Abject Liverpool brought back down to earth by West Ham

The Reds had gone into the game brimming with a belief after an unbeaten start to the new Premier League season but their old frailties were brutally exposed by the visitors


GOAL COMMENT   By Tom Maston

If Brendan Rodgers thought he’d stumbled upon a solution to Liverpool’s troubles last season during his opening three matches of the season, he was sorely mistaken. After being thoroughly outplayed by West Ham at Anfield, the questions over the Northern Irishman’s managerial capabilities will again be asked.

Despite their win over Arsenal on the opening day, West Ham were there for the taking. Successive home defeats to Leicester City and Bournemouth had seen Slaven Bilic’s men installed as relegation candidates and labelled as a team almost as unstable as their new boss.

However, on Merseyside, the Hammers were outstanding and left a Liverpool team that performed so admirably themselves at the Emirates with very few answers to the questions they were posed. A first win in 52 years at Anfield was their reward, and it was richly deserved.

Christian Benteke was left isolated to fight against both central defenders and James Tomkins tucking in from right-back, while Roberto Firmino – an early long-range effort against the post aside – showed little to suggest that he is ready to shine at Liverpool.

Fellow new signings Nathaniel Clyne and Joe Gomez both endured their most difficult outings for the Reds so far, but it would be unfair to blame just the summer arrivals for what occurred on the pitch against the Irons.

Dejan Lovren, whose early season form has been praised following his disastrous debut season on Merseyside, reverted to type with a showing to go down as his very worst in a red shirt. A lack of concentration allowed Manuel Lanzini to nick the ball off him to create the second goal for Mark Noble, and from there he lost all confidence in his own ability.

The Croatia international allowed balls to bounce in front of him, backed off midfield runners and saw Diafra Sakho – who was clearly still struggling after being arrested earlier in the week – get the better of him on almost every occasion.

These kinds of performances from individual players are not new to Liverpool fans. Throughout the Premier League era the displays of certain players have continually frustrated those who pass through the Shankly Gates on matchdays.

But a selected few, including Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez, have always been relied upon to lift the side and grab games by the scruff of the neck. Philippe Coutinho is the man currently tasked with that role, but even he could not inspire them towards victory.

The Brazil international shanked an early shot out towards the corner flag before seeing very little of the ball due to the close attentions of Pedro Obiang and Mark Noble. Lacking any service, the former Inter man grew understandably frustrated, though he can have no excuse for picking up a booking for dissent late in the first half.

In the end, his poor attitude led to his downfall as a late challenge on Dimitri Payet – who incidentally put in a performance for the visitors that Coutinho would have been proud of – saw him given his marching orders with more than half an hour to play by referee Kevin Friend.

Though the referee took both barrels from the home crowd following his decision, it was the correct call and one which rules Coutinho out of a trip to Old Trafford once domestic matters resume following the upcoming international break.

Rodgers will argue that a game against Manchester United is the perfect tonic for his side to put right the wrongs of this performance, but visiting the Theatre of Dreams without his best player and talisman will make his task infinitely more difficult.

A defeat to the Red Devils may well see the former Swansea boss moved back to the head of the Premier League sack race just five games in. If anyone had any doubts that his job was safe after seven points from three games, they were sorely mistaken.

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08 2015
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Both red cards were harsh – Rodgers

The Anfield boss believes that West Ham’s first goal was key in their 3-0 defeat and defended Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho following his second-half dismissal

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has suggested that the red cards given to Philippe Coutinho and West Ham’s Mark Noble were harsh, questioning the performance of referee Kevin Friend.

The Reds slumped to a 3-0 home defeat to Slaven Bilic’s side as goals from Manuel Lanzini, captain Noble and Diafra Sakho wrapped up a comprehensive result.

But Rodgers, who saw Brazil international Coutinho dismissed after 52 minutes for a foul on Dmitri Payet, believes that the referee’s decisions were harsh.

“I though both sending-offs were very, very harsh,” Rodgers said.

“Coutinho getting sent off was extremely harsh.

“He [referee Kevin Friend] must have real good ears if he can hear what he’s saying. He’s not that kind of player.”

Liverpool suffered their first defeat of the season, with Lanzini’s West Ham opener proving crucial, according to Rodgers.

“We went into the game with confidence high but when you give away a goal so early it gave West Ham the boost they needed. It set us back a wee bit”, the Reds boss added.

“After the first three weeks we gave the fans some hope but we were poor today.

“We gave poor goals away and that’s the biggest disappointment. At this level you have to be able to bounce back.

The 42-year-old also outlined the difficulties that Premier League sides have been facing at home this season, indicating that, of Saturday’s home sides, four out of seven suffered defeat.

“In the results today four of the seven teams have lost at home. It’s going to be a difficult league to get your wins in,” he concluded.

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08 2015
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Coutinho & Rafinha called into Brazil squad to replace Chelsea duo

Despite previously being overlooked by national team coach Dunga, the Liverpool and Barcelona stars have been selected after Oscar and Ramires dropped out due to injury


Philippe Coutinho and Rafinha have been called into the Brazil squad in place of Oscar and Ramires after the Chelsea duo dropped out due to injury.

Dunga’s men are set to face Costa Rica on September 5 and the United States three days later, but will do so without both Blues stars, with the Liverpool and Barcelona midfielders called up in their stead.

Dunga initially omitted Coutinho when he selected his squad, a decision Brendan Rodgers described as “unbelievable”, but he will now join his club-mate Roberto Firmino in the selection.

Rafinha – who has played for Spain up to Under-19 level, but, unlike brother Thiago, has since snubbed la Roja – has yet to make his debut for Brazil, but could do so in the two fixtures, the last of which falls just four days before Liverpool’s clash with Manchester United.

Brazil have struggled with injuries in recent days, and Fabinho was called into the squad to replace Dani Alves on Wednesday after the Barcelona full-back withdrew.

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08 2015
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Firmino: Coutinho & I aiming to replicate Ronaldo & Ronaldino

The Liverpool summer signing’s presence in the Brazil national team has grown of late and he hopes playing alongside Philippe Coutinho on a weekly basis will help at home & abroad


Roberto Firmino says he and Philippe Coutinho are aiming to replicate Ronaldinho or Ronaldo’s impact on the Brazil national team.

The 23-year-old has 10 caps for the Selecao, most recently playing a key role in the squad’s run to the quarter-finals of the Copa America alongside Coutinho.

Firmino’s achievements for Hoffenheim in Germany earned him recognition from Brazil head coach Dunga and a £29 million summer move to Liverpool, where Coutinho also resides.

“It would be hard for anyone to be as good as Ronaldinho or Ronaldo but me and Philippe are going to do our best to get close to them and be the best players we can be for Brazil,” he told reporters.

“It was ugly what happened in the World Cup semi-final against Germany but there are new players in Brazil to turn things around and who can show that Brazil still has lots of talent to be successful.”

He added: “I knew about Liverpool’s interest before the tournament,” Firmino says. “And I instantly thought it would be an interesting idea for me because I knew Lucas and Coutinho were playing here.

“I had the chance to play alongside Philippe for the national team so I spoke to him about Liverpool and I knew it would be a great opportunity. He said it’s a great club with a great squad and a great team spirit.”

Firmino has had to settle for two appearances off the bench as Liverpool began their Premier League season with two 1-0 wins, but hopes to start when the squad travel to Arsenal on Monday.

“That is my aim but there’s a healthy competition in the squad right now and the manager knows who should be starting games,” he said.

“All I can do is keep on working so I will be ready when I am given the chance to start.”

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08 2015
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Coutinho Brazil omission 'incredible' – Rodgers

The Red boss has expressed his surprise at the option to leave the midfielder out of the Selecao’s most recent national team squad ahead of their upcoming matches

Dunga’s decision to omit Philippe Coutinho from the latest Brazil squad has been described as ”incredible” by Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers.

The Anfield attacker, who has won 11 caps since making his senior debut in 2010, has not been named in his country’s squad for next month’s friendlies against Costa Rica and the United States.

Despite playing in three of Brazil’s four games at this summer’s Copa America in Chile, the Brazil boss has opted to call up Kaka, Lucas Moura and Hulk in his place, much to the surprise of club coach Rodgers.

“Everything that I’d seen last season and the changes in the squad [indicated] that he was going to be one of the flagship players for the new dawn of Brazilian football,” the Northern Irishman said.

“A young player who made the team of the season in the most competitive league in the world. How he cannot be in the squad is incredible really.

“I spoke to him at length on it. Of course he’s disappointed, but straight away his focus is on Liverpool. That was his thought.

“He’s a really humble boy and he’s a really proud man for his country. I’m sure he’ll pick up the form here he’s shown over the last 18 months and I’m sure it won’t be too long before he’s back in it.”

Coutinho scored the winner as Liverpool opened their Premier League campaign with a 1-0 triumph at Stoke City last weekend and Rodgers believes the 23-year-old can continue to improve.

“It’s just consistency now and we’ve started to see that in his game,” he added. “He’s the type of player that his numbers will be important. It’s about creating goals and scoring goals.

“That’s the level he wants to get to and the level he’s working hard to obtain.

“Like you see last week, he’s a player that’s got that magic that can win you a game of football out of nothing, and you’ve seen that over time how he’s adapted to life at this level.

“For me he’s only going to get better and better and that’s something that he’s starting to really show.”

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08 2015
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Kaka brings added experience as Coutinho replacement – Dunga

The Liverpool star was a surprise omission from the Brazil squad that will meet Costa Rica and USA in September

Brazil coach Dunga says his side will benefit from added experience after including Kaka in his squad in place of Philippe Coutinho.

Coutinho has been an ever-present in the Brazil squad since Dunga’s July 2014 appointment, but was a surprise omission from the squad to take on Costa Rica and USA in September.

And Dunga says Orlando City man Kaka can be a major influence on the younger members of the squad.

“We gave Coutinho a chance at the Copa America,” Dunga told a press conference on Thursday.

“You cannot just build a team with youngsters, you also need experience to help them.”

Countinho has failed to break into Dunga’s first team, having to play second fiddle to Willian, Oscar and captain Neymar.

Barcelona star Neymar was named on standby as the 24th member of the squad with suspension ruling him out of Brazil’s upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Chile and Venezuela in October.

His absence led to speculation that Coutinho could be given a rare starting role in the first team following his fine form for Liverpool.

But Dunga is instead hoping that Kaka will have major influence next month.

“Kaka will be a reference, just as Robinho was before,” added Dunga. 

“Kaka can give the team experience and maturity during difficult times and he will work hard both and off the field.”

Robinho, who was singled out as one of Brazil’s best performers at this year’s Copa America, also failed to make the squad following his recent move to Chinese club Guangzhou Evergrande.

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08 2015
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Liverpool can replace Gerrard with Coutinho, says Kaka

With the 23-year-old impressing once again with a moment on magic against Stoke City, the fellow Brazilian has backed his compatriot to step up in 35-year-old’s absence


Kaka has urged Liverpool to build a team around Philippe Coutinho following the departure of long-serving captain Steven Gerrard.

Gerrard ended his 17-year association with the Anfield outfit at the end of last season to join LA Galaxy in Major League Soccer, where Kaka also plies his trade for Orlando City.

And, after Coutinho scored the winner in Liverpool’s Premier League opener at Stoke City on Sunday, 89-time Brazil international Kaka predicts a bright future at both club and international level for the 23-year-old.

“I have been a big admirer of Coutinho and he can be a very important player for Liverpool and Brazil,” he told reporters.

“There will be a lot of expectation on him with Liverpool fighting to get back into the Champions League, but I know that he can handle it.

“One great player doesn’t make a team, but you can build a team around one great player, and I believe he can be that player.

“Coutinho is a humble guy. He won’t talk about being able to replace a legend like Steven Gerrard, and the truth is nobody could ever replace him, but with Gerrard gone they do need somebody to step up – and he can do that.”

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08 2015
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Milner: If Liverpool win but play ugly, we don't care

Following a narrow victory over Stoke City, which was decided by Philippe Coutinho’s late long-range winner, the summer signing is not concerned about entertainment


Liverpool midfielder James Milner is happy for his team to continue winning ugly after an unconvincing start to the season.

Brendan Rodgers’s men needed a stunning 86th-minute long-range strike from Philippe Coutinho to start their campaign with a narrow 1-0 win at Stoke City on Sunday.

It was far from their most fluent display, but summer signing Milner said being able to leave the Britannia Stadium with three points was all that mattered despite a lacklustre display from most involved.

“It is always about the results. If we played rubbish every game of the season and won every one of them then everybody would be happy with that,” he said.

“Ultimately it is about getting that win whether it is a game where we can move the ball about or whether it is a game where it is a battle and we have to grind it out.

“You have to assess the situation and be able to adapt to those games and play in all these different formations and against different sides.

“A top team can adapt and win the games when things maybe aren’t playing to your strengths.”

Milner, who was on the wrong end of one of Coutinho’s long-range strikes when Manchester City lost 2-1 at Anfield in March, was full of praise for the Brazilian following another memorable winner.

“I think he is going to keep improving all the time. I saw him do that a few times last year, so it was nice to have him do that while I was on the field and on his side,” Milner said.

“He has got that quality and we know we have quality all over the field.”

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08 2015
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Rodgers hails 'magic' Coutinho after Liverpool winner

The Reds left it late to seal all three points, as a stunning strike from the midfielder with five minutes remaining was enough to earn the visitors a win


Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers was pleased to see his side avenge last season’s 6-1 defeat against Stoke, and reserved praise for matchwinner Philippe Coutinho.

The Brazilian struck on 86 minutes after at the end of a closely fought contest to hand his side a 1-0 win at the Britannia Stadium, during which there were few goalscoring opportunities at either end.

After the game, Rodgers said: “It’s always difficult coming to Stoke. Defensively we were strong and we always know we have the quality to win a game.

“It was embarrassing [the 6-1 loss in May] but today you’ve seen the determination and the quality. It was definitely one for [the fans]. They’ll be proud of the team tonight.

“How close was I to taking Coutinho off? Very! I can’t profess to be a genius! Danny Ings was going to come on but I’m obviously happy he scored and stayed on.

“Coutinho is already is a star. He’s only been back three weeks training so he’s not even at his peak.”

Liverpool now look ahead to the visit of newly promoted Bournemouth to Anfield on August 17.

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08 2015
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Coutinho relishing Firmino link-up at Liverpool

The Anfield star believes his countryman’s talent and eye for goal will make him a real asset on Merseyside as Brendan Rodgers hopes to get his squad back into the top four


Philippe Coutinho believes Brazil team-mate Roberto Firmino will be a a big success alongside him at Liverpool next season.

Firmino completed a move to Anfield in a deal rising to £28 million on Wednesday after an impressive season with Hoffenheim that saw him notch seven goals and 10 assists in 33 Bundesliga appearances.

And Coutinho – who is currently playing alongside Firmino for Brazil at the Copa America – is confident his countryman will light up the Premier League.

“I think it is great news,” he told Liverpool’s official website. ”Firmino is a great player and obviously I know him from the Brazilian national team. He is a great character and person.

“He is strong physically, he is fast, agile, very skilful on the ball and he scores a lot of goals – he is a great forward. I am sure he will be of great help to us next season.

“After hearing the news, I said to him ‘welcome to Liverpool’ and I have told him that he will be coming into a club that is like a family – I made sure to tell him that. I have also wished him a great and very successful first season at Liverpool.

“I’m very much looking forward to playing and starting the new season alongside Firmino at Liverpool. I am looking forward to not only playing for Liverpool again, but trying to help us get into a position to win trophies.

“As I said, I am very happy he has signed for Liverpool – but not only him, all of the other signings we’ve made recently as well. I’m sure all of these new players are coming in to make our team even stronger for the new season.

“I can’t wait to start the Premier League season. I am very hopeful things will go well for us on the pitch this season.”

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06 2015
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