If Roy Hodgson entered Anfield’s Press
room on Wednesday night sodden and angry, he left it on
Saturday calm and cautiously optimistic.
While a 2-2 draw with Northampton Town was a precursor to
one of the most wretched moments in Liverpool’s modern
history, another 2-2 – this time with Sunderland – has given
Hodgson hope that all might not be lost.
Some supporters will be puzzled by Hodgson’s optimism.
Having had chance to reflect on what can only be described
as a lively 90 minutes, they will be concerned about a
number of issues surrounding their team and what this
performance means for the future.
For starters: how could a side that burst out of the blocks
with the impetus of a 100 metre sprinter lose its way so
Why have all Liverpool’s first half displays this season
been so laboured?
Is this a signal of the level that Hodgson’s men are really
It is hard to analyse Liverpool without worrying,
particularly when you cast a glance at the Premier League
table and see them stuck in the lower reaches with fewer
points than all the promoted teams and just one win to their
credit from their opening six matches.
When you consider on Saturday that Fernando Torres led the
attack, Steven Gerrard, Raul Meireles, Joe Cole and Dirk
Kuyt offered attacking options and the back four was perhaps
as strong as it can be, it was alarming to see them so
totally dominated by Sunderland at times.
Here’s where it gets worrying; if talent of that level
cannot brush aside a team that, in truth, can be expected to
finisher no higher than between eighth and tenth, what does
that signify for Liverpool’s prospects?
Bleak, would be the obvious answer and listening to Steve
Bruce talk afterwards, you were able to draw a clear
impression of what the rest of the Premier League make of
events going on inside Anfield’s corridors of power right
“It’s very difficult to judge anyone after six games – even
15 months,” said Bruce. “I think Liverpool have the right
man in charge – he’s got vast experience in a difficult
time. Always in my experience if it’s unstable above you,
with those who employ you, then it filters down.
“It’s unbelievable about this club because it’s never had
that. It’s always been stable at the top and run properly.
It’s always been an institution. At the moment it’s not got
that and it filters down. So for Roy – and everyone
concerned – it’s going to be a difficult time ahead until it
You could easily dismiss those words as the mischievous
offering of a former Manchester United player, eager to
highlight the misery of one of his greatest rivals but it
would be wrong to do so; Bruce is not someone who indulges
in malevolence and his appraisal was offered with genuine
Everyone knows Liverpool will be in dire straits until, at
the very least, Tom Hicks and George Gillett disappear and,
amid the vitriol, there was an element of poignancy to the
sit-in demonstration which followed the game.
Just before the near 3,000-strong throng headed home, a
sombre rendition of “All we are saying, is sell up and go”
was sung, the weary tone making it clear that the torment
and suffering has gone on far too long.
Enough is enough.
So when you throw into the equation a struggling team to go
along with absent owners, you have the recipe for a calamity
– which is why Hodgson’s post-match comments were all the
more out of keeping with the scene.
“Some of the players we believe can lift the team are
beginning to find their legs – like Torres and Gerrard as
prime examples,” Hodgson offered. “It was only (Raul)
Meireles’ second start, another start for Joe Cole. There
are moments giving me satisfaction.”
For those moments to become much more consistent, then,
surely it is time for Hodgson to play this line-up regularly
and allow them to build up a rapport. Chopping and changing
does no good and, if anything, only makes things more
Take Torres. His every move is being scrutinised at the
moment; every time he fails to smile it is seen as a signal
that he is ready to hand in a transfer request, every time
he misses a chance it is said that he is out of form and not
the force of old.
Absolute nonsense. Two assists here – one for Dirk Kuyt, the
other for Steven Gerrard – mean Torres is now responsible
for five of the six goals Liverpool have scored this season
and his work rate was impeccable; another 90 minutes in
Utrecht on Thursday would do him no harm at all.
Bruce might have grumbled that Torres was “unsporting” in
the build up to Liverpool’s bizarre opening goal but he
would do well to turn his ire on Sunderland defender Michael
Turner, who was far too lackadaisical when taking a fifth
minute free kick.
That should have been the springboard for Liverpool to push
for a morale boosting win but, worryingly, Sunderland took a
grip of the game and fully deserved the lead that Darren
Bent’s double either side of half-time gave them.
Only a late rally, which resulted in Gerrard’s bullet
header, enabled Liverpool to avoid the “black” day Hodgson
had feared was about to unfold but that rally – which
should, in all honesty, have achieved a win but for Daniel
Agger’s dreadful last minute miss – lifted the manager’s
This might be Liverpool’s worst start to a Premier League
campaign since 1992 and Hodgson has collected fewer points
from his first six games than Rafa Benitez, Gerard Houllier,
Roy Evans, Graeme Souness and Kenny Dalglish, but none of
What is important is for Liverpool to find the form that
will carry them into a position with which they are more
accustomed – and the only way that will happen is if the ‘A’
team gets on the same wavelength.
Play them every week? Play them every four days more like.
Stuart Attwell has won the support of the
body that governs referees following the awarding of a
controversial goal in Liverpool's 2-2 draw with Sunderland
Attwell allowed a goal from Dirk Kuyt to stand after five
minutes after deciding that Michael Turner had taken a free
kick when the defender appeared to merely knock the ball in
the direction of goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, in order that he
would take the set piece.
With the Sunderland team standing unawares, Fernando Torres
snuck in to collect the ball and square for Kuyt, who tapped
home to provoke impassioned protests from the Black Cats.
Sunderland manager Steve Bruce said Attwell "got it wrong"
and that the goal was "unsportsmanlike." However, Attwell
has won the support of the Professional Game Match Officials
The statement read: "PGMO has reviewed the first goal scored
between Liverpool and Sunderland and believe that the
correct decisions were made. According to the Laws of the
Game, having stopped the game for any infringement the
referee is required to 'indicate the restart of the match'.
"In practice, in the majority of cases, referees indicate
for the re-start by gesturing to players to take the kick.
These gestures can be minimal. For the more important
'ceremonial' free kicks, which also involve control of the
defensive wall, referees can indicate by using the whistle.
However, there is no requirement by Law to use the whistle
to make the indication.
"The ball is then in play when it is kicked and moves. So,
in this case, the ball was in play as soon as it is kicked
by a Sunderland player. Also, the Laws state that the free
kick must be taken from the place where the infringement
occurred. Again, in this case, the referee correctly
determined that the free kick was played from the right
Liverpool forward Dirk Kuyt has dismissed
speculation about Fernando Torres' state of mind and
insisted the striker has an important role to play even if
he is not scoring.
The Spain international has provided the assists for the
Reds' last four goals; winning the penalty and free-kick
against Manchester United which allowed Steven Gerrard to
hit a double and then setting up Kuyt and the captain again
in yesterday's 2-2 draw with Sunderland.
However, he has scored only once for Liverpool so far this
season - the winner against West Brom - and has started to
show signs of frustration on the pitch.
Reports regularly claim the 26-year-old is unhappy and is
considering leaving Anfield, as happened in the summer, but
Kuyt said Torres' quality would see him through.
"Everyone is expecting goals from Fernando but he offers a
lot more. Against Sunderland he was responsible for setting
up the two goals," said the Holland international, who
returned to action against the Black Cats earlier than
expected after a shoulder injury earlier this month.
"He is very important for the team even if he is not scoring
goals. I'm sure his goals will come.
"His mood has never changed. If you are a striker, and the
type of striker Fernando is, you want to be involved in
"But everyone could see how happy he was to have set up two
"When you are one of the world's best strikers everyone is
watching you so if they get a moment to blame him they will.
"And if you are not winning games he is not happy, I am not
happy and the team is not happy.
"But we all know next week he could score a hat-trick and
then everything changes."
Kuyt, who is hoping to be picked to face his former club in
Europe on Thursday, admits Liverpool have yet to get into
gear after their worst start to a top-flight season for 18
years, with just six points from as many games.
"We are not at our level yet because if we were in our best
shape we would win these games," he said.
"Every day everyone is working very hard to get there,
unfortunately against Sunderland it didn't happen but we
can't wait for the next opportunity to change it.
"We as players want to win every game and challenge for
trophies but the situation at the club we have to be
"If you are at Liverpool expectations are always high and
you are expected to win every game.
"If you lose or draw people are not happy and we are not
happy and that is what we are at the moment.
"Things will come because we know we have quality and it
just takes time.
"We all want to win and challenge for things and I am sure
it will happen if we keep working.
"But we have to make sure we get some points in (against
Blackpool) before we go away for the international break."
Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson has admitted
his misfiring side are not playing like UEFA Champions
The Reds dropped two more Premier League points on Saturday
as they were forced to come from behind to salvage a 2-2
draw against a determined Sunderland side at Anfield.
It has been a season of struggle so far for Liverpool, with
just one win to show from their opening six fixtures, and
they remain in the lower reaches of the tightly-packed
The clash with the Wearsiders was billed as an opportunity
for redemption following Wednesday's shock Carling Cup exit
at the hands of Northampton - albeit with 11 different
players - but Hodgson's replacements fared little better.
The Anfield boss was keen to take the positives as his side
hit back from 2-1 down and dominated the closing stages
without forcing a winner, but accepted Liverpool have work
to do to claim a place back in the top four.
"It wasn't the result we wanted - we wanted a victory - but
in many ways it was the performance we wanted," he said.
"I think that the penalty they got was fairly compensatory.
I don't subscribe to accidental handball. Handball should be
intentional, and there is no way anyone is going to persuade
me that was an intentional handball.
"I'm always a little bit surprised by how dismissive you can
be - as journalists - of opponents. Sunderland are a good
team, they have got good players. If we don't defend as well
as we should do they are going to cause problems.
"But over the 90 minutes I thought we were certainly worth
more than the point we got. I'm sure the fans will
appreciate the effort, the spirit and the determination of
the players and that is another little step forward.
"The league is very, very tight. Had we won today we
probably would have found ourselves in fourth or fifth
"I don't think we're playing like a team from fourth or
fifth place at the moment, but that is how close the league
is. There is not an awful lot to put between players.
"One of the things that is lacking is we need to play and
work much more together. We've got a lot of new players
coming into the team and we haven't had that much time.
"The more we work and the more the team plays together the
better you will see them become. Rome wasn't built in a day
and we've got to keep working at it.
"Certainly I've got a group of players here who will work
and try to get better and give their all."
Sunderland manager Steve Bruce tempered
his criticism of referee Stuart Attwell after he awarded a
“crazy” goal to Liverpool in the 2-2 draw at Anfield.
The Black Cats boss said he did not want to incur the wrath
of the Football Association by giving his true thoughts but
was deeply unhappy with the performance of the 27-year-old
Attwell, who awarded the infamous “ghost goal” in the
Watford v Reading Championship match two years ago, allowed
Dirk Kuyt’s opening strike to count after ruling Michael
Turner had taken a free-kick when he appeared to roll it
back to goalkeeper Simon Mignolet and Fernando Torres nipped
Darren Bent hit back with a penalty and a header either side
of half-time before Gerrard nodded in Torres’ near-post
cross to salvage a point but the official’s performance was
a major talking point.
“I’ve been in enough trouble so I don’t want to talk about
it but you all witnessed it and he got it wrong,” said
“The free-kick was 25 yards from where the incident was and
I think everyone in the ground realised that too.
“He has put his whistle to his mouth three times and if he
is in doubt he should have given the free-kick to be taken
in the right position.
“This is the second time it has happened to me, the first
time was at Arsenal in the FA Cup [as Sheffield United
manager in 1999] when they were going to throw it back to
our goalkeeper and they threw it to Kanu who ran down the
wing and crossed for Marc Overmars to score.
“Maybe in the past a Liverpool team would have come back and
said it was unfair and unsportsmanlike – I doubt it though.
“We are going to talk about this crazy goal and not the
performance of the team, which was terrific.”
Bruce, referring to Bent’s freak strike which defeated
Liverpool at the Stadium of Light last season, added: “It is
a shame because we should be talking about a Sunderland win
but it is going to be like it was with the beachball 12
The Sunderland manager also accused Attwell of showing
favouritism to Gerrard, who caught Danny Welbeck in the face
with an arm and was booked.
“I know if it had been Lee Cattermole he would have been
sent off,” he said.
Steven Gerrard rescued a point for
Liverpool in a 2-2 draw with Sunderland at Anfield but
referee Stuart Attwell was the centre of attention.
The official, who awarded the infamous "ghost goal" in the
Championship two years ago, allowed Dirk Kuyt's opening
strike to count after ruling Michael Turner had taken a
free-kick when he appeared to roll it back to goalkeeper
Darren Bent hit back with a penalty and a header either side
of half-time before Gerrard nodded in Fernando Torres'
near-post cross to salvage a point.
Reds manager Roy Hodgson had stressed his side should not be
judged by the second-string's Carling Cup defeat to League
Two side Northampton in midweek but his first XI were almost
They were gifted one goal but managed to create little
themselves and were again indebted to their inspirational
captain for only briefly dragging them out of mediocrity.
Torres also played his part early on but cut an increasingly
frustrated figure as Liverpool seemed to go backwards.
Only two minutes in he had the ball in the net after
controlling Gerrard's free-kick on his chest and volleying
in only to be denied by a very marginal offside decision.
His next intervention three minutes later had far more
impact, although he was given a huge helping hand by
When Sunderland were awarded a free-kick 10 yards inside
their half Turner tapped the ball back towards Simon
Mignolet, presumably intending for the goalkeeper to take
Torres turned to look at Attwell, who was in charge when
Reading 'scored' at Watford on September 20 2008 despite the
ball going yards wide of the post, who immediately waved
Mignolet stood on the edge of his penalty area raising one
arm aloft in the vain hope Torres would take pity but the
26-year-old was not in a sympathetic mood and rolled a pass
for Kuyt, back in the side after a quicker-than-expected
recovery from a shoulder injury, to slide a shot into the
Turner's challenge on the Spaniard in the 17th minute could
have resulted in a penalty but, considering his earlier
decision, the 27-year-old Attwell ignored appeals.
Everything seemed to be going in Liverpool's favour but, as
been the case on several occasions already this season, they
conspired to shoot themselves in the foot.
Gerrard's weak header back towards his own goal would have
put Bent in had Jose Reina not dived feet-first to clear the
If it was a warning to tighten up the Reds did not heed it
as Attwell was called into action again in the 25th minute,
although this time his decision was a little more
straightforward as Ahmed Elmohamady's cross hit Christian
Bent's penalty went under the Reina's body.
Things went from bad to worse as Paul Konchesky had to be
replaced by makeshift left-back Daniel Agger before
half-time and then Sunderland went ahead just after the
Nedum Onuoha's right-wing cross was a good one but Glen
Johnson was caught ball-watching the wrong side of Bent as
the striker nipped in at the far post to head his side in
Even the usually reliable Reina was rattled, scuffing one
clearance straight at Jordan Henderson who almost punished
the error with a long-range shot.
Torres' temper was bubbling over and after diving in at
Onuoha he was fortunate to escape with only a yellow card
after visibly showing dissent to Attwell.
Hodgson made a positive substitution by replacing defensive
midfielder Poulsen with striker David Ngog, bringing
Meireles inside and moving Kuyt out to the right.
But with the game seemingly drifting away from them,
Liverpool's two star players dragged them back into the
contest midway through the half.
Torres beat Bardsley close to the right touchline and swung
over an inviting cross which Gerrard headed in at the near
The England midfielder was booked for catching Danny Welbeck
in the face with his arm as they challenged for the ball as
the atmosphere began to heat up.
Liverpool, at least, were now showing some desire and Ngog
forced a low save out of Mignolet, Kuyt fired just wide,
Turner cleared off the line from Ngog and Agger headed wide.
But the result did little to lift the growing feeling of
discontent in and around the club and sit-in protest against
unpopular American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett at
the final whistle only highlighted problems yet to be