Tag Archives: Stewart Downing

Disappointing Downing

13 Aug

Disappointing Downing

 

Liverpool have offloaded winger Stewart Downing to West Ham after a disappointing career at Liverpool. Downing was signed by former manager Kenny Dalglish in July 2011 for a fee of £20 million in a summer of big spending for Liverpool.

 

But since Dalglish’s departure Liverpool’s owners have altered their strategy under Brendan Rodgers by reducing the wage bill. Rodgers had moved high earners on to pastures new and brought in new players on lower wages.

 

Joe Cole, Andy Carroll, Pepe Reina and now Stewart Downing were all big earners and have now been moved out.

 

Downing looked an exciting acquisition at the time, an experienced England international who played on the wing was the ideal player Liverpool were looking for at the time when they had very few wide men.

 

But Downing struggled at Liverpool and only contributed 7 goals in 91 outings for the club. It was a poor return for such an expensive signing who was reportedly on £80,000 a week.

 

Downing’s highlight during his 2 year Spell at Anfield was his man-of-the-match performance in winning his only honour with the club as Liverpool defeated Cardiff City in last year’s League Cup Final.

 

Far too often Downing would fail to deliver a telling ball into the opposition penalty area for Liverpool’s strikers. Even when Downing cut inside from the right flank to create a shooting opportunity on his favoured left foot, he very rarely hit the target, never mind score.

 

Brendan Rodgers criticised Downing shortly after becoming manager at Anfield and even started young Raheem Sterling on the wing in preference to Downing at the start of the season.

 

But Rodgers brought Downing back into the side later in the season, although he revealed in December that Downing could leave the club.

 

Downing became a regular for the remainder of the season, but not always in his familiar role on the wing, Rodgers frequently used Downing at left back.

 

In fairness to Downing his performances were much better last season than in his first season with the club. His work rate was impressive and he looked a more confident player. But for all Downing’s endeavour and new found confidence, Downing is a player that lacks “heart”, the heart to go in where it hurts to score a goal, the heart to not shirk a tackle, but most importantly for a player who plays on the wing, the heart to take a defender on and get to the bye-line, Downing never did this enough at Liverpool.

 

Liverpool never got their money’s worth from Downing and decided to cut their losses on an expensive failure with a costly weekly wage.

 

You can’t fault Downing’s effort but he just wasn’t good enough for Liverpool Football Club, and he now continues his career alongside another Liverpool failure, Andy Carroll at West Ham.

 

Brendan Rodgers is starting to shape his own team after transferring players that don’t fit into his style of play, and by bringing in players that do.

 

Rodgers has allowed another player with a wealth of experience to leave the club and Liverpool now have a very young squad with not many “old heads” in the squad, as Liverpool look to youth to take them forward.

 

Rome wasn’t built in a day but Rodgers is gradually building his empire with young, enthusiastic players that he hopes will take Liverpool back to where they belong.

 

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Preston 0-4 Liverpool Match Report

14 Jul

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Preston 0-4 Liverpool

 

Liverpool started their pre-season with a trip to Preston to contest the Shankly Shield in commemoration of the great man who served both clubs and who was born 100 years ago this year.

 

Debutant Apas scored on his debut for Liverpool as the Reds eased to a comfortable 4-0 win at Deepdale. Philippe Coutinho started the scoring after converting a penalty before Jordan Ibe scored his first senior goal for the Reds, Raheem Sterling netted the other Liverpool goal.

The Match

 

Brendan Rodgers tried to give as many players some match practice in Liverpool’s first pre-season match for the new season. New signings Luis Alberto, Simon Mignolet , Kolo Toure and Iago Aspas all featured for the Reds. Daniel Agger was installed as captain for the day with Steven Gerrard not featuring and with Jamie Carragher’s retirement from football.

 

Daniel Agger was the first player to test the Preston keeper Rudd, with a stinging 30 yard effort Rudd could only parry, before the Preston defence quickly cleared to clear the danger.

 

Liverpool dominated possession in the early stages and their constant pressure paid dividends when Coutinho robbed Preston’s John Welsh of possession on the edge of his own area before pulling the Brazilian to the ground resulting in a penalty. Coutinho casually converted the spot-kick into the corner sending Rudd the wrong way in the process.

 

A period of possession football from Liverpool came after the goal with neither keeper having much to do until Liverpool stepped up the tempo with Flanagan bursting into the Preston half after intercepting a Preston pass before sending Borini clear, but the Italian lacked composure and slipped his effort wide of the post with only Rudd to beat.

 

A minute later young Jordan Ibe proved to be more ruthless when he skipped inside from the left flank before rifling an unstoppable low effort past Rudd at his near post. The goal capped a fine first half performance from the youngster as he tormented the Preston right-back.

 

The second half brought wholesale changes to both sides, with Aspas and Alberto pulling on the Red shirt for the first time.

 

Sterling replaced Ibe on the left flank to mark his comeback after a long-term injury. The winger looked keen to impress as he burst down the left flank before forcing his way into the Preston box before curling a stike towards the far corner, but replacement Preston keeper Stuckmann managed to divert the ball away to safety.

 

Sterling’s enthusiasm was rewarded with 25 minutes remaining when a rapid exchange of passes on the half-way line sliced open the Preston defence and sent Sterling one-on-one with the keeper. Sterling showed great composure to round Stuckmann before sliding the ball into the empty net.

 

A fine Liverpool performance was capped by debutant Aspas curling a 25 yard effort past Stuckmann in a pleasing day for Brendan Rodgers.

 

Summary

 

Liverpool impressed against Preston in their first pre-season match at Deepdale. I liked the way the players showed hunger to press the opposition and look for the ball. OK Preston are not the greatest of teams but it was a decent workout and was a good fixture for debutants Alberto, Mignolet, Toure and Aspas to settle into the Liverpool team. The players that impressed for me were Jordan Ibe who looked a threat down the left flank and scored a great goal which will do his confidence no harm. Coutinho just looks better with every game and pulled the strings against inferior opposition, took his penalty clinically. Stewart Downing looked lively when he came on for the second half and Raheem Sterling was very impressive as he looked to go past the Preston full-back at every opportunity, a great goal by Sterling too as he showed great confidence in his cool finish. Debutant Aspas showed some clever touches and looks a tricky player as he created Sterling’s goal before scoring a fine goal himself. I think the best moment of the day for me was the introduction of Martin Kelly with 10 minutes to go as he made his comeback from long-term injury, he has been so unlucky with injuries in recent years and his return is like a new signing for Liverpool. Overall it was a good workout for Brendan Rodgers’ side and I’m sure the manager will be happy with his team’s performance.

 

 

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Liverpool 2-2 Chelsea Match Report

22 Apr

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Liverpool 2-2 Chelsea Match Report

 

Luis Suarez stole the headlines on Rafael Benitez’s return to Anfield with a last gasp equaliser 6 minutes into injury-time. But unfortunately it wasn’t his late goal that grabbed the headlines, but his bite on Chelsea defender Ivanovic which the match officials missed. Oscar headed Chelsea into the lead before Liverpool substitute Sturridge levelled in the second half. But moments later a Suarez handball allowed Hazard to convert a penalty to restore the visitors’ lead before Suarez’s last gasp headed equaliser.

 

The Team

 

Brendan Rodgers made one change from the side that drew 0-0 at Reading last week, with Stewart Downing returning to the side in place of Daniel Sturridge who dropped to the bench. Reina kept goal with Johnson, Carragher, Agger and Enrique the defence in front of him. Coutinho, Lucas, Gerrard, Henderson and Downing made up the midfield with Suarez in attack.

 

The Match

 

The pre-match build up was concentrated on the return of former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez who is still a big favourite at Anfield. Benitez also laid a floral tribute at the Hillsborough memorial prior to the match in tribute to the 96. A minute’s applause was also performed prior to kick-off in respect of Hillsborough Campaigner Anne Williams who died last Thursday and for the victims of the last week’s Boston Marathon.

 

After all the emotion prior to kick-off, the match started very flat with not a lot happening in the early stages. The first chance fell to former Chelsea player Glen Johnson, but he could only toe-poke an effort into the hoardings.

 

Former Kop favourite Torres was thwarted by a diving interception from Enrique as Chelsea started to settle into the match. The first quarter of the match was very laboured without any goal mouth action until Oscar headed past Reina at a corner kick at the near post after losing the Liverpool defence.

 

Three minutes later David Luiz fired in a dipping free-kick which Reina spilled only to recover just in time before the ball crossed the line. Torres then earned himself a booking for an elbow into the face of Carragher, before Suarez smashed a shot at goal but Cech made a good save at his near post.

 

Liverpool’s poor first half performance resulted in Rodgers making a change at half-time with Sturridge replacing Coutinho, and Sturridge made an instant impact with a great run before setting up Gerrard whose low shot was brilliantly saved by the left foot of Cech.

 

Seconds later Sturridge let fly from 25 yards only to be denied by the post with Cech beaten. The former Chelsea man had changed the match completely and energised Liverpool’s performance.

 

Then Sturridge levelled the match from close range after a delicious curling cross from Suarez sending the Kop wild with delight. But the celebrations were short lived as 4 minutes later Chelsea were awarded a penalty kick when referee Kevin Friend noticed a handball by Suarez in the Liverpool box.

 

Hazard converted the resulting spot-kick sending Reina the wrong way and giving the visitors the lead again. Liverpool seemed to have the wind taken out of their sails by the loss of the goal and struggled to create chances as the game became more nasty with a few unsavoury incidents as Carragher became involved with a running battle with Torres, and Sturridge was lucky to escape a red card after a nasty challenge on Chelsea defender Ryan Bertrand.

 

But the bite by Suarez was obviously the worst incident, although missed by match officials at the time, the incident was witnessed by replays shown to TV viewers.

 

Rodgers replaced Downing with Shelvey as time started to run out on Liverpool and he should have made himself a hero seconds after coming on when Sturridge presented him with a golden opportunity to equalise, but the youngster fired into the side-netting.

 

Chelsea looked to have taken all 3 points after surviving the additional 6 minutes shown by the fourth official but in extra added time Suarez headed past Cech from a Sturridge cross with last action of the match sending the Kop wild with delight and earning Liverpool a deserved point.

 

Summary

 

Rodgers was wrong leaving Sturridge out and he proved that with his second half performance. The first half was one of the worst performances from Liverpool this season as they showed no energy and cohesion and constantly gave the ball away as they surrendered possession to Chelsea. The second half was far better and it was really down to Sturridge who ignited the team, although hopefully a few choice half-time words from Rodgers may have helped too.

 

But the match and the score pales into significance as all the talk will be about Suarez biting Ivanovic and that is sad. But the incident was really disgusting and as unsavoury an incident as you will see in football and there is no defending that type of behaviour. Suarez has to be, and will be punished. But Liverpool can’t be expected to sack or sell him without a replacement of his calibre, which will not be easy to find.

 

Suarez should be given help by mental health professionals as he obviously has a problem which could happen again if not treated. He has committed this crime in the past and it could very easily happen again if not treated. He is a terrific player and like other great players like Cantona and Zidane they have a self-destruct button that can be triggered at any time.

 

Liverpool and Suarez did the right thing by issuing an apology and contacting Ivanovic, who showed remarkable restraint and professionalism to continue playing in a concentrated fashion after the incident and also for accepting Suarez’s apology. Liverpool have reportedly fined Suarez for his behaviour and state that they will continue to support their player and they will wait to see what punishment the FA will decide upon.

 

 

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Reading 0-0 Liverpool Match Report

14 Apr

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Reading 0-0 Liverpool Match Report

Liverpool left the Madejski Stadium frustrated after missing numerous chances to win the match against a Reading side fighting for their Premiership survival.  Reading goalkeeper Alex McCarthy was the main reason why Liverpool failed to find a winning goal as he produced numerous saves to keep the Reds at bay.

The Team

Brendan Rodgers made just the one change to the side that started against West Ham last weekend, with Sturridge replacing Stewart Downing. The rest of the team included Reina in goal, with Johnson, Enrique, Agger and Carragher in defence. Coutinho, Lucas, Gerrard and Henderson were the midfield with Suarez in attack.

The Match

Prior to kick-off Reading paid an emotional tribute to the 96 Liverpool supporters who died at Hillsborough ahead of Monday’s 24th anniversary of the disaster with a minute’s silence.

Liverpool dominated possession in the early stages of the match without creating any chances until the 14th minute, when Coutinho split the Reading defence with a clever pass sending Suarez through on goal, but the striker’s dinked finish past McCarthy was headed off the goaline by Gunter.

Liverpool continued to press and Sturridge saw an effort blocked by McCarthy before Coutinho’s low curling effort was tipped around the base of the post by the inspired goalkeeper. From the resulting corner, Carragher headed narrowly over.

It was one-way traffic as Reading fought to stay in the game against constant Liverpool pressure. Suarez saw another effort saved by McCarthy before Gerrard volleyed the rebound at the legs of Karacan.

Coutinho blasted high and wide after Sturridge saw his run into the box halted. Then just before half-time Sturridge was denied by a point-blank save from McCarthy following a corner before Agger headed inches past the wrong side of the post.

Liverpool finally put the ball in the Reading net moments after the re-start when Coutinho flicked home a Gerrard centre, but his effort was ruled offside.

The second half continued in the same pattern as the first half with Liverpool continuing to create chances. Rodgers introduced Downing for Jordan Henderson for the last half hour as his team continued to search for the opening goal.

Coutinho then skimmed an effort wide of the far post after a Sturridge cut-back. But Reading almost stole the lead against the run of play when Pogrebnyak’s centre found Hunt only yards out but Reina made a stunning point-blank save to keep the score level.

Reading called Reina into action again when McAnuff’s 12 yard drive had to be tipped over the bar by the Spaniard as the hosts enjoyed their best spell of the game.

But it wasn’t long before Liverpool were back on the attack as Suarez saw a great effort from a free-kick clip the outside of the post before Downing drilled a shot off target after cutting in from the right flank.

Liverpool continued right to the end in search for the winning goal but they were left bewildered by the form of Reading keeper McCarthy as he pulled off stunning late saves from Gerrard and then Suarez before Sturridge fired over the bar when presented with a great chance as Reading held out for a share of the points.

Summary

Another frustrating day for Liverpool as Reading somehow managed to keep Liverpool out. Frustration has been a common theme this season as Liverpool must be left wondering how they never managed to win this match. A catalogue of missed chances including poor finishing and outstanding goalkeeping from the inspired McCarthy led to Liverpool’s frustration as they continue to search for the recipe of consistency in their results. But many positives must be taken from the game as the drive and determination to get that vital goal right up to the final whistle was encouraging as the players showed great attitude in creating so many chances. Another clean sheet was another positive to take from the game. Gerrard’s energy to drive his players on was inspirational as he proved once again that he has a few miles left in his tank yet. But overall another disappointing result for Liverpool and the search for consistency continues.

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Liverpool 0-0 West Ham Match Report

8 Apr

Liverpool 0-0 West Ham Match Report

 

Liverpool had to settle for a point against West Ham who frustrated the Reds with a dogged defensive display on Sunday. The Reds carved out several opportunities but failed to convert, although substitute Sturridge had the ball in the net in the second half only to see it ruled out for offside.

 

The Team

 

Brendan Rodgers decided to keep the same eleven that won at Aston Villa last weekend which meant no place in the team once again for Daniel Sturridge. So Reina kept goal once again with the defence consisting of Johnson, Enrique, Agger and the veteran Carragher. Jordan Henderson kept his place in the midfield alongside Coutinho, Downing, Lucas and Gerrard with Suarez as the lone striker.

 

The Match

 

Prior to kick-off Anfield held a minute’s silence in memory of the 96 supporters who died at Hillsborough ahead of the 24th anniversary of the tragedy on April 15.

 

Liverpool made a bright start to the match and Coutinho tested Jaaskelainen early on with a low drive. Gerrard, Henderson and Suarez all had efforts of their own but failed to make the breakthrough as Liverpool dominated possession.

 

But the visitors could have snatched the lead in the 25th minute when Diame produced a powerful run into the Liverpool box but he blazed his effort into the Kop.

 

Stewart Downing was replaced by Sturridge in the first half as Liverpool were forced into a change with Downing’s problem.

 

Suarez almost broke the deadlock after linking up with Coutinho in the box but his low effort was saved by the feet of Jaaskelainen. At the other end Lucas got caught in possession which led to Carlton Cole with a shooting chance, but he was denied by a brilliant block by Daniel Agger.

 

Jaaskelainen saved from Sturridge from close range after misjudging Coutinho’s corner kick in stoppage time at the end of the first half.

 

Liverpool continued to search for the opening goal in the second half as Gerrard burst into the box before producing a low cross which was hooked to safety by Diame with Sturridge in attendance.

 

Gerrard was then frustrated when he saw his net-bound effort cleared of the line by Tomkins with Jaaskelainen helpless.

 

Sturridge diverted a Henderson shot into the net from 6 yards but it was ruled out for offside in the 66th minute. Moments later Coutinho arrowed a shot just wide of the upright.

 

Moments later Gerrard went tumbling under a challenge from Tomkins but referee Taylor waved away appeals for a penalty.

 

Liverpool continued to search for the winner but could have lost the match as Lucas produced a brilliant goal-line clearance on the line from Collinson’s powerful header late on.

 

Liverpool had to settle for a point as time ran out in a frustrating afternoon at Anfield.

 

Summary

 

I was disappointed to see Sturridge on the bench once again, especially at home. I understood why Rodgers went with just Suarez up front at Villa after being too attack minded at Southampton the week before, but at home against West Ham he was far too conservative in his team selection.

 

Liverpool made a few chances but not enough, although credit must go to West Ham’s tremendous defensive performance. I thought Sturridge’s “goal” was a close decision but not for the first time this season it never went for Liverpool. Gerrard’s penalty appeal could also have been given on another day. But West Ham should have been awarded a penalty too when Enrique kicked the back of Collinson in the box. Liverpool need to win these type of games. Such a frustrating result for Liverpool once again.

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Improving Liverpool

24 Feb

Improving Liverpool

 

Liverpool have endured a rollercoaster of a season since Brendan Rodgers took over in the summer, and the results have been so inconsistent leaving the club way off the pace for a top four finish. But this season was always going to be a transitional period.

 

Liverpool lost a lot of experience in the summer for one reason or another and Brendan Rodgers had to turn to youth to fill the gaps in his team. Players like Andre Wisdom, Suso and Raheem Sterling have stepped up to the plate for Liverpool and Liverpool are now starting to reap the rewards of their youth system with many others showing great quality and who will be challenging for a first team place in the not too distant future.

 

Jordan Ibe looks the pick of the bunch of talented youngsters but Connor Coady, Yesil, Ryan McLaughlin, Sama, Morgan, Flanagan, and Jack Robinson who is out on loan at the moment are a few worth mentioning.

 

New managers come to a new club and try to install their ideas and methods of how they want their team to play and Brendan Rodgers is no different, Rodgers likes to play a passing style including pressing the opposition high up the park. This has took a while to implement with signs of it working in some matches and many mistakes especially in defence costing the team dear in others.

 

To qualify for European competition next season would be high on the agenda at the start of the season, but with so many changes at the club the most important thing should be that the team is showing signs of improvement, and I believe that they are.

 

OK so the defence has been a bit more vulnerable than in recent seasons, but by playing a passing game from the back does put extra pressure on defenders and as the season has progressed I feel they are learning that there are still times when you have to just clear your lines when under pressure, when earlier in the season they would pass their way into trouble. There is still the odd mistake like Carragher’s the other night but individual mistakes do happen and I’m sure they will clear up soon.

 

The amount of chances Liverpool are creating has to be encouraging although the conversion rate is poor, but it is more of a problem when you are not creating chances and to produce 35 shots at goal in one game is quite remarkable and the conversion rate will improve.

 

The reliance on Suarez for the most part of the season has been a problem but he has been immense regarding Liverpool’s lack of striking options. But with the addition of Sturridge to the team Liverpool look far more threatening and a more attacking team. Lucas coming back from injury has freed up Gerrard to get forward more and the resurgence of Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson has been a great addition to the team.

 

The performances against Swansea and Zenit were very encouraging with the team playing some great football but more importantly playing with a desire, passion and high tempo that we have not seen enough of this season. So hopefully this style of play and attitude will continue as opposition teams will struggle against a Liverpool team playing this way.

 

There is a lot to play for in the remainder of the season for Liverpool and if they can continue to show improvement then the future will be bright for the Anfield side.

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