Thailand v Liverpool - International Friendly

Philippe Coutinho and Iago Aspas impress in Liverpool’s 3-0 win over Thailand

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Liverpool completed their pre-season tour with a comfortable 3-0 win over Thailand, thanks to impressive displays from Philippe Coutinho and Iago Aspas.

Liverpool dominated the Thai side with goals from Coutinho, Aspas and Steven Gerrard. Coutinho put on a man-of-the-match performance producing oohs and aahs from the crowd with his velcro-like control, sleek passes and clever flicks that saw him sweep past defenders with ease.

In the first 15 minutes, Coutinho produced two fine chances, putting new-boy Aspas through only for the Spaniard’s effort to deflect over the bar and hitting his own volley just wide of the target.

But in the 16th minute Countinho got it right, picking up the ball 30 yards out and slicing through three defenders before his shot plucked the bottom corner.

After the Thai side forced goalkeeper Simon Mignolet into a few fine saves to end the first half, Liverpool dominated the second stanza. Coutinho doubled the Reds’ lead when he found Aspas with a wonderful pass and the Spaniard’s soft touch set up an easy opportunity that he cooly slotted home.

It was Aspas’ third goal in four friendlies since his move from Celta Vigo and the Spaniard wasn’t done leaving his mark on the match as he turned provider and set up Steven Gerrard for a stunning lob over the keeper’s head to make it 3-0.

With the match well in hand, Luis Suarez entered the fold with 30 minutes remaining, putting in a decent shift that failed to bear fruit. The Uruguayan international looked likely to make when he got on the end of Gerrard’s delivery but Suarez put the free header from six yards off the underside of the bar. Despite failing to score and playing amidst rumors of wanting out of Anfield, Suarez was nevertheless given a huge ovation by the 45,000-strong crowd.

Liverpool return home to England where they’ll have a week of preparation before the Steven Gerrard testimonial match against Olympiacos at Anfield on Saturday, August 3rd.

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

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I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.