Monday, 24 February 2014

Liverpool edge seven-goal Swansea nail-biter

Liverpool never like doing things the easy way.

After 20 minutes yesterday, they were 2-0 up and seemingly strolling to a comfortable Sunday lunchtime win over Welsh side Swansea City. Only six minutes later it was all square again as Swansea netted twice in front of a stunned Kop, assisted by yet more dubious defending from the Merseysiders’ shaky backline.

Sturridge restored the Reds’ lead before the break, but Bony converted a controversial penalty two minutes after the restart to level things up again for the Swans. Thankfully, the exceptional Henderson found the net for the second time with fifteen minutes remaining to clinch all three crucial points for the home side, although, after losing the lead twice already, the closing stages proved uncomfortable viewing for Kopites.

The match demonstrated what most supporters already knew. Liverpool have a world-beating attack but a worryingly leaky defence. The former will, in all likelihood, fire in the goals that secure Champions League qualification, but the latter seriously undermines any title challenge Brendan Rodgers’ side might mount.

An engaging and end-to-end first 45 minutes evidenced the Reds’ Jekyll and Hyde nature. Even during the first 20 minutes, when they raced to a two-goal lead, Liverpool still looked vulnerable at the back.

However, only two minutes in, the hosts’ sublime attacking play was on display. Sterling, supremely confident in his own ability, sent a superb through ball behind the Swansea defence for Sturridge, who showed composure to round Vorm and roll the ball into an empty net.

Sturridge side-foots home the opener after only two minutes
Before Henderson doubled Liverpool’s lead on 20 minutes, Bony threatened their goal on two occasions, while Shelvey also curled over the bar, as the Reds failed to sufficiently repel Swansea pressure.

At the other end, though, they were creative and clinical. For the second goal, Sturridge found Henderson and the former Sunderland man magnificently curled a beautiful effort into the top corner from the edge of the box.

Henderson leaps for joy after scoring a beauty
Tired following their Thursday night Europa League exertions, Garry Monk’s men may have started slowly, but they quickly came back into the match and levelled the score-line remarkably swiftly.

First, ex-Red Jonjo Shelvey was touchingly applauded by all sides of Anfield after refusing to celebrate his wonder strike into the top right hand corner out of respect for his former employers.

Shelvey showed Liverpool great respect
Then, after Skrtel needlessly gave away a free kick in a good position, Bony’s header deflected off the Slovakian, wrong-footing the helpless Mignolet and finding the back of the net.

It was a bad day at the office for Martin Skrtel
It was immensely frustrating but, at the same time, Liverpool’s forwards were, as always, a joy to watch, and they responded to restore the Reds’ lead ten minutes later. Flanagan, Henderson, Coutinho and Suarez all combined before the Uruguayan crossed to Sturridge, who headed home his 21st goal of the season from close range.

His strike partner Suarez almost ended his unusually barren spell in front of goal in spectacular fashion only moments later, but unfortunately his audacious lob from inside the centre circle fell just wide of goal.

The number seven has now failed to find the net in his last five appearances, although his overall contribution to the team remains invaluable, and surely it’s only a matter of time before he’s back on the score sheet.

During the closing stages of the first half Swansea threatened, Bony forcing Mignolet into a save, Rangel glancing a header off target and Dyer drilling wide of goal. Failing to heed those warning signs, Liverpool let their lead slip again two minutes after the interval, although they weren’t helped by some questionable officiating from referee Michael Jones.

Skrtel was admittedly grappling with Bony in the box, but it still seemed unduly harsh to award Swansea a spot kick. Thankfully the number 37 wasn’t shown a second yellow, but frustratingly Bony beat Mignolet from the spot to equalise for the away side.

Bony bags only his second goal outside of Wales
At that point, it was all up in the air, and either side had the ability to go on and claim the victory, both sides going close to taking the lead. For Swansea, De Guzman latched onto Bony’s backheel and fired goalwards, calling the keeper into action. Meanwhile, Williams made a fantastic block to deny Sturridge what seemed like a certain goal after former Swansea player Joe Allen had stolen possession in the middle of the park.

With fifteen minutes left on the clock, Liverpool made the crucial breakthrough. Gerrard sprayed a long-ball forward to Suarez, whose volley was blocked by Williams. The ball fell to Henderson, who saw his first attempt on goal saved but then intelligently followed in his shot and latched onto the loose ball, tapping home from yards out before celebrating deliriously.

It's safe to say Henderson was happy to net the winner
Determined to hold on to three much-needed points, Liverpool appeared more resolute in the closing stages, and not even the formidable former Liverpool striker David Ngog could break down their backline after replacing Nathan Dyer. In fact, they nearly added a fourth, but Gerrard’s deflected effort cannoned back off the base of the post in the 90th minute.

On the final whistle, Liverpool were relieved to have won and kept pace with their fellow title contenders Chelsea, Arsenal and Man City, who all won on the weekend. They were even happier later on in the evening, after Tottenham Hotspur had succumbed to a 1-0 defeat at Norwich’s Carrow Road, leaving the Londoners six points adrift of the fourth placed Reds, who also have a vastly superior goal difference which effectively acts as an extra point.

Champions League qualification is now Liverpool’s to lose, although they must address their defensive deficiencies as a matter of urgency if they are to have any serious chance of competing for the title during the closing stages of the campaign.


Monday, 17 February 2014

Reds robbed by the ref in Arsenal Cup exit

What has Howard Webb got against Liverpool?

His refusal to award Luis Suarez a spot kick after he was floored by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s blatant foul was as inexplicable as his decision to turn a blind eye to Samuel Eto’o’s foul on the Uruguayan at Stamford Bridge in the Reds’ final fixture of 2013.

That decision midway through the second period was one of the main determinants of Liverpool’s defeat because, had a penalty been given and converted, it would have been all square again at 2-2 and the visitors would have enjoyed all the momentum, while the hosts would have clearly been on the back foot. As a result, a draw and a replay at Anfield would have been the least Liverpool could have expected to take from the match.

As it turned out, Liverpool crashed out of the FA Cup at the fifth round stage as they were unable to secure the equaliser that their performance arguably merited in the closing stages of the second half.

Although his shockingly bad decision at a crucial point of the match played a vital role in determining the outcome of the contest, Webb wasn’t solely to blame for Liverpool’s loss, of course.  A surprising lack of clinical finishing in front of goal proved the Reds’ downfall as, unlike last Saturday at Anfield, Liverpool spurned several great goalscoring opportunities.

The usually prolific Daniel Sturridge was particularly profligate. It didn’t help, either, that they faced Lukasz Fabianski in goal, who pulled off a string of vital saves and was arguably man of the match. The pair faced off together twice in the opening four minutes, as Liverpool quite feasibly could have replicated their start to the League match.

First, the England striker surged into the box to latch on to Gerrard’s pass but saw his low strike blocked by Fabianski. Then, Suarez superbly clipped the ball over the Gunners’ defence to find Sturridge, who rounded Fabianski but could only fire into the side-netting from an increasingly tight angle.

Against the run of play, the home side scored the crucial opening goal after quarter of an hour. Arsenal debutant Yaya Sanogo saw his goal bound volley blocked by Steven Gerrard, but the rebound fell favourably for Oxlade-Chamberlain, who found the back of the net from close range.

Oxlade-Chamberlain gave the Gunners the lead against the run of play
Determined to save face after their humiliating 5-1 defeat at Anfield a week earlier, Arsene Wenger’s men were in the ascendancy for the rest of the first half after claiming the lead, Podolski squandering a chance to double their advantage when he drilled high over the bar on 37 minutes.

Either side of the interval, though, Luis Suarez had two fantastic opportunities to level the score line. Both times he was denied by Fabianski.

On 43 minutes, Joe Allen’s long ball forward found the number seven, who was thwarted by Fabianski as the Pole got down well to prevent his volleyed effort finding the net. Then, soon after the restart, the pair combined again, but Suarez was frustratingly denied by a fine stop from the in-form goalkeeper.

To make matters worse, Arsenal went down the other end and scored an exquisite goal to really change the dynamics of the game considerably in their favour. Oxlade-Chamberlain was too quick for Daniel Agger down the right hand side and the Dane couldn’t stop the 20-year old pulling a pinpoint pass back to Podolski, who culminated an impressive passing move with a simple side-footed finish into the net from close range.

Arsenal's second made Liverpool's task doubly difficult
It was a crucial goal as, at 1-0, Liverpool still had a great chance to get back into the match, but the Gunners’ second strike just made it that much more difficult for the Merseysiders.

The Reds’ performance did step up a gear, though, during the rest of the second half and, after Suarez sent a volley dipping just over the bar and Sturridge smacked one straight at Fabianski, Gerrard reduced the arrears from the penalty spot, calmly converting from 12 yards after Podolski tripped Suarez in the area.

The skipper is superb from the spot
It was admittedly a soft spot kick, but Arsenal could have few complaints, unlike the visitors, who had every reason to vociferously protest six minutes later, when Suarez was barged to the ground by a ridiculous challenge from Oxlade-Chamberlain in the box.

It was a stonewall spot kick but Webb, despite being in the perfect position to see the incident, patronisingly and dismissively wagged his finger rather than pointing it to the spot, as everyone in the ground had expected him to do.

How is Webb supposedly the best referee in the country?
Liverpool continued to probe, nonetheless, and had an excellent chance to equalise with five minutes left on the clock when Fabianski made his first mistake of the match. The number 21 unwisely rushed out to try and punch clear Gerrard’s free kick, allowing Agger the chance to head into an empty goal. Unfortunately, he headed Liverpool’s last chance of the contest just wide of the target.

At the end of the day, as disappointing as it is to exit the FA Cup, Liverpool could be proud of their performance. Although they didn’t reach the heights of footballing perfection reached during their annihilation of Arsenal at Anfield, they certainly performed far better than they did in the League match at the Emirates, when they succumbed to a 2-0 defeat following a very poor display.

A quarter-final tie at home to Everton would have been an exciting prospect had Liverpool emerged victorious at the Emirates, but the FA Cup has never been a priority this season. Champions League qualification is all-important and a Cup run would have been a nice cherry on top of the cake but, if we finish in the top four, few will deem the season unsuccessful simply because we failed to progress further in the FA Cup.

The important thing now is to concentrate on the 12 ‘Cup finals’ Liverpool have during the remainder of the campaign, starting with Swansea’s visit to Anfield next Sunday.


Thursday, 13 February 2014

Liverpool late show defeats Fulham

Liverpool showed strength of character to clinch a late winner against Fulham after coming from behind twice at Craven Cottage yesterday.

While Saturday’s lunchtime demolition of Arsenal was a footballing master class, Liverpool’s less spectacular victory over their London neighbours Fulham in midweek was arguably equally important, since it showed that the Reds’ possess the perseverance necessary to pick up all three points on the road even when they are not performing at their phenomenal best, a trait that could prove crucial in the fight for Champions League qualification, and perhaps even in the title race.

After Kolo Toure’s embarrassing own goal gave Fulham an early lead, Sturridge latched onto a world class pass from Gerrard to level before the break. Frustratingly, another defensive error, this time from Skrtel, allowed Fulham to regain the lead through Richardson’s goal just after the hour mark, although the noticeably improving Coutinho soon equalised with his first goal since Boxing Day.

Sascha Riether’s stupid foul of Sturridge in the box then gave Gerrard the opportunity to net a last gasp winner from the spot, and the skipper took the chance with consummate ease to thrillingly conclude an entertainingly eventful match.

Unsurprisingly, Brendan Rodgers picked the same starting line-up that annihilated Arsenal on the weekend. Unfortunately, Liverpool didn’t begin the match in the manner which they had against the Gunners, and found themselves a goal behind after only eight minutes thanks to some truly awful defending.

The ball-watching Gerrard left Richardson with space inside the Liverpool area and the Fulham number 15 sent a low cross into the six-yard box, which Toure ridiculously turned into his own net with a horrendously sliced attempted clearance that reminded Kopites of the calamitous Djimi Traore’s own goal in Liverpool’s FA Cup third round defeat at Burnley in 2004/2005.

Is Toure Traore in disguise?
It was a memory that many Reds had long since repressed, and being reminded of it was deeply distressing.  

The ball was admittedly bobbling awkwardly, but the Ivorian can have no excuses for yet another error that cost the Reds a goal, particularly coming so soon after his nonsensical pass allowed Anichebe to equalise for West Brom at the Hawthorns.

Vice-captain Daniel Agger, who came off the bench in injury time, will surely replace Toure in the team when he has fully recovered from the calf injury that has kept him out for over a month.

Liverpool’s reply was predictably led by Luis Suarez, although the Uruguayan somehow failed to add to the four goals in four games he’d previously managed against Fulham, despite being one of the Reds’ top performers on the night.

The number seven forced Stekelenburg into a good save after receiving the ball from Aly Cissokho, before firing off target from a tight angle after gliding beyond Burn.

The other half of the famous SAS also threatened, as Sturridge’s 20-yard shot was claimed by the keeper just before the half hour mark, and it was the England striker who combined with his international teammate Steven Gerrard to level the score line four minutes before the break.

The remarkable assist Sturridge received from Coutinho for his goal against Arsenal was dwarfed in quality by Gerrard’s pass to set him up last night. Spotting a pass that nobody else in the ground did, Gerrard pounced on the ball after Fulham had lost possession and sent a world-class pass into the path of Sturridge with the outside of his boot. The former Chelsea man did the rest, as his shot clipped the post before nestling in the net.

Sturridge just can't stop scoring, which isn't surprising considering the service he gets from Liverpool's midfield
The second half began brightly, with chances at both ends. First, Sidwell attempted to lob Mignolet from inside his own half eight minutes after the restart but, thankfully, the Belgian keeper collected. Suarez then went close three times, volleying wide, firing threateningly across the face of goal and agonisingly seeing his shot bounce back off the post in the space of six minutes.

Against the run of play, however, the Cottagers reclaimed the lead, and woeful defending from the visitors was once again to blame.

A breakdown in communication caused confusion between Skrtel and Flanagan, allowing Richardson the freedom to run into the box and turn home from point blank range after the Slovakian, who had been the hero on Saturday after netting twice in the opening ten minutes, inadvertently knocked a cross right into the midfielder’s path.

Richardson celebrates capitalising on Liverpool mistakes for the second time
As bad as their defence may be, Liverpool always seem able to rely on their exceptional attack to bail them out and help them pick up points regardless of how many they concede. It was no different last night.

Only ten minutes after falling behind for the second time, Liverpool were level. Coutinho, whose creativity has been abundant recently, claimed possession 25 yards from goal and proceeded to cleverly find space for himself to brilliantly curl a left-footed effort beyond Stekelenburg and into the corner of the net.

Coutinho quickly levelled
Things got even worse for Stekelenburg a minute later, as the 31-year old Dutch stopper had to be replaced by David Stockdale after a collision with Luis Suarez as the pair battled fairly to reach Sterling’s return pass.

Rodgers made a substation of his own eight minutes before the end, swapping Sterling for 21-year old Portuguese midfielder Joao Carlos Teixeira. The debutant displayed potential during his brief spell on the pitch and even had the chance to add a fourth to Liverpool’s tally in the dying stages but shot just over after combining with Suarez.

Thankfully, though, his failure to find the net proved inconsequential, as Gerrard had already secured the points from the spot moments earlier. Riether inexplicably fouled Sturridge in the box when he was going nowhere and referee Phil Dowd had no choice but to point to the penalty spot.

There is no better penalty-taker than Steven Gerrard in that situation. Cool and calm, the scouse skipper converted the spot kick with class before celebrating euphorically with his teammates in front of the away supporters, whose joy at the last gasp winner couldn’t be dampened despite the travel chaos they knew they would face on the way back to Merseyside.

Gerrard couldn't care less about the booking that ridiculously, but inevitably, followed his celebration
Their delight was justified as well, as wining against Fulham was absolutely crucial, particularly with rivals Tottenham Hotspur convincingly beating Newcastle 4-0 at St James’ Park. Dropping points at Craven Cottage would have destroyed a large part of the momentum built up by the annihilation of Arsenal.

The fact that Liverpool bagged a late winner against Fulham, whereas Manchester United conceded late on versus the Cottagers to drop two home points only three days earlier, shows the considerable difference between the two teams, which now stretches to a remarkable eleven points following the Red Devils’ dreary goalless draw at the Emirates.

Fifth-placed Spurs may be only three points adrift of the Reds, but, in the other direction, Liverpool are not too far behind Manchester City and Chelsea, who are one point and four points ahead of the Merseysiders respectively.

If Liverpool can combine the quality they showed against Arsenal with the character they demonstrated at Fulham, they’ll comfortably claim a top four finish and should be able to compete for the title as well.


Sunday, 9 February 2014

Rampant Reds annihilate Arsenal

Arsenal got a taste of their own medicine at Anfield yesterday, as Liverpool inflicted ‘death by football’ on their overwhelmed visitors.

In a 20-minute spell of total football that almost certainly will not be bettered this season, Liverpool swiftly put the Gunners to the sword, with two goals from Skrtel added to by Sterling and Sturridge to send a disbelieving home crowd delirious with delight.

The rest of the match was little more than a training exercise for the Reds. They’d got the job done, and could now relax and enjoy the rest of an unforgettable afternoon, in which the Merseysiders made themselves firm favourites for fourth spot, at least temporarily creating a five point gap between them and fifth-placed neighbours Everton, who travel to White Hart Lane this afternoon.

The reverse fixture at the Emirates in November, which the Reds lost 2-0, was the last time Liverpool failed to score in a game, as Brendan Rodgers adopted uncharacteristically cautious tactics, including selecting three centre backs. There was no chance of that happening at Anfield, though, as Liverpool went out for the kill from the first to the final whistle.

Pressing with an urgent intensity that demonstrated their greater desire to get the three points, Liverpool didn’t allow Arsenal’s creative players a second to think. Winning the ball high up the pitch, the Reds relentlessly attacked the Gunners’ defence and reaped considerable rewards as a result.

After only 53 seconds, Liverpool were ahead. Martin Skrtel nudged home Gerrard’s left wing free kick from close range to give the hosts the perfect beginning to the match. The pair combined to find the net for a second time on ten minutes, as the unmarked Skrtel reached Gerrard’s corner and looped it into the top corner with his head to double not only Liverpool’s lead, but also his personal goalscoring tally for the campaign.

The home side had several opportunities to further their lead before they eventually added two more within the opening 20 minutes.

Sturridge dinked the ball just wide when put through on goal by Suarez, then the Uruguayan fired a simply stupendous strike goalwards from 25 yards but saw his effort cannon back off the woodwork.

Frustratingly, former Gunner Kolo Toure couldn’t capitalise on the rebound, which presented him with a gilt-edged goalscoring opportunity in front of an unguarded goal from six yards out. The ball bounced off the Ivorian and rolled agonisingly wide of goal.

Fortunately, Sterling and Sturridge were far more clinical in front of goal, and delivered the fatal blows minutes later. First, Henderson won the ball back superbly from Ozil in the middle of the park and then set Suarez free down the right wing. The number seven centred perfectly for Sterling, who had the simple task of converting from yards out.

Then, Coutinho sliced open Arsenal’s defence with a pass that was just out of this world. Sturridge still had a lot to do, but he finished with aplomb to become only the second Liverpool player to score in six straight Premier League matches, just behind Michael Owen, who achieved the feat in 2003.

Skrtel celebrated scoring the opener...
...and then added a second
Sterling had a simple tap in...
...before Sturridge danced for joy 
Following that exhilarating start to the game, there was a lull in the action for the rest of the first period, as Liverpool understandably couldn’t sustain their ridiculously high tempo for the full 45 minutes and Arsenal were desolately demoralised. There were few incidents of note to report, as the imperious Reds simply kept possession and maintained their dominance over the encounter.

At the interval, Arsene Wenger must have told his troops to start the second half as if the score was still 0-0. Unfortunately for the Londoners, they didn’t count on Liverpool doing likewise.

Only seven minutes after the restart, Liverpool bagged a fifth, increasing their visitors’ humiliation yet further. Toure’s pass over the top put Sterling in and, although Szczesny blocked his first effort, the rebound fell straight at the teenager’s feet and he made no mistake at the second time of asking.

The former QPR player almost completed his hat-trick moments later, but he couldn’t quite convert Gerrard’s free kick at the far post, and may well have been offside anyway.

Resigned to defeat, Wenger made three changes on the hour mark to rest his big guns ahead of the visit of Manchester United to the Emirates in midweek. As if starting a season-defining run of fixtures with a heavy away defeat wasn’t bad enough for Wenger, he was pictured slipping over at Lime Street Station as he rushed to catch the train back to London after the match.

Wenger took a tumble at Lime Street Station
It was one of those days for the 64-year old Frenchman.

In contrast, it was a dream day for Rodgers’ Reds, who set about adding to their lead for the rest of the second half. Suarez surprised everyone by going for goal from a long-range free kick, but Szczesny reacted quickly enough to make a decent save.

Inspirational playmaker Coutinho then weaved his way through several Arsenal players before releasing Henderson with a wonderful 45-yard pass. Unfortunately, Henderson’s chipped effort wasn't as good as Coutinho's build-up play and missed the target.

With minutes remaining Sterling had an excellent chance to grab the hat-trick his man-of-the-match display deserved, but Szczesny denied him what would have been the cherry on top of the cake that was his magnificent performance.

Before that point, Arteta had pulled one back for Arsenal from the penalty spot after Gerrard brought down Oxlade-Chamberlain in the box. The former Toffee also tested Mignolet with a low free kick, but it proved scant consolation for the visitors, whose seven-year unbeaten streak at Anfield came to an end in a humiliating fashion.

As bad as Arsenal were, the day was all about Liverpool. Match of the Day commentator Guy Mowbray summed it up well when he said, “This is like the Liverpool of old.” Anfield is once again becoming a stadium where visiting teams dread coming because they know the hosts are capable of causing them significant embarrassment.

If the Reds can replicate their home form on the road, Rodgers will have them on the way back to the glory days of old.


Monday, 3 February 2014

Terrible Toure costs Reds two points

Liverpool squandered the chance to tighten their grip on fourth position yesterday.

After Spurs and Manchester United dropped points on Saturday, the former drawing away to Hull and the latter amusingly falling to a 2-1 defeat at Stoke, the Reds had the perfect opportunity to cement their place in the top four and make themselves firm favourites for Champions League qualification.

Although the Baggies are a bit of a bogey side for Liverpool- they did the double over the Merseysiders last season and beat the Reds 3-0 in Brendan Rodgers’ first League game as Liverpool boss- the visitors were expected to claim victory over their struggling hosts and move nine points clear of United and five ahead of Spurs.

All was going to plan when Sturridge scored to secure a first half lead, but a disastrous mistake from Kolo Toure gifted West Brom the equaliser that their second half performance probably warranted and, on the balance of play, a draw was a fair, if frustrating, result.

Liverpool went into the contest with mixed emotions. On the one hand, they were buzzing after beating neighbours Everton 4-0 at Anfield in midweek. At the same time, though, the fiasco surrounding Yevhen Konoplyanka and the club’s ultimate failure to sign the Ukrainian international had significantly dampened the optimism prevailing following the thrashing of the Toffees.

That deflated atmosphere was reflected in the opening stages of the match, as the Sunday lunchtime fixture never really got going until Sturridge broke the deadlock on 24 minutes. Up to that point the Baggies had enjoyed the majority of possession and been in the ascendancy but had created little in the way of goalscoring opportunities.

Liverpool, conversely, clinically took the first chance they had to take the lead, despite starting sluggishly. Coutinho and Sterling teamed up to set up Suarez, whose cross somehow found its way through several Baggies’ bodies and reached Sturridge, who had the simple task of turning the ball home from yards out at the back post.

Liverpool celebrate the SAS striking again
It was Sturridge’s 50th career League goal and his 24th for Liverpool.

For the rest of the first period the Reds had a few opportunities to add to their lead and kill off their opponents. Their failure to take those chances came back to bite them when the Baggies woke up in the second half.

Suarez curled a free kick inches wide of goal, Toure failed to capitalise when presented with a gilt-edged goalscoring opportunity after Coutinho’s corner caused havoc in the box and the Brazilian number ten shot just off target as the away side searched in vain for a decisive second goal that would have extinguished West Brom’s hopes of taking anything from the match.

After the restart, Pepe Mel’s men were much improved and they swiftly set about trying to get a leveller. Chris Brunt shot well off target but then sent a threatening left wing corner into the penalty area, which McAuley headed goalwards, forcing Mignolet to make an impressive one-handed save. The Belgian keeper pulled off another decent save soon after, as he prevented Brunt’s low free kick finding the bottom corner.

At the other end, West Brom’s defence, which had conceded four against local rivals Aston Villa in midweek, was restraining Suarez ably, as the Uruguayan had a rare off-day. The number seven’s only sight of goal came on the hour mark, when Foster blocked his final effort after he’d skilfully created a shooting opportunity for himself.

The game-changing moment came on 67 minutes, when Toure’s error allowed the home side to equalise. Mignolet rolled the ball out to the Ivorian and he wasn’t put under much pressure by the Baggies, but he inexplicably broke the first rule of defending; never send a square pass across your own goal. As a result, former Everton striker Anichebe could intercept the wayward pass and drill beyond the helpless Mignolet to level the score line.

Toure's poor pass gifted Anichebe the equaliser
It was a terrible mistake by Toure, who must have wanted the ground to open up and swallow him, but it’s an almost unavoidable side-effect of Rodgers’ passing philosophy. If the defence are going to be encouraged to pass the ball out from the back- which they should be- occasionally they are bound to make mistakes that prove costly, since they are in a position where any errors allow the opposing side’s attack a sight of goal.

At the end of the day, Toure shouldn’t be treated as a scapegoat. His error was symptomatic of a generally below-par performance from the whole team, which was particularly disappointing because a win at the Hawthorns on the back of smashing Everton to pieces in midweek would have set the Reds up nicely for the visit of Arsenal next Saturday.

As it is, Liverpool must quickly pick themselves up and prepare to put in a much better display against the Gunners. They cannot afford to repeat this performance many more times if they are to retain their place in the top four.


Why Liverpool's failure to sign a player isn't the end of the world

One thing that is conspicuous in its absence on transfer deadline day is a sense of perspective.

After all, the mass hysteria whipped up by the media as the clock counts down to midnight- or 11pm, as the case may rather less romantically be- hardly encourages rational thinking and a concentration on the bigger picture, while the wild rumours and titillating transfer gossip circulating on social media often take supporters on an emotional rollercoaster ride throughout what are some of the most nerve racking and tense hours of a football fan’s life, despite a ball not being kicked once.

It’s often only on 1st February when sober reflection and genuine analysis can take place.

Unfortunately, for Liverpool fans transfer deadline day, like the transfer window as a whole, proved immensely frustrating, as they were left guessing about the future of Ukrainian transfer target Yevhen Konoplyanka until the very last minute.

Konoplyanka will be staying in Sweden
Upon learning that the 24-year old wouldn’t be leaving Dnipro at approximately 11.30pm on Friday night, many Kopites were very angry as it began to dawn on them that Liverpool hadn’t signed a single player in the January transfer window, despite a widespread consensus that, with an ever-growing injury list and fierce competition for a place in the top four, reinforcements were needed if the Reds were to make the most of the excellent opportunity they have to achieve Champions League qualification.

The failure to sign Konoplyanka just rubbed salt in Kopites’ already considerable wounds, after also missing out on our original primary transfer target Mohamed Salah to Chelsea earlier on in January.

In the resulting inquest, accusing fingers were pointed primarily at FSG and Liverpool’s Managing Director Ian Ayre; the former for being overly prudent and failing to provide sufficient backing for boss Brendan Rodgers and the latter for his incompetence in negotiating transfer deals.

Although I agree that Ayre’s inability to complete a transfer- or even negotiate one without our rivals and the media instantly finding out- is a serious cause for concern and FSG’s penny-pinching may come back to bite them if Liverpool miss out on the Champions League and all its accompanying riches, there are more significant questions that need to be answered but haven’t even been asked.

Namely, why on earth was our transfer priority another attacking player?

It just doesn’t make sense to devote all of our energy to acquiring another skilful and creative attacker when, firstly, we have the second most prolific attack in the League and, additionally, our worryingly weak defence is clearly the area most in need of strengthening.

Rather than rushing to complete the signing of Salah or Konoplyanka, Rodgers and co. should have been doing everything possible to bring in another defensive midfielder and possibly a right and left back as well.

At the end of the day, however, I think many Reds have responded to Liverpool’s failure to bring in a new signing with undue pessimism. Am I disappointed we didn’t sign anybody? Yes. Do I think questions need to be asked of those conducting Liverpool’s transfer activity? Certainly. Do I believe our season is over? Not by a long shot.

Firstly, the impact Salah and Konoplyanka would have had at the club needs to be questioned. Sure, the former may become the “Egyptian Messi” at Stamford Bridge and, similarly, the latter might well be the “Ukrainian Messi” who takes Dnipro to the top of the Ukrainian Premier League.

However, the fact that they were relatively unknown to everyone except those who closely follow Swiss and Ukrainian football on 31st December 2013 should make us hesitant to assign them ludicrous nicknames comparing them to one of the best players to ever grace the planet. Trust me, if they were really as good as Messi Liverpool would have faced far more competition in the pursuit of their signatures.

The reality is most players take time to settle into Premier League football and life in England, so their impact in the second half of this season would have, in all likelihood, been limited. I, for one, believe Salah will spend more time warming the bench at Stamford Bridge then firing in the goals that propel Jose Mourinho’s men to the title.

Salah was another played Liverpool missed out on
Secondly, our rivals for a top four finish haven’t significantly improved their squads this January either.

After going on a spending binge in the summer with the money raised from the record-breaking sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid, Spurs decided against adding to their squad this January, while Roberto Martinez spent a mere £2.75 million in bringing in three new faces at Goodison Park.

Manchester United signing Juan Mata from Chelsea admittedly could be a game-changer in the chase for Champions League qualification, but their squad still has significant weaknesses that Moyes is unable to sweep under the carpet by simply splashing a lot of cash on a Mourinho reject.

When all is said and done, Liverpool are still in pole position to finish in the top four and their squad is certainly good enough to qualify for next season’s Champions League. Yes, the Reds have missed the opportunity to reinforce their squad, but it’s by no means the end of their season, and certainly not the end of the world!

Keep calm and support Liverpool FC.


(This article originally appeared on This is Anfield).