Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Reds dump Deepdale

2-0 and through to the next round is the headline but there are some interesting sub plots.

First, after being clinical against Newcastle and Bolton, we returned to our normal form this season where we create lots of chances but refuse to take them, letting the opposition back into the game. We made countless chances in the first half and should have been out of sight. I'm afraid to say that Keane was the main culprit here and had a string of embarrassing misses. It's not the the first time this year and I won't be drawing any conclusions from it but it's about time he got his act together and started taking simple chances. But, as he himself has said, let's judge him at the end of the season in May.

Secondly, Torres returned with a goals after coming off the bench. Good man Nando. Stevie unselfishly set him up after Babel had released the pair on goal with a flicked header. Great to see El Nino back in competitive action.

Thirdly, Alonso came off injured with his leg in a cast. There is no word yet on how long he'll be out for but it didn't look good. Luckily Lucas stepped into the breach and did well, but while he's improving, he's no Xabi. Who is?

Lastly, there were contrasting performances from the wingers. Riera was superb after a slow start and was a menace down the flank. He took his goal really well and set up Keane for what should have been another. In contrast, Babel was quite ineffective. I'm starting to think that he's finished at Anfield. He hasn't progressed this year and I fear Rafa will move him on in the summer. He doesn't appear to have the desire to stake a claim to a spot in the team and I can't see Rafa picking a half hearted player ahead of a less talented but more committed player like Dirk. I hope Ryan proves me wrong. We've drawn Everton in the next round which is a bit of a kick in the teeth but we've shown we are capable of beating them easily enough over the last few seasons. To be honest, I would swap a cup exit for three points against them in the league at Anfield the week before.

It's back to the bread and butter of the league when the leaders visit the potteries to face Stoke this Saturday. They managed to frustrate us with a scoreless draw at Anfield and I'm sure Rafa and co will want revenge. This time we should have Torres back in the saddle. The fact that United face Chelsea at the weekend if a huge boost for us. A draw there or even a Chelsea win would please me greatly.
Pennant wants to go to Spain. To Atletico perhaps? I'm happy enough to see him leave for any club as he won't contribute anything for the rest of the season.

Lucas thanks Rafa for backing him. As mentioned above, the kid has improved a lot in recent games. He'll have a good chance to build on this in matches to come if Xabi is badly injured.

Icelandic midfielder Victor Palsson who plays for Aarhaus is being linked with a move to L4. It should get sorted sometime over the month.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Just when I thought everything was going so well...

Balls. It's all kicking off. That's brought things back down to earth with a bang. There doesn't seem to be too many details so far so I'll hold fire until I know more. He won't be the first premiership footballer to spend a night in a jail cell and won't be the last either. Could be trivial but could be quite serious.
Back to more pleasant thoughts like the fact that we hammered the toon 5-1. On the pitch, everything is coming together nicely. After some indifferent form, we're starting to click. That's 8 goals in our last two games. And it could have been way more here. Only for an in form Shay Given it could have been double figures. An outstanding Gerrard managed to score two. The second of which was the goal of the day. A sublime through ball from the impressive Lucas freed Gerrard beyond the full back where he casually dinked the ball over an onrushing Given after giving him the eyes. World class.

Much was made of how terrible Newcastle were. We must remember that this is the same Newcastle team that held Chelsea goalless at Stamford bridge and drew with Man Utd in Old Toilet? How is it that a Liverpool team that is often labeled as defensive and conservative managed to score five against them away from home? I like the fact that we spread the goals around. Babel scored the scuffiest goal of the year after the Newcastle defence stood still for 10 mins, giving him time to put it in at the second attempt. Sami got one from a Gerrard corner and went really close with a few more headed efforts. Xabi took the penalty that Ngog won as Stevie had been taken off. Ngog himself could have scored but his attempt was ruled out.

I'm very happy for Lucas. Rafa showed faith him him despite the Kop jeering his selection and introduction into matches. He's repaid Rafa's faith and was good against Arsenal and great against Newcastle. I'm hoping that he'll build on this form in the second half of the season. We're starting to see the box to box midfielder that was the youngest player ever to have won player of the year in Brazil.

On Saturday it's time for the third round of the FA cup so get ready for loads of cliches about magic and stuff. We drew Preston North End who we should be able to beat with the B team. If we lose, I don't care. We're all about the league this year.

This is a name that we've heard before. Doesn't mean that I can spell it properly so I won't even attempt it. He'll cost a lot of cash so I reckon there will have to be a few outgoings if we are to launch a bid for him.

Adam Hamill is on his way back to the club after a loan spell at Blackpool. He's an exciting winger who can play left or right so it would be great to see Rafa give him a go here for the second half of the season. We might see him used as an impact sub, the way El Zhar has appeared recently. He may even get a run out against Preston in the cup.

Danny Agger wants his contract sorted. Git it signed Rick.

Dion Fanning in the Irish Indo has written another great piece about Rafa and the job he's done at the club. He's one of the best Irish sports writers. Pity he writes for such a poor paper. Paul Tomkins looks into Rafa rotating his side over Christmas and decides it's not such a bad thing. Maximum points and loads of goals back up his decisions.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Premier league 80% won?

Three and easy would sum up the Bolton game. Robbie continued his form from the Arsenal match and scored two lovely goals, after Riera had opened the scoring. The boss was back in the stands after his operation, to preside over the beating. We're still top of the table at the halfway point, have the second best goal difference and all is rosy in the Anfield garden. How's that for festive cheer?

The team was set up somewhat differently to recent home matches. Javier sat on the bench and Dirk was put up beside Robbie. Riera and Yossi pushed on from the flanks, assisted by Insua, who was outstanding at left back again, and Carragher from the right. Xabi and Stevie were able to pull the strings in the middle. And it it worked like clockwork. I think this has proved that we need to commit the extra attacker against unambitious teams at home. Javier is fantastic but not really need in these games. I'm sure that he'll be back in the team against Newcastle on Sunday.
Will Rafa feel the need to mix it up with two games in 72 hours? In the past he definitely would have. One change that nobody will argue with is seeing Torres take a place on the bench. Rumour has it that he's ready and raring to go. About time, in fairness. We've missed him in all of our draws but I think the decision to leave him until he was right, was the correct decision. Newcastle lost to Wigan in their last match and they're a bit flakey but nowhere near the pushover that they were before Kinnear came in. He's put some backbone and fight into them. Let's hope that we don't see an Owen headline for the wrong reasons on Monday.

Voronin may make his move to Hertha Berlin permanent. Another player on loan has been doing well for his club Olympiakos. Watch Seb Leto score a great goals when he picks the ball up in his own half and runs the length of the pitch before scoring a belter.

Xabi had an interview in the daily mail which you can read here. Johnathon Wilson discusses our tactics and Rafa's manipulation of space, both at Valencia and now at Anfield. He's an interesting writer and his book on tactics is reputed to be a great read.

The Mirror suggest that Celtic have made a bid for Pennant who Madrid want too. I can't see him going anywhere as he can go for free if he stays until the summer. Meanwhile, the daily Mail think that AC Milan are after Dossena.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Red Robbie guns Gooners

Good man Robbie. Not bad for the €20m flop that he's been labeled. It was an astounding finish, not one from a player who has looked out of form and short on confidence at times this year. Together with van Persie's strike, there were some great goals on show for the neutral. 1-1 keeps us top but with Chelsea facing Everton, we'll need the toffees to do us a favour in order to stay there.

With Rafa back on his sick bed after his operation, Sammy Lee was the boss. He was disappointed with the draw. As was I Sammy. The win was there for the taking after the red card to Adebayor. John Giles on RTE said that the red card was fully justified for a studs up over the ball challenge which would have broken Arbeloas leg if it had made full contact. Graham Taylor on BBC 5live said it should have been a straight red. But our team seemed to respond negatively to the boon and Arsenal fought like Lions to preserve parity. Fair play to them but I think we could have caught them if we really pushed hard enough. We had them on the rack for most of the second half. We were the better team overall and created some great chances but as per usual this season, we didn't make them count. I do feel that if we had a fit Torres then there would clear daylight between us and the chasing pack rather than a point or two.

Aurelio was still injured as was Dossena so Insua took the left back berth and made it his own. He was superb and my man of the match. It was a really impressive display from the 19 year old. He raided down the left and delivered some great crosses. I would be quite happy so see him get a run of games there now.

Another who stepped up was Lucas in the midfield. Javier was struck down with flu so the Blonde Brazilian came in and put it up to the Arsenal midfield. He did have a few hairy moments in the first half but improved as the game went on. He will be happy with himself after that. It probably helped him that Fabregas went off injured at half time. You do need to have a squad of quality players in order to compete at this level and Lucas is improving as our fourth choice midfielder. I hope the crowd give him a chance.It's time to bash Bolton on Stephen's day. They are the kind of team that we should be able to put away easily but we've struggled badly against this season. I expect Javier will be back but we could have an even great boost if El Nino is fit enough for a place on the bench. It's very important that he's right when he does return so I wouldn't be in favour of rushing him back for Bolton.

Slovak hero Martin Skrtel is back in training. Be prepared for premier league defenders to develop sudden injuries before kick off at the thought of facing mighty Martin. He could feature against Bolton on Stephen's day.

Riera admits that we've been nervous at Anfield this season. This is an area in which we really need to improve if we're going to win the league. We need to make teams fear us rather than us fearing dropping points against inferior opposition.

The Mirror speculates that Pennant may be on his way to White Heart lane in a player plus cash deal for Aaron Lennon. Given that he can leave for free in the summer, Pennant isn't worth much more than about £2-3m now. Glen Johnson is due to be sold in January as Portsmouth have massive debts and has been linked with a move to L4. He would be a good signing for us and would provide cover and competition for Arbeloa. He's improved since he went to Portsmouth and seems to have left his toilet problems behind him. Plus the fact that he's English helps with the law changes for homegrown players.

The Champions League draw matches us with Real Madrid for the first time since the 1981 final. This is a classic tie against two European heavyweights. It won't be easy but Real aren't in great form now. Ramos may make a difference and they seem to be spending a lot of cash in Jan.

This is why the Keane to Spurs speculation is rubbish. It goes against Premier League rules. That seems to have slipped the minds of some of the hard working journo's who've been stirring this story recently.

Richard Williams has a really badly written piece in the guaridan on Rafa's tenure at LFC, full of half truths and speculation. Does anybody else feel that standards are dropping at the Guardian or is it just the sports dept?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Red in Dublin goes mobile

You can now get Red In Dublin news and views, plus scores, sports news and much more sent direct to you phone using a free mobile service called Natajak. All you need to do is CLICK HERE, register and install it on your mobile. Red In Dublin will be preinstalled so you will get any news updates we publish sent direct to your phone. Natajak can also be used to text, email and even share photos. Natajak make no charge for the service, it runs on most mobiles that can access the internet and works just about anywhere in the world.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Does anybody want to win the league?

2-2 at home against Hull isn't good enough. Fortunately, neither was Utd's draw with Spurs, Arsenal's draw with Boro or Chelsea's home draw with West Ham. It seems it's tough at the top for all of the big four this year. So the question remains, who wants to win the league title?

If we had put any sort of decent form together over the last half dozen games, we'd be 7 or more points clear rather than the solitary point we lead the table by now. One is the loneliest number as Amy Mann said. The lads showed considerable hunger and drive to come back from two down in an action packed first half. The captain struck again with two quality goals. But we weren't able to apply the finishing touch despite immense pressure and loads of possession. This has become a recurring theme against inferior opposition at home. Sami did hit the post and the Hull keeper pulled off some great saves but it didn't happen for us.On Sunday we'll be hoping to take a leaf out of Hull's book and win at the Emirates. Arsenal are in indifferent form, but so are we. It didn't stop them beating Utd and Chelsea this season. It would fit in with their current trend to get a poor result v Boro and then beat us. They do have quite a few injuries and their midfield is looking quite mediocre bar Fabregas, so we should have it in us to take all 3 points. But will we? All will be revealed on Sunday.

Rafa has rubbished reports in the S*n which said that our manager wrote off our title chances. Some of the red tops were trying to slate him for saying we couldn't win the league, which he didn't say, and then he was knocked for saying we've a great chance if we're still top after Christmas. The statics back him up as for the last four years, whoever is top after the Christmas period has won the title. Ramon Calderon finishes the Rafa review by saying that Madrid weren't trying to sign him.

Dossena reveals how Rafa has been helping him adapt to the league. He was at fault for McShane's goal on Sat. But he has been playing a hell of a lot better over the last few games. I hope he can regain his confidence and build a career in England. It would be a shame for him and the club if he had to return to Italy as a failure.

Kuyt never feels tired. You can understand that a statement like that is music to Rafa's ears. Terminator and Robocop have nothing on deadly Dirk. I wonder who Rafa would sign given the choice between Berbatov and Kuyt if money were no object?

Xabi is the league's pass master. He's been our player of the season and is making us tick in almost every match. The brain of the team.

Is Agger's agent trying to engineer a move away or just get extra money out of his contract talks? I would give him the money every time. The fact that he's been benched for Sami is slightly worrying. Does this suggest that the contract talks are going badly?

It seems that we're closing the gap on Utd in terms of worldwide fan base. A survey by Barcleys shows that we're level with them on 26% each. Get on.

I'll leave with a quote from the Argentine manager after Istanbul.

"Liverpool showed that miracles exist. They proved that football is the most beautiful sport of them all. After this game, my English team is going to be Liverpool. I came across some of their fans beforehand and they told me they were going to win, but that they would be made to suffer. It's just the way it happened. Liverpool are the best team in the world for what they have done in this Champions League. They deserved the Cup."

Diego Maradona

Monday, December 08, 2008

B team bonus

Abert Riera declared that he wanted us to finish the group stage in style. While he may have been disappointed with the first half, we certainly delivered in the second half, not least Riera himself who hit a stunning strike from distance. A 3-1 win away from home in the Champions League is always an achievement. When it's done without most of your first team regulars, that makes it even more impressive. The win made sure of top spot in the group on 14 points, which in theory should give us an easier draw on Friday 19th, but in reality the only bonus is the certainty that we play our second leg match at Anfield in the next round.

Robbie says he's going nowhere in Jan. I don't think that he was ever going to move, it was just paper talk. He was one of the notable performers last night in the second half and his through ball for N'Gog was sublime as was another where he set Lucas. He could have had a few goals if Babel and N'Gog had supplied him with the ball when he was in good positions. He came under some fire for his moaning over not receiving the ball but many premiership players do the same thing such as Gerrard now and Cantona in his day.

Lucas said that he wanted to repay the faith that Rafa has shown in him. The boss said that the Brazilian's performance was outstanding, as was that of N'Gog. Dossena built on his good showing against West Ham with another convincing performance at left full. Now we are starting to see some of the form that made him the Italian left back and Rafa pay £7m for him. Some of his crossing and attacking runs were fantastic.

It was great to see the Scouse kids getting a run out towards the end. I'm sure all of the academy players were looking on with pride when they saw their erstwhile team mates Darby, Kelly and Spearing, play in the worlds biggest club competition. I'm sure that Rafa will give them a chance in the FA cup if he feels it's worth the risk.Hull city represent tough test at Anfield this Saturday afternoon. We've seen too many teams park the bus and succeed in frustrating a scoreless draw out of us. We can't let this happen again. Fortunately, I don't think that Hull will pack their defence to the same degree which should leave gaps for us to exploit. Their ambition to do to us what they did to Arsenal could be their undoing. I expect the big guns who were rested v PSV, like Gerrard, Alonso and Kuyt, will come back for this league match, fitness permitting.

It sounds like Babel was so desperate for some more game minutes that he asked his agent to organise a loan back to his first club of Ajax. It was unsuccessful. One player who could be on his way to Holland could be Jordy Brower of the reserve team. Utrecht officials have mentioned him as a possible transfer target in Jan. I don't think that there would be too many tears shed if he were to return to his homeland as it would give the likes of Ince, Della Valle and others a chance to get a look in with the reserves.

Press reports suggest that contract talks between Rafa and the board have gone well and he'll sign a new 5 year deal in the next few days. This will be the most important signing of the season by far when it happens. Fingers crossed.

On the subject of new contracts, Galliani of AC Milan is denying comments attributed to him recently saying that he wanted to buy Danny Boy Agger. I really hope that Parry gets the finger out and signs him up to a new contract asap. This kid is a star and will be one of the best defenders in Europe in years to come. It will be a disgrace if we let him go on the cheap.

Ian Rush looks back on the career of Sami and declares him a red legend. It takes one to know one but I don't think that there would be any argument about Hyypia. Not bad for £2.5m almost 10 years ago.

Matt Hughes in the Times has a ridiculous piece on Rafa's transfers. There's so much wrong with this article that I don't know where to start. Journos have it easy, getting paid money to write shite like that. Hilarious.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Robbieless reds rout rovers

LFC are back to winning ways with a 3-1 win away at Blackburn. At half time I was afraid that it was going to be yet another one of those days where we struggled to break down a packed defence. Pepe had kept us in the game with a superb save from Pederson after 30 mins. But in the second half Blackburn came at us a bit more and gaps opened. We exploited them to take our first win in three league matches, a win which keeps us a point clear at the top of the league. "Everybody's chasing Liverpool" as the commentator said yesterday. If we're still top in Jan I'll let myself get excited, for now it's a case of one game at a time.

Xabi opened the scoring after the hour mark with a shot which he passes into the net. Xabi was back to his best after a few mediocre performances. Yossi added the second after beating Warnock on the edge of the area, he shot past Robinson to place the ball inside the far post. Rafa will be annoyed that Santa Cruz was allowed to pull one back with a close range header for them with a few minutes to go. Stevie G put the icing on the cake after being set up by Riera.

Insua made a start and played really well in the absence of the injured Aurelio. He looked at home in the first team and added a lot going forward. He looks a safer bet than Dossena at the this stage. Yossi did well with his goal and could have had another in the first half only for a vital challenge from Warnock. But he is surely a squad player rather than somebody you rely on every week. Babel did alright with a few runs but could have contributed more. Setanta were getting ready to lambaste Rafa for not starting Keane if we didn't win. I'm hoping that Robbie will see this as a warning that nobody is guaranteed a place despite their price tag and step up his end product. It's the final match of the champions league this week and PSV host Liverpool FC knowing that they can't make it through to the last 16. We could do with banging a few goals in to improve our goal difference, which will enable us to finish ahead of Atleti, who face a harder journey to Marseille. The goals haven't really been flowing for us recently so this is a good chance to turn that around with a prize awaiting us if we can. Agger will come back in for Sami as the Finn isn't registered for the Champions league this year. I expect that Keane will be given a start and hopefully will repay that with goals.

It sounds like Gerrard is maturing when it comes to his position on the pitch. He is no longer demanding where he wants to be played. I'm glad to hear it. In the past I thought he was too selfish in trying to dictate where he should be played. That's a decision for Rafa to make, not Gerrard, not Jamie Redknapp, not Andy Gray nor anybody else.

Ince junior helped the youth team to advance to the next round of the FA youth cup by beating Leeds 2-1. It would be great if they could make a run in the competition this year. There are some very highly rated players in their ranks.

Torres has gone to Spain in search for a cure to his hamstring problems. There are mixed reports as to how long he might be out for. One suggests he'll be back in the new year with another saying he could be back for the Christmas programme. While we needs his goals, his long term fitness is more important.

Argentine kid Zuculini won't be making his way to Anfield just yet apparently. English kid Hammill will be coming back in January according to Sky. Maybe Rafa sees him as an impact sub on the left the same way he uses El Zhar on the right at the moment.

Tony Barett in the Echo suggests that Dubai may have dropped their interest in the club as cash for big investments isn't readily available anymore. If this is accurate then we could be in big trouble. The Times has a similar story. There may be trouble ahead.

The FA won't be taking actions against Liverpool over the Michael Shields demonstration. If you want to examine the facts and evidence which is stacked in Michael's favour, I suggest checking out the BBC inside out documentary on him here. Very informative. I'm very happy that the club have taken a stand here and backed one of their own. Unusual to see a premier league club make a decision like that without a financial motive behind it. Lawrence Donegan in the Guardian has a well thought out piece on the subject.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Liverpool slip up - to the top

If I were Benitez I would be asking myself, what more do you want? We're a point clear at the top of the table. Before the season we were tipped to be the club to finish 5th by many pundits. Yet we lead the league and there were boos at Anfield last night. Tough crowd.

We created chances here but again failed to finish them off. This has been the problem against unambitious teams at home this year. They are well within their rights to play for a point, but we've made it too easy for them by not being clinical enough. Sami went very close with some headers and they cleared off the line twice. Green was in superb form and made some amazing saves. The ref and linesman seemed to ignore multiple handball offences from the left back which didn't help. If there's one area that we lack in, it's breaking down a packed defence. Often we have to rely on a moment of magic from Torres or Gerrard.

Rafa called on the team to show no fear. It's a fair point as we've looked nervous in quite a few of our recent matches. He's implored the fans to be supportive and patient. He obviously noticed it against OM, as I did sitting in the Main stand. The start of the match had a good atmosphere but it deteriorated in the second half and was flat by the end. The booing at the end of the West Ham took this to another level. Best fans in the world? Not in my book. Gerrard says they deserve a title. I hope it gets delivered.Rafa took time out to back Keane today. He's having a hard time of it at the moment but his on pitch moaning when he gets subbed isn't doing him any favours. Any player who isn't performing at a big club can expect to be subbed. Look at the Man Utd striker situation.

The victory over Marseille was achieved at a cost. Both Torres and Aurelio are out for a few weeks. We'll definitely miss El Nino. It's a chance for other players to step up. We'll need them to take the opportunity. Dossena did just that and was great last night. He had by far his best game for us and delivered dangerous crosses all game. If only some of the players could have got on the end of them. The news that Xabi is committing his future to the reds is a relief. Hopefully that is the end of the Barry story.

Blackburn are in poor form so we would really wanting to be doing them at Ewood park on Saturday. But then again, West Ham and Fulham had terrible away form when they came to Anfield and they both got draws out of it. I reckon we really need to improve on breaking down a packed defence. That is the one area where Arsenal, Chelsea and Utd are well ahead of us. Too often, we have to rely on a moment of magic from Torres or Gerrard to make the breakthrough.

Zola spoke of his respect for Carragher in the pre match press conference. I loved Zola as a player. I hope he does well in management except when he plays us.

I've heard the name Zuculini a few times recently. He's a young Argentine midfielder that ourselves and Utd are supposed to be after. One player who won't be arriving at Anfield is Michael Owen. Rafa ruled out a move this week. I don't think it would be a smart move considering his injuries and wages.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mission accomplished

I know how to pick them don't I? That was a boring match to chose for my first game at Anfield this year. A 1-0 win assured qualification for the next round but it wasn't a game that will live long in my memory. Nice goal but a terrible performance.

The manager described the second half as scary. No argument. As has happened a few times this year, we should have put them away when we were dominant, and when we didn't get the killer second goal, we sat back and let them back into the game. It didn't help that Xabi and Javier were off form and didn't control the midfield as they usually do. Both players misplaced quite a few passes which is uncharacteristic.

Rafa has a few injury headaches ahead of the West Ham game on Monday. Torres and Aurelio are out for a few weeks. Dossena will come in at left back and will have to improve on his recent performances. Robbie will fill in for El Nino up top. It's going to be a good opportunity to get a run of games and establish himself. I'm hoping that he takes it with both hands.

Benitez is happy that Gerrard didn't react when hit by a lighter from the Marseille fans. Oli Kay in the times looks back at the captains 10 years since he made his debut as a sub against Blackburn.

Rafa says he expects to see more from Babel this season. We all do. He has so much talent that it'll be a crime if he doesn't make it. I think Rafa should give him more starts.

Tony Barrett in the Echo explores the academy and it's recent lack of first class graduates. Everton have had much more success then we have in recent times.

It appears as if Gerrard has taken up one the pastimes of the landed gentry, albeit with a LFC slant. Good ad.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Opportunity cost

I hate to say it, but I think that Rafa missed a trick yesterday. With Chelsea and Utd being held to draws in winnable games, we could have gone two points clear if we beat Fulham. It was a fantastic opportunity, one which is unlikely to come along too often this season. Rafa knows we messed up. I think the decision to start Lucas alongside Mascherano backfired. The service from the pair of them wasn't good enough to feed the strikers. When they did get the ball, they didn't take the chances. I know Xabi played for Spain this week, and may have been tired or carrying a knock, but we really missed his invention, especially with Gerrard out injured.

The boss will have to get the squad over it in time for the Marseille match on Wed. It isn't a formality but it's not a do or die match either. Atleti and LFC are pretty much qualified. It's just a case of who will finish top and get the easier draw in the last 16. Hopefully we can knock a few past Marseille and get revenge for them beating us at Anfield last season. This match is going to be my first trip to the hallowed turf of L4 this season and I'm quite excited about attending a champions league game there.

Xabi's current form is drawing plaudits. Rafa was gushing in his praise for the Basque midfielder after the Bolton game. This is back up with his best form ever in my view.

Rafa and I are of the same mind on ground share. I think this has only re entered the public domain as the Americans are experiencing funding difficulties at the moment. If they are bought out then I'm hoping that will the end of that and construction will begin in earnest. I don't think ground share is an option as both clubs and both sets of fans are against it.

Arbeloa is being linked with Atletico. I've been impressed with him over the last few years even though he has had a few poor matches. Get it sorted and give him a new contract Parry.

It sounds like Voronin would be happy to stay in Germany, if the money is right. I don't think that there will be any tears shed on Merseyside if that comes to pass.

Skrtel has said confirmed that he's happy in England and not looking to move back to Russia. There were claims earlier in the week that he hadn't settled. His recovery from injury seems to be coming along nicely. Rafa is going to have some tough decisions to make when he's fully fit.

Football 365 have an article on Aldo. He was always a favourite of mine growing up as he was Irish and Red. Here he is in action along with the class of 88, from before Sky invented football in 1992.

Friday, November 14, 2008

No place is safe

Megson was tipping us for the league before the match. After that win we've moved inches closer, but we're still miles away. We're jumping all of the hurdles being put in front of us but there's much of the race yet to be won.

A 2-0 away win sounds routine, and it was. We created a whole host of chances and could have won 6-2. Gerrard, Lucas, Torres and Keane all missed glaring chances to put a gloss on the victory. Thankfully, deadly Dirk struck again and Gerrard headed a fine goal after a sublime cross from substitute Torres. Dirk had another superb game to continue his fine form this season. He took his goal fantastically well, a header from a great Aurelio cross, and saw a venomous shot crash back off the bar. Nicely done Dirk.

Rafa wants the squad to know that nobody is guarenteed a place. That includes Fernando Torres. The battle for a starting spot is really heating up. Nando will have to fight for a place when he returns from International duty. Let's hope he doesn't get injured this time. Gerrard won't be joining up with England as he's injured.

Once the tedium of a midweek international friendly is over, Fulham will be making their way to Anfield. We've a decent record over them in recent years and they tend not to do as well on the road. After that it's Marseille in L4. I'm really looking forward to the game as I'm making my first pilgrimage of the season and it'll be my first european game at the old ground. Can't wait.

Rafa has begun contract talks which is great news. Pennant looks to be on his way out of the club in January. To Bolton perhaps? A former target, Gareth Barry, is being linked with a move to Spurs now. Given the way Xabi has been playing, I hope we don't revive our interest.

Paul Tomkins on the official site has an interesting article on transfers and how long it can take for players to settle and deliver. He has a great list of players who were labeled flops but went on to be huge successes. It should be required reading for those who are writing off Robbie Keane already. A mate of mine told me that "it will all end in tears". I hope and predict that he'll be wrong.

Man Utd fan and former shareholders united member Keith Harris is predicting financial doom for us and advises a ground share with Everton.

Another Man Utd fan, the incredibly nerdy and boring Bill Edgar in the Times, says that we won't sustain a title challenge as we don't have the strength in depth. Has anybody else noticed how much better the Game podcast is this season now that he's been fired from it? Boring fool.

Ian Doyle in the post focuses on the academy and the rift between it and Melwood. This has been discussed by others like Dave Usher on the Liverpool way. It is a bit worrying and would be great if it gets sorted.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

We need to talk about Andrea

Rafa felt the time was right to unleash his sinister rotation policy on the Carling cup. I saw this on a Liverpool forum and thought it was perfect. The boss used the opportunity of the Spurs match to bench some of the top players like Stevie, who needs a rest according to Rafa. Unfortunately, the reserves and fringe players took their opportunity with both hands - to show us that they're not good enough. It's only the carling cup so it doesn't hurt much but it's annoying to see the team perform so badly.

Agger said it wasn't good enough. He's not wrong. Not impressed with Dossena. But given how highly the Italians and Don Fabio himself rate him, there must be more to him than we've seen so far. But he has been fairly shit so far. I thought he was gradually improving but he was rubbish last night, as was Degen. If Arbeloa or Aurelio gets injured, which is quite likely in the latter case, we could be in trouble. Insua looks a better bet than Dossena at the moment. Maybe Dossena will go on to prove us wrong, or maybe Rafa will see he's not working here and cut his losses, as he did with Morientes and Josemi, and sell him in the summer.
The problem Rafa now faces is who to select against at right back against Bolton as Arbeloa is suspended. The options appear to be, play right back Degen or Darby, or move Carragher across from the centre and bring Sami in the middle, alongside Agger. The latter is more likely I reckon. If we go for option a, we can expect Bolton to put Davies on Degen/Darby and launch and aerial bombardment. If we have Carra out there then he'd be well able for it. Hopefully Torres will benefit from the run out and look sharper on Sat morning. We should have more than enough to batter them.

The A Liverpool thing blog has a feature on Fracisco Duran. Insert your own 80's joke here.

Riera has discussed the Spanish players and their use of English. Rafa seems very insistent on this and rightfully so. Speaking of Rafa, Stan Collymore doesn't think that Rafa deserves a new contract. Stan for manager. Tool.

Torres has reiterated that he has no desire to move anywhere else. He's a committed red and is staying here for a long time to come. Great news.

Investment banker Keith Harris reckons that the Americans may be forced to sell in January. Let's hope he's right.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Dublin double downs Bagies

Robbie's happy. Rafa's happy. The fans are happy after watching this. Back on top of the league and all is rosy in the red half of Merseyside.

Well done Keane lad. It's been a long time coming but two quality strikes from Robert gave us a glimpse of what's to come from him. We all knew that the talent was there and that the goals would follow sooner or later. It was a little bit later than I'd have liked but he had been playing well and setting up goals for others, while not scoring himself. He looked really up for it on Sat, even before he scored. Once the first went in, he got hungry for more. Gerrard fed him with a beautiful ball for the first goal. I would imagine that he was slightly disappointed to be subbed when on two goals but Torres needs game time and we know team comes first for Rafa.

So we're back on top with Chelsea. I had hoped that Blackburn might take something from them but that was always unlikely I suppose. Utd betting beaten by Arsenal was great news. They're 8 points off the top now which is significant, but not insurmountable.

It's Carling cup this week which always gets the pulses racing. Spurs will be up for it to try and maintain the momentum they've built up in the league. I expect we'll see some of the kids on reserves on display so we might be heading for a beating. As is always the case with the domestic cups, to win a bonus but to lose is never a disaster.It appear that Torres and Babel were busy while they were out injured. They've both opened business in Clapham, south London. Fine entrepreneurs.

Alonso is once again being linked with a move, this time Valencia are said to be the club sniffing around. He's been superb this season so I hope that Rafa decides to keep him at Anfield.

Dossena is unhappy with his own form. I do think there is room for improvement there but he has being showing signs of a gradual upturn in recent weeks. The left back spot is up for grabs now if he or Aurelio can put a consistent run of form together.

Rafa thinks Maradona will make the correct choice in giving Mascherano the armband. The legend himself visited Melwood on Fri and all of the players got their photos taken with him. No sign of those snaps anywhere yet.

El Zhar scored a fantastic goal for the reserves in a 2-1 defeat to City this week. Nathan Ecclestone scored a hat trick for the u-18s when they beat Bolton 5-0. Their next game is against City.

Kerrison, the young Brazilian striker, is being linked to us again. I don't know anything much about this kid bar hearing Tim Vickery talking about him on the BBC 5live world football phone in.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Just deserts?

A late goal which turns a loss into a draw can feel like a win. That was the case here. We couldn't make our early dominance pay, they scored and we god lucky with the equaliser. It keeps us joint top of the group which is the bottom line. If we can out score them in the remaining matches against PSV and Marseille, we'll go through as group winner. Either way, it's going to be LFC and Atleti.

The ref had a bit of a stinker. Besides the controversial penalty at the end, he missed two earlier hand balls which could have made it a lot easier for us. But these things happen I suppose. Atletico had a few claims of their own. They were very lucky that we didn't hammer them in the first match so maybe the luck evened out a bit here with us getting a soft peno.

We could and should have won it given the amount of chances we created. Agger alone could have had a hat trick. Robbie Keane had a good chance following an amazing Alonso pass but his shot was wide. Robbie also had a good opportunity when 1 v 1 with Franco. Riera had a lovely volley which went narrowly wide. But our finishing was poor and they made us pay with a fantastic goal from Maxi, a good player, who we've been linked to in the past. After they took the lead, it was easier for Ateltico to sit back and hit us on the break with pace, like they did for the opener.

Rafa's happy enough that it was a peno. I'm not convinced. I think that there was contact but Gerrard definitely made the most of it. If it was given against us I would be pissed off. I can understand why Stevie did what he did but I don't condone it.

King Luis was looking forward to the match beforehand. He got a few minutes at the end and got to say a proper goodbye to the Kop, which he didn't get when he went to Atletico. The old song got a run out - Luis Garcia, he drinks sangria.
West Brom give us a good opportunity to get over the Spurs loss when they visit Anfield on Saturday. We really need a win here to get back on track. We may even have El Nino back. He was in the squad here but didn't make the bench. I think Rafa is right in not taking a chance on his fitness. Let him take his time and get properly fit.

Do these comments from Gillett sound like he's ready to sell or is it just more guff? The latter I fear.

Jorge "shit on a stick" Valdano says that Mascherano is possibly the best midfielder in the world. I love Javier.

New deals for Dirk and Agger. Andy Hunter in the Guardian has written an article on Kuyt's upturn in form this season. He didn't have his best game last night but by and large, he's been very good this year and deserves his place in the team.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

White heart pain

Ouch. That's gotta hurt. It does. Now I know how gooners felt after the 4-4 draw last week. Fairplay 'Arry and all that but we should have had this in the bag long before the end of the match. We hit the woodwork three times but didn't get the vital second goal. We aren't great at finishing teams off this season. By not establishing a 2 or 3 goals cushion, we give the opposition a chance to make a comeback. That was what happened here. I feel that if we had El Nino fit, he would have put at least one or two of the chances away. We were always going to suffer a poor result on the back of our best player being out. As it happened, we've managed to go on a fantastic run without him for most of the season so far.

Let's take stock. We're still joint top of the league, having beaten our two main rivals without our best player. That's more than almost every red would have hoped for at the start of the season. We've lost one game, not the league. Our next four games are West Brom, Bolton, Fulham and West Ham. Novembers have been black for us in the past but I'm hoping that we can move beyond that this year and get maximum points from those games to remain joint top, or better if Chelsea slip up.

Redknapp admits that they got lucky after being under the cosh for so long. I can't argue with him but it's a lot easier to be magnanimous after winning.

On the plus side, Torres should be back soon and we have a handy run of games coming up. Dossena had a good match and is slowly improving his form, although he should have done much better for the second goal. He has underwhelmed us so far but I hope he'll kick on to show us his Udinese and Italian international form in time. It was good to see Robbie and Dirk link up well for Dirks goal. He's scoring a lot more regularly this year which is great. Robbie still looks a little goal shy and seems reluctant to take on a shot at times. I know he was carrying a knock and the lone striker role doesn't suit him that much. Fernando back should help him by creating more space for him to exploit.

Let's see how the team can turn themselves around after the first defeat of the season, starting with Atleti on Tue. If we can beat them, which we should be able to, we'll be safe for the second round and almost guaranteed to top the group. Hopefully we'll see EL Nino get a few mins.

Oliver Kay in the TImes has a piece loking back at the team Rafa had on his first premiership game in charge against Spurs, over four years ago. The Guardian got five legends of yesteryear together to compare their teams to Rafa's.

Rafa wants to talk to Hicks and Gillett about a new contract. Don't blame him. Get it sorted you pair of pricks.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pompey pay penalty

That's about as run of the mill as they come. Consequently, there's not a huge amount to say about it. I couldn't find a decent stream until half time so I missed most of the first half. From what I saw in the second, we played well but struggled to get the breakthrough when Bouba Diop punched the ball and Stevie converted the peno. I think it's the type of game that has given us problems in the past when teams sit 10 behind the ball and force us to break them down. But we got the break through here and looked slightly nervous afterwards which was unnecessary.

Babel had a good match and gave their right back loads of problems. He looks back to full fitness and it was a good match to start him in, given that the regular right back Johnson was out injured. Agger, Keane, Riera and Javier all got a rest allowing Sami, Pennant, Lucas and Babel to start. I would imagine we'll see something similar once we've qualified for the knock out phases of the Champions League.

The north London derby seems to have been the game to watch last night. I only saw highlights but Arsenal should have won it easily well before time. Spurs defence and goalie look fairly poor. I have a little soft spot for Spurs and wouldn't like to see them go down but I would have preferred their renaissance under 'Arry to have waited a week or two until after our visit to White Heart Lane. I don't think it'll be easy on Sat but I'll be confident of us scoring more than them, especially with the possibility of El Nino back in action.

It's good to see other fans are writing us off. That way we can sneak in under the radar, like some sort of stealth fighter or the Red October submarine. I loved the sound effects in that film.

This is Anfield have a feature on young Aussie goalie, Dean Bouzanis. I know that he's highly rated at the club and seen as one for the future.

Messi says that we are Barcelona's biggest rivals for the Champions League which is flattering. He's more than welcome to come and join us any time he gets sick of FCB.

Gillett has been talking shite about the stadium and the fans. What's new?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Stamford Bridge has fallen down

Rafa is appealing for calm. Well I for one, intend to lose the run of myself. Look at this. It's a sight for sore eyes.
An 86 game unbeaten record at Stamford bridge came crashing down with our 1-0 win. Glorious. It's a pity Jose wasn't still around to see it. But more than that, we layed down a marker that we are going to title contenders as long as we can keep this form up, or at least, recover quickly when our form dips, which it inevitably will at some stage. Can we do it? Maybe. Will we do it? I think that depends on Hicks on Gillett more than anyone. Don't be surprised if they fuck us up by selling players or sacking Rafa at a crucial moment. I'm more worried about that than matters on the pitch destabilising us.

Rob Smyth in the Guardian match report suggests that Boswinga was less inclined to rampage forward due to "the considerable threat of the excellent Albert Riera." Henry Winter in the Telegraph says of Riera "if Bosingwa suffers a recurring nightmare over the next month it will involve a deft Spaniard ghosting past him." He had a great game. But Xabi was man of the match for me. He was superb. THe fact that he scored a deflected goal makes up for a few deflected Lampard and Joe Cole goals that Chelsea have scored against us. I am so happy that he didn't leave for Juve and I hope he goes on to spend many years here. Gerrard had a fine game too, probably his best of the season. He's sometimes accused of not showing it against the other big 4 clubs. No way that could be leveled at him yesterday. John Giles was full of praise for the captain on RTE tv.

The BBC blogger Phil McNulty suggested that a win would suggest that our start to the campaign wasn't another false dawn. So it has proved to be, so far. We're top and three points clear of Chelsea. Utd fell further behind by drawing with the blueshite at Goodison which makes the weekend even sweeter. Rafa says that it's a massive win. It is indeed Rafa. Before this game, Rafa hadn't beaten a top four side away from home in the league. That coupled with the fact that Chelsea haven't lost at home in four years make it something of a red letter day. I'm really happy that we managed to beat both Utd and Chelsea without Torres and Utd without Gerrard too. 6 points from 6 against top 4 opposition so far. This shows the strength of the squad that Rafa has developed. Henry Winter reckons that the gaffa was central to the win. "Liverpool were all heart, lungs and flying feet but the key factor was the mind of Benitez".

John Giles said that we were far better than Chelsea on the day and deserved the victory. I find it hard to argue with him. They created very little of note. "We didn't expect the result, but need to understand that Liverpool are a very good team," Scolari said. "Benítez is intelligent. He knows and I know that we don't have a two-metre centre-forward, so they gave us space, but when we crossed they have players who are very good at winning the ball." So Rafa let them cross, knowing that we could deal with it, and then we could win the ball back and channel it down the middle where Javier, Stevie and Xabi dominated Lampard, Mikel and Deco bar the end of the first half. Clever. Carragher and Agger were rocks at the back. Nothing got past them and Pepe didn't have too much to do.

It was hilarious to see England's Lionheart John Terry shit his pants when he was confronted by Pepe. He was well able to stick the elbow in when Reina had us eye on the ball, but once Pepe squared up to him he ran off to hide behind the ref. Such courage.
As Rafa said, we need to keep it going against Portsmouth on Wed. We slipped up badly against Stoke after beating Utd. Let's not let the same h=thing happen here. I'm hoping they'll be vulnerable with 'Arry gone. But Defoe and Crouch are going to be dangerous. Crouch is going to want to prove a point.

Here is some footage of Atleti and LFC supporters exchanging scarves and embraces at the Calderon on Wednesday night. Good to see. We're making friends all over Europe, as happened when the Barcelona fans visited Anfield last year.

Ryan Babel on the mike in case you've missed it. He had an impressive cameo when he came on against Chelsea. I hope to see him add a few more of those over the next few weeks.

Andy Gray reckons that Rafa could cost us the title. He is a blue nosed bullshitter. What's he saying now? Prick. He must be sick having to praise us.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Robbie's mixed bag

Rafa's not happy. Neither am I, to be honest. While an away draw in Spain isn't a disaster by any means, given how the match went, we should have put it beyond doubt at half time. We created loads of chances in the first half but only took one. As a result we let a ragged Atletico regain confidence and come back at us in the second half. They got their equaliser at the depth and they deserved it but we shouldn't have given them the opportunity to retrieve the match.

Robbie Keane mixed the sublime and the ridiculous. He did superbly well with a through ball from Gerrard to finish below Franco and give us an early lead. It was great to see him go one on one with the keeper and put it away. Well done Robert. But he undid the good work by trying to be too clever with a ball crossed from the right, and attempted to flick it when a sidefoot or tap in would have put it away and the game beyond doubt. As it happened, his miss left it open and we were made to pay for our profligacy. Annoying.

We did make a few more chances and had a goal disallowed when yossi was incorrectly ruled offside. The linesmen had a bit of a shocker and ruled a legitimate goal out for Atleti too. Babel went very close with a diving header from a superb Kuyt cross which went just past the post. Dossena whipped some wicked balls in from the left and had probably his best game for us, after a long bedding in period. It's still early days for him and he has a long way to go but I think there are signs that's he's adapting to the defensive system and gradually improving.

So we now have 7 points in the group with our hardest games out of the way. It looks like it will definitely be us and Atletico to progress but we'll probably need to beat them at Anfield to be guaranteed top spot and the favourable draw in the knockout round.

Eamo Dunphy on RTE was unimpressed. He reckons that LFC have "no chance of challenging for the premier league at all. "The back four's poor. Agger's a poor player, Arbeloa's a shocking player". I hope that we go onto prove him wrong this year. This is the same man that said we had no chance of winning the Champions League in 2005 and promised to retire if we won. Unfortunately, he's not a man of his word. It's a pity that he didn't as he used to be a good pundit but he's now merely a parody of himself, courting controversy, making up facts and figures and ignoring all evidence on the pitch. Being outspoken is more important to him than being correct.

Sid Lowe reports that there was great camaraderie between the home and away fans in the Calderon, which is fantastic. There were some worries beforehand, given the trouble in the Atletico v Marseille match. The two sets of fans joined in Torres chants and the Atleti faithful gave Gerrard a huge ovation when he was withdrawn with an injury.

Stamford Bridge and Chelsea is a daunting prospect for Sunday lunch. I expect that Torres won't be fit in time so it'll probably be Keane up top and Kuyt or Gerrard behind him. Xabi was superb against Atleti and I hope that he's recovered in time for the bridge. He's come in for some tasty tackles so far this season and I wouldn't be surprised to see Lampard trying to break his ankle again. I would snap your hand off for a draw now as it's possibly the most difficult game of the year. Utd at Old Trafford is in or around the same but Chelsea have a stunning home record. Could we be the first ones in years to break that record? I doubt it to be honest. We would have had a fair chance with El Nino but I think that a draw is the best we can hope for without him. Charlie Nicholas reckons we've no chance of winning the title.

Have a look at the kids. The Academy team drew 2-2 away to Utd after being 2-1 down. This is the first time I've seen highly rated players like Amoo and Pepper on camera.

Could this article by Tony Evens mean that the Americans are admitting defeat? We've been around the block with this so many times that I'm not counting any chickens yet. Let's hope that the Sheikh is still interested and Hicks and Gillett lower the asking price given the current financial climate. This could be an interesting twist, but will probably come to nothing.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Keeping the faith

Another 3-2 victory. This is becoming a habit. Coming form behind has become almost predictable. Did that make it easier to keep the faith on Saturday? Maybe so. Even when we were behind, I thought that we've been here before and got out of it. But while a comeback was somewhat predictable, a win against a Steve Bruce side wasn't, as it's something that's evaded Rafa over the last 4 seasons.

Going 1-0 down wasn't the ideal way to start the match. Agger looked a bit rusty and a poor touch left him in trouble with Zaki bearing down on him. The Egyptian stole the ball and finished beyond Pepe. Not clever. Agger showed his mettle by running the length of the pitch before setting up Dirk for the equaliser. Great way to show his mental fortitude or moral courage, if you prefer.

Albert Riera got the second equaliser to open his LFC account. A mighty strike, and with his right foot, no less. The winger has made a telling contribution since his arrival but I'm happy to see him get off the mark at Anfield.

The ruling out through injury of Torres and Babel during the international break was a major blow. But thankfully we had deadly Dirk deliver a dutch double. He could have had a hat trick had an earlier effort not been palmed onto the crossbar by Kirkland. Rafa really went for it by taking off both full backs and bringing Benayoun and El Zahr on, the latter making a great contribution to the winner. Kuyt now has three league goals for the season, more than he scored all of last year. Add that to his goals against Liege and PSV, and it's a rich vein of form for the Dutch destroyer. He reckons we can go all the way to number 19. I think it's too early to say. The match against Chelsea on Sunday should give us more of an indication.

Atletico Madrid are going to provide some stiff opposition on Wednesday night. The match is back in the Calderon which is great news for our fans who would have been screwed if it had been moved to Valenica or somewhere else. I'm looking forward to seeing Sergio Aguero perform, but hopefully he won't have a great night. It looks as if Javier will be back and Babel may be fit but Torres won't which is very unfortunate for el Nino. I'm sure it would have felt like a dream come true for him to be walking out in the Calderon again. But now he'll have to make do with a seat in the stands. I reckon we could be looking at a draw on Wednesday.

Some elements in the press linked Heskey with a return to LFC in January. Barrett in the echo says that a move is very unlikely, as are any signings unless they are preceded by sales. Pennant's refusal to move to Blackburn in August put paid to any spare change knocking around the club kitty.

Guillem Ballague effuses about some of our young talent on his blog. He rates Pacheco but thinks that he may be too small for England and will end up back in Spain.

Anelka reckons that Everton are shit. It's not really LFC related, it's just funny.

Have a listen to this. Sounds like the real Rafa, Stevie and Carra.

Tony Barrett in the Echo had an interesting piece comparing the strength in depth that we have now compared to when Rafa arrived four years ago. Our opponents in his first match were City and the bench consisted of Diao, Biscan, Pongolle, Warnock and Harrison. Last week, also against City, our bench was Keane, Yossi and Dossena who all came on and made a contribution to the comeback, and unused subs of Agger, Cavalieri, Babel and Lucas. Stark contrast which goes to show how much Rafa has improved the squad.

The "A Liverpool thing" blog has a translated interview with Dossena. He talks about settling in the team, the city and the training.

101 great goals has a video containing Gerrard's first 100 goals for the club. Hopefully it'll be boosted by a few more goals this year.

Xabi is leaving the door open for a move to Juve, despite Ranieri saying our boy Xab is too slow for Serie A. It seems quite likely that Ranieri may not be the boss for too long at the Della Alpi, so the next man may have the final say on a move.

The Guardian have an interesting piece on the history of terrace fan culture and the part the Kop played in starting singing in the early sixties.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Comeback kings

Rafa will not be happy tonight. Yes we won before staging a stunning second half comeback, we allowed city to establish a two goal lead at half time. That is a cardinal sin according to the gaffa. But that is the third time in the league this season where we've been behind and have comeback to win the game. The Marseille match was the same. Impressive, no? Rafa's new phrase is "on fire". I think he could safely say it about us now.

We were fairly shit in the first half and made some stupid defences mistakes to enable Ireland and Garrido to score. Pepe will be pissed off with himself for the free kick he conceded at the near post. It was doom and gloom at Eastlands when the half time oranges were being consumed. I expect that some journos were getting their pieces ready about Liverpool's title challenge only lasting until October. Alas for them, Torres and Kuyt had something to say. Three second half goals means that we're still joint top of the table. That was stirring stuff. El Nino looks to be regaining his form after a sluggish start. Ands we scored a goal directly from a corner, wonders will never cease. I'm very happy to see Dirk get the winner. It followed some great build up play by Yossi, another inspired Rafa sub. He get so much stick that it's great to see him score a winner and get some praise. He made for a terrible miss earlier in the match by hitting his first league goal of the season. I love the guy but there are games against the weaker teams when I don't think he's needed. It's been a good week for him though. Could this be true?

Riera had a good match. He looked dangerous on the left and caused the city defence lots of problems. Poor Marty Skrtel was taken off injured with his leg in a brace. He landed awkwardly on it and was in fierce pain when he fell and stayed down. It would have to be serious to keep Skrtel out of the line of fire. The upside is that we should get to see more of Dagger playing if Skrtel is out for some time.
Speaking of our great dane, Real want Agger according to sky who are picking up on a story in the UK press. Ballague discusses the rumours on his website and reckons that it's not cut and dry.

After the international we'll face Wigan who are doing well so far this year. I assume Skrtel will be out. Any chance of Degan being back soon? Slim. Let's hope we don't pick up anymore international injuries.

Chelsea are being linked with the newest of new Zidanes, a player we've been linked to in the past.

Aldo is worried about the American owners. Me too John. Parry says the stadium is being delayed due to credit crunch. The worst part is that I fear we'll be stuck with these jokers in charge for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tallaght tyro turns up trumps

There'll be a party in the square in Tallaght after that goal. What a way to open your account for your boyhood club? Fantastic instinctive finish, the type Robbie excels at. Good man yourself Rob. I hope that he goes from strength to strength now he's got the monkey off his back by breaking his duck. It's worth noting that he set up Torres on Saturday and El Nino returned the favour with a great cross after a strong run and pass from Kuyt. I think the two of them are learning each others games and a promising partnership looks to be forming. Hopefully Rafa will nurture it to maturity and it'll bear fruit and a bounteous harvest will be reaped by all.

It was Dirk who opened the scoring after 4 minutes. Kuyt has now scored 10 goals in his last 16 Champions league games. Can anybody else in Europe compare with that? Somehow I doubt it. He's proved time and again that he's a must pick in the champions league. Not bad for a player who's a donkey according to Eamonn Dunphy on RTE television. He also called Mascherano a donkey on Wednesday. It's a pity because he used to be a decent football pundit a few years back but now he's just a parody of himself. He was so sure that Liverpool wouldn't win in Istanbul that he promised to retire if we did. Unfortunately, he's not a man of his word.

Gerrard put the icing on the cake with a second half free kick. It was a noteworthy goal for the skipper as it was his 100th. The Times has a feature on 5 of Gerrards best goals out of his ton. Some crackers in there. It's some achievement for a midfielder at the age of 28. Of his 100, 72 have been scored under Rafa as detailed here in the echo. Hopefully he'll go on to score another 100.

It's time to visit Middle Eastlands this Sunday at 3. This will be a test. City are a decent team if a bit unpredictable. We seem to be improving every game at the moment and this is the kind of game that we need to win if we want to challenge this year. Given that Arsenal, Chelsea and Man Utd all have winnable games, we need to keep up the pressure at the top rather than falling behind and playing catch up like we do most seasons.

Afellay didn't play which is a pity as I would have liked to see him live. He looked good for the Dutch team in his cameo during the Euro's. Rafa is a fan too.

Rafa has revealed that he wants to see more from Babel on a 90 minute basis. He only got a few minutes to display his wares last night. If we qualify for the champions league knock out stages after 4 games, which is possible, then we might see a few starts for Babel.

The "A Liverpool thing" website has a good feature on Lauri Della Valle. The young Finn signed a professional contract this week and is very highly rated within the club.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

"Everton won't like that"

Why are the blues so bitter? Given how easy the match was for us, the prematch comments from this chap look fairly stupid now. I can't remember a derby that was so one sided.

Moyes and his negative defensive tactics played right into our hands. Rafa must have been rubbing his hands when he saw the five man midfield with the negative Neville and Fellaini in the centre. Gerrard and Alonso thrived against them even though they were outnumbered. The commentators on BBC 5live said that Everton looked and played like the away team rather than the home one. We utterly dominated possession. Pepe didn't have a save to make all game. Handy number for him.

Two heartening aspects from the match were the combination play from Keane and El Nino. His first goal was a thing of beauty. Keane hit a superb ball from the byline back into the centre and Torres was waiting to volley it home first time to break the deadlock. Great goal. Keane looked very happy with himself and Torres ran straight over to celbrate with him. Robbie knew he was the architect of an artistic move. He also played a crucial role in the second goal with a lovely pass for Dirk to get through on goal. Lucky for us, the tackle from Jagielka only sent it back towards Torres who was waiting to dispatch it for the winner. He scored a third which was incorrectly ruled out by Reily who is a shit ref.

Nice to see little Timmy Cahill get his marching orders too. He likes to act the hard man with brave and courageous tackles from behind. Fairly snide and sly player in my view.

Tony Barrett in the Echo is effusive in his praise of Stevie. "Bossed the midfield in a mature and intelligent display which proved beyond any doubt that he can play with head as well as heart." It was his best display of the season by far according to most observers.

Stevie says that Rafa has improved him as a player. He seems happier now with what position he plays on the pitch, wherever Rafa plays him. Andy Gray and Jamie Redknapp won't be happy to hear that. The Mirror have a picture special featuring everyone of the captain's 99 goals.

Once again there were disgraceful chants and songs from both sets of fans. The days of the friendly derby are well and truly gone. It's become poisonous and vile over the last decade or two. Sad situation.

PSV will be the next team to try to become the first one to beat us this season. I was unimpressed with them when we played them last year. Affaley looks like a good player but I don't remember them having much beyond him. I fully expect us to get the win on Wed night.

It appears that the Academy is getting a new addition. But rather than a Spanish teen, it's Wrexham's head of youth development Steve Cooper. Will this mean the end of Elias or Hamberg who are currently in similar roles?

Could this young Brazilian centre back become the new Sami?