Fabio Borini nets on his Anfield debut as Liverpool ease past FC Gomel in the Europa League. Joe Allen moves closer to completing his move to Merseyside, Spurs slump to a 2-0 loss at Valencia, Martin O’Neill is sweating on the fitness of Stephane Sessegnon, while Brett Holman is determined to nail down a role in “the hole” at Villa next season:
Liverpool 3 FC Gomel 0
With Joe Allen watching in the stands, Brendan Rodgers rolled out his first-choice backline for Liverpool’s second-leg Europa League qualifier last night. Steven Gerrard was the further forward of the midfield three, while Luis Suarez and Stewart Downing flanked Fabio Borini up front. Borini made an instant impact on his first home start since joining up at Anfield from Roma but it was Suarez who caught the eye; he provided a pair of assists, in addition to having seven efforts over the 90 minutes and, intriguingly, also took a direct free-kick. Gerrard had chances aplenty, too – he grabbed his side’s second and struck the post – while the Liverpool skipper also shared corners with Stewart Downing. Glen Johnson served a reminder of his attacking potential from deep by hammering home the Reds’ third to ensure their progress to the next round.
Post-match, Rodgers admitted he was keen to keep Daniel Agger at the club, despite the attentions of Man City. The Liverpool boss revealed the Dane is crucial to his plans for the campaign ahead, saying:
There’s nothing new to add. He’s very important for me. I like to have a playmaker at the back. With Daniel, this is his game – building from behind, stepping out with the ball and making passes and you see his commitment to the cause. For me there’s no update because we don’t want to sell him. He’s a player who is very important for me and it will remain that way.
Rodgers then went on to concede that Allen is close to sealing a move from Swansea, with the midfielder expected to undergo a medical on Merseyside later today:
It’s obviously imminent. If he is up here, it is a sign there has been good communication with Swansea and hopefully over the next 24 hours we can conclude it.
Liverpool Starting XI: Reina; Johnson, Agger, Skrtel (Carragher 76), Enrique; Lucas (Spearing 86), Shelvey (Adam 76), Gerrard; Downing, Borini, Suarez
Valencia 2 Spurs 0
With the news that Scott Parker has been ruled out of the start of the season after undergoing an Achilles operation, Andre Villas-Boas has real problems in the Spurs double-pivot. Jermaine Jenas and Jake Livermore were handed the deep-lying central midfield roles last night but failed to impress and, with Sandro still on Olympic duty with Brazil, the lack of options is having a knock-on effect on Gylfi Sigurdsson. The Icelandic international lined up in “the hole” behind Jermaine Defoe and was handed corner kick duties but the introduction of Rafael Van der Vaart for Jenas was to Sigurdsson’s detriment, with the latter shifted into a more defensive role as the Dutchman took his place alongside Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon in the attacking midfield three.
Tottenham Starting XI: Friedel; Walker (Naughton 77), Gallas, Vertonghen, Assou-Ekotto; Jenas (Van der Vaart 61), Livermore (Carroll 88); Lennon, Sigurdsson (Kane 81), Bale (Townsend 77); Defoe.
In Other News…
Martin O’Neill revealed he is fretting over the availability of Stephane Sessegnon and Phil Bardsley only eight days before the new season gets underway. The Benin international is of particular concern to the Black Cats boss – he has failed to feature at all in pre-season and his fitness must now surely be a major worry ahead of their trip to Arsenal a week tomorrow. Talking to the local press yesterday, O’Neill went on to say:
Sessegnon pulled out of training the other day and Phil Bardsley has had a bit of a setback with his ankle injury as well. We’ll have to assess those two. They’re going for scans tomorrow morning. Sessegnon’s obviously an important player for us and it’s a concern. But in the overall scheme of things, it might not be such a bad thing. I thought he got tired towards the back end of last season because he had played all the games for us and under a lot of pressure to do well. In the long-term, it might not be so bad but in the short-term, I would obviously like him to have some proper football before the season kicks off.
Brett Holman is keen to win a role in “the hole” for Aston Villa for the season ahead. The summer signing from AZ Alkmaar has mainly been utilised from a wide position over pre-season so far but his versatility earned him plenty of game time in the position with his national side – a factor that he hopes will help him stake a claim on Paul Lambert’s first-team thinking. Holman – who has notched twice in the club’s recent friendlies revealed:
I like to play in behind the strikers and I’m an attacking player. I like to always go forward to create goals, score goals and defensive wise it’s not in my thinking really. When I first moved to Holland it was my aim to move into that role and I sort of moved from left to right. At AZ I played from the left side coming inside and with the Australian national team I play in behind the strikers.
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For Gameweek 38
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