Monday, August 30, 2010

Torres Goal Sinks Baggies

Liverpool 1 - 0 West Brom

Liverpool, under the new regime of Roy Hodgson, finally bag all 3 points after an uncomfortable 1-0 win over West Bromwich Albion. They were uninspiring for majority of the game until Fernando Torres came up with a magical strike.

The Spanish forward has been utterly out of form and woefully underwhelming ever since the start of the World Cup and after 3 games into the new season, things doesn't seemed to have change.

Presented with an early opportunity, he cooked his touch a wee bit too much and could only manage a tame shot on goal. That was Scott Carson's only save for 65 minutes of the game until the former Liverpool goalkeeper was beaten by a moment of magic.

Liverpool had little imagination and lacks penetration throughout the game. There was a distinct lack of match sharpness and could not string a few passes together to actually organise an attack on West Brom.

Passing in the final third were poor while West Brom learned their lesson after the 6-0 thrashing by Chelsea in their opening game by compacting their play and frustrating Liverpool with the 5 man midfield with Peter Odemwingie proving a constant threat down the flanks.

The best chance of the game actually fell to West Brom, who failed to convert. Immediately, Pepe Reina launches an ambitious throw to Dirk Kuyt, who combined nicely with Torres and it was the Spanish hotshot who was at the end of the move by volleying home.

Scott Carson had no chance.

Liverpool should have had a penalty later in the game when Torres' goal bound effort was blocked by Gonzalo Jara's arm. On normal circumstance, it would've been penalised but Lee Probert, who has had an underwhelming game, waved away the appeal.

But he showed no hesitation in showing James Morrison a straight red after a dangerous lunge into Torres late in the game.

Conclusively, Liverpool still looked like a team in transition and much has to be done if they were to challenge Man City or Spurs for the Champions League spot. In terms of offence, Liverpool still needs gelling upfront, while the overall fluency of the team needs some working.

It was a game that Liverpool were banked on to win and they did, albeit unconvincingly. Much work has to be done or the game against Man Utd in a few weeks time could prove to be much more than a daunting task.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

World Cup Day 11 Report

Portugal 7 - 0 DPR Korea

Who would've thought? The Korea DPR was brought back down to earth after a performance which made many sat up and took notice. Up against Brazil, the North Koreans looked well-organised and managed to frustrate the hell out of Dunga's Samba stars until Maicon came to the rescue. Still, they managed to find the net and losing the game 2-1 seemed to be an encouraging result for DPR Korea as they faced Portugal last night.

But lo and behold, they were torn to shreds by the Portugese.

Many likens this tie to be as exciting as the 5-3 win by Portugal back in 1966 where Eusebio came to Portugal's rescue after being 3-0 down. But the only similarity this time round is it being a high scoring game. DPR Korea had no answer to Portugal's play style and with a goalkeeper who looked shaky and a defence that was non-existent, Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. showed no mercy.

7 goals and 6 different scorers. On the hindsight it might seem like a case of DPR Korea totally losing it rather than Portugal playing really well. Put this performance in comparison with the one they had with Brazil a week ago, many must've wondered if it was the same 11 who was on the field.

The North Koreans were battered. With relative ease. The Portugese never seemed to get out of gear 2 yet took full control of the game and by the 75th minute, it seemed as though the players were already queuing up for the shooting gallery.

Jong Tae-se, dubbed the Rooney of Asia had a fantastic chance but failed to capitalise. It turns out it was the only one he had and after Simao put them to the sword, the rest was history. A cakewalk which I do not think the Glorious Leader back home will be happy about.

For Portugal, it's one step closer into the last 16 with a comfortable +7 cushion. They'd be delighted to see their captain finally on the score sheet as well. A huge morale booster for the team, no doubt.

Chile 1 - 0 Switzerland

A header from former Liverpool winger, Mark Gonzalez, was all that was needed for Chile to take a huge stride towards the last 16. A match marred by overzealous refereeing and torrents of yellow cards, the game was tense and at times, out of the referee's control. 

After some brilliant defensive work and a tinge of luck against Spain last Wednesday, the 'Swiss Alps' faced the Chileans knowing that another win would propel them into a comfortable position. But the plan was in tatters early in the game as referee, Khalil Al Ghamd, sent West Ham's Valon Behrami to the showers.

With 10 men, the Swiss showed little innovation in attack and had very little control of the game. The Chileans took advantage and the only thing that kept the scoreline at 1-0 wasn't down to the goalkeeper of Diego Benaglio but of poor finishing from the Chileans, namely Esteban Penedas.

With this win, Chile is within touching distance of the last 16. Up against European Champions, Spain, in the next game, they'll have full confidence that a point is all that they need for them to advance. But just like Spain, they'll need to work on their finishing.

Spain 2 - 0 Honduras

Barcelona-bound striker, David Villa, struck twice as Spain shrugged off their disappointment in their 1-0 loss to Switzerland last week. Yet Spain's profligacy and at times, over-elaborated play, seemed like their biggest problem. Villa himself could have gotten a hat-trick from the penalty spot but he squirmed the shot just wide while Fernando Torres seemed subdued and when called upon, disappointed.

The Liverpool striker was clearly out of form or more likely, lacking sharpness and match fitness. A couple of chances were presented but he was unable to put Honduras to bed.

Spain controlled the game with Xavi and Alonso whipping passes and dictated the tempo of the game well. Yet with majority of the possession, Spain was unable to do what their fellow Iberians did earlier with the 7-0 thrashing.

At times, Spain looked just like how Arsenal played in the Premiership. Nice passes and fantastic movements. But they seemed to miss the main point of the game, which is to put the ball in the net.

Thankfully, David Villa showed all of us why Barcelona are willing to pay €40 million for his service. Cutting in from his favourite left flank position, he skillfully skipped past 2 defenders and managed to put a shot into the top corner of the net.

Again in the 2nd half, prowling around in the danger area, he unleashed an unstoppable shot, making it 2-0.

Then, he was presented with a golden opportunity for a hat trick through a penalty but fluffed it wide. The Spanish striker could've joined Gonzalo Higuain of Argentina at the top of the scoring charts.

Despite this win, Spain will have a difficult task at hand against Chile. With much expectation on their shoulders, Spain needs to be sharper and have no room for mistake. Offensively at times, all style no substance while defensively, seemed abit flimsy.

The Chile vs Spain match will be quite a spectacle indeed.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

PRESENTING: Spanish Away Jersey for World Cup '2010

It's only 17 days away!

The 2010 World Cup in South Africa is just round the corner and in partnership with SoccerPro, an online football apparel store, I present to you the beautiful away strip of the Spanish national team.

I picked this jersey personally because of the colour and the trim of this jersey. It's dark blue in colour with red and gold trims on the shoulder.
What makes it stands out is definitely it's V-neck design and also, the attractive embroiled Spainish national team logo on the chest. It makes the jersey looks vintage and different from all the other jersey which is changing its look into a more modernistic style.

I got myself an 'M' size and I have to say, the jersey definitely makes me look better as well! With its V-neck design and the new Climacool fabric, it's comfortable for both a kickaround or just casual wear down the shopping strip.

It's really that good! Quickly head down to SoccerPro for this jersey now! Look how good my friend and I look in it!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Diaby Ended Red's Run

It's been a long time and I'm proud to say, I'm back writing again!

Finally managed to catch a match proper, on a weekday at an ungodly hour of 4am. Liverpool up against Arsenal, who've slumped to defeats at the hands of Man United and Chelsea.

And their respond to the defeats came just in time. On a night when Man Utd drew and Chelsea lost. In a surprising turn of event, Arsenal managed to claw their way back into title contention while Liverpool could only watch as the top three teams surging further and further away from them.

After a good run of results including 6 clean sheets in 7, a game at the Emirates still proved to be a challenged. The Reds have an abysmal record against Arsenal whether is it a home or away game and just the mention of 'Andrei Arshavin' would have many of you cringing already.

Once again, another visit to the Emirates and another empty handed trip down south. A lapse of concentration from Liverpool's defence was enough to give Arsenal the win. At the highest level of football, that was all that is required. A mistake and a reaction that is milliseconds slow.

Tomas Rosicky was able to provide after a good move down the right and his cross was met by an unmarked Abou Diaby in the 75th minute. He rose unchallenged in the Liverpool penalty box after evading some slack marking from substitute, Philipp Degen.

The Swiss, honestly, doesn't impress me at all for the longest of time. He replaced Jamie Carragher midway through the second half and there I thought 'Oh no, disaster waiting to happen'.

Sure it did.

He's not the fastest and prone to some niggly fouls throughout. He's constantly out of position due to his 'attacking' sense and 'just-run-forward' mentality. There was an occasion where Liverpool was nearly punished due to him running blindly forward leaving a huge gap behind.

Well let's be honest, Degen wasn't the only one who was bad. I guess I'm still not impressed with the performance of Maxi Rodriguez but I shall give him a benefit of a doubt due to his recent arrival and the need for him to acclimatise and familiarise himself with the team.

David N'gog proved to be a spectator throughout and when he's called into action during that one-on-one situation, he panicked and William Gallas was able to make a last ditch tackle. That was probably Liverpool's best chance.

Steven Gerrard, though posed some threat but wasn't able to impose himself. His attitude didn't help either. Don't know if it's me or he just struts around expecting perfect passes for him. One stray pass and he just flings his arms with disappointment like a kid with his toys taken away from him.

To be honest, a draw will be a fair enough result as both teams didn't look threatening at all and were not at their best. But Arsenal was able to compound on the slip-up in Liverpool's defence and made them pay. Who said Arsenal weren't clinical? This was a show of them playing not as beautifully as they always do and yet still win.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Liverpool Back In The Hunt?

Written by Gareth Freeman, a sports writer promoting Irish racing and racing tips for today. 

Tuesday night’s win over Aston Villa may not have been the best game of football ever played but on that particular night the result was all that counted. Neither side played particularly well and the closest we came to a goal in normal time was probably a couple of penalty shouts that were waved away.

However, deep into stoppage time Fernando Torres popped up with a crucial goal and wrote himself into Liverpool folklore. His 50th Premier League goal saw him become the fastest player in the Reds history to reach that mark in the Premier League (72 games) and gave Rafael Benitz and co a massive boost in terms of a Champions League place.

The festive period overall was a decent time for Benitez. The loss to Pompey was as upsetting as it was shocking but since then Liverpool have recorded back to back wins over Villa and Wolves and have closed the gap at the top. The Reds now lie four points adrift of Tottenham in fourth, who are the next league opponents on January 10. Following the victory over Villa the game against Spurs is now massive and Liverpool have a great opportunity to push on and break into the Champions League places.

Another bonus has been the emergence of Alberto Aquilani. The Italian has now played in the last two games and against Wolves especially looked a quality player. He perhaps hasn’t set the world on fire just yet but it can take time to settle into the Premier League and with time he could be a massive boost for Liverpool’s European hopes.

Steven Gerrard has had his fair share of criticism so far this season but he did put in a great display against Wolves. No one, aside from Torres, shone against Villa in all fairness but for a team to play badly and still beat one of their nearest rivals is not necessarily a bad thing. Captain Gerrard believes it will be difficult but remains confident the club can secure a top-four spot.

He said: "We've virtually got everyone back fit now so there are no excuses now. We need to go on a run of winning games.

"Can we secure a top-four spot? It is going to be difficult. There are a lot of fantastic teams about. I am sure teams will spend in January.

"It will be a race to the very end and we've got to make sure we are in it."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Is Mascherano Heading For The Exit?

A possible switch to Barcelona has proved an extremely drawn out transfer saga for Javier Mascherano. I can’t remember exactly when the rumours started but there were rumblings throughout the summer and despite the window closing when the season began it has still hit the news on a fairly regular basis. We’ve been told he has demanded a move, a deal is already in place and that there are no foundations to the rumours at all – so what do we believe? In truth, the speculation doesn’t really matter until the player says something – a factor that has been lacking in this particular saga until now.
Masch hasn’t actually said he wants to leave and has stated he is committed to playing well for Liverpool. However, he hardly expresses his desire to stay with the club and his comments are, unfortunately, very ambiguous.

"I am playing for Liverpool, I am a Liverpool player and like the manager says I have two more years on my contract and don't have to say anything else," explained Masch. "I play for Liverpool and will continue to do my best."

See what I mean? Perhaps I’m being overly negative (I hope so) but to me these are quite worrying comments and he could well be on his way, if not in January perhaps next summer.

Should the Argentine decide to depart Anfield it would perhaps not impact as greatly on the club as the loss of Xabi Alonso did. Mascherano is a great combative midfielder and capable of breaking up the opponents play as well as starting moves of his own but it is a role where there are plenty of candidates to replace him. Barcelona’s Yaya Toure could possibly be part of a swap deal and in all honesty I think he is probably a better player. Lucas will have another season under his belt and he is starting to improve. In the Premier League Sunderland’s Lee Cattermole could be a good option should Masch decide to move on.

Liverpool’s standing at the end of the season may prove a decisive factor for Mascherano. If the Reds can finish in the top-four or win the FA Cup or Europa League he may opt to stick with Rafael Benitez. The player himself hasn’t given up hope of adding some silverware to his trophy cabinet at the end of the campaign.
He added: "It is not a good season, but everything can change and in May we could be talking about Liverpool winning something,"

Written by Gareth Freeman, a sports writer promoting betting tips and Irish racing.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Plucky Reds Steals Win

Everton  0
Liverpool   2 (Yobo 12 og, Kuyt 80)

Football. Funny old game.

You just got to feel for Everton. They got the short end of the stick this time and despite putting in a fairly decent performance and troubled Liverpool well enough, still they slump to a undeserving 2-0 defeat to their bitter city rival.

With almost a dozen of players out injured, the patched up Everton side were firmly in control throughout the game and if not for some terrible finishing and Pepe Reina’s miraculous saves, the result could’ve been so different.

But I guess that’s what football is about. It’s not the amount of chances. Not how well or how beautiful the link-up plays are. It’s just putting the ball into the back of the net.

Everton had the chance but unfortunately, blew it. Liverpool, meanwhile, dared to try and twice they did, twice they scored. Fortunes, sometimes does favour the brave.

With Rafa Benitez’s men knocked out of Champions League, the Reds entered this week at all-time low. Everton must’ve thought it’s the perfect time for them to put one past their city rivals.

But lady luck decided to shine on Liverpool that particular day. I can’t remember any one with the red jersey actually testing Tim Howard or posed any threats to his goal. But still, he had to pick the ball out of his net twice.

Not known for scoring goals, Javier Mascherano tried a low drive which came off Joseph Yobo and Howard had totally no chance. You could tell how important that goal was for Liverpool from the Argentinian’s celebration. He went berserk. And it definitely lifted the away side.

 But still, Liverpool were very much pinned to their own half and were playing cautiously most of the time. David Ngog, the sole front man, was left isolated up top and had little support. His first derby game was probably a forgettable one as he was out-muscled by Yobo and Heitinga.

Steven Gerrard. Less said about him in this game the better. He looked totally out of form and provided zero support for the inexperienced David Ngog. A leader on the pitch in physical sense but I’ve never seen him this subdued for quite a while.

Did he miss Torres this much?

The Spanish hotshot’s absence meant that Liverpool’s goalscoring threat diminished. Other players have to step up and guess who? It’s always going to be Dirk Kuyt.

The Dutch striker, although a little over-enthusiastic sometimes, proves to be a reliable player and no wonder Rafa Benitez values him so much. It was his goal-poaching instincts that brought about the second goal which effectively finished the game off.

But before I go into the goal, I must say the introduction of Albert Riera and Yossi Benayoun did change the game in favour of Liverpool. The duo caused problems for the Everton defence, giving the Reds a little more width and creativity.

It was the presence of the extra attacker which Everton failed to handle and again, Joseph Yobo blundered, gifting Riera an opportunity to take a pot shot. Howard spilled the ball and Kuyt was at the right place, right time to slot home.

Despite not being a spectacle and in fact, a rather uncomfortable match to watch as a Liverpool fan, it was a very, very important win for Liverpool.

The team went through a really rough patch recently and the ugly and undeserved win was actually a welcoming one. It will definitely boost the morale and propel them to close and gap and fight for a top 4 finish this season.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Preview: Liverpool vs Man City

We’ve been saying nearly every week that whoever the Reds are playing it is a ‘must win’ game and the visit of City to Anfield is as big as any game Liverpool have faced this season. Mark Hughes’ side are one point and one place above Liverpool and a win over the blue half of Manchester would go along way to restoring some faith in Rafael Benitez and his Liverpool squad.
The massive bonus for Benitez is the fact that Steven Gerrard has ruled himself fit for the fixture with City. This is what the Liverpool captain has had to say: "I've had a problem in my groin that has taken a while to get over but I'm just relieved the second injection seems to have done the trick.

"It's a case of so far so good and the aim now is to make sure I get a good week's training under my belt so I'm ready for the game with City."

Great news about Gerrard, but striker Fernando Torres will play no part as he struggles with an abdominal strain. Yossi Benayoun and Albert Riera are also ruled out while Glen Johnson, Daniel Agger and Fabio Aurelio are all doubtful ahead of City’s visit. It remains to be seen whether we’ll get to see Alberto Aquilani or not but with Gerrard back in the fold this is certainly a winnable game for Liverpool.

City will be without winger Martin Petrov, while Robinho and Gareth Barry are also listed as doubtful but they have plenty of players to cover and expect a strong line-up. At a guess I would say City will probably line up with Emmanuel Adebayor, Carlos Teve and Craig Bellamy in attack – a formidable line up to say the least. However, Tevez has never been the most prolific striker in front of goal, Adebayor has suffered a dip in form since his antics against Arsenal and Bellamy can be a bit hit and miss.

The game has all the makings of a classic. Liverpool need to win to keep up with the chasing pack at the top of the table, while City have something to prove against the bigger clubs after all their summer spending. I’m not going to hazard a guess at the result as on paper it is a bit close to call, I do think we’re in for a great game though and with home advantage Liverpool should be the favourites.

Written by Gareth Freeman, a sports writer promoting horse racing Ireland and the Aintree Grand National 2010 for Betfair.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Is Mascherano Barca Bound?

There seems to be almost constant speculation in regards to defensive midfielder Javier Mascherano’s Liverpool future. On what feels like a daily basis a story emerges about a possible transfer to Barcelona with some sections of the media going as far as to state he is certainly heading to Camp Nou in January in a £36million deal.

However, Spanish sports publication Sport has today reported that there is no ‘concrete foundation’ to the rumours. The player himself has apparently voiced his dislike of the English lifestyle and climate, but for a player earning so much money and being a regular in the starting eleven at a club like Liverpool surely this is a small price to pay (although, granted the weather is terrible).

Unless Mascherano hands in a transfer request then I just can’t see Rafael Benitez selling him. Another point to consider is the World Cup in South Africa next summer. Masch is a regular in the Argentina national side and he will retain his place in Diego Maradona’s midfield as long as he is playing regular first-team football. At Anfield he is pretty much guaranteed a starting place, but a move to Barcelona may see him sat on the sidelines until he has settled into the side and I doubt the 25-year-old would want to put his World Cup spot in jeopardy.

Sport have claimed to have been in contact with both Barca and Liverpool, with both denying they have been in contact with regards to the player. If this is true it would seem as if there is no truth in the speculation linking Masch with a move to Camp Nou.

There are a couple of other transfer rumours doing the rounds, here is a quick run through them.

Carlton Cole: It has been reported that both Liverpool and Manchester United are battling it out to sign West Ham’s Carlton Cole, who is valued at £20million. There could be some truth in this as Liverpool could certainly do with another striker, whether the Hammers would be willing to let him go or not remains to be seen.

Ryan Shawcross: Again, United have also been linked with Shawcross but the defender has just agreed a contract extension at Stoke and it seems unlikely he will head to Anfield or Old Trafford anytime soon.

Simon Kjaer: This 20-year-old defender has been getting rave reviews for is performances at Serie A side Palmero. However, the club don’t want to sell the Danish stopper and if a move does materialise, it will be next summer.

Eljero Elia: Hamburg’s Dutch winger only made the switch to the Bundesliga in the summer but is already attracting interest. Reports suggest the Reds will make a £15million move in January – with Ryan Babel possibly heading the other way.

Eduardo: Arsenal striker Eduardo has been linked with a £10million switch to Anfield in January – for me this is just pure speculation and I can’t see this one happening at all to be totally honest.

Written by Gareth Freeman, a sports writer promoting Irish racing and racing tips for today for Betfair.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Nightmare At Craven Cottage

So much promise and yet, Liverpool’s title hopes seemed to have imploded even before the league reaches its quarter mark. It was definitely a depressing view for most fans as the shocking 3-1 lost to Fulham seemed to have marked an end of the road for the Reds and their title ambition.

After a morale boosting 2-0 win over Man Utd last week, it looked as though things could only get better as Liverpool endured through a ‘Black October’ with 4 consecutive losses.

But by the 80th minute, Liverpool and Rafael Benitez seemed to have taken this game so lightly that it all seemed like a pre-season friendly or they’ve already won the title.

Nathan Ecclestone? Philip Degen? Daniel Ayala? In a Premiership match where so much mattered? Is Rafa having a laugh here?

Liverpool’s defence had been undeniably shaky since the start of season and I personally can’t remember the number of times we actually kept a clean sheet. It was the same at Craven Cottage as we saw how Bobby Zamora, albeit not the best striker in the land in any sense, ran rings round a dejected and tired-looking Jamie Carragher.

After his heroics last week, Carragher was back to his early season form and it’s no wonder he was sent off for bringing down Zamora. He was outpaced and outsmarted and he had no options. Neither did the referee.

But the referee did had a questionable decision when he sent off Philip Degen for a awful looking but non-malicious tackle. It was one of those moments where you’ll turn towards your friends and ask ‘what the heck?’

But referee’s decisions aside, it was an awful, awful game from Liverpool’s point of view. Other than Fernando Torres, who has suddenly turned into Steven Gerrard circa pre-Torres era, the rest cannot be spared from any sort of criticism.

What happened to that team that looked so good at Anfield a week ago? Is Liverpool suffering from a post-natal depression of a bipolar disorder. I would go for the latter.

With decision to remove goalscorer, Torres, in the 60 odd minutes, the strange bipolar performances of the team could be attributed to Mr. Rafa Benitez himself. Let me make myself clear, I do love this man.

But I guess it’s time for him to go. Many more would join me in this bandwagon IF we don’t make it through to the Champions League knockout stage this Wednesday. It is not only a do-or-die match for Liverpool and their European ambition but also it’s his job right there, on the guillotine.

Probably things have gone a little stale at Anfield and many are getting impatient. It’s year after year of the same old, except for last season where we finished high up and it smelled like title this season. But the Anfield faithfuls have to endure yet another disappointing and probably, trophy-less season.

The over-achievement of last season could’ve been an added pressure on Benitez, a limestone hung around his neck. Added on to these are the miraculous 2005 Champions league win and the 2006 FA Cup.

Thereafter, it’s years of wilderness and there seemed no stopping of Liverpool walking further into the desert and hypothetically, could’ve turned into a team that is only motivated enough to beat their fierce rivals. Sounds like Man City before Thaksin?

I personally think that there’s no more turning back for Rafael Benitez. Even if Liverpool does triumph over Lyon this coming Wednesday, that probably does not change the fact that there is a huge change needed at Liverpool.

I know the club represents and stands for stability, seeing the number of managers actually ‘sacked’ from the club. But I can’t bear to see the club going down this way. I’m not a doomsday merchant or a knee-jerk reactor. I’m just a little jaded and want to see some changes in the club.

For now, 5 losses in 11 games. We can realistically count ourselves out of the title race and focus on at least getting into the top 4. If Man City are to maintain this sort of form, it could be quite a challenge and it will be pretty embarrassing to say the least.

So what will be Liverpool’s response this Wednesday? I sincerely hope it’s not going to be another limp and half-hearted performance. I really, really hope not…