- Associated Press - Sunday, October 3, 2010

LONDON (AP) - Liverpool fans protested the club’s American owners and their slumping team as the 18-time champions’ terrible start reached a new low with an embarrassing 2-1 defeat to Blackpool on Sunday.

The pressure increased on manager Roy Hodgson with another humiliating defeat at Anfield that left Liverpool in the relegation zone ahead of the two-week break for international matches.

Reds supporters staged a pre-match protest march against owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr., who put the club up for sale in April and face a deadline this month to repay a debt which has grown from 237 million pounds ($371 million) to about 280 million pounds ($438 million).

Blackpool took a 2-0 lead on Charlie Adam’s 29th-minute penalty kick following a foul by Glen Johnson on Luke Varney, and Varney’s short-range goal past Pepe Reina in first-half stoppage time. Sotirios Kyrgiakos’ 53rd-minute header wasn’t enough as Liverpool’s winless extended to five matches. The home team was booed off by fans at the final whistle.

The defeat came on the heels of a 0-0 draw at Utrecht in the Europa League on Thursday. Liverpool was knocked out of the League Cup in the third round by fourth-tier Northampton two weeks ago.

“At the moment things look bleak and really bad and it is difficult for me to put a bright face upon it,” said Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson, who lost star striker Fernando Torres to a groin injury in the 10th minute. “There are 31 games left, but when you are in the relegation zone you are in a relegation battle.”

Liverpool already is 12 points behind league-leading Chelsea. The reigning champions opened a four-point lead by beating visiting Arsenal 2-0 on goals by Didier Drogba and Alex.

Drogba proved to be Arsenal’s nemesis once again, glancing in from close range in the 39th minute for his 13th goal in his last 11 matches against the Gunners. Alex’ added a bending free kick in the 85th.

“There will be one game when I won’t score (against Arsenal),” Drogba quipped.

Chelsea leads the league with 18 points after six wins from seven matches and its nearest rival is Manchester City, which beat Newcastle 2-1 in Sunday’s other game. Third-place Manchester United drew 0-0 with Sunderland on Saturday.

“Today you saw not a fantastic performance but a different performance, we really ground out a win,” Chelsea assistant manager Ray Wilkins said. “That’s what it’s about, the three points is what we fight for and we got it.”

England winger Adam Johnson came off the bench to score the winner for City in a match marred by a suspected broken leg break for Newcastle winger Hatem Ben Arfa.



MADRID (AP) _ FIFA player of the year Lionel Messi made his first start since an ankle injury and scored his eighth goal in eight games in all competitions this season, but Mallorca rallied for a 1-1 tie at Barcelona.

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