Liverpool vs Southampton EFL Cup semi-final match report

After penalty heartbreak in last year’s final, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool had been determined to make amends as they faced Southampton in the first leg of the EFL Cup semi-final a fortnight ago, but a poor performance saw the Reds outplayed in a 0-1 defeat, which could, and almost certainly should have been more, with a number of chances going begging for the Saints.

It is always difficult when a clean sheet is required at Anfield, especially with Liverpool being the Premier League’s top scorers so far this season, but Claude Puel’s men executed a difficult game plan to perfection.

The absence of an early goal unsettled Liverpool as they struggled to break down a resolute Southampton defence, and whilst they’re focus was on getting the first goal, they looked shaky when being hit on the counter.

Nathan Redmond, very impressive on the night, lead two threatening bursts forward as Saints created the two most dangerous chances of the half, with the first being a pull back to Dusan Tadic who, 8 yards from goal, could only be denied by Liverpool  keeper Karius.

The second saw another positive run from Redmond as he drove at the heart of the Red’s defence at pace, and this time he pulled the ball back for Steven Davis who failed to latch onto the first ball, and panicked at the second bite of the cherry, skewing the half volley chance high over the bar.

Despite 0-0 suggesting that it had been a successful half for the South Coast side, the missed opportunities allowed nerves to creep in, but it had been a very encouraging 45 minutes of football.

Southampton have often been criticized for lacking tempo in the final third, counter attacking without pace or conviction and passing backwards too often this season, but that changed tonight as they soaked up the Liverpool pressure whilst remaining effective on the break.

However, Jay Rodriguez hadn’t looked too sharp leading the line, and the pace of Shane Long offered a far more dangerous option.

The half time team talk seemed to have rejuvenated Liverpool to an extent, and it seemed as if they had woken up at last, but in the final quarter of the tie, it always seemed like it would be too little too late.

With a bit more creativity, Daniel Sturridge was presented with two clear cut opportunities, but the first was a close range acrobatic effort that flew over, and the second also cleared Fraser Forster’s goal.

Forster, who looked to have made a catastrophic error with what looked to be a routine save, made an incredible leap to claw the ball away from the goal and tip it round the far post in what was a miraculous clearance, and at that point, it just seemed to be Southampton’s night.

Despite the chances created, take nothing away from the colossal performances in the Southampton back line, with Jack Stephens and Maya Yoshida the makeshift centre-back partnership.

The pair were both out of favour merely a month ago, but with the sale of Jose Fonte to West Ham and the injury to the superb Virgil Van Dijk, the two relatively inexperienced defenders were placed under immense pressure.

Stephens, called up for the biggest game of his career so far, had a flawless game, whilst Yoshida continued his recent good form with another top match.

So, after Southampton had put in a defensive master-class and had kept Liverpool at bay for ninety minutes, their moment going forward finally came, with two substitutes combining.

Josh Sims carried the ball at pace from his own penalty area in a brilliant run, and after cutting across Georginio Wijnaldum, he slid the ball through to that man Shane Long, who caressed the ball into his path before keeping his composure and belting the ball past Karius in goal and sending Saints to Wembley.

Southampton’s last major cup success came in the FA Cup of 1976 against Manchester United, and should the Red Devils overcome Hull in their return leg, history could repeat itself.

The biggest concern is that Virgil Van Dijk will remain a doubt for the final itself, but should their new found partnership at the back continue to flourish, they will remain serious contenders for League cup glory.

In what has been a relatively poor season for them in reality, cup success would make it a far more memorable one, so Saints fans – keep February 26th free in your diary.


Match Report #3 Barcelona 5-0 Levante

On Sunday afternoon Barcelona entertained Levante at the Camp Nou, and thrashed them 5-0, as a certain Lionel Messi bagged his 5th hat-trick of another great season.

It didn’t take long for Barca to open the scoring, when in the 17th minute, Lionel Messi’s in swinging cross found Neymar, who scuffed the finish high into the air, but, as they say, when your luck’s in, your luck’s in, and Neymar’s weird attempt looped over a helpless Diego Marino in the Levante goal.

Then, in the 39th minute, Barca proved that they are most dangerous in the ten minute spell before half time, when Marc Bartra pounced on a mistake before sliding a neat ball through to Lionel Messi who slotted his chance into the far corner with his right foot. This goal came just after Messi was denied what would have been a fabulous goal as he was ruled to have been offside, when later replays suggested that he was in fact well onside.

In the second half Barcelona began to turn up the heat, and some good work from Sergio Busquets and Pedro Rodriguez set up Messi for another goal with his right foot, tapping in a volley for Barca’s third.

And it didn’t take long for the sensational Messi to complete his 5th hat-trick of the season, as he calmly slotted home his penalty. This came after Messi had openly said he gets nervous over penalties. The last penalty he took was against Elche in an emphatic 0-6 win, and he did score, however he opted out of taking one against Villarreal, leaving Neymar on penalty duty. Unfortunately, Neymar couldn’t convert against the club he had scored from the spot against last season, which meant Messi had to take his chance against the team that he had missed against earlier in the season, in another 5-0 win, but this time he did score, putting the game beyond doubt and taking the scoreline to 4-0.

Later on, Luis Enrique chose to replace Neymar with what looked like a somewhat frustrated Luis Suarez, who had been put on the bench behind Pedro in the starting line up. Suarez then took his only real opportunity of his 20 minute cameo, and showed everyone why he should have been playing from the start, with an incredible bicycle kick. As Adriano’s great first touch took him to the by-line following a great diagonal pass from Javier Mascherano, he wipped in the cross towards the hungry striker, and just when it looked like it had been pulled back too far behind him, Suarez demonstrated his incredible athletic abilities to score a wonderful goal and complete the match.


Match Report #2 West Ham 4-0 West Brom

Another game to demonstrate the magic of the FA Cup, another shock 4-0 win in the world of football. Two goals from an in-form Brown Ideye and further strikes from James Morrison and Saido Berahino took a poor West Ham side apart. Ideye, who came within inches of leaving the Baggies in the final hours of deadline day, has now scored 4 goals in 6 games, and is looking like he could transform West Brom’s season.

The first goal started with a superb cross-field pass by Craig Gardner to pick out Craig Dawson, allowing him to beat Aaron Cresswell and get down the wing to feed Brown Ideye for a simple finish to make it 1-0 to West Brom.

And from there on, things only got worse for the Hammers as Craig Gardner’s excellent effort from 30-yards rattled the crossbar, and just three minutes later, a sublime long-range finish from James Morrison took the Baggies’ lead to 2-0.

Later in the second half on 57 minutes, Brown Ideye pounced after some poor defending by West Ham to head in his second and put the game beyond doubt.

After this, the frustration began to mount, and it finally told as Morgan Amalfitano, (who had only been on the pitch for 10 minutes) saw red as he kicked out at Chris Brunt before slapping him in the face.

Then, with 18 minutes left to play, Saido Berahino completed the rout as he smashed home a neat near post finish past West Ham ‘keeper Adrian.

West Ham will hope to put this game beyond them as they travel to North London to play Spurs on Sunday, whilst West Brom will carry their good form into their match at the Stadium of Light against Sunderland on Saturday.

Match Report #1 Atletico Madrid 4-0 Real Madrid

The headline says it all. Arguably the best team in the world with the Ballon D’or winner and a few world cup winners in their side, Real Madrid, the current European Champions, were incredibly thrashed 4-0 by local rivals Atletico on Saturday. On Cristiano Ronaldo’s return from suspension after his red card against Cordoba, Real were completely dominated by an Atletico side playing as if it was the World Cup final.

Atletico started the stronger, and it was goalkeeper Iker Casillas’s mistake that lead to the opening goal from Tiago. That did the ‘Rojiblancos’ the world of good, and they took that confidence into their stride, as Saul scored an audacious overhead kick to make the score 2-0. After Atletico’s blistering start, Real Madrid began to come into the game by around the half hour mark, but not to register any attemps of note. Down the other end however Atletico Madrid claimed that they should have had a penalty to make it 3-0 before half time as Diego Godin’s volley appeared to strike the arm of Sami Khedira, but the German World Cup winner conned the referee, by dropping down to the ground and pretending it had hit him in the face. In the second half, a rampant side did make it 3-0 after Antoine Greizmann’s goal. This was after two glaring chances were missed by the La Liga Champions to put the game beyond doubt, including a poor header from Tiago, but after all the pressure Real Madrid finally woke up with about ten minutes to go, as Asier Illaramendi’s fearsome strike was tipped over the bar by Moya. But when Cristiano Ronaldo dribbled the ball out of play under little pressure, that summed up Real’s day, and just a minute later, a diving header by Mario Mandzukic sealed an incredible result for Atletico Madrid.

Many people are now wondering how Real will recover from this hammer blow, as star man Ronaldo’s form had already shown signs of dipping, so, this could mean that we could be in for some title race at the end of the season!