Sunday, January 20, 2013

Match Report: Liverpool 5 - 0 Norwich City

Norwich must be sick of the sight of striker Luis Suarez as he scored his seventh goal in three matches against them to help Liverpool return to winning ways.

The Canaries' nemesis, after hat-tricks in his previous two outings against them, struck the second after Jordan Henderson's well-taken opener.

New £12million signing Daniel Sturridge became the first Reds player since Ray Kennedy in 1974 to score in his first three matches before Steven Gerrard's strike and Ryan Bennett's own goal completed the rout.

It took Liverpool's tally against Norwich in the last three league matches to 13, most of which have gone to Suarez.

Only Ian Rush, with nine, has scored more goals against them for Liverpool.

Questions had been asked about whether Suarez, who now has 20 goals for the season, and Sturridge could play together and how manager Brendan Rodgers would accommodate the pair.

The Uruguay international dropped into a deeper role off the front man but it did not lessen his impact as he was a constant thorn in Norwich's side.

After a promising 45 minutes in the defeat at Old Trafford last week, the pair continued to build on their fledgling relationship with Sturridge's awareness and dummy for Suarez's goal the highlight.

With goalkeeper Jose Reina missing due to a thigh injury Norwich needed to take advantage but Bennett planted his early free-header from Robert Snodgrass's free-kick straight at stand-in Brad Jones.

From that point onwards it was virtually one-way traffic with Suarez and Sturridge combining early only for the latter to shoot straight at goalkeeper Mark Bunn.

By then Suarez was already running rings around the visitors - one brilliant backheel skill leaving Michael Turner completely bamboozled - and his low cross-shot was claimed by Bunn at the second attempt at his near post.

The South American's admission this week that he had dived in an attempt to win a penalty here in October had brought condemnation but against Norwich he appeared determined to stay on his feet.

That resulted in the opening goal as he avoided two crunching tackles, the second pushing the ball into the path of Henderson, who drove a first-time shot high past Bunn for only his fourth goal in 74 appearances.

There has been talk this week of Rodgers wanting to bring Inter Milan midfielder Wesley Sneijder to the club if the Holland international is willing to lower his considerable wage demands.

Henderson is a long way from being in that class yet he has offered, in the last six weeks, hope that he can develop into the midfielder which persuaded Rodgers' predecessor Kenny Dalglish to spend £16million to bring him to the club.

Boosted by his goal Henderson attempted a swerving 30-yard effort which Bunn held but the goalkeeper was powerless to prevent Suarez making it 2-0 in the 37th minute.

Sturridge cleverly allowed Lucas Leiva's through-ball to pass through his legs for the Uruguayan to run onto and he coolly slotted in a shot off the far post with his weaker left foot.

Sturridge had chances either side of half-time, first firing a narrow-angle shot at the goalkeeper and then completely missing his kick from close range from Suarez's pass.

He made up for that, however, when he became only the seventh man to find the net in each of his first three appearances for the club just before the hour.

Henderson switched the ball out to the right for Stewart Downing to drive a first-time cross for Sturridge to convert from close in.

Gerrard then added the fourth when Glen Johnson's run down the left presented him with a chance which he drilled home low from 25 yards.

Substitute Raheem Sterling may yet be awarded the fifth as it was his run and shot which was turned into his own net by Ryan Bennett.

After last week's disappointing defeat to Manchester United a third successive home victory was just what was required but, as Rodgers knows, consistency is the key to success.

The initial indications from the performances of Suarez and Sturridge together suggests now at least Liverpool have a fighting chance of finishing off teams and stringing results together.

Rodgers Pleased With Suarez/Sturridge Partnership

Liverpool manager has praised the efforts of January signing Daniel Sturridge in front of goal and hopes his relationship with strike-partner Luis Suarez will develop further.

Sturridge has scored three goals in three appearances for the Reds since his £12million move from Chelsea, with his latest coming in the Merseyside club’s 5-0 thumping of Norwich at Anfield on Saturday.

And Rodgers said following the win that the team has missed the abilities of a striker who can convert chances in close-quarters to the goal.

“I’m very pleased, I thought their [Suarez and Sturridge’s] combination with each other was great, that sort of relationship will get better as time goes on,” said the Liverpool boss.

“His goal [against Norwich] typified why we brought him in.

“We’ve created many chances this year but we’ve just needed someone who would be inside the frame of the goal and in the six-yard box to get a goal.

“It’s a real special moment to get your first goal at Anfield in front of the Kop, some people would pay money for that.”

Rodgers Explains Carragher Recall

Brendan Rodgers said he brought vice-captain Jamie Carragher back into the team against Norwich City to give his young Liverpool team some leadership.

Carragher made just his second start of the league season in Saturday's 5-0 win at Anfield and Rodgers said he recalled the 34-year-old, who replaced Martin Skrtel, because of his organizational ability.

Rodgers - who has spoken of his desire to bring in more experience - accepted that Liverpool, who have been criticized for lacking players who communicate, needed more talkers in the team.

He said: "Jamie Carragher hasn't put a foot wrong for me since I came. He has been absolutely brilliant. He hasn't played as often as he'd have liked. He's played in a lot of the cup games and I'd hoped to not put a curse on him, but I said to him that I couldn't remember him making a mistake in any of the games since I've been here.

"I thought about his leadership. We are a quiet team and he's a great organizer - he manages the game very well, he's got big experience, and he can play football. I thought him coming in would give us that extra bit of leadership. We saw that from him, he was fantastic."

Goalkeeper Pepe Reina missed the match with a thigh problem and after having surgery on his nose and Liverpool will assess the Spaniard to see if he is fit to face Oldham in their FA Cup tie on January 27.

Coates Sale Can Help Reds Land Sneijder

Wesley Sneijder is holding out for his dream move to Liverpool. And the Reds are ready to sell Sebastian Coates to help fund their pursuit of the Dutch master.

Newcastle want Uruguay centre-back Coates, 22, a £7million signing from Nacional 18 months ago. He is a Toon target as skipper Fabricio Coloccini is pushing for a move back to Argentina before this month’s transfer window closes.

Coates, also linked with West Brom, has been unable to disrupt Liverpool’s first-choice central defensive partnership of Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger. In negotiations for Sneijder, Liverpool have admitted they would need to move players out before they could bring him in.

Inter Milan’s Dutch midfielder is still stalling on an £8m transfer to Galatasaray in Turkey, because his preference is to sign for a top Premier League club. Liverpool fit the bill for Sneijder – and the Daily Star Sunday revealed last week the Anfield club’s interest in Holland’s playmaker.

Sneijder, 28, is prepared to wait until the end of this month, when the transfer window closes, before making an announcement on his future.

He said: “It’s a big decision to take. There are still two weeks to go to the end of the transfer window – there is time.”

We revealed last week that Sneijder would have to compromise on his £200,000-a-week wages at Inter for Liverpool to agree a deal, which manager Brendan Rodgers is keen to pursue.

Liverpool also got another player off the wage bill when defender Danny Wilson, out of contract in the summer, joined Hearts on loan.

Guardiola Makes Suarez And Falcao His Top Targets

Pep Guardiola is set to deliver another blow to the Premier League by making Luis Suarez and Radamel Falcao his top Bayern Munich targets.

Former Barcelona boss Guardiola last week agreed to take over as Bayern manager in July and will spend the next five months drawing up an action plan.

That will include signing a new world-class forward, with Suarez and Falcao two players Guardiola is particularly keen on.

Bayern would be unlikely to pay out for both players, with Suarez valued at £40m and Falcao’s Atletico Madrid release clause set at £46m, so Guardiola will have to decide on his favourite.

News of Guardiola’s interest will worry both Liverpool, who are desperate to keep hold of star man Suarez, and Chelsea, who have been chasing Falcao’s signature.

Suarez’s agent is Guardiola’s brother Pere and that has been a cause of concern to some Anfield insiders ever since Pep left Barca.

Uruguay star Suarez signed a new Liverpool contract last summer and has consistently reiterated his love for the club and fans.

But just last week ex-Liverpool director of football Damien Comolli warned that Suarez could be driven out by the constant controversy surrounding his actions.

That was before Suarez created a new storm by admitting to diving against Stoke and claiming Manchester United control the English media.

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers described the Suarez admission of diving “unacceptable” and promised the 25-year-old would be dealt with by the club.

Guardiola’s decision to snub Chelsea for Bayern was a major blow for owner Roman Abramovich and missing out on Falcao to the Spaniard would rub salt in the wounds.

Speaking last year about Falcao, Guardiola said: “He’s a sensational player — the best striker inside the box.”

Neymar is another option, but Barca is confident of landing the Brazilian.

Meanwhile, Guardiola has kept alive his dream of eventually managing Manchester United by
taking the Bayern job.

Sources who have worked with the Spaniard, maintain he would ideally like to manage at Old Trafford when he does move to the Premier League.

Barcelona Set Sights On Liverpool Goalkeeper Reina

Barcelona is expected to move to sign Liverpool's Pepe Reina in the summer after Victor Valdes announced last week he will not be renewing his contract.

Valdes stunned Barca by refusing to discuss an extension to his contract, which runs out in 2014, and though he will play until the end of the season, Barca want to recruit a new goalkeeper in June.

Barca believe Liverpool would consider a bid for Spain international Reina, with manager Brendan Rodgers aware that he will have to sell key players to raise money to rebuild the current side.

Reina, 30, who missed Saturday's game against Norwich after having surgery to repair the broken nose he sustained against Manchester United last weekend, is considered the outstanding candidate by Barca because he was raised through the club's youth system, alongside Valdes.

Reina eventually ended up at Real Villarreal before he was signed by Rafa Benitez for Liverpool.

Reina, who is also struggling with a thigh injury which could force him to miss next Sunday's FA Cup tie against Oldham, was born in Madrid but once played for Catalonia in a representative game for the region, which the Catalans claim is an international match.

Liverpool Make £8m Bid For Inter Milan Midfielder

Liverpool has launched an £8 million bid for Inter Milan midfielder Philippe Coutinho.

Brendan Rodgers turned his attention to the 20-year-old after failing to agree a fee for Tom Ince with Blackpool. Inter have rejected Liverpool’s opening offer for Coutinho but negotiations are expected to continue.

Brazillian Coutinho signed for Inter in a €4m deal at the age of 16 but remained on loan in Brazil until 2010. He has only made 28 appearances this season for Inter and has become frustrated by his lack of opportunity.

Aston Villa and Southampton are also thought to have shown an interest in Coutinho.

Gerrard: Liverpool Need Two Or Three More Signings

Steven Gerrard believes that Liverpool can compete with any team in the Premier League under Brendan Rodgers but feels that they need to acquire two or three new signings in order to help them find consistency.

Daniel Sturridge, a £12 million January addition from Chelsea, was among the goals in Saturday's 5-0 drubbing of Norwich City and the Reds captain is hoping for more such purchases, with having revealed that the club are looking to prepare a financial package in order to sign Wesley Sneijder from Inter.

"In general, I like the direction the club is going in, but the harsh reality is that we still need two or three big players who can help", he told the Daily Mirror.

"We were short before the last deadline and I think we struggled to find consistency ­because of that."

Liverpool took time earlier in the season to adapt to their new manager's ideas and style of play but six wins in their last 10 outings have improved the outlook considerably, with Gerrard looking to learn from arch-rivals Manchester United.

"I like the new manager's philosophy. I like his style of play," the midfielder added. "The gap between us and, say, Manchester United is now severe but I believe that, on our day, we can beat any team in the league.

“What we need to find is that consistency. We can actually learn from United. There are games when they don't play well and they still find a way to win.

"When we don't play well, we don't win. We need to find a way to win games when we're not really at our top level."

Reina Has Operation On Broken Nose

Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina has had an operation to fix a broken nose sustained during his side's 2-1 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford last Sunday.

The 30-year-old rushed out to prevent Shinji Kagawa from scoring in the first half but Andre Wisdom's block on the Japan international meant that the midfielder crashed into the Spaniard and left him injured.

Reina was able to continue for the remainder of the game but missed his side's 5-0 victory over Norwich City on Saturday and boss Brendan Rodgers confirmed that he had also aggravated a thigh injury during the loss at Old Trafford.

"Pepe was injured and Brad Jones came in and kept a clean sheet [against Norwich]," the Reds manager told reporters.

"He had a thigh problem before the game last week and he played and the assessment afterwards was it had got worse - plus he had broken his nose.

"He had an operation to fix the nose [on Friday] so we will see how he is by next week and review it from there."

Reina has struggled for form this season and has been put under pressure by backup keeper Jones, who came into the side and impressed during the Spaniard's absence through injury in October.

Liverpool stands seventh in the Premier League after finding form despite a troubled start to the season, six points behind fourth-placed Tottenham with 34 points from 23 games so far.