21 January 2008

Liverpool 2-2 Aston Villa

Reina
Arbeloa Carragher Hyypia Aurelio
Benayoun Gerrard Mascherano Kewell
Kuyt Torres

Goals:
Benayoun 19’
Harewood 69’
Aurelio (og) 72’
Crouch 88’

Oh goody, another draw.

It could have been worse. I’m well aware that’s little consolation, but when it’s 1-2 in the 87th minute, you’ll take whatever positives you can get.

But once again, Liverpool’s unable to get a second goal when they’re dominant, and once again, Liverpool’s ended up with a draw at Anfield, the sixth time that’s happened at home in the league this season. And that’s unacceptable.

Pick your analogy to past performances. The Tottenham game, with the 2-2 scoreline, two opposition goals in a short period, and a late equalizer at Anfield to save a point, is probably the closest, but the recent Wigan match, with Liverpool in control and unable to get a second, only to ship a soft goal, also springs to mind. Either way, it’s not a pretty picture.

I could make a template out of my recent match reports. Liverpool started better. Liverpool were dominant in possession, set the tempo, and went ahead one-nil, earlier than usual with Benayoun’s goal in the 19th minute, getting to the rebound of his own shot first after an outstanding reverse pass from Kuyt. And although Liverpool was unable to get the second goal, Villa rarely looked like threatening throughout the first half.

Fast forward to the 69th minute. The second half started with more of the same, with Liverpool still in charge until Villa earned a free kick in Liverpool’s half after Arbeloa fouled Petrov (he was injured beforehand and it showed in his challenge, and he was subbed off for Skrtel moments later). Laursen won the header, and Harewood (of all people) sent an overhead kick straight into the net. Just like that, back to square one. And then it all went to shambles.

To compound matters, Villa scored from another needless free kick three minutes later, and brought back memories of that spat of freak own goals from earlier in the season. Liverpool again failed to clear the danger, and Mellberg attempted to head back across the box, only to be directed into the net by Aurelio.

Villa is known for their prowess on set plays. Not only does Liverpool fail to get a second goal, but giving up two goals from free kicks in the space of three minutes is absurd. It’s just sloppy, and it makes me wonder if Benitez is getting through to the players above the din of off-field matters.

I can’t remember any season where Liverpool’s drawn this many games after going ahead, especially at Anfield: Villa, Wigan, Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea. I do not understand it. This team has such potential, but also the potential to under-perform and piss away all the good work done earlier in the season. Everything about this season has been Jekyll and Hyde so far.

Thankfully, Crouch was there to save a point in the 88th minute, and it was a goal that Villa will rue as Liverpool rue the two they let in. Laursen missed a header attempting to clear Liverpool’s free kick, allowing Carra to direct the ball towards Crouch, who made no mistake with a lovely shot.

And once again, my relief at Liverpool getting the point has probably softened my criticism. To be fair, Liverpool wasn’t that bad before Villa’s goal, but “wasn’t that bad” isn’t cutting it. Yes, the team was sloppy at times, but the problem was that Liverpool just can’t kill games off. Someone has to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and get that second goal when Liverpool’s in front; neither Torres nor Gerrard could provide it today, and no one else looks likely.

There’s not much else to be said. There’s only so many ways to say that Liverpool should have won and didn’t because they can’t kill off games.

What bothers me the most is how this is going to feed into the off-field nonsense. Benitez is not at fault for players’ inability to get a second goal. The XI that lined up should have put the game to bed by the 60th minute, if not the 45th. I realize the manager not only picks the team but also devises the tactics and motivates the players, but I can’t bring myself to criticize Benitez with the position he’s in. He’s had his legs cut out from under him by the owners and the media.

The only thing that will end this is improvement on the field. I don’t believe that Gillet and Hicks are selling out to DIC, but I’ve been wrong before (most notably in trusting the new owners). And Gillet and Hicks could put out statements until they’re out of paper in support of Benitez, and it wouldn’t change the media’s narrative or the fans opinions. What will change the bad feelings is players responding to the adversity, responding to their manager, and giving everyone something else (something positive!) to write about.

Players. Need. To. Perform. On. The. Pitch.

West Ham on Saturday. Sorry. Havant Saturday. West Ham next Wednesday.

13 comments:

iskoppa said...

Nate its West Ham a week on wensday H&W on sat in the FA Cup me thinks!

Mike Georger said...

i firmly believe that the players are to blame 100 percent for the recent shit results, rafa has been making some solid selections, at the minimum there is little valid criticism of his selections like earlier in the season. simply put they are not good enough right now and i wonder if they ever have been.

and i honestly think this is the eighth or ninth time the official site has run the headline 'rafa rues missed chances'

people can bitch about the owners as much as they want, but this team has been pulling shit like this for years, its not on the owners

nate said...

Thanks iskoppa, you're right.

And you're absolutely right too, Georger. The owners clearly aren't helping, but players have to be accountable for the current struggles on the field.

T. GUNN said...

The fans chants and signs towards the owners was stupid. If your going to blame someone, blame the players, piss poor performance again!! Not the owners, there not on the field. Lets see how much more shit the owners get now, with another draw.

Mike Georger said...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/teams/l/liverpool/7199967.stm

solid article on the financial stuff, people are really overreacting about the refinancing.

Rotcod said...

I don't get why all this blame on Hicks and Gillette. Ok, so they aren't very familiar with English soccer and consulted Klinsmann b/c he's in america and did well at the biggest event: World Cup. Makes sense to me. Maybe having him as insurance was a bit poor in taste to Rafa but they know Klinsmann is sought after and if they didn't try to lock him up in some manner he'd go elsewhere quickly and he did to Bayern. I see no problem with trying to see if he'd be willing to step in if Rafa continued to struggle and was at that time (almost didnt get out of an easy CL group and nowhere close to title contention) and has continued to struggle.

You say it's the players fault but the manager picked these players and he spent a LOT of the owners money on them. This was to be the year Liverpool challenged and now they at best will take 4th? And might not even be playing in the CL next year? And they haven't been plagued by injuries. At least no worse than any of the other big four. There's no excuses for being where they are now. I don't care if Rafa has done well in the past. If I'm a new owner that wouldn't cut it. Granted though the owners would be stupid to fire Rafa before the end of the season. Let him continue to struggle and soon all the fans will be crying blood. Watch Liverpool crash out of the CL early and take 4th or 5th and at end of season when the fans aren't happy they'll be fine with sacking Rafa.

Anonymous said...

"The XI that lined up should have put the game to bed by the 60th minute, if not the 45th."

Agreed, but big picture wise, something is not working. They are a sloppy, inconsistent team that should be a lot more challenging to any opposition we face. Especially after spending $90 million and having the best box-to-box midfielder in the world.

And bench Kuyt, please. 9/10 of his touches are horrid. (Yes, he made a great pass to Benny) When a players greatest asset is his hustle, then he needs to move to the bench or down a division. Awesome game by Big Sam in the back.

-jp2

FiftyFour said...

As an Aston Villa fan, some of the comments heard in the pub after the game were hilarious. Liverpool fans seem to think they have a god-given right to be in the Champion's League year-in, year-out, and maybe it's this arrogance that is costing the team. 'We should be beating these no-hopers' was a comment I heard.

Well mate, these "no-hopers" have won more Premiership games than you this year, and are currently level on points in the league table. Until the players are made to understand by the manager, owners and most importantly the supporters that in a more competitive league, just turning up won't guarantee you anything against the so-called 'lesser' teams. As for Rafa, he's had 3 or 4 years now to build a team that's currently level on points with a team that S-GE built in a couple of weeks after watching a few VHS tapes. Put your loyalties to the man who won in 'F*cking Istanbul' aside, and you'll see that he will never, never win you the league title you all so desperately want.

nate said...

wow, lots to reply to

rotcod:
H&G have earned their fair share of blame, even if the songs last night overshadowed the game and probably piled more pressure on the team. I don't care if you don't think that Benitez is the right manager; you don't go behind his back to Klinsmann, who's never managed a club or in England, no matter how "impressive" he is (which is up for debate). Even if Benitez is the wrong man, which I still don't believe, I find it very hard to believe Divin' Jurgen's the answer.

Also, the injuries to Alonso and Agger (specifically Agger) have done damage.

If Liverpool don't make 4th, what you write about Benitez may hold water. But Liverpool's not there yet.

jp2:

Kuyt was very good in the first half and not good at all in the second yesterday. He's going through a bad spell, but he's better than this. But I still would rather see Crouch or Babel pair Torres.

And yes, Sami was easy MOM yesterday.

FiftyFour:
Mate, you know I'm not trying to take anything away from Villa. I have a lot of time for Martin O'Neill; outside of Benitez, he's my favorite manager in the division. He's done wonders with a small squad.

But you have to admit, Liverpool should have won yesterday. Two fluky goals, and Villa hasn't won at Anfield in something like 7 years.

God, that SGE line hurts. As you knew it would. But my loyalties still lie with Benitez for now.

Fiftyfour said...

Nate, I'm not suggesting for a second that Villa deserved to win the game, and yes, one of our goals was hilariously fortunate, but the fact remains that although Liverpool were the better side last night, you struggled to really break us down, and both your goals had an element of penalty-area-pinball to them. My main point was the arrogance of the Liverpool fans in the boozer last night, worrying aloud at length about their title chances, when level on points with two other teams in 5th, 6th and 7th place.

On current form Liverpool should be looking at who is approaching from down the table, not entertaining dreams of a title that just isn't yours this year. Like it or not, Liverpool's main competition this season isn't Man Utd, Arsenal or Chelsea, it's Everton, Man City and Aston Villa.

Mike Georger said...

http://soccernet.espn.go.com/news/story?id=500742&cc=5901

im now certain that the media is trying to destroy this club

nate said...

The media's only motive is stir shit up and sell papers. Hence the focus on the sack race when it's relevant, and all the recent rumor-mongering surrounding Liverpool and G&H.

Controversy sells. Ask Kelvin McKenzie.

This is why I tried to counsel patience in the "Nota Bene" post. There's clearly some truth buried in these rumors. But for now, they're still rumors, and everyone (the fans, players, and neutrals) would be better served focusing on things under their control. IE, winning matches, and supporting the players/manager.

iskoppa said...

Patience is a virtue! some one once said meny moons ago!! i personally don't have very much at all, but when it comes to all things LFC i tend to keep my thoughts, beliefs, hopes and dreams to myself and my close mates! but not NOW, what i am witnessing happening at anfield is making me very very sad indeed from the whole H&G fiasco and O boy thats what it is, too the players not performing as we know thay can, somthing needs to give and preferably sooner rather than later! sorry to harp on nate but i had too get that off my chest,dam good to see lots of comments on this blog site! keep it up guys LFCFL-FTY-SYOTOSB