Monday, August 27, 2012

Young stars have Liverpool looking forward

The second weekend of the season in the Premier League was a lot like the first in many respects.
Arsenal are still rekindling the magic of their glory days with another goalless bore draw that would make former boss George Graham proud.
Eden Hazard continues to prowl around the football pitches of England with all the cunning and lethal menace of the runaway lion which is apparently on the loose somewhere in the Essex countryside.
Carlos Tevez is once again bearing T-shirt messages in reference to places in his native Argentina - which does not exactly ease fears that the striker may get homesick for South America again as the season progresses.
But there was also something fresh to observe this weekend as Liverpool gave genuine cause for optimism for the first time in a long while.
The Reds claimed a 2-2 draw against Manchester City at Anfield, and can feel aggrieved that they didn't take all three points against the champions. Were it not for two awful errors in defence from the home side then Brendan Rodgers would have been toasting his first league win as Liverpool manager.
After last weekend's horror show at The Hawthorns in which Liverpool were beaten 3-0 by West Brom, this was just the kind of response that was required to avoid their season spiralling into yet another bout of self-pity before it had even really begun.
Summer signing Joe Allen may have cost an eye-catching £15 million, but he once again showed why he is likely to be such a key component in the new Liverpool. The Welsh midfielder's performance was low-key but highly effective, with his passing stats once more very impressive. And it was not just sideway shuffles between him and team-mates five yards away, either — just as he did against West Brom, every single one of Allen's long-range passes found their intended targets.
The 22-year-old was not the only youngster who has given Liverpool fans cause to look to the future instead of dwelling on a tumultuous present. For a long time now, many supporters have been telling anyone who'll listen about the huge potential of winger Raheem Sterling, and he showed what all the fuss was about against City.
The 17-year-old played the full 90 minutes on his Premier League debut and he did not look out of place.
Add to the mix Jonjo Shelvey's enforced introduction just five minutes into the game following Lucas Leiva's injury and Sebastian Coates in defence and it's easy to see why Rodgers was so pleased with the contribution of the club's youngest team in almost a decade.
"I thought we were outstanding against a top side, the champions," Rodgers said after the game. "Once we managed the first five or 10 minutes, tactically the players were terrific.
"We're disappointed not to win the game but there were a lot of young players giving us great hope for the future. The fight and the quality we played with today - and the atmosphere - was incredible."
It was not all rosy for Liverpool's bright young things, mind. Striker Fabio Borini was again unable to make a significant impact up front, although with Andy Carroll seemingly rooted to the Liverpool bench these days the Italian should still have plenty more opportunities to make a starting spot his own.
Martin Kelly, meanwhile, had his part to play in the comedic mix-up which gifted Yaya Toure the chance to equalise for 1-1. Still, the right-back was upstaged by Martin Skrtel, whose catastrophic back pass handed Tevez the chance to level for 2-2 and send yet another shout-out to downtown Buenos Aires. Having also been culpable for conceding West Brom's second penalty the previous week, Skrtel is probably relieved that he has already got a new contract in the bag.
But, on the whole, there were many positives for Liverpool and for Rodgers. Prior to Sunday's game the Reds had picked up just 18 points in 20 Premier League games in this calendar year.
Such dwelling on the club's recent past is something they will hope to put behind them in the coming months.

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