LIVERPOOL manager Roy Hodgson admits finishing in the top four might already be an unrealistic aim, just eight games into the Premier League season, after defeat in the Merseyside derby soured the feel-good factor created by the club’s takeover.
Thumping strikes from midfielders Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta lifted Everton clear of the relegation zone and plunged Liverpool into 19th place in front of the watching John Henry, kingpin of Anfield’s latest owners New England Sports Ventures (NESV).
It was yet another setback to Hodgson’s troubled tenure, which has also seen the Reds dumped out of the Carling Cup by Northampton Town, and, although he refused to give up on Champions League qualification, he conceded it would demand a huge swing in fortunes.
“There are 30 games to go, 90 points to play for, so we’d have to start doing something special I suppose,” he said. “But I don’t know I would write that off necessarily. It would take a really good run on the spin but I thought there were signs in the game today that the quality of football was there.”
Henry finally completed a £300m buyout of the much-maligned Tom Hicks and George Gillett on Friday, and Hodgson had hoped to start NESV’s reign on a high note by registering a first win in six fixtures. “The dream was we would come here on the back of new owners and win the game but there is no point in attempting to analyse dreams,” the former Fulham manager said.
Under-fire Hodgson insisted he was happy with Liverpool’s performance, but it was Everton who posed the more serious threat, with defenders Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin both firing wide in the first half. All the visitors could muster in response was a flicked Fernando Torres header that Tim Howard tipped over, and the Toffees made their superiority count in the 34th minute when Cahill lashed Seamus Coleman’s near-post cut-back into the roof of the net.
Liverpool’s Maxi Rodriguez tried to spark a comeback with a fizzing, low drive that Howard saved comfortably, and Everton soon put paid to a revival with a second goal.
Just five minutes into the second period, a half-cleared corner fell to Arteta on the edge of the penalty area, and the Spaniard snapped a swerving punt through a crowd and past Pepe Reina.
Hodgson backed by new owners
LIVERPOOL’S new owners have promised to give under-fire manager Roy Hodgson time to improve results.
Tom Werner, second in command at New England Sports Ventures, said before yesterday’s game: “We have confidence in Roy. Nobody will be pleased with the start of the season but the club ought to gel and Roy needs to be given time.”