Gerrard issues rallying call
By Dominic King - Liverpool Echo
Steven Gerrard today promised there will
be no sulking at Melwood as Liverpool bid to bounce straight
back from their Carling Cup nightmare.
The atmosphere at the Reds' training ground was
understandably subdued this morning, as Roy Hodgson's squad
came to terms with the shock of losing 4-2 to League Two
side Northampton Town on penalties at Anfield last night.
It was a chastening experience for all those involved, as it
was for the 11 senior men who watched from the sidelines as
Liverpool laboured to a 2-2 draw after extra time.
But with Sunderland arriving at Anfield on Saturday
afternoon, Gerrard believes the squad will be pumped up for
that crucial fixture and even feels the loss could, in time,
be a help to the young men who were pitched into the fray
against the Cobblers.
"They will learn from this experience. Football isn't just
about highs," Gerrard said.
"Throughout my career I have experienced both highs and lows
and probably learnt more from the lows because you look at
yourself first, look at what went wrong and try to learn
from your mistakes.
"The players are allowed to be down today but it's up to
players like myself to pick them back up because playing for
this club there are big games every two or three days and we
need to get everyone's head focused on Sunderland now.
"I can understand everyone's frustration but I think the
Carling Cup now, when you're part of a big club and a big
squad, is all about giving young players the chance and the
experience because if you put a strong side out then the
kids will never get the chance to experience playing in
front of big crowds and big competitions.
"There are still some positives underneath the frustration.
Although we've gone out and everyone is down and
disappointed, the experience that would have given the lads
in the dressing room might be vital for the future."
Hodgson's reign has not got off to the start many might have
expected but Gerrard, echoing comments Pepe Reina made after
the 0-0 draw with Birmingham City, urged fans to be patient
and stick with the team.
"What I would ask all the supporters is to trust the players
and what the players are saying," Gerrard stressed.
"I've been reading and listening to what they've been saying
and they've all said we'll get it right in the end - and we
hit a 51-year low
Comment by Dominic King - Liverpool Echo
THIN RED LINE: Manager Roy Hodgson
prepares his players for a penalty shoot-out – only the
second Liverpool have lost in a senior first team match in
the history of the club.
PATHETIC. Absolutely pathetic. The abomination of a story
that is the modern day Liverpool Football Club has reached
its most depressing low.
Worcester City in 1959 is widely regarded as
the most cataclysmic result in Liverpool’s 118-year history
but last night 22,577 hardy souls saw Northampton Town
achieve a result that must rank alongside it.
How the once mighty have fallen.
Never mind the fact there was late drama.
Ignore that Liver- pool mounted a frantic push to save
themselves in the second period of extra time and their
proud penalty shoot-out record has taken an unexpected
There is only one fact that matters today: Liverpool have
been knocked out of the Carling Cup by a side from League
Two after a performance that was shameful in so many ways.
Results such as these plunge clubs into a crisis.
Roy Hodgson took a gamble last night by making 11 changes to
the side that had been beaten 3-2 by Manchester United on
Sunday, but it backfired spectacularly.
As a result, the disaffected natives are becoming even more
restless with their lot.
Normally when Tom Hicks and George Gillett were up to their
antics or there was trouble and strife in the boardroom, you
could depend on Liverpool to pull out big results and big
performances, but now the only thing that follows the Reds
“We have been here for a very long time and the club will be
here for a very long time,” said Managing Director Christian
Purslow in his much publicised interview yesterday.
“Our raison d’etre hasn’t changed. We exist as a football
club to win trophies. That’s never going to change.”
Yes it is.
When a club gets sucked into a maelstrom such as the one
Liverpool have inhabited for the past 12 months, things
start to change dramatically and there is no doubt
whatsoever that their rivals will have surveyed this result
and howled with laughter.
But there are more ramifications.
Losing in such a bitter way impacts on spirit around the
training ground; imagine how Jamie Carragher, Dirk Kuyt,
Pepe Reina, Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres et al felt
watching this, knowing another route to silverware has just
been wrenched away.
You get the picture. This was Liverpool’s big chance of
winning something this season.
A number of rivals for the pot they have lifted a record
seven times all fell at the first hurdle and for them to do
the same is careless beyond words.
Among the many hot topics that were posted on Liverpool’s
official website yesterday, the title of one story leapt off
the screen – “Does this cup matter?”
It may be the done thing to poke fun at the Carling Cup, but
every Red answer should have been “absolutely”.
It had all started so routinely.
With just eight minutes having elapsed, Daniel Agger rolled
the most inviting of balls through Northampton’s defence for
Milan Jovanovic to scamper on to and the Serbian forward
duly applied the finish that was demanded.
Having given an interview to a television station in Denmark
when he stated that he would not sacrifice his principles,
here was Agger providing proof of what a talented footballer
he is – it was the kind of pass some midfielders at the club
could not think of making.
Sadly it was the only flash of quality Liverpool mustered in
an opening 45 minutes that was just not good enough;
laboured and lethargic – you will have read those words once
or twice already this season – they never fashioned another
chance to test Northampton keeper Chris Dunn.
Just read that again.
A Premier League side – one of the greatest names in
football history – failed to put any kind of pressure on a
club whose most recent piece of silverware was the Fourth
Division title in 1987 – there can be no bigger indictment.
Full credit to Northampton. Determined, disciplined and
knowing they had a stage to make themselves heroes, Ian
Sampson’s men gave everything they had and more; for that
reason, they absolutely deserved to draw level just before
Billy McKay was the man who sent the 5,000 visiting
supporters into raptures, hooking the ball past Brad Jones
from eight yards, but it was utterly shocking for Liverpool
to concede – that the defence was undone by a simple chipped
ball into the area defied belief.
Then again, most of what was produced – or should that be
what wasn’t produced? – defied belief. Other than the goal,
Liverpool did not have one single shot on target in normal
time and the failure to impose themselves as an attacking
force was incomprehensible.
The more Liverpool staggered, the more it became apparent
they were in grave danger of being jettisoned from the
competition and they were fortunate that the killer blow did
not arrive in injury time when Northampton mounted another
attack. It proved only to be a temporary reprieve.
Within eight minutes of extra time getting underway, the
Cobblers had got the second goal which they had been
threatening, Michael Jacobs sweeping the ball past Martin
Kelly with Jones stranded.
Though Ngog got them back into it, heading in via a
Kyrgiakos flick on, it was impossible to escape the feeling
that Liverpool had got away with it.
But their luck ran out after Kelly had made an astonishing
goaline clearance from Nathaniel Wedderburn in the penalty
Don’t single Nathan Eccleston out for censure for missing
the crucial kick – at least he had the courage to step up
and take one. The blame must be shared around from top to
bottom. Something, after all, is rotten in the state of
Sampson on a high after win
Northampton manager Ian Sampson rated his
side's sensational win over Liverpool in the Carling Cup as
one of the best night's of his career.
The League Two Cobblers stunned their Premier League
opponents with a penalty shoot-out victory at Anfield to
move into the fourth round.
For Liverpool, it was a new low in a dreadful 2010, but the
win represented a significant high for Northampton and
"It is certainly up there as one of the best nights of my
career," he said.
"I won a play-off final at Wembley as a player for
Northampton and it ranks right up there with that occasion.
"To be a manger and win at Anfield after only one year in
the job I'm absolutely delighted, it is a particular
"Full credit to the players, they are a young team, with the
attitude and desire they showed I can't praise them highly
Hodgson makes Reds apology
Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson apologised
to the club's fans after their shock Carling Cup exit at the
hands of Northampton.
Hodgson conceded he and the players had to accept
responsibility for the defeat as Liverpool saw one of their
biggest chances of silverware this season go up in smoke.
Hodgson fielded an under-strength side which still included
first-team regulars like Daniel Agger, David Ngog, Ryan
Babel and Lucas Leiva and went ahead when Milan Jovanovic
scored his first goal for the club in the ninth minute.
However, the Cobblers hit back 10 minutes into the second
half through Billy McKay and Michael Jacobs' goal in
extra-time appeared to have done enough until Ngog spared
Liverpool's blushes four minutes from the end.
But it was only a temporary reprieve as Ngog and Nathan
Eccleston missed their spot-kicks, allowing Abdul Osman to
net the decisive penalty.
"I don't think we came anywhere near what I hoped to see
apart from in the last 15 minutes of extra-time when we made
a superb effort after going 2-1 down," he said.
"When it goes to penalties and you are at home and in front
of the Kop your hope is that at least the players will have
the composure and confidence to win the penalty shoot-out
but we didn't.
"All I can do is congratulate Northampton and apologise to
everyone; the fans came expecting to see us win and I
expected us to win but it wasn't to be.
"These players have to accept responsibility. I accept
responsibility for changing a lot of players in the team, I
did it because I honestly thought the players I put on the
field were good enough to win the game and they weren't.
"The obvious conclusion to that was I shouldn't have changed
that many players but we should have been strong enough to
get a result.
"We must all take our responsibility. I am just bitterly
disappointed that the team I had so much faith in did not
repay that faith this evening with the exception of one or
Hodgson has endured a mixed start to his reign as Liverpool
manager after taking over from Rafa Benitez in July.
The Reds have registered just one victory in five domestic
games and are 16th in the Premier League table ahead of this
weekend's clash with Sunderland.
Hodgson accepted their Carling Cup exit was another setback.
"We wanted to do well in the Carling Cup and we haven't
done," added Hodgson.
"We were given a kind draw against a team three leagues
below us, were expected to win and when you don't you can
expect to be criticised from the top downwards.
"It is a major setback for the club. The Carling Cup is a
competition we are capable of doing well in and we were
playing lower league opponents.
"Whatever happens, if it doesn't result in a victory it is a
very negative thing and a setback for the club, one of many
we are facing at the moment."
Cobblers add to Mersey misery
Northampton plunged Merseyside into deeper
misery as the League Two club stunned Liverpool with a
memorable penalty shoot-out victory in the third round of
the Carling Cup.
Ian Sampson's minnows produced a merited and major
giant-killing, which equated to Brentford's spot-kick win
over Everton on Tuesday night, and they came from behind to
Goals from Billy McKay and Michael Jacobs seemed set to send
Northampton through after extra-time at Anfield, having
cancelled out Milan Jovanovic's early opener, but David Ngog
took the match to penalties.
Ngog and youngster Nathan Eccleston both missed from the
spot, allowing Abdul Osman to score the crucial winning
penalty and send the noisy travelling supporters into
For the first time in five years Liverpool have not got past
the third round, denying them a chance in a competition they
were thinking about winning.
Those chances were increased by the exits of the likes of
Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham but an under-strength
team failed to deliver.
It would have not been so bad had the Cobblers come to
Anfield and given a particularly stirring performance but
they were only really energised by McKay's goal, growing in
confidence as their opponents' gradually receded.
Worryingly for manager Roy Hodgson, Northampton goalkeeper
Chris Dunn was hardly tested.
The Liverpool boss, as he has done in the Europa League,
handed the responsibility to a number of fringe players
after opting to rest all those who started in the defeat to
Manchester United on Sunday.
If he was looking for a reward he did not get one as the
team laboured in failing to dispatch opponents 69 league
places below them.
The signs were there before the start as the Cobblers had
already beaten higher-placed opposition in League One
Brighton and Championship side Reading.
Their league form, however, was worse than Liverpool's with
only one win in their last eight games and that was
indicative of the way they started as the home side
Prior to the match there had been much fuss about nothing
when centre-back Daniel Agger had felt the need to publicly
clarify comments he made on Sunday, which were
misrepresented as him saying he would not play Hodgson's
Not that he needed to prove a point but he did with a
perfectly-judged defence-splitting pass through the
inside-left channel which Serbia international Jovanovic
collected and fired past Chris Dunn and into the far corner
of the net.
Despite dominating possession, Liverpool's rearranged
defence gave their opponents too much time on the edge of
the penalty area.
Twice Jacobs was allowed to turn and shoot but on both
occasions he failed to hit the target, although his curling
effort from the left angle of the box briefly had debutant
Brad Jones worried as it arced towards the far corner.
Ryan Gilligan also blazed wide from 12 yards after Wilson
failed to clear a free-kick.
The second half began similarly until McKay struck in the
56th minute. Kevin Thornton out-jumped Sotirios Kyrgiakos to
head Liam Davis' hanging cross into the path of the striker
and he blasted home from close range.
In an instant the match appeared to turn on its head as
Northampton then became the team in the ascendancy as
Only in the last five minutes of normal time did they push
for the winner but the visitors' defence held out to force
There was a feeling an upset was on the cards and a second
Northampton goal duly came in the 98th minute.
Wilson, a central defender playing at left-back, was too
easily beaten by substitute Courtney Herbert.
Jones parried the cross, Martin Kelly stopped Thornton's
half-hit shot, but Liverpool could do nothing about Jacobs'
Kyrgiakos headed wide and Kelly fired into the side-netting
before Ngog hauled Liverpool level with a headed goal from
substitute Jonjo Shelvey's corner.
Even then both sides could have snatched a win at the death
but Kelly cleared off the line from Nathaniel Wedderburn's
shot and Davis deflected over a header from Kyrgiakos.
Northampton's Steve Guinan and Liverpool's Ngog missed the
first spot-kicks but when 19-year-old substitute Eccleston
hit the crossbar with Liverpool's fourth effort Osman
stepped up to send the Cobblers into the last 16.
The result will only increase the scrutiny on Hodgson, whose
side have had a disappointing start to the Premier League
and are currently 16th.