Pongolle and Mellor leave Anfield

Transfer deadline day has seen Liverpool allow two strikers to go elsewhere – one on loan and one on a permanent transfer. After Rafael Benítez signed two new strikers this summer he’s allowed two of the squad strikers to move on. Florent Sinama-Pongolle gets to spend a year in Spain whilst Neil Mellor gets to try and get his own career moving again at his new club, Preston North End.

Sinama-Pongolle has never quite lived up to the promise Liverpool fans thought he had when Gerard Houllier signed him as a teenager. He spent various periods out on loan, including the last half of last season at Blackburn. It was during his spell at Ewood Park when he made a “blunder” that probably ensured any lingering hopes of him rescuing his Liverpool career took a big hit. He said that people in the city of Liverpool all supported Everton – not true and not clever. A lot of Reds are still unhappy about what he said, especially as it came at a time when he was being linked with a possible summer move across the park to the bitter side of the city.

Everton never did come forward for the player though, and despite many rumours this summer that Gerard Houllier was finally going to buy back one of his many signings Pongolle has now gone to Spain for the loan deal. Recreativo de Huelvaon were delighted to take the player on loan, having won promotion last season. Their official website read: “Pongolle is a very important signing for us.”

As well as what he’d said to the press, Pongolle also had to try and fight his way past new signings Craig Bellamy and Dirk Kuyt, along with Peter Crouch and Robbie Fowler for a place in the side. When you also consider that Rafa is happy to utilise the likes of Harry Kewell, Mark Gonzalez, Luis Garcia and Steven Gerrard as part of the front two then it’s clear that Pongolle was going to struggle.

Similar thoughts must also have crossed Neil Mellor’s mind. Despite being highly thought of by Rafael Benítez, a spate of bad luck with injuries means he’s not been able to get himself any kind of run under Rafa, but he leaves Liverpool supporters with some good memories.

Two games that spring to mind are the league game against Arsenal at Anfield where Mellor got the winner with the last kick of the game from way out, and the Champions League group game against Olympiakos when Mellor came off the bench to score on of the three goals needed by the Reds to progress further in the competition. Pongolle scored the other, but the third one (a wonder strike from Steven Gerrard) was set up by Mellor too. That win gave Liverpool the confidence they needed to go all the way forward to the ultimate prize in the competition – a game in Istanbul that you may remember.

Mellor was unavailable for the final due to injury, missing just about the whole of last season too. He did go on loan to Wigan but even that had to be cut short as he struggled to get back from his double knee operation.

Now Preston get to make use of the player, with their boss Paul Simpson looking forward to making use of the natural goalscorer: “Neil is a goalscorer and hopefully that will continue to be the case. He is a tremendous signing. He has had his injury problems but we are happy he is over those and it’s just a case now of building up his fitness levels.”

Neil himself was sad to be leaving the Reds after a long time being the reserves’ top scorer, but he knew he had to make the move: “I think any player who leaves Liverpool is a bit disappointed because they are one of the best teams in the world, without a doubt. I have left before to go on loan at various clubs, but it was a big step to leave Liverpool fully and commit myself to Preston.”
 
Preston have been close to making it into the Premiership in recent times, something which helped Mellor make up his mind about the move: “I am really excited. This is a big club that has been in the playoffs for the past two seasons and I’m hoping we can go one better this year and get promotion. People might mention the injuries but it’s just about playing football now. I’ve come here to hopefully get the chance to try and do that. I just want to put the past behind me and look to the future at Preston.”

AnfieldRoad.com wish Neil the best of luck in the future, he’s a very good player and a great person, hopefully his luck will now change in his favour.
Continue reading Pongolle and Mellor leave Anfield

Blackburn reject Reds bid for Neill

Sky Sports News are claiming that Liverpool have had a bid turned down by Blackburn for right-back Lucas Neill.

Other reports this morning claimed that Liverpool had made a bid to Blackburn of £2m for the player, who won’t be the most popular signing at the club based on his past. However as Jermaine Pennant and Craig Bellamy proved, Rafael Benitez is interested in players as they are now, not their past Neill is best remembered at Anfield for making the tackle that broke Jamie Carragher’s leg.

Sky’s report means that other reports saying the deal was already done now look a little premature.

Various rumours circulating in recent weeks said Neill had drawn interest from Liverpool after they found his contract was nearing its end. One story was that the player had a clause in his contract allowing him to buy out the rest of his deal, although the BBC are reporting that it is in fact a new FIFA ruling that allows players over 28 to buy out the remainder of their contracts if they have one year left to run. Even so, the player is allowed to speak to other clubs from January under the terms of the Bosman ruling.

Neill’s English agent Peter Harrison spoke about how Neill wouldn’t be signing a new deal with Rovers, who now need to decide if they want to cash in on the player or let him go free at the end of the season. Harrison said: “They have made an offer which Lucas has declined – he is not going to be signing a new contract at Blackburn. He has enjoyed his time there, he loves the club and the fans; he just feels it is time for a change.”
Continue reading Blackburn reject Reds bid for Neill

What they said: Reds v West Ham

Liverpool’s 2-1 win over West Ham on Saturday will live long in Daniel Agger’s memory, despite the modest way the young Dane played down his wonder goal. He told Sky after the game: “I can’t remember it.” The strike brough Liverpool level after they’d fallen behind to a freak goal earlier in the half, but Agger said it doesn’t matter how they go in or who scores: “A goal is a goal, the most important thing is the win. It doesn’t matter who scores the goals.”

The winner was scored right on half time by Peter Crouch, who got a great ovation as the left the pitch. His replacement got an even better ovation as the Anfield faithful welcomed him to the club. Dirk Kuyt couldn’t score on his debut, but impressed all who saw him. He was quite happy himself too: “It was wonderful to make my debut at Anfield. It feels great but the win is the most important thing. We had the better chances – for me Bellamy was not offside, it was a goal, so I think we deserved to win. We have a wonderful squad, not 11 good players but 20. We are getting better and better, but we’re not at the 100% level yet and you have to work hard to beat teams like Chelsea.”

Liverpool’s manager Rafael Benitez was happy enough too: “It was good to win and also to see the new players playing well, creating chances. It was a good game for the supporters.” Pepe Reina might get some stick from the press and some fans for his part in Zamora’s flukish goal, but not from Rafa: “We were playing well, controlling the game and they we conceded the goal. I need to see it, it’s difficult sometimes reaching for a cross. I’ll look at it on television and then maybe say something more. In the end it was a good win.” To be fair to Zamora, he says it was an attempt on goal and not a cross.

Rafa praised both Dirk Kuyt and Peter Crouch for their roles in the win, and will be left with a problem now in terms of who to pick when: “Dirk worked hard and created a lot of chances and Crouch was the same. I like to have these problems. As a manager you prefer to have these problems.”

If there is one thing Rafa has repeated time and again, Liverpool really have to start killing games earlier rather than being in a vulnerable position throughout a game: “That was a difficult game against a good side. What we must be able to do is to kill teams off with a third goal in that situation. They came forward, we knew they would attack us because that is their style, and I said we would get chances. But when you do not take them things get very nervous at the end.”

Rafa’s opposite number, Alan Pardew, had mixed feelings about the game – happy with the way his team performed and disappointed that the performance didn’t bring them any points: “I’ve got to reflect on the whole performance. We’ve come here against one of the real contenders for the title, given a real good account of ourselves and yet we have come away with nothing. We still created those moments and feel aggrieved we haven’t come away with anything.”

Continue reading What they said: Reds v West Ham

Prem Result: Liverpool 2 WestHam 1

Barclays Premiership Result

Liverpool 2 (Agger, Crouch) West Ham 1 (Zamora)

Liverpool: 25 J Reina, 3 S Finnan, 4 S Hyypia, 5 D Agger, 12 F Aurelio, 16 J Pennant (B Zenden, 82), 14 X Alonso, 8 S Gerrard, 10 S Luis Garcia (M Gonzalez, 60), 17 C Bellamy, 15 P Crouch (D Kuyt, 52)
Subs: 1 J Dudek, 2 J Kromkamp, 11 M Gonzalez, 18 D Kuyt, 32 B Zenden
Bookings: Aurelio 64
Goals: Agger 42, Crouch 45

West Ham: 1 R Carroll, 14 J Paintsil, 5 A Ferdinand, 4 D Gabbidon, 3 P Konchesky (T Mears. 81), 29 L Bowyer, 17 H Mullins, 20 N Reo-Coker (T Sheringham, 82), 15 Y Benayoun, 25 B Zamora, 10 M Harewood (C Cole, 73)
Subs: 23 J Walker, 2 T Mears, 8 T Sheringham, 12 C Cole, 19 J Collins
Goals: Zamora 12

Referee: A Wiley

Half-time: 2-1

Attendance: 43,965

Continue reading Prem Result: Liverpool 2 WestHam 1

Reds’ CL Group C Fixtures

The fixtures for Liverpool’s group in the 2006/07 UEFA Champions League have been published tonight. Liverpool will start off with an away fixture against PSV Eindhoven and will end the group phase in Turkey with their game against Galatasaray.

Group C: Liverpool, Galatasaray, Bordeaux, PSV Eindhoven

Tuesday 12 Sep 2006
Galatasaray SK – FC Girondins de Bordeaux
PSV Eindhoven – Liverpool FC

Wednesday 27 Sep 2006
Liverpool FC – Galatasaray SK
FC Girondins de Bordeaux – PSV Eindhoven

Wednesday 18 Oct 2006
FC Girondins de Bordeaux – Liverpool FC
Galatasaray SK – PSV Eindhoven

Tuesday 31 Oct 2006
Liverpool FC – FC Girondins de Bordeaux
PSV Eindhoven – Galatasaray SK

Wednesday 22 Nov 2006
FC Girondins de Bordeaux – Galatasaray SK
Liverpool FC – PSV Eindhoven

Tuesday 5 Dec 2006
Galatasaray SK – Liverpool FC
PSV Eindhoven – FC Girondins de Bordeaux

From UEFA.com
Continue reading Reds’ CL Group C Fixtures

Parry: “We’ll see” about more signings

Rick Parry was speaking to Sky Sports about the Champions League Draw tonight, and the reporter started off by asking what he thought of that draw. Rick said: “We have fond memories of a trip to Istanbul, and of course we’ve been to Galatasaray not too long ago. PSV and Bordeaux are a little bit of an unknown for us, we’ve not played them in recent years, but it’s OK.”

The reporter suggested that avoiding the likes of Celtic amongst others meant it was quite a favourable draw, but Parry didn’t agree: “Celtic would have been fine – I don’t think there’s any such thing as  a favourable draw, none of the groups is that easy. Turkey’s a long way, but we’ve avoided the Eastern European trips so it’s OK.”

That trip to Turkey to face Galatasaray was compared by the reporter to the famous night in 2005 when the Reds won this trophy for the fifth time, with the suggestion that it will bring back special memories. Rick smiled, saying: “Absolutely – yes that’s one that won’t be forgotten for a very very long time, but as I say, we’ve also been to Galatasaray in the recent past, so we’ve decent memories of that trip as well. So, yes – we’re looking forward to it.”

The Reds got through against Haifa on Tuesday night, a tense time for supporters and of course for Parry: “Absolutely. Of course it was a little tense at time but fantastic to be here so we’re happy with whoever we draw.”

Rick Parry had suggested that the Reds had already spent the money that comes from being in the group stages before it was assured they’d be there, and so he was asked if Liverpool had been gambling, and if the summer spending spree was funded by this money or would it go towards the next round of transfer: “It’s elements of a gamble, we budget for success, we budget for being in  the group stage, so of course that’s helped to fuel the summer spending. So that doesn’t come into the pot on top, it’s already been spent. Group stage is where we’ve got to be year on year if we are going to be successful.”

He was also asked what he thought of the transfer fees Liverpool had ultimately been forced to spend on the new signings: “We’re happy with the players that we’ve got, we don’t think the fees are excessive in the current market, we’re very very happy with all the additions to the squad this year, stronger than last year were really looking forward to the new season.”

Finally the reporter asked Rick whether there would be ant more new signings: “We’ll see,” said Parry, surprising the reporter who pointed out that this wasn’t a denial: “It’s not a denial no, you never say never in football.”

With that the interview ended, Parry leaving everyone wondering how many more players they were trying to sign.

Continue reading Parry: “We’ll see” about more signings

CL Draw – Reds with PSV, Bordeaux, Galatasaray

The draw for the Champions League group stages has been made in Monaco.

Liverpool have been matched up with Dutch side PSV Eindhoven and Bordeaux from France, but also face a trip to Turkey and Galatasaray.

Full Draw:

Group A
Barcelona
Chelsea
Werder Bremen
Levski Sofia

Group B
Inter Milan
Bayern Munich
Sporting Lisbon
Spartak Moscow

Group C
Liverpool
PSV Eindhoven
Bordeaux
Galatasaray

Group D
Valencia
Roma
Olympiakos
Shakthar Donetsk

Group E
Real Madrid
Lyon
Steaua Bucharest
Dynamo Kiev

Group F
Man United
Celtic
Benfica
FC Copenhagen

Group G
Arsenal
Porto
CSKA Moscow
SV Hamburg

Group H
AC Milan
Lille
AEK Athens
Anderlecht

Continue reading CL Draw – Reds with PSV, Bordeaux, Galatasaray

CL Draw today for a relieved Parry

In just over an hour from now the draw for the Champions League group stages will be made, and according to Reds Chief Executive Rick Parry, it’s quite a good job that Liverpool made it through their qualifying tie thank to the 3-2 aggregate win completed on Tuesday night.

Parry says that the club took a risk on them qualifying for the group phase, if they hadn’t then they’d have spent money they didn’t really have. He also says Liverpool deserve to be in the draw, but not just for their performance in the qualifiers: “”It was clearly very important we got through. It’s vital to be in the group stages. There’s much relief all round. It’s not just about these two games, we earned it through the league last season. We seem to make a habit of doing it the hard way in the final qualifier. The last couple of seasons have been slightly nervy, but now we can look forward to the draw.”

The summer deals for the likes of Pennant, Bellamy and Kuyt were all made under the assumption that the club would have the money to spend on the instalments for the players: “We have to budget for getting through to the group stages, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to afford to do what we do. If you budget for failure, you achieve it, so we budget for success. That makes the knockout just that little bit nerve-wracking. You have to aim for the stars, not mediocrity. The chairman is much relieved and a happy man today, and now there’s a buzz of anticipation for the draw.”

The draw takes place in Monaco at 5pm BST, with Liverpool one of the top seeds. That means they’ll not have to face Spanish sides Barcelona, Real Madrid or Valencia, nor will they have to face the sides from the disgraced Italian league, AC Milan and Inter Milan. The other two top seeds are English sides Arsenal and Manchester United – but with country protection now offered to Liverpool once again, they’d have been avoided by the Reds wherever they’d been seeded.  That protection also means they will avoid Chelsea, who are in the second level of seedings. Gerard Houllier’s current club Lyon team are a team from that second pot who could be drawn against Liverpool, as are Celtic, Bayern Munich, Roma, Porto, PSV Eindhoven and Lille.
Continue reading CL Draw today for a relieved Parry

Momo misses a fortnight

Liverpool midfielder Momo Sissoko will be out of action for two weeks, not even able to train until after that length of time has passed, after suffering a knee ligament injury last night.

Sissoko was stretchered off in obvious pain last night and will be missed until he returns. Thankfully though, due to the stop-start nature of the Premiership season, he may well miss just one Liverpool game. Liverpool play West Ham on Saturday but then there’s no game until 9th September when it’s the small matter of the Merseyside derby.
 
Liverpool’s Head of Press explain the player’s condition earlier today: “Momo had a scan today which showed a tear of the medial ligament in his left knee. We do not expect him to be able to play or train for the next two weeks.”

Momo joins a number of players in the treatment room, including three ankle injury victims from the Reds’ last two games – Stephen Warnock, Jamie Carragher and John Arne Riise.

Continue reading Momo misses a fortnight