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Liverpool agrees fee for Stewart Downing

Stewart Downing MUST play in Europe. Or, uh ... failing that, with another team that pays better. –Courtesy The FA

Liverpool’s official site just announced that they have agreed a fee for Aston Villa’s Stewart Downing to which I say BLLLAAAAHH. I don’t understand the logic of making the point that a player is “not for sale” and then selling him a couple days later – it seems shady, though you can make that case about several of the transfer and managerial dealings Villa have done in the past few months. I can only assume that means that Liverpool agreed to pay at least the 20 million pounds Villa had reportedly asked for at some point.

Moving forward, this likely means that Aston Villa will close a deal for Wigan’s Charles N’Zogbia, and it also makes you wonder what the endgame is for a Liverpool team that seems likely to sell arguable their best player last season (Raul Meireles) for a relatively paltry amount of money while picking up a bunch of players that don’t necessarily seem like THAT much of an improvement (Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam, really?). I guess we’ll see what happens.

Match Report: Liverpool 0, FC Utrecht 0

By John Kennedy

Liverpool line-up and ratings:  Jones – 6, Kelly – 7, Wilson – 6, Aurelio – 7, Skrtel – 6 (Kyrgiakos – 5), Shelvey – 6, Poulsen – 4, Babel – 5, Jovanovic – 5 (Kurt – 5), Eccleston – 5 (Pacheco – 6), Cole – 5

Utrecht line-up and ratings: Vorm – 6, Keller – 5, Nesu – 5, Wuytens – 5, Cornelisse – 6, Silberbauer – 6, Nijholt – 5, Maguire – 6 (Sarota – NR), Wolfswinkel – 5 (de Kogel – 6), Duplan – 5 (Oar – 6), Mertens – 6.

Attendance: 37,800

Liverpool were held to an uninspiring goalless draw by Dutch side FC Utrecht at Anfield Wednesday night in their final Europa League group game. The Reds, already through to the last-32 knock-out stage, lacked any sense of urgency throughout, despite fielding a number of young players keen to show their worth.

Manager Roy Hodgson revealed he’d decided against playing Fernando Torres on the advice of his medical staff, but it was difficult to believe he was seeing this game as anything more than an extended training exercise.

In the absence of the Reds first three choices for captain (Gerrard, Carragher and Reina), the skipper’s armband was given to Martin Skrtel on his 26th birthday. Nat Eccleston, 19, made his debut, while Danny Wilson, 18, was making only his second appearance. Although neither lacked in endeavour, both struggled to make a mark on the game.

In a drab opening half, the closest Liverpool came to scoring was a shot by Serb striker Milan Jovanovic, above, that was touched onto the bar by keeper Michel Vorm.

The second half was little better. Ryan Babel went close, firing a shot wide of the right-hand post, but the loudest cheer of the night came from both sets of fans, when former Utrecht player Dirk Kuyt entered the fray. Joe Cole, returning from injury, struggled to make an impact, but lasted the 90 minutes and had a close-range effort blocked late on. Babel was unlucky not to get onto the end of a dangerous cross from Martin Kelly.

Utrecht leading scorer, Ricky van Wolfswinkel, looking for a move to the Premiership in the January transfer window, had those hopes dashed when he fell awkwardly and was stretchered off with a broken collarbone.

The most pertinent comment made of the night’s dull proceedings came from one young Liverpool fan who was recipient of one of the thousands of free match tickets the club gave away to their under-17 supporters. “Never got my money’s worth,” he noted, dryly.

The draw for the last 32 takes place on Friday.

Match Stats

 

56 %

Possession 

 

 

44 %

 

3

 

Shots on Target

 

 

3

 

3

 

Shots off Target

 

 

4

 

3

 

Corners

 

 

5

 

1

 

Offside

 

 

0

 

11

 

Fouls

 

 

6

Group K Final Table

Pl GD Pts
Liverpool 6 5 10
Napoli 6 -1 7
Steaua Bucharest 6 -2 6
Utrecht 6 -2 5

Match report: Newcastle United 3, Liverpool 1

by John Kennedy

Scorers: Newcastle – Nolan (15), Barton (80), Carroll (90); Liverpool – Kuyt (49)

Newcastle line-up and ratings: Krul – 7.5, Simpson — 7, Campbell — 5, Taylor – 6.5, Enrique — 7, Barton — 8 (Routledge — NR), Tiote — 8, Nolan – 8 (Smith — NR), Gutierrez  — 6, Ameobi – 5 (Ranger — NR), Carroll — 8

Liverpool line-up and ratings: Reina — 6, Johnson — 6, Kyrgiakos — 5.5, Skrtel — 5.5, Konchesky — 6, Kuyt — 6.5, Meireles  — 7, Lucas  — 6, Rodriguez — 5 (Jovanovic— NR), Torres — 5, Ngog — 5 (Babel — 4)

Alan Pardew’s reign as Newcastle manager got off to a surprisingly sweet start Saturday as the home side took advantage of another lackluster performance on the road from Liverpool.

Most of the pre-match publicity centered on the sacking of popular manager Chris Hughton and the appointment by controversial owner Mike Ashley of the less-than-charismatic Pardew. Smiles were more in evidence at the final whistle, however, with United winning a shade less comfortably than the 3-1 scoreline suggested.

In the absence of Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, Liverpool failed to name one local player in the starting line-up, so it was with some irony that Scousers Kevin Nolan and Joey Barton were so instrumental in their downfall.

Nolan put Newcastle ahead against the run of play after 15 minutes when home-grown striker Andy Carroll, above, nodded down a Barton free kick for Nolan to finish. And after Dirk Kuyt had scored a somewhat fortuitous equaliser just after the break with a scuffed shot that took a deflection, it was Barton who restored Newcastle’s lead with 10 minutes remaining. A long kick from Krul was headed on by Nile Ranger, and catching Liverpool’s defense flat-footed, Barton stole in to finish decisively.

Newcastle made it difficult for Liverpool to push for an equaliser, but the visitors were finally put out of their misery with the best goal of the game from Carroll, who struck from outside the box to kill the game in injury time.

After the match, Pardew was understandably cautious in his comments, but there was no hiding his relief. Conceding it had been “a really heavy two or three days,” he was quick to give the credit to his players, acknowledging “the spirit they had already was great to see.”

Victory saw Newcastle leap-frog Liverpool into eighth place in the Premiership, and Pardew now has the luxury of a full week to work with his new squad before they visit Birmingham City next Saturday.

Match Stats

Newcastle Liverpool
45 % Possession 55 %
3 Shots on target 5
3 Shots off target 12
0 Blocked shots 0
2 Corners 5
21 Fouls 13
2 Offside 3
2 Yellow cards 1
0 Red cards 0
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