Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Match Report: Liverpool 1 - 0 QPR

Forward Philippe Coutinho was Liverpool's match-winner but Jamie Carragher was the star of the show at Anfield on his 737th and final appearance for the club.

The veteran centre-back brought the curtain down on a first-team career spanning 16 years 131 days - the seventh longest in the club's history.

Such is his longevity the 35-year-old has served under six different permanent managers at Anfield but his own influence on the team during that time cannot be underestimated

And while the day was rightly a celebration of his achievements, the fact the game had the slight feeling of a testimonial would not have impressed the ultra-competitive, ultra-professional Carragher.

Coutinho's sweet strike after 23 minutes provided the only goal but the difference between the two sides was huge and Liverpool should have put a hatful past relegated QPR.

There was a sense of out with the old and in with the new as 17-year-old Jordon Ibe, signed from the Wycombe academy, made his debut.

He was 13 months old when Carragher made his first Liverpool appearance but the youngster was not over-awed by the occasion, especially with all the focus on his team-mate, and after growing into his left-wing role provided the assist for the opening goal.

Cutting in from the left he teed up Coutinho to fire home a low shot from 25 yards. The Brazilian should already have had one to his name as in the opening couple of minutes his low, diving header from Stewart Downing's corner was cleared by full-back Michael Harriman but only after it appeared to have crossed the line.

Coutinho, Liverpool's player of the second half of the season after arriving from Inter Milan for £8.5million in January, also almost scored direct from a corner and had a shot blocked by Shaun Derry.

Despite QPR's lack of real attacking thrust Carragher continued to be the focus - although trying to add to his career tally of just five goals by attempting to punch a cross past Robert Green would hardly have been fitting.

Referee Michael Atkinson contributed to the convivial atmosphere by opting not to book the centre-back, who then saw a shot blocked from a rehearsed Downing short free-kick.

Loic Remy provided the visitors' only threat and after an early shout for a penalty after coming into contact with Lucas Leiva he fired one shot wide and then mis-kicked from close range trying to convert Armand Traore's cross.

With the Championship looming for QPR next season they did not seem interested in making a fight of it and Liverpool attacked at will after the break.

Glen Johnson's shot deflected wickedly off Derry but Green reacted quick enough to push it around the post while Daniel Sturridge's goalbound volley hit Traore and Downing fired into the side-netting.

All afternoon the Kop had been urging Carragher to shoot - from a varying degree of ridiculous angles and distances - but he declined them all until just past the hour.

The ball dropped to him 25 yards out and he smashed a first-time effort which cannoned back off the post with Green well beaten.

But it is not his goals for which he will be remembered - highlighted by the statistic that since he returned to the first team in January Liverpool has lost just one of 15 league games, conceding 12 goals.

And his attitude in that respect was typified when Carragher outsprinted Remy to prevent the ball going out for a corner by mere inches and direct it back to goalkeeper Jose Reina.

He was substituted for Sebastian Coates five minutes from time to a standing ovation but the old warhorse would much rather have seen out time on the pitch than take the applause from off it - however deserved it was.

Ibe Delight At Reds Debut

Liverpool winger Jordon Ibe is hoping to build on the experience of making his senior debut for the club in their 1-0 win over QPR.

The 17-year-old played the first 64 minutes of Sunday's match, during which he created the winning goal for Philippe Coutinho.

And the player was delighted to have played a part, especially in the final game of defender Jamie Carragher's 17-year Reds career.

"I feel very confident because now I've played here, I've got a little bit of experience so I know what it takes to play here," Ibe told LFC TV. "Hopefully I can build on that and take it into the new season.

"I feel over the moon to be playing at Liverpool in such an important match, especially Carragher's last match.

"I found out I was in the squad on Saturday but I wasn't too sure if I was going to start. Brendan told me to be prepared. On Sunday I was just focused and calm.

"I thought I did okay, especially getting an assist for Coutinho's goal and helping the club win three points. The manager told me that I did well, I just need to keep pressing and stay compact."

Liverpool Plot Treble Swoop For Ilori, Papadopoulos & Alder

Liverpool has tabled a bid for Sporting Lisbon defender Tiago Ilori - and he could be joined by Toby Alderweireld and Kyriakos Papadopoulos in becoming Kop stars.

Sporting is reluctant to sell the 20-year-old talent - who is valued at around £4m - but boss Brendan Rodgers has the full support of owners Fenway Sports Group to go out and get him.

Signing players under 24 has been a policy of the American owners - Rodgers hasn't brought in any player older in his time at the club - and they will be fully behind the move.

Ilori was born in London but has gone on to play for Portugal at under-20 level.

Although it's too early to consider Ilori as a like-for-like replacement for the retiring Jamie Carragher, the 6ft 3ins centre-half has been tipped for big things in the future.

Carragher called time on his career after making 737 appearances for the club and Rodgers is eyeing up Schalke's 21-year-old Greece international Kyriakos Papadopoulos, valued at around £12m, to fill his boots.

Rodgers has checked in on Ajax’s Toby Alderweireld too.

Ajax has admitted they will have to sell the Belgian international but Tottenham and Roma are also interested in his services.

It's thought a bid in the region of £8m would be enough to prise him away from Holland.

Liverpool Go For Toure As Carragher Replacement

Brendan Rodgers has moved for Manchester City centre back Kolo Toure, whose contract expires next month, as a replacement for the retiring Jamie Carragher.

The Daily Mail reports that Rodgers believes he can fill the void left by Carragher at the heart of his defence.

Rodgers has looked at a number of players to bolster Liverpool’s defence, including Ajax’s Toby Alderweirled, and Tiago Ilori of Sporting Lisbon, but he is a firmer admirer of Shalke’s Greece international Kyriakos Papadopolous.

Though Toure is not in the age profile of players Liverpool sign under their American owners Fenway Sports Group – he is 32 – there is an understanding that experience needs to be added to the dressing room following on from Carragher’s departure.

Christian Eriksen Will Snub Liverpool Unless They Make £15m Offer

Liverpool target Christian Eriksen will snub the Kop and sign a new contract at Ajax if Brendan Rodgers does not make a £15million offer in the next month, writes the Sunday People.

Danish dazzler Eriksen is keen on a move to Anfield, with the Reds on his trail for the past few months and battling Champions League finalists Borussia Dortmund for his signature.

However Eriksen’s camp has revealed that the ­attacking midfielder is set to sign a new Ajax deal because of ‘mixed messages’ from Merseyside.

A source close to Eriksen said: “One minute there was a concrete interest and Liverpool were willing to pay the fee, but now they are taking their time.”

Rodgers is weighing up the market before making a firm bid for a player who is one of the brightest talents in Europe – but also similar in style to some of his other players.

The Dane is willing to commit to Ajax if he does not get the answer he wants from Liverpool – or Dortmund.

Chedjou Would Welcome A Move To Liverpool

Cameroon international defender Aurelien Chedjou has confirmed he wants to leave Lille after being linked with several clubs.

The 27-year-old could be a target for Premier League duo Liverpool and Newcastle as well as Turkish giants Galatasaray.

Sky Sports report that, although under contract at Lille, Chedjou sees his future elsewhere, he said: "Nothing is done with any club. Yes, I want to move from Lille and get another experience of my life."

The prospect of a move to England would excite Chedjou has previously spent time in Spain with Villarreal's youth team.

Liverpool could be a suitable destination for the powerful centre-back as they seek to find a replacement for recently retired Jamie Carragher.

Carragher's retirement and Brendan Rodger's apparent reluctancy to put faith in Sebastian Coates means a centre-back could be high on the Reds manager's list of priorities when he dips into the summer transfer market.

Lille and Liverpool have done business together as recently as 2011 when a deal was struck to allow Joe Cole to spend a season on loan in northern France.

Having finished seventh in the league this season there's no doubt Liverpool will look to strengthen in the summer as Rodgers aims to return the club to the top four of the Premier League.

Captain Steven Gerrard has already expressed his desire to see improvements to the squad amid fears the club may be left behind if they fail to invest.

Asked about possibly joining the Anfield club, Chedjou said: "Liverpool could be great. An enormous club with fantastic fans and the Kop to add."

Liverpool Interested In Rose

Liverpool have revived their interest in Tottenham left back Danny Rose.

The England Under 21 star was one of Sunderland’s best performers during his loan spell, and boss Paolo Di Canio is keen on the 22-year-old.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers failed to sign Rose in the last two transfer windows and is struggling to make his £20million budget stretch.

He will have to offload Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing and Jose Enrique, and Pepe Reina may also go.

Barcelona are said to be keen on the goalkeeper, while Sam Allardyce is keen for Carroll's successful loan move to be made permanent but may not have the funds for such a move.

West Ham Agree To Sign Carroll For £15m

Liverpool have accepted a £15m offer from West Ham United for Andy Carroll, a £20m loss on their record transfer fee inside 28 months, but face a struggle to convince the striker to sever his Anfield ties for Upton Park.

Carroll enjoyed an impressive, yet injury-hit season on loan with Sam Allardyce's team, who has moved quickly to sign the 24-year-old on a permanent basis following the end of the Premier League season.

West Ham are prepared to pay a club record transfer fee to sign a striker that Allardyce intends to build a team around, while Liverpool want to sell Carroll to generate extra transfer funds for Brendan Rodgers.

The two clubs have agreed a deal lower than the £17m that Liverpool wanted which was written into Carroll's loan agreement when he reluctantly moved to east London last August, although they did receive a £2m loan fee and West Ham covered the striker's £80,000-a-week wages.

It is also a significant reduction on the £35m Newcastle United received from Liverpool for the 24-year-old in January 2011.

Rodgers made it clear to Carroll last summer that he would not be a regular starter at Liverpool but, despite signing off from West Ham on Sunday with a tweet that read "enjoyed every minute of being at west ham" the striker is not sold on the idea of a permanent move.

After he played a leading role in West Ham's 4-2 win over relegated Reading at Upton Park on Sunday, his manager Sam Allardyce emphasized how keen the side were to sign him permanently. "If we can start with Andy Carroll that would be a great achievement for us as he can only get better and better," Allardyce said.

"Then we build around that in terms of how we want to improve next year, with better quality.

"It is our target to make it a permanent situation."

Reina Won’t Be Leaving Liverpool Anytime Soon

Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina has dismissed speculation linking him with a move to Barcelona saying he could not leave Anfield because he feels so loved.

There had been rumours linking him and Barca goalkeeper Victor Valdes swapping sides, but Reina wants to see out his contract at the Reds.

“I have three more years with Liverpool. I’m satisfied, comfortable and my family are very happy,” he told the Sun.

“Rumours are difficult to control but it’s flattering when a club like Barca is interested in you.

“I don’t know if there has been contact between the clubs or with my agent. At the moment I don’t think there’s anything serious.

“I don’t know how long I’ve got left in football, what I do know is I want to enjoy what remains and feel appreciated and at Liverpool I have that.”

Reina started his career at the Nou Camp but was forced to leave in the hunt for first-team football.

And he added, “The years I was in Barcelona were very good, I don’t have any bad feelings about not succeeding there.

“I played more than 50 games, when I was less than 20, it helped me grow a lot.

“I would’ve liked to have played there more, of course, but there’s no need to over-dramatize things.”

Gerrard Tells Liverpool They Must Spend

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard believes Brendan Rodgers must spend big if they are to compete for the Champions League places next season.

The Reds finished the season strongly taking 30 points from 16 matches after losing to Manchester United on January 13 and to bridge the gap Gerrard believes the squad will need strengthening.

"Since January this team has shown a better level of consistency," he said.

"We've shown Champions League form and there is a lot of optimism and positives to take into next season.

"Our target at the beginning of the season was fourth (place) and we have not delivered that - as players we need to take responsibility for that.

"We finished seventh in the league so there certainly needs to be a bit done. The preparation starts now for next year. I am sure the manager and staff are already preparing.

"All the other teams will strengthen and we can't afford to be left behind.

"I am sure the manager is already thinking about where he needs to strengthen the squad to make up that gap so we compete with the top four.

"It's down to us to continue what we've done in the last couple of months, take that into next season and try to improve."

Lucas Leiva Hopes For Injury-Free Summer

Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva has vowed to pick up where he left off next season given a summer free of injury.

The Brazilian ended the season in a positive fashion, much like the rest of the Anfield squad, after battling back from a thigh injury that left him on the sidelines for three months.

He had to battle back from a cruciate knee ligament injury to start the season on time and hopes a pre-season clear of such problems will lead to a better start to 2013-14.

"I knew it was going to be a difficult season for me, coming back from a difficult injury," he said. "Unfortunately, I got another bad one at the beginning of the season.

"I played half of the season and in the last five or six games I really felt better.

"Next season is going to be an important one for me because I think I will be at the level I was before the injury.

"This season was positive because I could get through the injuries and the games. Of course I want to do better because we can always do better."

Lucas also added to the chorus of tributes to Jamie Carragher in the wake of his retirement from the professional ranks on Sunday.

"We were more emotional than Carra probably. We can see what he's done for the club," he added.

"It's just a dream for any player to achieve what he achieved for Liverpool. I hope I can get half of his achievements because I would be very proud. On a daily basis you can see his passion.

"Every day he is a warrior and a fighter - he doesn't like to lose anything. That shows the character that he has. He is a symbol of the club."