Result: Liverpool 2 Blackburn 1

Premier League – February 28 2010 – Result

Liverpool 2 (Gerrard 20, Torres 44)
Blackburn 1 (Andrews (pen) 40)


Reds boss Rafa Benitez: “It is really important but sometimes we cannot play football. If they are pleased with the way they play under this manager, it is their decision.

“We won so they have to be thinking about whether the style is good or not.

“I think it is a model for all the managers around the world, their style of football, his behaviour. It is the perfect model for all the kids and I’m sure all parents will enjoy this model and encourage their kids to be the same.

“The style of football I think Barcelona are thinking of copying.

“Nzonzi was very clear, touching the face of Lucas, and the rules are the rules

“We have had four of five players with problems, bleeding, and Maxi with stud marks in his abdomen. Interesting, but we won.” Continue reading Result: Liverpool 2 Blackburn 1

Half-time: Liverpool 2 Blackburn 1

Liverpool 2 (Gerrard 20, Torres 44)
Blackburn 1 (Andrews (pen) 40)

Fernando Torres – back in the starting line-up and back on the scoresheet. His goal put Liverpool back in front after an Andrews penalty had cancelled out Gerrard’s opener.

Liverpool have missed one or both of Torres and Gerrard for pretty much the whole season – and for much of the season both players were struggling with injury even when they did play. Critics pin most of Liverpool’s struggles this season on the absence of Xabi Alonso yet play down the absence of a fully-fit Gerrard and Torres. This first half shows how important the duo are.

It’s not all about Gerrard and Torres though – Rafa has a lot to thank Pepe Reina for. He’s had to contend with the expected physical tactics (to put it nicely) of any Sam Allardyce side, but has contended well on the whole, despite a lack of interest from the referee. He’s also blocked a couple of decent shots that could have dented Liverpool’s recovering but still fragile confidence.

Jamie Carragher was responsible for the Blackburn penalty. The referee – poor as he is – had to make a decision immediately on whether a prone Carragher had handled the ball deliberately or not, and quickly pointed to the spot. It did look deliberate, and Carra’s initial reaction suggested he knew he’d been caught out. Before half-time a Blackburn penalty shout was completely ignored by the referee – who should have booked the offender for a blatant dive.

Mascherano has done his job on the whole at right-back and has looked a threat going forward, but Liverpool have had to change left-back following another injury to the unfortunate Fabio Aurelio.

El Hadji Diouf had been booed throughout, and not many ex-Liverpool players get that treatment at Anfield. When he tried to take Gerrard out – without a booking – he ensured he’d get the same treatment for the rest of the game.

It’s not “game over” yet, but if Liverpool can build on what they’ve done in the first half, and survive without too many injuries being inflicted by their opponents, the Reds are capable of getting all three points.

Liverpool: 25 Reina, 5 Agger, 12 Aurelio (22 Insua, 38), 20 Mascherano, 23 Carragher, 8 Gerrard, 15 Benayoun, 17 Rodriguez, 21 Lucas, 9 Torres, 18 Kuyt
Subs: 1 Cavalieri, 22 Insua, 34 Kelly, 40 Ayala, 4 Aquilani, 19 Babel, 24 Ngog

Blackburn: 1 Robinson, 4 Samba, 5 Givet, 21 Olsson, 27 Salgado (BOOKED), 12 Pedersen, 15 Nzonzi, 17 Andrews, 23 Hoilett, 18 Diouf, 22 Kalinic
Subs: 32 Brown, 39 Chimbonda, 7 Emerton, 8 Dunn, 11 Grella, 9 Roberts, 26 Di Santo

Referee: Alan Wiley

Liverpool v Blackburn: Torres back, Mascherano right back

Fernando Torres is back in the starting line-up but the injury problems that have been with the Reds since the start of the season just won’t go away. As a result, central-midfieler Javier Mascherano starts at right-back.

The Argentina captain is considered the best choice for the position today with Glen Johson only just back in light training, Martin Kelly on the bench after making his own injury comeback – his third apearance for the club – on Thursday and Jamie Carragher needed back in the centre. Carra moves across because of Martin Skrtel’s broken metatarsal, with Sotirios Kyrgiakos’s in the last of his three-game ban.

Emilanio Insua also drops to the bench today with Fabio Aurelio taking his place. Lucas looks set to be partnered in midfield by Steven Gerrard, who drops back into a deeper role than he usually plays these days. Dirk Kuyt, Maxi Rodriguez and Yossi Benayoun will be there to provide the service that Fernando Torres can usually do so much with.

Ryan Babel drops down to the bench but not because of a poor performance, David Ngog may well figure before the game is out if Rafa chooses not to overstretch Torres.

Liverpool will be hoping to send a message of “game over” to Sam Allardyce as early as possible, following his pathetic comments last season as he whined about not getting to have a post-match drink with Rafa Benitez. “Big” Sam’s comments in the past few days comparing Liverpool to his old Bolton side may well serve as motivation to help that happen.

Liverpool: 25 Reina, 5 Agger, 12 Aurelio, 20 Mascherano, 23 Carragher, 8 Gerrard, 15 Benayoun, 17 Rodriguez, 21 Lucas, 9 Torres, 18 Kuyt
Subs: 1 Cavalieri, 22 Insua, 34 Kelly, 40 Ayala, 4 Aquilani, 19 Babel, 24 Ngog
Blackburn: 1 Robinson, 4 Samba, 5 Givet, 21 Olsson, 27 Salgado, 12 Pedersen, 15 Nzonzi, 17 Andrews, 23 Hoilett, 18 Diouf, 22 Kalinic
Subs: 32 Brown, 39 Chimbonda, 7 Emerton, 8 Dunn, 11 Grella, 9 Roberts, 26 Di Santo
Referee: Alan Wiley

Skrtel breaks metatarsal

Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel has broken a metatarsal in his foot following a challenge in last night’s win over Unirea Urziceni.

According to Reds manager Rafael Benitez the club are awaiting more details on the exact recovery time: “We were really disappointed after the game because it was a good result but then we had the bad news about Martin. He’s had x-rays today and they confirmed he has a broken metatarsal. We have to check over the next couple of days how long it will take to recover.”

Skrtel’s defensive colleague Daniel Agger missed much of the 2007-08 season due to a metatarsal injury that ultimately required surgery. Skrtel will be hopeful of a place in Slovakia’s first World Cup finals squad this summer, but as competition for places in the Reds defence intensifies it may not just be the injury that keeps him out of the Liverpool side in these last few months of the season.

Martin Kelly returned to action last night and may well get the nod to start at right back on Sunday, allowing Jamie Carragher to move back to the centre to partner Agger.  Greek defender Sotirios Kyrgiakos serves the last game of his suspension for that game and right-back Glen Johnson will be ready for action soon having returned to training.

Speaking about the England right-back Rafa said: “Johnson’s doing well. He was training today with the team, a light training session. I was watching him and he was quite sharp but Sunday will be too soon.”

Unirea Urziceni 1 Liverpool 3 (agg 1-4)

Thursday, 25 February 2010Europa League – Result

Unirea Urziceni 1 (Bruno Fernandes 18)
Liverpool 3 (Mascherano 29, Babel 40, Gerrard 57)

Aggregate: 1-4

Steven Gerrard (who became the highest-scoring British player in European matches): “It’s always nice to break records from a personal point of view. I’ve been working really hard to get back among the goals, but the most important thing was to get through to the next round.”

Liverpool boss Rafael Benítez on Gerrard’s record: “It’s really good and positive for him and the club. It also shows that as a club we are playing a lot of games in Europe and hopefully we can play more games this season and he can score more goals. It is an historic club and to have a record like this is massive for him, but it is massive for the club, too, because it means it recognises our achievements in playing so often in Europe.

“We have that tradition and we are proud, and we want to continue to give him more chances in Europe this season by going as far as possible.

“We showed character – we knew it could be a difficult game because the pitch was very bad, and to concede the goal was a bad start. We needed to be calm and do the job properly. To play better we needed to score our goal as they were dangerous at set-pieces. I think once we scored a goal everything was easier and the second and third goals made things better. Still we had some problems but the main thing was to score; we did it and we had more control of the game.”

[On the extent of the injury to the stretchered-off Martin Skrtel]: “At this moment we don’t know but it could be bad news, it could be a broken foot. That would be bad news but we will have to wait and see what happens. He will have a scan on Friday, but it was a bad tackle.”

Unirea coach Roni Levy: “I knew it was an early goal and we had a long time until the end of the game. The equaliser came very early so I did not have much time to think about what our goal meant. What was important was that we were organised and looked like a serious team – irrespective of the result. From my opinion we deserved a better result.”

Unirea Urziceni: 1 Arlauskis (booked), 6 Galamaz (4 Mehmedovic, 27), 22 Bruno Fernandes (booked), 23 Bordeanu, 24 Maftei, 8 Paraschiv (18 Vilana, 56), 10 Paduretu, 30 Frunza, 32 Apostol, 7 Bilasco, 25 Onofras (booked) (17 Semedo, 62)
Subs unused: 74 Tudor, 16 Nicu, 20 Marinescu, 14 Rusescu

Liverpool: 25 Reina, 23 Carragher (34 Kelly, 61), 37 Skrtel(16 Kyrgiakos, 66) 5 Agger, 22 Insua, 20 Mascherano (booked), 21 Lucas, 15 Benayoun (12 Aurelio 77), 8 Gerrard, 19 Babel (booked), 24 Ngog
Subs: 1 Cavalieri, 4 Aquilani, 9 Torres, 18 Kuyt

Referee: Stefan Johannesson

Attendance: 25,000

Man City v Liverpool: Torres on bench

Manchester City v Liverpool

Looking at the Liverpool team-sheet it’s impossible to ignore one name tucked away on the list of subs. Fernando Torres is on the bench.

The starting eleven, whose job it is to make sure he’s not needed for anything more than a late cameo, know how important this fixture is to the Reds and their hopes for that fourth spot in the league. The attacking responsibilities have been handed to Steven Gerrard, Maxi Rodriguez, Ryan Babel and Dirk Kuyt.

We await kick-off to see exactly how manager Rafa Benitez plans to deploy them.

What we do know is that Lucas and Mascherano will share the responsibilities in midfield – Alberto Aquilani is amongst the subs.

In defence Rafa has again entrusted Jamie Carragher at right-back, with Skrtel and Agger in the centre and Insua at left-back. Martin Kelly is on the bench alongside Fabio Aurelio.

Albert Riera is dropped back to the bench after a less-than-perfect display on Thursday night, Yossi Benayoun is another player returning to the subs’ bench after an injury lay-off.

The City side includes Gareth Barry, for so long a target of Rafa’s, and Joleon Lescott, for so long a target of the Kop’s. Carlos Tevez is out in Argentina having attended the birth of his child but ex-Red Craig Bellamy is on the bench.

Kick-off 3pm.

Man City: 1 Given, 3 Bridge, 5 Zabaleta, 19 Lescott, 33 Kompany, 7 Ireland, 8 Wright-Phillips, 11 A Johnson, 18 Barry, 34 De Jong, 25 Adebayor
Subs: 12 Taylor, 2 Richards, 16 Sylvinho, 28 Toure, 14 Santa Cruz, 39 Bellamy, 48 Ibrahim

Liverpool: 25 Reina, 23 Carragher, 37 Skrtel, 5 Agger, 22 Insua, 20 Mascherano, 21 Lucas, 17 Maxi, 8 Gerrard, 19 Babel, 18 Kuyt
Subs: 1 Cavalieri, 12 Aurelio, 34 Kelly, 4 Aquilani, 11 Riera, 15 Benayoun, 9 Torres

Referee: Peter Walton
Assistant referees: Adam Watts, Simon Long
Fourth official: Kevin Friend

Liverpool v Unirea Urziceni

It might not have the glamour of the Champions League but the Europa League is Liverpool’s last hope of silverware this season and Rafa Benitez has put a strong side out.

Pepe Reina is in goal as expected but many expected Jamie Carragher to sit it out and be allowed more time to get over his injury. Instead he starts at right-back and with Aurelio returning at left-back Emliano Insua is on the bench. Soto Kyrgiakos is on the bench, his domestic suspension of course not applicable to this fixture, with Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel both starting.

Mascherano starts in midfield but Lucas is rested. Alberto Aquilani returns, with Steven Gerrard, Dirk Kuyt, Albert Riera and David Ngog in the eleven.

Liverpool: Reina, Carragher, Skrtel, Agger, Aurelio, Mascherano, Aquilani, Kuyt, Gerrard, Riera, Ngog
Subs: Cavalieri, Kyrgiakos, Babel, Lucas, Insua, Degen, Pacheco

Arsenal v Liverpool – Just one change for Reds

Rafa Benitez has only made one change to his line-up for tonight’s clash with Arsenal, and that’s one he was forced to make.

Sotirios Kyrgiakos is serving the first of a three-match ban for his sending-off in Saturday’s derby victory, meaning Martin Skrtel gets straight back into the starting line-up having dropped to the bench due to illness at the weekend. This means Jamie Carragher will start at right-back, Emilian Insua at left back and Daniel Agger will partner Skrtel. Martin Kelly is a welcome sight on the bench following a lengthy injury lay-off.

With Alberto Aquilani suffering from a bug of some kind Lucas and Javier Mascherano start in midfield. Kuyt and Maxi will probably start in the wider positions with Gerrard behind David Ngog.

Arsenal: 1 Almunia, 5 Vermaelen, 10 Gallas, 22 Clichy, 27 Eboue, 2 Diaby, 4 Fabregas, 8 Nasri, 17 Song Billong, 23 Arshavin, 52 Bendtner
Subs: 21 Fabianski, 3 Sagna, 30 Traore, 31 Campbell, 7 Rosicky, 14 Walcott, 15 Denilson

Liverpool: 25 Reina, 23 Carragher, 37 Skrtel, 5 Agger, 22 Insua, 20 Mascherano, 21 Lucas, 18 Kuyt, 8 Gerrard, 17 Maxi, 24 Ngog
Subs: 1 Cavalieri, 12 Aurelio, 27 Degen, 34 Kelly, 11 Riera, 26 Spearing, 19 Babel

Referee: Howard Webb
Assistant referees: Darren Cann and Stephen Child
Fourth official: Simon Bennett

Kick-off: 7:45pm

Result: Liverpool 1 Everton 0

Premier League – 6 February 2010 – Result

Liverpool 1 (Kuyt 55) – Everton 0

At half time it looked like referee Martin Atkinson might get all the headlines, but Dirk Kuyt and the rest of his Liverpool team-mates made sure that wasn’t going to be the case, Liverpool getting all three points, moving into fourth and doing the double over their nearest rivals.

Liverpool: 25 Reina, 5 Agger, 16 Kyrgiakos, 22 Insua, 23 Carragher, 8 Gerrard, 17 Maxi (12 Aurelio, 90+2), 20 Mascherano, 21 Lucas, 18 Kuyt (37 Skrtel, 90+6), 24 Ngog (19 Babel, 63)
Unused subs: 1 Cavalieri, 27 Degen, 4 Aquilani, 11 Riera
Booked: Kuyt, Carragher, Gerrard
Sent off: Kyrgiakos

Everton: 24 Howard, 3 Baines, 5 Heitinga, 15 Distin, 18 Neville, 9 Donovan, 17 Cahill, 20 Pienaar, 21 Osman (22 Yakubu, 72), 25 Fellaini (10 Arteta, 40), 08 Saha (28 Anichebe, 72)
Subs: 1 Nash, 23 Senderos, 31 Coleman, 7 Bilyaletdinov, 10 Arteta, 22 Yakubu, 28 Anichebe
Booked: Heitinga, Pienaar, Anichebe

Sent off: Pienaar

Referee: Martin Atkinson
Attendance: 44,316

Stats: (Liverpool – Everton)
Possession: 54% – 46%
Attempts on target: 4 – 3
Attempts off target: 5 – 3
Corners: 8 – 8
Fouls: 11 – 23