Monday, September 30, 2013

Match Report: Sunderland 1 - 3 Liverpool

Luis Suarez marked his return to Barclays Premier League action with a double as Liverpool beat bottom-of-the-table Sunderland 3-1.

The Uruguay international, back in the fold after completing a 10-match suspension, needed just 37 minutes to find his way on to the scoresheet when he made the most of a flowing move to tap home from close range, and then celebrated by revealing a tee-shirt dedicated to his family.

Strike-partner Daniel Sturridge had given the visitors the lead by bundling home a 28th-minute Steven Gerrard corner with referee Howard Webb failing to spot that the ball had gone in off his arm, and it was he who set up Suarez to make it 3-1.

However, managerless Sunderland, who had earlier hit the bar through Sebastian Larsson, more than played their part in the game and got themselves back into it when Emanuele Giaccherini pulled a goal back seven minutes after the restart.

There was as much focus before kick-off on the man who occupied Liverpool's number seven shirt as there was on the search for a replacement for the man who no longer occupied a seat on the Sunderland bench.

That process is ongoing with chief executive Margaret Byrne using her program notes to inform the club's fans that talks have taken place with several candidates, and that there will be discussions with more this week.

Interim head coach Kevin Ball, who has put himself forward as a candidate, launched his temporary reign with a Capital One Cup victory over Peterborough on Tuesday night, and kept faith with the 11 men who brought a measure of normality back to the club after a chaotic few weeks.

Once again, they produced a performance which combined character, organization and some intent.

Unfortunately for them, however, they came face to face with a team which boasted significantly more potent weapons than those in the Posh armoury.

There was little to choose between the sides during the early exchanges and Larsson came close to giving the home side a 24th-minute lead when his free-kick beat former team-mate Simon Mignolet, but came back off the bar.

Giaccherini and Adam Johnson were causing problems for the Reds, as was bustling striker Jozy Altidore.

However, it was Liverpool, who had seen an earlier Martin Skrtel effort ruled out for offside, who got their noses in front four minutes later, although in controversial circumstances.

Central defender Kolo Toure only just failed to make meaningful contact with Steven Gerrard's left-wing corner, but Sturridge smuggled the ball over the line, although replays revealed with more than a little help from his right arm.

But the visitors' second goal was a thing of beauty, Gerrard picking out Sturridge with a raking 37th-minute pass and watching the striker sweep past Carlos Cuellar before drilling in a cross for Suarez to steer home at the far post.

The Black Cats left the pitch at half-time perhaps aggrieved to be two down having created chances of their own, the best of them falling to full-back Craig Gardner with a minute of the first 45 remaining.

Lee Cattermole's deft pass over the top put Gardner in on goal and it took a fine reaction save by Mignolet to keep out his first-time effort.

Suarez picked up where he had left off after the break, winning a 48th-minute corner with a deflected shot and then firing across goal from the resulting set-piece.

But the Black Cats continued to battle for a way back into the game and found it with 52 minutes gone when Mignolet could only parry Ki Sung-yueng's long-range drive and Giaccherini pounced on the rebound to score.

Mignolet redeemed himself two minutes later when he dived to his right to push away a dipping Gardner effort as it sped through a crowded penalty area with the home side very much back in the game.

The Belgium international proved equal to the task when Altidore let fly from distance with 62 minutes played, but opposite number Keiren Westwood had to acrobatically turn away Victor Moses' stinging right-foot shot from a tight angle five minutes later.
Suarez passed up a chance to claim a second goal of the afternoon with 18 minutes remaining when Cuellar did just enough to prevent him from converting Enrique's inviting cross, and Cattermole denied him once again two minutes later with a good block.

But Suarez was not finished and having picked out Sturridge with a fine 89th-minute pass, he made his way into the box to convert his cross and seal victory.

Rodgers Lauds Suarez-Sturridge

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has said he is delighted to have Luis Suarez back in the fold, hailing his combination with Daniel Sturridge.

Suarez, back in Premier League action after his ten-game suspension for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic, worked well with Sturridge to clinch a 3-1 win at Sunderland on Sunday.

Sturridge opened the scoring before assisting both of Suarez's goals as the Reds returned to winning ways after recent losses against Southampton and Manchester United.

Rodgers said: "I am not sure there are two better in the league, in all honesty. There are some wonderful partnerships around. You have got [Robin] Van Persie and [Wayne] Rooney up there, who are outstanding, but these two are right up there and they showed that against Sunderland.

"We have changed the structure of our team a wee bit to allow us to pass it better -- we have still got an awful of work to do -- and also to fit in with the types of players we have.

"They will only get better. You can see their understanding. We have done a lot of work with them together in training and they looked very, very bright today.

"They are two different types as well, which makes it hard for defenders because one has pace, one has power and two good feet, and the other is a wriggler and can shift his body very quickly and ends up in the box.

"He's getting the reward for his hard work over the period that he was off. I thought he was excellent the other night at Old Trafford.

"Him and Daniel up front are a real, real handful. They combined very well. On the back of a really tough game where we played well during the week, today was always going to be physically demanding game for us.

"I thought the work we put into it was exceptional and to get the three goals and maybe a few more chances to score a few more. I thought we were really dangerous on the counter-attack and as a team we worked really, really hard."

Sunderland interim head coach Kevin Ball was pleased with his side's efforts in his second game in charge. "We spoke at half-time and I thought you saw a great reaction," he said. "They gave it a really good go in the second half.

"We took it right to the death but unfortunately you're susceptible to that counter-attack where 3-1 - and I don't mean this as disrespect to Liverpool - flatters them a little bit. It was a shame because I thought the lads had a real good go today and that's something we need to take heart from."

Daniel Sturridge Cools Liverpool Title Talk

Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge has played down Liverpool's title hopes despite their strong start to the season.

The Reds moved up to second in the Premier League table after a 3-1 win at managerless Sunderland, with Sturridge opening the scoring before two goals from Luis Suarez - either side of Emanuele Giaccherini's effort for the Black Cats - sealing victory.

It was the Anfield club's fourth win in six league matches, but the England striker is refusing to get carried away at this early stage.

"It's early days, take every day as it comes. Don't worry about the future, worry about the here and now," he said on Sky Sports 1.

"I don't think we played as well as we could have in the first half, even though we were 2-0 up, but it was very difficult in the second half.

"We took our foot off the pedal a little bit and once they scored a goal it got a bit more difficult for us but we held on in the end.

"We defended well towards the end of the game and then got a late goal, which killed it off."

Sturridge opened the scoring in controversial fashion, with the ball taking a heavy deflection off his arm before nestling in the net.

The England man defended his actions, however, adding: "It's a great ball from Stevie, it's gone over the defender's head and it was last minute, I've obviously tried to head it but I guess my heading's not good enough.

"The ball's just gone in off my arm but I wouldn't do that on purpose. Sometimes these things happen."

Suarez netted a brace on his first Premier League outing since his 10-game ban and Sturridge believes the Uruguayan's presence can only help Liverpool this season.

"It's great to have him back in, he gives us options and he's one of the best forwards in the league. We form a good partnership," said the former Manchester City and Chelsea striker.

"We miss Philippe Coutinho, with his injury, we've got some great players in this team and I'm happy to be playing with them."

Atletico Madrid Prepare Bid For Liverpool Playmaker

Atletico Madrid is planning a £20million bid for Liverpool playmaker Philippe Coutinho when the transfer window reopens in January, reports the Daily Express.

The 21-year-old Brazilian only arrived at Anfield from Inter Milan in an £8.5million deal at the turn of the year, but is already attracting a growing list of admirers.

Coutinho's fine form for Brendan Rodgers's side has not gone unnoticed around Europe, with Diego Simeone ready to tempt the Merseyside club into selling the exciting young star, with a lucrative offer more than double what Liverpool paid for him less than 12 months ago.

Atletico actually enquired about Coutinho's availability in the summer, but were swiftly knocked back by the Premier League outfit.

But, they are ready to renew interest again in January, providing they secure the finances gained from progression from the Champions League group stages this season.

Coutinho is currently sidelined by the shoulder injury picked up in Liverpool's 2-2 draw with Swansea City earlier this month, but following successful shoulder surgery is expected to return to action before the end of October.

Benitez Targets Two Liverpool Stars

Napoli boss Rafa Benitez is plotting a double raid on former club Liverpool in January, according to sources in Italy.

Benitez's new side are flying high in Serie A at the moment - they're second in the table and unbeaten after six games - and he is eyeing January additions in an attempt to strengthen their title tilt.

talkSPORT told you last week that he is keen on Martin Skrtel, who has recently worked his way back into Brendan Rodgers' plans at Anfield after being frozen out in the second half of last season.

But the Spaniard is also planning to revive his interest in Lucas Leiva, the midfielder he brought to Merseyside from Gremio in 2007.

Benitez was a firm admirer of the Brazilian during his time at Liverpool and frequently defended the anchorman from criticism.

However, he could struggle to land Lucas as the 26-year-old is now an integral member of Brendan Rodgers' first team.

Agent Of Udinese Striker Denies Liverpool Contact

The agent of Udinese striker Luis Muriel has denied that he’s been in contact with any English sides, despite growing rumours of Liverpool being interested in his client.

The 22-year-old Colombian, who signed for the Friuli-based side in 2010 and spent two years out on loan, scored 11 goals and provided three assists during his first full year with the Zebrette last season and has garnered the attention of some of Europe’s biggest clubs as a result.

However, despite admitting that the young attacker would be interested in moving to a bigger club in the future, his agent was quick to downplay the growing rumours that Liverpool had earmarked him as a perfect understudy to Luis Suarez.

“He’s an immensely talented player, so it’s only normal that big clubs should be interested in him,” Helmut Wennin stated to calcionews24.

“However, I haven’t had any contact with English clubs regarding his future, nor have I had contact with any Italian sides, either, but I don’t know if the Pozzo family has been talking to anyone.

“In either case, Udinese and the Pozzo family have been really essential in Luis’s career to help him grow both as a man and as a player.

“He has a great relationship with Francesco Guidolin and knows that he’s an important player for his club.

“But, of course, my client’s objective is to play for a top club someday and he’ll continue to work hard to improve and hopefully have the opportunity to test himself at a bigger club sometime in the future.”

Liverpool Ladies Claim First English Title

Liverpool LFC has clinched their first major honour as they won the FA Women's Super League with a 2-0 defeat of Bristol Academy WFC.

Going into the title decider in Widnes, Liverpool led Bristol by two points so knew a draw would be enough for the championship. In the event Louise Fors put them ahead from the penalty spot on 35 minutes and Katrin Ómarsdóttir doubled the lead in the second half, Liverpool ending Arsenal LFC's nine-season reign.

Swedish international Fors and Iceland midfielder Ómarsdóttir were two of a large number of winter arrivals as new Liverpool manager Matt Beard revamped a squad that had finished bottom in both previous FA WSL seasons. Winning their last seven games proved to be the key with 12-goal Natalie Dowie and Nicole Rolser, on ten, ending as the league's top two scorers. They can now look forward to a UEFA Women’s Champions League debut in 2014/15.

Fors said: "It's an amazing feeling. We worked hard all season and we deserve it." Beard added: "The players have been fantastic and they deserve it. They have done this themselves by spending time together off the pitch and creating a great team spirit."
Bristol have also earned a European berth, as although Arsenal won 2-1 at Everton LFC, they missed out on second place due to three points deducted for fielding an ineligible player in their 3-0 victory at Liverpool last month. To maintain their record of playing in Europe every season since 2003/04, Arsenal must claim a second continental crown this time around, starting in the round of 32 where they play WFC CSHVSM-Kairat on 9 and 17 October.

England's other 2013/14 UEFA Women's Champions League contenders, Birmingham City LFC, ended fourth after a 3-0 win at bottom side Doncaster Belles LFC, who will be departing the top division for the first time to be replaced by Manchester City LFC. Birmingham's European opponents PK-35 Vantaa today won their third straight Finnish Cup, overcoming HJK Helsinki 2-0.

New Liverpool Contract For Rodgers On The Agenda

Liverpool wants to tie manager Brendan Rodgers down to a new contract.

Rodgers, appointed as manager in June 2012, has under two years remaining on his deal and the Anfield giants are wary of taking any risks over his future.

The Liverpool board is yet to discuss a new contract with Rodgers, but it is believed to be on the club's agenda.

Rodgers has admirers at Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham, and could even be considered as a potential successor to Roy Hodgson if England fails to qualify for the World Cup.

Despite a run of three games without a win ahead of Sunday's trip to Sunderland, Liverpool has started the season well.

Rodgers and striker Daniel Sturridge won the Premier League Manager and Player of the month for August.

The 40-year-old Northern Irishman also impressed his bosses with his handling of the Luis Suarez saga.

Manchester United Face Demise Like Liverpool

Manchester United are in the process of a demise similar to that of the last Liverpool team to win a title, says Alan Hansen.

Hansen was a key part of the Liverpool team of 1990 - the last time the Merseyside outfit won the English First Division.

The new Manchester United boss David Moyes made just one notable signing in the summer in the form of Marouane Fellaini from Everton for £27.5m. The Premier League champions have since had their worst start to a league season in 24 years.

"Liverpool began to flounder because they failed to replace good players with better ones," Hansen told the Daily Telegraph

"The club has paid a heavy price in the two decades since."

Moyes, 50, was recommended by outgoing manager Sir Alex Ferguson but has since struggled with the role, finding his opening three months in charge hard going.

It was a frustrating summer for everyone at Old Trafford as players like Cesc Fabregas and Gareth Bale were pursued, but turned down the chance to join the club.

Hansen says that, although it is too early to make a judgement on Moyes, alarm bells are ringing around Old Trafford.

He believes there are some worrying similarities between the current United squad and that of Liverpool's shortly before their demise.

"It is too early to say we are now witnessing the end of the empire at Old Trafford," said Hansen.

"But alarm bells are ringing and there are clear similarities between the United of 2013 and the last Liverpool team to win the title back in 1990.

"I played in that Liverpool team 23 years ago and it was in the bottom three of the eight title-winning sides I played in at Anfield.

"It was an ageing team, one which Kenny Dalglish was looking to break up and build again with new players. In the past the club had successfully combined winning and rebuilding, but this time was different."

Hansen, 58, added: "United have more depth and quality than the 1990 Liverpool side, but I would say that the two first teams are comparable in terms of the issues they faced.

"Both could be described as ageing teams that needed breaking up, but with issues over those brought in as younger replacements."