Friday, December 07, 2012

Match Report: Udinese 0 - 1 Liverpool

Midfielder Jordan Henderson's maiden Europa League goal saw Liverpool progress to the last 32 as Group A winners with a 1-0 victory over 10-man Udinese in Italy.

It was only his third strike for the club he joined for £16million in the summer of 2011 - and his first since May 8 - but he would have had another had it not been for a brilliant reaction save from former Liverpool goalkeeper Daniele Padelli.

But with Young Boys beating Anzhi the goal was the difference between the Reds reaching the knockout stages for the ninth time in 11 attempts and crashing out.

In finding the net Henderson joined a small but illustrious club of Michael Owen, Fernando Torres and Phil Neal to score for Liverpool in Italy.

Liverpool's trouble this season has been a reliance on Luis Suarez, playing his first European away match for the Reds, to provide the goals.

Manager Brendan Rodgers has called for others to contribute and in recent weeks Daniel Agger, Jonjo Shelvey, Jose Enrique and even Joe Cole have chipped in.

By hitting the target in the Stadio Fruili, Henderson became the 15th different player to score this season, three short of the club record.

The 22-year-old had endured a difficult start to his Liverpool career and could have been sold in the summer but he has expressed his desire to fight for a place and a future at Anfield.

To call it a watershed moment for him would be premature but ensuring the club's participation in Europe in the new year was an important hurdle to get over.

It was not all plain sailing, however, as Liverpool's game plan had to be altered in just the 12th minute when Nuri Sahin was forced off with a bloody nose after getting caught in the face, meaning an early introduction for the Reds' leading European scorer this season Shelvey.

The hosts, despite having nothing to play for, created the early chances with Mathias Ranegie heading wide and Roberto Pereyra forcing goalkeeper Jose Reina to tip over his effort.

Suarez's first shooting chance came from a free-kick 20 yards out but he drilled it into the wall but Henderson took full advantage of his first sight of goal.

A month ago against Anzhi in Moscow the England Under-21 midfielder had been hesitant in front of goal but he had no time to be in the 24th minute.

Stewart Downing's corner dropped to Suarez and although his header only reached Suso the young Spaniard had the presence of mind to lay the ball back for Henderson to drill a shot past Padelli.

In truth the visitors failed to properly test Udinese's second-choice goalkeeper, who made just one appearance in May 2007 for Liverpool while on loan from Sampdoria.

Udinese briefly threatened when Reina had to make a low save from Fabbrini's long-distance shot but Liverpool finished the stronger.

Suso looped over a stooping header from Shelvey's cross and Suarez, having fired over an angled shot, forced Padelli into a fingertip save with a close-range overhead effort from the last kick of the half.

Suarez and Suso both had shooting opportunities early in the second half but failed to hit the target while Ranegie powered a header just over as the hosts pressed for the equalizer.

Henderson must have thought he had doubled his tally in the 65th minute when he perfectly timed his side-foot volley from Jose Enrique's cross but Padelli stuck up a hand to tip it over.

Four minutes later the goalkeeper produced another stunning stop to deny Suarez from close range after the Uruguay international had jinked past three players in the penalty area.

However, just when Udinese started to step up the pressure for an equalizer their chances were diminished by a red card for Giovanni Pasquale.

Having already been booked for clattering into the back of Suso he was shown a second yellow 11 minutes from time for tangling with Sterling.

Substitute Antonio di Natale almost produced the cruellest of endings when he fired over with the last kick of the match but Liverpool survived - just.

Having closed out only their fourth victory in 10 matches on Italian soil they can now put Europe to bed until February and focus on improving their Premier League position.

Brendan Rodgers Hails Jordan Henderson

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers heaped praise on Jordan Henderson after his goal against Udinese sent them through to the knockout stages of the Europa League.

The midfielder fired home his third Liverpool goal on 23 minutes to put the Reds top of Group A and into the last 32.

"He is a great lad and works hard and has come in over the last month and made a good contribution to the team," said Rodgers.

"It was a very good finish and he was unfortunate not to get a second goal as the goalkeeper made a wonderful save.

"He has that quality to arrive in the box and he has a finish in him so I am delighted for him and his hard work is paying off."

Udinese's hopes of an equalizer looked bleak when Giovanni Pasquale was shown a second yellow card with 10 minutes remaining.

However, the hosts almost snatched a draw that would have eliminated Liverpool with the last kick of the game, captain Antonio Di Natale blasting over the bar.

"Hopefully it is a sign we have a little bit of luck going our way because maybe a couple of months back that would have gone in and we would be out of the competition," said Rodgers.

"There was no margin for error last night. I felt we had to win the game because we were in a difficult group against good teams.

"Over the course of all the games, how we have played and progressed through the tournament I think we are deserved winners of the group."

Guidolin: Udinese Lost To A Great Liverpool Team

Udinese coach Francesco Guidolin downplayed his side's loss to Liverpool, believing that his team played well but just did not have enough against such "a great team".

The defeat at the Stadio Friuli saw the Italians finish bottom of Group A in the Europa League, meaning their European dreams are over.

While Guidolin expressed regret over his side's elimination, he was encouraged by his side's performance and insisted that there is no shame in being defeated by the Reds.

"We played a good game against a great Liverpool side, losing only from a dead-ball situation. It is a pity that we could not finish of our campaign with a win," Guidolin told reporters at a press conference.

"We were pitted in the toughest group in the draw but we have done our bit. Our European adventure is over for another year but I believe we have given our fans something good to remember.

"We leave with our heads high and the memory of that great victory at Anfield. That will be something positive that we can take away with us."

With the victory, Liverpool finished the group in top spot while they will also be joined by Anzhi Makhachkala who pipped Young Boys to second place.

The Old Lady Back In For Luis Suarez

Liverpool is going to have to pull out all the stops to keep hold of Uruguayan ace Luis Suarez as Juventus set to launch a bid for him in January.

Suarez has been in inspirational form this season scoring nine Premier League goals and Liverpool will no want to think where they could be had they not had him.

Sources in Italy believe Suarez is valued at around £28 million and both Juventus and Chelsea are contemplating making an offer for him, Juventus in particular see him as an important addition to their side as he can play in the Champions League.

Although they will not want to lay out too much due to Financial Fair Play regulations coming into force.

The opportunity of playing Champions League football may be too good for Suarez to turn down.

Furthermore, the Uruguayan might be enticed to move to Italy as he looks to win trophies- something that has eluded him at Liverpool.

Liverpool Tracking Wolves Striking Starlet McAlinden

Liverpool is monitoring the progress of Wolves starlet Liam McAlinden, has learned.

Championship high-fliers Crystal Palace and Leeds United are also understood to be tracking the 19-year-old striker, who has netted seven goals in 11 Under-21 Premier League matches this season.

McAlinden, who joined Wolves’ youth ranks at the age of eight, remains highly rated by the club but has yet to commit to an extension of his current contract, which expires next summer.

Any attempts to sign McAlinden as a free agent at the end of the season, however, could be scuppered by the fact that Wolves would still be entitled to compensation as the player is under 24 years of age, unless they were to decide to release his registration.

As such, the Northern Ireland Under-21 international could well find himself the subject of more immediate offers when the transfer window opens in January.

Liverpool’s lack of striking options in the wake of loaning Andy Carroll to West Ham have been well documented, but it is unlikely that McAlinden would feature in their first-team plans this season.

Merseyside Rivals In Transfer Battle Over England Starlet

Merseyside rivals Liverpool and Everton look set for a transfer tussle over goalkeeping starlet Jack Butland, according the Daily Star.

The 19-year-old has been linked with a move to the Premier League for some time after impressing as a youth player and cementing his place as number on for Championship side Birmingham City.

Anfield manager Brendan Rodgers has reportedly been looking for recruitments between the posts and current number one Pepe Reina has been linked with a move to Premier League rivals Arsenal.

However, this report claims Everton boss David Moyes has earmarked the England international as the perfect competition for Goodison Park’s incumbent number one, Tim Howard.

Although it does go on to suggest the Reds are ahead of their rivals on the blue half of Merseyside, but Birmingham manager Lee Clark is desperate to hold on to the midlands club’s prized asset.

The fierce local rivalry between Liverpool and Everton will mean neither side will want to lose out if a transfer tug of war does ensue, with both sets of fans likely to see it as a significant indicator of where their respective clubs are in terms of success.

Being linked with two of the Premier League’s biggest clubs is just the latest step in 2012 for what looks like being a stellar career for Butland.

It has been a breakthrough year for the young ‘keeper, seeing him make his senior England debut and securing the number one spot for the historic Team GB football team at the London Olympics.

Liverpool Facing Bundesliga Battle Over Asian Playmaker

Liverpool has been handed a transfer boost in pursuit of Japanese international Keisuke Honda.

TalkSPORT claims the 40-cap international could leave CSKA Moscow, with Merseyside and Dortmund two potential destinations for the 26-year-old.

The report goes on to suggest that Liverpool is ‘long-term’ admirers of the former VVV-Venolo star, and could be in the market for a midfielder as manager Brendan Rodgers looks to take the goal-scoring burden away from Steven Gerrard.

Apart from the Reds skipper, only on-loan Turkish international Nuri Sahin has scored for the Anfield outfit from midfield this season.

Liverpool face competition from the Bundesliga for the former Nagoya Grampus star however, with champions Borussia Dortmund also keen on the player, according to the report.

Manager Jurgen Klopp has set his sights on Honda as a replacement for compatriot Shinji Kagawa, who left the Westfalenstadion for Manchester United in the summer transfer window.

CSKA have previously stated their desire to keep the player, but the initial reports coming out of Italy claim he could now be on the move.

Liverpool Want Ron-Robert Zieler To Replace Reina

Liverpool are reportedly considering replacing Pepe Reina with German goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler in the January transfer window, while Jack Butland is also a target for the Reds.

Reds manager Brendan Rodgers has been unsure about Reina's suitability as his No.1 since arriving at the club in the summer and has now identified to candidates to replace the Spaniard, reports the Daily Mail.

The Liverpool boss reportedly wants to recruit a 'keeper able to replace Reina for the long-term, with a transfer swoop for either Zieler or Butland being penciled in for January.

Hannover shot-stopper Zieler, capped twice by Germany, has a £12.2 million release clause written into his contract with the Bundesliga club, so Liverpool would have to make a sizeable investment if Rodgers wants to bring the 23-year-old to Anfield.

Zieler began his career as a trainee at Manchester United but only made the first-team bench once before Sir Alex Ferguson allowed the German to leave Old Trafford for Hannover in the summer of 2010.

Butland, meanwhile, impressed during the Olympics as Great Britain's No.1 and the 19-year-old has established himself as Lee Clark's first-choice at Birmingham this season.

In the case of Butland, however, Liverpool are likely to be contested by Premier League rivals if they decide to pursue the teenager, with West Ham and Manchester City also linked with the England international.

Tottenham & Liverpool Hold French Striker Transfer Talks

Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool have ‘stepped up’ their pursuit of French striker Bafetimbi Gomis, according to reports.

The Daily Mail claims both Premier League clubs held talks with the player’s agents ahead of their clash at White Hart Lane last Wednesday, which Spurs subsequently won 2-1.

Defeat exposed the lack of striking prowess on the books at Anfield, with Luis Suarez leading the line alone for the Reds this season.

Andy Carroll’s loan exit and an injury to Fabio Borini have worked against Liverpool, and the paper reports that Brendan Rodgers is in the market for a forward.

So is Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas, according to the paper, with attacking options limited in north London.

Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor are the only senior forwards on the books at Tottenham Hotspur, and Gomis could bolster the ranks ahead of a challenge for Champions League places.

With just one-year left on his contract, Lyon want to ‘cash in’ on the player, according to the paper, despite Gomis being the second top scorer in Ligue 1 at present.

In Liverpool and Spurs, they appear to have found two interested parties, but it’s unclear how much the English duo would have to pay for a player compared to Didier Drogba.

Carra Wants Champions League Changes

Jamie Carragher believes extending the Champions League to 64 teams is not the way to go. The 34-year-old, who has played 91 games in the competition, is opposed to UEFA president Michel Platini's proposal to double the number of teams who qualify. Instead he has an idea of his own.

Carragher wrote in the Daily Mail: "Football is always evolving and I understand that new ideas have to be implemented from time to time but increasing the numbers competing in the Champions League is not the way to go.

"If you look at the way the group stages have fizzled out over the last couple of years, you will see that more teams won't raise the quality. Interest in the group stages has been dwindling and it has only been at the quarter-final stages that the competition has come alive.

"My idea would be to keep 32 teams but start things off with a knockout round, with all qualified teams needing a win to get through. So this year, for instance, Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea would have to have to win through a high-stakes knockout round first.

"The draw for the knockout stage would be seeded, so you would never get a situation where Barcelona faced Real Madrid.

"Some people might say that is unfair to the smaller teams and nations that Platini wants to get involved. He should be credited for trying to help them but it is taking things away from the group stage.

"Surely the minnows in the competition should want to prove that they belong in the competition? Wouldn't that create more excitement? But with so much to lose, you could guarantee that all the seeded teams would be fully committed, regardless of who they were playing. That, in turn, would lead to better games.

"You would then be left with four groups of four, with the top two going through to contest the quarter-finals. You could almost guarantee that every game in the group stage would mean something and be of a high quality.

"Wouldn't it be great if all the groups were of the quality of the one this season that contains Real Madrid, Dortmund, Ajax and Manchester City?

"The problem when you have a 32-team group stage is that a lot of fixtures can be monotonous. The World Cup group stage, for instance, doesn't have the same intensity as the European Championship.

"Of course, the idea might get opposition from the big clubs, who would be fearful of falling out at the first hurdle and missing out on the subsequent revenue but wouldn't that make things more interesting and exciting?

"The aim for the Champions League has to be for every group game to mean something but, at the minute, they do not - just look at some of the matches that were played this week.

"When the Champions League was revamped in 1992, nobody would have envisaged teams playing weakened sides. That, however, is now the reality."

Five-star Reds Thrash Swindon In Cup

Five-star Liverpool cruised into the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup courtesy of a thumping 5-0 win against Swindon Town on Tuesday night.

The Reds were always in command and produced an exhibition of attacking football at its very best.

They took the lead on nine minutes when Jerome Sinclair cut inside, beat two defenders and saw his shot come back off the post, hit the unlucky goalkeeper Josh Helm and rebound into the net. Sinclair will claim the goal but the 'keeper had the final touch.

Jordon Ibe made it 2-0 after 23 minutes with a goal-of-the-month contender when he unleashed an unstoppable shot from 25 yards that flew into the back of the net.

Ibe then turned provider three minutes later when his pass found Jack Dunn, who slotted home for 3-0.

Dunn then added his second and Liverpool's fourth a minute before the break when he finished off a superb team move involving Sinclair and Kris Peterson.

Sinclair then made it 5-0 six minutes after the restart when he slotted home from close range after superb work from Peterson.

Dunn was denied a hat-trick when his late effort came back off the post.