Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Match Report: Liverpool 3 - 2 Tottenham

Luis Suarez edged the battle of the player of the year contenders as he scored and earned the match-winning penalty to eclipse Gareth Bale and keep Liverpool's slim top-four hopes alive with a 3-2 victory over Tottenham.

The Premier League's leading scorer drew first blood with his 29th goal of the season - and 22nd in the top flight - and, although his opposite number had a hand in both of Tottenham's strikes, the Uruguay international had the last laugh by winning the late spot-kick from which Steven Gerrard scored.

Centre-back Jan Vertonghen had scored twice after Suarez had put the home side ahead only for calamitous misjudgements by Kyle Walker and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris to gift Stewart Downing the equalizer.

Suarez showed again just how sharp he is in the penalty area with an instinctive first-half finish and while Bale's danger was restricted to crosses he could not match his rival's threat in the penalty area.

The Wales international drilled in an early swerving free-kick which Brad Jones, back in the side because of Jose Reina's calf injury, batted away unconvincingly but then had to cede centre-stage to Suarez.

Philippe Coutinho, who impressed last week at Wigan and had already curled a shot over, combined well down left with Jose Enrique, starting the move with a cheeky backheel.

The pair then exchanged passes before Enrique, holding off Walker, slid a perfectly-weighted pass for Suarez to run onto and surprise Lloris at his near post with the outside of his right foot.

Bale's response was to plant one left-footed shot into the Kop and then drive an angled right-footed effort wide

Gylfi Sigurdsson, who rejected a summer move to Anfield, missed an even better opportunity from Bale's flick as he shot wide of Jones' right-hand post with only the goalkeeper to beat.

Suarez had been receiving particularly close attention from the visitors without much interest from referee Mike Oliver but when Gerrard challenged for a header with Tottenham's flying Welshman the Reds captain was penalized by a free-kick in the centre-circle.

Bale - playing mainly through the middle - went off after treatment which allowed him to rejoin play on the right wing and this contributed, in some part, to the equalizer on the stroke of half-time.

The ball was soon worked out to him on that flank and he curled a left-footed cross over the head of Jamie Carragher, on his 500th league appearance, for Vertonghen to get in front of Glen Johnson and head inside far post.

Liverpool may have been aggrieved they did not get a penalty late in the half when Coutinho appeared to be pulled back by Walker as he tried to get on the end of a cross but they had conceded 10 minutes' of pressure to the visitors.

Bale played a part in Tottenham's second just after the break when his free-kick was weakly headed down by Carragher to Vertonghen who fired home.

A trademark driving run by the Wales international saw him pick out Sigurdsson in acres of space at the far post but his shot was deflected onto a post by Johnson.

Liverpool had lost all their composure and their disposition was not helped by Jones flapping at a Moussa Dembele shot but it was Tottenham's nerves which faltered next.

Walker's attempted an inexplicable back-pass/crossfield ball from the right touchline which succeeded only in drawing Lloris out of his goal to clear.

When he failed Downing nipped in to advance on goal and drill a shot through the legs of Vertonghen on the line.

The pace of the game went up a notch and Sturridge headed into the side-netting and Bale nodded wide before another dreadful backpass, this time by Jermain Defoe, forced Benoit Assou-Ekotto to barge into Suarez.

Gerrard, so often Liverpool's big man for the big occasion, stepped up to slot home his ninth of an increasingly profitable campaign.

Rodgers: We Were Good Value

Brendan Rodgers hailed Liverpool’s ‘big win’ in their 3-2 victory over Spurs.

Goals from Suarez, Downing and a late penalty from Steven Gerrard led to the win and Rodgers was happy that the team has found their form.

"It is a big win," he told The Guardian. |It is a big game when you are playing against an opponent that has been challenging for the Champions League for the last three or four years. It's a few years since Liverpool have beaten Tottenham. This is another marker in terms of our growth."

"We're on a great run and we knew this would be a severe test of our qualities and our character.

"They're a team on great form and have been together for a few years. For us to get the three points was fantastic and I'm delighted for the players because they've worked ever so hard.

"It's not important that we're sixth. It's just important that we continue to move – it was always going to be difficult early on. But you could see the mentality on Sunday. This was a real test and I think we had to show different characteristics to what we have in the last few weeks. We've been comfortable in a lot of games and been able to control them. But against a top side we were able to come through. We had to make some changes and once we did that we were good value."

Carragher Hails Massive Win

Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher hailed the performance as they clinched a dramatic 3-2 victory against Tottenham at Anfield.

The Londoners were on course for a valuable three points when Belgian defender Jan Vertonghen struck twice either side of half-time after Luis Suarez gave the hosts an early lead.

But Stewart Downing capitalized on woeful defending to equalize and then Steven Gerrard put a dent in Spurs' bid to qualify for the UEFA Champions League with the winner from the penalty spot.

Carragher told Sky Sports: "I think the turnabout was the second goal, really. Tottenham were playing well at the start of the second half and went ahead and it's not something that we've done too often this season, come from behind, so it's a massive win for us.

"We showed character and quality to beat a top team like Tottenham.

The 35-year-old also praised man of the match Luis Suarez for his contribution, saying: "I've been saying it for how long that Luis has been a top player and we're delighted to have him.

"There's a lot of talk of him, (Gareth) Bale and (Robin) van Persie for the Player of the Year award but the two today are top players. Bale showed some tremendous touches but he (Suarez) is man of the match so he's obviously come out on top today."

But Carragher is unsure whether Brendan Rodgers' side can qualify for the Champions League, despite closing the gap on fourth-placed Chelsea to seven points.

"It's something we'd love to get, but at the moment we're not thinking about that," he said. "We're winning games and just concentrating on the next game, so I'd say the way we're playing, we should just carry and playing and see where we end up at the end of the season."

Gerrard: Spurs Victory Proves We Can Compete

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard believes that his side's first win against a top five team this season demonstrates that they can compete with the best in the Premier League.

Until they picked up all three points at the weekend the Reds had only managed to take four points off any of the teams above them and Gerrard hailed the victory.

"It's a big win for us. With our performances against the top sides this season I think we've been very unlucky not to get a win,” he told Sky Sports.

"It's been too long so there's a bit of relief really that we have proved we can beat one of the top sides in the league.

"I think on current form, along with ourselves, Tottenham are probably the best team in the league."

"When we went out of the Europa League the message from the manager was that we needed to try to win as many of our remaining games as possible.

"Our form is good but we can't afford to get carried away just because we've beaten Tottenham. We need to show what we've shown in all of our remaining games. We want to finish above Everton and as high as we can in the league."

The England skipper also went on to praise Liverpool's goalkeeping coach who put together a video for him to watch, should he get an opportunity to take a penalty.

"There are so many details that go into the games nowadays. John did a montage on their goalie for me before the game.

"He (Hugo Lloris) consistently went to the right and I think he had saved four out of eight going to his right.

"I was always going to his left having watched that, but if I had never got that montage then I would probably have gone to his right so credit to John."

Mounir El Hamdaoui Linked With Move To Liverpool

Fiorentina striker Mounir El Hamdaoui admits he’s flattered to be linked with a move to Liverpool.

The former Ajax star only moved to the Stadio Artemio Franchi in the summer, but speculation in Morocco suggests the player could be on the move once again at the end of the season.

And, the link to Anfield is one that delights the player, with El Hamdaoui happy to admit that playing for the Reds would be a dream.

"Being linked with Liverpool is flattering but I really think it is paper talk so far,” he told Sky Sports.

“Liverpool is a great club and to play there in a legendary stadium like Anfield would be fantastic and a dream. But I am at Fiorentina and I'm happy."

Brendan Rodgers isn’t flush with attacking options on Merseyside, with Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge the only central options following the latter’s arrival during the January transfer window.

Andy Carroll may also be available if West Ham rejects the option to sign the England forward permanently, although the former Newcastle-man appears to be out-of-favour with Rodgers after his exit for east London.

28-year-old El Hamdaoui would add experience to the Liverpool attack, having previously played in three different countries, although his 18-month spell at Tottenham Hotspur between January 2005 and June 2006 was anything but a success.

Liverpool Closing In On Polgar

Liverpool are expected to give a contract to 16-year-old Hungarian Kristof Polgar after he impressed during a trial.

The 16-year-old centre-half took in two spells at Anfield during January and February, allowing him to catch the eye of the Reds' coaching staff.

His representatives are confident that an agreement will be reached to take the promising youngster to England on a permanent basis.

Tibor Pataky, director of the Careers Management Group which owns Polgar's registration, told www.csakfoci.hu: "Kristof trialled with Liverpool on two occasions earlier in the year, and he and his parents are currently in Liverpool enjoying the hospitality of the club.

"We are looking forward to an exciting day, and in a few days the Hungarian presence at Liverpool will be extended."

Liverpool already have Hungarian goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi in their first-team squad, while Krisztian Adorjan is captain of their Under-21 side.

Joe Allen To Have Shoulder Surgery

Liverpool midfielder Joe Allen is to have surgery on a shoulder problem, manager Brendan Rodgers has confirmed.

The Wales international, on the bench for the Premier League match at home to Tottenham having started the 4-0 win at Wigan last week, needs an operation to fix an established injury.

"We made a change on Sunday with Joe Allen having been struggling since October with his shoulder and he'll probably need an operation," the Reds boss told Sky Sports.

Pepe Reina Injury Latest

Brendan Rodgers is hopeful that Pepe Reina will be fit to face Southampton this weekend.

The Spanish custodian missed our 3-2 victory over Tottenham on Sunday with a calf problem.

Brad Jones deputized as the Reds climbed to sixth in the Barclays Premier League.

Rodgers said: "It was disappointing because we thought he would probably make it on Sunday.

"He had a tight calf in a fitness test on Sunday morning and unfortunately for him he didn't get through it. Hopefully by this weekend he'll be fine.

"Big credit to Brad Jones, who came in at the last minute. He equipped himself terrifically on Sunday and made a great stop, especially in the first half.

"We'll see how Pepe is later this week."

Suso Knocks On First Team Door

Liverpool starlet Suso showed his first team potential with a brace for the U21s in their entertaining 3-3 draw against West Ham United earlier on Monday.

The Spaniard was a regular for the seniors earlier in the season, but has been less frequently involved under Brendan Rodgers in recent months, and hasn't featured at all since January.

However, the 19-year-old gave the Northern Irishman a glimpse of what he can do in Monday’s clash against the Hammers at the Kirkby Academy.

Indeed, Rodgers was in attendance and watched the young side go a goal behind after just four minutes, with defender Dan Potts heading the visitors ahead.

But, the tied turned on 24 minutes when Raheem Sterling, another player looking to impress after recently falling down the pecking order at Anfield, struck a 25-yard stunner that flew in off the underside of the crossbar.

Not to be outdone, Suso put the Reds ahead six minutes later, beating defenders with a fine sole run before firing past Raphael Spiegel.

The hosts were pulled back again on 56 minutes and it was another corner that did the trick for the Hammers, with Wellington Paulista the beneficiary from another Kieran Bywater set-piece.

Suso appeared to have won it for Liverpool with ten minutes left on the clock, with the forward cutting in from the right-flank and beating Spiegel with a well-placed drive into the bottom corner.

It wasn’t to be though, with Elliot Lee volleying home the equalizer deep into injury-time after another corner caused chaos in the box.

The defending would have been a concern for Rodgers, but the performances of Suso and Sterling would certainly provide cause for optimism.

Liverpool Fans Insulted By Ticket Price Rises

Fans' group Spirit of Shankly has condemned Liverpool's season ticket price rises for next season as "an insult to long-standing supporters".

On Friday the club announced a six-tier system, which will see prices increase by up to nine per cent in some areas of the ground.

Season tickets in the Kop will remain the same or be reduced, while a £5 child ticket option is to be introduced for certain games, much to the chagrin of the Spirit of Shankly group.

"Supporters in the Main Stand and Paddock endure facilities that survived the Shankly era redevelopment, with so-called "concourses" dating back to 1907, while the cramped seating in the Lower Centenary has been notorious since that structure was built as the Kemlyn Road stand in 1963,” said a statement from the group, who recently launched a campaign to reduce away ticket prices nationally.

"It is our guess that not one of Liverpool's multiple "owners" has ever watched a match from any of these seats and that none of them have ever availed themselves of the so-called "facilities" in the Paddock or Main Stand.

"If we are wrong, then more shame on them for believing £815 to £850 is fair price to pay for 'the product' on offer.

"While the announcement regarding Kop season tickets is a relief to many, it is our belief that ticket prices are already too high, pricing out many of those that kept the club on its feet during its darkest days."

Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre, told liverpoolfc.com: "Over the past two years the club has given careful consideration to ticket prices and pricing structures in consultation with the Supporters Committee.

"Following last year's price freeze this year we have reviewed our overall stadium pricing structure and, similar to many other Premier League clubs, from next season we will also be introducing a multiple-tier pricing structure which will more accurately reflect seat location and view."