Monday, February 18, 2013

Match Report: Liverpool 5 - 0 Swansea

New signing Philippe Coutinho marked his Liverpool debut with a goal in a 5-0 win as an understrength Swansea side with one eye on a Wembley final next week put up little fight at Anfield.

The 20-year-old scored the important second goal moments after the break following Steven Gerrard's first-half penalty.

Jose Enrique, Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, also from the spot, finished off the visitors who rarely looked interested in, or capable of, making a contest of it.

Brendan Rodgers, facing the club he left in the summer for the third time this season, began the week talking up what an important seven days lay ahead.

But after a home defeat to West Brom and one against Zenit St Petersburg in the Europa League this game took on even more significance.

It was a match Liverpool effectively could not afford to do anything but win, although that only served to paper over the cracks which have been exposed recently.

As emphatic as the scoreline was - incredibly securing a first win over a top-10 side this season - it only served to prove just how frustrating the Reds can be.

Earlier in the week they created as many if not more chances against the Baggies but failed to put any away.

The same problem befell them in Russia, with a similar 2-0 defeat the outcome, but in some ways Swansea probably provided the ideal opposition for the Reds to end a five-match win-less run.

Physically unintimidating, with a bigger prize on offer in seven days' time, they were also the perfect team for the slight and youthful-looking Coutinho to make his first appearance since an £8.5million move from Inter Milan late last month.

Swansea boss Michael Laudrup, with his thoughts on next weekend's Capital One Cup final, did his predecessor a huge favour by naming a weakened side, selecting only four who beat QPR 4-1 last week and leaving out 15-goal striker Michu, captain Ashley Williams and Nathan Dyer.

Had Liverpool not beaten a side which was arguably not as strong as the one which defeated the Reds 3-1 in the League Cup in October, serious questions would have been asked.

After striker Roland Lamah's hopeful appeals for a handball against Glen Johnson were waved away by referee Howard Webb the match settled into a familiar and all-too-frustrating pattern for the hosts.

England right-back Johnson planted a free header well wide, Gerrard drilled a free-kick into the wall and Suarez fired the rebound over, before the Uruguay international whipped a 25-yard free-kick just over the bar and similarly dispatched a dipping volley.

The chances continued to be created and not converted as Sturridge missed the target with a close-range header before the £12million signing appeared to be brought down by Kyle Bartley.

Referee Howard Webb saw nothing untoward but worse was to follow as Liverpool's other January arrival Coutinho stabbed the loose ball wide with the goal at his mercy.

Webb was also unconvinced by Kemy Agustien's unnecessary challenge on Suarez close to the touchline but fortunately for the home side his assistant Mike Mularkey saw it differently and immediately flagged for a penalty.

Gerrard, having failed from the spot in front of the Kop against West Brom, went for the opposite corner and succeeded in beating Michel Vorm for Liverpool's first goal.

Sturridge had one more chance before the break but having been put through by Suarez his left-footed toe poke was blocked by the head of Bartley.

Swansea had shown little threat in the opening 45 minutes and any ideas they may have had about staging a comeback were snuffed out within 10 minutes of the restart.

In truth, the 16 seconds it took the 20-year-old Coutinho to skip through the visitors' defence and beat Vorm was all that was required.

However, a well-worked goal saw Enrique poke home Sturridge's pass before Suarez went past both Swansea's centre-backs to fire home the fourth.

The persevering Sturridge was denied again by Vorm as the Reds ploughed forward almost at will with Swansea seemingly powerless to stop them or provide any effective response of their own.

He finally got his goal but only courtesy of the generosity of Gerrard who relinquished penalty duties when substitute Wayne Routledge handled.

Liverpool, who finished with 10 men after third and final substitute Fabio Borini went off with a painful-looking shoulder injury, have now scored 17 goals in their last five home games with only the two conceded against West Brom spoiling a perfect run at Anfield.

The key for Rodgers, as it has been for the entire season, is to find a way of ensuring this is not just another flash in the pan as his side moved to within nine points of fourth-placed Tottenham.

Rodgers Praises Outstanding Performance Of His Team

Brendan Rodgers was a very happy man after Liverpool beat Swansea City 5-0, in what he described as an outstanding performance.

The Reds had lost their last two games against West Brom and Zenit St Petersburg 2-0, in the Premier League and the Europa League respectively.

He said: “For us it was a very important win and an outstanding performance. I think we really showed our character and mental toughness today to get our performance like that.”

As well as a clean sheet, the former Swansea boss was also buoyed by a debut goal for January signing Philippe Coutinho.

“The Premier League is very important to us. We had to focus and show great commitment today against a Swansea team that has been brilliant.’ he added.

“We’ve had a bumpy road this week. The last four games defensively we haven’t been at our best.”

Laudrup Shares Blame

Swansea manager Michael Laudrup accepted some of the blame for the "accident" of their 5-0 defeat at Liverpool but felt the players had to also take responsibility.

The Dane made seven changes - leaving 15-goal striker Michu and captain Ashley Williams on the bench - with one eye on next weekend's Capital One Cup final against Bradford.

It backfired spectacularly as his side was never in the match and barely managed to raise a competitive element to their game.

"We could have lost seven or eight nil easily had it not been for (goalkeeper) Michel Vorm and that is not good enough," said Laudrup.

"It is a little difficult to explain because I made a lot of changes so the first to blame is me because I picked the team.

"But I will not exclude players who were thinking about the game next week, which in a certain way is human logic because it will be the biggest game in the history of the club.

"One thing you can always ask is your team is competitive and after 45 minutes we were still in the game (at 1-0) but they came out and scored three goals in 10 minutes - you cannot do that.

"I don't want to believe that it was a lack of concentration because we had just talked about it in the dressing room after the first 45 minutes.

"I don't regret making the changes because I still think, until now, even when we lost we were competitive but (we were) never like this.

"I was sure this team could do well. It is obvious why Williams and Michu were not there.

"You can't put it only on those two, there were still some very good players on the pitch who had performed a lot of other times.

"I want to see this as a single accident maybe caused by what is going to happen in seven days - at least I hope so."

Swansea trailed at half-time to Steven Gerrard's penalty but they conceded another to Reds debutant Philippe Coutinho within 16 seconds of the kick-off after the interval, sparking a 10-minute spell which brought further goals from Jose Enrique, Luis Suarez before Daniel Sturridge converted a 71st-minute spot-kick.

Liverpool Could Pick Up Argentine For £4.5m

Liverpool could pick up Argentine playmaker Lucas Biglia for a bargain £4.5m in the summer.

Belgian champions Anderlecht are willing to let the 27-year-old go for around half his value after he fell out of favour.

And Brendan Rodgers is keeping a close eye on the situation, according to The Sun on Sunday.

Biglia, who has seven caps for Argentina, was suspended by the Belgian club after going AWOL earlier this season.

During the January transfer window, he returned home to Argentina in a bid to force through a move to a Premier League club.

Anderlecht's managing director Herman van Holsbeck said: 'If we get 5.5m Euros for Biglia during the next transfer window, we will be happy.'

He is also being monitored by Southampton - where compatriot Mauricio Pochettino is a well-known admirer - Real Madrid, Napoli and Fiorentina.

Rodgers Could Raid Swansea For Ashley Williams

Brendan Rodgers says he wants to “bring in some men” to his Liverpool squad this summer to eradicate the costly errors that have derailed the club’s season.

The floundering campaign has been attributed to the inexperience in the squad, the lack of senior players soon to be accentuated by Jamie Carragher’s retirement.

Thursday night’s 2-0 defeat at Zenit St Petersburg was the latest occasion when Liverpool have failed to convert their dominance into victory.

Rodgers has made no secret of the profile of player he is looking for following a period where all his major signings have been 23 or under.

“The biggest thing we need this summer is to bring in some men, some character that allows and supports the other men to see the games out,” said Rodgers. “That is the biggest thing for me. Look at Jamie Carragher, he is our best defender, he is 35 but we are losing that character. That has to be replaced. I also think there are other areas of the team that need improving.”

With the future of Martin Skrtel and Sebastian Coates also under discussion, it means Rodgers could need three new centre-backs.

Top of his wanted list is likely to be Swansea centre-half Ashley Williams, who was made captain when Rodgers was manager.

Williams, 29 in August, was recently handed the Wales armband. He is one of the best defenders in the Premier League but would cost at least £10 million.

With Swansea more likely to qualify for Europe than Liverpool, there would be no guarantee he could be so easily lured. But changes must be made, insists Rodgers. “This has been a difficult but real eye-opening period in terms of coming in to a club with such ambition. We just need that mentality to be clinical,” he said.

“That’s something we’ll talk about at the end of the season when we identify where improvements have to be made. I just want the best team, whether that is senior players, youth or the best which is the mixture. I always like to give young players hope but in order to do that they need that bit of experience alongside them.

“I don’t think massive surgery is needed. Daniel Sturridge came in and you saw the difference it made to the team. Maybe if we had a few more of his capacity in the group that could set us up.

But it is not wholesale changes. But in order for us to be up there consistently we need to improve in terms of our mentality. Technically we have shown we are very capable, tactically we have not been found wanting like in the two games against Arsenal and Man City.

“The condition and intensity of their work is high so that only leaves you one thing - mentality. That is the area which needs to improve and to do that we need character.”

Rodgers Planning Liverpool Clear-Out

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is planning a summer clear-out as he bids to stamp his authority on the Anfield squad.

As many as five first-team regulars are reportedly set to face the axe: Pepe Reina, Martin Skrtel, Jose Enrique, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing.

Liverpool will also allow Sebastian Coates to leave and seek a buyer for flop Andy Carroll, according to the Sunday Mirror.

Rodgers watched his side lost 2-0 to Zenit in the Europa League on Thursday which reinforced the need to overhaul his squad.

'An Anfield source told the Sunday Mirror: 'The manager has now imprinted his style of play on the club, but next season will be more important in terms of results.

'There are a lot of talented players at Liverpool, but the club needs people with strong mentalities who can perform under pressure.'

Rodgers, who hopes to keep striker Luis Suarez at the club, will concentrate on strengthening his defence.

Jamie Carragher is retiring and Skrtel would be allowed to return to Zenit for around £12million.

Swansea's Ashley Williams is Rodgers' main target as he hopes to be reunited with the centre back.

But Arsenal is among a host of clubs likely to rival Liverpool for his signature.

Liverpool's Borini Facing Lengthy Spell Out

Liverpool FC could be without Fabio Borini for the rest of the season after the Italian forward suffered a suspected dislocated shoulder against Swansea City AFC on Sunday.

The 21-year-old entered the fray with just 12 minutes remaining, as a replacement for Luis Suárez, but fell awkwardly and was forced off before the final whistle.

"It looks like Fabio Borini has a dislocated shoulder which will keep him out for the season," said manager Brendan Rodgers after the game.

"It is unfortunate. It is actually the other shoulder to a similar injury he had when he was at Chelsea. It is a big blow for us."

Capped once by Italy, Borini was an unused substitute in Liverpool's 2-0 UEFA Europa League round of 32 first-leg loss at FC Zenit St Petersburg on Thursday, having made two appearances in the competition this season.

Suso: Gerrard Now My Idol, Not Zidane

The 19-year-old Spaniard revealed the French legend was his favourite player until he played with the Anfield captain, whose desire to improve himself has been inspirational

Liverpool starlet Suso has revealed that Steven Gerrard has displaced Zinedine Zidane as his footballing idol, with the Anfield captain's work ethic being an inspiration to the youngster.

The 19-year-old joined the Premier League club in 2010 from Cadiz, and the promising midfielder has since made 18 appearances for the Reds.

And while France legend Zidane will always have a place in his heart, the Spaniard says it is 32-year-old England captain's dedication to personal improvement which sets him apart from the rest of the footballing world.

"When I was young I'd always say Zidane but since I've been here I would say Stevie [Gerrard]," Suso told Liverpool's official website when asked who his footballing idol was.

"Every time I see him it's like he's from another world. He works hard every day and he always wants to improve even though he has won almost everything.

"At 32, he still wants to keep getting better. That shows me how much I have to learn."

Alonso: Rodgers Right Man For Liverpool

Former Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso insists Brendan Rodgers must be given more time to improve the club's fortunes.

The Spain international, who spent five years at Anfield before leaving to join Real Madrid in 2009, believes Rodgers is building the foundations for success.

Liverpool faces the prospect of missing out on next season's Champions League and failing to win a trophy after a frustrating week.

They are 12 points adrift of a top-four Premier League spot after losing at home to West Brom last Monday, while their Europa League chances suffered a huge dent with a 2-0 defeat in the first leg of their last-32 tie away to Zenit St Petersburg on Thursday.

Rodgers, who took over as Liverpool's manager in June, has acknowledged that the club may well have to wait until next season to achieve what they desire. But Alonso, 31, insists the former Swansea boss is the right man for the Anfield job.

He told BBC's Football Focus program: "With Brendan, Liverpool are building a project. They need to be patient. We all want to see Liverpool fighting for the Champions League places."

Alonso, who scored the equalizer when Liverpool came from three goals down to beat AC Milan on penalties in the 2005 Champions League final, has fond memories of his five years at Anfield.

"I still follow the Premier League and I still feel much attached to Liverpool and I follow them. I consider myself a Liverpool fan," he said.

Liverpool was badly affected by Alonso's departure for Madrid, which came after 12 months of speculation about his long-term Anfield future.

"After five years, I think I needed a change," Alonso said. "It was the right time. It was a difficult decision to take at that time, but some things happen."

Alonso's days at Anfield seemed numbered after Rafael Benitez spent the summer of 2008 unsuccessfully pursuing a deal for Gareth Barry. It was widely believed at the time that Benitez would sell Alonso to raise the money to bring in Barry from Aston Villa, and the Spaniard began to feel that he was ready to move on.

Alonso felt that his departure was inevitable by the time he did leave Anfield in 2009. "Not that summer but the summer before, when they tried to tell me that I wasn't as important [to the club], and they said to me that I could leave and I said 'OK', I said 'That's football'.

"But as well it came to my mind that my position it was different and the following summer I thought that was maybe the right time to leave.

"After I left, performances and so many things happen and that's always the way. Some players come and others go, and I don't consider that [Liverpool declined] because of my departure."