Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Alonso thrilled with Reds title bid

Real Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso reveals that he is "really excited" to see former club Liverpool on top of the table.

Xabi Alonso admits he is really excited to see Liverpool on top of the Premier League table.

The Real Madrid midfielder was part of Rafael Benítez’s Reds side that were pipped to the English top-flight crown by Manchester United in 2008/09.

Brendan Rodgers’s side are currently five points clear of second-placed Chelsea, with José Mourinho’s men set to make the trip to Anfield on Sunday.

And 31-year-old Alonso, who helped Los Blancos beat Bayern Munich 1-0 in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final on Wednesday, is still a keen follower of the Reds.

“Absolutely, absolutely. Whenever I’m not on work duty, I keep an eye on the Reds. I’m really excited,” Alonso told SI.

“It’s thrilling what’s happening in the city right now. What they are doing at the moment is so admirable, the players, the coaches.

“11 wins in a row is a massive achievement, and they are so close to winning the league for the first time in 24 years.

“So I’m really looking forward to it and happy for the ones I know like Stevie and Lucas, the ones I played with there.”

Alonso completed a £30m move to Real Madrid in 2009 after winning the Champions League and FA Cup with the Reds.

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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Pressure on Opponents insists Rodgers

MANAGER Brendan Rodgers guided his Liverpool side back to the top of the Premier League on Sunday after a three-month gap, but insisted the pressure remained with rivals Chelsea and Manchester City.

A resounding 4-0 win over Tottenham courtesy of an own goal from Younes Kaboul after just 100 seconds and one apiece from Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson gave the Reds a two-point advantage at the top and enhanced belief they could end a 24-year wait for the title.

The last time Liverpool were top of the league was at Christmas, but they dropped out of the top four with two defeats to Chelsea and City.

However, with both teams still to come to Anfield next month, Rodgers was asked whether they were the ones under pressure.

“I believe so,” he said. “I don’t think anyone expected us to be where we are, especially as the last two seasons we were eighth and seventh, and it has just allowed us to develop at our own pace.

“We go to every game to win but what has been great to see has been the idea and methodology of our work bearing fruit in the game.

“There are some great teams up there and world-class managers so we understand it’s going to be difficult but we just do what we can do and see where it takes us.

“For us the mantra has always been to focus on the next game, we never get too carried away.

“It is very difficult; there’s lots of people are dreaming about Liverpool winning the title but for me it is installing in the players that there’s a process, it’s not just about the end result.

“It’s been about simple hard work and focus and concentration. There are only 18 points to play for but you can only take three at a time – Upton Park [against West Ham next weekend] will be a tough game for us but our confidence and belief is at a good level.”

Rodgers said the demolition of Spurs – they have scored nine goals against them without reply this season, which is their best-ever return – proved his players can handle expectations.

“I have said all along I feel that when there are pressure situations the players can cope,” he said.

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Reds rise to the top of Premier League table

Luis Suarez wrote his name into the Anfield history books with his 29th goal of the season as Liverpool moved top of the Premier League with a 4-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur.

Liverpool had led inside 90 seconds when Younes Kaboul mistimed his clearance and the ball trickled over the line for an own goal.

Then, in the 25th minute, Suarez then took full advantage of a Michael Dawson error -- the Spurs' defender's first touch after coming on the injured Jan Vertonghen -- before firing a left-footed shot past Hugo Lloris as he surpassed Robbie Fowler's record of 28 goals in a single season for the Reds.

The Uruguayan almost made it three shortly before the break, but his close-range header from Raheem Sterling's cross was tipped brilliantly onto the underside of the bar by Lloris.

Spurs offered little in the way of a comeback in the second half and any hope was buried in the 55th minute when Philippe Coutinho drilled in a low shot from 25 yards.

Jordan Henderson provided the icing on the cake 15 minutes from time when his free kick found its way through a cluster of players and into the net.

As has been so often the case this season, especially at home, Liverpool's start was explosive.

Just 100 seconds had elapsed from kick-off when they went ahead with a slick move which ended with Younes Kaboul putting into his own net.

Philippe Coutinho sprayed the ball out to Raheem Sterling, back in the starting line-up for the first time in three matches, and overlapping full-back Glen Johnson drilled in a cross from which, had Kaboul not done the honours, Daniel Sturridge would have cleaned up from close range.

Anfield, already at a heightened state of fervour, exploded in a wave of noise which continued to reverberate around the ground as Liverpool regularly attacked with vigour.

Luis Suarez, after two crosses from either flanks which first saw the ball sail marginally over the head of the waiting Sturridge and then drilled narrowly wide by Coutinho's volley, whipped a 25-yard free-kick over before producing a sublime strike for his 29th of the season.

Michael Dawson, only just on the pitch as a replacement for the injured Jan Vertonghen, tried to turn Steven Gerrard's clearance into the patch of fellow centre-back Kaboul only for Suarez to nip in, skip past the defender and drill an angled shot across Hugo Lloris and inside the far post - into the only spot the goalkeeper could be beaten.

In doing so, he eclipsed Robbie Fowler's record of goals in a Premier League season with the promise of plenty more to come before the end of the campaign.

Tottenham saw so little of the ball their chances were sporadic at best, and, when Christian Eriksen did find space in the area, Martin Skrtel threw his body in the way and Gylfi Sigurdsson's follow-up header was saved by Simon Mignolet.

Free-kicks came and went as Sturridge, after a 50-yard run ended with Kaboul being booked, curled over and Suarez, still on set-piece duty despite Gerrard's effort in the midweek win over Sunderland, whipped a vicious effort just wide.

The Uruguayan's best chance of doubling his tally, however, came just moments before. Kaboul's day continued its downward spiral when he was robbed by Sterling, who crossed to the back post, where Suarez's header was clawed onto the crossbar by Lloris and hooked clear by Nabil Bentaleb.

Any chance Spurs had of rescuing the situation had to come from the next goal, but they were not given the remotest chance as, after Jordan Henderson ballooned over a cut-back from Sterling - who himself had only Lloris to beat - Coutinho made the result safe.

Young left-back Jon Flanagan's dummy of England international Aaron Lennon typified the confidence flowing through the side but, when he offloaded to Coutinho in midfield, there was still plenty to do.

Despite the Brazilian playmaker advancing, Spurs saw fit to stand off and Coutinho made them pay with a low shot from 25 yards which easily beat Lloris for just his fourth goal of the season.

The large travelling support were suitably disgruntled, chanting "Where is our manager?'' at Tim Sherwood.

He was actually sat in the directors' box throughout - two rows behind chairman Daniel Levy, who this week reportedly held talks with Holland coach Louis van Gaal. The pair left without exchanging words.

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

After his Second Hat-Trick, Can Suarez break the Premier League Record?

On the day that Liverpool beat their club record Premier League goals in a season, scoring their 82nd goal in the 6-3 win at Cardiff, Luis Suarez equalled Robbie Fowler’s 28-goal record for a Liverpool player in a Premier League season.

Suarez hit his second hat-trick of the season and needs just four more goals in the eight remaining games to become the leading Premier League goalscorer in a 38 game Premier League season – that despite missing 5 league games through suspension.

The current record for goals in a 38 game Premier League season is held joint by Alan Shearer (1995-96) and Cristiano Ronaldo (2007-08) with 31 goals – both of whom took penalties, which Suarez of course does not, making his record this campaign even more the impressive.

Indeed, Suarez could even beat Shearer (1993-94) and Andy Cole’s (1994-95) record haul of 34 goals when the Premier League featured 22 sides and thus had 42 games to score in. Suarez has 28 goals in 25 Premier League appearances, a ratio of a goal every 80 minutes.

The 47 goals between Suarez and Daniel Sturridge comfortably beats Liverpool’s previous record Premier League strike duo of Fowler and Stan Collymore in 1995-96 (52 between them).

The club record for a duo is 52, back in 1963-64 with Roger Hunt and Ian St. John. So five more equals that.

After three away games in succession, in which Liverpool scored 12 goals, the Reds now have two home matches inside a week.

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Liverpool maintain title tilt by thrashing cardiff by 6-3

Luis Suarez scored a hat-trick and Martin Skrtel struck twice as Liverpool underlined their Premier League title credentials in a thrilling encounter at Cardiff City Stadium.

Brendan Rodgers' team went behind on two occasions in the first-half as Jordan Mutch and then Fraizer Campbell struck for relegation-threatened Cardiff.

But Skrtel claimed Liverpool's second equaliser just before the break following Suarez's 16th-minute effort from close range before Cardiff were finished off during a devastating six-minute spell.

Skrtel's 54th-minute header from a corner put Liverpool ahead for the first time, and then an audacious back-heel by Daniel Sturridge gave Suarez all the room he needed to make it six league wins on the bounce.

And Sturridge completed a second-half masterclass when he scored 15 minutes from time to continue Liverpool's irresistible form and keep Cardiff in deep trouble, despite Mutch claiming a consolation goal two minutes from the whistle as Liverpool triumphed 6-3 when Suarez pounced deep in injury time.

Liverpool remain four points behind leaders Chelsea with a game in hand, and Rodgers will breathe a sigh of relief after Cardiff arguably produced their best display during Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's managerial reign.

But when the Reds turned up the heat, Cardiff could not live with their precision passing and quality finishing, meaning they remain in the relegation zone with just seven games left.

Rodgers made just one change from the side that beat Manchester United 3-0 at Old Trafford last weekend, with Philippe Coutinho taking over from Raheem Sterling.

There was further pre-match evidence of discontent among Cardiff fans when supporters staged a peaceful protest against the club's controversial rebrand under owner Vincent Tan from blue to red.

A number of supporters' groups combined to march to Cardiff City Stadium from a nearby pub, with many fans wearing blue inside and outside the ground.

Cardiff dominated the opening exchanges, going close from a free-kick after Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard was cautioned for fouling Campbell, then Kevin Theophile-Catherine blasted over the bar.

But it took Cardiff just nine minutes to open the scoring and Liverpool could have few complaints as Campbell's impressive approach work created space that allowed Mutch to drive the ball home past Simon Mignolet.

Mutch's strike, though, stirred Liverpool into action, and they equalised seven minutes later when Jordan Henderson found Glen Johnson, and his slide-rule delivery was tucked away by Suarez.

Suarez's 26th goal of the season could easily have deflated Cardiff, yet they continued to play with an accuracy and tempo that belied their lowly league status.

And that enterprise was rewarded when Campbell turned Daniel Agger inside out before finishing brilliantly past Mignolet to put Cardiff 2-1 up after 25 minutes of an enthralling contest.

Liverpool tried to assert themselves on proceedings but they had to wait until four minutes before half-time before Cardiff could be punished for a second time.

This time it was Coutinho who played in a telling pass from the left, and Skrtel inched ahead of Cardiff's central defenders to deliver a left-footed finish past goalkeeper David Marshall.

Marshall then had to save at Suarez's feet in the final act of a gripping opening 45 minutes that saw Cardiff make light of trailing Liverpool by 37 points before kick-off.

But Liverpool went ahead nine minutes into the second-half when Skrtel pounced for his second, heading home a Coutinho corner.

Cardiff, though, could feel aggrieved that referee Neil Swarbrick allowed the corner to be taken with Cardiff pair Theophile-Catherine and Mutch both on the touchline waiting to return after receiving treatment for knocks.

It was rough justice on the home team, and Suarez rubbed their noses in the dirt six minutes later with another cool finish following a Sturridge back-heel that set the Uruguayan up.

Suarez returned the compliment by providing the assist for Sturridge to post Liverpool's fifth goal, and while Cardiff hardly deserved such a beating, there was no disguising the fact they had ultimately been crushed by a team oozing confidence, even though there was enough time for Mutch to cut the deficit and Suarez to claim his hat-trick.

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Gerrard dreaming of title after thrashing United

LIVERPOOL captain Steven Gerrard is confident his side can fight all the way for the Premier League title, despite manager Brendan Rodgers playing down expectations after a convincing win at Old Trafford.

Two penalties from Gerrard either side of half-time were crowned off by a late Luis Suarez effort, putting Liverpool within four points of leaders Chelsea, with a game in hand.

“I think we’ve shown that we’re genuine contenders and we’re going to fight to the end for this,” said Gerrard, who has yet to win a league title.

“We believe it. The rest of the people that are fighting for it with us have got to believe we’re going for it.”

Yet Rodgers continues to play down his team’s hopes. “No chance”, he responded after the game when asked if Liverpool can win the title.

The Merseysiders largely controlled yesterday’s game, going ahead 10 minutes before the break. Rafael handled the ball in the area, allowing Gerrard to side-foot his penalty accurately inside the post.

And just seconds into the re-start Joe Allen was adjudged to have been felled by Phil Jones, Gerrard putting the resulting penalty the same way.

A third penalty arrived later in the half, Nemanja Vidic seeing red for a second booking despite little contact with Daniel Sturridge. Gerrard hit the post this time, but soon after Suarez stole in behind to seal the win.

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Rodgers shows no sympathy to Moyes

Brendan Rodgers admitted he was taken aback when David Moyes had declared Liverpool were the favourites to win at Old Trafford and said he would never have said the same about any visitors to Anfield.

Liverpool justified Moyes’ billing by winning 3-0 with two penalties from captain Steven Gerrard as well as Luis Suarez’s 25th goal of the prolific season but Rodgers said that, unlike his Manchester United counterpart, it was not in his nature to be so defeatist before a game.

He explained: “I was probably surprised before the game when I heard we were supposedly coming to Old Trafford as favourites. I would never say that at Liverpool -- even if I was bottom of the league.

“Anfield is Anfield. We expect to win and we have a mentality that has been developing over 18 months which we expect to win home and away and the belief is in the players and you see that in their game.”

While United are seventh, the position Liverpool finished 12 months ago, Rodgers insisted his first season at Anfield should not be likened to Moyes’ difficult start at Old Trafford.

He added: “It is incomparable where we were at. He [Moyes] came in and they were champions with world-class players. We were eighth when I came in and there was a hell of a lot of work to do.”

Rodgers saluted his players for their performance as they ended the club’s run of six straight defeats at Old Trafford.

He said: “I thought we were outstanding -- from the first whistle our intent was to attack and press and to work. Clearly I am very happy. To dominate the game like that was very pleasing. I thought we could've had more goals.”

However, although Liverpool have taken 26 points from their last 10 league games, Rodgers downplayed talk of winning a first league title since 1990.

He said: “We are up there on merit so of course we have an opportunity but I'm not losing sleep over it. We have better things to talk about.”

Liverpool were awarded three penalties but Rodgers said: “We are a team who gets penalties because of our aggression in our attack.”

He said United captain Nemanja Vidic’s sending off was “harsh” but defended his striker Daniel Sturridge against accusations he dived for the penalty that brought the Serb’s red card and Liverpool’s third spot kick.

Rodgers explained: “Vidic isn't going to get back and Daniel has a choice: he either stamps on him or tries to hurdle him, and he tried to hurdle him.”

He also supported referee Mark Clattenburg’s decision not to dismiss Rafael da Silva, who, having been booked, then conceded the first penalty.

The Liverpool manager said: “It was definitely a handball but I don't think Rafael should've been sent off. By the rule he should've been sent off because the consequence is you get a penalty.”

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