Manchester City 2 – 1 Liverpool


Liverpool fans walked away from the Etihad Stadium with a bitter taste in their mouths, after watching their side suffer a 2-1 defeat against Manchester City.

The Reds gave a good account of themselves – better than most clubs have managed when playing City on their home turf this season – but the game was marred by a shockingly incorrect offside decision, prompting Brendan Rodgers to criticise the match officials heavily in his post-match comments.

Liverpool only made one change from the side that had effectively seen off Cardiff and Tottenham, with Aly Cissokho replacing the injured Jon Flanagan at left-back. There was also a place on the bench for 19-year-old rising star Brad Smith.

The first chance of the game fell to the home side, with Jesus Navas clipping the woodwork from his headed effort. Vincent Kompany also went close with a header from a corner, whilst Luis Suarez had a couple of chances for the Reds.

The breakthrough for Liverpool should have come on 19 minutes, but they were denied by an incredibly poor decision from the referee’s assistant. Suarez played a through-ball to set Raheem Sterling through on goal, but the winger was adjudged to be offside. Replays showed that not only was Sterling onside, but was onside by at least a yard – making the decision all the more baffling.

Six minutes later though, and the Reds were in front. A good passage of play ended with Sterling taking the ball round Joe Hart, offering Philippe Coutinho to the chance to finish into an open goal.

The lead didn’t last for long though, and the home side were soon back on level terms thanks to Kompany’s headed goal. Joe Allen was on the Liverpool goal-line and managed to make contact with the ball, but couldn’t get enough on it to prevent it crossing the line.

Despite losing the lead the Reds were still looking good though, and Coutinho came close to doubling his tally after some excellent quick passing. Disaster struck right at the death of the first half though, as City took the lead via Alvaro Negredo.

Liverpool began the second half brightly, and both Suarez and Jordan Henderson came close to levelling the scores in the opening exchanges. For all their knocking at the door though the Reds were unable to find a way through, and with an adventurous stance being taken in search of an equaliser there were gaps left at the back which the home side almost managed to take advantage of on a few occasions.

Rodgers decided to introduce Victor Moses into the action in place of Coutinho – who had been a lot quieter through the second half – in an attempt to inject fresh life into his side.

The best chance for Liverpool to equalise came on 73 minutes when Suarez delivered an excellent ball from the left for Sterling, but the youngster somehow managed to put his shot over the bar from yards out, when it appeared impossible to miss.

The visitors continued to push until the final whistle, but City were ultimately able to hold firm to confirm their winning home streak continued whilst ending Liverpool’s run of four wins on the bounce.

Luis Suarez – best in the world?

Luis Suarez scores Liverpool's opener against Cardiff.

There’s no doubt about it, Luis is doing the business this year, and aren’t we all over the moon that he’s committed to doing so in a red shirt?  A relatively unmediated negotiation when you consider the contract size and profile of the player has provided Merseyside with a Christmas gift like no other.

Luis Suarez scores Liverpool's opener against Cardiff.
Luis Suarez lines up a volley to score Liverpool’s opener against Cardiff.

And what a response from Suarez, immediately providing a return on the investment put forward from the club by having a hand in all three goals in the 3-1 win over Cardiff. Ask anyone walking out of Anfield this weekend to describe Luis Suarez and – regardless of which end they were sitting in – they would have agreed he is a world-class talent. But where does he stand when we compare him with the best?

When we think of world-class players, two names immediately spring to mind – Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Needing no introduction, these two players dominate football wherever they are mentioned. Even when surrounded by World Cup winners, Champions League winners and the most expensive player in the world, Ronaldo and Messi cast a shadow over every player that they rub shoulders with.

Football is of course a team sport, but when performances from a single player are winning matches week-in-week-out, it is natural that they will rise to the top and claim the majority of the glory. As Liverpool sit pretty in the league, the media will inevitably accredit the large part of this success to Suarez and his goals this season.

Going into the weekend, Suarez had scored seventeen times in eleven games – more goals than Tottenham have managed this season. When you compare his stats to the two aforementioned players, he is showing he can mix it with the big boys as well. Suarez equals Ronaldo’s tally so far this season, but has done so in four less games. Although many would think this is a better feat, the reason why Luis has had to sit these out certainly takes him down a peg or two, and is one thing that maybe stops him being top of the list of most sought after players.

Messi cannot get anywhere near Suarez in terms of scoring so far this term, having netted ‘just’ eight times in the same amount of games, which is less than half the return of his rivals. However, it is not just goals that has prompted many to rank Messi as the best in the world. His slick playing style, low centre of gravity, ability to run at players and retain the ball, his quick eye for a pass and ability to deliver, and to cap it off precise finishing all make the player one of the best.

Could the description be used to describe Suarez? I can’t see too much that doesn’t fit. In fact the playing styles of both of the players are very similar; spectacular to watch and very hard to play against.

So with a better goal per game ratio than both of the big two, and a playing style equally desirable, Suarez fits the bill. Even more impressive is the fact that he earns his crust in the Premier League. The best league in the world attracts the better players and in turn tougher opposition, making it harder to perform for any player out there on a match day.

The results of this level of competition are being shown in the Champions League so far this term with all four English clubs into the knockout phases. When you look into the Spanish league there are only ever really two challenging teams, with the rest of the sides a class below. For the better players, it means that they are pushed less often, and have more opportunity to get goals and put in performances against opposition of a lower standard. Even when not playing at the top of their game, the likes of Ronaldo and Messi can put on a dominant display.

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Liverpool 3 – 1 Cardiff

Suarez & Sterling celebrate Liverpool's second goal

Liverpool went top of the Barclays Premier League with a 3-1 victory over Cardiff City at Anfield, as they continued their run of good form to make it four wins in a row – with 17 goals scored.

Suarez & Sterling celebrate Liverpool's second goal
Suarez & Sterling celebrate Liverpool’s second goal

Having committed his future to the club with a new contract, Luis Suarez retained the captain’s armband in the absence of Steven Gerrard and Daniel Agger, with Brendan Rodgers naming the same starting XI that saw off Spurs so efficiently at White Hart Lane.

The first chance of the afternoon went to Liverpool, as Suarez fired wide after just two minutes following good work from Raheem Sterling to get in behind the Cardiff defence.

The visitors were determined not to allow their opponents any time on the ball though, and most of the Liverpool chances in the early exchanges were speculative efforts under pressure. At the other end Craig Noone went closest with a curled effort on 15 minutes that saw Simon Mignolet at full stretch to save.

Cardiff stopped applying the same level of pressure as the first half went on, and Liverpool steadily started to look more and more threatening. It seemed only a matter of time before there was something for the home fans to cheer about, and Suarez duly obliged in the 25th minute when he got on the end of Jordan Henderson’s looping cross to fire home a volley into the bottom corner.

The flow of the game had been moving in Liverpool’s direction, and the goal opened the floodgates. Philippe Coutinho hit the post after doing well to work himself an opening, and Jon Flanagan saw his effort cleared off the line.

The lead was doubled with three minutes left of the first half, as the Reds broke forward on the counter-attack. Suarez found himself one-on-one with David Marshall in the Cardiff goal, but unselfishly played it to his right for the better-placed Sterling to tap home into an empty net.

Things went from bad to worse for Malky Mackay’s men with seconds left of the opening half, as Suarez produced a breathtaking strike to curl the ball into the far corner from 20 yards out – meaning Liverpool went in three goals to the good at the break.

The second half continued in the same fashion as the first – with Liverpool dominating proceedings. Things changed as the hour mark approached though, when the Reds defence left Jordon Mutch free at the back post from a free kick to give Cardiff a way back into the game with a headed goal.

The goal seemed to spark renewed belief in the away side, and the following 15 minutes were a much more closely fought affair. Sensing a weakness in their opponents, the Cardiff players swung as many balls as they could into the Liverpool penalty area.

As the half wore on though any hopes the visitors had of getting something from the game started to fade, and the Reds once again became the dominant side. Sterling looked on course for a second goal as he broke through the Cardiff defence once again, but a heavy touch allowed Marshall the chance to block. Suarez latched on to the resulting reboud, but his shot fired off the wrong side of the post.

The introduction of Agger for Coutinho in the 83rd minute ensured Liverpool remained tight at the back in the closing exchanges, and their goal didn’t face any further serious challenge from that point.

There remained one final chance for Suarez to get another hat-trick, but Marshall was on this occasion up the challenge of keeping the Uruguayan out. Lee Probert blew his whistle shortly after to bring the game to a close, and confirm that the Reds go top of the league pending the outcome of Arsenal’s clash with Chelsea on Monday.

Suarez pens new Liverpool contract

Luis Suarez

Luis Suarez has signed a record-breaking new contract, committing his long-term future to Liverpool.

Luis SuarezThe Uruguayan has been in excellent form since returning from suspension earlier this season, and the club has moved swiftly to reward Suarez for his run of fine performances. The club will also hope that the new deal will put off any potential suitors for the forward’s services.

Suarez is set to become the highest paid player in the club’s history, with the new deal believed to be worth around £200k per week.

An announcement on the official club website made no reference to either the length of the deal or whether any sort of exit clause is included – the second a pertinent question considering some of the claims made by the player and his representatives over the summer.

Suarez seemed set on leaving Liverpool during the last transfer window, but there was no sign of such feelings as he spoke to the club’s media team on penning his new deal.

“I am delighted to have agreed a new deal with Liverpool and have my future secured for the long term,” he said.

“We have some great players and the team is growing and improving all the time. I believe I can achieve the ambitions of winning trophies and playing at the very highest level with Liverpool. My aim is to help get us there as quickly as possible.

“Without doubt the backing I have received from the Liverpool fans has influenced my decision. I am so proud to represent them and go out to do my best for them every time I pull on the shirt.

“We have a special relationship; they have love for me and in return I love them back. I will always do my best for them and hopefully we can achieve success together.”

Spurs 0 – 5 Liverpool


Liverpool went back to second place in the Premier League table with a resounding 5-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane.

With Steven Gerrard missing through injury and vice-captain Daniel Agger only making the bench, the captain’s armband was handed to Luis Suarez for the day – and whilst some may argue with the decision to have him skipper the side there is no doubting that he dazzled in the role.

Liverpool’s first opportunity to take the lead came in the first minute, as Suarez played Philippe Coutinho through, but the Brazilian was unable to adjust himself quickly enough and snatched at his shot.

This set the trend for the early exchanges, with Raheem Sterling in particular proving to be a thorn in the side of the Spurs defence.

The breakthrough came on 18 minutes. Suarez received the ball from Sterling before playing it on to Jordan Henderson. Suarez was quickest to Henderson’s return ball, and coolly side-footed past Hugo Lloris to open the scoring.

The game continued along the same lines, with Liverpool asking all the questions and Tottenham rarely coming up with any sort of response.

It seemed only a matter of time before the Reds scored a second, and they duly obliged with five minutes of the first half remaining. Henderson was played through by Coutinho, but found himself thwarted by Lloris. The Spurs stopped then did well to keep out an effort from Suarez from the rebound, but could do nothing about the third bite at the cherry from Henderson, who coolly volleyed home to double Liverpool’s lead.

Roberto Soldado did manage to put the ball in the back of the net shortly before the half-time whistle, but was correctly adjudged to have fouled Simon Mignolet in the build-up.

Tottenham started after the interval in a much better fashion, and put the Liverpool defence under pressure early in the second half. Not that the visitors were sitting back themselves though, with Sakho hitting the post and Skrtel firing a shot over the bar that may well have resulted in a goal had it fallen to an attacking player.

Any hopes the home side had of a comeback were dealt a blow on 62 minutes though, as Paulinho was dismissed for an incident that resulted in his foot striking Suarez in the chest. The player will no doubt protest his innocence, but replays appeared to show a clear movement of the foot in the direction of the Uruguayan.

The Reds had no doubt been the better side in the clash, but Spurs had shown signs up to that point that they weren’t to be taken lightly. The red card seem to knock the last of the fight out of the North London side though, and the game was pretty much one-way traffic from that point onwards.

Liverpool could smell blood, and were in no way content to settle for just the two goal victory. They continued to probe and a third goal came on 74 minutes. Henderson looked like he was getting shut out down the right flank before playing a sublime backheeled nutmeg to Suarez. The captain for the day sent a cross to the back post, where Jon Flanagan was on hand to fire in a powerful volley which rattled the crossbar on the way in.

The Spurs defence looked in disarray, and and nine minutes later they suffered further humiliation as Suarez lobbed a the ball over the onrushing Lloris to make it 4-0.

There was still time for one more – as Suarez turned provider to play through Sterling for a fifth goal – and there was even a chance for a sixth in injury time which went begging.

Shortly after this final chance the final whistle went to confirm a resounding victory for Liverpool which puts them in touching distance of league leaders Arsenal once more, and sends out a clear message to their rivals.

Sakho looking for regular place


French defender Mamadou Sakho is looking to continue his development at Liverpool and wants to nail down a regular starting berth in the first team.

sakhoThe Summer signing from Paris Saint-Germain scored his first Reds goal on Saturday against West Ham at Anfield and is hoping to keep impressing the manager.

The French international, who recently scored to help his country qualify for the World Cup, understands that competition is strong at the club in the centre of defence, but believes that he can put in the hard work to help the club towards its targets.

“There is competition, but the most important thing is that all the players make themselves ready and available for the group, help the team to grow and help Liverpool get back onto the European stage.” he said.

“That said, of course I’m working really hard to earn my place in the side, like every player. It’s been going well up to now.”

Rodgers looking for signings in January


Brendan Rodgers is looking for signings in January – but not just additions, he wants quality players who can come into the squad and make quick impacts for the team.

RodgersLiverpool signed Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho in the January transfer window last season and both players made immediate impacts on the team and have continued to be important players for the Northern Irishman.

“It’s not just about getting the players. It’s about who is available, who can improve you. We did some remarkable business last January by bringing in Coutinho and Sturridge.” he said.

“What I do know is that if there is a player or players out there who will improve our team, the owners will support that. They have been outstanding for me. It just depends on the availability of the right type of player. That has to be a player who can come into the team and improve us.” he concluded.

Rodgers wants less mistakes


Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has told his players to cut out the mistakes ahead of the crunch Premiership trip to face Tottenham at White Hart Lane on Sunday.

rodclarHe has seen his side score four or more goals in his last four home games, but the away form hasn’t been as good – and nor has the ability to keep clean sheets with just one in the last twelve.

“We’ve made mistakes, we own up to that. We’ve made mistakes defensively and that has cost us goals and some of them have been cheap goals.” he said.

“But it’s been swings and roundabouts, really. We started the season with three 1-0 wins and people spoke about our lack of goals. And I think that’s one thing you can’t level at this team. But now they are scoring goals, it’s the clean sheets. So as long as we’re winning games, I’m happy.

“Of course, we always want to be perfect, score many goals and keep clean sheets. And certainly in these types of games [against Tottenham], when it’s going to be tight and you’re not going to run away and score lots of goals, you then have to make sure you don’t make mistakes.”

Can Joe Allen rise to the challenge?

Joe Allen
Joe Allen was a key player for Brendan Rodgers at Swansea, but has failed to make a similar impact so far at Liverpool.

Joe Allen is a player who showed bags of promise upon his arrival at Liverpool FC. Integral to Brendan Rodgers’ successful spell as Swansea manager, the Carmarthen born midfielder was considered by some to be the next great Welsh prospect along with countryman Gareth Bale.

Rodgers midfield maestro at Swansea, Allen’s successful combination with fellow central midfielder Leon Britton was one that ensured Swansea’s ‘Tiki-Taka’ high-possession strategy was extremely fruitful for the club. Under Rodgers’ stewardship The Swans finished 11th in the table, an impressive position for a team newly promoted.

Joe Allen
Joe Allen was a key player for Brendan Rodgers at Swansea, but has failed to make a similar impact so far at Liverpool.

This position was in no small part due to Allen’s incredibly high pass accuracy. In his final season, after attempting over 1500 passes it was shown that Allen had successfully completed 91% of these, only being edged as the best passer in the league by Leon Britton who managed a 93% pass success rate.

Moreover it was clear that although small in stature, Allen did not shirk from the prospect of a challenge. Again in his final season at Swansea he was third in the player standings for attempted tackles getting stuck in 110 times and successfully winning the ball 75% of the time.

This was the type of player from old the Liverpool faithful were crying out for, stylish and efficient in possession but combative, determined and hard. So it was with great expectation that Allen, the midfielder who The Swansea Faithful and Rodgers himself had dubbed ‘The Welsh Xavi’ followed Rodgers to Liverpool when the manager took the reigns at the club.

Allen’s initial taste of life playing for the famous reds was one of success. In his second league start for Liverpool against Manchester City he was voted Man Of The Match on the official Liverpool website. Furthermore, Allen continued this vein of form going on to capture the club’s player of the month accolade for August.

All seemed to be well for Joe Allen, but then his form slumped. Dramatically. Or so the Liverpool fans thought. Although his pass accuracy was relatively the same from his days at Swansea (90%) and his final third accuracy was down from 81% to 85% he was still just about living up to his impressive standards from his Swansea days.

So what was it the Liverpool Faithful were badgering him about? To be sure, I don’t think it can be quantified. Some would say his passion or enthusiasm wasn’t there and he wasn’t driving the team from midfield. All valid opinions, but there was no real evidence to substantiate this.

Remember though, Liverpool fans have been known to sometimes unfairly criticise players when fortunes aren’t good. Lucas Leiva is the name that comes quickest to my mind and now he is lauded as fan favourite. It is also vital to remember that Allen’s injury to his shoulder was kept quiet from the fans for many months until it was impossible for him to play. This could also have been a factor in some of his poorer performances last season.

We can go over past mistakes as often as we like, but it is what the player does going forward from now that is most important – and Joe Allen has been gifted with a golden opportunity to win back the affections of some fans. Liverpool are in somewhat of an injury crisis with Steven Gerrard ruled out for 10 weeks and Jordan Henderson being reported to have left hospital in a protective boot last week. The scene is set.

It appears that Allen will get some playing time over the coming month or two, but with fierce competition for a starting slot in midfield the Welshman will need to impress to retain his place. So can he get back to his best? Let’s go to the stats.

Last weekend Liverpool made it two high scoring wins in a row, following on from their 5-1 rout at Norwich by beating West Ham 4-1. Luis Suarez – as usual – was the main talking point in these games with his genius continuing to amaze football experts across the globe. But, it is Allen’s performance in the West Ham game which I want to focus on. It did not go unnoticed by many keeping a keen eye on the game and rightly so.

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Kelly looking to make his mark


Liverpool and England defender Martin Kelly has stated his intention to make a return to the Liverpool starting lineup in the coming weeks.

kellyThe academy graduate has been a fringe player for some time now after a troubled spell of injuries, but he’s looking to put that behind him and get back to regular first team action.

“I’ve been working hard and I feel a lot fitter than back in pre-season,” he said.

“I don’t think there’s been a mental barrier to get through as such, it’s more about not feeling as sharp as I wanted. Ask anyone who has had a long-term injury and they’ll tell you it’s tough to get back to that level you were at before the injury. It takes time and it comes back slowly. Now I’m back nearly to peak fitness and I’m ready to go.”

Kelly made his latest appearance as a late substitute for fellow academy product Jon Flanagan against West Ham at Anfield on Saturday – in a left-back role, which is somewhere he has not featured before in the first team. But he was happy just to be back on the pitch and says that he will readily slot in anywhere across the backline.

“I’m happy playing anywhere across the back four for Liverpool,” he said.

“I’ll just concentrate on my own fitness and do all the extra work I can. It’s a case of biding my time, being patient and making sure that when the manager gives me another opportunity I am ready to take it.”