sterling

Brendan Rodgers hailed Raheem Sterling after his match-winning performance in Liverpool's 1-0 victory over Reading.

Sterling's first goal for Liverpool was enough to earn them a hard-fought win and their first Premier League success at Anfield this term.

Rodgers revealed they have been working hard on Sterling's finishing, with the effort paying off for the exciting teenage talent.

"It's a part of the game we've been working on," said Rodgers. "The players on the outside, the No 7 and No 11, we're trying to get them in the positions so they can make those runs.

"He's got good pace, Raheem, so once he's on the inside he can break the line of the back four.

"We've been doing a lot of work on that on the training field but all the credit goes to him because he's got to identify the moment to go in.

"It was a wonderful finish because he was going away from the goal, and he's got a quick defender tracking him.

"He's a terrific talent and he's got a good head on young shoulders."

Rodgers also praised Luis Suarez for playing through the pain barrier after suffering a dead leg right at the end of the first half.

"He got a dead leg just before half-time, he got kneed on his thigh," added Rodgers.

"People judge him from the outside, and I was probably one of those as well before I came into here, but when you actually come in and you work with him.

"He's travelled all around the world, played at altitude, got back late Thursday, trained on Friday morning and still goes out and runs and works and gives his all for the team, doesn't want to come off.

"He's an incredible character.

"He created opportunities for himself. He'll be disappointed he hasn't scored today."

Rodgers was relieved to finally get his first Premier League win at Anfield and only the side's second win of the league campaign.

"It's been a long time coming, we should have had three points here long before today," noted Rodgers. "But on the back of an international break and players travelling all over the world, I thought it was a terrific performance.

"We need to improve our finishing, which is an ongoing theme, but as long as we get three points and a clean sheet, that's the most important thing. I'm delighted for the players and the supporters.

"You don't want it to keep dragging on. What always gave me comfort was the mindset and ability of the players. They've kept working."

Liverpool Scouts Track Belgium U21 International

Liverpool is being linked with a move for highly-rated Belgian midfielder Dennis Praet.

Reports in Belgian publication DH claim that Reds boss Brendan Rodgers sent scouts to watch the 18-year-old in action on Friday night, whilst Italian website TMW also claim the ex-Swansea boss has an interest in the youngster, who was on top form in a 2-0 win over Waasland-Beveren at the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium.

Praet spent the majority of his youth career at Genk, but signed for Anderlecht in 2010 without making a single senior appearance at the Cristal Arena.

The U21 international was promoted to the first-team after just a season with the Purple and White outfit, but was also linked with a Premier League move as Chelsea and Liverpool circled during the 2011 summer transfer window.

Anderlecht managed to keep hold of the player however, and his performances have continued to impress in the Belgian Pro League.

Contracted with his current club until 2015, Liverpool boss Rodgers would be adding another young star to the Anfield squad if he were able to lure the player away from his homeland.

Were the talented teenager to move to Merseyside, he'd be joining the likes of Suso, Raheem Sterling and Andre Wisdom in the Liverpool ranks.

Liverpool Step Up Holtby Pursuit

Liverpool has stepped up their pursuit of Schalke youngster Lewis Holtby with a view to securing the 22-year-old on a free transfer next summer.

Goal.com understands that the Reds are keen to talk to Holtby in January after having reignited their interest in the in-form Bundesliga midfielder, whose father is from Merseyside.

Schalke have made clear that they would be willing to keep hold of the former Alemannia Aachen youngster until the end of the season, knowing that they would only be able to yield around €7 million (£5.5m) if they were to sell him in January before he becomes available on a Bosman deal.

The Anfield outfit previously monitored Everton fan Holtby following Brendan Rodgers' arrival on Merseyside, as was exclusively revealed by Goal.com in July.

Holtby, who has also been linked with Tottenham in recent months, is considered to be a technically-gifted passer of the ball in Germany, and fits Liverpool's current recruitment model of signing young, cheap players with obvious future resale value.

The 22-year-old has made no secret of his interest in a move to the Premier League, admitting to Goal.com in July that playing for an English side was a goal of his.

Despite Liverpool's interest in the Schalke star, bolstering their striking options remains a priority ahead of the January transfer window and means they are in no rush to push through a move for Holtby.

"Liverpool only really have their eyes on a goalscorer when it comes to signings in January after missing out on deadline day in summer," a source close to the club told Goal.com.

The lack of firepower in Rodgers' squad was highlighted again as the Reds struggled to capitalize on a dominant performance against Reading on Saturday, picking up a 1-0 win thanks to a Raheem Sterling strike.

Darren Bent and Daniel Sturridge have been highlighted as potential targets by Anfield officials in recent weeks, with both players likely to be available within Liverpool's January budget of approximately £10m-£12m.

Rodgers previously made a desperate attempt to sign Sturridge on loan in the closing hours of the summer transfer window, but the Chelsea man is only interested in a permanent move away from west London with the Stamford Bridge hierarchy reluctant to extend his £65,000-a-week deal.

Sterling To Get England Chance

England manager Roy Hodgson has indicated that Raheem Sterling is in line to make his international debut in November.

The Three Lions face Sweden on November 15th and Hodgson is keen to take a look at the 17-year-old Liverpool winger, who scored his first Premier League goal against Reading on Saturday.

Sterling was in Stuart Pearce's England Under-21 squad for the European Championship play-offs against Serbia but is expected to join the likes of Chris Smalling and Steven Caulker in a youthful senior squad.

"I will use the November game in Sweden to look at a few players," said the England boss, quoted in The People.

"Sterling is one. We allowed him to go with the Under 21s last time when we might well have taken him into our squad had they not had such an important game.

"I'd like to think Smalling will come into the squad too, and the same applies to Phil Jones.

"I hope Smalling and Jones - and Caulker if you want a third one - can start to put a few people under pressure."

Hodgson also expects to keep checking on his potential squad members despite the next competitive game being five months away.

"I'll try to get round to the clubs and speak to the managers," he added.

"I want to get to the clubs' training grounds and keep that contact going with the players."

Jack: My Debt To Rodolfo

Jack Robinson has paid tribute to Rodolfo Borrell and the Academy staff for helping him get his big chance to impress in the first-team.

The left-back has made three starts for the first XI under Brendan Rodgers so far this season and is challenging the likes of Jose Enrique and Glen Johnson for the left-back slot.

The Warrington-born defender admits his game has improved working under Spanish coach Borrell.

Robinson told Liverpoolfc.com: "Rodolfo has been a big influence on my career. He expects high standards and that has really helped me develop my game.

"I have a lot of respect for all of the coaches at the Academy and they have got me to where I am at the moment.

"It's fantastic to be training with the lads I grew up from the U18 team now at Melwood with the first-team squad. The manager has given us our chance and he has shown a lot of faith in us."

Robinson has also shown us his eye for goal this season with two goals already for Borrell's U21 side against Crystal Palace and Chelsea.

"It was a good feeling to score a couple of goals as I hadn't scored for a while so I was delighted," he added.

"I had some good banter in the dressing room after scoring those goals and it would be nice to get some more.

"You can always improve on everything every single day as a player so I want to work hard and improve on all aspects of my game.

"It really would be a dream come true for me to get a regular place in the first-team and I will work as hard as I can to try and achieve that and keep impressing in every training session."

Robinson was also quick to pay tribute to Academy striker Jerome Sinclair who, with a substitute appearance at West Bromwich Albion in the Capital One Cup, took his mantle as being Liverpool's youngest ever player.

He added: "It is great to see more youngsters coming through and getting a chance and it was fantastic for Jerome to get his opportunity. He has got a lot of potential and hopefully he can do well in the coming seasons.

"It was a great honour for me to be the previous youngest ever player for Liverpool FC and maybe it didn't last for as long as I wanted but I don't mind as I am really happy for Jerome. It just shows what great work is going on at the Academy."

Superb U18s Sink City

Steve Cooper's U18s turned on the style as they produced a brilliant display to beat Manchester City 2-0 at the Academy on Saturday.

The win made it an Academy double over City after the U21s' 3-1 win on Friday.

Goals from Daniel Trickett-Smith and Kris Peterson did the damage for Cooper's charges who played some scintillating football at times.

With Jerome Sinclair away on international duty with England, Peterson wore the No.9 shirt and had a fine game while Jordan Ibe was outstanding on the right-wing after being an unused substitute for the U21s on Friday.

Cooper told Liverpoolfc.com: "It was a very good performance and I'm delighted for the boys.

"We scored a fantastic opening goal which was a great team move when we passed and moved the ball brilliantly.

"We created chance after chance and could have been 3-0 up at half-time, but we kept up our high level of play in the second and controlled the game."

It was a sweet victory for the U18s after City beat the Reds 2-0 in Manchester last month and it's now three straight wins for Cooper's young side.

Liverpool team: Fulton, Quirk, Maguire, Jones, Heaton, Baio, Ibe, Lussey (Randall 75), Peterson, Trickett-Smith, Gainford (O'Hanlon 70). Subs unused: Mersin, Cleary.

Dalglish Wants FA Investigated

Kenny Dalglish has called for a full inquiry into the Football Association's responsibilities in the Hillsborough tragedy to be sure there has not been a 'cover up'.

Ninety-six people were killed at the stadium disaster at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

A recent report from the Hillsborough Independent Panel found the response to the disaster from South Yorkshire police was seriously flawed.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is now to carry out its own investigation but Dalglish also wants the FA, as English football's governing body, to be examined for insisting the match be played at Hillsborough when there were already safety concerns.

Dalglish, who was in his first spell as Liverpool manager at the time of the tragedy, said in the Daily Mirror: "What I want to know now is when is the FA going to face up to its responsibilities, too?

"I'm not talking about the apology it made last month - an apology that was a long time coming and which took them two attempts to produce properly.

"I'm talking about issues like why we have never had a full explanation of why the FA insisted the game should be played at Hillsborough."

Dalglish thinks former FA chief executive Graham Kelly, in particular, should come under scrutiny.

"I am not talking about punishing the people in power at the moment," said the Scot.

"But surely, as the game's governing body, they have to take responsibility for the way their organization acted in the past.

"It has taken a long, long time for a lot of organizations to face up to what they did in 1989 and now it's the FA's turn as well.

"What has happened to Graham Kelly, for instance? Is there no-one who can go and talk to him about why the FA acted as they did?

"Kelly had become chief executive of the FA in 1989. It would be helpful to hear his explanations for the organization’s actions.

"There has, quite rightly, been a lot of talk about the accountability of the police over the tragedy. Why has nobody really mentioned the FA?

"It would be very interesting for someone to sit down with Mr. Kelly and make sure the FA are not involved in a big cover-up here as well."