Mar 112016
 

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson has warned their Europa League job is only half-done against Manchester United.

The Reds take a 2-0 lead to Old Trafford for the second leg of the last-16 clash after comprehensively outplaying their arch-rivals in their first meeting in European football.

Victory ended a run of four successive defeats to Louis van Gaal’s side and despite United putting up little fight against Liverpool’s total domination at Anfield, Henderson has sounded a cautionary note against complacency.

“It is only half the job done. Anything can happen in football and I have seen stranger things happen,” said the England midfielder.

“It is only half-time so we have to make sure in the second half at Old Trafford we play like that again because it will be very difficult.

“It was a good team performance. You have to concentrate on performances and I feel in the last few weeks performances have been good and results follow.

“We have built some momentum and confidence and hopefully we can continue that until the end of the season.

“This (result) give us another boost.”

Henderson admits he had to tread carefully after being booked in only the second minute for a raised foot which is routinely cautioned in European football.

The players had been warned by manager Jurgen Klopp before the match to be careful as Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo had a reputation for being card-happy, having issued 74 cautions and six red cards in his 12 previous matches.

Carballo took his tally to 80 bookings with three apiece for each side, the most significant of those for the hosts being the one shown to Dejan Lovren who together with Alberto Moreno (both on two) will be suspended for the quarter-finals should they collect another yellow card and Liverpool progress next week.

“I was a little bit concerned getting a yellow card after two minutes,” admits Henderson.

“I didn’t think it was a booking but maybe a foul as my studs were showing but I got the ball.

“I just needed to be careful and not make any silly fouls as I could easily have been sent off but I felt I managed myself well.”

Klopp said he did think some of the official’s decisions were harsh but did not want to complain about his performance, although it did concern him of the impact going forward.

“We didn’t know how to handle it. It was really hard for Hendo after his early yellow card,” he said.

“We don’t have to criticise the referee because he didn’t decide the game but for the whole tournament it is difficult.

“There are a few yellow cards on each side and you think ‘Why?’

“The team that goes through will have a problem with yellow cards.”

Klopp was careful not to get too carried away with the performance and goalkeeper Simon Mignolet was equally wary ahead of next week’s short trip to Manchester.

“We are pleased with the result and not to concede at home in a two-legged game,” said the Belgium international.

“We could have scored more but it is still undecided and we have to stay calm and look forward to the next game at Old Trafford.

“But (because) we’ve done it (in the first leg) it doesn’t mean we’ll go through to the next round.

“Manchester United at Old Trafford is always going to be a tough fixture; they have loads of individual quality throughout the squad and we have to deal with that.

“But we have to look at our performances and we have the talent. If we play the way we did then we don’t have to worry about that.

“We’ve got a whole week to focus on the game. It’s not happened very often this season with the amount of games we’ve played so that’s positive.

“We can recover and focus on the game but I am sure Manchester United players are fit enough to play two games in a week.

“We’ve got an advantage and we’re happy with the way we played, but we have to do it again next week.”

Source: PA

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Mar 102016
 

Liverpool face arch-rivals Manchester United for the first time in European competition on Thursday.

Here Press Association Sport looks at some of the issues ahead of their Europa League last-16 first leg.

WHO WILL CONQUER THEIR INCONSISTENCIES?

Liverpool go into the match after back-to-back wins but that is no guarantee of success as too many times this season they have shot themselves in the foot just when it seemed they had turned a corner. Similarly United won four in a row, admittedly two were against Shrewsbury and Midtjylland, before surprisingly getting beaten at West Brom – which is also characteristic of their season. The result is likely to be decided on who makes the fewest mistakes.

HOW HAS LOUIS VAN GAAL ACQUIRED THE INDIAN SIGN OVER LIVERPOOL?

The Dutchman has won all four games against the Reds since taking over at Old Trafford and Liverpool have never lost five in a row against their old enemies. But a closer look at those wins shows Van Gaal has enjoyed his fair share of luck, from Liverpool – mainly Raheem Sterling – missing a host of chances in his first encounter, through Steven Gerrard getting sent off seconds after coming on to Wayne Rooney nicking a 1-0 in at Anfield in January despite being second best.

DO VAN GAAL’S TACTICS MEAN THE KEY WILL BE HOW UNITED’S DEFENCE PERFORMS AGAINST LIVERPOOL’S ATTACK?

United have kept three clean sheets in seven encounters against fellow big-five opponents (Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal) this season, winning three and losing just once. They have managed to score just eight goals and six of those came in two games against Liverpool and Arsenal. Liverpool have scored 16 times in eight meetings against big-five teams – and first-choice striker Daniel Sturridge has played in just one of those.

SO WHO DOES HAVE THE BEST ATTACK?

United’s top four scorers have 39 goals between them but 14-goal Wayne Rooney is out injured, although Marcus Rashford’s emergence has given them a timely boost. Liverpool’s best four have 30, evenly spread between them, and crucially all are fit. That quartet does not include Sturridge, who has scored five times in 11 appearances this season at a far greater strike rate than any of his team-mates.

WHAT ROLE CAN THE FANS PLAY?

There have been very few of those famous European nights at Anfield recently but on their day the supporters have more than played their part – just ask Chelsea about the wall of sound they faced during the 2005 Champions League semi-final. Long-serving matchgoers to both Anfield and Old Trafford have both complained about how the influx of ‘tourists’ has watered down the atmospheres and the teams’ fortunes on the pitch have contributed to that but a midweek match under the lights should get the juices flowing again.

Source: PA-WIRE

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 Posted by at 12:08 pm
Mar 102016
 

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp believes his side face a challenge of mini-Champions League proportions in UEFA’s second-tier competition.

The German thinks the presence of the Reds and north west arch-rivals Manchester United in the last 16, facing each other in Europe for the first time at Anfield on Thursday, highlights how difficult it is to win the competition.

And despite suggestions the tie is worthy of Champions League status, Klopp insists it is not far off any way.

“What is Champions League level? I saw a lot of rubbish games at Champions League level,” he said.

“Liverpool and Manchester United want to always be part of it but I always said the Europa League is a very exciting tournament.

“There’s a long way to go but we can see the (finish) line. There’s only top-quality teams in this tournament.

“From now on it’s something like a small Champions League. We can’t change we’re not in the Champions League but we can only do our best to change it in the future.”

Liverpool have lost their last four matches to United, only one of which Klopp was in charge for, and never in their history have they lost five but the manager is confident they are much better placed now.

They were the better side in January when they lost 1-0 at Anfield to a Wayne Rooney goal and on that day they were without the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho and Divock Origi – all now available after injury.

“This will be a completely different situation, that’s for sure,” added Klopp.

“I’m not sure who will be ready yet but we are in a better situation clearly.

“We have more available and can make changes when we want to.

“To us that now is our job – we have to use that situation in the moment because no-one knows how it will be next week, it’s the best moment for us to play these important games.”

Forward Adam Lallana is yet to win against United having moved to Anfield in the summer of 2014 and is looking for some long-awaited payback.

“Since I’ve been here I’ve not won a game (versus United) so it is a great challenge for the team to put that right,” he said.

“There is something special which rides on a game between Liverpool and United.

“We have played well against the so-called bigger teams and got good results except Manchester United, when we have lost both games (this season).

“Sometimes you come out on the wrong end of it but luckily enough for us we have the chance to put things right and over two legs we are confident we can to do that.”

Source: PA

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Mar 082016
 

A familiar face was back at Liverpool’s training ground on Tuesday as Luis Suarez paid a visit to see his former team-mates.

The Barcelona striker took advantage of a brief holiday to spend the morning at Melwood along with his daughter and son.

Defender Mamadou Sakho posted a video on Instagram showing Suarez in the canteen, while the club posted two pictures on Twitter of Suarez watching training and posing with his family.

The Uruguayan joined Liverpool in January 2011 and scored 82 goals in 133 appearances for the club before leaving for Catalonia in the summer of 2014.

He is Barcelona’s leading scorer in the Primera Division this season ahead of Lionel Messi and is expected to play in Saturday’s clash with Getafe.

Source: PA-WIRE

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 Posted by at 9:43 am
Mar 072016
 

Striker Christian Benteke has vowed to ‘fight till the end’ to save his Liverpool career.

The Belgium international came off the bench to score the last-minute penalty in the 2-1 victory at Crystal Palace on Sunday, his first goal in 14 matches ending a drought which stretched back to December 30.

It has given the £32.5million summer signing hope he can start to play a bigger part as the return to fitness of Daniel Sturridge, and manager Jurgen Klopp’s preference for compatriot Divock Origi as his second choice, means Benteke has not started in the last six matches.

“It’s not the easiest of situations but you have to be ready,” he told Belgian newspaper HLN.

“In a career you’ll never have only top moments, also your difficult times.

“It’s in the most difficult situations that the real warriors, the tough men and determined guys stand up.

“You have to be up for it. I have to take every chance, every minute the manager gives me: one minute, five minutes, 10 minutes, half an hour.

“I’ve still enough ambition and enough character to fight in difficult moments. I don’t give up easily. I fight till the end.

“In my mind I was never thinking about a move (in January). I didn’t want to leave.”

Benteke’s penalty kept him alongside Roberto Firmino, who got the first at Selhurst Park, as the club’s leading scorer with eight – although all the Brazil international’s goals have come in the Premier League.

And the striker insists he had no personal doubts about stepping up for the spot-kick despite him previously failing to score in 2016.

“When the referee pointed to the penalty spot straight away I said I would take the responsibility,” he told liverpoolfc.com.

“No matter what, I had to take it and in my mind I was sure I was going to score.

“I’m very happy to help the team and I have to say everyone worked really hard, especially Divock in attack.

“It was easier for me at the end because they [Palace defenders] were a bit tired.

“Hopefully I’m going to score a lot of goals between now and the end of the season but as long we win that is the main thing.”

Source: PA

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 Posted by at 11:23 am
Mar 062016
 

Liverpool’s 10 men secured a 2-1 win at Crystal Palace with a late penalty from Christian Benteke after goalkeeper Alex McCarthy gifted Roberto Firmino an equalising goal with a horror slip in the second half.

It was Firmino’s poor defending and reluctance to block Joe Ledley’s shot that led to Palace taking the lead and, after James Milner was sent off for a second yellow card, close to a first win in the Premier League in 2016.

An aimless attack and little pressure led to McCarthy – surprisingly selected over Julian Speroni in the absence of the injured Wayne Hennessey – making the costly error.

That led to Palace’s winless run in the league, which dates back to December 19, continuing when Benteke was awarded a controversial stoppage-time penalty after going to ground despite minimal contact from Damien Delaney.

The victory, which takes Liverpool up to seventh, maintains their pursuit of a top-four finish and leaves 15th-placed Palace at greater risk of joining the battle against relegation.

Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho – unquestionably Liverpool’s greatest threats – were among their substitutes as Jurgen Klopp retained much of the team which on Wednesday so impressively defeated Manchester City 3-0.

Connor Wickham and Hennessey each failed late fitness tests, so Palace manager Alan Pardew recalled Emmanuel Adebayor and McCarthy – also replacing Jordon Mutch for Joe Ledley and Martin Kellly with Pape Souare – and surprisingly retained the 4-4-2 formation he has recently experimented with.

He said he does not believe his team have been distracted by their progress in the FA Cup – they on Friday visit Reading in the quarter-finals – but their run means that argument is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain.

It perhaps helped they were hosting a team whose priority should be the Europa League, and who even after Wednesday’s win remain so inconsistent at each end of the pitch that it was little surprise further poor defending risked undermining them.

The dangerous combination of Adebayor and Yannick Bolasie – a frequent tormentor of Liverpool – threatened early and forced two saves from Simon Mignolet in the first half, first when Adebayor fed Bolasie from close range and then when Bolasie found Adebayor, who from the left of the area curled towards the near post.

Jordan Henderson watched a powerful shot strike Souare in the face, and Divock Origi curled a threatening effort over the crossbar, but each were little more than optimistic, which could not be said about Ledley’s chance early in the second half.

Liverpool were struggling to clear a 48th-minute corner when Firmino sliced the ball to Ledley, who with his left foot shot powerfully into the bottom right corner – while watching Firmino avoid blocking the ball – for his first goal of the season.

That Milner were soon sent off after a second yellow card for a foul on Wilfried Zaha – he had been booked shortly before half-time for another on Yohan Cabaye – then appeared to give Palace the platform to finally secure that elusive league victory.

Instead, a goalkeeping error – and from the less likely of the two candidates, given Mignolet’s erratic nature – allowed Firmino to redeem himself.

Under little pressure, McCarthy slipped when attempting a routine clearance from a pass back to send the ball into the Brazilian’s path, from where he calmly finished into a near open goal.

With their one man advantage, Palace had time to secure a second goal but they simply do not score enough.

Alberto Moreno had already struck the post late on when Benteke theatrically went to ground despite minimal contact after an innocuous challenge from Delaney.

Referee Andre Marriner did not award anything until the intervention of his linesman, and Benteke calmly finished from the spot to secure Liverpool’s win.

Source: PA

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