GUARDIAN – High time Rodgers and Liverpool came good at the home of a top-six club | James Dutton

The Anfield manager has been in situ for 18 months now and has won only twice against a perceived rival for European football, neither of them away from homeThree points separate Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur in the table as the Premier League prepares to enter its energy-sapping and momentum-swinging festive period. Both top-four pretenders have won two league games in a row and they meet at White Hart Lane on Sunday afternoon. Yet despite the minute differences, they are separated by a chasm of perception.Tottenham, goal-shy and lacking a leading edge, have supposedly lurched from crisis to crisis, with the manager André Villas-Boas apparently on the brink of his losing his job just a fortnight ago before winning three of the next four in all competitions. By comparison, Brendan Rodgers’ team have been free scoring in steamrollering the bottom half of the Premier League and sit in second place, just four points shy of Arsenal.Victory for the home side on Sunday, however, will see them draw level with their rivals, although the eight-goal swing required to see Spurs leapfrog Liverpool is unlikely. Should Tottenham prevail, a glance at the festive fixture list suggests they may pull away, with the Reds facing trips to Manchester City and Chelsea between Christmas and new year.Though to assume that Spurs will beat West Bromwich Albion and Stoke City at home over Christmas is to reckon against an unpredictable league season and their own inadequacies. In their seven league matches at White Hart Lane, Villas-Boas’s team have scored just four goals from open play and lost to Newcastle and West Ham United.Spurs are one point better off than they were after 15 games last season but have scored 13 fewer goals – it leads many to the lazy observation that they have a Gareth Bale-shaped hole in their attack. But at this stage a year ago the Welshman had scored just six of his 21 league goals, and had shown mere glimpses of the sparkling late-season form which enabled him to win games almost singlehandedly and be named a two-time player of the year.Villas-Boas’s main dilemma has been trying to integrate his seven summer signings, and finding space for the £30m Argentinian playmaker Erik Lamela, who has so far been afforded just 237 minutes of Premier League football. Spurs have, though, excelled defensively where, despite the 6–0 aberration at Manchester City last month, their record of seven clean sheets is second only to Everton.For Brendan Rodgers the trip to White Hart Lane is the precursor to what is shaping up to be the defining month of his Liverpool reign. Trips to the Etihad and Stamford Bridge loom, and injuries to Sturridge and Gerrard have served to dampen already low expectations.During his 18-month spell on Merseyside Rodgers has failed to win away from home against any of the so-called top six. Even with fixtures at Anfield taken into account the Northern Irishman has presided over only two victories in 15, a 3-2 win over Spurs last season and a 1-0 triumph over Manchester United in September.Liverpool have conceded two or more goals in 12 of the 15, and have, on average, conceded the first goal against a top-six side away from home in the 23rd minute.Only once have the team kept a clean sheet into the second half of these fixtures. In the corresponding meeting with Spurs last year Liverpool were 2-0 down inside the first 15 minutes and playing catch-up. It’s a familiar tale for Rodgers’ Liverpool.But big-game struggles are nothing new in the recent history of Anfield managers. It took Rafa Benítez until his fifth season, 2008-9, before he took three points from Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford; between 2004 and 2010 the Spaniard lost 16 of 26 away games against legitimate title and Champions League rivals.The busy festive schedule will serve as a yardstick for Rodgers and despite the lengthening injury list, depleting numbers in midfield and a distinct vulnerability in defence, their Champions League hopes remain realistic.In Luis Suárez, Rodgers possesses not just the league’s top scorer but the form player in the country. Rodgers’ refinement of Liverpool’s system, and centralising of Suárez to it, has seen the Uruguayan’s game take a stratospheric turn. He has scored as many goals (15) in 10 games, as he managed in a season and a half with Kenny Dalglish at the helm.Under Rodgers, Suárez has struck 38 times in 43 games compared to 15 in 44 with the Scot. He has become not merely a scorer of great goals, but a great goalscorer to boot.In the buildup to the 4-1 win over West Ham last weekend, Rodgers identified the sale of Andy Carroll as pivotal to the transformation of Suárez: “What we try to do here is create the environment for the elite player and he is an elite player. I had to make a call last year by letting Andy Carroll go out and create a situation where we could get the benefit out of Luis’s talent.”But he still had to perform and he has done that tremendously well. It was maybe said that he needed a lot of chances to score goals before, but his goals record was still fairly good. Now it is an opportunity and it’s a goal.”Despite Suárez’s glittering form, Liverpool’s charge up the table will not be taken seriously until they are able to defeat a leading rival away from home. Being a flat-track bully has its virtues but it can only get you so far; with Tottenham’s home difficulties this year, it’s an ideal opportunity for Rodgers to shed his unwanted record.For all Liverpool’s obvious progress under the former Swansea manager, it is difficult to pin down a result that defines what he has achieved in his first 18 months. While Villas-Boas can point to a victory at Old Trafford and home defeats of Manchester City and Arsenal, Rodgers has fallen agonisingly short on a number of occasions.After an annus horribilis in 2012, where Liverpool claimed just 44 points out of a possible 117, Rodgers has brought recovery. Of Liverpool’s 64 points claimed during this calendar year, 45 have come from beating bottom-half sides. Though he has struggled translating Liverpool’s verve against lower-half teams to the top sides, he has made Liverpool difficult to beat – after losing 17 league games in 2012, they have lost just six this calendar year.Liverpool in 2013 have the look of progress about them. But do Tottenham? Since falling short of Champions League qualification by a single point in May, Spurs look to have taken a sideways step.But that sweeping statement illustrates the difficulty with assessing a Premier League season where every side apart from Arsenal appear incapable of putting together winning sequences. The search for the unquantifiable answer has leapt beyond the rational answer too often this season. Spurs, the crisis club before Manchester United lost consecutive games at home last week, personify that.For both Villas-Boas and Rodgers this weekend’s encounter offers the chance to challenge perceptions that they are either under- or over-achieving. But in this season where Manchester United can lose consecutive home games to Everton and Newcastle United, Manchester City can lose at Cardiff City, Aston Villa and Sunderland, and Chelsea at Newcastle and Stoke, who can say who is achieving what with conviction?LiverpoolBrendan RodgersPremier © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

GUARDIAN – 266. Steven Gerrard, Liverpool

Click to enlarge, and debate the strip below the line. Keith Hackett’s verdict appears in Sunday’s Observer, and here from Monday.Competition: win an official club shirt of your choiceFor a chance to win a club shirt of your choice from the range at send us your questions for You are the Ref to The best scenario used in the new YATR strip each Sunday wins a shirt to the value of £50 from Kitbag. Terms & conditions apply.For more on the fifty year history of You Are The Ref, click here.Steven GerrardLiverpoolLaws of © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

GUARDIAN – Steven Gerrard hopeful of returning from injury for Liverpool in four weeks

• Captain to miss demanding festive period with hamstring injury• Joe Allen praises Liverpool’s ruthless streak at AnfieldSteven Gerrard hopes to return for Liverpool in four weeks having been ruled out of the club’s demanding festive programme with a hamstring injury.The Liverpool captain will miss away fixtures at Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Chelsea, plus home games with Cardiff City and Hull City, after scans confirmed he strained a hamstring during the 4-1 defeat of West Ham United on Saturday.Liverpool feared the 33-year-old could be sidelined for six weeks with the problem, meaning he would be absent until Aston Villa’s arrival at Anfield on 18 January, but the England captain is expected to recover inside a month. Gerrard is targeting a return for the FA Cup third-round tie against Mansfield Town or Oldham Athletic on the first weekend of January or, should Brendan Rodgers avoid a risk in the cup, the following week’s Premier League trip to Stoke City.Gerrard has featured in every league game this season for second-placed Liverpool and his absence represents a major blow for Rodgers, who is already without the striker Daniel Sturridge until the new year with an ankle injury and the left-back José Enrique until February.Liverpool’s midfielder options could be diminished further for Sunday’s visit to White Hart Lane with Jordan Henderson feeling the effects of the foul that resulted in Kevin Nolan’s dismissal for West Ham at Anfield. Henderson’s foot has been in a protective boot since Saturday but, despite the England international struggling with a badly bruised ankle, Liverpool remain hopeful he will recover in time to face Spurs.Gerrard’s injury is likely to lead to a recall for Lucas Leiva, who lost his regular starting role following the recent defeat at Hull City. The Brazilian midfielder’s place was taken by Joe Allen as Liverpool responded with emphatic home defeats of Norwich City and West Ham and, following his first back-to-back league starts for 12 months, the Wales international believes he can start to show why Rodgers paid £15m to sign him from Swansea City.Allen said: “I’ve struggled with different injury problems, but you’d hope that they’re behind me now and I can focus on getting out there and playing more and more. The manager has just told me to be ready for when my opportunity comes and to get back to my best. That will come with game time. Nothing has changed really. But everything comes together with playing time, so I’m looking to getting a string of games and showing what I can do.”The midfielder also praised the ruthlessness that has helped Rodgers’ team become the second highest goalscorers in the Premier League this season. “I think every now and again, you have a minor setback,” added Allen. “But we’re getting much more consistent and ruthless with our performances. We’re clinical. We’re putting teams away quite comfortably at times, which is a great thing to have. It does make it more daunting for the team coming to Anfield.”Steven GerrardLiverpoolBrendan RodgersAndy © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

GUARDIAN – Liverpool’s transfer policy in question after their hiding at Hull

• Rodgers takes blame for loss that casts doubt on top-four aim• Of eight summer signings only one is regular first-teamerBrendan Rodgers accepted full responsibility for Liverpool’s dire performance at Hull City when he reappeared on Monday. “If there’s anyone to blame, blame me,” he said of the “painful” 3-1 defeat. The delicate issue of responsibility for the strength of Liverpool’s squad, however, saw Rodgers at his diplomatic best. With good reason.The Liverpool manager invited scrutiny at the KC Stadium by claiming his squad could not cope with the loss of two key players in Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho. Given what a side with Champions League aspirations had just served up against Hull, who had scored only four league goals at home to their name before kick-off, it was impossible to disagree. It was also difficult to accept.Liverpool signed eight players in the summer, two on loan, for almost £50m but only one – the goalkeeper Simon Mignolet – has truly established himself in the first team. The rest may have improved the depth of the squad, a task Rodgers and the owner, Fenway Sports Group, agreed on for the summer, and may yet enhance Liverpool’s future.Overall results in 2013 and a consistent place in the top four this season demonstrate that FSG’s strategy of acquiring young potential and the occasional gem such as Coutinho has its merits. The intended path towards a Champions League return has been clear since Rodgers arrived and a transfer “committee” was set up but Sunday’s display, and the manager’s analysis, suggest the transfer policy has not maximised the prospect of a top-four finish this term.Rodgers wanted not only depth this summer but proven first-team talent, a request he recently repeated in advance of the January transfer window. The cost of being outside the European elite hit home as Henrikh Mkhitaryan chose Borussia Dortmund over Anfield, Diego Costa secured a better contract from Atlético Madrid and another top target, Willian, opted for the periphery at Chelsea.Then, having pursued attacking quality all summer, the club spent around £24m on two more central defenders, £18m Mamadou Sakho – the “marquee signing”, according to the managing director, Ian Ayre – and £7m Tiago Ilori, having secured Kolo Touré on a free. Ilori has yet to appear for the first team and, when Rodgers dropped Daniel Agger at Hull, he preferred Touré and to switch Martin Skrtel’s position instead of a straight swap for the expensive France international.Another £13m was spent on Iago Aspas and Luis Alberto, more potential and not an obvious improvement on players they effectively replaced in the Liverpool squad, Fabio Borini and Suso. Clearly successes such as Coutinho and Sturridge are difficult to land without the attraction of Champions League football and two creative losses are bound to impact on the performance level. But Liverpool’s approach appears scattergun in comparison with, say, Southampton’s £36m spend on three players who instantly improved the spine of their first team – Victor Wanyama, Pablo Osvaldo and Dejan Lovren.”It was about the players who were affordable and available,” said Rodgers on Monday. “We tried to get a host of players in and get the types who could improve us. At the same time we knew we had some who were going and had to replace the likes of Jonjo Shelvey, so we needed to bring in ones who would give us cover. We all recognise we wanted to get in one or two more starters, which didn’t materialise. A lot of work went into it. What is the case is we are not in a position to spend money for the sake of it. We are trying to build for the future with a sense of the present, which is to strengthen where we can. You can only do that if you can bring in players who will enhance the team, or you just stockpile players.”As for Sunday’s comment on the strength of Liverpool’s squad, the manager elaborated: “The thing for me is trying to maximise the players we have got. It’s more about putting it in context when you compare squads, not on money spent. For example look at Chelsea, and it’s hard to agree on what is their A team and their B team, probably with Man City too. The point was made in terms of our expectations, which are the same as those clubs, but we don’t have that type of depth. There’s no hiding from the fact we spent money to get players in and now they will be getting the chance to perform.”Transfer strategy cannot solely be blamed for Sunday’s performance when talents such as Victor Moses and Raheem Sterling wasted their opportunities to impress. But Rodgers’ selections, and the contrast between the type of player he wanted to buy and received, suggest a marked difference of opinion with others on Liverpool’s transfer “committee”.”Listen, I am privileged to be here and I know the conditions that I have to work in,” he said on that subject. “We know where we are at as a club. We are trying to grow something here and develop it. We are not going to be in a position to improve it all ways straight away. But there is no frustration. I am privileged to work here. The only frustration comes after performances and results like against Hull. I will work within the constraints of the club and do the job the best that I can.”Brendan RodgersLiverpoolPremier LeagueAndy © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

GUARDIAN – Hull City 3-1 Liverpool | Premier League match report

Champions League aspirations can turn on days to regret such as this. Liverpool awoke to news that Daniel Sturridge is facing a lengthy lay-off and then produced a truly woeful display in his absence as Hull City recorded an emphatic victory. Tigers is a sore subject in these parts at present, but this was a mauling from Steve Bruce’s side.Hull had scored only four league goals at the KC Stadium all season but almost equalled that tally in one afternoon courtesy of a polished performance and inept Liverpool defending. Brendan Rodgers had denied before kick-off there was anything wrong with Liverpool’s defending but conceding three goals for the second game in succession must surely prompt a rethink.Liverpool’s worst fears over Sturridge were realised with confirmation from Rodgers that the 11-goal striker will be out for “six to eight weeks” with an ankle-ligament strain. The loss of Sturridge would be a serious blow at any time, but will be keenly felt over a demanding winter period that includes trips to Tottenham, Manchester City and Chelsea.It was not the only fitness problem for Liverpool at the KC Stadium, where Philippe Coutinho was on the bench having not trained all week due to an ankle sprain.Further upheaval arrived courtesy of Rodgers’ decision to recall Kolo Touré at the surprising expense of Daniel Agger, meaning Martin Skrtel had to shift across central defence, plus opportunities for Victor Moses and Raheem Sterling to stake a claim. The changes were reflected in a laboured display from the visitors who, despite dominating possession and forcing several corners early on, rarely threatened to break a disciplined Hull defence.Bruce needed a reaction to two successive defeats, including a first home loss of the season to 10-man Crystal Palace last weekend, and used his programme notes to appeal for unity in the face of owner Assem Allam’s attempt to rebrand the club Hull Tigers.”I am aware of your frustrations at recent happenings at the club,” the manager wrote, “but let’s not make it a distraction.” Sadly for Bruce, his request was undermined by Allam’s criticism of the ‘City Till We Die’ campaign group in a Sunday newspaper. “They can die as soon as they want,” said the Egyptian-born businessman, “As long as they leave the club for the majority who just want to watch good football.”Allam’s inflammatory comments at least ensured a bristling atmosphere at the KC Stadium. “We’re Hull City, we’ll die when we want,” was a fine riposte from the home support.Hull were not distracted from the task at hand, however, as Bruce’s switch to a three-man central defence injected much-needed insurance against Luis Suárez and his team scored with their first shot on target. Curtis Davies had glanced the game’s opening chance wide of Simon Mignolet’s goal from an Alex Bruce cross before Moses lost possession cheaply inside the Liverpool half. Jake Livermore took over, exchanged passes with David Meyler and tried his luck from 22 yards. Luck was on the midfielder’s side and the ball looped over Mignolet via Skrtel’s calf.Bruce was submerged beneath his coaching staff in the celebrations but, having seen Hull cope comfortably with the Liverpool attack, he was rightly infuriated by one moment’s lapse in concentration. Hull’s defenders hesitated a fraction too long over a loose ball outside their area, allowing Jordan Henderson to intercept prior to a clattering foul from Davies. Steven Gerrard swept an emphatic free-kick around a crumbling wall – constructing one appears a lost art in the Premier League at present – and into the bottom corner of Allan McGregor’s goal.Parity did nothing to improve the Liverpool performance and it was Hull who showed more composure on the ball plus intent in the final third. Davies went close with another header, Tom Huddlestone almost capped a fine display with a goal from 20 yards and after McGregor had saved superbly at point-blank range from Moses, the home side regained a deserved lead. Weak defending from Liverpool proved a valuable assist. Davies and Yannick Sagbo caused chaos under a long ball into the visitors’ area and Touré flicked a poor clearance straight to Meyler who, after one blocked attempt, drove his second bite low into the far corner.Suárez almost levelled with his latest sweeping free-kick from distance but the clearer chances came to Hull against a ponderous Liverpool defence. Sagbo should have scored, or at least squared to Elmohamady, when sent clear after Liverpool substitute Luis Alberto lost possession but the striker made amends within seconds.Collecting a hopeful clearance downfield, the striker attacked Skrtel and eventually found Huddlestone arriving into the area. The midfielder flicked a tame effort that was heading wide until Skrtel threw himself in the way and, for the second time, diverted a shot beyond his own goalkeeper.Premier LeagueHull CityLiverpoolAndy © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

GUARDIAN – Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge faces up to two months out with injury

• England forward suffered ankle setback during club training• Setback for Liverpool after Sturridge’s form this seasonThe Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has confirmed that England forward Daniel Sturridge will be out for up to eight weeks with the ankle ligament strain he sustained in training.Sturridge had trained “exceptionally well”, according to Rodgers, in response to being dropped to the bench and criticised by the Liverpool manager in the Merseyside derby with Everton last Saturday. Rodgers was unhappy with the 24-year-old playing 90 minutes for England against Germany with a thigh problem before the derby but those injury concerns multiplied after Sturridge left Melwood on crutches on Friday.The Liverpool striker was immediately taken for a scan on his left ankle and, though the full extent of damage has only now become clear, the club were braced for bad news. Sturridge suffered ligament damage in his right ankle playing for England against the Republic of Ireland in May and it took a punishing personal fitness programme for him to recover inside three months.Losing Sturridge represents a serious setback for Rodgers in his attempts to maintain Liverpool’s impressive form in 2013 and guide the club back into the Champions League. Last weekend’s rebuke aside, the £12m signing from Chelsea has flourished at Anfield and his 89th-minute equaliser at Everton was his 11th goal of the season.LiverpoolPremier © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

GUARDIAN – Daniel Sturridge injured in training as Liverpool enter crunch month

• Striker leaves training ground on crutches with ankle injury• Brendan Rodgers chellenges Jon Flanagan to maintain focusLiverpool fear Daniel Sturridge is facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines after the striker suffered suspected ankle ligament damage in training.Sturridge had trained “exceptionally well”, according to Brendan Rodgers, in response to being dropped to the bench and criticised by the Liverpool manager in the Merseyside derby with Everton last Saturday. Rodgers was unhappy with the 24-year-old playing 90 minutes for England against Germany with a thigh problem before the derby but those injury concerns have multiplied after Sturridge left Melwood on crutches on Friday.The Liverpool striker was immediately taken for a scan on his left ankle and, though the full extent of damage may become clear only over the weekend, the club are braced for bad news. Sturridge suffered ligament damage in his right ankle playing for England against the Republic of Ireland in May and it took a punishing personal fitness programme for him to recover inside three months.Losing Sturridge would represent a serious setback for Rodgers in his attempts to maintain Liverpool’s impressive form in 2013 and guide the club back into the Champions League. Last weekend’s rebuke aside, the £12m signing from Chelsea has flourished at Anfield and his 89th-minute equaliser at Everton was his 11th goal of the season.Liverpool are not blessed with goalscorers in the potential absence of Sturridge despite the outstanding form of Luis Suárez since his return from suspension. The summer signing Iago Aspas is close to returning from a thigh injury but has struggled to make an impact since his £7.6m arrival from Celta Vigo.”We had a good chat this week of where he is at fitness-wise and I just felt last weekend he wasn’t fit enough to go into a game of that magnitude,” Rodgers said of Sturridge. “He came on and got the point for us and he has had a really good week in training, up until now.”Sunday’s visit to Hull City is the first of seven fixtures for Liverpool in December, a schedule that includes away games at Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Chelsea. And, despite the worry over Sturridge, Rodgers believes Liverpool’s squad can handle the demanding spell.”Mentally we are strong,” the Liverpool manager said. “I compare the mentality of the team for my first game at West Brom and now. The difference is night and day. I would expect us to last the pace. There is no question of that. We have the determination to do that. Look at our record this calendar year. We are hard to beat. If we’re not at our best and winning, we’re fighting to the death to get a result. That’s something that’s in the group that maybe wasn’t there when I first came in.”Liverpool’s managing director, Ian Ayre, has held talks with Barcelona over the possible January signing of the full-back Martín Montoya, while the Chelsea left-back Ryan Bertrand has also been linked with a move to Anfield. But Rodgers is prepared to give Jon Flanagan a run in the side after the 20-year-old’s impressive display at left-back in the derby. The Liverpool manager has warned Flanagan, however, that he cannot allow complacency to creep into his game.Rodgers said: “I think Jon is ready. I have a huge amount of respect for him and that was the reason I put him in. I have seen a boy who got his chance a few years ago and it is very easily done that you can become complacent. You get a new contract and all of a sudden you have a few bad games and you are out of the team. For me he has never really featured and that is the brutal honesty of it. He has played in some cup games but that is about it.”I told him this week to think about where he was a couple of years ago when he was in the team and then he was out of it. I said to him, ‘Don’t play like you have cracked it because you have had a great game in the derby and been man of the match. Go out and prove yourself every single week and, if you do that, you will be all right.'”LiverpoolBrendan RodgersAndy © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

GUARDIAN – Everton 3-3 Liverpool | Premier League match report

Daniel Sturridge only played the last 11 minutes of this match but in that time he saw Romelu Lukaku give Everton the lead to complete what appeared to be a dramatic comeback, before cancelling it out with a header of his own a minute from the end. It was that sort of Merseyside derby, pulsating and full of incident.To start at the very beginning, it took derby veteran Steven Gerrard under five minutes to make a telling impression, both supplying the 50-yard crossfield pass that Seamus Coleman deemed wisest to head out of play then taking the corner from which Philippe Coutinho put Liverpool ahead at the far post. Luis Suárez nudged the ball in Coutinho’s direction, for the Brazilian to control it smartly and shoot powerfully enough to leave James McCarthy little chance of a block on the line.Everton needed to respond quickly and they did, getting back on terms three minutes later when Ross Barkley touched on a Leighton Baines free-kick for Kevin Mirallas to hook in from close range. Barkley showed some wonderful touches as Everton began to attack with imagination for the rest of the first half, and a more composed finish by Lukaku might have put them into the lead after Steven Pienaar had dispossessed Gerrard, yet for all their promise going forward the home side allowed themselves to be undone by another lapse of concentration in defence. First Gareth Barry gave away an unnecessary free-kick by barging over Suárez, then as the Uruguayan shaped to take a shot at goal from 25 yards out Pienaar inexplicably stood a couple of feet wide of the wall, leaving a glimpse of Tim Howard’s left-hand upright. Suárez needed no further invitation, and duly put the ball through the gap, leaving the unsighted goalkeeper no time to get across.After three goals in the first 20 minutes the game settled down to a slightly more sedate pace before the interval, though Phil Dowd still had his work cut out keeping order on the pitch. Shortly after correctly booking Barkley for a dive the referee’s biggest challenge arrived when Mirallas went studs up on Suárez, catching him above the knee. It looked as though the fixture was going to live up to its reputation for producing red cards, and Mirallas could have had no complaints had the referee produced one, though after a protracted delay and discussions with assistants, players and even the Liverpool physio, with Suárez all the while writhing on the floor in apparent agony, Dowd opted for a lenient yellow.It that was a stroke of luck for Everton they were even luckier in the second half, when Joe Allen made his contribution to derby folklore with what may well become known as the miss of the season, if not the century.Suárez had done all the hard work, dribbling through the entire Everton defence so that when the ball broke free to Allen in the penalty area there was no one left to stop him and only Howard to beat. Astonishingly, he managed to miss the target from 12 yards out.Everton could have equalised when Roberto Martínez threw on Gerard Deulofeu for Baines and saw the teenager break clear almost straight away to bring a save from Simon Mignolet. It was a decent stop by the goalkeeper, though Deulofeu should probably have done better, and the same was true of subsequent Mignolet saves from the substitute and twice from Lukaku. Just when it appeared Everton might never find a way through, Lukaku found his range. After bringing yet another save from Mignolet direct from a free-kick the striker moved into the box and was in position when the ball was worked in from the left to supply a finish from near the penalty spot. At 2-2 the game would have swung Liverpool’s way but for a terrific reaction save by Howard to keep out a Suárez header, then seven minutes from the end victory appeared to be within Everton’s grasp when Lukaku scored a simple second, rising unopposed to meet a Mirallas corner.Seven minutes is a long time in a Merseyside derby, however, and this was one of the better ones. Even after Sturridge equalised with a glancing header from Gerrard’s free-kick with a minute of normal time remaining, there was still time for Suárez to bring another sharp save from Howard and the exciting Deulofeu to test Mignolet again at the other end.It was quite a game, and while a point each was only fair, both sides could reasonably claim they did enough to win. For entertainment value, it simply could not be faulted.Premier LeagueEvertonLiverpoolPaul © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

GUARDIAN – Liverpool sack Academy director Frank McParland in youth system overhaul

• Academy technical director Rodolfo Borrell also leaves club• McParland was instrumental in recruting Raheem SterlingLiverpool have sacked their highly-rated Academy director Frank McParland and Academy technical director Rodolfo Borrell as part of an overhaul of the club’s youth system.McParland has overseen a major improvement in Liverpool’s Academy since being recruited to the director’s position by former manager Rafael Benítez in 2009 and his departure represents a major surprise.Borrell was also hired by Benítez in 2009, from Barcelona’s famed youth ranks, and his work had led to promotion from Under-18s coach to Under-21 manager and finally technical director 12 months ago.Seven youth team graduates appeared in Liverpool’s first team last season under Brendan Rodgers, notably Raheem Sterling. McParland was instrumental in recruiting the England international from Queens Park Rangers and in attracting several coveted youngsters to the Liverpool Academy.Liverpool are yet to confirm the exits of McParland and Borrell amid negotiations over the terms of their departures.LiverpoolAndy © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

GUARDIAN – Jordan Henderson hopes great strides at Liverpool will lead to Brazil

The midfielder has overcome setbacks and criticism to return to Roy Hodgson’s England squad in readiness for the World CupSir Alex Ferguson turned the spotlight on Jordan Henderson’s gait but the strides made by the Liverpool midfielder have not been overlooked. “The most improved player in the Premier League this season,” according to Brendan Rodgers, and one determined to extend his Anfield transformation to Brazil next summer.Roy Hodgson is evidently closer to the Liverpool manager’s opinion of Henderson than the withering assessment aired in the former Manchester United manager’s latest autobiography, selecting the 23-year-old for England’s forthcoming friendlies against Chile and Germany at Wembley. Henderson last appeared for England as a substitute in the Euro 2012 quarter-final exit to Italy in Kiev and his recall is deserved recognition for his part in Liverpool’s impressive Premier League campaign. Not that he is interested in a simple pat on the back.”It’s a massive boost for me and I’m delighted to be involved,” he says. “But when I am there with England I need to make sure that I work hard, do what I have been doing for Liverpool and make sure I get picked again. World Cup places are up for grabs for anyone. If you are doing well and your team is doing well, then people will be looking at you but you have to take the chance.”Now I have the opportunity to train with England and I have to make sure I am right. Everyone wants to go to a World Cup in Brazil but just going out and playing every week is an inspiration for me really.”Henderson starred again on Saturday as Liverpool responded to defeat at Arsenal by swatting aside Fulham at Anfield, threading a superb pass for Luis Suárez to make it 3-0 before the interval and producing a tireless, threatening display throughout the 4-0 win.He may have been one of Kenny Dalglish’s “substandard buys” in 2011, according to Ferguson, who also wrote that the midfielder’s gait “might cause him problems later in his career”, but he is the only one of that summer’s intake to prosper under Rodgers now that José Enrique has lost his regular first-team role.The Liverpool manager believes England will receive a more confident, intelligent operator than when Henderson appeared at the European Championship. “I see a young player who is athletically good and technically strong,” said Rodgers. “Tactically he is aware of the game now. He can participate in the game, he knows when to move inside and outside. Against Fulham I told him that if he could get forward, [Philippe] Coutinho would penetrate with his passes and he would get chances.”I told him to use his energy and run off in between the lines. Tactically his understanding of the game is much, much better. That is a massive credit to him because he is working very hard, listening and wanting to be a better player.”An Anfield recovery, as well as England recall, is also reward for Henderson’s refusal to give up on his Liverpool career when Rodgers considered an offer from Fulham during his first summer in charge. The Liverpool manager admits: “I remember the conversation I had with him, bless him. We were at the team hotel and it was towards the end of the window. I pulled him in and I told him: ‘Listen, I am not pushing you out but this offer has come in.’ But I got the response I wanted.”He told me that he wanted to stay here and fight. I told him I would help him improve as a player and improve his game because he has got all the tools. At 23 years of age he has got his whole career in front of him. It is thanks to his quality and professionalism that he is making marked improvements.”Henderson has waited 17 months to feature in Hodgson’s plans again and with his England Under-21 career over, the recent international breaks have been a source of intense frustration. But he has not forgotten Hodgson’s show of faith at Euro 2012, when the England manager introduced the midfielder prior to the team’s exit on penalties.”That showed the manager believes in me,” adds the Liverpool midfielder. “It was brilliant that he could turn to me and put me on at that stage of such a big game. I came on in extra-time for Scotty Parker, who was getting a bit tired, to give the team some legs in the middle of the park. I feel I have improved since then. I haven’t enjoyed watching the Under-21s and the seniors play on TV this season. I have been used to going away with the Under-21s and when I join up with the seniors I want to show I deserve to be there and that I should be picked again.”LiverpoolPremier LeagueEnglandAndy © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds