Huddersfield to the slaughter

A proper scrutiny rather than a casual glance told a story which, despite an appalling points record, revealed Huddersfield were not a side which regularly suffered heavy defeats.
With that in my mind, I was not anticipating a landslide victory for the Reds. That said, who could have predicted a goal inside 15 seconds, one of the fastest ever in the Premier League. It was as if the game was over inside the first minute.
To be fair, the visitors were very spirited for the first 20 minutes, but Mane’s fine header pretty much put paid to that.
It was a deceptively cold night and with a couple of minutes to the interval, I was not alone in finding an extra pre-match ice-cold drink running through me, so seeing a few gaps on my left, I followed the race to the Gents.
My bad. Only after I’d relieved myself did I realise that Mo Salah had added a third goal and I’d missed it. C’est la vie!
The early goal by Naby Keita was evidence of a transformation in recent weeks of the Guinean. The player’s engine cannot be faulted, though there are times when he  seems to be over-enthusiastic in chasing the ball.
That said, I think next season will see the player much finessed with this year behind him. He appears to be yet another Klopp signing who needs time to become fine-tuned in the ways of the German.
Every one of the Liverpool goals were first class, yet a look at the table shows we lag behind City in our numbers scored. Since we’ve conceded so few, it seems almost to beggar belief that our goal difference is inferior too.
The football played is a joy to watch and I reckon nobody can justifiably feel short changed in terms of a wonderful season of entertainment. Ironic of course that City should get the crucial lead goal at Burnley by virtue of 3 cms of technology. Back at the Etihad earlier in the season, the difference in not allowing a Liverpool goal was even less. Still no quibbling about the reality of both situations.
For a while now, I’ve not believed that City would let slip their game in hand and it certainly looks increasingly the case with so few to play. Neither will I carp at City if, as seems likely, they return the trophy.  Their football, just like Liverpool, has been a joy to watch. The only grumble is that Reds manage to gain so many points but finish runners-up!
It’s not over ‘til the fat lady sings, but it’s hard to see Leicester or Brighton being good enough to cause an upset. No ‘if onlys’ . The table doesn’t lie at season’s end and that’s an adage I’m certainly prepared to adhere to.
Mike Hopper

No away goals

Only double figures would make for the perfect score, but ask any knowlegeable kopite and they’d have told you that, in a home CL tie, a clean sheet comes first.
Two-nil might not seem out of the ordinary, but any Liverpool away goal in the 2nd leg will require Porto to score four! And I’ll always have faith in this Liverpool side scoring in any game.
Last night was hardly a thrilling spectacle after the first twenty minutes, but the distinct feeling was that Porto tired progressively as the game went on.
Furthermore, it was clear that in the second half, the Reds were under instructions to protect against any concession The impression was that they could have stepped things up at any time, but 2-0 was always a better scoreline than 3-1!
Liverpool were in cruise control once they led and again Hendo was immense with his slide-rule pass leading to the second goal pure Alonsoesque!
The Kop acclaimed Keita at the end but while it’s true his gradual acclimatisation is there to see, nevertheless, my personal feeling is that the player needs to muscle-up somewhat. He and Mane are very similar in build, but Sadio is a much more physical individual that when he first arrived – and a more effective player as a consequence.
Last night we realised in his absence, the immense presence that is Andy Robertson. Milner did well, but the Scot has emerged as a world-class left-back and, certainly early on, there were plenty of doubts about play in that area, so that van Dijk seemed forever having to keep a close eye on both his own play and Milner’s as well.
Still, all in all a good night’s work. Now all we need is an early away goal in Portugal and the  tie will be effectively over.
#
There were three examples of VAR referencing last night. (or didn’t you know that?) Nothing was made clear by an experienced Spanish referee and the crowd had to rely on PA George Sephton to keep them informed.
There was laughter in the crowd when George almost dismissively announced, before the referee had even signalled, that Trent’s inadvertent handball was not a penalty. Still, that and the disallowed Mane goal were appropriate uses of the facility. What was not came midway through the second half when Milner was delayed in taking a throw-in before an announcement came: ‘VAR decision- no penalty!’
What was that about? We all thought the delay concerned a Porto player tying his boot laces!!!
There’s something radically wrong with the system, as in the other CL tie at Tottenham, when both sides are happily acquiescing to facing a corner. At which point some bored and pompous official looking at his array of screens in an attic somewhere in London, feels the need to interfere and a crucial penalty ensues.
I wonder who it was? Names like Dean and Moss and Mason immediately come to mind. Crazy. It’s just not right that the paying customer is being sidelined in this way.
Mike Hopper

Dyke’s agricultural version of football

Remember the days of Saturday kick-offs at 3pm?
For sure, there was something decidedly unreal about making the mile-long walk to Anfield from the car park at 11am on a Sunday morning in March. An Arctic gale was turning people sideways and hailstones were transforming the streets and sidewalks into white.
The omens were not great. Liverpool’s opponents were the Premiership thugs and these horrendous climatic conditions seemed tailor-made for the brutal spoiling tactics so beloved of Sean Dyke’s Burnley.
Klopp was insistent that all the so-called pressure was in the minds of the press who were almost willing the Reds to collapse in order to make a great story. Fake news made for good reading, but it didn’t exist within the walls of Anfield Stadium where the knowledgeable kopites were realists.
Not that events were set to start well. Beforehand, I’d proclaimed to all and sundry that weakling referee Marriner had a long history in being soft on teams with a thuggish approach, but even allowing for that, it was difficult to see how he could allow the visitors’ early lead goal to stand.
Not one, but three Burnley players climbed all over Allison as a corner went straight into goal. This meant that two major and very contentious decisions inside 18 hours had gone in favour of the Reds’ title challengers, City.
If the naysayers had needed a moment to see Liverpool press the panic button, it was surely now. However, it didn’t happen. The Reds kept the ball on the ground in the ferocious gale and calmly got themselves back in the match with some really cool and skilful play.
If anything, it was Burnley, who found a lack of skill to their detriment in the conditions, though Referee Marriner continued to perplex the kop with his disinclination to find fault with Dyche’s agricultural methods.
At no stage did Liverpool panic at being behind; if anything they seemed almost laid back and even when gilt edged chances went begging there seemed to be nothing more than a shrug of the shoulders and a patient wait for the next one to arrive.
It was good to see Lallana back to his best. He was forever finding space and making himself available. If only we could rely on his fitness!
By his own standards, Trent had an average game, but when he was hauled off late on, there was some concern of another injury especially so close to Bayern. However, I suppose it is a necessary evil of Klopp’s overall approach that there’ll always be one player or another who’s living on the edge of a sore hamstring!
A final thought. Who would I love to see relegated? Top of my list is Burnley for their sheer unadulterated violence; then there’s Palace because of their Manager; my joint-third choices, United and Everton, have passed the 40 pts safety mark!!!
Mike Hopper

First look inside LFC’s new £50m Kirkby training base

Liverpool FC has released new images of how its £50 million training base in Kirkby will look.

The club has also given an update on the future of its current West Derby first team base.

LFC has confirmed that it will proceed with the redevelopment of its academy site in Kirkby and the neighbouring Eddie McArdle community playing fields.

The scheme will see the Reds’ first team and academy football training operations and facilities come together on one site in a new training campus.

The club says the redevelopment will provide world-class training facilities, including an elite performance centre for the first team and state-of-the-art training centre for its development squad teams.

The new 9,200 sqm training centre on LFC’s academy site creates a combined first team and under-23’s academy facility, along with new first-team pitches and parking within the site.

The facilities will incorporate two gyms, a full-size sports hall, pool, hydrotherapy complex and specialist sports rehabilitation suites. There will also be dedicated TV studios, press conference facilities and office accommodation.

CGI impression of the first-team changing room

The project also includes the redevelopment of Knowsley Council’s Eddie McArdle community playing fields at Simonswood Lane.

Improvements include five upgraded football pitches, new changing rooms and associated facilities including car parking for 110 vehicles, a new pedestrian and cycle pathway, lighting and improved security.

The club has appointed building and civil engineering contractors, McLaughlin & Harvey, to deliver the project.

CGI impression of the atrium reception

Meanwhile, the club has also started the sales process for its existing first-team training ground in West Derby.

Outline planning consent has been obtained for Melwood, which could provide up to 160 family homes in the area.

Andy Hughes, chief operating officer at LFC, says: “Today (17 July) represents a significant milestone in the club’s history. We would like to thank Knowsley Council and local residents for their time and support throughout the planning stages of this project.

“Our aspiration to create a clear pathway for our young players through to the first team is an ambitious project. The site in Kirkby provides the ideal location for the new home of our elite performance centre and state-of-the-art training facility.

“The commitment to deliver this exciting project further demonstrates the continued investment by our owners and reinforces the identity of LFC as one of the top football clubs in Europe.”

Work is expected to start on the council’s community pitches in late July, with construction starting on LFC’s academy site in early October.

The project is expected to be completed in 2020.

 

Ramos the thug

Sergio Ramos has always been an outright thug; a tramp of a footballer and one who ought not to befit the shirt of such an august football club with the wonderful history of Real Madrid.

It remains to be seen if anything comes of the half-a-million strong petition sent to Uefa, for what the man did to Mo Salah, but I for one won’t be holding my breath.

Ramos knew – and Madrid knew – what Salah meant to Liverpool, but I doubt if anyone, even somebody as worldly as Jurgen Klopp, could believe that a football player could actually seek to wipe out a fellow professional so cynically from a game.

But still, it doesn’t end there. The nightmare performance of Liverpool’s ‘keeper Loris Karius left most of us so totally perplexed that it was impossible to come up with a rational explanation for the moments surrounding the first goal.

Watching any number of replays could not determine what went through the keeper’s mind. In fact, it was impossible to make sense of it. The ‘keeper couldn’t have failed to see Benzema when he rolled the ball out; he just couldn’t. In fact all along my own conviction has been that something was amiss.

Many moons ago, when I was in my earliest teenage years, I ended up in a fight at the dining hall table and was on the receiving end of a direct punch from an older pupil which landed on my upper lip between nose and mouth.

I didn’t pass out or go down unconscious and in fact I continued my meal and lunchtime play. None of my pals noticed any radical change in behaviour; I was seemingly fine, but unquestionably not. In fact it was only half way though the afternoon lessons that I noticed myself emerging from some kind of comatose condition. For at least two hours I’d been concussed.

Putting this into the context of Karius, who’d been routinely elbowed in the face by Ramos only minutes before the bizarre goal, some kind of explanation begins to emerge.

The man was seemingly semi-conscious, in the same way as I was all those years earlier. Now the tests from America are revealing the reality. Throughout the second half, Loris Karius was concussed; he was playing one of the biggest games of his life in a complete haze and with a degree of double vision.

Wouldn’t we all like Uefa to revisit this situation? We know they won’t, because as Howard Webb admitted in his autobiography, the referee is virtually instructed beforehand to avoid red cards. The Champions League and World Cup finals are the centre piece of the season and the last thing the authorities want is to see these occasions remembered primarily for the foul play. That said, I’m sure they have it in their power to withhold Ramos his winner’s medal. Now that would be something!

If you believe in fate, in next year’s CL, what price the Reds being drawn in the same pot as Real Madrid?

The mind boggles at Sergio Ramos playing in front of the Kop.

Mike Hopper

A fair deal

All we asked for was a fair deal. We didn’t get one.

To put things in perspective, we missed two sitters early on, the first by Mo Salah which left us all open-mouthed and in a stunned state of shock. Minutes later, Trent got his legs in a tangle when he was clean through.

But that apart, the decision-making of Referee Marriner was more applicable to an oval ball game played at Twickenham. With English rugby in such a parlous state at present, coach Eddie Jones should seriously consider Eric Peiters in particular. The Stoke left back spent the whole game grappling illegally, mostly with Mo Salah, but even as late as the final few seconds when he hauled back Bobby Firmino in the area.

An offside decision is supposedly negated when the ball is last played by a defender, except when it’s a deflection. Against Spurs, the two officials deemed Lovren’s contact the latter and allowed Kane to continue on and gain a penalty. Here Wijnaldum’s goalbound shot was blocked solidly before rebounded to Ings who shot home. It was a solid block, an intentional contact; not a deflection.

Soon after Stoke almost scored when Diouf all but took the proverbial lace out of the ball with an outstretched arm in midfield, the handball completely wrong-footing the Reds’ defence.

Against Roma, Milner was penalised in the area when the ball struck his arm which was in front of his body. Late on, Pieters stuck out his arm like a policeman on point duty and prevented two Liverpool players from tapping home. No penalty; no sending off.

And so it went on. Liverpool’s patched up side weren’t exactly dynamic, but they still did ample enough to win against a Stoke side who, Shaqiri apart, were so clumsy and cumbersome that they confused Liverpool with the ball regularly coming off shin, ankle and knee and bouncing anywhere. To compensate for their ineptitude, they simply bundled and body checked. Boy, I do hope they go down!

It’s not the first time we’ve seen this sort of performance at Anfield from referee Marriner; it’s happened before. To me his easy going style prevents him from coming down properly on over-physical teams. Having ironically acclaimed him for his excellent performance against City in the 4-3 when both sides simply wanted to get the ball down and play, here, with Stoke capable only of persistent foul play, he resorted to type.

At the end, Klopp shook the hands of the two linesmen but, significantly, missed out the referee. Then, with virtually the whole stadium venting its disapproval at the main official, it was almost like the man was puffing out his chest as he left the field, revelling in the glow such excessive attention was providing him with.

At present, the standard of refereeing overall in the EPL is appalling. Is it any wonder there is no English representative at Kiev?

All Liverpool asked for was a fair deal. They didn’t get one.

Mike Hopper

In Rome, we always win in Rome…

The sequence of goals can make a whole lot of difference to the way we
feel at the final whistle. A late equaliser can seem like both a
winner and a loser depending on which side you’re supporting.

In the first semifinal against Roma, had the Reds come from two goals
down to win 5-2, we’d have all been feeling on cloud-nine. As it was,
having all but booked our final place at 5-0, the loss of two late
goals was an undoubted dampener. Liverpool, as only they can, managed
to give the Italians a lifeline. It’s almost like the Liverpool way –
never make things straightforward!

What it meant was that fans were walking down Arkles Lane shaking
their heads instead of skipping gleefully over the puddles.

It didn’t seem fair in many respects, not least with the chances that
went begging, but Lovren’s mistake let in Dzeko in 81 minutes, before
a poor refereeing decision, five minutes later, saw visitors score a
second from a penalty.

Euphoria is an understatement with regards to Champions League nights
at Anfield. For the most part, on this occasion, the atmosphere was as
raucous and strident as we’ve all come to expect. One pundit on BT
called it the ‘bear-pit’. I kinda liked that!

The press certainly seemed as one about the energy and the passion,
though not sure how many journos were experiencing such a night for
the first time.

What was not in doubt against Roma was the quality of Liverpool’s
game. It was scintillating and the scribes were unanimous that Klopp’s
warriors were devastating.

This season, the regular fans have been spoilt and that, in itself,
can produce its own problems. There is always the danger that the
expectancy level is too high. Footballers are not robots, not least at
this stage of the season when a club like Liverpool is playing massive
fixtures every three and four days.

There are football supporters everywhere – not just ones of Reds’
persuasion – who would pay a tout’s ransom to watch Mo Salah simply to
be able to say they’d seen the guy just the once. Similar sentiments
applied to Luis Suarez. As for us regulars, blasé though we may have
become, we still manage to get gobsmacked when the Egyptian King
performs like he did on Tuesday night.

But for all that, the team effort is there to behold. Sometimes it
takes a video play-back hours later to discover who played a crucial
pass in the build-up. Mo has a definite telepathy with Bobby and Sadio
Mane, also Oxlane, which makes that lad’s injury all the more painful.
Trent too, sends some audacious balls into the narrow channel down the
right wing.

And so we head for Rome with two dangerous away goals to be confronted
and I don’t doubt the Italians will be a different proposition on
their own patch. However, it’s hard to look objectively and not
believe Klopp’s team won’t score at least once.

If in doubt, fall back on the decades-old song:

“In Rome, we always win in Rome!”

Mike Hopper

Dublin Pre-Sale Information

Dear Supporters Club,

For the 2018 Pre-Season Tour our Official LFC Supporters Clubs receive priority access to purchase tickets before they go on sale to the general public.

Dublin Pre-Sale Information:

Liverpool FC vs SCC Napoli – Saturday 4th August 2018

The Dublin Pre-Sale will commence today at 10am BST (please note this was previously listed as a 10.30am BST start time but has since been brought forward).

To access the pre-sale Supporters Clubs & their Branch Members will need to enter the following pre-sale code during the booking process: LFCSUP

In order to keep the pre-sale as exclusive as possible please ensure that the Supporters Club pre-sale code & ticket link/URL is shared with Members as privately as possible and not posted on social media.

Ticket prices range from €10 for Kids, and €40 for adults and €125 for a Family Package (which includes two adults and two children)

The Liverpool Supporter Sections are: Blocks 112 to 117 and 512 to 518
Please Note: All tickets in Liverpool FC section are Category B  and priced at 60 Euros

To access the pre-sale visit: https://www.ticketmaster.ie/lfcsupportersclub

Online Ticket Limit: 7 per booking

GROUP BOOKINGS:

For those Branches wishing to make a bulk/group booking of 8 or more tickets please go to the File Store and download the ‘Dublin 2018 Group Booking Form’ and return the completed form to E:group.sales@ticketmaster.ie

GENERAL SALE:

The general sale will commence on Friday 27th April 2018 at 11am BST

Should you have any questions please raise these using the LFC Contact tab on the OLSC Extranet and select Pre Season Tour 2018 as the enquiry subject.

YNWA

Warm Up World Cup Match to be Played at Anfield

Liverpool FC have confirmed ticket details for the international friendly between Brazil and Croatia at Anfield.

The match will be played at 3pm BST on Sunday June 3rd.

*The entire stadium will be ticketed and prices are varied depending on seat location.

*Adults – £30 – £55

*Over 65s – £23 – £41

*Young adults (aged 17-21) – £15 – £28

*Juniors (aged 16 and under) – £10

(Junior tickets must be purchased with adult, over 65 or young adult tickets. Tickets are available to purchase at a ratio of 3:1 and will be available in the advertised family areas.)

http://www.liverpoolfc.com/news/tickets/298191-ticket-details-anfield-brazil-croatia

Reds confirm pre-season fixtures in USA

Liverpool FC has today confirmed it will be heading to the USA to take part in the International Champions Cup (ICC) as part of its pre-season preparations.

Reds supporters will flock to Michigan, Charlotte and New Jersey in order to see Jurgen Klopp’s men fight it out with some familiar opponents when they play three games in America this July.

 Liverpool’s ICC fixtures are as follows:

July 22: Liverpool v Borussia Dortmund – Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina.

July 25: Liverpool v Manchester City – MetLife Stadium, New Jersey.

July 28: Liverpool v Manchester United – Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbour, Michigan.

Billy Hogan, Managing Director and Chief Commercial Officer, Liverpool FC said: “Our pre-season tour is always a great opportunity for us to visit our supporters around the world – we’re really looking forward to visiting America this year and to compete in this fantastic tournament against some great teams.

“We’ll be bringing a bit of Merseyside to the USA and facing some outstanding opposition – we’re all looking forward to seeing our US fans and hearing the crowd in full voice.”

The Reds last took part in the ICC back in 2016 when they faced Chelsea and AC Milan in California and FC Barcelona at Wembley.

Daniel Sillman, CEO of ICC and RELEVENT, said: “Interest and fandom for European soccer in the United States and Asia is at an all-time high. Record numbers of new kids from every region and community are finding a passion for the game, the mythical teams and compelling personalities.

“The International Champions Cup and RELEVENT are incredibly excited about giving fans another amazing tournament. In addition to hosting legendary clubs in great cities and creating the European football experience, we are committed to finding new and innovative ways to bring the teams, players and fans together.

“Last week’s announcement of the first-ever women’s tournament was met with an overwhelming response, underscoring the passion for European soccer and our mission.”

For more information about the International Champions Cup, please visit www.internationalchampionscup.com