Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Reds edge Arsenal in six-goal thriller

Liverpool FC stormed into the UEFA Champions League semi-finals for the third time in four years after a stunning finish to the game brought three goals in eight minutes and a disappointing end to Arsenal FC's campaign.

Frenetic pace
Liverpool looked on course for victory as goals from Sami Hyypiä and Fernando Torres, wiping out Abou Diaby's 13th-minute opener, left them leading going into the final minutes. Emmanuel Adebayor turned the tie on its head with six minutes remaining after a sensational run from Theo Walcott, but Arsenal's away-goal advantage was fleeting as Steven Gerrard converted a penalty moments later before Ryan Babel completed the scoring in added time.

Diaby strike
It left the home support in raptures, yet they had been quietened early on as the visitors began positively following the 1-1 first-leg draw in London. Adebayor appeared particularly threatening and Arsenal's attacking approach was richly rewarded when Diaby broke down the inside right channel, collected Aleksandr Hleb's pass and f

ired low towards Pepe Reina's near post. The goalkeeper seemed to have it covered but the ball cannoned off his knee and into the net.

Delayed reaction
Stunned by their dream start, Arsenal's fans at the opposite end did not immediately realise their side had moved ahead on aggregate, but that soon changed and they had more to shout about in the opening half-hour. The home team, marginal favourites at kick-off, looked anything but. Nervy and unable to retain possession, Reina came close to spilling a dangerous Gaël Clichy cross, his travails exemplifying Liverpool's struggle to settle.

Hyypiä header
Yet by the 30th minute the Reds were level. In their first serious assault on Arsenal's goal, Hyypiä escaped the attentions of Philippe Senderos to meet Gerrard's centre with a firm header, beating Cesc Fabregas standing on t

he goalline as it went in off the post. Anfield erupted and Liverpool grew in confidence.


had a further setback just before the break when Mathieu Flamini was carried off with an ankle injury, though the contest was all-square at the interval.

Crouch close
Liverpool set about changing that after the restart, Peter Crouch troubling Manuel Almunia with a low drive to get the crowd fired up. The towering England striker then almost inadvertently steered in Fábio Aurélio's wayward shot with his heel, following good work down the right flank by Torres as Rafael Benítez's men stepped it up. Arsenal were no longer the dominant force, and the match swung firmly in Liverpool's favour in the 69th minute when Crouch nodded on a long clearance by Reina and Torres expertly turned into space and fired the ball high past Almunia into the top corner – a stunning goal worthy of the occasion.

Late drama
It was merely the start of the drama. Arsenal briefly put themselves in pole position when Walcott sprinted past four Liverpool players before teeing up Adebayor. A minute later the initiative was wrested from Arsène Wenger's team when Kolo Touré was adjudged to have brought down Babel and Gerrard converted from the spot. Substitute Babel then calmed frayed nerves two minutes into added time, racing clear on the counterattack and sliding the ball past Almunia to cap an incredible evening.

Thursday, April 3, 2008


ARSENAL 1 - 1 LIVERPOOL Wednesday 02 April 2008 19:45 , Champions League Quarter Final (1)

Liverpool leave the Emirates with a priceless away goal following a 1-1 draw in the Champions League quarter-final first leg.

Dirk Kuyt was the Euro star once more, equalising Emmanuel Adebayor's opener after Steven Gerrard cut through the Gunners defence.

The result sends Liverpool into next week's return at Anfield as bookies' favourites, though the heavy weather they endured during the second half illustrates how finely poised the tie remains.

In between that is a crucial Premier League clash which could prove decisive for both the title and fourth place.

The first part of the most eagerly-anticipated trilogy since The Godfather saw Rafa Benitez select the same four-pronged attack that has helped the Reds to eight wins in nine. Arsenal, meanwhile, recalled Adebayor to a side which contained not a single Englishman. So much for not being drawn against continental opposition.

It was Adebayor who could have punished the visitors in the opening minutes when Pepe Reina strayed to the left-back position only to mis-control. The 23-goal striker looked to capitalise but Liverpool's custodian recovered to make a fine tackle.

The Reds' first chance came when Xabi Alonso floated a sublime ball into the box on the quarter-hour mark. He might have the same flowing blonde locks, but Sami Hyypia is not quite El Nino in the box. Instead of hitting it first time, the Finn took a touch and the opportunity was gone.

From there, Arsenal's thrusting football suddenly revealed itself, and it cost Liverpool a goal.

First, Mathieu Flamini lofted a teasing ball to Robin van Persie, who tried to lob Reina with his first touch. The Dutchman then tried his luck from 20 yards and the Spanish stopper had to be smart.

Hyypia and co failed to compose themselves as the resulting corner was swung in, however, and Adebayor was given free reign to nod home from five yards. First blood Arsenal.

Some teams would have let their heads drop; some would have collapsed. But this is Liverpool, Liverpool in Europe.

Within three minutes, the scores were level and the only noise inside the Emirates had a Scouse twang.

Unsurprisingly, it was hometown hero, Steven Gerrard, who grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck, drilling himself through the home defence before sending a low cross into the six-yard box. Two Arsenal defenders were tracking back but Kuyt got there first to bag his sixth of the European season. Game on, though Benitez still didn't venture a smile.

That's how it remained until the break.

It was the team in black who carved out the first scoring opportunity of the second half after Fernando Torres brought a cynical foul out of Philippe Senderos. Gerrard stepped up for the free-kick midway inside the Arsenal half before hitting an out-swinger towards Martin Skrtel at the far post. The Slovak sent a delicate header to the feet of Kuyt but the Dutch international was denied by a low save from Manuel Almunia.

Meanwhile, Theo Walcott was a half-time replacement for van Persie, and the lightning-quick youngster soon found space down the left channel, cutting inside before whacking a long-range effort inches wide of Reina's goal.

With Arsenal starting to dominate possession, Benitez also decided to tinker, waiting just 12 minutes after the restart to introduce Yossi Benayoun at the expense of Ryan Babel.

The change didn't do much to ease the pressure, though the hosts had to wait until the 65th minute to seriously threaten, first when Skrtel cleared off the line from Walcott, then when Alexander Hleb got through only to be out-muscled by Kuyt, of all people. Penalties have been given for less but Arsene Wenger's calls went unanswered.

Next Adebayor burst down the left, skipping past Skrtel before the ball came to Fabregas. His shot appeared to be going in but the unfortunate Bendtner got in the way. Thankfully for the substitute, his blushes were spared by the linesman's flag.

Still, Liverpool were penned in, creating a wall of black that somehow managed to stand firm until the end.

Liverpool: Reina, Aurelio, Hyypia, Skrtel, Carragher, Babel, Alonso, Mascherano, Kuyt, Gerrard (captain), Torres. Subs - Riise, Crouch, Voronin, Leiva, Arbeloa, Benayoun, Itandje

Arsenal: Almunia, Clichy, Gallas, Senderos, Toure, Hleb, Flamini, Fabregas, Eboue, van Persie, Adebayor. Subs - , Song, Walcott, Diaby, Bendtner, Hoyte, Lehmann

Referee: Pieter Vink

Conditions: Mild

Attendance: 68,041


Goalscoring hero Dirk Kuyt believes he and his teammates will have to produce a 'special' performance at Anfield to eliminate Arsenal despite a crucial away goal at the Emirates.

The Dutch international admits the Reds were under the cosh during much of the first leg.

The 1-1 scoreline means Liverpool are likely to be the bookies' favourites going into the return leg, but Kuyt knows the job is far from done.

He said: "It was a really important goal we got because Arsenal played really well today. We did everything we could. We wanted to score and we did.

"We got straight back into the game after they scored and had a few other chances from corner kicks. You have to be lucky to get another goal, but Arsenal played really well.

"They have a great side but we're playing at Anfield and we've shown we can do special things there.

"Everyone knows what European nights are like at Anfield. Everyone knows what we've done there over the last few years. Hopefully the same will happen next week and we'll get into the semi-finals."

The second half saw Arsene Wenger appeal for a penalty after Kuyt out-muscled Alexander Hleb in the box.

The striker insists ref Pieter Vink was right not to point to the spot.

He said: "It was a split-second decision to do what I did. I never pulled his shirt so it was never a penalty, though it was close."


Rafael Benitez believes Dirk Kuyt's away goal against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium could turn out to be so crucial ahead of next Tuesday's second leg at Anfield.

Kuyt became Liverpool's leading marksman in the Champions League this season with his sixth European strike of the campaign when he equalised Emanuel Adebayor's opener.

"I think it's crucial to score an away goal in Europe," said Benitez. "Arsenal is a team that can also score away from home but at least we now have this option in our hands for the second leg.

"It was an important goal for us and the understanding between Torres and Gerrard is really good. Gerrard created the chance and Kuyt was there and it was really important for us."

The Reds boss admitted he was pleased with the work ethic of his team and said they did well to withstand great pressure in the second half.

"I think the result is really good," said the boss. "It's the Champions League and we were away from home in Europe.

"The team was working really, really hard against a good team. We knew before they could have plenty of possession so the question was for us to be well organised and play on the counter attack. That was the plan and it was good.

"We were running a lot in the first half and in the second we thought they would have plenty of possession. We needed to change some players and we put on fresh legs in Benayoun, Lucas and Voronin."

While disappointed with the goal his team conceded when Adebayor scored from a free header, Benitez refused to point a finger of blame at any individuals.

"I think it's difficult when you play against a good team," added Benitez. "The delivery was really good and Adebayor is really good in the air, so at the end you can't control everything.

"We knew they could also be dangerous from open play so we were trying to control all the small details but you can't control everything."

Dirk Kuyt

Position: Striker
Date of Birth: 22/07/1980
Height: 6'0
Weight: 13st 2
1st team games: 89
1st team goals: 24
International caps: 34
International goals: 6
Former clubs: FC Utrecht, Feyenoord
Birth Place: Katwijk, Netherlands

Dutch forward Dirk Kuyt arrived on Merseyside in the summer of 2006 for a fee in the region of £10million.

Selfless and versatile on the pitch, he's undoubtedly one of the hardest working attackers in the game.

Kuyt was born in the small fishing village of Katwijk and joined his local amateur side Quick Boys at the age of five.

When he was 12 he was told to choose between being a footballer and a fisherman: he either joined his father at sea or pursued his dream of being a professional sportsman.

Thankfully, he chose the latter, and in the summer of 1998, after just six senior appearances for Quick Boys, the 18-year-old signed his first pro contract with Eredivisie team FC Utrecht.

The youngster played 30 times in his debut season, mostly on the wing. Still, he managed to bag himself six goals.

Kuyt's career followed a similar path until 2002-03 when Utrecht appointed Foeke Booy manager. Booy played him up front for the entire season - and was rewarded with 23 goals. One of these came in the Dutch Cup final victory over Feyenoord, in which the forward was named man of the match.

Their noses may have been out of joint, but Feyenoord liked what they saw, and in the summer of 2003 they signed Kuyt as a replacement for the out-going Pierre Van Hooijdonk.

He notched up an impressive 22 goals during his first season in Rotterdam, though this was just a taste of things to come. In the opening game of 2004-05, Kuyt scored a hat-trick against De Graafschap. By the end of the campaign his tally had reached 36 - making him the country's top scorer.

International recognition was inevitable, and the marksman made his Holland debut under new coach Marco van Basten against Liechtenstein on September 30, 2004. He scored his first international goal nine days later in a World Cup qualifier against Macedonia.

Back at the De Kuip Stadium, the Blonde Bombshell had become a firm fans' favourite and was handed the club captaincy before the 2005-06 season. The campaign saw him net another 25 goals and reach an incredible tally of 179 consecutive appearances since 2001. No wonder a host of Premiership clubs were circling.

Next up was the World Cup in Germany where he made three appearances - though much of his pitch time was spent on the right wing.

Following months of uncertainty over his future, Kuyt signed for Liverpool on August 18, 2006. He left Feyenoord with a record of 83 goals in 122 appearances.

The newboy made his debut as a substitute against West Ham at Anfield on August 26. Although he didn't score, his all-action style ensured nods of appreciation from The Kop.

The following week he returned to Holland after being named Dutch Player of the Year. The presentation was made by his late dad Gerrit, who was suffering from cancer.

Kuyt's first Liverpool goal came against Newcastle United on September 20, 2006, and he'd net a further 13 in his debut season.

Again the Dutchman was proving a hit with the fans, not least for his habit of applauding all four stands after each game.

The 2006-07 campaign ended with the Champions League final. Kuyt scored the winning penalty in the semi-final triumph over Chelsea and was rewarded with a starting place against AC Milan. It was he who scored the Reds' late consolation in Athens.

One of the number 18's finest moments in a red shirt came in October 2007 with a penalty brace at Goodison Park as Liverpool clinched a dramatic last-minute win over their bitter rivals Everton.

Kuyt carries out extensive charity work off the pitch. Most notably, he and his wife Gertrude set up the Dirk Kuyt Foundation to help disadvantaged children in his homeland and the Third World. One of the ways the foundation raises money is by selling DK-branded clothes.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

It's Beauty & the Beast as Liverpool take on Arsenal in the Champions League

Wednesday is the first of three Arsenal vs Liverpool games, with the two-legged Champions League tie, being sandwiched by a Premier League game at the Emirates.

Both teams are in mixed form, though it has to be said, Liverpool are playing better than Arsenal at the moment, and of course they are the Champions League specialists. Liverpool will be relieved Javier Mascherano is available to play, and he will even be rested, after being suspended for the game against Everton.

Liverpool will go for the same team they've been playing in the last ten games or so, with Benitez following his pattern of tinkering with the team early in the season, until his rivals are out of sight, then stumbling on a winning formula for a late charge and some glory nights in Europe! They could have achieved so much more!

Arsenal meanwhile, are in a bit of a crisis. Make no mistake, they were lucky to get the win at Bolton, and were woeful for the first hour. Adebayor has stopped scoring, Fabregas has gone missing as has Hleb, while Van Persie may have returned, he is not firing on all cylinders after a long time out.

Liverpool will take on Arsenal with the hope ofEmirates Stadium Arsenal FC keeping it tight, and play on the counter attack, with the likes of Torres, Babel and Gerrard, expected to do the damage and swing this Champions League tie their way. Arsenal, meanwhile will be happy as long as they don't concede at home.

Wenger believes that in the Champions League, teams that don't score away, find themselves under huge pressure in the home leg. However he does concede that the support for Liverpool at Anfield does have an impact, particularly in the Champions League.

Arsenal vs Liverpool in the Champions League is soooooooo difficult to call, but overall we think Liverpool will edge Arsenal out, and take the semi-final place.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Fernando Torres

Name: Fernando Jose Torres Sanz.

Date of Birth: 20 March, 1984.

Place of Birth: Fuenlabrada, Madrid, Spain

Nickname: El Niño

Current Club: Liverpool FC

Previous Club(s): Atlético Madrid

Achievments: Youngest Captain (19 yrs old)

Goals scored: 82 (75 Spanish Primera, 7 Spanish Segunda)

Appearances: 214 (2001-2007 Atlético Madrid 214, 2007-???? Liverpool FC 0)

National team: Spain

No. on Shirt: 9 (for Liverpool and Spain)

Liverpool have signed Fernando Torres from Atletico Madrid on a six-year deal for a fee believed to be £20m. Reds boss Rafael Benitez said the 23-year-old Spanish striker, who passed a medical on Tuesday, took a pay cut as part of the move. "The Liverpool offer arrived and I told the club to listen to that offer as that is the team I wanted to play for," said the Spanish international. "It's one of the best, if not the best, club in Europe."

Torres returned to Madrid to say farewell to the Atletico supporters before travelling back to Merseyside to be unveiled by his new club. He had been at Atletico since 11 and became their youngest ever captain at the age of 19. He has been the Spanish club's leading scorer in each of the last five campaigns, scoring 14 league goals in 36 starts last season as the side finished seventh in La Liga.

Getting Torres will bring us closer to Man Utd and Chelsea, but we need a winger "It has been a difficult decision to leave my all-time club," said Torres. "But it would have been hard for me to reject Liverpool's offer. It is a big leap for me and I think it was the right thing for everyone. "The time comes in the life of a player that he needs more challenges."

Torres will wear the number nine shirt worn by ex-Anfield forward's Ian Rush and Robbie Fowler. His capture also shatters the £14m the Reds paid Auxerre for striker Djibril Cisse as the club's previous record signing three seasons ago. I think Premiership is a football that adapts well to my style "The fact that Liverpool are giving me the number nine jersey just goes to show the confidence they have placed in me, when considering those who have worn that shirt before me," said Torres. "A new beautiful adventure begins for me and I hope that with work and effort I can be among the best players. "This is a unique opportunity for me.

Liverpool aspire to everything and that has been an important factor in my decision to go there. "I want to adapt as quickly as possible. I think Premiership is a football that adapts well to my style. Villarreal's Diego Forlan has been lined up to replace Torres at Atletico in a £14.2m deal, while the Anfield club have recouped some of their outlay by selling Luis Garcia to Atletico for about £4m. He has power, pace, is good in the air, scores goals, can dribble and do a lot of things Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez wanted to land Torres to provide a spearhead for an assault on the title and believes the fee for Torres will not adversely trouble the player. "He has experience," said fellow Spaniard Benitez. "He was playing in the first division at 17 years old and I think he can manage the pressure. "He knows he will be an important player and I'm sure the staff and other players will help him. "He has power, pace, is good in the air, scores goals, can dribble and do a lot of things.

The kind of striker he is different to the other strikers we have at the moment." Benitez also expects Torres to have more of an impact at the club than ex-striker Fernando Morientes. "He is different to Morientes," added Benitez. "He is quicker and stronger. "Morientes had other skills and was a very good finisher but Torres can run behind defenders, can play in the wide areas or play between the lines to receive the ball."