Sunday, April 28, 2013

Match Report: Newcastle 0 - 6 Liverpool

Daniel Sturridge filled Luis Suarez's boots to perfection as Liverpool hit top gear to pile the pressure on Newcastle boss Alan Pardew.

The striker, who scored for Chelsea at St James' Park last season, helped himself to a double as the Reds romped to a stunning victory which leaves the Magpies still deep in relegation trouble.

Newcastle was utterly shambolic on a day when they could have all but secured their Barclays Premier League status for another season, and the visitors took full advantage.

Central defender Daniel Agger headed them in front with just five minutes gone and Sunderland old boy Jordan Henderson made it 2-0 12 minutes later.

Pardew threw on substitutes Hatem Ben Arfa and Yoan Gouffran at the break, but it was Sturridge who ended any doubt that that Brendan Rodgers' men would leave north-east with all the points with a double inside six second-half minutes.

Further strikes from substitute Fabio Borini and Henderson rubbed salt into black and white wounds, as did the 75th-minute dismissal of Mathieu Debuchy for a second yellow card.

The Newcastle boss had gone into the game having expressed his disappointment with the tide of criticism which had come his way in the wake of the derby defeat by Sunderland a fortnight ago, but Saturday's dreadful display will have done little to appease either the club's fans or owner Mike Ashley with relegation a distinct possibility.

Pardew stood impotently on the sideline as his side imploded, and one fan among a crowd of 52,351 made his feelings clear when he hurled his scarf towards the 51-year-old.

A collective sigh of relief issued forth from St James' some 40 minutes ahead of kick-off when news of Tottenham's late equalizer, which denied Wigan a much-needed victory, left them still five points clear of the drop zone.

As a result, Pardew's players emerged from the dressing room knowing a victory would edge them to the brink of safety, far from their objectives for the campaign, but the bare minimum requirement.

But within 17 catastrophic minutes, their hopes had all but died as Liverpool cut loose to rekindle memories of their 5-1 victory on Tyneside in 2008.

Few inside St James' needed reminding that on that occasion, they would slip out of the division five months later.

The Reds tore at their hosts from the off and needed just five minutes to forge their way ahead when Agger took advantage of lazy defending to run unmarked on to Stewart Downing's lofted cross and head past the helpless Rob Elliot.

Newcastle were woeful as they conceded space to Liverpool in the middle of the field despite employing James Perch and Cheick Tiote in front of the back four to allow the excellent Philippe Coutinho and Sturridge to run riot.

They increased their lead with 17 minutes gone after mounting a flowing attack which left the magpies floundering again, Coutinho sliding the ball into Sturridge's path for him to square for Henderson to double the dose.

Sturridge forced a 24th-minute save from Elliot and Steven Gerrard uncharacteristically volleyed wide five minutes later with the locals fearing the worst.

By contrast, Newcastle had little or no penetration as lone striker Papiss Cisse was starved of possession with Yohan Cabaye and Moussa Sissoko becalmed by a sea of red shirts.

But they should really have been back in it with nine minutes of the half remaining when full-back Massadio Haidara produced the first cross of any note to present Perch with a free header, only to see him head wastefully wide.

Pardew made his move at the break, withdrawing Perch and Jonas Gutierrez with Ben Arfa and Gouffran, knowing his side needed something different and needed it fast.

Gouffran might have obliged within four minutes when he got his head to Cabaye's cross, but his looping header was easily collected by Pepe Reina.

The balance of the game had changed as Newcastle poured forward and started to find space in advanced areas, although Cabaye passed up a glorious chance after miscontrolling on the edge of the box with 52 minutes gone.

But the game was effectively over two minutes later when Ben Arfa, who had shown encouraging signs, was robbed by Coutinho wide on the right and sped forward to slide in Sturridge, who blasted past Elliot.

But things were to get much, much worse for the Magpies.

They were carved open once again when Gerrard and Henderson combined to set up Sturridge for his second with half an hour still to play, and the rout was far from complete.

Borini needed just two minutes to find the back of the net on his return from injury as a substitute when he converted Downing's cross, and Henderson sent a 74th-minute free-kick across Elliot and into the bottom corner with no team-mate able to get a touch to make it 6-0.

Within seconds Debuchy got his marching orders after receiving a second yellow for a foul on Coutinho, and only a fine 82nd-minute save by Elliot denied Coutinho a seventh goal as the storm clouds gathered over Tyneside with three games of a difficult campaign remaining.

Rodgers Draws Line Under Suarez Affair

Brendan Rodgers said Liverpool's resounding 6-0 win at Newcastle was the perfect way to end a week that was dominated by the ten-match ban meted out to striker Luis Suarez.

The Uruguayan was sitting out his first game after biting Branislav Ivanovic, but his presence was not missed as Liverpool racked up a heavy win thanks to two goals from Daniel Sturridge, two from Jordan Henderson and further strikes from Daniel Agger and Fabio Borini.

After a win that set Liverpool up in perfect fashion for next week's Merseyside derby, Rodgers said he hoped the club could now move on from the furore of the past seven days.

"Of course last week was difficult,'' Rodgers told ESPN.”I spent a lot of time talking to Luis. We move on from that, we don't want to keep bringing it up. He is suspended for 10 games. My plan is to keep him fit and working and there is a plan. It was a real test for us today.

"We do it (move forward) collectively. Luis has been brilliant, we can only move forward with the players we have. As you have seen, our focus and job at hand was fantastic.''

Liverpool dominated from start to finish and Agger's third-minute header set the tone for the rest of the game. "It was a terrific start, we were very aggressive, the pressing was very good,'' he said.

"Daniel Sturridge can prove to be one of the top strikers in Europe in the next three years, he needs an opportunity. You can see his strength, his speed, his power and his finishing as well.''

Liverpool Go For Cut Price Sevilla Defender

Liverpool are set to make an offer for Sevilla centre back Ferderico Fazio, according to reports.

Fazio’s contract is set to expire at the end of next season and Sevilla are ready to accept a cut price of £5 million this summer for him according to the Express.

Brendan Rodgers was linked with a move for the 26-year-old in January, and could revive his interest this summer with Jamie Carragher set to retire and question marks over the long-term future of Martin Skrtel.

Fazio is thought to be a good fit for the Premier League, with his strong 6ft 5in frame a key component that should allow him to adapt easily from the Spanish game.

Luis Suárez Is Wanted By Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich are expected to make a move for Liverpool’s Luis Suárez with the Germans increasingly resigned to missing out on Robert Lewandowski to Manchester United.

United are confident that they are now favourites to sign Lewandowski, a long-term target, who scored four goals in Borussia Dortmund’s 4-1 Champions League semi-final first leg victory over Real Madrid.

If Lewandowski, 24, is signed it will raise questions over where Wayne Rooney fits into Sir Alex Ferguson’s plans although the United manager has already stated that he intends to offer the striker, who has two years left on his current contract, a new deal.

That resolve may be tested over the summer especially as United are not likely to offer Rooney, 27, the same terms as he signed with his last deal and if Lewandowski arrives he will expect to be first-choice alongside Robin van Persie.

When asked whether he could find room for Lewandowski, whose contract expires in June 2014, in his team, Ferguson said: “Have I got room for him? I can find room for anybody.”

Ferguson added that he did not think, in the wake of the £32 million transfer of Mario Götze, that Dortmund would also sell Lewandowski to Bayern.

“Dortmund fans are not going to be happy and I don’t think they will sell Lewandowski to Bayern Munich,” Ferguson said. “I think they’ll let his contract run out, or sell him somewhere else.”

Bayern are now planning to formalize efforts to tempt Suárez away from Anfield.

Liverpool have insisted that the 26-year-old Uruguayan will not leave the club this summer, despite him being hit with a 10-game suspension for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic.

While Suárez has told team-mates that La Liga, rather than the Bundesliga, is his preferred destination should he leave Liverpool, the impending arrival of Pep Guardiola as Bayern coach could prove decisive.

Guardiola has made no secret of his admiration of Suárez, who is represented by Pere Guardiola, the former Barcelona coach’s brother.

Manchester City also retains an interest in Suárez, but the player’s reputation could trouble the club’s image-conscious Abu Dhabi ownership.

Juventus are also monitoring his situation.

Liverpool In Shirt And Stadium Sponsor Talks

Liverpool could be the next club to receive a major financial injection from Qatar, according to a report.

Arab-based TV station Al Jazeera is said to be claiming that the Reds are in talks with Ooredoo - a major telecommunications company in the Arab state - over becoming their new shirt sponsors and, perhaps controversially, buying naming rights to Anfield.

The story apparently quotes an Ooredoo director, who explains why they want to be in business with Liverpool.

“The goal was to sponsor a big English club with a huge history, our search included Arsenal and Manchester United but the former two have long sponsorship deals and the same applies to Manchester City, so Liverpool is the only club available right now," he reportedly said.

"We want to sponsor the club in full. We want to sponsor the stadium as well as the club's kits.

"Our goal is to reach the Asian markets, where the Premier League has an enormous fan base.

"We received the tender from the club a few days ago and we are currently in the process of due diligence and we are studying each aspect of the study.

"It is a dual interest, Liverpool needs the money to compete with the European heavyweights and we want to expand our brand to reach new markets via football."

Liverpool are trying to regain their once-traditional place among English football's best under their new American owners, but have not played in the Champions League since the 2009-10 season and face missing out on Europe entirely for next season.

Last month, it was reported that Liverpool were negotiating with current shirt sponsors, bankers Standard Chartered, over extending a £20million-a-year deal that expires next year.

Spanish giants Barcelona already have Qatari shirt sponsors, and Qatari money has helped take another La Liga side, Malaga, and France's Paris Saint-Germain to the last eight of the Champions League.

Andy Carroll Drops Hint At Anfield Return

Andy Carroll has provided the most significant clue yet that he’s ready to re-build his Liverpool career.

The £35million striker is close to agreeing a move - to a new house in Southport. And that could sabotage West Ham’s hopes of signing the 24 year-old England ace.

Hammers boss Sam Allardyce wants Carroll to stay after spending this season on loan from Anfield.

But the hitman wants to have another go at establishing himself at the Reds – and boss Brendan Rodgers may need him with Luis Suarez’s future uncertain.

Manchester City Want Rodgers To Replace Mancini

Brendan Rodgers is the shock name in the frame to replace Roberto Mancini as Manchester City manager, writes the Sunday People.

The Liverpool boss has significant behind-the-scenes support at the Etihad despite a hit-and-miss first season at Anfield.

The Blues power-brokers believe the 40-year-old Irishman fulfils all the criteria they deem essential – like a willingness to blood young players early, media skills, and European experience – and the ace in his pack is that he is fluent in both English and Spanish.

Rodgers was City’s first choice a year ago when he was at Swansea and Mancini was on the ropes – before the dramatic turnaround that saw his side crowned Premier League champions.

Now the Irishman is back on City radar, with Mancini not safe even if he wins the FA Cup next month.

Rodgers has two years left on his Liverpool contract so City would have to pay compensation – but that won’t deter them.

Chelsea boss Rafa Benitez is also a live contender for the City post – sources close to the Spaniard say he is desperate for the job.

But it’s the pursuit of Rodgers, just a year into his Liverpool career, that will raise most eyebrows.

Ferguson Sympathises With Liverpool Over Suarez Ban

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has revealed he sympathizes with rivals Liverpool after Luis Suarez’s recently imposed 10-match ban for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic.

When asked about Uruguayan’s sanction from the FA, the Red Devils chief reflected on the governing body’s decision to hand former United striker and captain, Eric Cantona, a nine-month ban for attacking a fan in January 1995.

The prolific Frenchman dived into the Selhurst Park stands during a Premier League match against Crystal Palace in the 1995-1996 campaign, after a member of the crowd allegedly hurled abuse and missiles at the Red Devils man.

And while Ferguson said he feels for Liverpool following the news of the Uruguayan’s ban, the Scott also questioned the FA’s decision in regards to Cantona’s extensive suspension.

“I can understand how Liverpool is aggrieved at it, and I’m sure they are," he said. "I think back to Cantona and I have to say, a nine-month ban doesn’t equate to a ten-match ban does it?

“I keep going back to the Cantona incident, and I must say, the FA did us that day. When you think about it, a nine-month ban is quite incredible and I still can’t get around it. I would never allow that to happen now.”

Ferguson went on to slam the FA for the handling of Cantona’s outburst, and revealed FA directors guaranteed the club that their own disciplinary action of the forward would suffice, only to impose a more severe ban days later.

“I would have never listened to them in the first place when they said they would be happy if we decided Cantona’s punishment," he added. "[FA executive director] David Davies promised us that if we did there would be no more action taken.

“So we did that, we gave him a four-month ban, but two days later they charged him and sentenced him to nine. This club would never allow that to happen again. I bet Liverpool are glad they didn’t [listen to the FA], because it didn’t work with us, that’s for sure.”

Enrique Expects Skrtel Comeback

Jose Enrique has ranked teammate Martin Skrtel alongside the best the Barclays Premier League has to offer and backed the defender to follow his path back into the Liverpool side.

After beginning the 2012-13 campaign as first choice for Brendan Rodgers, the Slovakian has made only two starts since the end of January.

Enrique found himself on the substitutes' bench earlier in the season too but has cemented the left-back berth as his own - and expects Skrtel to achieve a similar turnaround.

"I think we have one of the best centre-backs in the league in Martin Skrtel," said the Spaniard.

"Last season he was player of the season for us. For me, when he comes on he will be top-class again for sure.

"In my case it was the start of the season and it was not really good but when the manager told me [I would not be playing] I didn't think to go.

"Last year I played a lot of games for Liverpool and before the start of the season I knew I would play a lot of games because, if I am fit, I can play in this team.

"From the start I tried as hard as I could and sometimes it is good for someone to tell you the bad things you don't want to hear.

"This, to be honest, woke me up and now I am playing well."

O'Hanlon Strikes In West Ham Loss

A stirring second-half performance was not enough for Liverpool's U18s as they suffered a 2-1 defeat by West Ham on Saturday.

Steve Cooper's side fell behind early on against the Hammers and a defensive error allowed the home team to double their advantage before the half-time interval.

The young Reds rallied after the break, increasing both the tempo and their pressing, and were rewarded with a goal from Alex O'Hanlon around the hour mark.

Cooper's team bombarded the West Ham goal throughout the rest of the period but was frustrated in their attempts to find an equalizer and the Londoners held on for three points.

"We weren't good in the first half, we weren't bright enough," Cooper told post-match. "The second half was much better but we just needed a bit more quality in and around the goal."