Thursday, January 31, 2013

Match Report: Arsenal 2 - 2 Liverpool

Arsenal fought back from two goals down to draw with Liverpool in a thrilling Barclays Premier League clash at the Emirates Stadium.

Both sides knew defeat could prove fatal to their hopes of closing back up on the top four, but neither looked ready to settle for anything other than all three points in an open and entertaining match.

Liverpool took an early lead through Luis Suarez after terrible defending by Arsenal, and then looked to be in complete control when Jordan Henderson walked in a second on the hour.

However, as so often in a frustrating season, the Gunners suddenly burst into life as in-form Olivier Giroud reduced the deficit with a close-range header and Theo Walcott then rattled in an equalizer.

There were more chances at each end, but defeat for either side would have been an injustice.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers had recalled his regulars, making seven changes from the side humiliated at Oldham in the FA Cup on Sunday.

It was a bright start by the Reds, their travelling support displaying a banner protesting against the infamous £62 tickets for away fans.

An early slip by Bacary Sagna let Glen Johnson away down the left.

His cross into the Arsenal penalty area was miskicked by Thomas Vermaelen, just back from an ankle injury, and Wojciech Szczesny produced a good reaction save from Daniel Sturridge at the far post.

Midfielder Aaron Ramsey, though, failed to clear with a tame flick and the ball broke for Suarez, whose curling shot then deflected off Per Mertesacker to wrongfoot the goalkeeper.

Arsenal almost produced an immediate response as Walcott got ahead of Jamie Carragher, but his snapshot was straight at Jose Reina.

The match remained open, with Sturridge dragging an angled shot across the face of goal. Arsenal also continued to press, and Reina was again called into action as he turned a curling effort from Walcott around the post.

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard then produced some desperate defending as he hooked Lukas Podolski's cross through the six-yard box behind.

The visitors, though, almost made it 2-0 on 27 minutes when Szczesny got nowhere near a corner from the left and Daniel Agger's header was hacked off the line by Podolski.

Arsenal was forced into a change before half-time when Kieran Gibbs hobbled off and Brazil defender Andre Santos came on.

Szczesny was almost caught out when rushing from his goal to close down Henderson on the left corner of the penalty area, but the Liverpool midfielder chipped the ball onto the roof of the net - much to the relief of the backpedalling Poland goalkeeper.

Arsenal came close to a leveller early in the second half when Podolski floated a pass from the left out to the far post, where Walcott arrived to head it just over.

It proved a costly miss as Liverpool extended their lead on the hour.

Henderson battled past Santos and into the right side of the penalty area, before then holding off two more defenders. As the ball bounced back off Ramsey's boot, he stabbed it past Szczesny.

Arsenal needed an immediate response, and got it on 64 minutes when Giroud planted a header into the far corner from Jack Wilshere's right-wing free-kick.

Before Liverpool could settle, the Gunners were level.

Santi Cazorla worked the ball out on the right side of the penalty area to Giroud. His lay-off teed up Walcott just outside the six-yard box and the England forward lashed an angled drive across Reina into the far corner.

Walcott curled a 20-yard effort just wide after running along the edge of the Liverpool box.

Gerrard was somewhat fortunate to only have been shown a yellow card by referee Kevin Friend after jumping in with his foot raised on Mertesacker.

The 6ft 7in German was, though, soon up again as he headed a free-kick from Wilshere just over at the near post.

Reina saved at full stretch from Giroud as Arsenal looked for a late winner, with the Frenchman then scuffing an effort from close range.

Suarez saw a late strike turned away by Szczesny in stoppage time as a thrilling encounter finally ended all square.

Rodgers: The Kids Are Alright

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has highlighted the positive performance of the club's youth brigade despite his squad letting a two-goal lead slip against Arsenal in the English Premier League.

Ready to forgive and forget for the shock FA Cup defeat to Oldham, Rodgers praised the ability of Liverpool's next generation to jump back from an abysmal performance.

And in a surprise about-face from the conciliatory 40-year-old, Rodgers said it was he who should shoulder the blame for Liverpool's untimely FA Cup exit.

"Sunday was more my fault than theirs," Rodgers admitted. "I'm a great believer in young players, I look at the depth of our squad and put a lot of trust in them.

"The problem is when I put them in and I don't have some of our big players its difficult. And that's how it as on Sunday. But I never had any second thoughts that I would get a reaction."

However, Wednesday's 2-2 draw at the Emirates Stadium was another blow for the Anfield club after Theo Walcott and Oliver Giroud cancelled out the earlier strikes of Luis Suarez and Jordan Henderson, leaving Liverpool three points behind its London rival and three spots outside a Champions League berth.

Jordan Happy To Make His Point

Midfielder Jordan Henderson said Liverpool were satisfied to be taking a point back to Merseyside after their thrilling 2-2 draw at Arsenal.

Luis Suarez and Henderson put Liverpool 2-0 up at the Emirates but Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott hit back with two quickfire second-half goals to level it up.

Henderson admitted there was some disappointment in the Liverpool changing room because they had let a two-goal lead slip - but insists that overall the mood was "positive."

"It was a good game of football. I thought we played well at times but we had a spell when they scored two goals when we were under pressure," he told Sky Sports.

"But overall I think we've got to go away positive, it's a good point - Arsenal are a good team.

"I think we've got to be happy but having gone 2-0 up, we're a little disappointed to have conceded two goals so quickly."

Henderson has now scored two in his last two games and after a difficult start to his Anfield career he admits he is finally enjoying himself.

"It's nice obviously to be getting chances and scoring as well but I think the team is helping me get in some great positions because of the movement of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge," he said.

"I think as a team we're playing quite well at the moment. We've just got to keep going and keep pushing up the league."

No More Signings At Liverpool, Insists Rodgers

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has claimed that it’s very unlikely they will sign any more players on transfer deadline day.

The Reds have already brought in Daniel Sturridge and Phillipe Coutinho during the January window as they look to strengthen their squad for a late assault on the top four.

But Rodgers reckons they won’t be doing any business, despite the usual late scramble for signings.

He said: “We got Sturridge in early on and obviously young Coutinho will be a terrific signing for us. He’ll add that excitement and offensive threat at the top end of the field.

“I can’t see any more coming in.”

Liverpool Unlikely To Sign Ince In January

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers admits that there is little chance of the club signing Blackpool winger Thomas Ince before the January transfer window closes.

The Reds boss has been keen on bringing the starlet back to Anfield, the 21-year-old having scored 15 goals in 27 appearances for Michael Appleton's side so far this season.

"It will be difficult. I don't think there'll be any more coming in," Rodgers told the post-match press conference after his team's 2-2 draw with Arsenal on Wednesday night.

"If Tom stays at Blackpool [in this window] it doesn't mean he will never come to Liverpool.

"We could've done the deal but it looks too complicated at this stage. It's about affordability as well."

Liverpool is believed to have tabled an offer of £6million for the highly rated winger but the bid falls short of the Seasiders' valuation of the player.

Premier League strugglers Reading have also made an attempt to snap up the youngster, with Brian McDermott hoping the lure of first-team football will convince Ince to move to the Madejski Stadium.

Liverpool Sign Inter Milan Midfielder

Liverpool has completed the £8.5m signing of Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho from Inter Milan.

The 20-year-old was granted a work permit by the Home Office after a hearing in London on Tuesday.

"I'm feeling very happy, it's a very important step in my career," Coutinho told Liverpool's official website.

"Liverpool is a great club with great players. We've always heard about Liverpool's history in Brazil. I know they believe in me and my football."

Southampton were also interested in Coutinho, who becomes Liverpool's second signing of the transfer window following the capture of striker Daniel Sturridge from Chelsea at the beginning of the month.

Playmaker Coutinho, who has one cap for Brazil, is a product of Vasco da Gama's youth system.

He was bought by Inter in 2008, at the age of 16, for €4m, although the Serie A side immediately loaned him back to Vasco, because foreigners are prohibited from playing professional football in Italy until they are 18.

However, he struggled to make an impact when he returned to Italy and spent half a season on loan at Spanish side Espanyol in January 2012 before attracting strong interest from Liverpool.

"We're always delighted when we get the players we go after," said Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre.

"It has been a successful transfer window for us, coming off the back of acquiring Daniel Sturridge from Chelsea and now Philippe from Inter Milan.

"I think that bodes well for us for the rest of the season and the future."

Coutinho Hails Liverpool’s History

Philippe Coutinho has paid tribute to Liverpool and their rich history after completing his £8.5million move to Anfield from Inter Milan.

The 20-year-old play-maker, who has signed a five-year-deal contract after completing a medical, moves to the Reds after turning down a switch to Southampton.

And according to Coutinho, it’s Liverpool’s history that made the transfer a no-brainer.

‘Liverpool is a great club with great players,’ said Coutinho.

‘We’ve always heard about Liverpool’s history in Brazil. They are the club that have been interested in me and that have showed this interest so I know they believe in me and my football.’

The switch comes about after Liverpool finally agreed terms with Inter over the weekend, having initially fallen behind to Southampton in the race.

Liverpool will pay the full price up front, and Coutinho says he is delighted after signing up and being handed the number 10 shirt.

‘I’m feeling very happy, it’s a very important step in my career and I’m expecting to come here and play good football to give my contribution on the pitch.’

We Had To Fight For Coutinho

Liverpool have confirmed the signing of Philippe Coutinho and managing director Ian Ayre has said that they had to fight off other clubs to capture the Brazilian.

Coutinho is the second January signing that the Reds have made during the January transfer window and Ayre hopes that the 20 year old can build on an impressive start to his career at Anfield.

"We're always delighted when we get the players we go after," Ayre told

"It has been a successful transfer window for us, coming off the back of acquiring Daniel Sturridge from Chelsea and now Philippe from Inter Milan.

"I think that bodes well for us for the rest of the season and the future.

"He's obviously a very young player but has already proved himself in the Brazilian U19s, U20s and a first cap. He has been a really important player for them and now for us.

"The most important thing is that he gets settled with training, the backroom staff get him involved and then get him on the pitch as soon as possible.

"We certainly fought off strong competition from others. In the early parts of discussions, I know Inter Milan were reluctant.

"But we did some good work, the whole team that work around this got involved and I'm pleased to say we secured him."

Diakite: Liverpool First Choice

“Liverpool is our first choice,” said the agent of Lazio defender Modibo Diakite, although only on a free transfer in June.

The 25-year-old centre-back has only made one Coppa Italia appearance this season due to a contract dispute, as he has refused to sign an extension and turned down several transfer opportunities.

“Liverpool is our first choice for June,” declared agent Ulisse Savini.

“It would be very difficult to say no to a club like that.”

Diakite has also been linked with Juventus in recent weeks and will be a free agent at the end of the season.

Liverpool Will Offer Gerrard A New Contract

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has hinted that the club will offer Steven Gerrard a new contract at the end of the season.

The club captain is contracted to Anfield until the summer of 2014, but the club is yet to enter serious discussions regarding an extension for the 32-year-old. After an injury-ravaged 2011/12 season, Gerrard has been ever-present in Rodgers’ side this season, helping maintain the balance between experience and youth in the side.

Gerrard has maintained an influential role in the Liverpool side under Rodgers’s management, and the former Swansea City boss’ comments strongly suggest the midfielder will be offered a new deal to keep him at Anfield beyond 2014.

"As yet I don't believe anything has been done [about a new contract]," Rodgers told The Guardian.

"Steven and I have spoken a number of times. His feeling the last time we spoke was to get through this season and see how that goes. His focus is on really helping the group to go forward.

"There's no doubt that, between now and the end of this season, the contract will be looked at. With each day that goes on, you see the real importance he still has to the club. At 32 years of age, he still looks so fit, strong, and you can see his influence on the team."

Despite his advancing years, Gerrard has featured in every minute of every Premier League game this season, underlining his continued influence in Liverpool’s young side.

Roy Hodgson Risks Liverpool Wrath

Roy Hodgson has decided Raheem Sterling should play in this summer's Under-21 European Championship in June but wants to keep Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain with the senior team as he prepares for the next World Cup.

Hodgson has also decided to free up Manchester United's new signing Wilfried Zaha and Sterling's Liverpool team-mate Jonjo Shelvey for the Under-21 tournament in Israel after discussions with the team's manager, Stuart Pearce.

However, Hodgson's decision means the Under-21s will effectively be without their two best players and Pearce will be unable to build his team around Wilshere as he had wanted.

Hodgson's thinking is that Wilshere and Oxlade-Chamberlain are now such an important part of the senior team it would be better to take them to Brazil for the 2 June friendly in the Maracanã and give them a taste of football in South America before England, qualification permitting, return for the World Cup next year.

The England manager's intentions will become clearer on Thursday when he excludes Sterling, Zaha and Shelvey from his 25-man squad for next Wednesday's game against Brazil at Wembley. All three were included in England's last game, the defeat by Sweden in November, but will miss out this time after Hodgson and Pearce agreed it would be better for the trio to be involved in the Under-21s game against Sweden in Walsall on Tuesday, with a view to preparing for this summer's tournament. Wilshere and Oxlade-Chamberlain will stick with the senior side.

The move heads off another potential club-versus-country row with Arsène Wenger after his previous complaints about the England team putting Arsenal's players at the risk of burn-out. However, Hodgson's decision is not guaranteed to go down well at Liverpool, where there are similar concerns about Sterling in his breakthrough season. The 18-year-old has started 19 of Liverpool's 24 Premier League games and appeared in all six of their Europa League games. No other player at Anfield has been involved in more matches this campaign and Sterling's season will now not finish until potentially 18 June.

Hodgson, who has been giving strong consideration to calling up Chris Smalling, has debated his selection at length with Pearce and agreed that it would be better for Zaha, Sterling and Shelvey to get tournament experience rather than being involved in the trip to Rio. Hodgson would not relax his position, however, when it came to Wilshere and Oxlade-Chamberlain. The provisional plan is for the two players to play against the Republic of Ireland on 29 May and then fly to Rio with the rest of the squad the following day.

The Football Association has spoken to its Brazilian counterpart about wearing black armbands at Wembley and possibly holding a minute's silence or applause for the victims of the nightclub fire in the South American country last weekend. The game also falls on the 55th anniversary of the Munich air disaster and the FA is looking at ways of commemorating both tragedies.