Liverpool

The Juan And Only

Manchester United's players celebrate their 2-1 win over Liverpool at Anfield.

Manchester United’s players celebrate their 2-1 win over Liverpool at Anfield.

Juan Mata scored twice as Manchester United ruined Steven Gerrard’s final Merseyside derby with a just about deserved 2-1 win in the big Sunday lunchtime game.

The hosts who’s last defeat came against the Red Devils in December, were unchanged – which meant club captain Gerrard would have to come off the bench to appear in this one. As for the visitors United who looked to have returned to form after an impressive win over Tottenham last week, they make just the single change as Ashley Young comes in – but the returning Angel Di Maria who was sent off in the FA Cup against Arsenal starts this one from the bench.

As for the match itself, United got out of the blocks the quicker. The visitors midfield of Fellaini, Carrick, Mata and Young were slick in their passing – and were operating at the tempo which blew away Tottenham last week.

Liverpool had no answer – and despite having the majority of the possession, it was indeed Louis Van Gaal’s side who looked more fluent in attack – and it was a little of surprise that United would take the lead in the 14th minute.

Juan Mata who was brilliant in last weeks win at Old Trafford, was equally as brilliant here. The Spaniard who had been subject of transfer speculation at the start of the season , latched on to a fantastic Ander Herrera through ball- and beat the on rushing Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet with a brilliantly placed finish into the bottom corner.

The visitors at the point were in complete control – but rather naively took their foot off the pedal, which allowed the hosts to come back into the game. After going a goal down Liverpool’s response was good as Adam Lalana missed a great chance to level the scores before halftime.

The former Southampton captain who earned a reputation for scoring goals by arriving late in the box did that here – but disappointingly fired wide when maybe he should have scored. That missed chance was one of the last bits of action of the first half as United went in at the break a goal up.

Liverpool who have been in brilliant for since that defeat to United were in dire need of shaking things up in midfield. So who better to bring on at the start of the second half than club legend Steven Gerrard. The Liverpool skipper who has only just returned from a hamstring injury, would have been determined to end his associations in Merseyside derbies on a high – but there was no fairy tale ending for the Liverpool captain here.

Gerrard who was brought on to provide a calmness into the Liverpool midfield that was lacking the first half, inexcusably lost his head – and was sent off. The 34 year old Gerrard who had barely been on the pitch for more than two minutes was involved in a 50/50 challenge with United’s Herrera – and then rather foolishly stamped on the United midfielder’s leg, which didn’t go unnoticed, all be it with some assistance by the referee’s assistant.

That Red card was to prove costly as Juan Mata scored with a wonderful goal to apparently put the game beyond doubt. The Spaniard started a well worked move – and the 28 year old passed to Di Maria which lead to the Argentine to provide a well judged chip over the Liverpool defence – and set Juan Mata up to acrobatically place a left strike in the bottom corner of Mignolet’s goal.

With the game seeming out of Liverpool’s reach, United became complacent – and despite having 10 men it was Liverpool who looked the better side, despite having 10 men. The visitors sloppiness allowed Daniel Sturridge to pull a goal back with a near post strike, which David De Gea maybe could have done better with.

Fortunately for United there were no more goals in this one. The visitors did have time to win a penalty in the dying minutes as Emre Can clumsily brought down Daley Blind in the box. The resulting penalty kick was missed however as Wayne Rooney’s kick was at a nice height for Liverpool keeper Mignolet to save.

Advantage United then in the ‘rat race’ for fourth, as Man United manager Van Gaal put it -but with both sides needing to play the big sides such as Arsenal and Chelsea, the race for fourth isn’t over just yet.The

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Determined Blackburn Earn FA Cup Replay Against Liverpool

Liverpool v Blackburn Rovers - FA Cup Quarter Final

Championship side Blackburn produced a dogged display to hold Premiership side Liverpool to a goalless draw in the quarter finals of the FA Cup. Blackburn came into this one in confident mood after dumping out Premier League side Stoke 4-1 in the last round.

The visitors Blackburn who are 11th in the Championship again had Jordan Rhodes on the bench, which has lead to speculation that the Scottish International could be loaned out to promotion chasing Derby County.

Blackburn captain Matt Kilgallon who was full of praise for stand in Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson before the game also starts.

As for the home side Liverpool who have been in brilliant form of late, they didn’t have club captain Steven Gerrard in their match day squad as the 34 year old recovers fully from a hamstring injury.

Other than that bit of news the Reds had very much the same team that has been instrumental in their impressive revival after a very poor start to the season. Liverpool are now fifth in the Premier League respectively – and are now with in touching distance of fourth place Manchester United.

Despite there being some 25 league places separating the two sides, it was Blackburn who started brightly. Craig Conway fired over for the visitors early on as the visitors didn’t appear to be intimidated by their premeir League opponnents. Kolo Toure who replaced fellow central defender Martin Skrtel who had to go off with a serious looking head injury, had a goal ruled out for offside.

The Reds who haven’t won English footballs top cup competition since 2006,had goal keeper Simon Mignolet to thank for keeping them in the game. The Belgian who received a lot of criticism for his performances earlier in the season, dived superbly to his left and clawed a way a powerful Alex Baptiste drive which was destined for the top corner.

With hosts struggling to take a strangle hold of thr game, Liverpool decided to bring on Mario Balotelli who looks like he is now starting to settle in to life at Anfield, the Italian came on to offer some support to Daniel Sturridge as the Premier League side were looking to avoid the replay.

However just like in the last round, Liverpool couldn’t break down their Championship hosts as this game finished 0-0. Blackburn would be the happier of the two sides you would think, especially with the knowledge that they have defeated Premier League opposition in Swansea and Stoke at Ewood Park.

With Liverpool though Rovers know they have a much more difficult game, the Reds did beat Blackburn’s Lancashire rivals Bolton, so this will be far from easy. It’s hard to say who will win this match – but what is certain is that this cup tie is finely balanced.

Liverpool Captain Steven Gerrard To Leave At The End Of The Season To Move To LA Galaxy

Liverpool captain will leave the Anfield side at the end of the season, ending a 25 year association with The Reds

Liverpool captain will leave the Anfield side at the end of the season, ending a 25 year association with The Reds

For many football fans, the words Liverpool and Steven Gerrard would tend to go hand and hand – but not not for much longer. The 34 year old Liverpool captain announced this week that he is to end his 25 year association with the Reds and move to American club LA Galaxy.

Steven George Gerrard who has been at Anfield since the age of nine, will no doubt leave a big ‘hole’ in the Liverpool squad after ‘carrying’ the Liverpool team on it’s own it could be argued. What can be argued is Stevie G’s desire to succeed. The soon to be former Liverpool captain does boast of an impressive medal collection, Uefa Champions League, UEFA Cup (as is was known back then), FA Cup and League Cup medals.

It’s quite an impressive medal collection – but the lack of premier league medal will always be a ‘black mark’ if there was one on an impressive Liverpool career which spans 16 years. I am sure there wouldn’t have been many people in the football world, who would have thought at the time that a young 18 year old midfielder player from Whiston would turn out to be such a Liverpool icon.

The Whiston born midfielder made his debut in 1998 – but would have to wait until 2000 to become a permanent fixture in the Liverpool side. Three years later in 2003, Gerrard was made club captain replacing club legend Sami Hypia.

Steven Gerrard’s undoubted ability was always going to attract admiring glances from rival clubs and through out Gerrard’s career that was always the case with speculation always linking the Liverpool captain to clubs such as Chelsea, Manchester United and Real Madrid – but Gerrard remained very loyal.

The lack of premier league title on his impressive list of honours did tempt Gerrard to leave Liverpool for Chelsea – but the Reds’ captain ended up staying at Anfield. What made the Liverpool captain decide that his future lies elsewhere was the more frequent appearances on the subs bench this season – and how he was getting managed. What might make the Liverpool’s captain more painful was that he 34 year old has come out and said he might have stayed at Anfield if a deal was offered sooner. The Anfield clubs board only offered Gerrard a new deal in November.

The FA Cup tie against AFC Wimbledon, was an example that the 34 year old still has the ability to contribute in the key games, which has been something that he has done time and time again over the years. It could be argued ‘ it’s only Wimbledon ‘ but if Gerrard hadn’t made his contribution in the third round game against Liverpool, then I am not 100% sure we would be talking about Liverpool being in the fourth round draw of the FA cup.

It’s a real shame that a player of Gerrard’s calibre is leaving these shores – but what Liverpool’s loss is most definitely LA Galaxy’s gain because at 34 Steven Gerrard still has the ability to perform at the highest level.

What Did We Learn From Liverpool’s Performance Tonight?

Brendan Rodgers would no doubt be impressed by Liverpool's determined  performance despite this defeat

Brendan Rodgers would no doubt be impressed by Liverpool’s determined performance despite this defeat

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers made a real ‘statement’ in tonights match against Real Madrid. The Liverpool manager made several high profile changes, as Raheem Sterling, Steven Gerrrard were all left on the bench. It might make one ask the question why did these players travel to the Spanish capital if they weren’t going to start.

Emre Can, Lucas Leiva, Kolo Toure, Lazar Markovic and Fabio Borini all started for the Reds at the Bernabeu in a match that people such as myself felt that Liverpool needed something from. A dissapointing performance in Switzerland against Basle which ended in a 2-0 defeat hasn’t helped Liverpool’s campaign.

The 18 time English champions went into this champions league game on the back of a 1-0 defeat to Newcastle. The last meeting between the two sides last month saw Liverpool suffer a ‘mauling’ to Real Madrid,the defending champions won 3-0 at Anfield.

Karim Bemzema scored twice that with ‘goal machine’ Christiano Ronaldo grabbing the other. Ronaldo came into this match one goal short of equalling former Real Madrid striker Raul’s record of 71 champions league goals – but suprsingly the Portuguese captain had a quiet night for his standards.

That was mainly down to the brilliant perforamnces of Kolo Toure and Martin Skrtel on the night. If I was to be harsh I would say that Kolo Toure was a little bit at fault for the only goal of the game that was scored by Karim Benzema.

Lazar Markovic another player who impressed on one occasion in the first half wasn’t quite ‘in sync’ with his colleague Javi Manquillo which ultimately allowed Real left-back to deliver a wicked ball in, Karim Benzema was left in space in the box – and all the Frenchmen needed to do was make some form of connection to the cross, which he duly did to score what proved to be the winner on the night.

That goal was harsh on Liverpool, the Reds battled hard – Fabio Borini really did work his socks off upfront. The main plus points for me were that Liverpool had a ‘nice shape’ about them defensively. Time and time again Real with their vast array of attacking talent, struggled to really threaten Liverpool’s back line. That was down to Liverpool’s well organised defence, the Reds defended in numbers, and when Real did attack they stuggled at times due to Liverpool’s defence.

Martin Skrtel who was captain for the night did make the occoasional error – but Simon Mignolet the (Liverpool goal keeper) made some magnificent saves, the one from James Rodriguez early on being the pick for me.

So many times this season Dejan Lovren has looked incompetent and error prone – but the performance of Kolo Toure alongside Martin Skrtel for me was good enough to make Brendan Rodgers say that this is his defensive partnership for Saturdays game against Chelsea at least.

Although Liverpool did lose this game, Brendan Rodgers can be very pleased with this performance. Players such as Fabio Borini and Kolo Toure in my opinon have really staked their claims to play in the Saturday lunchtime game against Chelsea.

Liverpool’s problems have been in attack and in defence, the Reds haven’t scored in their last 3 games and are conceeding too many goals. The performance tonight reminded me of the Liverpool performances of last season, their pressing was excellent and Borini was one of the main examples of that – that’s possibly why the Italian got the nod ahead of his countryman Mario Balotelli.

Livepool had no Sterling and Gerrard tonight,who were both missed tonight – but their are good signs after tonights performance, that’s coming from a Manchester United fan!

Super Mario Or Blooper Mario?

Mario Balotelli hasn't got his Liverpool career off to the start he wanted.

Mario Balotelli hasn’t got his Liverpool career off to the start he wanted.

In the football world it’s one of the most talked about subjects at the moment- and no I am not talking about who will win the Ballon D’or award. I am talking about Mario Balotelli and his failure to settle into life at Liverpool. Everyone has an opinion about why Balotelli has struggled so much, and we thought just for good measure we will throw our opinion into the mix as well.

Balotelli doesn’t really need an intro I guess, the Italian never seems to be far from headlines in one way or another. The former Manchester City striker though is in the headlines mainly for reasons on the pitch.

It’s hard to believe that Balotelli is still just 24 ( I had to check it as I was doubting my own knowledge) .’Super Mario’ as he is also known hence the headline has not adapted to life at Anfield at the moment, and unfortunately the pressure is mounting on the former AC Milan striker.

Mario Balotelli was signed this summer for £16 million in what was seen as a potential bargain and a ‘calculated risk’. Liverpool’s struggles have been unfairly been blamed on Balotelli although some of it is justified – as that what the Ghanian born striker is paid to do. That matter opens up a different debate (why are Liverpool struggling? ) I personally think that is mainly down to the defence and Dejan Lovren (don’t get me started on him).

With Balotelli you’re getting a player with pedigree,this man is a title winner with Manchester City don’t forget, no one in the Liverpool team can say that. With out really stating the obvious here- Mario Balotelli needs time to adjust to the ‘Liverpool way’ of playing.

What also counts against Balotelli is the ‘lack of work rate’ which doesn’t help his case. The talent is there all football fans know that, the problem is though ‘super mario’ needs to ‘knuckle down’. I am sure he is trying, Liverpool manager has publicly backed him- he has to as Balotelli was signed as Luis Suarez’s replacement.

That last statement there ‘Suarez’s replacement’ that’s the problem, maybe we’re all guilty of comapring the 2 too much. Such a comaprison isn’t fair and I feel the outstanding acheivements of the Uruguayan last year only raised the bar for who ever was going to replace him.

One fact remains the same both players are strikers and are paid to score goals, one player did it at Liverpool and at the moment one isn’t. The stat that Mario Balotelli has taken the most shots in Europe wih out scoring is a very unfavourable stat for the Italian, and weakens any other arguments to support Balotelli at the moment.

What Mario Balotelli has in his favour though is his age, and Balotelli has one of the best coaches around at the moment in Brendan Rodgers. The Northern Irishman knows how to improve strikers, to me signing Daniel Sturridge must be one of the highlights of his managerial career (Brendan Rodgers). The further nurturing of Sturridge as well must be admired.

I personally am of the opinion that Mario Balotelli will come good for Liverpool, it goes with out saying that he needs to ‘pull his socks up’. Balotelli has scored goals pretty much everywhere he has gone whether in be the Milan clubs or Manchester City.

The Italian does have to start scoring soon, as there are several strikers that Liverpool have been linked with. If Balotelli’s struggles continue, that could force Rodgers into signing a striker in January which couls see Mario Balotelli sold, that would be sad because I think if Balotelli is sold he will be sold to a European team.

Love him or loath him Mario Balotelli is a player who will always divide opinion.