EPL: Everton v Liverpool, Goodison Park, 12.45BST, 1/10/11 (0-2)

A deserved Mersey derby win in the end was ours, but the victory was undermined by the fact that the referree made a decision, mid-way through the first half, that saw an even game turn gradually in our favour, as Jack Rodwell was shown a red card for a tackle where he took the ball, but where his follow-through caught the man – Luis Suarez.

30 years ago, it would not have been a foul. Twenty years ago it might have been. These days, the climate is such that as well as being regarded as potentially dangerous, it may also have warranted a yellow card…but a red? Rodwell – and Everton – were very unlucky. And so the game changed from even to not.

And then The Ref started letting worse Everton tackles go with either lesser or no punishment.

Cahill was rightly booked almost immediately afterwards for a tackle on Charlie Adam, but it was was far worse than Rodwell’s, so the right decision here made the earlier one stand out more as the inconsistent one, but the ref did nothing when what looked like a red-card tackle came in from Tony Hibbert onto Adam again.

Adam’s response was to shortly after that hit a rasper against the bar. It was his most notable contribution before making way for Gerrard, in the second half, as The Skipper continued his return to match fitness with a half-hour run-out, where his passing skills were immediately noticeable, after their absence.

But it was another incident at the end of the first half that could have been match defining. Suarez received the ball just inside the corner of the Everton penalty box and had his legs taken by Jagielka, in a rash challenge that gave us a clear penalty. Kuyt took it and placed it nice and low to his right – and Howard’s left – but the big American guessed right and got down to it and pushed it away, with a very impressive save that saw us at the break still at 0-0.

As we continued to press our one-man advantage in the second half, Everton was holding out. A change was needed and mid-way through the second half, it came. Adam was within himself, perhaps understandable after the challenges he received, but Downing was disappointingly ineffective on the left, so as Adam was replaced by Gerrard, Downing made way for Bellamy. The impact was almost immediate.

Bellamy and Jose Enrique’s interplay enabled a Bellamy pass to reach the goal line, where The Spanish defender turned the ball back towards Dirk Kuyt, who managed to duck beneath the pass, to allow the ball to come to Andy Carroll, wo had pushed off his marker and made the space for himself in the middle of the penalty box to smash the ball home. It looked like a move from the training ground that had gone to plan.

Everton had not looked like scoring since Rodwell’s dismissal, and looked to settle for a 0-1 score line, but several minutes from the end, a run into the box by Suarez saw Baines take the ball, but his proximity to Distin led to the latter defender’s attempt to clear the ball merely give the ball back to Suarez with just the keeper to beat from close range…which Suarez did for 0-2.

There was time still for the ball to hit the Everton goal frame and bounce away again. It initially looked like Kuyt had nipped-in and touched the ball past Howerd from a dinked-in corner kick by Suarez, but replays show that Jagielka took the ball away from Kuyt, nearly scoring an own-goal in the process.

We could have come away with this result without Rodwell being sent off, but it would certainly have been much harder to achieve.

Advertisements

EPL: Liverpool v Wolverhampton Wanderers, Anfield, 15.00BST, 24/09/11 (2-1)

A welcome EPL win against Wolves, who won this fixture last season, was brought about by another strong first half performance that was not, and not for the first time, matched by the second half performance.

That said, Wolves must take a lot of the credit for our lesser second half as they battled back into the game and threatened to take a point, although we hit the woodwork a few times, and their keeper made a few saves as well.

Wolves were not happy with our first goal, as they felt that defender Johnson was fouled by Andy Carroll before the ball came to Charlie Adam whose speculative shot was then headed into his own goal by Johnson, having just got back on his feet after the disputed challenge with Carroll.

The second goal was more clear-cut, as Suarez somehow found space at the near post to smack the ball past the keeper, after appearing to have taken the ball unnecessarily wide. We had threatened to run riot in the first half, but that never quite materialised.

Wolves made changes at half-time and one of those, goal poacher Steven Fletcher, was supplied far too close and central to goal and smacked the ball into the roof of the net. It was a move that should have been snuffed out before it got that far.

After that, the game was fairly even, with The Reds missing some great opportunities to put the game out of sight whilst Wolves also threatened to equalise, but The Kop did not see a goal scored in front of it and we ran out as narrow winners.

Carling Cup: Brighton and Hove Albion v Liverpool, Amex Stadium, 19:45BST, 21/09/11 (1-2)

A strong Liverpool side visited Brighton’s new Amex stadium in Withdean for the first time and saw-off the Championship side despite a spirited display.

Liverpool dominated early on and Craig Bellamy scored as he and Suarez showed some early understanding with each other, although this was not always the case as the game progressed. Bellamy and Liverpool could have had more goals by half-time, as the goal frame got rattled a couple of times. Brighton seemed to be playing a counter-attacking 4-5-1 with one of the striking stars of league football, Craig Mackail-Smith, up front on his own, but it was he who actually made two outstanding defensive plays in the first half, with a must-win tackle in the box and a clearance off the line.

Brighton were more of a threat in the second half and had a couple of half-chances that could have found the net but for some solid defensive cover. With ten minutes left, we counter attacked and Kuyt found himself in the left side of the box and slid the ball across the keeper to see it go in off the far post for 0-2.

A slip by Spearing in the box in the 90th minute gifted possession to Brighton and a desperate tackle by Carra gave away a penalty which was put away by Barnes, but there was no genuine threat of an equaliser in what there was of added time.

With only two subs used, one of which was in the last few minutes, and with Carroll and Downing left on the bench in favour of giving Stevie G a brief run (his first appearance in six months – and as a sub for Suarez), I expect Carroll and Downing to start against Wolves this coming Saturday.

EPL: Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool, White Hart Lane, 13.30BST, 18/09/11 (4-0)

Truly painful to watch from start to finish, I really cannot recall us being so completely outclassed like this for an entire game. As great as Tottenham were, Liverpool were truly awful, with no red men coming out of the game with any credit.

We simply did not play or compete. Tottenham bossed us from the start and the odd sight of Martin Skrtel playing right back, let alone against Gareth Bale, was a shocker for everyone, apparently including Skrtel. Kenny must have been scratching his head after the game and trying to recall the train of thought that led to that decision, although to be fair, with our defensive injury problems, you can see where it could have come from, but on that showing, which eventually led to an early bath for two yellow cards, Martin has confirmed that he is a far better centre back than he is a full-back.

The first Tottenham goal came from their left, our right, and around Skrtel, as they worked it around for a ball to be centred, and although we got to it first, the interception fell nicely for Modric in a central position, just outside the penalty box, and he sweetly struck the ball into the top left corner of the net. We were 1-0 down after seven minutes, and our problems were only just starting.

Skrtel and Adam were both given yellows for tackles on Bale who is evidently being well protected by referees these days. Adam’s booking in particular seemed harsh. Then Agger seemed to hurt his side and had to be subbed for our new CB, Coates, an incident  which was then followed by a second yellow for Adam for having his foot up and catching Scott Parker, although the challenge was more of an accident than anything else. Adam was very, very unlucky to have been carded twice within the first half hour by a ref who had made a rod for his own back with his early bookings. At least he was consistent. Now if they could just match this consistency with quality…

By half time we were glad not to be further behind, and possibly with more men being shown the tunnel early, as Suarez again showed his petulant side and looked like getting himself sent-off for dissent, having continued to whine after being booked. He may be extremely talented, but we cannot afford prima donnas, especially in a situation such as this.

Whilst Tottenham were dominant, you just felt that there was still a chance that we could sneak something out the game, even with ten men and a new centre back – but any such thoughts were short lived when Martin Skrtel got his second booking early in the second half and then it was a case of how many.

Defoe found space that he might not have otherwise had shortly thereafter and made it 2-0. Another Defoe effort was not held by Pepe, which just gave Adebayor the chance to nick the ball from the keeper and tap-in for 3-0. After that, Tottenham played keep-ball and seemed to settle for 3-0, but at the death, as we lost the ball coming away from the penalty area, Adebayor was found in space on our left and he hammered the ball across Reina’s right side for 4-0.

We deserved this score line as much as Tottenham did.

EPL: Stoke City v Liverpool, Britannia Stadium, 15:00BST, 10/09/11 (1-0)

A penalty that should not have been gifted Stoke three points, when otherwise their stout defending might have grudgingly earned them a point. However, our failure to score played its part, as we failed to take chances despite creating them.

The Stoke goal was scored by Walters, the player who went to ground far too easily under the challenge of Carragher, who will rue the fact that his arms were flailing too close to the Stoke player, which was evidently enough to convince the ref, in the blink of an eye, that a foul had been committed.

Suarez and Henderson spurned opportunities to not just draw us level, but win the game, but instead we went down again to another frustrating away defeat to Stoke City, a side that under Tony Pulis is slowly but surely getting better and better, season by season.

EPL: Liverpool v Bolton, Anfield, 17:30BST, 27/8/11 (3-1)

A solid and fully-deserved victory put The Reds briefly on top of the EPL, as Bolton were put to the sword with three fine finishes from Henderson, Skrtel and Adam.

Henderson, in probably his best game for Liverpool so far, scored a beautifully placed goal at the Anfield Road end following a terrific effort from Downing that Jaaskelainen saved well. The ball had been played in from where you expected Downing to be to where you would expect Suarez to be – but their roles here were reversed. The pass was exquisite and Downing volleyed it first time but Jaaskelainen saved – however the ball came to Kuyt who played it back to Henderson. His first effort was partly blocked but the ball fell kindly and he curled and lobbed the ball past Jaaskelainen into the opposite corner of the goal, who was helpless to prevent it.

Bolton looked dangerous when they had the ball in out third, but never had it enough to make that danger count. Whilst onlookers may have been concerned about a repeat of the Sunderland game, with the scoreline only 1-0 after a dominant first half performance (again), two well taken second half goals put paid to Bolton.

Charlie Adam’s set-pieces are already paying off. Martin Skrtel this time met a corner and the ball flew in from close range. Shortly after that, Adam did a Steven Gerrard impression as he picked the ball up from just outside the box and hammered a shot through the defender in front of him that beat Jaaskelainen to his right.

There was a little bit of show-boating after that that meant further chances to add to the scoreline were spurned, and it was disappointing that in the dying moments, in added time, that Carra’s control let him down, which let in Bolton and Ivan Klasnic scored a barely deserved consolation, which took a little of the sheen off an otherwise excellent team performance.

Carling Cup: Exeter City v Liverpool, St James Park, 19:45pm 24/8/2011 (1-3)

A solid performance by a strong side, with a few players getting some match practice that they had not quite had, saw Liverpool progress through this potential banana-skin of a tie.

Luis Suarez starred, scoring one and assisting both the others, scored by Maxi and Carroll. Exeter scored courtesy of a late penalty, conceded by the returning Martin Skrtel. Despite that, it was good to see the big central defender playing, particularly in view of the departure of Sotirios Kyrgiakos.

Whilst Exeter managed one or two moments in addition to the penalty when they threatened the Liverpool goal, Liverpool were rarely troubled and this was a comfortable win.

Exactly what was wanted going into what will surely be a tougher game against Bolton, on Saturday evening.

EPL: Arsenal v Liverpool, The Emirates, 12:45pm, 20/8/2011 (0-2)

Joy at last at The Emirates!

An even first-half that saw Arsenal lose Koscielny due to back spasms, continued to be even in the second-half until just before the 70 minute mark, when Frimpong committed his second bookable offence and was sent-off. At virtually the same time, Liverpool substituted Suarez and Meireles for Carroll and Kuyt. Suddenly we had taken control, as the newly introduced players, with their nimble craft and skill, took advantage of 10-man Arsenal.

A nice move around the Arsenal box saw an Arsenal attempted clearance rebound off Ramsey into their own goal.

The game was won when another fine passing move led to Meireles being in space on the right with a shot-on, but instead he centred for a tap-in by Suarez.

An even game was therefore won in the last twenty minutes due to two bookable challenges by the same Arsenal player, as well as timely and effective substitutions.

This performance was initially a solid one where Arsenal play-makers, such as Walcott and Arshavin were kept quiet. Arshavin was probably as much to blame for this as Liverpool were, but Walcott was kept out of the game by an excellent performance by Jose Enrique, who was even better today than he was in a pretty impressive performance last week against Sunderland.

Certainly this week, the players seemed to play at a good tempo and as a team that knew each other well, for the whole game, in a stark contrast to how the Sunderland game ended, after a strong first half.

The two-goal winning margin and early kick-off puts us top, so I will enjoy that for at least the next hour or so, until the rest of the full-times.

Next-up is Exeter away, in the Carling Cup. No bananas, please.

EPL: Liverpool v Sunderland, Anfield 3pm, 13/8/2011 (Result 1-1)

It was an interesting starting line-up. New signing Jose Enrique started at left back, with Flanagan on the right, and a midfield of Lucas, Adam, Henderson and Downing, with Suarez and Carroll up front.

We started brightly and soon began to knock the ball around to find the gaps with a fair degree of fluency. Enrique looks to have a good first touch and Adam was showing how he can influence things from the middle, whilst we were also working the ball wide to Henderson or Downing, but Sunderland defended their flanks quite well. Then came a golden chance, as an attempted clearance was hit at Suarez, and he pounced and ran through with the ball, but was taken out by Richardson before he could slot home. The penalty was awarded, but somehow referee Phil Dowd did not think that the foul prevented a goal scoring opportunity, and only booked Richardson, to the incredulity of the Liverpool support – and then Suarez blazed the penalty over.

Shortly after though, we got a free kick on the left, which Charlie Adam  – who didn’t hang about at all to take it – angled it in to the near post and Suarez flicked it in for 1-0.

We dominated, but that final piece of luck or that final touch deserted us. Carroll thought he had made it 2-0 but seemed to be harshly adjudged to have fouled his opponent when going up for the ball, which he had taken down and slammed into the net from close range. A terrific run from Downing from the left and across the front of the penalty area ended with a shot that hit the crossbar and bounced over. Both teams however seemed to be tiring as we came to half time.

The second half performance was a near total contrast. Suddenly, the passes into Suarez were going astray as he kept changing direction as the ball was being played to him, suggesting that there had not been enough team training including him to put him on the same wavelength as everyone else. The passing became a little sloppier and the fluidity that was there for significant periods in the first half just disappeared. Long balls up to Andy Carroll were, on the whole, well handled by Sunderland, but we seemed to revert to that game, and shades of the Braga game last season loomed large. We just were not threatening.

Sunderland were not posing much threat either and seemed to want to contain at the back and get the ball to quick and tricky players, such as Gyan, and they did successfully beat a couple of players on occasion before any such move fizzled out, but then we gifted them an opportunity.

The one criticism of new boy Jose Enrique (who does appear to be a good buy and generally had a decent game) was that he sometimes seemed to stand-off a little bit on the wings, giving the opportunity for the wingers to cross. He was one of about three Liverpool players who seemed to get drawn to the ball on one occasion in the second half which led to a short pull-back which resulted in a cross to the far post where an unmarked Larsson shaped to volley at goal in such a way that you knew it was going to be 1-1 before he even hit it. Have to say it was beautifully taken.

There was little in the way of a charge to win the game. Suarez seemed to be becoming petulant out of frustration, which coupled with his being on a different wavelength from his team mates, resulted in his being replaced by Kuyt, but whose endeavour and touch were not enough, as the game petered out as a thoroughly disappointing draw – and a game than Flanagan will probably be happy to forget.

It had started so brightly and looked like being an opening day win – but it ended up looking like we could have done with an extra pre-season friendly.

On the plus side, I liked the look of Jose Enrique, despite the one short-coming I felt was in his game today, and Charlie Adam looks like he could be the best deputy for Steven Gerrard we have seen, to the point where he will be challenging the skipper for a starting place, when Stevie is fit. Downing was a little in and out of the game, but showed how he can run at the opposition, create chances and score and Henderson showed promise with a reasonable if unexceptional performance, but I still think he is more likely to feature on our bench this season.

To sum up, we really should have won this game, and with a touch more luck and a touch more match fitness, we probably would have – but we dropped two points here.

Show your love of LFC with your computer

I have, over the years, created a number of LFC related images and screen savers.

I would therefore like to offer a selection of them for your perusal or use, as wallpapers or backgrounds, as well as some screen saver files and some recently created Personas, for the Firefox browser.

You can download the images and screen savers from Jumbo Files here and the Firefox Personas can be found here.