Football: Liverpool Look To End Year On A High
Posted December 27, 2008on:
LONDON: Liverpool will finish 2008 on top of the Premier League if they beat Newcastle on Sunday.
But they know any slip-ups could be punished by second-placed Chelsea, just a point off the lead, who face Fulham.
On Friday, Chelsea had the chance to apply some pressure by beating bottom-of-the-table West Bromwich Albion 2-0 in an early kick-off match.
Liverpool responded with a 3-0 Boxing Day win over Bolton at Anfield.
However, roles will be reversed on Sunday with Liverpool’s match away to Newcastle at St James’ Park starting two hours before the west London derby at Craven Cottage gets underway.
Liverpool have not been crowned champions of England since 1990 but hopes are rising in the red half of Merseyside that this might be their season.
“Being top is important, but this club prepares to be top of the league, not fifth, sixth or seventh,” said assistant manager Sammy Lee, who won several titles as a player with Liverpool in the 1980s.
“We are where we want to be at this moment in time.
“This is a long, hard campaign, though. It’s nice going into the New Year in this position, but we go to Newcastle on Sunday and that will be a very difficult task for us.”
Reigning champions Manchester United, in their first domestic match since winning the Club World Cup in Japan, stayed seven points off top spot Friday, with two games in hand, after winning 1-0 away to Stoke City.
But it was a frustrating day for the other member of the ‘Big Four’ as Arsenal surrendered a two-goal lead in stoppage-time in a 2-2 draw away to Aston Villa, the Midlanders retaining their place amongst the leading quartet.
Earlier, Manchester City moved out of the bottom three with a spectacular 5-1 win over Hull.
Their victory was an ideal response to fellow strugglers West Ham’s 4-1 win over Portsmouth earlier in the day.
Wigan beat Newcastle 2-1 while Everton defeated Middlesbrough 1-0.
The London derby between Fulham and Tottenham and Sunderland’s game against Blackburn both ended in goalless draws.
Albert Riera volleyed Liverpool into a sixth-minute lead at Anfield when he got on the end of a Steven Gerrard corner before Robbie Keane scored twice to take his personal tally to three goals in two games.
First-half goals from Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard sent Chelsea on their way to a comfortable victory.
United had to wait until seven minutes from time for their goal at the Britannia Stadium when the defence of Stoke, a down to 10 men after full-back Andy Wilkinson was sent off, was pierced by Carlos Tevez.
“If we could get to New Year’s Day a couple of points adrift of the leaders we would be very happy,” said United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
Villa hit the woodwork three times in the first half only for Arsenal to open the scoring through Brazil midfielder Denilson.
The visitors were 2-0 up at Villa Park four minutes after half-time when a brilliant exchange of passes between Abou Diaby and Emmanuel Eboue ended with the France midfielder beating Brad Friedel.
Villa, however, grabbed a lifeline when England midfielder Gareth Barry scored a 65th minute penalty after Gabriel Agbonlahor was brought down by William Gallas.
Arsenal, not for the first time this season, couldn’t see out the game with Villa’s Zat Knight scoring in stoppage time.
“We were sensational in the first-half and we didn’t get what we deserved. But we returned and battled,” said Villa manager Martin O’Neill.
Disappointed Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger added: “It hurts because I feel we were 99 per cent there.”
Two-goals apiece from Felipe Caicedo and Robinho at Eastlands helped Manchester City end a run of six games without a win in all competitions.
Craig Fagan pulled one back for Hull, given an on-pitch team talk by manager Phil Brown at half-time, before Stephen Ireland added a fifth.
“The quality of our attacking play is there for all to see,” said under-pressure City manager Mark Hughes.
“But what we haven’t been able to do is produce that on a consistent basis. Now we have to make sure we do that from this point onwards.”
Portsmouth took the lead through Nadir Belhadj before Jack Collison equalised for the Hammers.
Before half-time Pompey missed a penalty when former West Ham forward Jermain Defoe shot wide and, after the break, the visitors pulled away thanks to a goal from Carlton Cole and two from Craig Bellamy.
Everton’s Australia international Tim Cahill again scored from a corner, following-up after his header was saved.
Ryan Taylor put Wigan in front with a 25-yard free-kick just before the half-hour mark.
Amir Zaki added a second from the penalty spot 17 minutes from time after Newcastle’s Sebastien Bassong was sent-off for bringing down Emile Heskey.
Danny Guthrie’s penalty two minutes from time came too late for Newcastle.
Channel News Asia