Sunday, 22 April 2012

Liverpool v WBA Match Report

Roy Hodgson’s return to Liverpool proved to be positive for him as his team West Brom Albion won over Liverpool at Anfield one-nil.

The first half of the game was painful for both sides as no goals were scored, but Liverpool continued their run of bad luck at home with many chances but having none converted to goals.

Enrique tried early on but the defender kicked it well over the bar. Another chance came from a corner kick, but Daniel Agger was also not able to grasp the chance well enough. Andy Carroll’s header was also over the bar.

The chances did not just come for Liverpool. West Brom also tried to open the scoring and kept returned keeper Pepe Reina plenty busy. Liam Ridgewell had a ball bounce off him towards the direction of the Spaniard but Reina quickly stopped it. And Peter Odemwingie tried a long ball effort that went wide of the goal.

The second half did not get any better. The Reds hit the woodwork twice. First, Jordan Henderson had his shot bounce back, and Dirk Kuyt’s ball also hit the post low and narrowly missed out.

In the 66th minute, chaos ensued when a throw in started the sequence of three clearances in succession at the West Brom goal.

Odemwingie finally put the Baggies one up ten minutes later. He sent Reina the wrong way after picking up a ball from a poor clearance by Glen Johnson.

Though the team did push on the defense for awhile, the Reds seemed to have fizzled out hope in the final minutes, letting Hodgson and the Baggies head back home with all three points.

Monday, 16 April 2012

How I followed Liverpool to London

During an away game, you can normally find me in the local pub with my Liverpool shirt on, cheering our boys on.

I’ve always envied those in the ‘Travelling Kop’ and really depended on them to be my voice too, when showing support in a different setting from Anfield. The away fans represent us all, and I hoped to be one of those representatives at some point.

This season, a major sigh of relief came from me when Liverpool were lucky enough to get home games in all four draws of the FA Cup, and I was even more lucky to be able to go to them, having missed out on all of the Premier League games.

Although our games were at Anfield, I was extremely nervous about our chances. We may have had draws against Oldham Athletic and Brighton, but we also had to defeat Manchester United and Stoke City before advancing. It was rough, but nothing Liverpool could not handle.

I was standing in the Kop against Stoke City when I watched Luis Suarez and Stewart Downing assure our Wembley trip with a goal each against Stoke’s one. After I calmed down about the win in general, it hit me that I might have a chance to go with them.

The anticipation of a ticket announcement nearly killed me. The club’s Twitter feed finally showed me the link I had been waiting for: “FA Cup Semi-Final announcement.”

I fully expected instructions on how to register for a ticket ballot, as they did for the Carling Cup final. But no, this time was different. I read the website twice to make sure I was correct. Because of my attendance to the last four FA Cup, I was guaranteed a ticket.
Immediately I splashed my social networks with statuses on my excitement. Still, the thought of travelling to London to what is arguably the greatest stadium in the United Kingdom was a dream. Not only that, but it would be a Merseyside Derby due to Everton overtaking Sunderland in their replay a fe days prior. The real proof of my trip came when I went to stand in line for my ticket at 5am the day I was qualified for.

My friend, Stephen, was coming with me, and I was grateful for it. I was extremely nervous about booking my first trip away in three years. I must have driven him mad with all of my questions about the travel down there and the area of London anyways, since it would be my first time there as well. I made sure to save up some before booking the coach and hotel, and it was a relief when it was all sorted.

The night finally came to travel down to London. We arrived at the coach station early to claim our preferred seats to be as comfortable as possible on the long overnight journey. It did not go without a few hiccups though, as a stop in Birmingham saw three other passengers kicked off for smoking and drinking. The delay put us back nearly an hour, and we were exhausted after being unable to catch a snooze on the coach.

My adrenaline kicked in a bit when we pulled up to London Victoria coach station at 7am. There were plenty of Reds and Blues scattering one way or another. Some went to straight to Wembley, but as this was my first trip to London, I took advantage of the early morning hours to do some sightseeing.

The famous arch was a sight to be seen for miles

Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, The London Eye…they were all great, but absolutely nothing compared to the extravagance of seeing Merseyside take over the capital. The sea of Red and Blue outside of Wembley was well and truly the greatest sight of them all. Finally, I got to be one of the fans representing those all across the world in the grandest setting Liverpool has seen in awhile.

Fans were absolutely swarming the walkway into the stadium. Reds were to enter on one side with the Blues on the other, but until they got to the entrance, we were all mixed. There was lots of banter, but nothing too harsh, aside from the three-year-old in Blue giving all Reds the finger while sitting stop his father’s shoulders. The most important thing was seeing both sets of supporters show their support for victims of Hillsborough. 
Reds and Blues packed either side

The sight of Wembley on the outside was breathtaking with its distinguished archway inviting all match-goers, but inside it was even better. I sat down in my seat and took in the view. I do not think it could have gotten much better. I was sat 34 rows up near the corner. The amount of people that poured-in in the next hour was incredible and definitely nothing I have ever seen before in my life.

The next 105 minutes were some of the most intense I have ever experienced. The first half saw Everton’s Jelavic gave them the lead with an early goal, and I witnessed the Blue half of Merseyside bounce in celebration on the other side of the stadium. The way Everton were playing, I was sure Liverpool could walk away disappointed. Our side seemed to have quieted down a little bit. I think half time could not have come soon enough. Both the players and fans needed a chance to recuperate.

I suspect Kenny Dalglish gave the boys an earful during that break, because the second half saw a new rejuvenated team. They pushed hard onto the Blues’ defense and it paid off when Suarez brought hope back with his equaliser. I have never shown so much excitement over a goal in my life. The Kopites erupted in cheers. Everyone was hugging and holding onto whoever was close to them, and singing Suarez’s praises with his song and swinging their scarves in celebration.

The voices never died down after that goal. In fact, they probably got even louder as we sang our support. I would like to think it helped spur on spirits of those on the pitch, especially Andy Carroll who headed in Liverpool’s second goal and put us ahead.

I do not think I yelled so much in my life. I shouted encouragement to the players and things like: “Only three more minutes boys!” and “Let’s do this! Keep them Blues away!” Of course, they did not hear me, but it felt good to do it anyways. After all, I was there to support and represent the rest of supporters.

Suarez & Carroll: Cup Heroes

I may have shed a tear or two when the final whistle blew. I looked to Stephen and said, “I am so happy right now, I can’t believe it.” He smiled at me being overwhelmed, as this was something he had already been able to experience before at other games and knew how I was feeling.

The smile did not leave my face for a long time. Reds and Blues stayed segregated until we reached the Tube, but there were no issues, despite Liverpool fans singing all the way from the gates of Wembley to the entrance of the train. I watched an Evertonian sitting across from me during the journey back to Central London. His eyes were red and puffy from crying. Despite the strong rivalry between the two, I felt for him, as I would be doing the same if it had been the other way around.

I crashed in my London hotel room after being on a high for so long thanks to the win. When I woke up the next morning, I smiled again knowing it was not a dream, and Liverpool were off to Wembley again for the third time this season. Not only that, but I get to be there again and be part of this family that represented those fans worldwide.

So on May 5th, I will be making the journey again to London. I will sing just as loud and cheer on my team against Chelsea. No matter the outcome, I have been so thankful for my experience at my first away game and Merseyside Derby, and I am truly grateful to be part of the famous Liverpool family.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Blackburn v Liverpool Match Report

It was a crazy night at Ewood Park when Liverpool defeated Blackburn 3-2 in the final minutes.

Manager Kenny Dalglish made several changes to the previous line-up in anticipation of the upcoming FA Cup semi-final at the weekend, including resting captain Steven Gerrard, but the side did not seem weak in the slightest.

After 13 minutes, Maxi Rodriguez proved just that. Martin Skrtel picked out Craig Bellamy, who then crossed it beautifully to the Argentinian. Maxi easily put it past Rovers keeper Paul Robinson.

It only took a couple minutes later for Maxi to repeat it, putting the Reds two up after both Andy Carroll and Jonjo Shelvey were denied their chance to be on the scoresheet.

All seemed well until a messy back pass from Jon Flanagan caused stand in keeper Alexander Doni to fumble and take down Blackburn’s Juinor Hoilett in the process. Doni was shown an immediate red card, and Brad Jones stepped up take his place. Jones was able to save Yakubu’s penalty as his first touch.

In the 36th minute, Blackburn scored their first goal of the evening from a free kick by David Dunn that was then headed into the net by Yakubu.

The Rovers were granted a second penalty 61 minutes in when Jones pushed Yakubu in the box and was given a yellow. This time, he would make it past Jones, granting the home side some hope for a draw.

It looked to be a draw when the game came into extra time, but Carroll saved the day and claimed all three points for the Reds. Daniel Agger passed the ball high into the box where Carroll was able to gain control and put it past Robinson, claiming victory for the Reds after a long drought.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Liverpool v Aston Villa Match Report

Unlucky Liverpool managed just a point at Anfield against Aston Villa with a 1-1 draw.

Striker Dirk Kuyt was all over Villa from the beginning, giving keeper Shay Given a startle early on but he grasped onto it, denying the Dutch international.

But Villa found the back of their goal first. Barry Bannan passed the ball to James Herd, who then put it past stand-in Red keeper Doni.

Before the halftime whistle was blown, Liverpool called for two penalties but both were denied by the referee including a potential handball and Luis Suarez being fouled inside the box. Instead the referee saw the foul as a dive and the Uruguayan saw a yellow card.

The biggest blow of the evening was when captain Steven Gerrard crossed the ball into the box, but Kuyt missed his chance at point blank range and somehow the ball went over the net instead of in it.

Given definitely saw more threat from Liverpool in the second half. First he had to stop a header from Suarez, and then he came under pressure from substitutes Craig Bellamy and Daniel Agger.

With only eight minutes to spare, Liverpool levelled the score. Agger attempted to head the ball into the net from a corner, but it was salvaged by Suarez from two yards out and put past the Villa keeper.

Liverpool’s spirits were obviously lifted after that, and they spent the last few moments putting pressure on, including a last minute effort by Gerrard. Villa were able to hold on though, and both teams walked away with a point each.