Thursday, August 29, 2013

Match Report: Liverpool 4 - 2 Notts County

Daniel Sturridge scored twice as Liverpool survived a major scare against Notts County at Anfield to book their place in the third round of the Capital One Cup.

The Reds opened the scoring in the fourth minute through a fine solo effort from Raheem Sterling.

Sturridge then made the most of a defence-splitting pass from Steven Gerrard to put the hosts 2-0 up in the 29th.

That lead was the very least Liverpool deserved from a first half they utterly dominated and which also saw Gerrard and Daniel Agger hit the woodwork.

Their goalkeeper Simon Mignolet had been called upon shortly after Sterling's effort, though, to keep out a Joss Labadie free-kick.

And Sky Bet League One outfit County, perhaps feeling as if they had nothing to lose, then went at their opponents early in the second half and were rewarded with a headed goal in the 62nd minute from Yoann Arquin.

Liverpool looked to have regained control of the contest from there and Kolo Toure became their third player to hit the post when he might have done better.

But the visitors then stunned Reds fans by snatching an equalizer with six minutes of normal time remaining, substitute Adam Coombes slotting in.

County had penalty shouts turned down in extra-time when Enda Stevens went down under the attentions of Sterling in the box, and moments later Sturridge stroked in his second goal of the night and fourth of the season.

That strike was in the 105th minute and in the 110th, substitute Jordan Henderson cut through the County defence to wrap up the win for the Barclays Premier League side.

County were under pressure from the word go and Liverpool soon had the ball in the net.

Sterling, having collected the ball from Glen Johnson midway into the Magpies' half, proceeded to skip through their defence and into the box before firing home past goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski.

Three minutes later Gerrard sent a free-kick curling off-target.

But it was the visitors who then might have scored through a free-kick of their own, drilled by Labadie to bring a decent save out of Mignolet.

Aly Cissokho, on his first Liverpool start, had to come off soon after with an injury and was replaced by Agger.

Normal service then resumed as Gerrard powered over the bar from distance and then whipped a free-kick into the area which Agger headed against the post.

Joe Allen teed up Sturridge, who lifted a shot just beyond the corner of the net.

And after Sterling had also shot too high, the second goal duly arrived just before the half-hour mark as Sturridge collected Gerrard's delightful through-ball and cracked a shot in.

Agger's header from a corner was well kept out by Bialkowski, and Gerrard then struck the post having been put in on goal by Sterling.

County emerged after half-time looking intent on making an impression and after Labadie had sent a weak header wide, Callum McGregor drove into Mignolet's arms.

Bialkowski had little trouble dealing with a tame Glen Johnson effort and County were then suddenly back in the contest.

Manny Smith flicked a free-kick to Arquin and the striker beat his marker Andre Wisdom - who appealed unsuccessfully for offside - to nod past Mignolet.

That appeared to shock Liverpool into life and in the 69th minute the ball came to Toure in the danger zone, but he could only shoot against the post.

Sturridge then headed wide and Wisdom struck a lacklustre effort to Bialkowski.

But County were not done, and in the 84th minute Coombes found space in the box to finish from Arquin's cut-back and send the away section of Anfield into raptures.

Liverpool desperately scrambled for a late winner, with Agger's shot deflecting wide and Sturridge trying a clever chip that did not work.

The game went into extra time and the Reds, having made all three substitutions, were reduced to 10 men when Toure was carried off on a stretcher.

Towards the end of the first period Stevens went to ground in the area after contact from Sterling, but no penalty was awarded.

And soon after, Sturridge converted into the far corner, with Henderson then surging through County and applying a cool finish to restore the two-goal advantage.

Chelsea Line-Up £30m Player Exchange Deal For Suarez

After seemingly giving up on their pursuit of Wayne Rooney, Chelsea is lining-up a shock player-plus-cash swap deal involving Fernando Torres for Liverpool striker Luis Suarez, according to reports.

Chelsea has been chasing Rooney all summer but any potential deal for the Manchester United’s ace appears unlikely now that the striker has decided against submitting a transfer request to force his exit from Old Trafford.

This snub seems to have led to Jose Mourinho looking at other targets and Sport Direct News claims that the Blues are now ready to offer Liverpool £30m plus former striker Fernando Torres in exchange for unsettled hitman Suarez.

The Reds have so far resisted any attempts to lure the Uruguayan away from Anfield with Arsenal already seeing two bids rejected after Suarez went public with his desire to leave Merseyside in search of Champions League football. Gunners boss Arsene Wenger has recently claimed that his interest in the player is ‘dead’ and he’s moved on to target other strikers.

However, the 26-year-old remains unsettled at Liverpool and this report suggests that Brendan Rodgers may be tempted by Chelsea’s player-exchange offer as it provides him with a ready-made replacement, as well as a sizeable sum to reinvest in his squad before the window closes.

Rodgers men have also coped extremely well during Suarez’s absence – winning five and drawing one of the six games he’s been banned for so far – so it could give the Northern Irishman confidence that their is life without the controversial striker and persuade him to cash-in rather than keep hold of a disgruntled player.

The idea of Torres returning to Anfield is an intriguing one. After making himself a Kop hero, the Spaniard left under a cloud when he elected to join Chelsea in 2011 but many sections of the Liverpool support still hold him close to their hearts and may welcome him back after a failed stint at Stamford Bridge. Whether the 29-year-old would be willing to go back to Liverpool with his tail between his legs is another question though!

Liverpool Fail In Loan Bid For Juan Mata

Chelsea has rebuffed an approach from Liverpool to take Juan Mata on loan, talkSPORT understands.

The playmaker’s future has been the subject of intense speculation since the return of Jose Mourinho to Stamford Bridge.

The imminent arrival of Anzhi Makhachkala playmaker Willian for £30million has cast further doubt over the 25-year-old's first-team prospects, and Mata was reported to be attracting interest from Tottenham.

However, talkSPORT can reveal there has been no inquiry from the north London side for the World Cup winner and the only Premier League club to make a move is Liverpool.

The Reds wanted to take the attacking midfielder on loan, but that was quickly rejected, with Chelsea insisting Mourinho sees the Spaniard as an integral part of his new-look squad.

Mata was an unused substitute in Monday night’s goalless draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford, but the Blues have no intention of letting the former Valencia man go.

Liverpool Set To Rival Arsenal For Griezmann

Liverpool could be set to enter the race to sign Real Sociedad winger Antoine Griezmann, but may face strong competition from Premier League rivals Arsenal.

Griezmann, 23, made the move to Spanish side Sociedad as a youngster and has since emerged as one of the hottest prospects in the European game.

Arsenal was rumoured to be close to tabling a bid for the player but SportsDirect News has learned they may now face competition from Liverpool.

The Anfield club is expected to be one of several clubs keeping tabs on Griezmann as Sociedad take on Lyon at home in the second leg of a Champions League playoff tie.

Sociedad go in to that encounter with a 2-0 aggregate lead from the first leg in France, where Griezmann caught the eye with a sensational scissor-kick goal.

Rodgers Lines Up Lescott Bid

Liverpool is ready to reignite their interest in Manchester City defender Joleon Lescott.

The Reds were linked with the star earlier this summer but no deal ever materialized – with Kolo Toure signed on a free transfer instead.

But the injuries to Toure and Sebastian Coates have forced boss Brendan Rodgers’ hand, and he is keen to recruit at least one centre-back before the end of the transfer window.

Lescott has emerged as a target, with the England international set to be frozen out by the impending arrival of Martin Demichelis at the Etihad Stadium.

Lescott, who has started both of City’s opening two games, would cost around £7.5 million, but Rodgers would have to convince the Anfield money-men to cough up for a player who falls outside of their normal recruitment policy.

The 31-year-old’s age may yet put the buffers on any deal, but Rodgers is keen to inject his defence with both quality and experience.

Liverpool Worried Over Kolo Toure Fitness

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has conceded that Kolo Toure is doubtful for Sunday’s clash with Manchester United after suffering a groin injury in Tuesday night’s League Cup match.

Toure was stretchered off with the injury during extra-time in Tuesday night’s 4-2 over win over Notts County, leaving Liverpool to play out the remainder of the tie with 10 men.

Rodgers revealed that Toure’s knock will be assessed today but initially looks worrying, making the Ivorian unlikely to start against United.

He told The Independent: “Kolo Toure has overstretched his groin, so we need to assess that, which doesn't look so good to be honest."

Toure has been ever-present for the Reds so far this season, helping his new side earn successive victories over Stoke City and Aston Villa.

Rodgers also lost Aly Cissokho and Joe Allen to injury against County, giving the Reds boss plenty to ponder ahead of United’s visit this weekend.

The Reds are yet to taste defeat this season thanks to four goals in three appearances for Daniel Sturridge, including a brace against County to stave off the threat of a giant-killing.

Assaidi Relishing Chance To Impress

Assaidi completed a season-long loan switch to the Potters from Liverpool, whom he joined a year ago from Dutch side Heerenveen.

The 25-year-old Morocco international made only four appearances in the Premier League - all as a substitute - for the Reds last term, as well as featuring eight times in cup competitions.

Assaidi could make his Stoke debut in Wednesday night's Capital One Cup second-round home clash with Sky Bet League One outfit Walsall.

He told his new club's official website: "It was frustrating last season, especially having not been given too many opportunities on the pitch.

"But I am here now and I am looking forward to playing in the Premier League.

"When I did play last season I thought I did well, and the experiences I did have on the field has given me an understanding of what to expect in the Premier League."

He added: "I spoke to the manager here (Mark Hughes) and he told me his hopes for the season and how he sees me fitting into the team.

"He made it a very attractive move for me to be honest.

"He plays football the right way, the way that I want to play, and it was quite an easy decision for me to make in the end.

"I came to the game on Saturday (Stoke's 2-1 Premier League home win against Crystal Palace) and watched the match and I was impressed. I feel I can fit in here well and help the team to progress."

Hughes has stressed his intention to field a "strong" team for the Walsall match.

The Potters - then managed by Tony Pulis - were beaten by a visiting third-tier side in the second round of the competition last year as Swindon emerged after extra-time with a 4-3 victory at the Britannia Stadium.

Pulis had made six changes to his first XI on that occasion and his successor Hughes, wary of not giving the opposition enough respect in terms of selection, says he is only looking to make "one or two" adjustments from the Palace victory.

"I don't give up competitions lightly," Hughes said.

"We want to do well in it and we want to progress in it, so I'll be putting out a strong team. There will be one or two changes but nothing wholesale."

Fit-again Stoke pair Wilson Palacios and Brek Shea are poised for a return to first-team involvement, but fellow midfielder Jamie Ness (thigh) is not yet ready to feature.

Rodgers: Borini Will Not Leave Liverpool On Loan

Liverpool striker Fabio Borini will not leave the club on a loan deal, manager Brendan Rodgers has confirmed.

The Italian has struggled with injuries since moving to Anfield last year, making just 20 appearances, and he faces strong competition for a first-team berth following the summer arrivals of Iago Aspas and Luis Alberto.

Despite Daniel Sturrdige's starring role in the opening two games of the season, the Rodgers still believes the 22-year-old Borini has a role to play at Anfield.

Asked if the Italian would be made available for loan, Rodgers said: "Not at this moment in time.

"There would be a queue of clubs wanting to take him if he was available. We want to keep a strong group - it's a very long season for us.

"You've got Daniel, Fabio, Aspas and Luis [Suarez] to come in a number of weeks. We want to make sure the competition in the group is there."

As well as keeping Borini at the club, Rodgers also remains intent on making new signings before the transfer window shuts on Sept. 2.

"We've got targets," Rodgers said. "While the window is still open we'll continue to look to improve the squad. We'll hopefully come out of the back of it with a stronger group.

"The idea is for us to strengthen that little bit more and hopefully we can do that."

U18s Off To Winning Start In America

Liverpool U18 coach Mike Garrity insisted there's more to come from his side after they got off to a winning start in the Newark Liberty International Soccer Summit in New Jersey.

The young Reds recovered from an unusually sluggish first-half performance on Tuesday afternoon to beat Colombian side Fuddercol 2-0 at Lubetkin Field, NJIT.

A Nathan Burke penalty three minutes into the second half and a great strike from substitute Louis Robles four minutes from time were enough to earn all three points, but Garrity believes his players will get better as the tournament progresses.

"I thought the performance could have been a lot better," he told "It was nice to get the result but when you travel this far for a tournament, the first game is never easy.

"The heat was difficult for the boys and the pitch was not the easiest to play on but overall we need to be happy that we took the points even if we know that we can play a lot better than that.

"What we don't want to do is give the lads any excuses, because if they want to make it, they'll need to get used to travelling long distances to games and playing in hot conditions like this. That's what the first-team players do and that's why these trips are so good because they help prepare the boys for what is hopefully to come.

"South American teams are usually quite physical so we told the boys to keep the ball as much as possible and at times we struggled to do that but hopefully as the week goes on, we'll improve on that part of our game.

"I thought as the game went on, we got better and I thought Ryan Kent influenced a lot of our attacking play while Dan Cleary was very solid at the back.

"Some of the boys have just come back from injury, so it was nice to get them back out there playing and now we'll brush ourselves down and get ready for the game against St Benedict's Prep on Wednesday evening."

Garrity's sentiments were echoed by team captain Burke after the game when he told the official website that he'd never played in such hot conditions.

"That was definitely the hottest I've ever been on a football pitch," he said. "We're obviously used to much cooler conditions in England but we had to adapt to it and I thought we did that in the second half.

"The first half was a struggle but I thought we became more composed in the second half and got the ball down on the ground and passed it much better.

"It was nice to score the penalty but it's about the team not me. Louis scored a fantastic goal at the end to make sure we got all three points and we were made up for him because he's working really hard."