Thursday, 29 November 2012

Bale and ref deny Reds

Liverpool's eight match unbeaten streak in the Premier League came to an end at White Hart Lane last night, as Tottenham Hotspur secured a 2-1 victory from an entertaining midweek clash with the Merseysiders. Welsh winger Gareth Bale was at the heart of the action, scoring for Spurs and also inadvertently for Liverpool after assisting Aaron Lennon's early opener. Meanwhile, the Reds were left ruing refereeing decisions once again, as Phil Dowd turned down two strong penalty appeals.

Brendan Rodgers decided to stick with the same team that played out a bore draw at Swansea on Sunday, with Stewart Downing remaining at left back and Jordan Henderson starting alongside skipper Steven Gerrard and Joe Allen in midfield. The Reds' boss was probably regretting that decision when the hosts exploited an error from Downing to take the lead after seven minutes.

Bale had already threatened for Tottenham, testing Reina with a venomous free kick and firing a cross-shot just wide of the far post. His reward for an impressive start came when he drove powerfully at the Liverpool defence and squared to Lennon, who'd escaped the attention of the out of position Downing far too easily. He converted comfortably from close range.

Lennon celebrates giving Spurs an early lead
It was an understandable but not excusable mistake from Downing. As a winger, he clearly isn't accustomed to appropriate defensive positioning. However, he has such a bad reputation with Kopites that he can't really afford to make any more mistakes, as he may already be living on borrowed time.

To make things worse, Tottenham enjoyed some good fortune that enabled them to double their advantage under ten minutes later. After Henderson spurned a glorious opportunity to equalise by shooting wide with an open goal to aim for, Bale delivered the sucker-punch as his set piece from range found its way past Reina thanks to a decisive deflection off the wall. 

After a fatally slow start, Liverpool managed to regain a foothold in the contest during the last 25 minutes of the first half. Unfortunately, yet again they failed to craft many goalscoring chances. Nonetheless, they went agonisingly close to halving the deficit nine minutes before the break. After referee Phil Dowd frustratingly refused to point to the penalty spot following a foul on Gerrard by Dembele, Suarez's effort was excellently cleared off the line by Kyle Walker when it appeared destined to cross the line.

Liverpool continued to perform well during the second period, although they still lacked a cutting edge and the Londoners were managing to keep their opponents at arms length. After Bale's free kick curled wide of the target, Agger launched an ambitious strike from distance that fell to Suarez, whose own effort was deflected into Lloris' hands. 

Since being pushed further forward, Jose Enrique has evidently enjoyed attacking at will. He continued to do so last night, seeing his shot turned behind for a corner on 71 minutes. Havoc ensued from the resulting set piece, and the ball eventually ended up comically rolling into the net after Lennon smashed it against teammate Bale's face.

Oops! Bale amusingly reduces the Reds' arrears
The unexpected route back into the game inspired the visitors to apply heavy pressure on their hosts during the closing stages. Ten minutes from time, Agger impressively persevered under extreme defensive pressure  when most other players wouldn't have even tried to keep the ball in play. His lobbed cross was fiercely volleyed over the bar by Suarez.

Enrique's shot then swerved inches wide of Lloris' post, before Liverpool had another appeal for a penalty fall on deaf ears. Suarez went down under a strong challenge from Gallas but was almost inevitably denied a spot kick.

It just wasn't going to be the Reds' night. Despite a relatively good display at a very tough place to go to, Tottenham clinically punished Rodgers' men for their poor start and took advantage of the goalscoring chances they created. 

Liverpool could go a long way to improving their League position by learning from their opponent's performance. 


Monday, 26 November 2012

Stalemate at Swans as Rodgers returns

Liverpool and Swansea played out a rather uninspiring goalless draw yesterday afternoon, as Brendan Rodgers' heavily anticipated return to the Liberty Stadium failed to live up to expectations. Aside from Jose Enrique's wrongly disallowed goal, neither side came close to breaking the deadlock and, ironically considering their reputations as pass and move masters, a poor final pass was often what let both teams down.

Surprisingly, Stewart Downing and Jose Enrique swapped positions, with the former playing as an auxiliary left back while the latter revelled further forward down the left hand side. Meanwhile, Jordan Henderson made his first start in the Premier League since Liverpool's 1-0 defeat at Swansea last May. After impressing against Young Boys on Thursday, Joe Cole was awarded a seat on the bench.

The first chance of the encounter fell to the home side, as Wayne Routledge went close, rifling an attempt at goal that Reina punched away. The Merseysiders were in the ascendancy for the rest of the first 45, though, creating more goalscoring opportunities and controlling possession. On 17 minutes, Enrique made a good run into the box to unconventionally connect with Johnson's cross using his chest. Unfortunately, the ball rolled wide of the post.

The magnificent Raheem Sterling thundered a strike against the cross bar from a corner kick just past the half hour mark, moments before Enrique bundled the ball home from Suarez's clever pass but was wrongly flagged offside when he was actually in line with Swansea's defensive line.

Enrique looks to the linesman after turning home
Johnson and Suarez were also denied by goalkeeper Tremmel, as the Reds grew in confidence and asserted their superiority in the contest. Meanwhile, shots narrowly wide from Hernandez, who was Swansea's main threat in the first half, and de Guzman were all that Michael Laudrup's men managed to achieve.

There was a scarcity of decent goalscoring chances during a disappointing second half. After Hernandez's free kick went high and wide 10 minutes after the restart, Gerrard and Suarez tested Tremmel and former Swansea midfielder Joe Allen cleared off the line from Williams' header. 

But, apart from that, little of note took place until Reina and substitute Dyer collided on 73 minutes. A mistake from Downing allowed the number 12 to rush through on goal but thankfully Reina bravely came out to close the angle. After both received treatment, they commendably shook hands and got on with the game, which is a lamentably rare sight in modern football.

Eight minutes from time, Suarez and Sterling broke forward and faced only one defender. Frustratingly, a poor pass from Sterling took Suarez off course and gave the hosts time to recover. Eventually Suarez shot at goal, but it would have taken a lot to beat Tremmel from the position he was in. 

Frustrated- Sterling's final pass let Suarez down
In injury time, Shelvey almost diverted Gerrard's long range strike goalwards and also saw the goalkeeper beat away one of his own shots. However, by that stage, it was clear that neither side was going to clinch a winner.

Swansea will be happier with a point, although a draw and a clean sheet isn't a terrible outcome for Liverpool either. Sure, there's work still to be done up front, but at least our unbeaten run has been extended. 

A much better performance will be needed to take points from White Hart Lane on Wednesday, though.


Friday, 23 November 2012

Late leveller leaves Liverpool with work to do

Elsad Zverotic's stunning late equaliser left Liverpool in a precarious position in Europa League Group A last night. A win would have seen the Reds' progress to the knockout stages of the competition with a game to spare, but the home side failed to hold on to the 2-1 lead they secured heading into the closing stages of the contest, and therefore the Merseysiders will travel to Turin to face Udinese in just under two weeks time knowing they must earn at least a point to stand any chance of progressing past the group stages.

Rodgers selected a weaker than expected starting line-up, as Gerrard, Suarez, Sterling and Allen were all left on the bench. Reina made his 81st European appearance, a record for goalkeepers at the club, while Joe Cole was afforded a rare start and Shelvey began up front as a lone striker. 

Young Boys began brightly, threatening only 10 seconds after kick-off. Thankfully, though, their break forward culminated in Zarate's overhead kick flying into the Kop, rather than into the net. Reina was then forced to block a shot, as the hosts struggled to get going during the opening exchanges. They came back into the contest midway through the first period, thanks in large part to the work of the promising Jonjo Shelvey.

First, he sent a decent pass through to Cole, who dragged wide from an angle. Then, after Henderson's free kick had been dealt with by goalkeeper Wolfli, Shelvey delightfully flicked the ball through to Henderson in a manner reminiscent of Luis Suarez. Unfortunately Henderson was nowhere near as clinical as the Uruguyuan, as his shot lacked conviction and was saved by the keeper.

Nonetheless, the opener came soon after the half hour mark, as Cole and Suso played a neat one-two before the former crossed for Shelvey to simply head home from close range.

Shelvey stoops to open the scoring
It was an impressive move from the Reds and Shelvey's fourth goal in the competition this season, giving him an enviable average of a goal every 70 minutes in the Europa League.Suso and Cole almost doubled our lead soon after, the former firing wide from distance and the latter seeing his shot ricochet off Skrtel before it was cleared off the line. 

The influential Shelvey and Cole combined to set up Suso moments before the break, but unfortunately he unwisely elected to shoot early and thus disappointingly missed the target when he should have been more clinical in front of goal. 

As usual this season, Liverpool were made to pay for their profligacy as, after Farnerud and Zverotic sent a warning strikes narrowly over the crossbar, Bobadilla excellently smashed a half volley past Reina from an acute angle. Perhaps most frustratingly, literally seconds earlier Cole had wasted a good chance at the other end to make it 2-0. 

It was Cole, though, who responded for the Reds and put the home side back in front twenty minutes before the final whistle. The heavily criticised Londoner intelligently found space in the penalty area and was found by Gerrard after the skipper had swapped passes with Suarez. Cole confidently converted from six yards out.

Back on form? Cole certainly performed better against Young Boys
His goal, assist and overall performance were certainly encouraging last night, although it'll take several more of these performances to convince Kopites that he has the ability to return to the Reds' first team on a regular basis. The former Chelsea man may just have earned himself a place on the bench versus Swansea on Sunday though.

At this point, Liverpool were proceeding through to the knockout stages. However, there was always that nagging feeling that the pattern of the season would repeat itself and the Reds would yet again throw away a victory they arguably deserved. Lo and behold, Young Boys equalised two minutes from time. After Reina claimed a rising strike from range by Zverotic, he failed to replicate the feat soon after as the 26-year old Montenegrin blasted a powerful effort through the Spanish stopper's hands and into the back of the Anfield Road end net.

Gutted- Zverotic's strike stunned the majority of Anfield into silence
It was a body blow for the deflated Reds. They had hoped to qualify with a game to spare in order to rest the big guns at the start of December ahead of a gruelling holiday schedule. Now, Rodgers will have to pick a virtually full strength starting line-up in the final group game versus Udinese if Liverpool are to progress and remain in Europe.

More importantly, Liverpool must prevent this pattern of performing well but failing to claim victory from perpetuating itself. That's arguably the toughest task facing boss Brendan Rodgers.


Sunday, 18 November 2012

Reds wipe the floor with Wigan

Liverpool returned to winning ways yesterday, as Wigan were convincingly beaten at Anfield. Two goals from the on-form Luis Suarez set the home side on their way, before the Uruguyuan combined with Raheem Sterling to set up Jose Enrique for an easy third. The Merseysiders saw out the contest with minimal fuss.

Pepe Reina returned to the starting line-up after recovering from injury, so Brad Jones, who has impressed in his place, dropped to the bench. Meanwhile, Liverpool started with five at the back, as Wisdom joined Agger and Skrtel in central defence, with Johnson and the ever-improving Enrique bombing down the wings from full back. Suarez was paired with Sterling up front.

After a quiet opening, the Latics threatened first. A well-worked Wigan move culminated in Watson wastefully firing over Reina's crossbar. Kone then cut inside and struck goalwards from 25 yards but Reina made an easy save. The hosts cranked up the pressure midway through the first period, Johnson's deflected shot from Gerrard's corner going over the bar, before Agger headed over the skipper's next set piece and Suso saw his stinging strike turned away by Ali Al Habsi in the Wigan goal.

Moments before the half hour mark, Sterling and Watson inadvertently collided on the edge of the Reds' box when competing in the air. Though there was no fault on either side as both players were clearly looking at and going for the ball, Watson came off the worst and hence the visitors were awarded a free kick. Ramis proceeded to fire harmlessly into the Liverpool wall.

The best chance of the first half fell to Enrique on the stroke of half time. Martinez's men had their keeper to thank after he somehow denied the Spanish left back from close range to prevent him breaking the deadlock after Suarez's low cross had found him in space in the penalty area.

After the interval, Liverpool came out and crucially quickly took the lead, before going on to dominate the second half. Only two minutes after the restart, Luis Suarez gave the hosts the lead. Brilliant work from Sterling saw him nip the ball away from Figueroa and cut back for Suarez, who converted his 12th goal of the season from 10 yards out.

Suarez (who else?) opens the scoring versus Wigan
After Di Santo's shot was deflected into Reina's arms and Henderson volleyed wide from range, Suarez added a second to his goalscoring tally and doubled our lead. Enrique's excellent through pass sent Suarez through on goal and the number seven did the rest, calmly slotting past Ali Habsi.

Hungry for a hat-trick, Suarez struck into the side-netting on the hour mark, before he was involved in the build-up to Enrique's goal. A neat one-two between Suarez and Sterling resulted in the latter crossing to Enrique at the back post. The number three was right on cue to tap into an empty net from yards out.

There was still time for Kone to strike against the post from close range, while Johnson went close to adding a fourth for the Reds, but Wigan never really looked like getting back into the match after Suarez scored his second and Liverpool were more than happy to hold onto their lead and see out the 90 minutes.

Two important points can be taken from yesterday's match. Firstly, 5-3-2 seems to work better than 4-3-3. The three centre backs provide a more solid defensive base, while also allowing dynamic full backs Johnson and Enrique to bomb forward at will. Secondly, Enrique and Suarez seem to be developing a very promising relationship. The pair have been involved in creating, and converting, goalscoring opportunities several times since Enrique returned to the starting line-up following a prolonged absence, as Rodgers preferred to start Johnson at left back and Wisdom on the opposite side.

Dynamic duo- Suarez and Enrique worked well together against Wigan
With three wins and no defeats in their last seven fixtures, things are undoubtedly beginning turn around for Liverpool. While vice-captain Jamie Carragher may be a little optimistic in claiming that the Reds can challenge for fourth place, recent signs of improvement have been promising and, as an arguably easier fixture list awaits the Merseysiders in December, Liverpool's season might be just beginning.


Monday, 12 November 2012

Super Suarez rescues a point at Stamford Bridge

Liverpool had Luis Suarez's remarkable goalscoring form to thank for rescuing a point from their clash with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge yesterday. The on-form number seven nodded home after 73 minutes to level the scores after Chelsea captain John Terry had given the hosts the lead in the first half, before being stretchered off with what looks like a season-threatening injury.

Conscious of the threat posed by Mata, Hazard, Torres and Oscar, Liverpool started with a 5-3-2 formation, as Agger, Wisdom and Carragher began at centre back, while Johnson and Enrique performed as full backs. Up front, Sterling played alongside Suarez. Reina once again missed out due to injury, allowing Jones to make his seventh consecutive appearance in goal.

After a minute's silence had been observed before kick-off for those in the armed forces, Chelsea began the better and, after grabbing the lead with their first sight of goal, continued to control the contest and dominate a disappointing Liverpool for the rest of the first 45 minutes. Uncharacteristically, Allen was dispossessed in a crucial area six minutes in, allowing Mata to find Oscar, who thankfully blazed over the bar when he should have done better.

The Londoners didn't have to wait long to take the lead, though, as Terry escaped the attention of Agger to tower above the Reds' defence and place a free header past Jones on 19 minutes.

Terry heads home his 50th Chelsea goal to give the Blues the lead
The rest of the first half saw Chelsea create several goalscoring chances, while Liverpool somehow managed to remain in the contest, despite coming under constant attack from their opponents and rarely troubling Cech, who was virtually a spectator.

First, Torres' shot went through Wisdom's legs and was beaten away by Jones, with Hazard firing the rebound wide. The former Liverpool striker then nodded over the bar, before Mata wasted a glorious chance on the stroke of half time, striking over the bar when one-on-one with the keeper after Wisdom and Carragher had been comfortably beaten. 

To add to their frustration from not doubling their advantage, Chelsea lost their skipper soon after the half hour mark, as John Terry suffered a knee ligament injury after an accidental collision with Suarez and had to be replaced by Cahill. The Englishman, who had only just returned from a four-match domestic ban for racially abusing QPR defender Anton Ferdinand, is likely to miss a significant portion of the campaign.

After Mata's left footed shot sailed wide and failed to compensate for his earlier miss, Liverpool's captain nearly suffered a serious injury as well. During a goalmouth scramble, Gerrard fell to the floor and remained there for a worrying amount of time, although he eventually returned to his feet, to the relief of Kopites. 

Out of the blue, the Reds equalised seventeen minutes from time. Suso's right wing corner was headed on superbly at the front post by Jamie Carragher. The ball travelled to Suarez at the back post who, after sneakily pushing Ramires in the back, headed home from close range.

Suarez heads home the equaliser
With the benefit of replays, it is clear that the Uruguyuan pushed Ramires in the back to gain an unfair advantage and therefore should have been penalised. However, Suarez will see this decision as payback for an equally inaccurate offside decision that prevented him bagging his hat-trick and the winner against Everton at Goodison Park. Ultimately, the age-old truism that football tends to even itself out over the course of a season tends to be correct.

The visitors were like a completely different side after the equaliser, and could quite feasibly have gone on to claim all three points. Suarez was sent through on goal and would have scored his second but for crucial intervention from Cech, while the Chelsea keeper was called into action again by Jose Enrique in injury time. 

Despite failing to clinch a winner, Liverpool will be the happier side following a 1-1 draw. For long spells, Chelsea dominated and they really should have been out of sight at the interval. Had the Reds adopted a more attacking approach from the off, they may have scored earlier and gone on to dominate the play, like they did during the closing stages.

Nonetheless, this result should definitely be seen positively as one point gained, rather than negatively as two points dropped.


Thursday, 8 November 2012

Young Reds lose in Russia

Liverpool's long trip to Russia to face Anzhi in the Europa League proved frustrating as, despite a promising and productive performance from the club's youngsters, the Merseysiders fell to a 1-0 defeat thanks to a strike from Lacina Traore on the stroke of half time. A mistake from Coates allowed Traore to spoil the first half and convert what turned out to be the winner, as the Reds failed to clinch an equaliser during the second 45 minutes.

A host of first team stars were rested, as boss Brendan Rodgers picked a starting line-up encouragingly containing nine English-born players and with an average age of just 24. Conor Coady made his debut in the centre of midfield, while Flanagan and Morgan were handed rare stating opportunities. Andre Wisdom also played at centre back for the first time, as Rodgers experimented with a 3-5-2 formation. 

The Reds' youthful starting line-up pose for the pre-match photo
The Northern Irishman's tactics proved successful for the vast majority of the first half, as the visitors took the sting out of the contest and then began to craft goalscoring chances as the half progressed. The home side may have enjoyed more possession than their opponents during the opening stages, but they rarely troubled the Reds' rearguard, Zhirkov resorting to diving to try and win a free kick from Flanagan after 15 minutes. 

After a disappointing display out of place at right back against Swansea last week, Jordan Henderson was looking to impress after being afforded the opportunity to play in his preferred position in the middle of the park. 

Unfortunately, he displayed his evidently battered confidence when he decided to cut the ball back when one-on-one with the keeper after excellent work from Morgan. His pass was annoyingly intercepted by an Anzhi player when, had he been a little more confident, he could have rounded Gabulov and given Liverpool the lead.

The Reds' dominance seemed to be worrying Anzhi boss Guus Hiddink, as he decided to make a substitution after only half an hour, as defensive midfielder Gonzalez replaced winger Ahmedov. The substitution almost paid off immediately, as Gonzalez shot at goal from 15 yards out but failed to seriously test Jones. The Aussie keeper was called upon to make a world-class save soon after, though, as he brilliantly beat away a fierce shot from Samuel Eto'o. 
Traore celebrates breaking Red hearts

With half time approaching, Liverpool would have been the happier of the two teams heading into the interval had referee David Borbalan blown his whistle ten seconds earlier. It was deeply frustrating, therefore, to see Traore capitalise on errors from Coates and Jones to lob over the latter and break the deadlock literally seconds before the break.

Nevertheless, Liverpool remained in the ascendancy in the second half, although once again the considerable amount of possession they enjoyed failed to translate into goals. 

After Morgan had shot into the side-netting, Eto'o responded for the Russians, as his shot drew a comfortable save from Jones. The dangerous Traore then shot into the hoardings from range after nutmegging Henderson, before Tagirbekov's shot-cum-cross proved just too quick for him to reach and Jones saved his strong header. 

On the hour mark, Pacheco and Suso replaced Morgan and Coady respectively. Suso was particularly influential in the Reds' attack during the closing stages, seeing Gabulov spill his shot thirteen minutes from time. Frustratingly, Cole couldn't capitalise from close range. He was promptly replaced by Assaidi. Although admittedly Cole performed better against Anzhi than he had done versus Swansea, that's saying very little as the Londoner was absolutely woeful against the Welsh side!

Traore was terrorising the Reds' defence again on 78 minutes, as he went through one-on-one with Jones. Despite looking certain to score, he struck inches wide to the relief of Rodgers' side. Unfortunately they couldn't make him pay for his error, though, as, apart from two shots from Henderson flying high and wide, Liverpool failed to equalise and fell to a frustrating one-goal defeat in Russia. 

While it is understandable to lament the one costly error that ensured our downfall, there are still many positives to take from tonight's performance. Once again, several youngsters impressed in the Europa League. Andre Wisdom, in particular, looked composed, controlling and strong at centre back. Rodgers also tried out a new formation, which proved relatively successful and will provide him with a back-up plan in the future. 

Following Young Boys' 3-2 win over Udinese in Italy, Liverpool sit second in Group A, level on points with the Swiss side who they face next up at Anfield. A win back on Merseyside in a fortnight would go some way to securing progress to the knockout stages of the Europa League. 


Monday, 5 November 2012

Newcastle hold Reds despite superb Suarez strike

A sensational strike from Luis Suarez (who else?) secured a 1-1 draw for Liverpool at home to Newcastle United yesterday. After a first half that they dominated ended with Cabaye netting a fantastic opener against the run of play at the Kop end, the Reds responded in the second half through the Uruguayan, who bagged his seventh goal in the last nine League matches to quash Newcastle's hopes of ending their 17-match run without a win at Anfield.

Before kick-off captain Steven Gerrard was presented with a red Liverbird by Gary McAllister for achieving the remarkable feat of 600 appearances for Liverpool, which is a figure reached by only nine other players.

Captain fantastic reaches 600 not out
Liverpool were undeniably in the ascendancy when the action began. In fact, apart from Cabaye's goal, the closest Newcastle came to scoring in the first half was when Demba Ba struck hopelessly high into the Kop after a quarter of an hour. 

Suarez and Gerrard were inevitably at the heart of the hosts' attack, the latter forcing Krul into a save from his free kick only a minute in and the former curling agonisingly wide from a set piece as well as shooting against the Newcastle keeper's legs. Youngster Suso also posed a threat, shimmying into the box on 40 minutes only to see his shot deflected just wide, but Suarez remained the fulcrum of the Reds' attack, occasionally lacking support from his teammates in crucial areas. 

Newcastle's sucker-punch arrived two minutes before the break. After Andre Wisdom's foul throw, Hatem Ben Arfa beat Enrique far too easily and sent a cross to the back post, where Yohan Cabaye sent a sensational angled volley flying past Brad Jones and into the top right hand corner.

Cabaye celebrates breaking the deadlock
Anfield was rightly stunned, both at the magnificence of the strike and the fact that, yet again, Liverpool were entering the interval trailing despite absolutely dominating the contest and creating far more goalscoring chances than their opponents. 

Although Liverpool didn't create the same volume of chances in the second period, the momentum remained firmly in their favour and, after Suarez's snapshot tested Krul, the number seven combined with former Newcastle defender Jose Enrique to equalise for the Merseysiders. Enrique had terrific vision to pick out a long ball forward to Suarez, who awesomely evaded Coloccini, controlled the ball on his chest, rounded Krul and tapped home into an unguarded net from yards out.

Eyes on the prize- Suarez's close concentration helps him to equalise
It was a goal of the month, if not goal of the season contender from the majestic Suarez, who promptly picked the ball out of the net and ran back to the half way line, displaying his desire to get the game started again and push on for a winner.

Soon after, Suarez constructed two gilt-edged chances to grab that winner, which Shelvey and Sterling failed to convert. First, the Uruguyuan's tenacity paid off as he evaded a couple of defenders before putting the ball on a plate for Shelvey. To the frustration of the vast majority inside Anfield, Shelvey fluffed his lines and failed to connect sufficiently to find the back of the net. Then, Sterling hesitated momentarily after being played clean through by Suarez. This allowed Taylor to recover and slide in to make an impressive block tackle. 

Suarez remained at the heart of the action during the closing stages, as Coloccini, who he'd tormented throughout the match with his silky skills, was shown a straight red for a horrendous tackle on him. Although contact was minimal, Coloccini clearly intended to inflict serious harm on Suarez and, if he hadn't missed Suarez, Liverpool's only striker could have been severely injured.

There was still time for Shelvey to go close twice but, nonetheless, the ten-men of Newcastle managed to hold on to their undeserved point. 

Arguably the most frustrating fact about yesterday's match was that it was a caricature of Liverpool not only during this season, but over the last few campaigns. We dominated possession and created more chances but, because of our reliance on a single striker, lacked a cutting edge and ended up drawing a match at home that we really should have won. This clear trend cannot be blamed on bad luck, though, and the evidence that Liverpool aren't clinical enough in front of goal is continually accumulating. 

Rodgers clearly needs to purchase at least one new striker in January and, until then, he must encourage more midfielders to get forward and support Suarez, allowing him to drift into space and work his delightful magic. 


Thursday, 1 November 2012

Halloween horror show as Reds crash out of the cup

Liverpool's defence of their League Cup trophy came to a disappointing conclusion last night, as Brendan Rodgers' men fell to a deserved 3-1 defeat against the Northern Irishman's former employers at Anfield. Swansea City dominated the first half and secured the lead thanks to Chico's header. In the second half, they defended solidly and clinically counter-attacked to punish a poor performance from the home side.

With Sunday's Premier League fixture versus Newcastle United in mind, Rodgers began the match with a weakened side. Henderson was strangely picked at right back, while Joe Cole and Samed Yesil were handed rare starting berths and Brad Jones made his fourth consecutive appearance in goal. Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez formed part of a strong bench.

The visitors began the better and remained firmly in the ascendancy throughout the first period, creating more goalscoring chances and passing in a manner that Rodgers aspires to replicate at Anfield. After 18 minutes Ki-Sung Yeung's 20-yard shot sent Jones scrambling, before a trademark block from captain for the night Jamie Carragher was needed to deny Hernandez a clear shot at goal following neat interplay with teammate Michu.

Jonathan De Guzman then lobbed the ball onto the roof of the net, before the Swans' pressure paid off and the Welsh side claimed the lead soon after the half hour mark. Chico rose highest in the penalty area to power a header into the corner of the net.

Inevitable- Chico's opener was always coming
The inevitability of Swansea's opener was perhaps most frustrating, as it was clear from the opening stages that they had a better work rate and a greater desire to win than their below-par opponents, who never really got going during a disappointing first 45 minutes.

Nonetheless, Joe Cole could have immediately equalised for the hosts, but his header lacked power and was comfortably collected by the keeper. Yesil's shot was then blocked by Williams, but neither of the pair did enough to warrant any more action after the interval. Cole, whose days at Anfield must be numbered, looked like he hadn't been on a football pitch in years, while Yesil was horrendously immobile, lacked positional sense and posed no threat whatsoever to Swansea's defence. 

Gerrard and Suarez replaced them respectively at half time, and their arrival gave the Reds an instant boost. Unsurprisingly, they were next to try and obtain parity, as Suarez nodded off target from Shelvey's cross five minutes after the restart, before Gerrard's effort from range hit the post and Downing frustratingly failed to convert the rebound. 

Brad Jones' performance was one noticeable positive to take from the evening. The Aussie keeper wasn't culpable for conceding any of the goals and, on 66 minutes, made a tremendous treble save to prevent the away side doubling their advantage during a goalmouth scramble. Moreover, he tipped Michu's goal-bound effort over the bar before Williams headed inches wide from the resulting corner.  

A goalmouth scramble at the other end of the pitch not only failed to yield a leveller for the Reds, but also saw Swansea devastatingly counter-attack and bag their second of the evening. Displaying greater desire, the visitors won several 50-50 challenges as they broke. The move culminated in Dyer tapping home Hernandez's clever, composed and unselfish square pass from close range.  

Suarez may have headed home Gerrard's free kick four minutes later, but it was a case of too little, too late for Liverpool, who even lacked urgency when they were chasing the game in the closing stages. 

Suarez's goal provided little consolation
In injury time, Swansea hammered the final nail into the Reds' Capital One cup coffin as a carbon copy of the build-up to their second goal concluded with De Guzman's last gasp tap in from Michu's assist.

A 3-1 defeat was little more than Liverpool's lacklustre, low-energy, pedestrian performance deserved. Yes, Swansea played well and it was only the League Cup, but this defeat destroys the momentum garnered from recent results and leaves Liverpool stuck struggling to shake off their early season woes. 

It's easy to say it after being knocked out of the cup, but the League certainly is the priority this season and therefore the Reds must pick themselves up now and put in a much better performance against Newcastle on the weekend.