Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Match Report: Swansea 2 - 2 Liverpool

Jonjo Shelvey went from hero to villain and back again against his former club as Swansea ended Liverpool's 100% start to the Barclays Premier League season in a frenetic draw at the Liberty Stadium.

Shelvey, who left the Reds for south Wales in the summer, fired the Swans into the lead after just 87 seconds.

However, two terrible errors from the midfielder allowed the in-form Daniel Sturridge and Liverpool debutant Victor Moses to put the visitors ahead.

However, Shelvey redeemed himself as he laid on an equalizer for Michu.

Brendan Rodgers has brought the Merseysiders to his former club with three wins from three on the board, but they were given a rude awakening when Shelvey rounded £18million signing Mamadou Sakho with ease before curling left-footed into the net.

The England international initially celebrated with gusto but reined himself in in front of the away end.

But he had few reasons to smile just 99 seconds later as a horrible backpass ended with Sturridge scoring his 12th goal in 10 games.

He then compounded the mistake by hitting a pass straight to Moses, who raced away to steer beyond Michel Vorm.

But, with his temper beginning to fray, Shelvey's clever header set Michu up for his first league goal of the season to cap a remarkable night for the former Charlton man.

So much of the build-up had centred on Shelvey's first meeting with his former employers, and he made a dream start.

The midfielder initially scuffed an attempted volley from Jordan Henderson’s poor header, but regained control to ghost pass Sakho and produces a lovely left-footed finish at the second attempt.

But his joy was brief as, still full of adrenaline, he played a blind backpass and failed to spot Sturridge lurking; the striker needed no second invitation.

Shelvey, perhaps understandably, took a few minutes to regain his composure but was guilty of being too eager to make amends, as he scythed down Philippe Coutinho before blazing well over the bar.

Liverpool took a stranglehold on possession and the pace of Moses was proving a real problem for the Swansea defence.

Ben Davies had to block from Henderson after one rangy run from the Nigerian, before he gave Sturridge a simple finish after outfoxing Angel Rangel and Nathan Dyer, but the striker headed straight at Vorm, who deflected the ball wide.

Swansea responded with a lovely exchange of passes between Michu and Wilfried Bony, but the Ivory Coast striker's shot did not have enough power to trouble Simon Mignolet.

Shelvey then took centre stage again, his risky pass went straight to Moses, who drove at a retreating Swans' rearguard to beat Vorm.

Swansea could have levelled inside a minute, but Martin Skrtel pulled off a magnificent last-gasp challenge to deny Bony a tap-in after Mignolet had parried a Dyer shot he should have held.

Liverpool almost extended their lead seven minutes into the second half. Swansea were caught sleeping at a free-kick as Henderson crept in at the back post, but Vorm saved from Andre Wisdom after the midfielder had pushed the ball across goal.

Shelvey's night almost plumbed new depths moments later as he squared up to Lucas after Swansea refused to return the ball after Coutinho limped off with an injury.

But referee Michael Oliver opted to book the pair rather than take more severe action.

And Shelvey's topsy-turvy evening soon turned on its head once more as he surged forward to cushion a header into the path of Michu, who finished low to Mignolet's right.

Swansea had renewed vigour and took the game to their visitors during a frantic final quarter, with Jonathan de Guzman forcing a fingertip save from Mignolet, but an engrossing contest ended level.

Mignolet Backs Sakho And Moses To Succeed

Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet has backed new signings Mamadou Sakho and Victor Moses to succeed at the club.

Both Moses, who joined on loan from Chelsea, and Sakho, who is now Liverpool's most expensive defender, impressed with their performances in the 2-2 draw away at Swansea on Monday night.

Speaking to the Liverpool Echo, Mignolet heaped praise on the pair who both signed for the club on transfer deadline day, and he said: "It was great for Victor to score.

"It was a good performance from him and hopefully he keeps it going.

"With Sakho, you can see he has the qualities to be a centre-back in the Premier League. He’s big and strong and can pass the ball. It was good for him to make his debut and I hope he will settle into the team quickly."

The 25-year old stopper, who made the switch to Anfield in the summer, has himself impressed with a series of fine displays.

In his first game as a Liverpool player, he saved a last-minute Jonathan Walters penalty and he has gone on from there, establishing himself as a key member of the first team.

He said: "As a goalkeeper you always want to keep clean sheets. I did that in the first three games but tonight (against Swansea) we conceded early on.

"After that you just have to ensure you keep your head down and help the team when called upon.

"I'm pleased with how things are going but I'm not getting carried away. I need to keep improving."

New Liverpool Forward Hails 'Great' Debut

Victor Moses has described the 'great' feeling of making his Liverpool debut after getting on the score sheet in his new side's draw with Swansea on Monday night.

The 22-year-old made the switch from Chelsea to Liverpool on transfer deadline day, arriving at Anfield on a season-long loan.

Moses was allowed to move by the Europa League Champions after not appearing for them under new manager Jose Mourinho at the start of the new season.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers started the Nigerian international at the first opportunity and was rewarded with a goal from the former Wigan forward in the 2-2 draw at the Liberty Stadium.

And Moses was happy to be playing once again.

"It's always great to get on the scoresheet," he said.

"It was a great goal for me. They made a mistake in the middle of the park, I took the ball, cut in and watched the 'keeper - I gave him the face and put the ball in the back of the net.

"It was great to put on the red shirt, get back on the pitch again and enjoy my football. That was the most important thing. It was a great game for us today and we're delighted with the result.

"I think it's a fair result. We could have taken all three points but it wasn't an easy game for us. Coming here, we knew that it was going to be a difficult game. A point was a fair result for us so we're delighted with it."

Moses scored one goal in 23 Premier League appearances for Chelsea following a £9m move from Wigan last August and joined central defenders Mamadou Sakho and Tiago Ilori in making the switch to Merseyside on transfer deadline day.

Moses' goal and that of Daniel Sturridge's - his fourth in as many games in the league - were cancelled out by Jonjo Shelvey and Michu but were enough to return Liverpool to the top of the Premier League table.

Rodgers Reveals Big Transfer Plans

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has unveiled his plans to rival Tottenham when it comes to big money transfers.

Tottenham broke their transfer record three times during the summers, and Rodgers believes Anfield must follow suit to keep their hopes alive of a top-four finish.

The Reds have made an impressive start to their new Premier League campaign and could reclaim the league top spot if they beat Swansea tonight.

And Rodgers has outlaid his plans for future transfer windows, telling the press Liverpool had to keep improving and avoid resting on their laurels because of their confident start.

He said: "We still need to make improvements.

"Tottenham have spent £100million to try and get in the top four. It will take another few windows to get that quality in the group.

"We can be better. We have shown in stages the quality we can have with the passion, resilience and desire. We just need to keep getting results.

"It is important to maintain that and we have to be vigilant. We need to keep the feel-good factor going."

Galatasaray Join The Race For Liverpool Target Lacina Traore

Turkish side Galatasaray is the latest club linked with a move for Anzhi Makhachkala striker Lacina Traore in January.

Traore was thought to almost certain to join Juventus in the winter, after Dinamo Moscow boss Dan Petrescu revealed he would not be making a bid for the player because he expects him to end up in Italy.

But reports in Russia suggest that Galatasaray have not be dissuaded from chasing the 23-year-old Ivorian, with the player's agent, Dmitry Selyuk, saying many clubs remain in the hunt to sign Traore.

Selyuk told Izvestia: "Recent developments have not changed Traore's relationship with Anzhi.

"Moreover, he believes that the change of direction towards development will benefit the club.

"He loves to work with [new coach] Gadzhi Gadzhiyev, who has assured him that he counts on Lacina as the main striker.

"But I can't deny that in the case of a decent proposal that suits both us and Anzhi, Lacina could still change club.

"The interest in Traore in Russia and Europe is quite large.

"Therefore, if we get a good offer in the winter I think the leadership of Anzhi will let him go.

"But there are not many teams that could afford to pay the price for the player."

Liverpool is thought to hold a long-standing interest in Traore, who scored 12 goals in 24 games for Anzhi last season, but whether they have either the desire or the means to compete for the player's signing in January, particularly given the clubs impressive start to the season, remains to be seen.

Arsenal To Battle With Liverpool For Papadopoulos

Arsenal will battle with rivals Liverpool to secure the signature of defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos.

The Schalke centre-back was linked with a move to Anfield throughout the summer but a deal failed to materialize after a knee injury scuppered his transfer.

The 21-year-old is highly rated in the Bundesliga and Arsenal has been monitoring the situation of Papadopoulos.

According to the Express, Arsene Wenger has been lining up an offer of around £11million for the player and it could be enough to secure a move to the Emirates.

However they will have to fight for the Greeks services with a host of European giants interested, including Manchester City, AC Milan, Chelsea and Zenit St Petersburg all supposedly willing to meet Schalke's asking price.

Papadopoulos has played 57 times for the German side since his move from Olympiakos and has featured for his national side 16 times.

He looked set to sign for Zenit after a bid believed to be around £16million was accepted but rejected a move to Russia to remain in Germany.

Luis Suarez Return Boosts Premier League Challenge

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers believes the return of Luis Suarez will boost his side in their Premier League challenge.

The Merseyside outfit is currently top of the Premier League after 10 points from their opening four games and will welcome back their controversial striker as they visit Old Trafford to take on Manchester United in the League Cup next week.

Suarez is currently completing a 10-match ban after a bite on Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic towards the end of last season.

However, Rodgers believes the return of the Uruguayan will benefit his side and is looking forward to welcoming him back into the team.

The Reds boss told reporters: “It’s early stages but it keeps the momentum going and in the next couple of weeks we have one of the best strikers in the world coming back.

Liverpool earned a point against a strong Swansea City side in South Wales on Monday evening and will be hoping to continue their unbeaten start to the Premier League campaign when they take on Southampton at Anfield this weekend.

After Monday night's draw, Rodgers went on to say: “You can’t look too much at it (being top). But you’d rather be there than be at the bottom and what it does is that the more you are up there the more aggression and will and desire you have to stay there.
“It’s only four games in, but we’ve had four tough games and we have only lost once in the last 16 odd games so we are getting a level of consistency and that was the biggest thing for me.

“Coming here there was no consistency in the performance and now we are just churning out wins and if we can’t win we are drawing games with resilient performances like in the last 25 minutes here.

“But I believe we will get better and more fluent as the season goes on so we are happy to be there and it gives us the fight to stay there.”

Daniel Agger Suffers Freak Injury

Liverpool defender Daniel Agger could miss the Reds' Premier League clash with Southampton at the weekend after he sustained a freak injury in the gym.

Agger was absent from the 2-2 draw with Swansea on Monday night due to the rib injury he suffered in training on Sunday, where he overstretched trying to avoid a falling dumbbell.

Phillipe Coutinho, who has struggled to reach the heights of last season so far, picked up a knock in Wales and reportedly left the Liberty Stadium in a sling.

Manager Brendan Rodgers is still unsure of the extent of both players’ injuries and he said: "Phillippe [Coutinho] will have a wee scan. As for Daniel, it's too early to say whether he will be fit for Saturday.

"He had a real freak accident in the gym. Just before he was coming out to train he overstretched trying to prevent a dumbbell falling on his foot.

"He has overstretched and yanked his side. We are waiting to see if that settles down over the next few days. If it doesn't, we have got ample replacements. That is why we brought in extra players."

Agger's injury handed £18million man Mamadou Sakho his first start for the club, and the former Swansea boss was pleased with the Frenchman's performance.

"Sakho did very well," Rodgers said.

"He has played a lot over pre-season but he has come back in and done very well. I thought he was excellent and assured. Once he gets used to working with us, he will improve."

The draw on Monday night sent Liverpool back to the top of the Premier League table and they will be hoping that they can keep their excellent form so far this season going.

Liverpool Boss Rodgers Reveals Reina Talks

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has revealed he spoke to Pepe Reina about his plans to sign another goalkeeper this summer.

The Spaniard made 285 appearances during nine seasons as the club's first choice shot-stopper, before linking up with former boss Rafa Benitez on a season-long loan at Napoli. And after Reina backtracked on claims that he was forced out of the club, Rodgers has revealed he met with the 31-year-old to explain he planned to give him some competition in goal.

"It wasn't anything underhand," Rodgers told the Telegraph. "It was looking into his eye and telling him he was a very good keeper, but in order to be the best he can be and for us to be the best, I need to bring in another one who would be equal No. 1.

"He accepted that at the time, that was something he felt was needed also.

"Obviously here at the club we then have to consider the wages, as there is a financial implication too. So it was deemed through both parties that it was best for him to move on.

"As I said, I was comfortable enough to let it happen. He wanted to go and play, you have to consider that, it is World Cup year as well. He wanted to be a number one somewhere.

"We did everything we could to support him to be the best he could be. There was no rush for me to move Pepe out but I felt he needed competition so I had to bring in someone."

Rodgers has already been impressed by new No. 1 choice Simon Mignolet, who was signed for 9 million pounds from Sunderland during the summer transfer window.

"I’d seen him over the last few years, he’s adapted to the Premier League. He is a brilliant shot-stopper," Rodgers said. "John Achterberg, our Dutch goalkeeping coach, has been monitoring him for years.

"You see his presence, he is good with his feet, which is important, it is one of the big things I look for in my goalkeeper."

Borini Should Have Snubbed Liverpool

Fabio Borini has been told he might have been better snubbing Liverpool and staying at Roma.

Borini, 22, has flopped at Anfield following his £10.5million switch in July 2012 and has been sent out on loan to Sunderland for the season.

The striker's agent Marco De Marchi claims it might have been better for his career to remain at Roma.

"I think Fabio would have been the ideal player for Zdenek Zeman last year at Roma," De Marchi told Radio Mana Mana.

"But the decision was made to leave Roma. Of course, it all happened very quickly and there was no chance to talk with the new coach.

"But having said that, I still think Roma would have been the right team for Fabio."

Luis Alberto Hits U21s Hat-Trick

Luis Alberto's impressive second-half hat-trick sealed Liverpool U21s' valuable 5-2 victory over Barclays U21 Premier League leaders Sunderland at Anfield.

Summer signing Tiago Ilori made an encouragingly solid Reds debut as Alex Inglethorpe's side cancelled out strikes from Alejandro Rodriguez-Gorrin and David Moberg Karlsson through low drives by Jack Dunn and Alberto.

Raheem Sterling handed Liverpool the lead with an effort that bobbled narrowly over the line before the heroic Alberto ensured that the Reds couldn't be caught with a composed header and penalty.

Brendan Rodgers was in attendance to see his deadline day acquisition in action, while former Reds Michael Owen and Steve McManaman also travelled to see the thoroughly exciting match.

England U21s manager Gareth Southgate added himself to the list of familiar faces at Anfield as he ran the rule over the likes of Sterling, Jordon Ibe and Martin Kelly.

The opening stages of the encounter proved to be tightly contested, with both sides producing wayward efforts that failed to trouble either goalkeeper.

Attempts from Black Cats centre-backs Scott Harrison and Thomas McNamee soared well over the crossbar, while Reds wingers Sterling and Ibe both drilled shots that were equally fruitless.

Following several off-target attempts, the first shot directed towards goal - courtesy of Sunderland - broke the deadlock on the half-hour mark.

The Reds defence failed to clear sustained pressure from the visitors and were punished by a well-struck drive from the edge of the area by Rodriguez-Gorrin, who rifled beyond the outstretched arm of Danny Ward and into the bottom corner.

Liverpool nearly drew themselves back on terms in stunning circumstances through the somewhat unlikely source of Jon Flanagan.

A cross ricocheted into the path of the unmarked full-back and he responded by volleying the floating ball agonizingly wide.

The inevitable frustration of coming so close was compounded when Sunderland doubled their lead through some slick movement.

Moberg Karlsson latched onto an incisive through ball before calmly rounding Ward and prodding in from an acute angle.

That produced the desired response from Inglethorpe's youngsters as Dunn halved the deficit on the stroke of half-time. The front-man met captain Kelly's low cross with a calm clipped effort that found the far corner.

Dunn's goal proved to be the catalyst for a rampant second-half beginning from the home side as they overturned the scoreline within seven minutes of the restart.

Despite surging into the box, Alberto remained composed in possession before playing a quick passing exchange with Sterling that allowed the Spaniard to side-foot a solid effort past Joel Dixon to level the scoring.

Two minutes later, the Reds dramatically broke into the lead through the combination of Ibe and Sterling.

The former charged into the opposition's box and around Dixon before cutting back to Sterling, who managed to roll the ball just over the line under intense pressure.

A minor mar on the U21s' evening followed, when defender Lloyd Jones was shown a straight red card for an altercation with Mikael Mandron.

Sterling came close to increasing his and Liverpool's tally soon after but was harshly denied by the woodwork.

The 18-year-old's electric pace saw him race past multiple challenges before his slightly dragged left-footed shot bounced back off the post after beating the Sunderland custodian.

The home side was eventually rewarded for their continued efforts to extend their lead when Alberto found his second with just less than 20 minutes remaining.

A long ball played over the Black Cats' backline was expertly controlled by the 20-year-old, whose initial shot ricocheted off the diving Dixon and back into his path - making it easy for Alberto to calmly nod the ball into a gaping net.

With just eight minutes left in a thrilling battle, the frightening speed of Sterling drew a penalty for the Reds after he was brought down by the Sunderland 'keeper.

Alberto assumed the penalty duties and sealed his hat-trick as his spot-kick crept under the arms of Dixon and into the corner of the net, ensuring Liverpool ran out comfortable and deserved winners on the evening.