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Liverpool climbing back onto the perch

FoxSportsLogoWhen I was an assistant editor, I had an uncanny knack of being right with my sporting predictions. Find the archived version here.

Back in December, I had declared Liverpool could be considered title contenders. Now, it doesn’t seem that far-fetched a statement anymore.

The Reds had just demolished the north Londoners 5-0 at the end of the previous year and they have now completed a double over the same opponents with a four-goal win at Anfield on Sunday.

Attack seems to be the best form of defence in Brendan Rodgers’ notebook and that approach appears to have paid handsome dividends over the past four months.

Chelsea’s capitulation at Selhurst Park on Saturday has seen Rodgers’ men to go top of the table for the fourth time this season.

The visiting defenders, admittedly, put in an abject performance at Anfield on the night but Liverpool’s gung-ho attitude makes you ponder if they can finally deliver Steven Gerrard the one medal he’s been craving throughout his career.

As arch-rivals Manchester United look set to secure their lowest points total in the Premier League era, the Merseysiders could finally get to finish in the one spot Sir Alex Ferguson had famously knocked them off for over two decades.

For now, Liverpool are back on the perch.

Maverick Suarez lives up to his promise

Michael Dawson may have produced a poor first touch, Younes Kaboul may have floundered on the ball but it was ultimately Luis Suarez’s opportunism and a masterful shot that got the Uruguayan his 29th goal of the season.

In doing so, he has now scored the most goals by any Liverpool player within a domestic season in the Premier League era. Imagine how many more he could have scored had he not missed the first six games of the season.

But the past is the past and the mercurial striker has to score just three more goals to break the all-time record for most goals in a season held by Alan Shearer and Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Englishman’s record was achieved while Kenny Dalglish was in charge at Blackburn and the same man was in the stands as his successor at Anfield masterminded an eighth win on the trot.

Both men would gladly point at Suarez’s sterling form as being a key factor in Liverpool’s renaissance.

The star striker has endured a largely injury-free campaign but he deserves all the plaudits for turning a new leaf after a tumultuous two-and-a-half years at the club.

The club have done well to keep Suarez out of the spotlight as well and this has allowed him to concentrate on his football. And the South American has handsomely repaid the club faithful for their support during testing times.

“I signed my new contract because I’m very happy here and I want to stay where I’m enjoying football and life,” he told FourFourTwo magazine recently.

“This is my best season yet. I feel in a very good place, physically and mentally.

“Every day I feel better in this club. I hope to continue down this path because we want Champions League football for Liverpool and, personally speaking, I want to continue that mentality throughout the World Cup with Uruguay.

“I’d actually prefer not to win this Golden Boot and for Liverpool to qualify for the Champions League this season.”

Well, the Golden Boot is his for the taking and with six games left, he could yet lead Liverpool to more than just qualification for the Champions League.

The carefully chosen one

That was written on a banner describing Rodgers in a tongue-in-cheek reference to United’s moniker for their Scottish manager.

Rodgers must be credited for the turnaround in Liverpool’s fortunes. But man, did his methods take time.

At first, his possession-based footballing philosophy failed to stick with a side built by Dalglish where English industry was prized more than nimble-footedness and one-touch passing.

Daniel Sturridge, Philippe Couthinho and Raheem Sterling, however, are players that can understand the Northern Irishman’s ethos.

Furthermore, the focus on bolstering the attack when the defence was in dire need of improvements irked me quite a bit. The acquisitions of Simon Mignolet, Kolo Toure and Mamadou Sakho as well as the emergence of Jon Flanagan, however, has shown that Rodgers has belatedly made strides in that department.

Indeed, although the defence is still a porous one, it’s telling that Lucas Leiva is hardly missed as the Liverpool defenders have perfected the art of instigating counter-attacks and hitting their opponents while they are on the backfoot.

Instead of a midfield enforcer, Rodgers has done well to convert Gerrard into a deep-lying playmaker such that the captain does not tire himself out with box-to-box runs and instead uses his long-range passing ability to produce admirable results.

Can the Reds settle back on the perch?

Despite all the fervour, I still maintain that Manchester City are the favourites to win the title. The Citizens have just too much quality in them and have an easier run of fixtures ahead.

Moreover, an injury to a member of the Liverpool attacking quartet (Suarez, Sturridge, Sterling and Coutinho) may not lessen the goals but they would definitely hamper the winning mentality present within the club.

City also have a much stronger back four and it is a fact that the team with the best defence usually prevails in the end. It can just take a mistake or two at the back with profligacy at the front to derail a side’s hopes as Jose Mourinho discovered earlier in the weekend.

Rodgers’ marauding Reds have already conceded 39 goals and only once has a team that has crossed the 40-goal mark gone on to win the league in the past decade.

The view from the top is a comforting one but only the result of City’s visit to Anfield on April 13 will determine if it’s more than just a temporary stay.

But heck, just as in the aftermath of the previous triumph over Spurs, Liverpool fans can rejoice in a moment that has come far too rarely in all the years of their support.

In any case, they have to remember that time (and a wealthy and supportive holding company) is on their side.

It took Ferguson seven years to knock the Reds off their perch but the fans of the club can take solace in the fact Liverpool are now earnestly on the climb back.

Rosmin freekick downs brave Geylang


I was a regular reporter at the national football league in Singapore. I reported on two matches every week from various football stadiums for a complete season. Find an archived version of the article here.

Reporting from the Jalan Besar Stadium

Rosmin Kamis scored an 82nd-minute freekick to help DPMM FC secure a 1-0 defeat of a resilient Geylang International side at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

Geylang were without captain Jozef Kaplan as the Slovakian was sent off in his side’s 1-0 win over Hougang United last week. Nevertheless, they gave a good account of themselves in Friday’s Great Eastern-YEO’s S.League encounter and managed to resist a barrage of attacks throughout the game to ensure a respectable scoreline.

Led by Stefan Milojevic, the Eagles threatened first when Khairulnizam Jumahat swung in a free-kick that Wardun Yusoff did well to tip over the post in the third minute.

The DPMM custodian was also called to action a minute later when Wahyudi Wahid went close with a glancing header off a corner from the left.

Captain Rosmin began DPMM’s attack in earnest in the ninth minute when he curled in a free-kick that went over the bar.

It was Joao Moreira, however, who really helped the Bruneian side secure control of the match as the attacker was regularly winning aerial challenges and his flick-ons often helped his team-mates get decent opportunities within the box.

In the 16th minute, the Portuguese even went close to opening the scoring when he controlled Arturas Rimkevicius’ weighted lob and skipped past a defender to get into the box but his fierce drive from the right clattered off the post.

Attacking midfielder Rodrigo Tosi was next to get involved as a quick one-two in the 25th minute enabled him a try his hand with a similar opportunity.

From then on, the Eagles defended deeply inside their own half although they could have turned the tide had Milojevic timed his run to meet an overhanging cross from the left in the 36th minute.

As the half came to a close, Milojevic was also doing his best to maintain possession for his side and the Spaniard did well to shepherd the ball out of his own half in the 42nd minute with an excellent run that took him past three DPMM players.

His industry paid dividends as his side came up with the final attack of the half when Taufiq Ghani reached Jalal’s free-kick from deep; the midfielder somehow angled the ball with a header towards the far corner but Wardun was equal to the challenge.

DPMM came out of the dugout with all guns blazing, though, and Rimkevicius, in particular, appeared determined to see his name registered on the scoresheet on the night.

He started an energetic spell by heading a punt into the box towards Subhi Abdilah but the Bruneian shot the ball straight towards Ito in the Geylang goal.

Rimkevicius was again a nuisance three minutes later when he collected the ball down the left and wound his way into the box, firing a shot that was blocked by his marker.

Shortly thereafter, Moreira was next to threaten as he chested a pass down the right and bore down on goal but his shot was well off target.

Rimkevicius even clamored for a penalty after being unfairly pushed inside the box in the 52nd minute but he nearly made the most of the subsequent corner as a header went marginally over the bar.

And just two minutes later, the Lithuanian again snuck into the box from the left and saw another left-footed shot go wide of the post.

Geylang could do nothing but soak up the pressure and they were lucky that Moreira could not find much accuracy with a shot from outside the box in the 56th minute.

It could have been an altogether different story if Shotaro Ihata had not ruined a perfectly good opportunity two minutes before the hour mark after being picked out at the edge of the box. Instead of utilising the time to shoot at goal, the Japanese inexplicably opted to pass along towards a team-mate, only to see the ball get intercepted.

After the blistering start to the half, both sides made substitutions in the 66th minute as Geylang’s Duncan Elias and DPMM’s Moreira were swapped for Andrew Tan and Azwan Ali respectively.

Azwan made an impact just four minutes after his introduction as he caught the Geylang defence by surprise by collecting a long pass just outside the box. Luckily for V. Kanan’s side, a nearby defender rushed into position to block the substitute’s shot.

A minuter later, Tosi tried his luck as well with a long-range piledriver that just whizzed past the right post.

And as the game entered the final fifteen minutes with the scoreline still goalless, Rimkevicius was replaced by Adi Said but not before going close twice with decent opportunities inside the box.

Ihata also made his final contribution to the game a minute later when he nodded back Tan’s left-wing cross that Yasir Hanapi could only fire well over the bar.

Brunei finally got the goal that their dominant football deserved eight minutes from time, though, when Rosmin succeeded with a free-kick from the 30-yard distance. The DPMM captain did benefit from a huge slice of luck with that opportunity as the ball bounced off a defender in the wall and also earned a deflection off the goalkeeper’s back on its path towards goal.

Geylang did not just give up, though, and Milojevic did his best to level the scoreline when he collected the ball inside the box and made space for himself at the edge of the six-yard box in the 86th minute.

He failed with that attempt but he threaded through a pass to makeshift forward Norihiro Kawakami in the 89th minute, only for the Japanese defender to be denied by his marker.

DPMM kept things simple from then on and held on through three minutes of added time to edge Geylang for the win while also preserving a clean sheet in the process. The Wasps are now just one point behind Home United in seventh place in the S.League table and next face Global FC in the Singapore Cup quarter-finals at the same venue on Wednesday

Geylang remain in ninth place and face Home for the first leg of their cup fixture at the Bedok Stadium on Tuesday.