Life’s a beach for Liverpool

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “I thought it was a deflection off a player. If anyone knew that rule, that it should have been a drop ball [as the beachball is considered an ‘outside agent’ according to the letter of the law], then you are one saddo. I didn’t know. They have got it on telly with the guy who threw it on and it’s got Liverpool crests all over it. What a shame.” – Steve Bruce.

Runner-up: “These things happen… It was a special situation but we didn’t play well. The goal changed the game but we didn’t play well, made some mistakes and gave the ball away. They played well on the counterattack. They had some chances and when we had our chances we didn’t take them. These things can happen in a lot of games. It’s a bad situation for us that the ball was in the middle and was influential but again I will say we didn’t play well. That’s the main thing for me.” – Rafa Benitez.


Today’s overview: Obviously, the only place to start this Sunday is “beachballgate” after Liverpool were beaten by a freak goal at Sunderland.

Making sure everyone knows that the goal should not have stood is John Ashdown. “Under the laws of the game the beachball, which bore a Liverpool crest, should have been considered an outside agent, which, whether an errant inflatable, plastic bag or yorkshire terrier, should bring a drop-ball if struck by the match ball. The referee, Mike Jones, despite seemingly having a clear view of the incident, allowed the goal to stand, however.”

Trying to gee up the Liverpudlians is a surprisingly optimistic Duncan White. “Where others see looming disaster, Rafael Benítez sees opportunity… Beating Lyon and Manchester United at Anfield is their opportunity to do that, to make Liverpool a side to be feared again and dissipate the sense of impending crisis. This is not a club that accepts losing three games on the spin.”

The black clouds over Anfield thicken further by Chris Bascombe’s report that Liverpool are in financial dire straits. “Privately, the club is adamant they will have new partners on board within six months. If they fail to do so, the consequences will be dire… as the pressure mounts from their banks, conceding majority shareholding remains the easiest and quickest way to safeguard Liverpool’s future – and avoid their ‘Doomsday’ scenario.” Adding to Liverpool’s woes is Duncan Castles’ report that “F6, the Saudi Arabian sports investment firm, confirmed yesterday that talks with Liverpool co-owner George Gillett to buy a stake in the club are on hold.”

Completing a difficult weekend for the Reds, Ian Hawkey talks up the qualities of Lyon’s Miralem Pjanic ahead of Liverpool’s next match in the Champions League. “With Pjanic wearing Juninho’s old No 8 jersey, something like normal service is being resumed at the French club… He takes the lead in directing Lyons’ attacking football and does so with an unlikely composure for a 19-year-old.”

Filling up the rest of the domestic news is a mooted ban for Fergie, new fears for betting in Britain, yet another foreign takeover, and the problems of receiving a major cash injection.

Punishment is being readied for Sir Alex Ferguson after his Alan Wiley comments, and according to Joe Bernstein the Manchester United manager is set to be made an example of. “Such is the strength of feeling inside the Football Association that Ferguson faces a five-match ban, the heaviest punishment he has suffered in his 23 years at Old Trafford.” Steve Bates though doubts such a severe punishment will be served, countering “the referees want the FA to take a tough stance and hit the United manager with a lengthy touchline ban and prevent him having any contact with his players before or during the game – but that’s unlikely to happen.”

The Football Association has a new problem on the horizon as two betting companies open markets on teenagers. The Sunday Telegraph’s Duncan White has the skinny, announcing “two gambling firms which sponsor Premier League clubs have been condemned for offering live betting on academy games, with fears that it puts teenagers – some as young as 14 – at risk of corruption. The Isle of Man-based 188bet and SBObet offer online in-play betting on Under-18 games on Saturday mornings, largely to satisfy their huge client base in the Far East.”

As has been the case for weeks on end now, the News of the World splash with rumours of a West Ham takeover. Neil Ashton chimes “an American consortium has launched a £100million to bid to buy troubled West Ham. The London-based Intermarket Group began negotiations on Friday night and are confident of landing the club in time to hand boss Gianfranco Zola a substantial budget for the January transfer window.”

Wrapping up the domestic analysis, Paul Wilson lists the new problems facing Birmingham now they have been bought by Hong Kong billionaire Carsen Yueng. “Come the transfer window Birmingham will most likely be over a barrel… McLeish, not exactly accustomed to throwing money around, is going to have to both persuade players to take a chance on Birmingham, while insisting to selling clubs and agents that he is not prepared to go above a certain price.”

England’s 2010 World Cup chances are again assessed this weekend (as is likely to now happen every weekend until the tournament finally kicks off).

Spreading a negative vibe is , who fears that England’s star will be burned out by the time they arrive in Bafana Bafana. “Playing in the Premier League is more draining and carries more chance of injuries and Capello makes the point that the FA Cup is more keenly contested in England than domestic cups in other countries and that English clubs are likely to be involved right into the last stages of the Champions League.”

Also on a Three Lions downer is , who argues “the urge to translate emotional support for England into financial commitment is not yet overwhelming. And I’ve a suspicion my caution is there to stay.”

In the Sunday interviews, Paul Wilson chats to Wigan boss Roberto Martinez about life at the Latics, while Steve Tongue has a one-one-one with Arsenal’s top goalscorer Thomas Vermaelen.

Onto the transfers where, despite huge speculation that Robinho is heading out of Eastlands, David Harrison claims “Robinho has urged Mark Hughes to sign Brazil pal Ramires from Benfica.” The Sunday Mirror also run the story adding “Ramires is reported to have a £30m release clause in his contract but, with City able to splash the cash, he could make a sharp exit from Benfica in January.”

Staying with Robinho, a the Brazilian trickster is torn apart by Piers Morgan who unfairly compares the footballer to “my army Colonel brother and a high-ranking American officer friend of his” who are both heading off to Afghanistan. “Compare and contrast their values and ethics with those of a modern football mercenary like Robinho. A man who epitomises the repulsive greed that swills around the gills of so many top players… Robinho’s only dedication is to making money. He doesn’t give a monkey’s about Manchester City, their owner Sheikh Mansour, manager Mark Hughes, the fans or his team-mates.”

In sad news for City and Arsenal fans, Joe Bernstein prints “Thierry Henry is set to disappoint long-time admirers Manchester City by following David Beckham to America after the World Cup.  Henry fancies a new challenge to end his illustrious career and MLS side New York Red Bulls are strongly tipped to be his destination.” Also unlikely to return to the Premier League anytime soon is Sol Campbell after Alan Nixon chirped “Sol Campbell’s dream of a Premier League return is dying – after he was snubbed in a desperate round of calls.”

Neil Ashton suggests it is one in, one out at Old Trafford as “Nani is fighting to save his Manchester United career… United continue to monitor the form of Valencia playmaker David Silva and will test the water again in the January transfer window.”

Lastly, Blackburn are in the hunt for a new striker with Tom Lake scribbling “Standard Liege’s Congo star Dieudonne Mbokani is the £4million-rated hitman in [Rovers’] sights.”