Hull hold on for Anfield draw

Published: Saturday 25th October 2014 by The News Editor

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Mario Balotelli and Liverpool fired blanks as Hull held on for a goalless Barclays Premier League draw at Anfield.

Much of the focus was on Balotelli after an underwhelming start to his Liverpool career and controversy in midweek after exchanging shirts at half-time in the loss to Real Madrid.

But the Italian and his team-mates could not find a way through as Hull frustrated them to prolong the Reds’ below-par start to the campaign.

Raheem Sterling, Philippe Coutinho and Balotelli all went close in injury time as Liverpool’s dominance of the second half almost brought reward in the closing moments.

Steven Gerrard also went close while Balotelli, who forced Eldin Jakupovic to save early on, and Sterling both had good penalty appeals turned down.

Jakupovic, Hull’s third-choice goalkeeper, was their saviour at the end, tipping over Coutinho’s long-range effort and blocking Balotelli from point-blank range.

Further criticism of Balotelli after this showing would be harsh, given his clear determination to fight for the cause.

Bigger questions should perhaps be asked of Liverpool’s fluency and why they only showed urgency in fits and starts.

Despite that, Balotelli’s selection had not been certain. Manager Brendan Rodgers, however, did drop Glen Johnson, Coutinho and Jordan Henderson to the bench after the Madrid reality check.

His side did make a promising start and gave the Hull defence some anxious moments in the opening 15 minutes.

Sterling had a good shout for a penalty after a clash with Robbie Brady on the edge of the box. The England forward even assumed he had won the decision as he collected the ball after tumbling down but referee Neil Swarbrick thought differently, and penalised him for handball.

Dejan Lovren went close as he leapt to meet a Gerrard corner with a firm header but Ahmed Elmohamady headed off the line.

Balotelli then got his first sight of goal as he raced on to a Sterling pass after Martin Skrtel had launched an attack from deep. The Italian burst down the right and fired in a shot at a tight angle but Jakupovic, playing in the absence of Steve Harper and Allan McGregor, pushed his effort away.

Hull weathered that storm and settled into the game, frustrating Liverpool in their attempts to compose further attacks.

Almost half an hour had gone before the Reds threatened again, but Joe Allen dragged a long-range shot well wide.

Liverpool tried to remain positive and Balotelli’s body language was not of a player out of sorts. The former Manchester City forward at least looked up for the challenge and a neat backheeled pass to release Alberto Moreno delighted the crowd.

Hull began to make some inroads in the latter stages of the first half and Jake Livermore forced Simon Mignolet to save – albeit at the second attempt – after Hatem Ben Arfa had charged down the right.

The influential Mohamed Diame caused further alarm with a shot that flew wide and Mignolet voiced his anger to his defenders.

Liverpool were almost caught out on the stroke of half-time as Tom Huddlestone connected with a firm strike from the edge of the box and a deflection off Skrtel took it only narrowly wide.

Liverpool noticeably tried to up the tempo and get Sterling into more advanced positions after the restart.

Hull were alert to the threat and the youngster came in for some rough treatment as he tried to work shooting opportunities.

That signalled the start of a scrappy period of play with Ben Arfa, Sterling and Balotelli all finding themselves booked after various clashes.

Hull went route one in an attempt to alleviate growing Liverpool pressure and Abel Hernandez forced Mignolet to save from distance.

Liverpool came back and Sterling teed up Gerrard on the edge of the box but the former England captain’s shot curled inches wide.

Gerrard had another shot deflected for a corner and Balotelli almost scored from the resulting set-piece as he went close to connecting with a header.

Liverpool roused themselves for a strong finish but Balotelli got nothing after appearing to be pushed in the back by Alex Bruce.

Sterling then shot narrowly wide from distance and Jakupovic tipped over from Coutinho and blocked from Balotelli at the death.

Copyright Press Association 2014

Published: Saturday 25th October 2014 by The News Editor

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