Monday, January 28, 2013

Match Report: Oldham 3 - 2 Liverpool

Striker Matt Smith chose the perfect occasion to score his first goals at Boundary Park as his first-half double helped npower League One Oldham produce an FA Cup upset in beating Liverpool.

The 23-year-old, who 18 months ago was playing non-league football with Solihull Moors, had the best day of his fragmented professional career after giving the Reds' defence a torrid time.

He scored either side of Luis Suarez's 21st of the season in the first half before Reece Wabara's header put the Latics into the last 16 despite Joe Allen's goal 11 minutes from time.

It was the first time Liverpool had been beaten away from home in the FA Cup by a team at least two divisions below them since defeat at non-league Worcester City in 1959.

Smith had given up on professional football after being released by Cheltenham aged 18 and went on to gain a degree in International Management with American Studies from the University of Manchester.

While studying he played for the likes of Redditch United, Droylsden and Solihull Moors - where he was spotted by Oldham.

Prior to this game he had scored only scored seven times in 60 appearances for the Latics but none will have been as enjoyable as his two in the first half against the seven-time FA Cup winners from the Barclays Premier League.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers' decision to alter three of the back four among six changes proved calamitous as infrequent starter Sebastian Coates had a game to forget.

Oldham, with only one win in their last nine games, had beaten progressively higher-ranked opposition in Kidderminster, Doncaster and Nottingham Forest to reach the fourth round for the first time in five years.

But it was not fate which got them through as the Latics' no-nonsense, battling approach deservedly put them ahead.

Smith gave indication of his threat in just the third minute with the sort of goal you associate with a player of his physical stature.

Youssouf M'Changama swung over a cross from the left and the 23-year-old used every inch of his 6ft 6in frame to out-muscle Coates and head past Brad Jones.

The first half had an edge to it as Oldham, having taken one point from a possible 24 in the league, tried to close the gap of 56 places with endeavour and exuberance.

However, it was Liverpool youngster Raheem Sterling who was first to be booked for challenge on M'Changama which ultimately forced the Oldham midfielder off after just 10 minutes.

Robbie Simpson, a scorer at Anfield in Oldham's 5-1 third-round defeat last season, was also cautioned for going in on Jones after the goalkeeper had failed to hold the ball - which turned out to be a pre-cursor of what was to come.

Former Everton midfielder Jose Baxter did his best to make life difficult for the red half of Merseyside, twice shooting wide from distance, but it was Suarez who was next to feature and significantly so.

The Uruguay international, captaining the side, set off on a driving run from deep and looked to pass but got a lucky rebound off defender Cliff Byrne and reacted quickly to hammer the ball inside Dean Bouzanis' left-hand post.

It was his fifth goal in six FA Cup appearances and his eighth strike in as many games.

His touch to Jordan Henderson's inswinging free-kick then diverted the ball into the net only to be denied by an offside flag.

Sterling should have scored after Suarez's pass was backheeled into his path by Fabio Borini but he shot straight at the keeper.

But Oldham remained unbowed as they took great heart from the physical battles they were winning and were rewarded with a second goal moments before the interval.

Smith, who had already had a header tipped over by Jones in added time, converted the simplest of chances after a howler by the Liverpool goalkeeper who fumbled Wabara's cross to allow Simpson to square a pass for the striker to poke home.

Borini had the chance to equalize from Jack Robinson's cross with the second half less than a minute old but he side-footed over and it proved costly.

The visitors' defensive fallibility in the air was exposed again as Carl Winchester swung a cross to the far post and Wabara rose above Robinson to head over Jones into the far corner.

Steven Gerrard's introduction from the bench was not long in coming and the England captain soon had a shot blocked from which Daniel Sturridge blazed over.

Allen pulled one back with 11 minutes to go to with a shot which deflected in off Baxter but Oldham held on to reach the fifth round for the first time in 19 years.

Rodgers Disappointed By Liverpool Youngsters

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers expressed disappointment with his young players following the Reds' shock FA Cup defeat to Oldham Athletic.

The Northern Irishman gave the likes of Jack Robinson, Andre Wisdom and Sebastian Coates an opportunity to start at Boundary Park but saw his side end up on the wrong end of a 3-2 result.

"We were coming here in good form and obviously we are bitterly disappointed," Rodgers told BBC Sport.

"I was bitterly disappointed with the young players as they had a chance to show they can play for Liverpool and compete for a club that has to challenge for trophies.

"We lost our concentration, and only had spells in the last 35 minutes when we were at the right level. Congratulations to Oldham, though.

"Our mentality was poor and it ended up costing us.

"We are trying to give [young players] experience and let them see what it's like to play for Liverpool, but you've got to be able to be competitive and part of a group that is going to challenge for trophies.

"If you are going to win trophies and go far, then you need to come to places like Oldham and win. We were not good enough.

"Gerrard has come on with Stewart Downing and, for 35 minutes we were terrific, but it was too late then. We were 3-1 down and it was not good enough.

"But I can't rely on Steven for 70 games. He's been incredible, but he shouldn't be expected to have to come and win games on his own.

"You can't be comfortable at Liverpool. The youngsters are never allowed to be. This is a different type of football to the Premier League and you have to stand up and be counted."

Inter President Urges Coutinho To Make Liverpool Switch

Inter Milan president Massimo Moratti has urged Coutinho to take the opportunity to move to the Premier League, as Liverpool attempt to bring the young Brazilian to Anfield before the transfer window closes.

Brendan Rodgers has been hopeful of making the attacking midfielder his second signing of the January transfer window following the arrival of Daniel Sturridge at the beginning of the month. The club has already made two bids for the 20-year-old in recent weeks, and it is thought that the two clubs are close to coming to an agreement on a fee for the player, boosted by Moratti’s latest comments.

"There are certain opportunities that should be taken," Moratti said, ESPN report. "Sometimes players are able to get more playing time, and so I think it could be a great opportunity for Coutinho and a deal that might work out well for us."

Southampton has previously been in the running for Coutinho, with Saints reportedly ready to outbid Liverpool for the Brazilian. A €13.7 million bid could be enough for the Merseyside outfit to get their man, with Inter keen to secure the funds needed to push through a move for Corinthians midfielder Paulinho.

Liverpool Taking A Look At Christian Benteke

Aston Villa fear that a selection of the top Premier League clubs want to sign their prized asset Christian Benteke.

The Belgian has already scored 11 goals for a struggling Aston Villa side and the Daily Mail believe that Champions Manchester City, Tottenham, Liverpool and Arsenal have all expressed their interest in signing him.

Benteke was signed for £7.5 million in the summer from Genk and they feel that despite the interest they will be able to keep hold of him until the summer but they could struggle to keep him, especially if they were to get relegated.

Villa fans will be concerned given the history of owner Randy Lerner when it comes to the club’s top players. He has cashed in on the likes of Ashley Young, Stewart Downing, James Milner and Gareth Barry in recent years.

Chelsea & Liverpool Scramble For Vitesse Arnhem Star

Vitesse Arnhem are ready to sell Wilfried Bony before the end of the transfer window and this has caught the attention of Premier League duo Chelsea and Liverpool.

The 24 year old is contracted at the Dutch club until 2015 and is currently away at the African Cup of Nations, but Vitesse general manager Erwin Kasakowski has said that they will not stand in his way if a big club comes in.

"We have promised Wilfried that we will consider any serious offers from him that would take him a step higher," he told AD. "But it must be good for both parties.

"Currently we have received no bids, and frankly we would rather Wilfried stays."

Russian side CSKA Moscow is also tracking the forward and could ramp up their interest before the close of the transfer window.

Bony has scored 16 goals in 18 league outings this term after striking 17 times last season.

Liverpool & Everton Close In On Chesterfield Youngster

Chesterfield chief executive Chris Turner says the club is willing to listen to offers from Liverpool and Everton for midfield sensation Tendayi Darikwa.

Both Merseyside clubs are reportedly poised to launch a £2million bid for the 21-year-old winger, who scooped the League Two Young Player of the Month award for December.

Numerous Premier League sides have been tracking Darikwa and Turner has confirmed that Liverpool and Everton have sent scouts to watch the youngster.

"Tendayi is a fantastic talent and we would never stand in the way of a player from moving to a Premier League club," Turner said.

"A lot of top clubs have been tracking him for quite a while and it is no surprise - Tendayi is a player with exceptional potential who deserves to play at the very top.

"We had this situation with Jordan Bowery in the summer when he moved to Aston Villa - Chesterfield is a great place for young players to improve and show people what they can do.

"If a bid were to come we would of course sit down and discuss it."

Darikwa graduated from the Chesterfield youth set-up and signed a three-year contract in November.

Liverpool Eye Move For Tottenham Starlet

Liverpool fans have been kept busy with rumours all transfer window inside the Football Transfer Tavern, and Tom Collomosse of the Evening Standard has another for them concerning a young Tottenham midfielder.

Highly rated Alex Pritchard is reportedly Brendan Rodgers’ latest target, after catching the eye during Spurs’ development matches this year, notably in their remarkable 4-1 win at Barcelona in the NextGen Series.

However, Pritchard is yet to break into Andre Villas-Boas’ first team squad, and Rodgers who has used a host of young players for Liverpool this season has begun plotting his move.

Pritchard turns 20 in May, and with his contract running down he is thought to be considering his options.

Alex Inglethorpe coached Pritchard during his six year spell as a Tottenham youth coach, and having moved to become reserve team coach at Liverpool, retains a strong interest in the attacking midfielder.

Tottenham are set to offer the player a new deal, although it is understood he is keen to keep his options open.

Any move away from the club would entitle Spurs to compensation with the North London club having developed the player, although Liverpool feel any fee they would have to pay would turn out to be a bargain in the long run.

Gremio Deny Coates Interest

Gremio have rejected claims that they are poised to sign Liverpool defender Sebastian Coates before the transfer window closes on Thursday.

There had been suggestions that the Uruguay international could be on his way back to South America, with the Brazilian side reported to be ready to offer £7million for his services.

Coates has struggled to make any real impact at Anfield since his arrival from Nacional back in August 2011, starting just five Premier League games in that time.

He had an opportunity to impress during Sunday's FA Cup fourth round clash with Oldham at Boundary Park, but endured a miserable afternoon as the Reds were beaten 3-2 by the League One outfit.

That had led to suggestions that Brendan Rodgers could be ready to part company with the centre-back and use any funds generated to bolster his squad.

But Gremio director Rui Costa has flatly denied that they are looking to sign the 22-year-old from the Premier League club.

Costa told UOL: "You can forget that, just forget it."

Borini and Sturridge Re-ignite Rivalry

As promising young strikers at Chelsea, Fabio Borini and Daniel Sturridge were fighting for a first-team place.

Now, with Sturridge's transfer to Liverpool and Borini returning to fitness, the rivalry is set to reignite a battle for a start alongside controversial goal machine Luis Suarez.

England international Sturridge has already made an impressive start for Liverpool, hinting at good things to come from the partnership fans have dubbed 'Suarridge'. Italian forward Borini, on the other hand, hasn't had much of a chance to make his presence felt at Anfield, having spent the last three months out of action with a broken foot since his move from Roma in the summer.

Borini is keen to settle and become a core player at Liverpool, having had an unstable few years which have seen him join Swansea on loan whilst at Chelsea, then sold to Roma before being reacquired by Brendan Rodgers' former club.

Sturridge, while used fairly frequently at Chelsea, never quite cemented himself as a key starter, having been behind Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka and Fernando Torres in the pecking order, and is keen to become a first-team regular at the Merseyside club.

Borini told The Sun: "There was some rivalry for the position, like every team has, but we are good friends too.

"You have to fight for your place all the time, even in life.

"It is a big chance for us because we always waited for this chance to be part of a big project at a big club."

Both strikers started in the FA Cup loss to Oldham, but while Borini was substituted ten minutes into the second half, neither player could stop the Anfield outfit from exiting the competition.

U18s Ready For Al Kass Cup

Liverpool U18s are preparing for their opening game on Monday in the prestigious Al Kass Cup in Qatar, in which they'll be competing against the likes of Real Madrid and Inter Milan.

Steve Cooper's lads face local side Aspire Qatar in their opening group clash and the tournament promises to be a fantastic experience for the Academy youngsters.

Academy technical director and head of coaching Rodolfo Borrell told "It's a great experience fort the lads as we will face teams with different philosophies and mentalities and this will make the players grow 100 per cent.

"This is a great competition and it is fantastic for the lads to play against teams of this high quality.

"The most important thing for our Academy director Frank McParland and myself is we are trying to get as many of our players as possible playing against teams from all over the world. The likes of Real Madrid, Inter Milan, Paris Saint-Germain, Fluminese and Boca Juniors are also out here and it will be a great tournament.

"The conditions are a lot different from what the players are used to do but they will benefit greatly from that.

"We have brought a very young side out to Qatar as this is a tournament for players born in 1995, and we have lads born in 1996 and 1997, so it will be a good test and one we are really looking forward to it."

After taking on Aspire Qatar in their opening game on Monday the young Reds then face Esperance on Tuesday, with the top two teams in each group progressing to the knockout stages.

The quarter-finals get underway next Friday, with the final set to be held on Thursday, February 7. PSG were crowned the inaugural champions in 2012 after beating Juventus on penalties.