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Liverpool defender Skrtel demands winning run

Liverpool defender Skrtel demands winning run

WOLVERHAMPTON, England (AFP) – Martin Skrtel has urged Liverpool to go on a long winning run as Rafa Benitez’s side look to strengthen their Champions League claims with a victory at struggling Wolves on Tuesday.

Uncertainty continues to surround the future of Reds manager Benitez as a result of Liverpool’s failings, with his team already eliminated from the League Cup, FA Cup and Champions League.

After being humiliated by Reading in the FA Cup, Liverpool earned a battling draw at Stoke before beating Tottenham and Skrtel believes his side’s lack of domestic cup games will mean they are fresher than their closest rivals in the race for a top four finish.

Skrtel said: “I firmly believe that better times are ahead of us as up to present we have been far behind the pre-season objectives.

“The last two games against Stoke and Tottenham showed us that we are ready to do our best for the club. We would like to start a long winning run.

“In the Premier League we want to finish fourth in the worst case. Unlike our rivals, though, we will be playing fewer games, so we should be more relaxed and have more energy.

“I believe we will reach our objective of finishing within the top four. Also, we are still in the Europa League and will be trying to get as far as possible.”

One player hoping to be an integral part of Liverpool’s expected charge is Alberto Aquilani, who admits the pressure is still on him to justify his substantial price tag following a difficult start to his Anfield career after joining from AS Roma.

The Italian midfielder is expected to make another start at Wolves, despite the expected return of Steven Gerrard from a hamstring problem, although Benitez will still be without injured star striker Fernando Torres.

Aquilani said: “I know a lot has been said and written about me so far without me being able to prove my ability in matches. But soon, I believe that I will.

“I understand that people are still wondering whether I will be a good signing for Liverpool, but I need to be judged after I have played in a run of games. I feel a lot better about my fitness now, although it could still be higher.

“I am relaxed because I know I can do a lot better, and with time I know that will happen.”

Wolves manager Mick McCarthy rested several key players for the weekend’s 2-2 FA Cup draw with Crystal Palace and has no regrets despite the poor result.

McCarthy said: “I had no hesitation in making the changes. Of course I was thinking of the Liverpool game.

“With the team we played, any club in the Championship would be thrilled with that side.

“But I have to manage the squad for games and will do it again. We’ve got a draw in the FA Cup and it’s better than being out of the competition.”

Ronald Zubar was handed a rare start and is now hoping to retain his place against Liverpool.

He said: “Hopefully it will be enough to keep me in the team. Liverpool is a massive game, I’m working hard to try and be picked for it. The gaffer makes the decision and you have to respect it, but I’m happy with the way I played against Palace.

“It’s a good time to play Liverpool. They are not having a brilliant season and it’s important to play them at this moment in time.”

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Man City too good for Liverpool

Man City too good for Liverpool

Manchester City recovered from their shock defeat at Sunderland and opened up a three-point gap at the top of the Premier League table with a comfortable victory over Liverpool.
Roberto Mancini’s side faced a test of character and resilience with a swift turnaround to play again only 48 hours after the loss at the Stadium of Light – and they passed the examination impressively.
Liverpool were denied striker Luis Suarez’s potency as they decided not to appeal against the eight-game ban handed down after the Football Association found the Uruguayan guilty of racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra.And they sorely missed Suarez’s menace as they enjoyed plenty of possession but never threatened to turn it into tangible reward.
Mancini incredulous at Man City fixtures
Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina’s error gifted Sergio Aguero an early goal and Yaya Toure rose to head home David Silva’s corner for a second before the break.
The only blot on City’s night came when Gareth Barry was sent off for a second yellow card, which means he misses Sunday’s FA Cup third round tie against Manchester United, but they sealed the win when James Milner scored from the spot after Martin Skrtel fouled Yaya Toure.

It gave City the advantage over closest rivals United before their visit to Newcastle on Wednesday and enabled them to regain momentum after a goalless draw at West Bromwich Albion and the 1-0 reverse at Sunderland.

Liverpool’s efforts lacked punch despite the vast expense lavished on their forward line by manager Kenny Dalglish and they ended well beaten.

Stewart Downing was thwarted by Joe Hart’s crucial early block from Jordan Henderson’s fine pass before Reina gifted City their opening goal.Aguero’s shot was testing in the stormy conditions but the Spaniard made the basic error of failing to get his body behind the ball and the 20-yard shot dipped underneath him to relieve City’s early nerves.

The Argentine then lifted a shot just over before Edin Dzeko’s effort took a heavy deflection off Glen Johnson and flew inches wide with the anxious Reina totally wrong-footed.

As Liverpool appeared to be getting a foothold in proceedings, the hosts struck again 12 minutes before the interval.

Reina made amends for his earlier error by turning Vincent Kompany’s header over the top, but when Silva returned the resulting corner Yaya Toure got ahead of Johnson to head high past the the visiting keeper.

Kompany made a vital intervention at the other end to ensure City protected their two-goal lead until half-time, throwing himself bravely in front of Dirk Kuyt’s shot as the Dutchman moved to turn in Andy Carroll’s header.Once more the Reds saw plenty of the ball after the restart, but their lack of threat prompted Dalglish to make a double change just before the hour mark, sending on Steven Gerrard and former Manchester City striker Craig Bellamy for the disappointing Charlie Adam and Kuyt.

They failed to make any serious inroads into the home defence, although they were given brief hope when Barry was sent off for a second yellow card, an innocuous block on Daniel Agger, with 17 minutes left.
If they did have any hopes of a revival, they were snuffed out two minutes later when referee Mike Jones – a late replacement for Andre Marriner, who refereed the match in which Suarez had his flashpoint with Evra in October – pointed to the spot after Skrtel tangled with Yaya Toure.

After Mancini had failed in demands to have Skrtel sent off by waving an imaginary red card, Milner converted the penalty emphatically.
Substitute Adam Johnson struck the post with a curling effort as City pressed again, but matters had already been settled well before.
Liverpool kept going and tested City keeper Hart with some late efforts from Gerrard and Downing, but he was more than equal to the task on a bitterly disappointing night for Dalglish’s side.

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Fiorentina upset Liverpool in Champions League


Fiorentina upset Liverpool in Champions League

FLORENCE, Italy (AFP) – Young playmaker Stevan Jovetic scored a brace as Fiorentina stunned Liverpool 2-0 in Champions League Group E at the Stadio Artemio Franchi here on Tuesday.

The Montenegro international twice found the net in a mesmerising first 45 minutes for the hosts before the Viola backline held firm during a nail-biting second half.

The victory moved Fiorentina level on three points with Liverpool and three points behind group leaders Lyon.

If Fiorentina started this match as the underdogs, someone had omitted to tell them and there followed 45 minutes of near domination from the Tuscans, with Jovetic at the centre of almost everything.

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez said his team simply hadn’t turned up in the first half.

“We didn’t play well in the beginning, we had too many problems and made too many mistakes,” he said.

“We weren’t doing well, we had to change something and in the second half we were totally different, we played much better.

“In the first half they were on top of us all the time, we weren’t doing the things we had talked about before. We knew it would be difficult but we weren’t doing well, we did badly in everything.”

La Viola coach Cesare Prandelli admitted he had never before seen his team play like they did in the first half.

“The first half was probably the best match, or part of a match, of my time here, not least because it was against a great team with great character,” he said.

“But we have to work on being a 90-minute team so we can still improve a lot.”

On 16 minutes Martin Skrtel blocked his shot away for a corner before the Montenegro star shot wide from distance and then narrowly missed connecting with a driven Adrian Mutu cross-cum-shot.

But on 28 minutes the rampaging hosts deservedly took the lead as Cristiano Zanetti‘s pass split a hesitating defence, which seemed to have stopped as Mutu lurked in an offside position, but the Romania captain left the ball and Jovetic ran through to slide home low past Pepe Reina.

With Alberto Gilardino — sent-off against Lyon two weeks ago — suspended, Fiorentina were playing without a recognisable target man but their fluid interplay between Mutu, Jovetic, Juan Vargas and Marco Marchionni in a 4-2-3-1 formation was leading hapless Liverpool a merry dance.

On 31 minutes a Riccardo Montolivo pass out to the left found Vargas behind the exposed Glen Johnson, but with no support he had to shoot from a tight angle and Reina saved.

Moments later Johnson made amends, coming to the rescue to cut out Gianluca Comotto‘s cross before it found Jovetic.

But eight minutes before the break Fiorentina added a second as Vargas thrashed a low cross into the box from the left and Jovetic stuck out a leg to divert it past Reina.

Fiorentina goalkeeper Sebastien Frey was a spectator in that first period but Benitez must have dished out the hair-dryer treatment in the changing room because the Merseysiders were a team transformed at the restart.

Frey was soon into the action as Yossi Benayoun got in behind Comotto and forced the Frenchman to save at his near post.

Brazilian midfielder Lucas then headed the resulting corner inches over and Dirk Kuyt forced Frey into a low save with a deflected shot.

The 2005 champions were gradually turning the screw and Massimo Gobbi had to slide in and block a Steven Gerrard volley on 62 minutes.

Fiorentina were holding firm, though, and Liverpool started finding it increasingly difficult to break them down until Skrtel surged forward and crossed for the until then anonymous Fernando Torres, but the Spain striker snatched at his first chance of the game and volleyed over.

Late on Gerrard headed wide from substitute Ryan Babel’s right-wing cross but Fiorentina held on for the win their first-half performance deserved.

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