Sunday, 29 December 2013

Caught in Chelsea’s Webb- Liverpool Slip to Second Consecutive Defeat

Liverpool went into the game at Stamford Bridge with a relatively high level of confidence- despite coming into the game on the back of a defeat against City, we had performed well in that game and felt that we had the ability to beat Chelsea. History was also in our favour; previous to this fixture Liverpool had never lost two consecutive games under Brendan Rodgers, and Chelsea had not defeated us in the league since 2009/10. Unfortunately it just wasn’t our day- both of these runs were broken as Liverpool ended up losing 2-1.

It all started so well. Martin Skrtel, who has come under fire a lot recently for his error-prone nature (and all-round inability to function particularly effectively as a centre-back) opened the scoring after just three minutes, poking the ball, for once, into the correct goal! Sadly, that was pretty much it in terms of Liverpool attacks in the first half. From then on it was all Chelsea; the reds didn’t look their usual selves at all, getting completely dominated. Chelsea pressed well and got their reward on 17 minutes- Hazard equalising with a lovely curled effort after the ball fell kindly for him. Despite my hopes this did not provoke a reaction from Liverpool. We continued to sit back, and on 34 minutes were punished again, Eto’o firing home after a catalogue of defensive errors (as well as a weak attempt at a save from Mignolet). For the last 10 minutes of the half Liverpool seemed fractionally improved, but still lacked any sort of attacking potency.

A lot of the game was sadly much more focused on the officiating than the football being played. I thought we’d been very hard done by at City- this was even worse! The referee, Howard Webb, didn’t exactly cover himself in glory in the first half, not even showing a card to Samuel Eto’o after he tackled Henderson, studs showing, inside the first minute. He should have been off, but nobody thought too much of it at the time as Skrtel scored from the subsequent free kick.

Things only got worse in the second period, with Webb seemingly determined not to give Luis Suarez a penalty. Personally I think Suarez has cleaned up his act a lot lately; he seems to go down much less easily than he used to, and in general seems to have a more relaxed, civil demeanour about him. Officials don’t seem to have picked up on this, and consequently his reputation as a diver still goes before him. The first incident was from a corner- John Terry (incidentally playing his 600th game for Chelsea) jumped on top of him, completely preventing Suarez from jumping for the ball and bundling him to the ground in the process. Webb was placed well to see the incident but gave nothing- a blatantly unjust decision. The second was even worse: Suarez was involved again, this time getting fouled by the man who should already have been off, Eto’o. Cesar Azpilicueta had just done well to dispossess Suarez, then Eto’o came across and knocked Suarez to the ground right in front of Webb’s nose. Unbelievably he gave nothing, and Chelsea went on to retain their 1 goal lead and win the game.

These weren’t the only two refereeing decisions I was aggrieved at. Oscar dived multiple times during the match, and was never once punished for it. He later committed a clearly bookable offence on Lucas, so he should have been off the pitch. Willian also totted up about 6 fouls early in the game without any reprimand. That said, Liverpool were by no means at their best. Though the referee has to shoulder a large portion of the blame for the result, we could have played much better, and at the end of the day the two penalty shouts would have been inconsequential if we could have scored more from open play.

To sum up, I’m very frustrated about the defeat and am angry at Howard Webb for his awful decision-making, but I don’t think we can complain too much seeing as the players were also at great fault. Fortunately this is only one game, and this defeat is by no means, as some reactionaries are dubbing it, ‘the end of our season’. The next game is against Hull on New Years Day- onwards and upwards.
-James Martin

Follow me on Twitter @JamesMartin013

Monday, 16 December 2013

Spurs 0 -5 Liverpool: Post-Match Thoughts

Yesterday (Sunday 15th December), Liverpool travelled to White Hart Lane to face a team who have been widely tipped as their rivals for a Champions League spot, Tottenham Hotspur. If Liverpool were at all concerned about the potential season-long ramifications of the game then they did not show it- despite (or perhaps in part thanks to- I’ll get to this later) the absence of the skipper Liverpool put in arguably their best performance of the season to come out, astonishingly, 5-0 victors.

For the first five minutes it looked as if the game would pan out as widely predicted. Both sides were piling on the pressure, trying to get in the faces of the opposition. If anything, Tottenham had the better of the early exchanges. However, they were quickly overwhelmed by the rapid passing and movement of the Liverpool attack- Sterling in particular wreaked havoc. The reds deservedly broke the deadlock after 18 minutes, with Henderson and Coutinho combining nicely before Suarez exquisitely beat his man in the box and curled the ball into the corner. Spurs had no answer to the Liverpool pressure, and consequently Liverpool were able to add a second before half time- Suarez this time turning provider for Jordan Henderson.

When the first half ended it was a disappointment- we had the upper hand, and I was worried the break would kill our momentum. It wasn’t to be- Liverpool came out very strongly. In all fairness Spurs made a half-decent attempt to rally- they had a few decent attacks, but in truth never really looked like scoring. Any distant hope of a comeback was quashed on 63 minutes when midfielder Paulinho was sent off. There has been a fair bit of debate surrounding the red card, but I definitely think it was the right decision. Accidental or not the fact is Paulinho caught Suarez in the chest with his ridiculously high boot, a dangerous ‘challenge’ (in inverted commas as it was never really a contest for the ball- Suarez was always getting there first) worthy of a sending off.

12 minutes later Liverpool took advantage- Suarez played a nice cross into the middle, where Jon Flanagan of all people hit the bouncing ball expertly into the very top corner. This crumpled the last of Tottenham’s resistance; the floodgates opened and Liverpool slammed two more past Spurs in the latter stages, Suarez scoring the 4th with an excellent lob and Sterling rounding things off in the 89th minute.

Although Tottenham were not at their best, it cannot be argued that Liverpool weren't deserving of the win. They played some sumptuous football, moving the ball round expertly in midfield then making a slick, smooth transition into attack. This may well have been partially down to the absence of Steven Gerrard- though his long balls are exceptional when they come off, he does have a tendency to be wasteful. His age also means he isn’t quite as mobile as he once was- the role of technician that Allen played in his place was a breath of fresh air for the team. 

To sum up, Liverpool put in one of the performances of the season to thrash Tottenham away from home. Suarez was excellent as usual, involved in all 5 goals, but the emphasis was more on the team than the individual. If we can keep up this standard of play we will certainly be in with a very real chance at the title come the end of the season. A lot of people are still dubious, but if a 5-0 win away from home against the team that finished just a point off 4th last season isn’t enough to make people reassess just what we’re capable of, I don’t know what is. The future is bright.
-James Martin

Follow me on Twitter @JamesMartin013

Sunday, 8 December 2013

A Tale of Two Articles- Language Analysis!

Note: This piece has been uploaded for a bit of fun! I did it as my English homework- it isn't an actual article, it is merely a comparison of my previous piece on the Norwich game and an article on the same game from the official Norwich website.
See the two articles here:

The first text is an article written about Liverpool vs Norwich, from the perspective of a Liverpool fan. The other is a match report on the same game that was published on the official Norwich City website.

Though both texts are about the same event, the tones created by the respective authors are very different. On the Norwich website, phrases such as ‘on the wrong end’ are used, which imply that Norwich were not particularly at fault, and they were simply unlucky. In contrast, the article on LFC Fans Corner focuses mostly on the good play of Liverpool rather than the bad luck of Norwich. Emotive words such as ‘spectacular’ and ‘phenomenal’ are used to express the level of play that Liverpool were attaining.

Another technique used in the article on LFC Fans Corner is alliteration. Phillippe Coutinho is described as ‘creating chances’ and ‘dribbling round defenders’; the flowing nature of the language mirrors the fluid play that Liverpool were producing. Alliteration is also used in the article from the Norwich site, but to create a different effect. It describes Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers as ‘applauding in admiration’-in this instance, the use of alliteration alludes to the repetitive nature of the action. It suggests that applause were drawn a lot from Rodgers due to the extremely good performance of his team; this in turn makes Norwich look better as it further emphasises their helplessness in preventing the landslide victory.

Finally, the Norwich article uses litotes to try and portray Liverpool’s victory as somewhat fortuitous, again to show Norwich City as unlucky rather than merely outplayed. It describes the move that led to the second Liverpool goal as ‘nothing special’, suggesting Liverpool were lucky to get a goal from it. The piece on LFC Fans Corner, on the other hand, uses hyperbole to make Liverpool seem even better than they actually were. When describing the same goal, the author of this article said ‘it required a large amount of skill’. This serves to dispel any nagging thoughts the reader might be having that the goal was lucky. 

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Canaries Creamed

On Wednesday, Liverpool hosted Norwich City. A win in their previous game had seen Norwich climb out of the bottom 3, and Liverpool came into the fixture on the back of a shock 3-1 defeat to Hull City. This did not seem to knock their confidence too much, as they eventually came out 5-1 winners in a victory inspired by Luis Suarez.

Norwich started the game brightly, and at first there were worrying sings that the absence of Sturridge could once again lead to a failure to create and convert chances. However, as it turned out, we don’t need chances to score! After 15 minutes, Suarez conjured a spectacular goal out of nothing. Ruddy hit his goal kick long, which, after an aerial duel, broke to Suarez. The Uruguayan took the ball on the half-volley, despite being 40 yards out. It shot through the air, with power, curve and deadly accuracy. Ruddy was helpless as the ball flew perfectly into the top corner of his net. It was a phenomenal goal, but Suarez was by no means finished.

14 minutes later, he netted again. This time it came from a corner- Gerrard looked as if he was going to header, but pulled away at the last second. This caused confusion in the Norwich defence, and Suarez was on hand to slam the ball emphatically into the roof of the net. Though not in the same league as his first, this goal required a large amount of skill, as it was tough to keep the bouncing ball down. It would have been easy to completely sky it (just ask Torres), but Suarez made it look easy.

Just 6 minutes later, he was at it again! On 35 minutes he completed his hat-trick, and completed it in style. Having flicked the ball brilliantly over a defender, he then shaped to shoot. Instead of hitting it straight away he delayed it slightly, creating more space. Once he’d got the space he was after, he cannoned it home into the corner, leaving poor Ruddy helpless once more. It was arguably even better than the first goal, and that’s really saying something.

Liverpool could have had another couple before half time, but the teams went in at 3-0. When the match got underway again, Norwich showed little sign of making any sort of comeback, and Suarez continued to wreak havoc with their defence. On 74 minutes he unbelievably added a 4th, and it required just as much talent as the rest. Gerrard won a free kick, and Suarez stepped up. Sublimely, he curled it round the wall and into the corner. On any other day it would have been goal of the match! Suarez nearly got one or two more to his name, but it was actually Norwich who scored next. A nice cross, put in by youngster Nathan Redmond, was excellently headed in by Bradley Johnson. This didn’t change the flow of the game though, and Liverpool got their reward for continuing to press in the 88th minute, when Suarez (who else?) set up Sterling to score the 5th and final goal.

Contrary to what the article may have had you believe so far, Suarez was not the only Liverpool player to make a contribution. Coutinho was fantastic, creating a lot of chances and dribbling round defenders with ease at times. Johnson also had a good first half, though he faded off as the game went on. Sterling was very lively, and consistently made extremely selfless runs and passes. His reward was a goal and assist. That said, Suarez will rightly take all of the plaudits, because he was just sensational. It was quite possibly the best individual performance I have ever witnessed, and if we can hold on to him in January it should be regarded as the biggest achievement of our season to date.

Obviously it would be unreasonable to expect such stellar performances from Suarez every week, but the fact that he was able to so emphatically step up to fill the void left by Daniel Sturridge is promising. It shows that we can win, and win well, without him- hopefully we’ll be able to retain our place in the top 4 during the time he is sidelined.
-James Martin
Follow me on Twitter @JamesMartin013