The Guardian

GUARDIAN – Glen Johnson says neutrals fancy Liverpool for title after Cardiff win

• Full-back adds they will keep calm and carry on scoring• Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says time is not on Cardiff’s sideThere was a time when the majority of football fans were sick to death of the sight of Liverpool parading league titles and dominating the domestic scene but it is a measure of how much the landscape has changed over the last couple of decades that Glen Johnson may well have captured the public mood when he said Brendan Rodgers’ team would be the people’s choice to finish top this year.While Manchester United and Everton supporters will shake their head at those sentiments, within football there is no shortage of admiration for the way Liverpool are playing right now. It is hard not to warm to a team that gives the impression there is little point worrying about keeping clean sheets when goals come so easily at the other end. Liverpool have won their last six league matches and racked up 24 goals in the process.Another three points against Sunderland at Anfield on Wednesday night and the club that has not won a league title since 1990 will be breathing down Chelsea’s neck. “I think just to spice things up the neutrals would want to see us win it,” Johnson said. “Nobody wants the same teams to be winning it over and over again.”I guess the neutrals will be packing a punch for us. We must be good to watch. People watch football to enjoy themselves, see goals and see exciting football and I think we do provide that. I think people will be rooting for us because it will be something different.”While Liverpool’s emergence as authentic title contenders was not exactly in the script, there has always been a quiet confidence among Rodgers’ squad about what they could achieve. “I’m not that surprised, to be honest,” Johnson said. “Even last season we were battering teams but not getting the goals. At the moment we are playing well and getting the goals. It’s a case of staying calm, really. As long as we keep going week by week, winning our games, we know we will be there or thereabouts.”The one obvious chink in Liverpool’s armour is their porous defence. Two goals from Jordan Mutch here and another from Fraizer Campbell exposed Liverpool’s limitations in that department – they have shipped 38 goals in 30 matches.To put that record into context there has been only one occasion in the past 13 seasons when the Premier League champions have conceded more than a goal per game.On the other side of the coin, rarely has a team produced such exhilarating attacking play and scored so freely. Liverpool are on course to top 100 Premier League goals this season, largely thanks to Luis Suárez and Daniel Sturridge.Suárez’s third hat-trick of the campaign, which meant he has equalled Robbie Fowler’s 28-goal record for a Liverpool Premier League season, and Sturridge’s second-half strike means that Liverpool’s front two have contributed a remarkable 47 Premier League goals between them.Reflecting on Liverpool’s firepower, Rodgers sounded as if he is almost starting to feel a degree of sympathy for his opposite number, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. “I know as a manager that, when you are stood on the touchline, the thing you fear most is the opponent and their offensive threat,” the Liverpool manager said. “You are playing against a team that you know can score from anywhere, any angle, and a team that can dominate the ball.”It is also a team that has learned to remain calm in the face of adversity and stay true to the passing principles that Rodgers has worked hard to ingrain since taking over. “If you think back to when I first came in, there was always a panic, we played last-five-minutes football with 70 minutes to go. We lost the composure,” Rodgers said. “I think there’s now an inherent belief in the team.”For Cardiff the stakes are every bit as high at the other end of the table. Solskjaer was bitterly disappointed that Martin Skrtel scored his second goal when Cardiff were down to nine men, with Mutch and Kévin Théophile-Catherine waiting to come back on to the field after receiving treatment, but the Norwegian could have no complaints about the final outcome.The defeat leaves Cardiff second from bottom and facing a game of huge significance at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday. “We don’t want plaudits for giving Liverpool a game; we need points,” the Cardiff manager said. “We’ve got seven games to get four more points than the two teams in front of us. We are definitely running out of time. But the teams around us are not winning either. I don’t know if it is going to require four more wins. I actually think it might be less. But the game against West Brom is not negotiable. It will be vital. You can’t lose that one.”Man of the match Luis Suárez (Liverpool)LiverpoolBrendan RodgersCardiff CityOle Gunnar SolskjaerLuis SuárezDaniel SturridgePremier LeagueStuart Jamestheguardian.com 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Details
The Guardian

GUARDIAN – Cardiff City 3-6 Liverpool | Premier League match report

The Liverpool bandwagon rolls on. “We’re gonna win the league” reverberated from the travelling supporters after a sixth successive Premier League victory maintained Liverpool’s pursuit of a first title since 1990 and offered further evidence of their staggering firepower and ability to score goals almost at will.Trailing 2-1 at one stage, Liverpool responded in emphatic fashion through a hat-trick from Luis Suárez, who took his tally for the season to 28 in 25 appearances, two more from Martin Skrtel and another for Daniel Sturridge.Cardiff, who remain second from bottom, were powerless to stop the Liverpool onslaught. Brendan Rodgers’s side have racked up 24 goals across those last six league fixtures.The one disappointment for the Liverpool manager will be the defensive shortcomings that continue to cast a slight shadow over his side’s title credentials. Cardiff, who have struggled for goals all season – Suárez alone has plundered more than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s entire squad – managed to score three times and on each occasion Liverpool’s defending left much to be desired, starting with the manner in which they fell behind in the fourth minute.Joe Allen’s wayward pass, after he had dispossessed Fábio Da Silva close to the touchline and deep inside the Liverpool half, failed to find Jon Flanagan. Fraizer Campbell was quick to capitalise and, to his credit had the presence of mind to cut the ball back to Jordan Mutch, who drilled a low-left footed shot from just inside the area that skidded beyond Simon Mignolet and into the bottom corner for the first of his two goals.Liverpool’s response was swift. After a sustained period of possession inside the Cardiff half, Philippe Coutinho fed Jordan Henderson and the England international slid a beautifully weighted pass inside Declan John, the Cardiff left-back, and into the path of the rampaging Glen Johnson.With Suárez totally unmarked in the middle, Johnson had the simple task of picking out the striker with a low centre that was turned in with the minimum of fuss at the near post.At that stage Cardiff were in no mood to surrender on and off the pitch. On 19 minutes 27 seconds – 1927 was the year that the Welsh club won the FA Cup – the home supporters, in an organised protest, let Vincent Tan know what they think about the owner’s decision to change the colours from blue to red. “We’ll always be blue” and “Are you watching Vincent Tan” chanted the home fans while holding aloft scarves bearing the club’s traditional colours.On the pitch Liverpool continued to dominate possession but there was a defensive vulnerability about the visitors, in particular on their left flank, that Cardiff were quick to expose. When Mutch picked up possession just inside the Liverpool half, Flanagan seemed too preoccupied with Fabio outside of him, inviting the Cardiff midfielder to slide a pass into the space that opened up in the inside right channel, where Daniel Agger was left one-on-one with Campbell. There was only going to be one winner as Campbell skipped past the Dane before planting a left-footed shot beyond Mignolet.There was a sense, though, that it was a matter of time before Liverpool struck again and so it proved four minutes before the interval. Coutinho was given too much time and space to deliver a cross from the right that Skrtel, getting ahead of Juan Cala, volleyed home from the edge of the six-yard box.Liverpool were back in business and shortly after the restart they were ahead for the first time. It was a controversial goal from Cardiff’s point of view – Mutch and Kevin Théophile-Catherine were both off the pitch at the time, after Neil Swarbrick, the referee, had ordered them to leave the field after receiving treatment following a Suárez free-kick. When Coutinho swung in a corner from the right, Skrtel was once again in the right place at the right time, the defender’s glancing header finding the far corner.Within six minutes Liverpool had a fourth, Sturridge’s backheel dispatched by Suárez, whose left-footed shot from no more than eight yards gave Marshall no chance. The roles were reversed for Liverpool’s fifth, when Johnson’s long diagonal pass invited Suárez to run off the back of Steven Caulker. Suárez looked up before crossing for Sturridge to tap in from just inside the six-yard box.Cardiff gave the scoreline a more respectable look when Mutch, with no Liverpool defender anywhere near him, nodded in Kenwyne Jones’s header.Suárez, however, was not finished. Sprinting clear, after shrugging off Cala, the Liverpool striker beat Marshall to cap off another remarkable performance.Premier LeagueCardiff CityLiverpoolStuart Jamestheguardian.com 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Details
The Guardian

GUARDIAN – Manchester United 0-3 Liverpool | Premier League match report

For Manchester United and David Moyes, there is probably only one redeeming feature and it is that their own supporters are still holding off from open mutiny. Even now, outplayed by their oldest rivals, drifting further into mediocrity, the frustration and confusion and genuine shock manifested itself only in a loud, defiant show of support. At another club, they would be hounding the manager out by now.They were abysmal, completely out-thought and out-done by a Liverpool side that passed the ball with much greater speed and intelligence and clambered back above Manchester City into second place in the Premier League.Steven Gerrard initiated the ordeal with two successful penalties and, though he put a third one against the post in the second half, there was still plenty of time for another wretched day for Moyes to descend into even more of a mess. Nemanja Vidic was sent off for the third of the penalties and, soon afterwards, Luis Suarez was gleefully turning the ball past David de Gea.There is now a 43-point swing in Liverpool’s favour between these sides over the last year and, on this evidence, nobody should be reckless enough to assume their title challenge will simply melt away. Brendan Rodgers’s team are four points behind Chelsea, with a game in hand, and still have to play them at Anfield. He is right, strictly speaking, when he says Chelsea and Manchester City are the more likely champions but Liverpool are playing with confidence and momentum and passing the ball in a way that was simply too much for their latest opponents. “We’re going to win the league,” their supporters were singing before the end. In the worst moments, Moyes’s team seemed to get everything that is expected of them inside this stadium.No side with Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Juan Mata and Adnan Januzaj as its frontline should be this bereft of ideas or poor on the ball. Yet this is not a one-off. It was both shocking, yet not absolutely surprising, and the indignities continue to pile up for Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor. “David Moyes is a football genius,” was another chant from the away end. It has been the soundtrack to his season, and it might even get worse before it can possibly get any better. One certainty is that Olympiakos, with a 2-0 first-leg lead, will not be discouraged about their chances of completing the job on Tuesday.They were lucky, too, that the referee, Mark Clattenburg, opted to show leniency to Rafael da Silva after his handball had given Gerrard his first chance from 12 yards. A minute earlier, Rafael had been booked for a scything challenge through the ball of the Liverpool captain. A yellow card is not mandatory for a handball penalty offence but a deliberate one, preventing Suarez from going around him, really ought to have seen Clattenburg reaching for his pocket again.For Liverpool, it did not hugely matter. Rodgers had set up his team with a midfield diamond, with Raheem Sterling operating at its tip, just behind Suarez and Daniel Sturridge. That front three wreaked havoc and Liverpool might actually have had four penalties bearing in mind the moment early on when Jones and Marouane Fellaini both had a nibble at Suarez’s ankles. That chance arrived from Mata losing the ball on the halfway line and the tone was set. This, more than anything, must be the greatest concern for United’s supporters. Their team was so careless on the ball. Liverpool, in stark contrast, shimmered with self-belief. Gerrard dominated midfield with Jordan Henderson and Joe Allen, to the point there were callous cheers from the Stretford End when it was announced Fellaini was being substituted.Gerrard’s second penalty arrived inside the opening minute of the second half, after Phil Jones had barged over Joe Allen. Just like the first, Gerrard took it brilliantly to De Gea’s left. On the third occasion, he went the other way and this time he misjudged his shot. United were incensed because it appeared Sturridge had dived over Vidic’s challenge but the real story here was not of injustice. It was of the confirmation that Liverpool have caught and overhauled their old enemy.United were hopelessly lost in those final exchanges, culminating in Suarez controlling Sturridge’s miscued shot to complete the home side’s misery.Premier LeagueManchester UnitedLiverpoolDaniel Taylortheguardian.com 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Details
The Guardian

GUARDIAN – Fulham 2-3 Liverpool | Premier League match report

This was winning ugly after their exhilarating success at the weekend, but Liverpool will hardly care. Just as they had started to make out the rumbling presence of Tottenham Hotspur in fifth place at their back, Brendan Rodgers’ team plucked victory here from a mishmash of a display. Steven Gerrard’s penalty was thumped home emphatically and the momentum is with those on Merseyside in pursuit of the Premier League leaders.This was brutal for Fulham, whose display had merited real reward only for panic to grip with 17 seconds remaining on the clock. Sascha Riether felled Daniel Sturridge in the area with the offence clear, and Gerrard’s conversion dispatched with glee. This time there was to be no stoppage time salvation to bolster their struggle against the drop. Their toils are maintained.A trip to the side currently propping up the division had felt like an opportunity for Liverpool, fresh from that swashbuckling dismissal of Arsenal and with their credentials as title challengers increasingly persuasive. Yet that 5-1 thrashing had been administered at Anfield, a near impenetrable fortress for Rodgers’ charges this term.Away from home this team have veered from the sublime to the ridiculous: arriving here their record on the road was the worst of the top eight, even if the two wins achieved in their previous nine matches on enemy territory had seen them rattle up five-goal tallies. That shows what can be achieved when they click. When they labour, however, they are distinctly vulnerable.Perhaps they were flummoxed by the conditions, the wind swirling viciously inside the arena, but the visitors had toiled from the outset. Ryan Tunnicliffe, on home debut, might have had Fulham ahead inside the opening 43 seconds only for Steve Mignolet to palm away a shot at his near-post, while Lewis Holtby’s probing exposed Liverpool’s rather uncertain back-line.The Fulham owner Shahid Khan, fresh from three days of meetings with the chief executive Alistair Mackintosh back at Motspur Park, must have been hugely encouraged, and he soon had a lead tocelebrate.Kolo Touré had done well to hook away one early Kieran Richardson centre when, eight minutes in, the winger delivered again and the Ivorian’s composure drained as the ball bobbled along the six-yard box. The veteran swung his right boot at the cross only to slice it beyond a startled Mignolet. The Merseysiders have kept only one clean sheet in 12 Premier League away games, with concessions this comical wounding their cause. Touré would collide with the referee before the break, sending the official sprawling to the turf, with his clumsiness actually epitomising that of the team.This was Fulham doing to Liverpool what Rodgers’ side have tended to impose on all-comers in recent weeks. The hosts swarmed all over dithering opponents, the feverish pressing instigated from Holtby down the entire spine. Starved of time, the visitors were flustered with passes overhit or allowed to dribble out of play, and chances conceded. One shot spat at the near-post by Luis Suárez aside, an effort turned away by Maarten Stekelenburg, Liverpool had been limp in reply.Yet their quality would rear just before the break. With Tunnicliffe grounded and possession lost, Steven Gerrard conjured a first-time pass with the outside of his right foot from inside the centre-circle, which zipped between Burn and Johnny Heitinga for Daniel Sturridge to collect at pace. His finish was crisp and accurate, flying in off the far post, and Liverpool, almost inconceivably, had hauled themselves level.It was the eighth game in succession in which Sturridge had registered, equalling a club record, a haul to warm the watching England No2, Ray Lewington, despite his Fulham connections.The visitors needed it to spark a more authoritative display thereafter, with urgency injected into their approach from the restart and Gerrard an increasingly powerful presence at the base of their midfield. Suárez, too, was finding his range as he glided with menace from flank to flank. The Uruguayan had been enduring a relatively barren spell of late and was exasperated to see one battered attempt thump against the far post.Yet, just as the momentum seemed one-way, Liverpool contrived to implode once again. Sascha Riether’s cross from the right represented a rare foray forward but still should have been dealt with, only for Martin Skrtel to stretch out a leg and succeed only in laying the ball off perfectly for an unmarked Richardson inside the six-yard box. With Mignolet wrong-footed, the winger thumped in from close-range.That proved a false dawn, Philippe Coutinho permitted to drift across the penalty area with his shot flicking from William Kwist to sear beyond Stekelenburg and into the corner.The goalkeeper was retired soon afterwards having been caught inadvertently by Suarez, a bruise already swelling up under his right eye, though the replacement could do nothing to prevent Gerrard’s penalty at the death. This was cruel for Fulham. Liverpool, in contrast, could not believe their luck.Premier LeagueFulhamLiverpoolDominic Fifieldtheguardian.com 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Details
The Guardian

GUARDIAN – Brendan Rodgers plays down Liverpool’s title chances despite huge win

• Rodgers plays it cool after 5-1 thrashing of Arsenal• Arsène Wenger claims Liverpool have title chanceThe imagery of a “two horse and little horse” title race was lacking but Brendan Rodgers’ tactic after obliterating Arsenal showed evidence of three years working for José Mourinho. Like the Chelsea manager had at Manchester City, Rodgers shifted expectation and eased internal pressure by maintaining the Premier League title is beyond reach. And like Mourinho at City, he was contradicted by a performance Steven Gerrard ranked among the finest of his Liverpool career.In destroying Arsenal inside 19 sensational minutes Liverpool not only rekindled doubts about the visitors’ winning mentality, but also raised the target for the season above fourth place. Gerrard thought long and hard before putting the display in his all-time top three, up there with pulsating Champions League defeats of Juventus and Real Madrid.There have been many routs in the midfielder’s 655 Liverpool appearances but few occasions when an opponent has arrived at Anfield intent on demonstrating title credentials, new-found resilience and belief, only to crumble under wave upon wave of devastating attack.”Feeble,” was Arsène Wenger’s withering take on the Arsenal response before their lesser-spotted owner Stan Kroenke. There really was no hiding place for the long-time league leaders as every criticism levelled during the barren years gained fresh credence on one extraordinary afternoon.Gerrard said: “I am trying to think of a performance, especially in the first half, that I can remember like that in the last 15 years. Maybe one or two in the Champions League got close but that was as explosive as it gets. That is right up there. That’s definitely in the top three performances I have been involved in. You are talking about a side that is top of the league with world-class players, ones who are worth £42m; Jack Wilshere, one of the country’s big hopes who we are looking to perform at a World Cup; [Santi] Cazorla – a World Cup winner. We absolutely demolished a top team there from start to finish.”Rodgers highlighted the relative weakness of Liverpool’s squad compared with Chelsea and Manchester City as a reason he “is not thinking about” a title challenge. No one can disagree with the Liverpool manager on that score. But it is debatable any team could contain an attack in this form and with 13 matches remaining, including Chelsea and City at Anfield in April, what may be a manager’s realistic appraisal also appears a diversion from the potential of Luis Suárez and company.”Let’s get to 10 games to go to see where we are at,” Rodgers protested. “The level of performance was incredible but we cannot get carried away. I just want the players to concentrate on the performance and I’ll manage whatever expectation comes with it.”Through his shell-shocked haze, Wenger countered: “Liverpool are not out of it mathematically so they have an opportunity to do it. That result will give them confidence and belief they can do it but the Premier League is tricky. If you are not at your best you can lose anywhere.”Martin Skrtel thighed Liverpool ahead after 53 seconds and doubled the advantage with a stooping header on 10 minutes, both from Gerrard deliveries, taking the team’s total to 23 goals from set pieces this season. The relentless Raheem Sterling tapped in a third from a cross by Suárez, who did not score but orchestrated ruthless cuts throughout, before Daniel Sturridge swept home the fourth as delirium and disbelief tumbled down the Anfield stands in equal measure.It was bad enough from an Arsenal perspective that Per Mertesacker was caught ball-watching by Suárez for the first goal and Laurent Koscielny never tracked Skrtel for the second, but Mesut Özil’s role in the third and fourth Liverpool goals encapsulated an appalling afternoon. Arsenal’s record signing struggled to find a yellow shirt during his hour on the pitch, was harried off the ball by Jordan Henderson for Sterling’s first and lost possession easily to Philippe Coutinho prior to Sturridge’s 18th goal of the season. £42.1m’s worth of complacency could not bring himself to shake his replacement’s hand when finally withdrawn.Özil was not an isolated case. Mikel Arteta, the captain, watched as Henderson and Sterling flashed by in the second half while Wilshere’s performance, returning from injury admittedly, suggested his reputation at the highest level is hugely exaggerated. He was outthought and even outmuscled by the slight but incisive Brazilian Coutinho; the two No10s reflecting the contrast in the teams. Sterling scored a fifth before Arteta scored a meaningless consolation from the penalty spot but 5-1, Liverpool’s heaviest win in the fixture for almost 50 years, flattered Arsenal.Their reaction against Manchester United in the Premier League, Liverpool in the FA Cup and Bayern Munich in the Champions League in the coming days will reveal the truth about Wenger’s side. “A successful team responds to disappointment and we will see on Wednesday night,” he said.For Liverpool, the objective is to take their excellence at home on the road, starting with Fulham on Wednesday. When asked if Liverpool were in the title race, Gerrard replied: “According to Brendan we are not. We do what he says and he says we are not in the title race, so we carry on pushing for the top four and see where it takes us.” The only unconvincing riposte of Liverpool’s entire afternoon.Man of the match Luis Suárez (Liverpool)Premier LeagueLiverpoolArsenalBrendan RodgersArsène WengerAndy Huntertheguardian.com 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Details
The Guardian

GUARDIAN – West Bromwich Albion 1-1 Liverpool | Premier League match report

The abiding image of the match was the sight of Kolo Touré holding his head in his hands in despair. Leading through Daniel Sturridge’s 18th goal of the season, Liverpool threw away what could prove to be two costly points after a moment of madness from Touré and, to rub salt into the wound, the man who punished the Ivorian was a former Everton striker who had been on the pitch for little more than three minutes.Victor Anichebe’s second goal for West Bromwich Albion since arriving from Goodison Park on deadline day in September pegged back Liverpool and earned the home team a point they arguably deserved after a much-improved second-half performance.For Liverpool, this felt like a missed opportunity, especially on the back of Manchester United losing and Tottenham Hotspur drawing. Although Brendan Rodgers’s side played within themselves for long periods and never looked particularly fluent with the ball, they had a wonderful chance to go 2-0 up and possibly put the game beyond Albion.Luis Suárez, of all people, failed to take that opportunity, shooting too close to Ben Foster with only the Albion keeper to beat, and Pepe Mel’s team made the most of the reprieve eight minutes later when Anichebe dispatched Touré’s suicidal pass across his own penalty area.It was a slow-burner of a game and there had been little goalmouth action at either end up until the point when Liverpool took the lead in the 24thminute. The goal was simple in its execution but beautifully created by Suarez. Philippe Coutinho’s measured pass invited the lively Raheem Sterling to escape on the Liverpool right. Suárez then picked up possession inside the area and clipped a sublime ball towards the back post where Sturridge, unmarked and level with the last Albion defender, could not miss from two yards out. It was the only shot on target in the opening 45 minutes.Albion were close, to bringing parity within eight minutes of the restart. Jon Flanagan was at full stretch to block Chris Brunt at the far post and from the corner that followed Gareth McAuley climbed highest to send a towering header towards the top corner only for Simon Mignolet to produce a superb one-handed save.At last the game had started to open up. Liverpool’s threat was sporadic but they should have added a second through Suárez just before the hour mark. Touré’s long ball exposed the shortcomings of Diego Lugano, a first-half substitute for the injured Jonas Olsson. Suárez shrugged his Uruguay team-mate aside, sidestepped the challenge of McAuley, but was denied by Foster’s left boot.Anichebe was nothing like as generous when presented with Touré’s gift. Mignolet rolled the ball out to the Liverpool central defender, who attempted to play a square pass to Martin Skrtel on the edge of his own area. Anichebe read Touré’s intentions, nipped in between and drilled a low shot from 18 yards into the bottom corner.Premier LeagueWest Bromwich AlbionLiverpoolStuart Jamestheguardian.com 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Details
The Guardian

GUARDIAN – Liverpool 4-0 Everton | Premier League match report

Four points is one thing in the race for Champions League qualification; four unanswered goals in a Merseyside derby quite another. There may be time for Everton to bridge the gap on Liverpool in the race for a top-four finish but the humiliation that Brendan Rodgers’ team inflicted on Roberto Martínez and co in the 222nd derby will reverberate throughout the campaign. Liverpool’s biggest derby win since November 1982, their biggest at Anfield since 1972, will sent belief soaring in a return to the European elite.”Are you Moyesy in disguise?” sang the Kop as the Everton manager witnessed an abject visiting performance in which every bold selection call and every shot sailed into a red-brick wall. Liverpool were ruthlessly superb, Steven Gerrard providing the opening goal and controlled midfield display he craved, Daniel Sturridge scoring twice and Luis Suárez grabbing his 23rd goal of the season as Everton crumbled. Sturridge also missed a penalty and a chance to play in Suárez for a simple fifth, oversights that prompted his withdrawal and a brief touchline dispute with Rodgers.The embarrassment inflicted on Everton was a credit to Rodgers. The Liverpool manager did not have the option of risks with his team selection after Joe Allen was unable to recover from a groin problem, although a 4-1-4-1 formation with Philippe Coutinho central and Daniel Sturridge on the left surprised. His call worked to devastating effect, however.By contrast Martínez took several gambles that misfired badly as Liverpool shredded at will an unfit visiting defence afforded no protection by its midfield. Poker would provide a career alternative for the Everton manager whose downbeat injury update had suggested the club would be reserving a ward at the Royal Liverpool Hospital for 11 likely absentees. As it was, four were available – the captain, Phil Jagielka, despite nursing a hamstring injury, Steven Pienaar, Antolín Alcaraz and the boldest decision of them all, Ross Barkley, back after three weeks out with a fractured toe.Barkley had hardly trained since sustaining the injury against Queens Park Rangers in the FA Cup but his recall, possibly after a pain-killing injection, illustrated Martínez’s desire to follow up a first Everton win at Manchester United in 21 years with a first Anfield triumph for the club since 1999. That aim was destroyed inside 35 minutes by a rampant Liverpool team.Everton’s midfield hope was immediately involved and sent a 25-yard drive a foot over Simon Mignolet’s goal, but Barkley was otherwise on the periphery of the contest that commenced where the frenetic 221st Merseyside derby had ended. Tim Howard was besieged following Barkley’s early shot. It proved the wrong game for Martiínez to pair Jagielka and Alcaraz together for the first time in central defence while poor positional play from John Stones at right-back also added to Everton’s problems.Liverpool were prepared to sit deep against Romelu Lukaku and company but their midfield was quick to flood forward at every opportunity in support of Luis Suárez. Howard was tested from distance four times in the opening 15 minutes as Everton struggled to plug the gaps in front of Jagielka and Alcaraz, the USA international saving well from Jordan Henderson’s half-volley from 18 yards and then Suárez’s low snap-shot after Jagielka struggled to clear under pressure from Sturridge. He also gathered routinely from Sturridge and Suárez before the game’s first real chance arrived when the England striker flicked a fine pass behind Alcaraz into Raheem Sterling. Again Howard was equal to the Liverpool threat, but he could not hold out forever.A frenzied pace was not the only similarity with November’s derby at Goodison Park. All three Liverpool goals in that 3-3 draw arrived from set-pieces, a fact Martínez reminded his team about before the Anfield return but to no avail. Rodgers’ team took the lead from their first corner when Suárez – pelted with coins from the away section that he handed to the referee, Martin Atkinson – swept to the near post. Steven Gerrard escaped Gareth Barry’s attentions and, with a magnificent leap, steered a powerful header beyond Barkley on the goal-line. It was a fitting way for one of the derby’s most influential figures to mark his 29th Premier League appearance in the fixture – a record.Barry’s impact was not confined to slack marking. In a desperate attempt to regain ground on the Liverpool captain the midfielder careered through Lukaku and Everton’s main attacking threat had to be stretchered off with suspected ankle ligament damage. If Martínez thought his problems could not get any worse, he was soon mistaken.Everton looked to have responded well to Gerrard’s goal, though only for 10 minutes during which Kevin Mirallas’s willingness to attack the Liverpool defence was prominent. A mazy run by the Belgium international created a chance for Jagielka that Mignolet pushed away, Barry driving the rebound wide, and Mirallas also went close with a shot on the turn from 20 yards. But with two cutting attacks in two minutes, Sturridge sent Liverpool into ecstasy.Coutinho vindicated Rodgers’ decision to deploy him in central midfield with a piercing pass that sent the Liverpool forward sprinting clear of the exposed Stones. He gave Howard no chance with a confident finish that was surpassed by an outstanding lob from Liverpool’s next attack. The source was painful for the Everton defence, a straightforward clearance from Kolo Touré that sailed over Jagielka and dropped at the feet of Sturridge. The striker had plenty to do but, from the edge of the area, lobbed a glorious finish over the keeper and in.Liverpool’s fourth was another ordeal for the struggling Jagielka. The Everton captain attempted to cushion a clearance to his central defensive partner but instead found Suárez, the last person in the Premier League who requires an invitation towards goal. The Uruguay international sprinted from the half-way line with Jagielka on his shoulder but reluctant to risk a red card given the scoreline, and Suárez slotted low under Howard to deepen Everton’s embarrassment. Jagielka could well be marking Suárez at the World Cup this summer. The only consolation for England is that he should be fit for that encounter.Only Mirallas and Barkley continued to carry a threat for the visitors but Liverpool squandered an outstanding chance to make it five before the hour from the penalty spot. Sterling was the latest home player to waltz behind the Everton rearguard and went over as Howard raced from goal. Only the direction of Sterling’s run spared the keeper a card and Everton were spared further ignominy when Sturridge took the spot-kick for a derby hat-trick only to blaze over the bar. His decision to go for the hat-trick again with Suarez better placed brought a furious response from team-mates and his withdrawal. Not that anything could take the gloss from a stunning night for Liverpool.Premier LeagueLiverpoolEvertonAndy Huntertheguardian.com 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Details
The Guardian

GUARDIAN – Liverpool sink Bournemouth as Victor Moses ends personal goal drought

• Selfless Luis Suárez assists both Liverpool goals• Brendan Rodgers is keen to strengthen ‘thin squad’While Victor Moses is too young to be drinking in the last chance saloon quite yet, the next few months are likely to have a significant impact on his career. If Moses manages a consistent run of form between now and the end of the season, he may be given the chance to keep supping the high life at Liverpool. But if he continues flattering to deceive, he may have to settle for a pint and a packet of crisps down the local. Closing time is approaching and it remains to be seen where he will end up.The 23-year-old winger has struggled to settle since joining Liverpool on a season-long loan from Chelsea and he has not started a league game since the 3-1 defeat at Hull City on 1 December. An apparently shrewd signing by Brendan Rodgers, Moses’ form has tailed off so drastically that his days at Anfield looked numbered at the start of January after he was substituted at half-time in the 2-0 win over Oldham Athletic in the third round of the FA Cup.Yet Rodgers believes in a player whose potential at Wigan Athletic persuaded Chelsea to buy him two summers ago and his faith was rewarded by Moses’ improved performance in Liverpool’s awkward 2-0 victory at Bournemouth in the fourth round. This has to be the start. The top clubs settle for nothing but the best every week and Rodgers’ praise for Moses was laced with a warning about the consequences of failing to knuckle down.”For Victor it is very simple,” the Liverpool manager said. “He wants to remain in a position that he will remain at a big club, whether it is Chelsea or Liverpool. There is no bigger motivation than that. In order to do that he needs to be performing day in day out in training.”If he does really well for us there is a possibility we will want to have him permanently but ultimately it is Chelsea’s decision because he is their player. And if he has done really well, then they will want to keep him. When you sample the life of the big institutions like Liverpool, then there’s not many that want to leave.”I have seen improvements in his training. If the top players are training nine or 10 out of 10 every day and you have players who are five or maybe six out of 10 every day, then they are not ready to train with them, never mind play games with them. So you have to get them up to the level.”Moses’s goal in the 26th minute, his first since his debut last September, came at an important time for Liverpool, alleviating concerns about the way they were being outplayed by Eddie Howe’s vibrant Bournemouth. Set up by Luis Suárez, Moses cut inside from the left and drilled a low shot past Lee Camp from the edge of the area to offer a reminder of his talent. Daniel Sturridge later killed off the Championship side’s hopes of an upset after another assist from Suárez.Perhaps Moses is at the right club because Liverpool are maturing collectively. Last season they were knocked out in the fourth round by Oldham and they had to be resilient to withstand a first-half barrage from Bournemouth. Jordan Henderson feels that will help in their quest to finish in the top four. “I think our mentality is changing all the time,” the midfielder said. “The winning mentality is coming. We are not easy to play against and we hate losing. So we just have to keep that going.”That may be easier said than done. Although Liverpool are fourth in the Premier League, their squad has been stretched to the limit by injuries and they go into Tuesday’s derby against Everton potentially missing seven senior players. Joe Allen was absent with a knock at the weekend and Rodgers admitted that it may be a risk to involve the midfielder against Roberto Martínez’s side, who are a point behind Liverpool.With that in mind, it is easy to understand Rodgers’ frustration about being gazumped by Chelsea for the Basel winger Mohamed Salah whose move to Stamford Bridge was completed on Sunday. Yet Rodgers will not be forced into panic buying this month.”We’d always want to strengthen,” he said. “But if I don’t, it won’t be because the club hasn’t tried. It’s getting the right types of players. I think our squad has been thin most of the season. We’ve just been unfortunate we’ve had a number of injuries. If I have to work with what I’ve got, then we will do what I have done all season, maximise what we can get out of them. We know the other squads are massive.” In that context Moses will get a chance to prove himself. The rest is up to him.Man of the match Luis Suárez (Liverpool)FA CupLiverpoolBournemouthJacob Steinbergtheguardian.com 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Details
The Guardian

GUARDIAN – Liverpool 2-2 Aston Villa | Premier League match report

Pictures: the best images from Saturday’s gamesLiverpool dropped a couple of points against a surprisingly dynamic Aston Villa, though at least the home club’s American owners saw a few goals and an entertaining game. Their team came back from two goals down to share the points on an evening that put some of the recent title talk around Anfield into perspective. It is true, as Brendan Rodgers keeps saying, that Liverpool still have to play most of the leading contenders at home, though evidently it is also the case that they cannot take results against sides lower down the table for granted.Not realising that his side were about to sweep into a wholly unexpected two-goal lead, Paul Lambert had his head in his hands just 45 seconds into the game when Villa missed a great chance to open the scoring, Gabriel Agbonlahor latching on to Christian Benteke’s flick but poking the ball wide in front of the Kop with only Simon Mignolet to beat. If that was a lucky escape for Liverpool, then luck evened itself out within a couple of minutes when Leandro Bacuna survived a penalty appeal after the ball clearly hit his arm following a corner.Villa’s away kit is every bit as hideous as purple and white quarters suggests, though the visitors did not come to Anfield as shrinking violets. They took the game to Liverpool in the early stages, getting forward in numbers and creating opportunities. Though Agbonlahor and Benteke both looked capable of causing problems for Kolo Touré and Martin Skrtel, all Villa had to show for a period of sustained pressure midway through the first half was an Ashley Westwood shot that Mignolet saved fairly easily. Villa kept knocking on the door, however, and the Kop goal had another let-off when Ciaran Clark struck the foot of Mignolet’s post with a firm downward header from a corner.With Liverpool struggling to get into their attacking stride, it was important for Villa to make their early superiority count. They took a deserved lead with a well-executed counterattack when Benteke and Agbonlahor again combined to get behind the home defence. Benteke sent Agbonlahor galloping beyond Touré into space on the left, and Andreas Weimann sprinted 80 yards to supply the far-post tap-in when the cross came along the goalline. There was a suspicion of offside because Weimann had got beyond the Liverpool defenders, though replays suggested he was not in front of his team-mate when the pass was released.Brad Guzan made a save from Raheem Sterling as Liverpool attempted to get back on terms, and Bacuna was fortunate to get away with leading with his elbow in a challenge on Luis Suárez, but Villa’s attacking adventure gained further reward when Mignolet and Skrtel got in each other’s way and failed to deal with a routine Agbonlahor cross from the right to gift Benteke a straightforward header. The ball crossed the line almost apologetically, and, to make matters worse, Liverpool’s next chance to reply fell to Aly Cissokho just before the interval, and the defender appears to have modelled his finishing technique on a Jason Puncheon penalty. Fortunately, Daniel Sturridge does know how to find the net and, when a neat touch from Jordan Henderson turned a Suárez pass into something more dangerous in stoppage time, the England striker beat Guzan with an angled shot to reduce the arrears.Rodgers made a change at half-time, sensibly deciding that this was not the game to leave Lucas Leiva on the bench, and introducing the defensive midfielder at the expense of Philippe Coutinho. The elder Brazilian lasted 20 only minutes before he too made way for Joe Allen. Villa also made an enforced change a couple of minutes after the restart, Agbonlahor pulling up to allow Grant Holt the chance to make his debut. Scorer of a memorable goal here for Norwich though considered too portly to hold down a place at Wigan, Holt had the briefest of chances to make an immediate impression before Liverpool levelled the scores from the penalty spot.Suárez touched the ball past Guzan from Steven Gerrard’s inspired pass and the goalkeeper brought him down. That is what the referee decided in any case. Contact appeared to be minimal but the goalkeeper sold himself and Suárez knows what to do in those situations. Gerrard calmly stroked the ball into the bottom corner.Suárez and Henderson had shots saved as Liverpool pressed for a winner, Suárez went close with a free-kick and Bacuna was booked for cheekily wasting time by presenting the ball to a member of the crowd. On this occasion, Suárez was unable to come to Liverpool’s rescue; it happens sometimes. Neither side could produce enough urgency in the final half hour to deserve all three points. A draw was fair.Premier LeagueLiverpoolAston VillaPaul Wilsontheguardian.com 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Details