Arbeloa Carragher Agger Aurelio
Kuyt Lucas Mascherano Riera
0-0 at Anfield to both Fulham and Stoke. And it’s not even December. Fantastic.
The first half was absolute dross, with Liverpool actually overrun in midfield. The second half was marginally better, with the expected pressure and the away side parking the bus, but the scoreline tells you how effective Liverpool was.
I understand why Alonso was left out. He played 90 minutes for Spain and will play 90 against Marseille on Wednesday. And if Gerrard misses that match too, Alonso will be essential. But neither Lucas nor Mascherano played well in his stead, and central midfield is where Liverpool lost two points today. It only took half an hour for fans to start singing for the Spaniard.
Both Masch and Lucas sat deep, leading to disconnect between midfield and attack, and Fulham filled the space. Kuyt and Riera often cut in to the center to try to link play, but to little effect, and Liverpool struggled to keep hold of the ball in the first half. Too many hopeful long passes were pumped out of defense, and with the 6’5” Hangeland marking the strikers, most were futile and ended up conceding possession.
Liverpool’s backline limited Fulham to one good chance, with Reina expertly palming Bullard’s blast away in the 35th, but it’s not as if Liverpool created many of their own – Schwartzer making himself big to deny Keane from close range in the 29th was the nearest to breaking the deadlock.
Unsurprisingly, Liverpool asserted themselves after the restart, but still couldn’t get the needed goal. Alonso’s entrance in the 64th minute was the biggest difference, with Mascherano making way – again, ostensibly to rest him for Marseille – but it was too little, too late as Fulham stood firm with 10 men in their own half and with Johnson and Zamora doing well to hassle high up the pitch. Schwartzer saved two stinging shots from Torres (51’) and Kuyt (70’), but Liverpool never did enough to open the scoring.
It’s not good when the lone consolation is that Chelsea dropped points at home to Newcastle as well. Yes, Liverpool kept another clean sheet, Reina’s ninth in the league. They should be keeping a clean sheet at home against Fulham.
Keane and Torres continued to misfire as a pairing, even though both, especially Torres, worked diligently. It was a big game for Lucas in place of Alonso and he disappointed immensely, although he wasn’t helped by one of Mascherano’s tamest performances. Neither Babel nor El Zhar was able to get into the game and make a difference off the bench. The brevity of the review should demonstrate how little there is to take away from this match.
Yes, at least Liverpool’s kept pace with the Blues. But with Chelsea’s draw, it’s even more a missed opportunity. And if the team continues to struggle to score as they have for most of this month, they won’t be keeping pace for long.