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End of the drought - but not the doubt: Liverpool FC in 2012

JANUARY

JANUARY

LIVERPOOL went into 2012 in sixth place – just two points adrift of the Champions League spots. However, the year began badly with a heavy 3-0 defeat at Manchester City. The Reds were also beaten 3-1 at Bolton before finishing the month with a 3-0 win over Wolves.

In the Cups, it was a very different story. Steven Gerrard’s penalty secured a precious 1-0 lead from the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final away to City and they completed the job on a special night at Anfield as Craig Bellamy’s strike saw them progress 3-2 on aggregate.

Oldham were hammered 5-1 in the FA Cup and Liverpool followed that up by dumping out Manchester United in the fourth round – Dirk Kuyt bagging a dramatic late winner at Anfield.

FEBRUARY

THE return of Luis Suarez after his eight-match ban couldn’t inspire Kenny Dalglish’s side as February began with a goalless home draw against Tottenham.

Suarez remained firmly in the spotlight after his failure to shake hands with Patrice Evra prior to the league game with Manchester United at Old Trafford. Liverpool later issued an apology for the striker’s behaviour. The Reds lost a bad-tempered clash 2-1 with Suarez pulling one back late on after Wayne Rooney had struck twice.

Liverpool put that controversy behind them as they thrashed Brighton 6-1 in the FA Cup before heading to Wembley for the Carling Cup final against Cardiff City.

On a dramatic afternoon, Martin Skrtel cancelled out Joe Mason’s opener. Kuyt put the Reds 2-1 up in extra-time only for Ben Turner to force the game into penalties.

Kuyt, Stewart Downing and Glen Johnson all netted in the shoot-out as Liverpool won 3-2 to end the club’s six-year wait for silverware.

MARCH

AFTER the high of Wembley glory, Liverpool came crashing back down to earth as they lost 2-1 at home to Arsenal.

Their top four hopes then suffered another devastating blow as they went down 1-0 at Sunderland – a third successive league defeat.

Liverpool arrested their slump as Steven Gerrard inspired an emphatic 3-0 derby win.

The skipper marked his 400th Premier League appearance by becoming the first Reds player since Fred Howe in 1935 to net a hat-trick against Everton at Anfield.

Stoke were then beaten 2-1 in the FA Cup quarter-final but the month ended badly. Liverpool threw away a 2-0 lead as they lost 3-2 at lowly QPR and they were then defeated 2-1 at home to Wigan.

APRIL

PEPE REINA’S late dismissal at St James’ Park completed a miserable afternoon as the Reds lost 2-0 at Newcastle. With Reina banned, Alexander Doni made his debut in a 1-1 home draw with Aston Villa but the Brazilian’s hopes of featuring in the FA Cup semi-final with Everton at Wembley were dashed after he was sent off in an eventful 3-2 victory at Blackburn.

Third choice goalkeeper Brad Jones, who hadn’t featured for the Reds since December 2010, came off the bench to save Yakubu’s penalty and Andy Carroll headed a late winner.

Jones kept his place for the derby showdown in the capital and the Aussie rose to the challenge. Nikica Jelavic fired the Blues in front after a defensive mix-up but the Reds rallied in the second half. Suarez equalised before Carroll nodded home three minutes from time.

A poor 1-0 defeat at home to West Brom followed before April ended with Suarez netting a stunning hat-trick in a 3-0 win at Norwich City.

MAY

MARTIN SKRTEL’S own goal allowed Fulham to clinch victory at Anfield and the FA Cup final against Chelsea brought more disappointment. Goals from Ramires and Didier Drogba put the Londoners firmly in control before Carroll pulled one back and was just inches away from forcing extra-time.

Liverpool thrashed a much-changed Chelsea side 4-1 in the league at Anfield but the season ended on a low with a 1-0 defeat at Swansea City on the final day as the Reds finished eighth.

Three days later Dalglish, who had flown to Boston for talks with the owners, was sacked and the search for a new manager begun.

JUNE

BRENDAN RODGERS (below) was unveiled as Liverpool manager at Anfield after the club agreed a severance package with Swansea City. The 39-year-old, who penned a three-year contract, had initially turned down an approach from the Reds before it became clear he was their preferred target.

Wigan boss Roberto Martinez was also interviewed for the job but Liverpool’s owners insisted that Rodgers was always their first choice.

Rodgers brought with him a backroom staff consisting of assistant boss Colin Pascoe, head of performance Glen Driscoll and head of opposition analysis Chris Davies.

JULY

WITH Fabio Aurelio and Dirk Kuyt having already departed, Maxi Rodriguez followed them out of the exit door as he returned to Argentina to sign for Newell’s Old Boys.

Rodgers made his first signing as he snapped up striker Fabio Borini from Roma for £11million.

Liverpool embarked on a successful pre-season tour of North America with friendlies in Toronto, Boston and Baltimore.

AUGUST

ALBERTO AQUILANI left for Fiorentina and Craig Bellamy headed home to Cardiff City, while Rodgers added to his squad with a £15million swoop for Swansea midfielder Joe Allen.

The Northern Irishman’s reign began with a 1-0 win over Gomel in a Europa League qualifier in Belarus.

Liverpool finished the job off at Anfield and then sneaked past Hearts 2-1 on aggregate in the play-off round.

The new Premier League campaign got off to a disastrous start as the Reds lost 3-0 at West Brom on the opening day. They rallied to produce a fine display against Manchester City at Anfield that ended 2-2.

Nuri Sahin signed on a season-long loan from Real Madrid, while Oussama Assaidi and Samed Yesil also arrived.

Charlie Adam was sold to Stoke for £5million but a poor end to the window saw Andy Carroll join West Ham on loan and Liverpool failed to replace him as a move for Fulham’s Clint Dempsey fell through.

SEPTEMBER

LIVERPOOL were beaten 2-0 by Arsenal before Suarez rescued a point at Sunderland. The Reds got off to a flyer in their Europa League group as Jonjo Shelvey’s double secured a thrilling 5-3 win away to Young Boys.

On an emotional afternoon at Anfield following the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel report, the Reds failed to make their dominance count as they went down 2-1 to Manchester United.

Shelvey was sent off in the first half for a strong challenge on Jonny Evans but Gerrard volleyed the Reds in front. Rafael Da Silva equalised before Van Persie won it from the penalty spot.

Sahin’s double ensured the Reds knocked West Brom out of the League Cup and a first league win of the season was finally achieved as Norwich were demolished 5-2.

Suarez terrorised the Canaries once again as he became the first Liverpool player to score a hat-trick in the same away league fixture in successive seasons.

OCTOBER

IN Europe, Liverpool were sloppy as they suffered a 3-2 defeat to Udinese but they bounced back with Downing getting the winner at home to Russian big-spenders Anzhi.

A goalless draw with Stoke was followed by a 1-0 win over Reading before the eagerly-anticipated derby at Goodison.

The Reds raced into a 2-0 lead inside 20 minutes but were pegged back by the Blues. Suarez appeared to have grabbed a last-gasp winner when he fired home but to the Reds’ disgust he was flagged offside.

October ended on a low as Halloween brought a horror show in the League Cup. Swansea were 3-1 winners at Anfield as Liverpool lost their grip on the trophy.

NOVEMBER

SUAREZ lit up Anfield with a classy equaliser to earn a point against Newcastle.

A second string Reds side lost 1-0 away to Anzhi in Europe but Rodgers’ decision to rest so many star names paid off as three days later Liverpool impressed in a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge.

Wigan were swept aside 3-0 at Anfield and Joe Cole netted his first Liverpool goal since April 2011 against Young Boys at home. The Reds were on the brink of qualification but Rodgers was left fuming after they conceded a late equaliser against the Swiss.

It finished honours even when Rodgers went back to Swansea and then Liverpool were left cursing their slow start after going down 2-1 to Tottenham at White Hart Lane.

DECEMBER

DANIEL AGGER nodded home the winner against Southampton and the Reds held their nerve to progress to the last 32 of the Europa League as Jordan Henderson struck away to Udinese.

The Reds then made light of the absence of top scorer Suarez, who was serving a one-match ban, as they dug deep to clinch a thrilling 3-2 win at West Ham.

With the festive fixture list looking kind, Rodgers’ side had a glorious chance to push on towards the top four. However, Aston Villa carved the Reds apart as they inflicted a painful 3-1 defeat at Anfield.

The response was a resounding 4-0 thrashing of Fulham but on Boxing Day the Reds’ were muscled out of it in a 3-1 defeat to by Stoke.

Liverpool signed off for 2012 on a high with Suarez bagging a double in a 3-0 win over bottom club Queens Park Rangers with Rodgers forced to watch from his sickbed after being struck down by a virus.

 

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