Blackburn 3 - Liverpool 1

LIVERPOOL boss Roy Hodgsons job was left hanging by a thread last light after this bashing at Blackburn.

Blackburn heaped the pressure on former manager Hodgson as they raced into a deserved 2-0 half-time lead.

Speculation has been rife about the 63-year-olds future for weeks and goals from Martin Olsson and a double from Benjani did little to help.

Steven Gerrard scored what proved to be just a late consolation with nine minutes to go when he fired in from the edge of the box.

But the Liverpool skipper blazed a penalty over the bar fi ve minutes from time after he had been clipped in the area by Michel Salgado.

Liverpool midfi elder Joe Cole made his fi rst Premier League start since October 31 as manager Hodgson made four changes and still ended up facing catastrophe.

Cole, the late matchwinner against Bolton on Saturday, was last named in the starting XI for the win over Wanderers at the Reebok when he injured a hamstring and missed six games.

Steven Gerrard, a substitute against Wanderers, also returned along with Sotirios Kyrgiakos and Paul Konchesky as Daniel Agger and Dirk Kuyt dropped to the bench, with Fabio Aurelio rested and Raul Meireles injured.

Benjani was making his first start since November 6 while there were also returns for defenders Christopher Samba and Salgado.

Liverpools record against Blackburn is impressive, having lost just one of the last 24 league meetings.
! But the form book was no salvation for Hodgson last night.

And it was a sign of how sick Liverpool fans over this nightmare season that the away end was only two-thirds full almost unheard of in this fixture.

Liverpool at least started well with Fernando Torres flashing a header wide early on from Koncheskys cross.

Morten Gamst Pedersen replied with a curling free-kick which missed both the far post and Mame Biram Diouf, while David Dunn volleyed over from the edge of the penalty area.

Blackburn may have had one of the most lightweight midfields in the Premier League Dunn, Pedersen, Olsson and Junior Hoilett but they saw plenty of the ball.

Diouf should have put Rovers ahead in the 17th minute when he connected with Olssons left-wing cross eight yards out but he could only bundle the ball straight at Jose Reina.

Rovers goalkeeper Mark Bunn, who had been under-employed in the fi rst 27 minutes, got his fingertips to just defl ect Coles shot from an angle wide of the far post.

Cole would probably have put Liverpool ahead with his shot from the edge of the penalty area after Lucas Leivas forward run but Samba got in a timely block to deflect the ball over.

Liverpool looked at their most vulnerable when they attacked and when players were caught out of position.

And in the 32nd minute the home side made them pay.

! Ryan Nelsen was allowed time in the centre circle to play the ball out to the left and when Diouf knocked on the pass, Olsson ran past the static Glen Johnson to hit a low shot past Pepe Reina.

And in the 38th minute Pedersen clipped in a ball to Benjani, he controlled it on his chest but Kyrgiakos was slow to react as the striker turned and hit aferocious volley past Reina.

Benjani wrapped up the points on 57 minutes when he fired in to dump more misery on the under-fire Liverpool boss.

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20100813 hodgson Mr. Hodgson Or: How We Learned To Stop Worrying And Blame The Manager

The manager has risen from club secretary to official face of the club since the creation of football teams worldwide. He has moved from the man that kept the record books to man that is larger than the football team he manages. Commentators and pundits refer to Fergusons United or Wengers beautiful, passing football.

He even has books written about him. The Manager by Barney Ronay, an excellent book that discusses the rise of the manager into the modern game, unearths some of the origins of the managers image and attempts todiscuss what kind of person the manager really is. While the book wasnt ever intended to be an academic study of the merits of various tactical thoughts of managers, it does address some of the often listed character traits ofsuccessfulmanagers. When all these traits are put together, to many the manager appears to be a father figure, a scary headmaster, a politician youd like to have a beer with, or somecombination.

Yet despite all this popularity, he is little more than decider of players and positions during an actual football match. Hisonly other real role having to do with a game of football is what he says, or does not say, to the players. While this may seem to be just about everything that there is to do, this is really not much in relation to even one, single football match. Even the purchasing of players has been taken from his list of job responsibilities at some clubs. After talking to the media, amping up / scaring the team, and picking the players and formation (something that many of us feel we could do a better job of), its up to the players to get the job done. He is then left to either become the scapegoat for club and player ineptitude or savior for lifting his players (al! l the wh ile not doing much different in either scenario).

The idea of the manager being wholly responsible or all to blame for results is to make a system with many variables look like it all comes down to the whims of one man. This is ridiculous. To some, suggesting that this is absurd may not come as very controversial at all. I suggest listening to fellow fans and media but understanding that this article may not provide much reflection for you. To others, this begs to ask the question of whois responsible if not the manager. While I refuse to fall into the same trap of blaming one party for an entire clubs woes, I would suggest the players as a possible start.

The point is that the owners (a common euphemismfor cash),back-roomstaff, the manager, a dash of luck, and mostly players play a part in a teams performance. In addition, former owners and managers often continue to play a role. When a team fails to obtain the results they areperceivablyentitled to, the fans and media seem to have a checklist of blame that progress from the managers tactics, the managers transfer policy, the managers man-management, and usually ending in the owners lack of investment. Players rarely, if ever, come into play (pun intended) unless it is to discuss the managers man-management.

All managers have come under close scrutiny at some point intheircareer but one of the most extreme examples from a fan-base and the media recently is the demonization of Roy Hodgson at Liverpool.

One reason fans have cried for his removal is, what I believe to be, the myth of his lack of tactical knowledge. Hodgson is, if anything, a man deeply involved in tactics to the point of players at Fulham labelingtheirendless repetition of team shape at training as tiresome. This is all, however, beside the point for me. 4-4-2, zonal marking, 4-3-2-1, team pressing, or the deep, lying midfielder have nothing to do with what is wrong with Liverpool right now. Jonothan Willson, Michael Cox of Zonal Marking, and like-minded individuals! may cri nge at the idea of tactics taking a backseat but a quality player will be a quality player in any position without needing to be told what square to position himself in. Tactics come into play and they can definitely give that extra push that is sometimes required. In the Hodgsons Liverpool example, however, I believe bad purchases have been made in the past and the world-class players are often failing to rise above. Swapping one mans 4-4-2 for another mans 4-3-3 wont change Liverpools chance of winning games. Further, tactics often dont improve a player or team but aim to exploit weaknesses in the opposition.

This leaves us with the question of his ability to both manage players and, to a lesser extent, the media. This is where I will somewhat concede to the critics. While at Fulham, he seemingly could say no wrong. He was polite, soft-spoken Hodgson. This is quite different to his time at Liverpool where he has experienced quite a few moments ofidiocywhen opening his mouth. One quote that sticks out as especially odd to me was during a discussion about Fernando Torres and an alleged move to Manchester United. Hodgson didnt exactly express the sentiments most supporters would have wished for considering this is the clubs long-time rival.

I am not naive to believe there wont be any danger and we will never lose a player like Torres, I understand these things can happen. I dont believe we will lose him, we will do our best to ensure he stays

Having said all that, I still believe this has little to do with a match of football. His man-management / media relations may be lacking and Torres may look at a quote like that and wonder what his manager was thinking but I would still expect a world-class striker to make his supporters proud as soon as the interview is over and the match begins. To say Hodgsons man-management is wholly responsible is to say that a kind word or two and the proverbial arm around the shoulder of professionals is all that stands between Liverpool and former winning w! ays. Aga in, this probably has something to do with the trouble at the club but not the sole reason.

Being as unbiased as possible as a twenty year supporter of Liverpool and, while critical of at times, a supporter of Hodgson, I fail to believe that one man can be responsible for the play Ive seen this season. Any manager on the bench cannot change the fact that the players are making silly mistakes and are not fighting for the shirt and crest they wear. This coupled with a bench that hardly strikes fear into the opposition has seen the club at a historic low. This season I have seen some good football. I have also seen our most often excellent goalkeeper booting the ball right into a strikers feet, defenders falling over themselves trying to intercept a simple through ball, midfield players spending an entire match passing backwards in fear of mistakes, and strikers not willing to put the work in to hold the ball up. As absurd as it sounds, Im sure hes addressing these basics with the players during training but at some point responsibility must at least partially shift. Having said that, when results do turn I will also be the first to point out that Hodgson isnt the only reason.

The point is that I dont believe another manager would do much better without improvement in the squad and players stepping up. Removing Hodgson is an especially bad decision considering the need to pay off Hodgsons contract and find a manager willing to work at a club that will give him little say in who the club purchases.

In the very first chapter of Barney Ronays book, The Manager, he discusses one thought on why the managers position was even dreamed up in the first place during the late 1800s and early 1900s when, again, he was little more than club secretary.

The crowd called for blood, and they got it: secretarial blood. Mute, office-bound but also dressed in the directorial waistcoat and watch-chain the sacrificial lamb was already on premises. The secretary was about to get his big break. It seemed ! unlikely to be a very happy experience.

Here we come to a central dramatic irony in the managers story. The fact is, his first real high-profile public act was to be sacked. Getting the boot was where it all started. The manager was born to be sacked, and sacked with some sense of cathartic public ceremony.

This is how it has always worked. It is much easier to take all thatdispersedanger out on the one man from whom we have come to expect too much. The owners need not address all these messy issues mixed up with a teams performance. They can just fire, hire, and repeat.

Buy The Manager: The Absurd Ascent of the Most Important Man in Football by Barney Ronay

Note: This article was written prior to Liverpools latest poor result against Blackburn. In the few hours since the end of that match, even more speculation about Hodgsons job have surfaced and it is very likely he could be leaving the club soon. Though I planned on publishing this later in the week, I have pushed it up because I believe this game was the perfect example of how the club uses the manager as asacrificetotheirfans despite it being clear that fault was literally at the feet of the men that, save Steven Gerrard, seemingly couldnt be bothered to fight for us, the supporters, on the pitch today.

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    Video: PL Highlights: Blackburn/Liverpool

    Watching Steven Gerrard walk up to the spot to take the penalty late in the game against Blackburn Rovers, I was confident he would score for Liverpool. When faced with adversity, Gerrard often rises to the occasion. Earlier in the season, Gerrard cooly slotted home a penalty against fiercest rivals Manchester United even though the vast majority at Old Trafford was begging him to miss.

    Except Gerrards penalty against Blackburn didnt go according to script. After Gerrard pulled one back for Liverpool and then won a penalty, the Reds had a chance with five minutes left to find an equalizer. That is, if Gerrard could first slot the penalty away. But he didnt and the ball sailed over the bar.

    Usually I dont question a players character, but in this particular instance with a chance to put Liverpool in the ascendency, Gerrard flubbed his shot. Now whether he did this on purpose or not, well probably never know. I respect the man as a footballer, but based on how Gerrard took the penalty, I have to question whether he tried to miss it on purpose or not.

    The way that Gerrard chipped the ball over the bar seemed to look so unlike the way that Gerrard normally takes a penalty kick. He seemed so nonchalant when he took the shot. And even after it sailed over the bar, he didnt seem that bothered.

    Realizing the precarious position that manager Roy Hodgson is in, I have to question whether Gerrard thought about missing that penalty on purpose or not. Yes, Gerrard is Liverpool through and through, but in his deep psyche he must have considered the thought. It certainly seemed that way judging by how he took the penalty kick.

    By shooting the penalty kick over the bar, Gerrard has most probably decided the fate of Hodgsons future at Liverpool. Hodgson was on the chopping block already, but Gerrards miss condemned his manager to a near certain departure. How soon it happens depends on the Fenway Sports Group.

    To see Gerrards ! penalty, fast forward to minute 1:57 in the above video.

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    At least from Uniteds perspective anyway. After a less than convincing win against Stoke yesterday, our position at the top was further solidified by the results from todays games.

    Arsenal and City battled it out to a 0-0 draw at the Emirates while Chelsea and Spurs were defeated away from home.

    results 01052011

    After this round of games, the table stands as below: (plus we still have our game in hand)

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    Winning the 1987 FA Cup is one of the most illustrious achievements in Coventry City's history, however just eighteen months later they were the victim's of one of the greatest upsets in the competitions history.

    At the time Coventry were an entrenched top flight side and despite an away draw the Midlands side would have expected a relatively passage into the next round when they drew Conference side Sutton in the FA Cup 3rd Round.

    The game itself was played at Gander Green Lane in Sutton, Surrey and was full to capacity for the clubs game against top flight opposition.

    As is now customary rather than give a blow by blow account of the game I will allow some vintage footage that shows the twist, turns and emotion of one of the most memorable results in FA Cup history.

    ChampionshipTalk would love to hear the experiences of any Coventry or Sutton fans who were at the game that day, so if you remember the game please comment or let me know on Twitter.

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    Hi all EPL Talk readers,

    Join me at 2:30 PM ET for a live blog of the seven matches being played this afternoon, highlighted by the Arsenal v Manchester City match on ESPN2. Other matches include:

    Aston Villa v Sunderland
    Newcastle v West Ham
    Wolves v Chelsea
    Blackburn v Liverpool
    Bolton v Wigan
    Everton v Spurs

    EPL January 5 Live!

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    The Ashes: England cooking up tasty victory, sport

    Alastair Cook is now averaging 127 from his seven innings Down Under.

    Sir Jack Hobbs, Wally Hammond, Herbert Sutcliffe; these names are the elite of English cricketing legends and Alastair Cook (189) is undoubtedly writing himself into Wisdens history books.Unfazed by who was sending down the next delivery, the opener went about his business in sublime fashion, almost as if the ball was magnetised to his bat as he tore in to a bewildered bowling attack.

    Until he fell after another lengthy stay at the crease, the 26-year-old barely put a foot wrong to give him a total of 766 runs Down Under, a feat that leaves only Wally Hammond (905 in 1928-29) ahead of him for total runs scored by an Englishman in any Test series. The mind boggles at how a his average of 21.76 in six summer Tests could produce such a return that even the bravest of punters wouldnt have had money on.

    He never allowed a bowler to settle, eventually forcing Michael Clarke to turn to Mike Hussey, a man with only two Test wickets to his name. Assisted by Ian Bells (115) first century on tour, the pair put on 154 runs, a Sydney Cricket Ground record for an English sixth wicket partnership.

    We have used every superlative that the English dictionary holds to emphasise the Bradmanesque performances put on show by Englands vice-captain; the determination, patience and concentration displayed have measured him beyond his years. His seven innings at the crease, totaling 36 hours and 11 minutes, have elevated him from a self-doubting fledgling, like that of a boy taking his first steps at a new school, to that of a masterful tactician who yesterday showed no qualms with the scoreboard, but only with each ball that was sent his way.

    By far the best batting day of the Test, und! er clear skies and with the leather zipping through on to willow it was always going to be a long day for the hosts. Cooks reprieve yesterday held him in good stead, with terrific restraint shown as each drive, pull or glance barely left the turf.

    A heart-thumping moment came when the ice-cool Cook sent a mistimed flick toward Phil Hughes at short-leg when on the dreaded 99. Hughes went up, albeit with a lack of real conviction initially, but a blatant bounce in the replays infuriated many of the travelling contingent, none more so than Sir Ian Botham, who went as far to say that the Aussies were reverting to the dreaded c word.

    Granted he may not have known, but the manner in which he celebrated was that of a poor sport. The following run for Cook warranted only in only a few members of Clarkes team bringing their hands together for his knock, a bitter taste had landed in the mouths of many supporters watching on.

    But the only real blemishes on an otherwise flawless display came with James Andersons (6) stumps being rearranged and the ongoing barren streak of Paul Collingwood (13). Further calls for Bell to be promoted to number five will be hailed as he outplayed his predecessor yet again, measuring textbook drives with a newfound ability to take the game to spin bowlers, a quality he learnt in the harshest of manners against Shane Warne in the 2005 Ashes campaign.

    It was his 30th attempt at a century in an Ashes series, and no player deserved it more after such consistency toward the end of an innings that ultimately resulted in batting with the tail. To have a partner in Cook allowed the Warwickshire player to persist and remain level-headed as neither had any intention of handing their wicket over to a desperate attack.

    The lead held by Andrew Strausss men, already over 200, will almost certainly prove too much for Clarkes men. Even if they overhauled the deficit, an imposing total looks unlikely considering the current squads indifferent form and experience.

    So with the ! stadium bathed in the pink glow of the Jane McGrath Foundation, a charity set up by Glenn McGrath in honour of his late wife, England have once again put themselves in a position where victory is peeking the horizon.

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    Todays match between Arsenal and Manchester City could be a turning point in the season for either club. Arsene Wenger is painting it as a battle of a team that goes out and buys players compared to his club, who nurtures players through the youth ranks and buys the occasional player when theres a need. It is definitely two very different practices. But if Manchester City can win today, the Citizens will move five points ahead of Arsenal albeit by playing one extra game than Arsenal.

    A City win would create a gap between second and third place. Technically it could end up being a two-horse race if City and Uniteds form continues.

    A win for Arsenal, meanwhile, will move them into second place, leapfrogging Manchester City and would put Arsenal just two points behind Manchester United.

    So who do you think will win today between Arsenal and Manchester City? Vote in the poll above and share your opinions in the comments section below.

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    fox soccer channel1 Insight Communications Adds Fox Soccer Channel HD To LineupThe nations 13th largest multiple system operator has just pleased soccer fans in a few major markets inKentucky andOhio. Insight Communications, offering cable, Internet and phone service, has recently added Fox Soccer Channel HD to its already broad selection of high-definition channel offerings.

    Headquartered in New York City, the $1.26 billion revenue-generating company took some timeto add the highly demanded channel, but footie fans who were watching on Tuesday would have been surprised by their fortune. Specifically serving areas inKentuckynear Lexington, Bowling Green, Louisville, Northern Kentucky, in Ohio nearColumbus and Indiana in Evansville, Tuesdays addition of the beautiful game in HD by one Lexington citizen was simply described as beautiful.

    As of press time, the only two major markets where FSCHD has been added are Lexington, KY and Columbus, OH (channels 921 and 929 respectively). Should soccer fans reside in any of the other geographical areas listed above who subscribe to Insight and wish to receive FSCHD, those such fans are encouraged to contact your local office and demand that the channel be added.

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    Legends of the Fall   Ronaldinho, sport

    Ronaldinho pictured during his time at Barcelona

    Ronaldinho looks all set to depart European shores once and for all despite the speculation linking him to Blackburn in what would be a sad good-bye to one of the best talents that the world saw in recent years.

    The life of footballers is often trumped up as an exuberant and extravagant affair full of drinking, money, fame and women but amidst all that clamour at times one does feel truly attached to a certain persona.

    Ronaldinho has been one of those players who is just so easy to love. He re-introduced the world to Joga Bonito and played a leading role in picking up a dilapidated Barcelona team and helping it back to its feet.

    While the footballing world remains divided at the moment in deciding who among Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo is the best player in the world, another legend Ronaldinho seems to have kicked his last ball on this continent.

    The two-time World Player of the Year looks set to move back to his homeland in search of some happiness and more importantly some first-team football after being sidelined by Milan Coach Massimiliano Allegri this term.

    For many of todays young fans, Ronaldinho will have been their first exposition to what has now become termed as beautiful football. For three years between 2003 and 2006, the Brazilian was synonymous with Barcelona and football.

    As many have said before, the buck-toothed assassin brought joy back to the game with his ever-lasting smile and undying need to entertain. Watching him, made us want to kick a ball. Watching him, made us yearn being Brazilian.

    While there may be severe critics of Lionel Messi who may say his greatness is amplified by his team-mates or those of Cristiano Ronaldo who may still claim that he is nothing more than! a show- boater, such accusations are unlikely to have ever been made of Dinho.

    He is the man who humbled Real Madrid fans once again. He is the man who reintroduced the world to Barcelona. He is the man who for the first time since the days of Diego Maradona, made the Santiago Bernabeu give a rival player a standing ovation.

    While it would be folly to talk only of his achievements and fail to highlight his downfall in the years following what was a monumental disaster for Brazil at the 2006 World Cup, I might be doing just that for if nothing else Ronaldinho certainly deserves a huge farewell party.

    Last season under the guidance of Leonardo at AC Milan, it looked like he was reborn for a while, with the delightful touches, flicks and unreal ball control all on show once more. But that proved to be a false dawn as the Brazilian has hardly featured for the Rossoneri this time around.

    Blackburns ambitious plan to bring him to England is as ill-conceived as Tottenhams move for David Beckham. The Brazilian has his mind set on returning to his country and is probably going to end up joining the club where he started his career at Gremio.

    For the curtains to come down on a star at 30 is simply astonishing, but that has what football has become these days. And the Brazilian contingent of players in particular has paid a heavy price for their over-the-top lifestyle.

    Nonetheless, Ronaldinho will always be for many the only player who you just couldnt hate. Fare well my friend, you will be sorely missed.

    Picture: Getty Images

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