Monday, October 07, 2013

Match Report: Liverpool 3 - 1 Crystal Palace

Liverpool's return to the top of the Premier League was confirmed by an impressive first-half performance which saw Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge steal the show again.

The pair had dispelled suggestions they were not entirely compatible as a front two with all the goals in the 3-1 win at Sunderland last week.

This was more of the same as they scored the Reds' first two, which were followed by a Steven Gerrard penalty for his 99th Premier League goal, in another 3-1 success.

It took the strike duo's tally when both on the pitch at the same time to 16 goals, averaging a goal less than every 70 minutes.

Individually their statistics are formidable, together they are devastating.

Suarez has 19 goals in his last 22 games, while Sturridge has 19 in 24 games since joining in January, including eight in nine matches this season.

Sturridge's form would seem to make him a certain starter for England's important World Cup qualifying double-header next week - injury permitting.

He missed the last two internationals a month ago, coincidentally when Liverpool last went to the top of the table, with a thigh injury and minor concerns were raised about his fitness when he fell awkwardly in the first half, even though he managed to play 87 minutes.

Sturridge was watched by England coach Roy Hodgson, who had dashed down the M62 after watching Manchester City's earlier victory over Everton.

Sat nearby was Kenny Dalglish, whose return to the club in as non-executive director 17 months after he was sacked to be replaced by Brendan Rodgers.

Part of his remit is an advisory role but on this evidence there will not be much he can tell his successor after five wins in his opening seven league matches. Substitute Dwight Gayle's 77th-minute consolation had no impact on this one.

Liverpool were up and running after 14 minutes when Victor Moses' cross-field run delivered the ball to Suarez who instinctively rolled it into the path of the overlapping Jose Enrique.

The Spaniard knew exactly what to do, getting to the byline and cutting back to Suarez, who improvised brilliantly as he fell to the ground under pressure from Jason Puncheon, hooking the ball home while on his way down on one knee.

Within three minutes Liverpool had doubled their lead, with Suarez and Enrique playing a minor part this time.

The Reds left-back tried to pick out the Uruguayan with a long pass out of defence and, with Adrian Mariappa coming out to challenge, the ball went over their heads and put Sturridge in one-on-one with Damien Delaney in the inside-left channel.

Sturridge changed directions three times on his way into the penalty area, leaving his marker all at sea, with the final switch giving the England striker just enough room to fire an angled shot across Julian Speroni and inside the far post.

Liverpool have never lost a Premier League home game having led by two goals, winning a remarkable 311 of 313 and, despite the odd chance falling Palace's way, that record was never likely to be threatened.

The Enrique, Suarez, Sturridge triumvirate was in overdrive as another incisive move cut open the Palace defence and only the outstretched foot of Delaney prevented Sturridge sliding home.

Even when Mamadou Sakho and Martin Skrtel took each other out going for the same ball to put Jimmy Kebe through, Kolo Toure swept up in the six-yard area to prevent the first shot going in and goalkeeper Simon Mignolet saved Puncheon's follow-up.

Sakho's good fortune continued when he sliced just wide of his own post after Mignolet failed to deal with low left-wing cross.

The match was over as a contest in the 38th minute when left-back Dean Moxey's pull on Raheem Sterling, starting his first league match since January in place of the suspended Lucas Leiva, was spotted by assistant referee Richard West.

Referee Anthony Taylor pointed to the spot and Gerrard, making his 638th appearance to replace Tommy Smith in seventh place in the club's all-time list, stroked home.

The sight of Rodgers taking his seat in the dug-out before his side had even emerged for the second half told its own story.

Palace had a better second half and was eventually rewarded with a goal after taking advantage of Liverpool's frailties at set-pieces.

Half-time substitutes Jose Campana and Gayle combined with the former curling in a free-kick from out wide on the left and the latter touching it in.

Sturridge could have had his second when he hit a post late on and England will hope he can carry that form on to the international stage.

Rodgers Criticises Liverpool Despite Win

Another ruthless display from Luis Suárez and Daniel Sturridge returned Liverpool to the top of the Premier League with a 3-1 defeat of Crystal Palace, but Brendan Rodgers reprimanded his side for their "lack of control" at Anfield.

Suárez marked his first competitive home appearance since collecting a 10-match ban in April with a fine opening goal for Liverpool, his third in two league games since returning from suspension. Sturridge scored his eighth of the season in front of the watching Roy Hodgson and was declared fit afterwards for England's World Cup qualifiers against Montenegro and Poland.

With the exception of his "SAS" strike force, the Liverpool manager was unhappy with his team after Palace missed several excellent chances before Dwight Gayle's late consolation. Rodgers, who kicked a collection of water bottles in disgust when Liverpool was leading 2-0, said: "In the final third it was very good. Those two boys up front [Suárez and Sturridge] are as good as anything in the league. We took our goals well but the second half was nowhere near where we wanted to be. In my first season we were guilty of playing well and not getting the result. Here we got the win without playing great."

Rodgers said the display rekindled memories of one of his most disappointing experiences in football, despite Liverpool replacing Arsenal at the Premier League summit. "I am not the type of coach who only wants the win" he said. "It reminded me of a performance I had when I first became a manager, when I knew it had to be about more than just winning. At Watford we beat Swansea 2-0 at Vicarage Road. Everyone was elated and it was named the performance of the week but I was so disappointed because we didn't keep the ball well. This was like that. Our movement and combinations in the final third was good but the lack of control behind that was very disappointing."

But the Liverpool manager was lavish in his praise for Sturridge and Suárez. He added: "There are not many better in this league. Their movement and understanding was outstanding. They give us a real thrust on the counterattack away from home with their pace and they are clever against teams who defend deep here. They have a telepathic nature and with them anything is possible."

Holloway: Palace Didn’t Deserve Liverpool Defeat

Crystal Palace manager Ian Holloway believes their 3-1 defeat to Liverpool was harsh on his side’s performance throughout their visit to Anfield.

The Merseyside outfit was in full flow in the opening half, with strike duo Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez netting a goal apiece, while captain Steven Gerrard slotted home a penalty.

The decision to award the spot kick was dubious after Reds winger Raheem Sterling went to ground far too easily, while the Eagles did well to rally back after the break, with Dwight Gayle scoring his second of the season with a flicked header.

Going into the break 3-0 up, Liverpool turned off the gas somewhat when they emerged for the second 45 minutes, and Holloway lamented his side’s costly missed chances as they attempted a comeback after the restart.

“Missing the odd opportunity we had on the break was important," said the Palace boss.

“We need to get some confidence, and there was enough fidgeting from Brendan Rodgers next to me, I can assure you, but unfortunately we’re being punished for any singular mistake we’re making at the moment.

“We had a couple of chances but unfortunately if you don’t take them at this level it can be pretty unforgiving.

“I don’t think we deserved to be 3-0 down at half time on the balance of overall play.

“To go into the break 3-0 down, and in that fashion, I’m pretty upset to be honest.

“But we’ve got to bounce back and take some solace from our second-half performance, a lot of teams would have completely capitulated but we didn’t.”

Toure: Suarez & Sturridge Are The Best

Liverpool's Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge are the best attacking duo in the Premier League, according to their team-mate Kolo Toure.

Both forwards scored in Saturday's 3-1 win at home to Crystal Palace, making it five goals between them in the two matches since Suarez's return from a 10-match suspension.

"They are the best pair in the league definitely," said Toure after the Palace match. "They work well together, they respect each other and they are so strong up front.

"Suarez is a great player and that is why we wanted him to stay because he is a big striker and to have someone like him and Sturridge is important."

Liverpool Prepared To Make January Bid For Traore

Liverpool is reportedly ready to take their interest in Anzhi Makhachkala striker Lacina Troare to the next level by making an offer in the January transfer window.

According to the Daily Mail, Traore has been told he is allowed to leave the club with Liverpool firm favourites to sign the Ivory Coast international.

Liverpool has already attempted to sign the 6ft 8in striker before Anzhi pulled out late in the negotiations, the article reports, and will try to take advantage of Anzhi’s financial problems which has seen them sell Willian and Samuel Eto’o to Chelsea.

The Metro reports that Traore’s agent, Dmitry Selyuk, has said that the player is free to leave Russia should a good enough offer come in during the transfer window.

“If a good offer arrives that suits us then Lacina is free to leave in January,” said Selyuk.

“The demand for him is huge in Russia and especially in Europe.”

The tall striker has a good record in his last 27 games for Anzhi, scoring 13 goals as he hopes to land himself a move to a bigger club.

Suarez Happy With Sturridge

Luis Suarez insists he could not be happier playing alongside Daniel Sturridge for a Liverpool side that has made a promising start in the Barclays Premier League this season.

Liverpool returned to the top of the table after a convincing 3-1 victory over newly-promoted Crystal Palace on Saturday to notch their fifth victory in seven league matches this season.

And Suarez insisted there is no rivalry between himself and the England striker, explaining the pair are desperate to continue to build on their blossoming strike partnership.

"When you have one big striker and a very good player in Daniel, I am so happy," Suarez told LFC TV. "We compete for the shirt of Liverpool and we try our best for the team, not for me or him.

"He tries his best for the team and tries his best to play with me."

"Last season we didn't play very well and we finished in a bad position and this season we'll try to be better," added the 26-year-old.

"If we stay with the same football style and try for the win every game, we can try for the top four."

Sturridge Ready For England

In-form Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge says he is desperate to continue his goal-scoring run with England.

The Premier League's top-scorer was forced out of England's crucial double header with Ukraine and Moldova last month - but he is now available for the final two qualifiers with Poland and Montenegro.

Sturridge is now hoping that his form for Liverpool will be enough to earn a start for Roy Hodgson's side.

"I'm fit and ready to go and I'm really happy about that, as I was really gutted to miss the last two England games," said Sturridge.

"I feel I'm in the form of my life and hope to give the England boss a selection problem."

Wayne Rooney also missed England's last double-header, but like Sturridge is now available and captain Steven Gerrard is delighted to have both available.

"I'm glad Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge will be available for us after missing the last two games because they are players that can make an awful lot of difference to the squad," said Gerrard.

"Every opposition will have their tricky players and Montenegro and Poland with have their match winners as well, but we will have the better match winners - I tell you that!"

Dalglish Returns To Liverpool

Kenny Dalglish is to return to Liverpool after accepting an invitation to join the board of directors at Anfield.

Dalglish, who left the club in May 2012 after 17 months in his second spell as manager, will take up his new role as a non-executive board director immediately following discussions with club owners Fenway Sports Group, managing director Ian Ayre and manager Brendan Rodgers.

As a player, he won six league titles, two FA Cups, four League Cups, three European Cups and one Super Cup with Liverpool, becoming player-manager in 1985 and helping the club to another three league titles and two FA Cup victories.

Spells at Blackburn and Newcastle followed before returning to Liverpool in January 2011 as caretaker boss following the departure of Roy Hodgson.

He was named permanent successor in May 2011 and steered the club to League Cup success and an FA Cup final the following season before leaving with the team finishing a disappointing eighth in the Premier League.

A Liverpool statement read: "The new role will allow the ownership and senior management to benefit not just from the Anfield legend's decades of experience, but also his close affinity with supporters."

Dalglish said: "It is an honour and privilege to be asked to return to Liverpool as a director of the club. I have always said if there is anything I could do to help this club I would make myself available - when the call came I had no hesitation.

"I am looking forward to working with the board of directors and contributing to the strategic issues that affect Liverpool Football Club. Liverpool has given me and my family so much since we came here just over 36 years ago and my priority is and will always be to have the club's best interests at heart."

Fenway Sports Group principal owner John W Henry added: "We are delighted Kenny has accepted our offer to join Liverpool as a non-executive board director and we are sure he will make a valuable contribution to the club's strategy.

"Kenny has a unique relationship with our supporters and embodies everything that is special about Liverpool. We are thrilled that the club will benefit from his experience and passion for the club and our supporters.

"Kenny has a unique insight on the values and traditions that helped to make Liverpool one of the greatest sporting institutions, not just in football, but in world sport. We are proud and honoured to have him back at the club he has represented with such distinction."

Rodgers said: "When I met with Kenny to discuss this appointment, I was struck by the passion and drive he still has in wanting to see Liverpool return to where it should be; one of the most successful clubs in the world.

"We are all together in that goal - owners and supporters, players and management and also icons such as Kenny Dalglish. I want people around us who have this club and what it stands for in their heart."

Downing Happy To Leave Reds

Stewart Downing admits he was happy to get away from Liverpool after signing for West Ham United in the summer.

Despite featuring heavily last season for Liverpool, Brendan Rodgers had made it clear he could leave.

So Downing did not have to think too much about finalizing the switch to Upton Park.

"I didn't have to think about it that long," Downing says. "I just said: 'OK, I will sign tomorrow.' And that was it. Done," he revealed to the Daily Telegraph.

"Brendan pulled me and said: 'I've just found out they've accepted a fee today.'

"He [Rodgers] said he couldn't promise I would play every week. That's understandable, but at my age [29] I need to play and there's a World Cup coming up so I want to give myself a chance to get into the England squad."

"I need to play. I could not go through that again. I'd missed three or four months when Brendan first came and the season before that I was in and out.

"I came back in the summer and with new players in the [Liverpool] team I was determined to have the attitude: 'It's up to you to try and get my shirt.' And that's how it felt until that conversation.

"It looked like I wasn't going to play [at Liverpool] and with two years left on my contract I knew they wouldn't offer me a new one.

"I didn't want to sit around because Brendan will want to keep on spending and reinforcing and wanting his own team. So I had to make a decision and Sam Allardyce gave me the opportunity."

Downing insists that he has joined an ambitious club.

"There are good ambitions here - moving to the Olympic Stadium and with Andy signing, and with the manager wanting to keep strengthening," he continued.

"I was happy to make that move. It's a great club, a club on the up and finished 10th last year and we want to finish as high as we can.

"He's made it clear to us that he wants to finish higher and I think we can do that. I liked his [Allardyce's] ambitions.

"He's not one to sit around, Sam, he wants to keep improving so I thought it was a good time to come here.

"He's quite persuasive and he's very straightforward, which is all you can ask for as a player.

"He told me to come here, come and enjoy my football and he would improve me as a player - simple things but things that you want to hear.

"I look at it as a whole: am I going to be playing regularly? What type of team is it? Am I going to fit in?

"And the stadium tops it off. All factors come into it but the biggest one for me is playing regularly I didn't have to think about it that long."

Downing, who has 34 caps, has not given up on playing for England again.

"I certainly still want to play for England," he added.

"Obviously I've not played for a long time but you never know. I just want to give myself a chance and coming here and playing well for West Ham gives me a better chance than if I had stayed at Liverpool."