Friday, 1 October 2010

Good result, but bad performance as Reds nick a point

Liverpool nicked a 0-0 draw last night as Dirk Kuyt returned to the Galgenwaard Stadion to face former side Utrecht. The game ended in a stalemate with neither side possessing the necessary strike power to penetrate the opposing sides backline.

In the context of our Europa League campaign an away draw should be considered a positive result as it leaves us top of Group K, two points ahead of Napoli and Utrecht, and three points above Steaua Bucharest, who were involved in an enthralling 3-3 draw against Napoli yesterday.

However, in the wider, and far more significant context of our season this result, and the depressingly dull display that inevitably accompanied it, does little to bolster the faltering confidence of Hodgson's severely deflated side.

Roy Hodgson selected a strong starting eleven, with Torres and Kuyt forming a front partnership whilst Cole and Meireles played on either wing. This was in the hope that we could rack up three points, whilst also addressing our poor form with a good performance and a couple of goals to boot.

In fact, the opposite occurred as playing two attacking central midfielders on the wing restricted our play and, with the right footed Martin Kelly playing at left back, Liverpool's only attacking threat down the wings was Glen Johnson.

Moreover, Kuyt and Torres rarely looked like combining to frighten the home team's defence and were generally left redundant as a result of the frustrating lack of service from the uninspiring, and overly similar Lucas Leiva and Christian Poulsen.

Liverpool had the better of a scruffy opening period where neither side asserted themselves on the game and clear-cut opportunities were at a premium. After 6 minutes Edouard Duplan fired the first shot of the match wide from 25 yards.

Then, Raul Meireles showed good footwork to turn into space and strike a low, left footed drive towards goal, however it was straight at Michael Vorm allowing him a comfortable save.

A minute later Lucas took Cole's pass in his stride before hitting a low shot that almost turned into a fantastic pass for Torres on its way wide of the far post. If the Spaniard had been a little more alert then he may have got on the end of the Brazilian's effort and turned it into the net.

Soon after Cole cut inside from the left once again, but he could only disappointingly drag his shot wide of the near post. By this stage it was Liverpool who were controlling possession and asking the majority of the questions, however the home side's strong defence restricted us to long-range efforts, which failed to test the keeper.

Just after the 20-minute mark Meireles had another good opportunity as Johnson clipped a lovely ball into the box, however the Portugal international's header was weak and went straight into the grateful arms of the keeper. The new signing should have done better because he was well placed to aim a header home, and the delivery from Johnson was perfect for him as well.

From that moment onwards Utrecht became more of an attacking threat, and began to put the visitors under some pressure. The home side carved Liverpool wide open down the right on 25 minutes, however Johnson was alert and managed to cut out Mulenga's cross to avert danger from the goalmouth.

After that another superb move down the right ended with a fiery cross being centred into the box. Reina did well to push the ball to safety with van Wolfswinkel lurking.

Fernando Torres had been quiet so far, however he nearly broke the deadlock on 32 minutes as his 20 yard strike curved a couple of yards wide of the far post after the Spanish World Cup winner had cut back onto his right foot.

It was an excellent shot from Torres, however unfortunately he showed little else throughout the match to suggest that the poor form and injuries, which have plagued him since before the World Cup, had disappeared.

Dreadful defending from Dirk Kuyt allowed Mertens to skip past the returning Dutchman and fizz a shot towards goal from close range, which Reina did well to block, before giving Kuyt an absolute rollicking for his lack of awareness that almost led to Utrecht claiming the lead at a critical stage of the match, only five minutes before the half time interval.

From the resulting corner the home side went close again as the unmarked Tim Cornelisse rose highest to head a right wing corner just over the top.

Although it had been punctuated by sporadic goalmouth action, the first half was a stalemate with little to write home about, and both managers would have been looking for more from their respective sides going forward.

The first flowing move for the Reds came after eight minutes of the second half had been played, and ended with the ball dropping for Fernando Torres in a fantastic position only 12 yards from goal. Frustratingly El Nino hooked his volley over the bar, when he should have done better.

Minutes before the hour mark the game sparked into something resembling attacking action, as there were goalmouth incidents at both ends in quick succession. First, Martin Skrtel was forced to head off the line after Reina had flapped at a left wing corner.

Reina then quickly punted the ball forward to Dirk Kuyt on the right wing. Kuyt, who had been deployed in what has become an unfamiliar role as a striker, found himself on the ball in the far more comfortable position of the right side of midfield where, ironically, he set up Torres for the best opportunity of the match.

The Dutchman played Torres through on goal for what should have been the opener, however Vorm made a wonderful save to stop the Spaniard breaking his European duck for the season.

On 62 minutes a brilliant free kick into the box found Schut, but thankfully the centre back could only stab his volley wide of goal. Two minutes later Martin Skrtel headed Meireles' floated free kick onto the cross bar as the game became more open, with both sides willing to throw a few more men forward when the opportunity arose.

Torres, who had already missed three very good chances, was gifted a clear run on goal thanks to an incredibly bad back pass. The keeper rushed out and made a rash challenge, however Torres was brave and remained on his feet.

However, he eventually ran out of pitch in his attempt to find the empty net. It was a good shout for a spot kick, and he might have won us a penalty if he'd gone down, however I applaud Torres for staying on his feet.

In an era where foreign players of all shapes and sizes saturate the Premier League, I am proud that we still retain the distinctly English hatred of stimulation and love of fair play. I am glad that Torres appears to have adopted these values by not falling over in order to "win" a penalty for us.

With 20 minutes to go Carragher miscued a poor clearance to allow the slipping Silberbauer to flash an excellent effort just over Reina's left hand post. It was a disappointing defensive clearance from Carragher, however the strike was of the highest quality as he was losing his footing on the wet surface.

After 76 minutes Mertens' attempt at an "Xabi Alonso" style goal from all of 65 yards was nowhere near testing Reina in the Liverpool goal. Three minutes later a corner travelled through to Silberbauer, who forced Reina to stop his low, rasping effort.

As the closing stages approached Maxi Rodriguez replaced the quiet and ineffective Cole and nearly made an immediate impact as he acrobatically fired an overhead kick over the top.

It was an audacious attempt, however the Argentine should have been more spatially aware and taken the ball down before turning and having an effort on goal.

There was only time left for one more goalscoring chance, and that went to the home side with just over five minutes remaining.

Martin Skrtel's frankly ridiculous attempt at a headed clearance from a long punt up field caused confusion in the Reds backline, allowing Mulenga to exploit this puzzlement to storm past both Carragher and Kelly.

To the relief of Roy and his Redmen Mulenga slotted wide with Reina vulnerable and the frontman favourite to score what would have been the winner.

As the title of this piece implies, the result was good but the performance was anything but. A European away draw is never to be belittled, however the display of the side only heightens the sense of disillusionment with the manager and the players.

Hodgson's job description could be summarised in a single sentence. "Steady the ship." He simply has not done this. Liverpool have had their worst start to the season since the 1992/1993 season and, whatever way you look at it, that is not good enough.

It would be ok if Hodgson was in it for the long haul and needed time to build a squad, however his age and previous record suggests that he is just a stopgap until new owners come in and appoint a new manager.

He knew this. He knew he had to "steady the ship" but at the moment it seems like that ship is sinking faster than ever, causing fans to rightly forge a mutiny against the ultimate cause of our plummet towards mid-table mediocrity.

Hicks and Gillett.




  1. I wouldn't say that we should change the manager yet as he hasn't been given enough time, but he hasn't impressed me. I'd give him until the new owners come in unless it gets really bad.