Monday, 31 March 2014

Table topping Reds smash four past shambolic Spurs

Liverpool were the big winners from this weekend’s fascinating Premier League fixtures.

All Liverpool needed to do to end the weekend on top of the pile was avoid defeat at home to Tottenham Hotspur after Chelsea fell to an unexpected 1-0 defeat at Crystal Palace and Arsenal held Manchester City to a draw at the Emirates.

Thankfully, Rodgers’ Reds accomplished far more than that, as they set about dismantling Tim Sherwood’s dysfunctional Spurs side. From the first to the final whistle, Liverpool were in complete control and punished the away side for a poor performance, which effectively ended their dreams of Champions League qualification.

The North Londoners were particularly vulnerable defensively and the tactically versatile Rodgers set up his side to exploit those weaknesses. Switching from the midfield diamond that has served Liverpool so well in recent weeks, Rodgers went for a 4-3-3 formation, putting pacey youngster Raheem Sterling up against Tottenham left back Danny Rose.

The ingenious strategy paid instant dividends as the hosts enjoyed a dream start to a match that many thought would seriously test the Reds’ title credentials.

Only two minutes in, Sterling fed Johnson after receiving a delightful diagonal pass from Coutinho, who happily pinged passes about all afternoon alongside the equally impressive Gerrard in the centre of the pitch. The England right back then beat Eriksen with ease and Younes Kaboul calamitously turned his cross into his own net.

It was't a good afternoon for Spurs' Younes Kaboul
Sturridge was inches away from heading Suarez’s cross into an empty goal, Coutinho volleyed wide from the edge of the box and Suarez fired a free kick over the bar before another Spurs slip up at the back was ruthlessly punished by the Merseysiders midway through the first period.

Dawson’s miskick put the ball in the vicinity of Suarez, whose greater strength and desire meant Kaboul stood no chance of regaining possession for the visitors. The number seven proceeded to clinically fire the ball past Lloris and into the far corner to the delight of the home crowd.

Suarez enjoyed that one
Immediately afterwards a brilliant block from Skrtel was required to thwart Eriksen’s close range effort, but Spurs never looked like troubling Mignolet’s goal for a sustained spell and it was the home side who went closest to netting the next goal before the break. Sterling robbed the shambolic Kaboul of the ball and crossed to Suarez, whose goal bound header was superbly pushed onto the bar by Lloris.

The fact that their goalkeeper was the only player who could be pleased with his personal performance at the end of the match demonstrated how poor Tottenham were, though, and they failed to noticeably improve during a second half in which their manager Tim Sherwood remained seated in the stands.

Perhaps he was remembering the fate former Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas suffered the last time Liverpool convincingly beat the Londoners?

As usual, Liverpool’s appetite for goals was insatiable and they set about getting the third that would confirm the victory at the start of the second 45 minutes before then looking to further bolster their formidable goal difference.

Jordan Henderson, who  also scored in the reverse fixture at White Hart Lane, wasted a great opportunity to end the match as a contest nine minutes after the restart, as he shot over the bar when well-placed after Sturridge and Sterling had carved open the visitors’ defence. The former Sunderland midfielder would make up for it later, however, and, in the meantime, his midfield teammate Philippe Coutinho grabbed the decisive third goal only minutes later.

In accordance with Brendan Rodgers’ principles, Liverpool decided against hoofing the ball long when under pressure at the back, instead opting to play their way out of trouble. The Reds reaped rewards from the risky strategy, as Flanagan beautifully turned into space and launched a counter-attack that culminated in Coutinho powerfully drilling a low strike into the bottom left corner.

Coutinho joined in the fun
With the game won, Rodgers had the luxury of replacing Gerrard with Lucas and thus sensibly protecting the skipper from picking up a booking that would trigger a two-match suspension, which would rule him out of the Manchester City match at Anfield in a fortnight’s time.

The icing on top of the cake came with quarter of an hour remaining, as Henderson swung a set piece into the danger area, which avoided everyone on its way into the back of the net.

Suarez: "It's your goal Hendo."
Encouragingly as well, Mignolet made a decent save in injury time to deny Eriksen a late consolation, which would have tarnished an excellent afternoon for the Reds.

All table-topping Liverpool have to do now to claim number 19 is win their remaining six fixtures. Unfortunately, the same is true for Manchester City. The title race is going down to the wire and there are bound to be more twists and turns between now and the 11th May, but it’s just thrilling that Liverpool are in the mix at the top of the table and making us dream once again.


Thursday, 27 March 2014

Liverpool win ugly on nervy night at Anfield

Liverpool proved they can win ugly with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Sunderland under the floodlights at Anfield last night.

They made it unnecessarily difficult for themselves and were unnerved in the closing stages following Ki Sung-Yeung’s headed goal with a quarter of an hour left to play, but goals from Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge either side of the interval secured three precious points for the Reds, extending their winning streak in the League to seven games and narrowing the gap with table-topping Chelsea to just a single point.

Following three consecutive away matches, Liverpool were delighted to be back at Anfield and the players received a hero’s welcome from the supporters, who were making the most of a rare midweek fixture and hoping to recreate the phenomenal atmosphere experienced on European nights.

The players received a hero's welcome prior to kick-off
Unfortunately, Sunderland spoiled the party, at least for the opening 39 minutes. Gus Poyet’s men clearly came to park the proverbial bus and they succeeded in frustrating the Reds’ attack, as the three centre backs Brown, O’Shea and Vergini kept the SAS relatively quiet.

Despite dominating, Sunderland’s admittedly formidable rear-guard action was proving tough for the hosts to break down, subduing the home crowd as well, as they were given little to get excited about, apart from a few efforts off target from Sturridge, Suarez and Allen.

As half time approached, the crowd were given something to shout about though, as Kevin Friend controversially decided not to send off Vergini after the 25-year old Argentinian cynically felled Luis Suarez when he seemed destined to run through on goal. It was a close but probably correct call because Wes Brown was running round to cover Sunderland’s extremely fortunate number 27, who was only booked.

Captain fantastic crucially broke the deadlock before the break
Thankfully, skipper Steven Gerrard punished Sunderland further from the resulting free kick. The excellent effort he fired into the net from the edge of the box was as clinical as one of his spot kicks and produced the same jubilant response from Liverpool fans relieved to enter the interval with a lead. Many, after all, had quite reasonably foreseen an extremely nervy evening had the score-line been level at the break.

Only three minutes after the restart Daniel Sturridge reminded Sunderland manager Gus Poyet of his qualities. Failing to learn from the mistakes of Cardiff boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Poyet had claimed in pre-match interviews that Liverpool would be in mid-table without Luis Suarez, completely ignoring the considerable impact the free-scoring Sturridge has had on the side so far this season.

Sturridge's 20th League goal was a beauty
In response, the former Chelsea striker let his feet do the talking, curling a beautiful effort into the Kop end net from just inside the box to double the Reds’ lead and start the second half in the best possible manner. It was remarkably his 20th goal in 23 League appearances.

Liverpool seemed all set to go on and rack up yet more goals to boost their already formidable goal difference. However, frustratingly they failed to capitalise on the two-goal cushion they had
developed and the visitors also appeared to come out of their defensive shell, particularly after the arrival of substitutes Adam Johnson and Ki Sung-Yeung on the hour mark.

Lee Cattermole and Daniel Sturridge both smacked strikes against the bar in the space of two minutes, before Sung-Yeung’s shot was deflected over by Agger’s block in the box. From the resulting right wing corner the South Korean escaped the attention of Flanagan far too easily, stooping to head home unmarked at the back post.

The goal renewed the Wearsiders’ confidence and filled the Anfield crowd with dread at the very real prospect of relegation-threatened Sunderland derailing Liverpool’s title challenge. For the final 15 minutes Liverpool defended for their lives, getting men behind the ball and repeatedly repelling the away side’s attacks.

The one golden chance that Sunderland were almost inevitably going to have to equalise came with a minute of normal time remaining when Johnson foolishly conceded a free kick in a dangerous position after fouling Colback. It was a case of hearts in mouths for Liverpool as Adam Johnson’s dangerous delivery flashed across the face of goal and former Manchester United defender John O’Shea almost got on the end of it.

Kevin Friend’s full time whistle was greeted by a relieved roar from a home crowd thankful that their team is still in the title race. It should have been so much more straightforward for Liverpool, whose form was far superior to Sunderland’s heading into the contest.

At the end of the day, though, all that matters is that, by hook or by crook, Liverpool got the three points they needed to keep their dreams of a 19th League title alive.


Sunday, 23 March 2014

SAS prove Solskjaer wrong as Reds defeat Cardiff

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be eating his words today.

The former Manchester United striker and current Cardiff City manager wrote Brendan Rodgers’ team talk for him when he claimed that Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie were a better strike partnership than Liverpool’s Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge during the build-up to yesterday’s match.

In response, the Reds’ unstoppable SAS set about destroying his team’s defence, and they completed the task with a consummate ease that evidenced their attacking prowess and underlined Liverpool’s title credentials.

Despite falling behind twice to goals from Jordan Mutch and Fraizer Campbell, the Merseysiders’ supreme confidence in their own ability never wavered, and Suarez’s hat-trick, Skrtel’s double and Sturridge’s solitary strike saw the visitors clinch three crucial points to put them only four points behind top of the table Chelsea, with a game in hand and the Blues still to travel to Anfield.

Fresh from last weekend’s demolition of Manchester United at Old Trafford, Liverpool entered this contest as overwhelming favourites. Surprisingly, though, it was the relegation threatened Welsh outfit that began the better and took the lead after only nine minutes. Former Swansea midfielder Joe Allen carelessly lost possession and Cardiff capitalised, Mutch drilling home after Campbell had laid the ball off to him.

Mignolet was frustrated at conceding a poor opening goal
The visitors responded in the best manner possible, scoring a superb team goal only seven minutes later. Patiently keeping possession in the Cardiff half, the Reds diligently worked at trying to find a way through the Bluebirds’ defence and were rewarded in due course. Henderson’s incisive pass sliced open Cardiff’s backline and found Johnson, who squared the ball for Suarez to tap in a leveller from close range.

Suarez scored to round off a wonderful team goal
As always, though, Liverpool’s defence seemed destined to undermine the team’s efforts and, thanks to yet more incompetence at the back, the Reds fell behind again on 25 minutes. Fraizer Campbell was given far too much space in the box and he duly took advantage, going past Agger like he wasn’t there and firing beyond Mignolet. It was a terrible goal to concede and simply nowhere near good enough from the back four.

Fraizer Campbell put the Bluebirds back in front
Encouragingly, however, Liverpool’s resilience and confidence in their own ability seems unshakeable thanks to the knowledge, built up over the course of the season, that they have the potential to score more goals than any opponents.

Martin Skrtel went some way to atoning for his defensive team-mates’ errors with two goals either side of the interval. First, four minutes before the break he prodded home the Reds’ second equaliser of the afternoon from Coutinho’s dangerous cross.

Skrtel scored to level things up
Then, the Slovakian went on to score his second to put Liverpool in the lead for the first time only eight minutes after the restart. The arguably game-changing goal came in controversial circumstances, though, as Cardiff were left to defend a right wing corner with only nine men on the pitch, as Kevin Theophile-Catherine and Jordan Mutch stood on the side-lines waiting to be granted permission to return to the fray after receiving treatment for injuries.

Liverpool took full advantage of the situation and then pressed on to cement their dominant position, putting the outcome of the contest beyond doubt with plenty of time left to spare.

After Skrtel sent a glancing header into the net from Coutinho’s corner kick, Sturridge and Suarez showed a telepathic understanding, the former amazingly back heeling the ball right into the path of the Uruguayan, who scored with a first time finish. It was an unbelievably good goal from a strike partnership that surely is the best in the world right now.

The SAS scream Skrtel's header into the net
Suarez celebrated his second
There was more to follow from the dynamic duo, too, after Flanagan had fired over the bar. Johnson’s raking ball forward was well-controlled by Suarez and, as Sturridge made a lung-bursting run forward; the number seven put the ball on a plate for the England striker, who tapped in simply to make it five for the prolific away side. Almost as pleasing as the goal itself, was the desire shown by Sturridge to add another to the score-sheet despite Liverpool’s already ascendant position.

Sturridge gives Suarez credit for setting up his goal
Mutch’s headed goal two minutes from time, which only amounted to a consolation in the end, proved a little discomforting for Liverpool when it was announced that the home side had five minutes of injury time to try and pull off an Istanbul-esque comeback. The discomfort came not so much from concern about Cardiff’s attack, but rather from worrying about the possibility of Liverpool’s defence making more costly blunders.

Travelling Kopites need not have worried, though, as Cardiff were unable to add to their total and Luis Suarez scored his third in the final seconds of injury time to claim the match-ball for himself and put a cherry on top of the cake for the Merseysiders.

Showing strength to barge Cala off the ball, Suarez went clean through on goal and could have squared to Sterling, as he had unselfishly done in the reverse fixture at Anfield earlier in the season, but instead chose to go it alone, teasing Cardiff goalkeeper Marshall before tapping into the net and celebrating in front of the ecstatic away section.

Job done! Rodgers congratulated his star striker after the final whistle
With Arsenal amusingly falling to a 6-0 defeat at Chelsea in Arsene Wenger’s 1000th game in charge, the title race is now arguably between Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City. They may be the underdogs, but the Reds have every reason to believe they can go all the way and win their first ever Premier League title. Their defence may be vulnerable, but with the SAS at the other end anything is possible.

One thing is guaranteed, though; no opposition manager with any sense will repeat Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s comments ahead of a fixture against Brendan Rodgers’ mighty Reds!


Monday, 17 March 2014

Pens galore as Reds win at Old Trafford

Liverpool fired three goals past Manchester United at Old Trafford to claim much more than just three points yesterday.

Bragging rights were also won, as Brendan Rodgers’ side showed their demonstrable superiority to the shoddy outfit David Moyes has built during his brief tenure in the United hot seat. Perhaps most importantly, this victory was the moment the footballing world outside of Merseyside started taking Liverpool’s title challenge seriously.

Steven Gerrard penalties either side of the half time interval put the visitors firmly in the driving seat, before the skipper squandered a golden opportunity to make it a hat-trick of successful spot kicks, sending a third against the base of the post.

After referee Mark Clattenburg had turned down another penalty appeal from Daniel Sturridge, Suarez fired in a third with five minutes to go to round off a fantastic afternoon perfectly for the ecstatic travelling Kop.

Despite going five years without winning at Old Trafford, Liverpool entered the contest as favourites thanks to the stark contrast between their stunning form and United’s abject displays in recent weeks, which was evidenced by the eleven-point gap between the two teams, representing a remarkable 40-point swing from last season.

Right from the first whistle, the Reds were in the ascendancy and were petitioning Clattenburg for penalties. After Sturridge drilled wide of goal, Suarez was felled by a combination of Fellaini and Jones in the box but the Uruguayan’s protests fell on deaf ears and he got nothing more than a corner kick.

Johnson and Sturridge both tested De Gea in the United goal, before the opener Liverpool’s dominant performance deserved finally arrived just after the half hour mark.

Rafael handled Suarez’s attempt to skip beyond him in the box and the referee had no choice but to point to the spot. The 23-year old Brazilian was lucky to stay on the pitch as well having already been booked for a nasty challenge on Gerrard only moments earlier. The number eight stood up to score the resulting spot kick in typically calm fashion.

Gerrard converts his first penalty
United’s only decent sight of goal in the first half, and arguably throughout the entire ninety minutes, came a minute before the break, as Mignolet made a superb save to crucially keep the lead intact, repelling Rooney’s powerful volleyed effort.

The second half couldn’t have started better for the away side, as they were awarded another penalty only a minute in. Joe Allen was barged over by Jones in the box and Gerrard converted from 12 yards for the second time and celebrated by kissing the TV camera, just as he had done after netting from the spot in the Reds’ 4-1 victory over United in 2009.

Every Red loves this celebration
The hosts briefly responded, Vidic heading over the bar, Fellaini firing into the stands and Van Persie striking into the side netting. In response, Rodgers replaced Sterling with Coutinho and the Reds quickly regained complete control of the contest, winning a third penalty with thirteen minutes remaining.

Winning is the operative word as well, since Sturridge quite clearly cleverly fell over Vidic’s admittedly reckless looking challenge to convince Clattenburg to show the Serbian his fourth red card against Liverpool and award the visitors yet another spot kick.

Unfortunately, this time Gerrard’s low strike rebounded off the base of the post, much to the delight of the home crowd, whose ironic cheers were so loud it seemed as if they’d scored a goal themselves.

No amount of sarcastic cheering or defiant chanting could cover up the Mancs’ misery, though, and Liverpool set about heaping on the pain even more in the closing stages.

After Sturridge was denied what should have been a fourth spot kick following Carrick’s trip, De Gea was forced to make a great save to stop Suarez scoring a third. The number seven wasn’t to be denied, however, and he sent a neat finish into the net after Sturridge’s shot inadvertently fell into his path to conclude a match that will live long in the memory of Liverpool supporters.

Suarez silences all but a small pocket of the Old Trafford crowd
Only four points behind League leaders Chelsea, with a game in hand and Mourinho’s men still to visit Anfield, it cannot be denied that Liverpool are in the title race for the first time since 2009, which was also the last time the Reds defeated United at Old Trafford.

Whisper it quietly, but number 19 might just be coming our way. Believe.


Wednesday, 12 March 2014

10 games to go: Can Liverpool win the title?

It’s been a long time since Liverpool were in with a shot of winning the title at the business end of the season- five years, to be precise.

In the 2008/2009 season the Reds were in third place after 28 games, level on 58 points with Chelsea but seven behind leaders Manchester United, who also had a game in hand. At the end of arguably Rafael Benitez’s best season in charge of the club, the Merseysiders sat in second, their huge haul of 86 points, which would normally be more than sufficient to claim the title, beaten by the remarkable 90 points accumulated by United.

Benitez was in charge the last time Liverpool seriously competed for the title
Fast forward five years and, to the delight of Kopites, not only are Liverpool back in the title race, Manchester United have been, to borrow a famous Fergie quote, ‘knocked off their f***ing perch’. Second placed Liverpool are only four points behind Chelsea, while David Moyes’ laughing stock languish in seventh, and may even struggle to qualify for the Europa League if their form continues on its current downward trajectory.

Have Liverpool got it in them, though, to go all the way and finally win their 19th League title almost a quarter of a century after they last finished top of the pile?

One factor that is certainly in the Reds’ favour is the absence of any distractions from cup competitions.

While Chelsea, City and Arsenal will have to juggle the demands of the Champions League and the FA Cup at least until next Wednesday, by which point City and Arsenal are likely to have exited European football at the hands of Barcelona and Bayern Munich respectively, Liverpool can concentrate fully on claiming as many points as possible from their final ten League fixtures.

Although Liverpool’s long-term aspirations should be to emulate their title rivals in competing on all fronts, the short term benefits of a fairly uncongested fixture list could prove significant. With only one midweek fixture scheduled during the remainder of the campaign, Liverpool will have a full week to recover physically and prepare mentally and tactically for upcoming matches.

In addition, Liverpool’s fixture list, although fairly tough, offers the Reds some great opportunities to not only improve their title credentials, but also damage their rivals’ chances of claiming top spot. Massive six-pointers against Manchester City and Chelsea at Anfield await the Reds’ in April, and those matches could prove decisive in the title race.

Away matches against Norwich and Crystal Palace, who will both probably be fighting for their Premier League survival, are potential banana skins, but, if Rodgers’ side pick up enough points in those matches to keep themselves in with a shot of winning the title on the final day of the season, they can count on claiming three points at home against Newcastle, who have pretty much nothing to play for and therefore should be easy to defeat.

With the likes of Lucas and Sakho returning to the squad to add depth and provide more options after prolonged spells on the treatment table and the SAS instilling fear in defences across the country, Liverpool certainly can win the title. Whether they will or not depends on them improving their defence and holding their nerve when it really counts.

Ignoring the clean sheets kept in the Reds’ first three League fixtures, which appear to be anomalies, defence has been an area of weakness throughout the season for Liverpool. Injuries and poor form have blighted their back line and rendered them unable to develop a stable defence, while individual errors have also frequently proved costly.

Consequently, they have conceded on average 1.25 goals per game, which is significantly higher than the average for title winners in the Premier League era of 0.85. Moreover, Manchester United are the only team to have won the title while conceding on average more than one goal a game, achieving the feat three times but only once since the turn of the millennium. Having already let in 35 goals this season, Liverpool would have to concede only three more goals in their final ten fixtures to lower their average to a goal per game.

Those statistics should worry Brendan Rodgers. He must marshal his defensive troops and get them to improve their displays; otherwise, history suggests, Liverpool’s title challenge will unravel.

At the same time, he must equip his squad to cope mentally with the pressures of a title challenge. Competing for top spot in the Premier League is tough at the best of times, but the fact that Liverpool haven’t won the top prize for such a long time just heaps even more pressure on the players trying to break that hoodoo.

Hopefully sports psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters, who has been working at Liverpool since November 2012 and will travel to Brazil with the England squad for the World Cup this summer, will prove his worth in the closing stages of the campaign.

Dr Steve Peters has a big job on his hands
At the end of the day, the fact that Liverpool still have a chance of winning the title with ten games to go is testament to how exceptional their season has been.

In August, a title challenge was beyond the wildest dreams of even the most optimistic Kopite, with most supporters and pundits fairly reasonably foreseeing the Reds taking part in a tough challenge for Champions League qualification.

Now, at the business end of the season, Liverpool supporters are starting to believe that what was previously deemed impossible could actually happen; come 11th May, Liverpool could be Premier League champions.


(This article originally appeared on This is Anfield).

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Reds sink Saints to send out title message

Liverpool sent out a message to the rest of the Premier League with an impressive 3-0 win away to Southampton on Saturday evening.

With both Manchester teams out of League action this weekend and Arsenal succumbing to a one-goal defeat away to Stoke, Liverpool’s fantastic 3-0 win at St Mary’s propelled the Merseysiders into second place in the table and put them indisputably in the title race with only ten games of what has been an amazing season to go.

Suarez scored the opener after quarter of an hour to reward a good start from the visitors, although the hosts responded by dominating the rest of the first period and probably should have entered the interval at least on level terms.

They didn’t though, and Raheem Sterling punished the Saints by finding the net with his first touch after coming on for the misfiring Coutinho. Gerrard converted a penalty in the 94th minute to round off a wonderful win perfectly.

Welsh midfielder Joe Allen was rewarded for a promising substitute’s performance versus Swansea last weekend with a place in the starting line-up, as Rodgers opted for a diamond formation in the middle of the park. Sterling dropped to the bench but made an immediate impact when he entered the fray in the second period.

Determined to end a run of bad results at St Marys, which had become a bit of a bogey ground for the Reds, Liverpool began on the front foot, a last gasp interception from Fonte the only thing stopping Suarez turning home Sturridge’s square pass on seven minutes.

After referee Lee Probert dismissed the Saints’ penalty pleas following Flanagan’s shoulder-barge on Lallana, Luis Suarez took advantage of a mixture of good fortune and poor defending to give Liverpool the lead on 16 minutes.

The ball fell perfectly for the Uruguayan in the box from a deflection off Fonte and the number seven clinically tucked home his first goal in six matches. It was Suarez’s 62nd goal in 100 League appearances, a record identical to the iconic Robbie Fowler’s.

Suarez's scoring drought is over
From that point on Southampton were dominant, creating several inviting goalscoring opportunities. Encouragingly, however, Liverpool’s defence, which has come under legitimate criticism recently, held firm, with the particularly impressive Mignolet making a few decent saves to keep the hosts out.

They were breathing a sigh of relief on the half hour mark, though, as Lallana’s close range shot hit the post when he really should have found the back of the net. The boyhood Everton fan then steered another effort wide and Schneiderlin scooped over, before Mignolet made a superb save to prevent Rodriguez equalising two minutes before the break.

The 24-year old Burnley-born striker fired goalwards but Mignolet reacted quickly to deny him the leveller, shifting his body weight impressively to make an instinctive save.

Although the Saints took off from where they had finished when the match resumed after the break, in hindsight their failure to equalise during a first half that they dominated proved decisive. Against the big teams you have to take your chances when they come, and Mauricio Pochettino’s men simply failed to do that yesterday teatime, to their detriment.

The pivotal point of the contest came when Raheem Sterling was introduced to the action just before the hour mark. Replacing the tired-looking Coutinho, Sterling immediately made a difference in front of England boss Roy Hodgson, who was watching on from the stands.

Linking up with Luis Suarez, who has assisted five of Sterling’s six League goals, the talented teenager tapped home Suarez’s square pass after the number seven had spun his helpless marker.

Sterling and Suarez are a lethal pair
The rest of the match was fairly comfortable for the Reds, who entertained the packed away end with some exciting football.

Sturridge shot across goal from an incredibly tight angle after rounding Boruc, Gerrard’s long-range drive was wall saved by the Polish keeper and Suarez cheekily tried to score from a corner kick before the skipper put the cherry on top of the cake in injury time.

Following Fonte’s foul on Suarez in the box, Gerrard stood up and comfortably converted the resulting spot kick to conclude the contest in the perfect way.

Gerrard celebrates converting another late penalty
Three points, three goals and a clean sheet against fairly tough opposition are all reasons for Kopites to be happy this weekend. Only four points behind table-topping Chelsea, second placed Liverpool have as good a chance as any of catching Mourinho’s men.

Now they’re gonna believe us- Liverpool can win the League.


What's wrong with Liverpool's defence?

The first three League games  of the season, in which Liverpool kept three consecutive clean sheets, are but a distant memory to most Kopites, who have become accustomed to consistently poor performances from the Reds’ back four throughout the rest of the campaign.

At the same time, however, Liverpool’s attack has been in red hot form and, with 70 goals, is the most prolific in the Premier League. Remarkably, only four teams have scored more goals than Sturridge and Suarez, who have bagged 42 League goals between them. Of those four teams, Manchester United have managed to score only one more than the seemingly unstoppable SAS.

This discrepancy between the form of Liverpool’s defenders and attackers was nowhere more evident than at Anfield on Sunday lunchtime when Swansea paid the Merseysiders a visit. Shoddy defending, particularly from Martin Skrtel, meant that the Reds squandered the lead twice, needing to score four times in the end simply to secure a one-goal victory.

But what’s the cause of Liverpool’s defensive woes, and how can they be remedied?

Individual errors

On numerous occasions this season individual errors from members of Liverpool’s defence have cost the team goals and points.

Kolo Toure has been the main culprit in recent weeks, as his inexplicable pass across the face of goal allowed Anichebe to equalise for West Brom at the Hawthorns and then, only ten days later, he frustratingly, but admittedly humorously, sliced the ball into his own net to give Fulham the lead at Craven Cottage.

Toure has been out of form recently
Despite having a fairly good season overall; Skrtel has also made several mistakes. Although he has scored four League goals, his highest tally in a season, his net contribution to the team in terms of goals is halved by own goals against Hull City and West Ham. In addition, he seems to have developed the irritating habit of grabbing hold of shirts and unnecessarily grappling with opponents, which gave referee Michael Jones an excuse to award Bony a soft spot kick on Sunday.

Unfortunately there’s little that can be done about individual mistakes, since football is not exempt from the human error unavoidable in all aspects of life. A more disciplined approach may cut out some of the most costly errors, though.

Moreover, when all of the Reds’ defenders have recovered from injury there will be more completion for places, which should hopefully reduce the number of errors because those who make mistakes will be relegated to the substitutes’ bench. The desire to avoid being benched should increase concentration levels and thus lower the amount of individual errors.

Inconsistent team selection 

The defence is perhaps the one area of the team most in need of consistent team selection. This is because organisation and communication are absolutely vital in order to perform effectively. Therefore, defenders need match time to get to know each other’s game and develop partnerships, particularly in the centre of defence.

For various reasons, however, Brendan Rodgers hasn’t been able to pick a settled back four so far this season.

Firstly, and most importantly, injuries to important players have disrupted Rodgers’ defensive plans. Agger, Toure, Sakho, Johnson, Enrique and Cissokho have all spent significant spells on the side-lines, often returning to the team temporarily but then frustratingly picking up another injury.

Enrique has rarely featured this season
Even ignoring the significant effect of injuries, the amount of defenders signed last summer meant it was always going to take time for them to gel and form a cohesive unit. Four defenders and a new goalkeeper were brought in, making a transitional spell almost inevitable.

Unfortunately, thanks to repeated injuries, the Reds’ defence is still enduring that transition and Rodgers probably remains unsure what his first choice back four is.

Like human error, injuries are inevitable in any contact sport, although every effort should be made by the club’s fitness team to increase recovery speeds as much as possible. Once the number of injuries has been reduced, Rodgers can get to work deciphering his first choice back four and training them to work as an effective unit.

Playing style

As enjoyable and entertaining as it is, Brendan Rodgers’ preferred playing style, by virtue of emphasising attack minded, forward thinking football so strongly, almost inescapably comes with the cost of greater defensive vulnerability.

Liverpool never conceded as many as 35 goals by this stage of the season under the more conservative approach of former boss Rafael Benitez, who managed the club from 2004 to 2010.

I’m not suggesting that Rodgers should change the team’s style of play. After all, it’s immensely exciting and is achieving results. It must be recognised and accepted, however, that it comes with the potential cost of conceding more goals than the Reds otherwise would.


Individual errors, injuries and hence inconsistent team selection have been the main factors contributing to Liverpool’s defensive problems, although increased vulnerability at the back may be unavoidable due to Rodgers’ expansive brand of attacking football.

Liverpool should be able to rely on their attack to fire them into the top four; however defensive displays must improve if the Reds are to mount a serious title challenge.

Big upcoming games against Tottenham, Man City and Chelsea at Anfield give Liverpool a great opportunity to stake a claim for top spot, although they must plug the leaks in their defence if they are to have any chance of winning those vital matches.


(This article originally appeared on This is Anfield).