Monthly Archives: November 2014

Gerrard dismisses talk of Rodgers rift

The Liverpool star was left out of the starting XI for the clash with Stoke City on Saturday but insists he has not fallen out with the Northern Irishman despite contrary reports

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has labelled suggestions of a rift between him and manager Brendan Rodgers as “nonsense”.

Gerrard was left out of the Reds’ starting XI for the first time in the Premier League this season for Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Stoke City.

The 34-year-old’s recent performances had attracted criticism from certain quarters, with Liverpool having gone five games without a win in all competitions before the hard-fought success against Stoke.

Saturday’s fixture marked the 16th anniversary of Gerrard’s first-team debut for Liverpool, and various reports had suggested that he was unhappy with Rodgers for omitting him.

However, the former England skipper took to social media on Sunday to rubbish such speculation.

Posting on his official Instagram account, with an accompanying photo of himself and Rodgers, Gerrard wrote: “Just to set the record straight talk of a fall out between us 2 is NONSENSE…have a nice Sunday #together #solid #ynwa.”

Gerrard’s future at Anfield remains uncertain, however, with Rodgers telling his post-Stoke media conference that there has been no movement on negotiations over a contract extension for his skipper – whose current deal expires at the end of this season.

“There’s no update I am aware of – I think the club is talking with Steven’s representatives,” said the Northern Irishman.

Hughes buoyed by Bojan showing despite Liverpool loss

The Spaniard struck the post and worried Simon Mignolet before Glen Johnson won the match for the hosts and his manager believes he was the best player on the pitch

Stoke City manager Mark Hughes took heart from Bojan Krkic’s performance in Saturday’s 1-0 Premier League defeat to Liverpool at Anfield.

The Spaniard struck the post and forced an impressive save from Simon Mignolet, only for Stoke to be undone by a late Glen Johnson header.

Stoke remain without a win at Anfield since 1959 but Hughes was pleased with the showing of former Barcelona man Bojan – a summer signing from the Catalan giants.

“We feel a little bit disappointed because we put a huge effort in,” Hughes explained.

“Our record here over the years has not been great so we all feel it was a big opportunity to wipe the slate clean in that regard and get a positive result.

“In the first half, Liverpool created very little to be perfectly honest and I thought we were comfortable and able to deal with anything they threw at us. 

“In the second, it became a bit more open because we were more encouraged and were looking for a winner ourselves.”

Hughes – who saw Steven Sidwell limp off in the first half before his replacement Glenn Whelan suffered a calf problem – added: “The outstanding player on the day for me was Bojan.

“[I was] really pleased with what he produced but unfortunately he hit the post and an outstanding volley at the end, which needed to be dealt with.

“[I was] pleased with his performance but just felt it was a little bit harsh on us to lose the game today.

“I felt we needed to take something because I think it’s what our performance deserved.”

Liverpool 1-0 Stoke City: Glen Johnson secures vital win for Rodgers

Glen Johnson’s late goal ended Liverpool’s four-match Premier League winless run and ensured a dramatic 1-0 win over Stoke City.

Brendan Rodgers’ men had not won since October but Johnson – the subject of criticism for some below-par showings this term – was the hero as he bravely headed home with five minutes remaining on Saturday.

Rickie Lambert’s looping header crashed back off underside the crossbar, with Johnson stooping to nod home the winner at the Kop end to spark delirious celebrations inside Anfield.

A nervy end to the game ensued when referee Craig Pawson added seven minutes of stoppage time after Johnson sustained a head injury while scoring, but Liverpool held on thanks to a stunning save from under-fire goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, who brilliantly tipped a wonderful Bojan volley over the bar.

Following defeat to Crystal Palace last weekend, Rodgers’ future had been the subject of discussion, with the Northern Irishman dropping captain Steven Gerrard to the bench while keeping faith with Mignolet.

While neither side offered too much offensively in a dour first half, Liverpool in particular looked dangerous after the break and threatened through Raheem Sterling’s constant trickery and a Joe Allen chance the Welshman should have done better with.

But just when it looked as though more points would slip through Liverpool’s grasp, Johnson came to the rescue with a winner the hosts’ second-half showing deserved.

Sterling, who had appeared jaded in recent games, was Liverpool’s main threat early on as his dangerous delivery from the left failed to find Lambert, while Kolo Toure and Martin Skrtel were able to deal with the limited initial threat posed by Bojan, Jonathan Walters and Diouf.

With Stoke already shorn of the injured Victor Moses, Hughes saw Steven Sidwell limp off to be replaced by Glenn Whelan, and the substitute was quickly among the action.

A foul on stand-in Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson allowed Lambert – who had scored in his last two games – a sight on goal, but his free-kick sailed way over to cap a low-key half an hour for the hosts.

Liverpool’s Jose Enrique – brought in at left-back – curled another inviting cross that went unanswered, before Philippe Coutinho’s jinking run threatened an opening, only to be crowded out as Stoke got to the break on level terms.

Whelan was withdrawn at the break for ex-Liverpool man Charlie Adam and the Scot almost handed his former employers a golden opportunity when he lost possession cheaply.

Henderson shot wide six minutes after the break as Liverpool enjoyed their best spell of the game, although Bojan offered a reminder of Stoke’s threat before the hour mark, with the Spaniard striking Mignolet’s left-hand post after cutting in from the left.

The chances continued to flow as Sterling shot wide before Lucas Leiva and Lambert had efforts kept out by Asmir Begovic – Allen then blazing over from inside the area.

Exactly sixteen years after making his Liverpool debut as a substitute against Blackburn Rovers, Gerrard was introduced with 15 minutes remaining.

The former England skipper – playing in a more advanced role – immediately brought a coolness to Liverpool’s attacking play, and he watched on as Johnson finally broke Stoke’s resistance.

There was more drama to come when Bojan forced Mignolet into action, but Liverpool held on for a much-needed three points.

Liverpool-Stoke City Preview: Hughes plots another away scalp

The Potters have already beaten Manchester City and Tottenham on the road this season and now face the task of extending the Reds’ run of games without a win to six

Liverpool’s winless run has now reached five games and Stoke City manager Mark Hughes backs his side to extend that in Saturday’s Premier League clash at Anfield.

The Reds were held to a 2-2 Champions League draw at Ludogorets on Wednesday as their unimpressive season continued in Bulgaria.

Brendan Rodgers’s men would still qualify for the last 16 if they wintheir final group match but hopes of matching last season’s second-placed finish in the league are fading fast.

Sunday’s 3-1 defeat by Crystal Palace made it three top-flight losses in a row, leaving Liverpool languishing in 12th ahead of the visit of Stoke, who have already beaten Manchester City and Tottenham on the road this term.

“We are looking forward to the big games now. If you look at our form away from them you will see we’ve gone on our travels and played well,” Hughes told reporters.

“Confidence-wise, we are in decent shape with the win at Tottenham, which was comfortable in my opinion. We can go to Anfield and give another good account of ourselves, I am sure of that.

“We have made fundamental errors this season, though, and every time we do it seems like we are punished for them – certainly in the home games and against the teams that we are expected to beat.

“They sit in there with bodies behind the ball and that is always difficult to overcome. We’ve conceded at the key times in games. Scoring first is important in the Premier League and, in too many matches, we haven’t done so.

“I think that we approached the Man City and Tottenham games in a positive manner but we had a gameplan. We’ve been organised and difficult to break down but have had a threat on the break. We’ve had success with that on our travels. Maybe it has been a little bit easier in some ways away from home.”

Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge remains on the sidelines due to a thigh injury, while Rodgers will assess the fitness of Mario Balotelli (groin), Jose Enrique (knee), Mamadou Sakho (thigh) and Suso (groin).

Hughes is hopeful that Asmir Begovic, Geoff Cameron and Phil Bardsley will recover from a virus that has affected the club in the build-up.

Oussama Assaidi is unable to face his parent club due to the terms of his loan move but Marc Wilson (hamstring) and Erik Pieters (calf) could return after missing their loss to Burnley due to injury.

On-loan winger Victor Moses, who spent last season at Liverpool, will play no part after being ruled out for up to eight weeks with a thigh injury and has returned to parent club Chelsea for treatment.

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Balotelli struggling to adapt at Liverpool – Raiola

The striker is yet to score a goal in the Premier League since joining for €20m in the summer, and his agent says not seeing his daughter regularly is making it difficult for him

Mario Balotelli is struggling to adapt to life at Liverpool because he is unable to see his daughter regularly, according to his agent Mino Raiola.

The striker has just two goals to his name, and none in the Premier League, in the 14 games he has played since completing a €20 million move from AC Milan during the summer.

Subsequently Balotelli has been linked with a move back to Serie A,specifically Roberto Mancini’s Inter, a switch Raiola has ruled out, and his representative is now backing the 24-year-old to come good at Anfield.

“You shouldn’t be criticising Mario. This difficult moment he’s going through is not related to football, but is down to the fact that he cannot see his daughter as often as he would like to,” Raiola told Corriere dello Sport.

“He needs a bit of time to adapt to Liverpool. One thing is for sure and that is that he will never return to Italy. I have already made the mistake to listen to him and bring him back to back to Italy once before.”

Balotelli is currently sidelined with a groin injury but said in an update on his official Instagram account that he hopes to be back in action soon before later deleting the post.

Liverpool should have signed Alexis – Neville

The Chile forward has been the standout star in north London since his €40 million arrival, and the 39-year-old feels he would have been the perfect replacement for Luis Suarez

Gary Neville feels Arsenal star Alexis Sanchez would have been the “perfect replacement” for Luis Suarez at Liverpool.

The Chile international was sold by Barcelona to make room for the arrival of Suarez for €86 million, allowing Arsene Wenger to secure the forward’s signature for €40m.

Sanchez has impressed since his arrival – boasting a team-high 14 goals and 30 chances created – and Neville feels the forward would have softened the blow of the Uruguayan’s exit with Liverpool’s form faltering since.

“[Sanchez] would have been an ideal replacement for Luis Suarez. Goals, tenacity, pressing from the front, loses the ball – it goes past him he runs back,” he told Sky Sports.

“Everything Liverpool would have wanted to replace Suarez, obviously you could argue he wouldn’t score the goals Suarez would score, but I think he would have been the perfect replacement for Suarez.

“It’s a real shame for Liverpool they didn’t get him, but a massive plus for Arsenal.”

Sanchez scored his 14th goal of the season on Wednesday night as Arsenal beat Borussia Dortmund to qualify for the Champions League knockout stage for the 15th consecutive season.