Monday, April 08, 2013

Match Report: Liverpool 0 - 0 West Ham

Liverpool's top-six hopes suffered another crushing blow as they failed to break down West Ham's stubborn defences.

Three weeks after that dismal defeat at Southampton, Brendan Rodgers' side once again failed to spark, skipper Steven Gerrard coming closest to a winner when his effort was cleared off the line by the outstanding James Tomkins.

But the Hammers, for whom James Collins was equally impressive, also had a claim on the spoils, with Lucas Leiva denying them a first Anfield win in 50 years when he turned away Jack Collison's header five minutes from time.

The contest was preceded by an impeccably observed minute's silence in honour of the Hillsborough victims, for whom so much time and effort has finally received its reward.

Yet, for all the memories of those 96 lives so horrifically lost in South Yorkshire, Liverpool must also deal with the present, which means somehow clambering back towards the heights the club scaled so often back then.

A rather complicated scenario for European qualification is unfolding, in which finishing sixth in the Barclays Premier League might be enough.

It is not one Liverpool can afford to rely on though, which means an all-out assault on the top five.

To that end, a home encounter with a side who had not scored at Anfield since 2006 and have to go back half a century for their last victory should have been perfect.

Except this was one of those days Rodgers must have been referring to when he outlined in his program notes that "from outset of this campaign, I felt it would most likely be a season of transition and there would come a few growing pains".

For with top scorer Luis Suarez not quite on his A game, the hosts struggled to break down an obdurate West Ham outfit.

Philippe Coutinho brought a decent early save out of Jussi Jaaskelainen, who also denied Stewart Downing before injury forced the former Middlesbrough man to give way to Daniel Sturridge.

But it was not until Coutinho found Suarez with an excellent return pass inside a crowded penalty area that Liverpool really came close, this time Jaaskelainen repelling the effort with his legs.

Denied the services of Andy Carroll, who was prohibited from facing his parent club, West Ham were prepared to live off scraps, knowing even a point would be valuable in easing their relegation concerns.

Yet they gave the impression of a team who, with a little bit of conviction, could achieve much more.

Mohamed Diame wriggled free of three Liverpool defenders before driving his shot over, whilst Carlton Cole should have done much better than drive an effort straight at Daniel Agger after Lucas had been rushed into an error.

Liverpool got better after the break without making that crucial breakthrough.

A claim for handball against Collins when he got in the way of Agger's thunderbolt came mostly from the Kop and referee Anthony Taylor was unimpressed anyway.

Gerrard almost set up Sturridge before being presented with the clearest chance of the contest when Suarez's shot rebounded into his path off Guy Demel.

The Liverpool skipper could not quite pick his spot given the number of bodies in his way. In the context of this game though, it was a golden chance, which James Tomkins superbly turned off the line as the home fans were about to start celebrating.

Suarez then fizzed a shot across goal that went through Jaaskelainen's legs and flicked off the far post, but brought no reward.

West Ham was being extended to a much greater degree. Yet they remained a sporadic threat and might well have had a spot-kick when Jose Enrique caught Tomkins in the box.

Tomkins found himself at the centre of another key moment as he appeared to bring down Gerrard, who had cut inside the Hammers defence.

It would have been a certain penalty had it not been for Tomkins managing to get his foot on the ball before sending Gerrard sprawling.

Gerrard curled another effort over as time began to drift away, and only Lucas' fine goal-line clearance from Collison's header prevented Liverpool from being sunk completely.

Rodgers Disappointed By Sturridge’s Disallowed Goal

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has admitted his frustration after West Ham held his men to a 0-0 draw at Anfield.

The Reds had won four of their previous five Premier League games as they edge closer to the top four.

But their faint hopes of earning a spot in next year’s Champions League appear to have been dashed by the stalemate, and the Northern Irishman was disappointed that Daniel Sturridge had a goal ruled out for offside.

"We were outstanding in terms of our game and very frustrated we didn't get the three points," Rodgers said.

"We kept pushing from the first minute but West Ham defended very well. In that situation, you have either got to score early or you need that wee bit of luck.

"Unfortunately when we did score it was deemed offside but when you see it again Sturridge was clearly onside."

Downing's Early Substitution Explained

The reasoning behind the substitution of Liverpool winger Stewart Downing after 25 minutes of the 0-0 draw with West Ham United has been revealed.

Downing's early withdrawal confused many observers at the time with any indications of a physical injury absent.

But Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has revealed that the decision was a consequence of the player feeling unwell prior to the game.

The 28-year-old had declared himself fit ahead of kick-off and because of Downing's impressive recent form Rodgers decided to give him a chance to prove it.

"He took ill on Saturday, but he wanted to give it a go. He's in good form at the moment," explained the ex-Swansea City manager.

"He took some tablets but when he was out there, he was very weak. When he came off you could see it in him that he wasn't feeling well."

Downing was replaced by Daniel Sturridge but neither player could help break the deadlock as the Reds were held at home by a determined Hammers side.

So far this campaign, after a disappointing first season on Merseyside, the £20m signing has notched five goals and seven assists in 39 appearances.

The former Aston Villa and Middlesbrough wide man is expected to be available again for Saturday's trip to relegation threatened Reading.

West Ham Will Have To Pay Liverpool £1m If They Avoid Relegation

West Ham will have to pay Liverpool £1million if they beat the drop as part of Andy Carroll’s loan deal, writes the Sunday People.

A clause in the contract which took the 24-year-old striker to Upton Park will be triggered as soon as the Hammers retain their Premier League status.

The seven-figure sum was inserted because the undisclosed loan fee was believed to be small – and a drop in the ocean compared to the £25m the Hammers will receive for being part of the Premier League next season when the new TV rights deal kicks in.

Carroll has scored five goals in 21 appearances for West Ham, including a double in the vital 3-1 victory over West Brom recently.

Publicly, Reds boss Brendan Rodgers says Carroll can still play a part at the Merseyside club. However, the most likely scenario remains a return to hometown side Newcastle, who sold him to Liverpool for £35m, with Rodgers keen to take Hatem Ben Arfa the other way.

Meanwhile, Newcastle will have to come up with £17million in cash if they want to take striker Andy Carroll back to Tyneside.

Arsenal & Liverpool In Transfer Battle Over Ligue 1 Defender

Arsenal and Liverpool are set to go head-to-head in the race to sign defender Nicolas N’Koulou, according to reports.

The Daily Star claims both the Gunners and Reds are showing a keen interest in the 23-year-old Marseille defender, with Newcastle United also pursuing the Cameroonian international.

And, whilst the Ligue 1 club is eager to keep N’Koulou at the Stade VĂ©lodrome, the sales of Loic Remy and Stephane Mbia have shown that the club is willing to consider doing business, the paper reports.

Arsenal has shuffled their centre back pairings on a number of occasions this season, with Arsene Wenger using Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen in the main.

N’Koulou would add additional strength-in-depth to the Gunners line-up, but the Emirates Stadium outfit is unlikely to have a transfer battle all their own way.

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers is in the market for a defender, with Anfield legend Jamie Carragher set to retire at the end of the season.

That leaves Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger and Sebastian Coates vying for chances, and with the Uruguayan yet to impress on Merseyside, reinforcements are needed.

N’Koulou’s solid ball skills make him an obvious target for Liverpool, given the style Rodgers loves to play, and his previous omission that L'OM might have to sell him will only fuel transfer talk further in the coming months.

Coutinho Hoping He Will Achieve Great Things With Suarez

Philippe Coutinho is hoping that the partnership between himself and Luis Suarez will lead to the pair achieving great things.

"We always communicate in Spanish on the pitch," said Coutinho. "I spent six months in Spain so I can get by quite well. Suarez is a fantastic player and it's an honour to play with him. Together I hope we achieve great things for Liverpool.

"It is so much easier to play alongside a player like him because he is always on the move, he never stays still.

Coutinho also praised the rest of his teammates for making him feel welcome and now believes that Liverpool should challenge for a Europa League place.

"The South American players are always together at training and we go out for meals together," he added. "I'm quite shy and having players like (Steven) Gerrard and Lucas (Leiva) making me feel welcome, that's a huge boost for me.

"Lucas has been like a father to me. He gave me all the information I needed on how the club worked."

He added: "Liverpool must play for European trophies all the time. It's very important. We will do our utmost in the last few games to get the maximum points in order for us to reach the Europa League."

Sterling Sidelined With Thigh Injury

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has confirmed that Raheem Sterling will miss this season with a thigh injury.

"He's had this for a few weeks where he's had a slight, slight tear at the top of his thigh and it doesn't keep him out completely," he told reporters. "But gradually over time it has got worse.

"It is something that if we continue with it, it could end up bigger and create problems for him when he gets older, so we have to keep on top of it, and ensure we don't store up a problem for later in his career.

"We are not 100 per cent clear yet on the seriousness of the situation, but we have to be careful with him. He will definitely miss the season.

"It is an early diagnosis and if it is the best thing to do to rest him for the rest of the season, then we will do that because we have got other players and we don't need to risk him when it could cause problems for the future.

"It is something the medics will keep a keen eye on."

Carragher: Kelly & Wisdom Are Liverpool’s Future

Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher believes that Andre Wisdom and Stephen Kelly have the talent to be fixtures in the team in the future as he prepares to retire in the summer.

The 35 year old has spent the whole of his 15 year career at the Reds and believes that the two youngsters could do the same.

He told the official Liverpool FC matchday program: "You look at Andre Wisdom and Martin Kelly particularly. It's mainly because they are young centre-backs that have gone into the team playing full-back to gain experience.

"It's very hard to go straight into any Premier League team and play in the middle immediately. But they've done very well over the last 12 to 18 months.

"I'm very confident that they could play centre-back for Liverpool once they have the experience.

"Being physically stronger and quicker, if they can learn the game they can maybe have a bigger impact at the club than myself."

He also revealed that being a role model for the younger players is something that he finds natural.

"It's not something I've ever really thought about in my own mind," he considered. "It's just the way I am.

"I would never do something for effect or to impress somebody. I'm just fortunate that's the way I am. I couldn't be any different.

"It's not like I go into training some days and think, 'You know what, I'm going to have a go today.' I'm just quite competitive.

"If we have a five-a-side game or a game of possession at the end, I want to win. I was like that as a kid and I think if I played on for another four or five years I'd be the same."