Degen Hyypia Agger Dossena
El Zhar Lucas Plessis Babel
Pavlyuchenko 38’ 52’
Campbell 42’ 45’
Worst Liverpool defending I have ever seen. You can look at the changes in the back five and draw your own conclusions. That scoreline’s probably closer than it should have been, even considering yet another Mike Riley special in the 82nd minute, ignoring a fairly clear penalty.
It’d be duplicitous for me to complain about the result after writing that this competition's essentially meaningless. But I’ll still complain about the performance; the first 60 minutes were simply god-awful and the rest was barely mediocre.
Spurs dominated the first half. They out-worked Liverpool, had scads of possession, and used the entire field to keep the away side on the back foot. Only a last-ditch block by Agger prevented the opener in the 19th minute, while Liverpool didn’t have one shot, let alone a shot on target, for the first 45.
For the first third of the game, it looked like Spurs wouldn’t reap a reward for their dominance. And then, seven absolutely awful minutes saw Tottenham put three past Liverpool.
First, Frazier Campbell shrugged off Hyypia, who looked like he thought it’d go out for a goal kick, to cut back for an unmarked Pavlyuchenko parked on the penalty spot.
Then the provider turned scorer twice in three minutes after more abysmal defending. Cavalieri should have never come for the first – a long ball towards Campbell – and collided with Degen, leaving an empty net. Then, Lennon got yet another dangerous cross in (seriously, the fullbacks were both atrocious), and Dossena wandered away from Campbell, leaving the striker wide open for an easy header.
Liverpool got a lifeline in the 49th when Gomes made a mess of a corner, gifting Plessis his first goal for the club, but Spurs restored the three-goal advantage immediately as Zokora ran away from Hyypia and again found an open Pavlyuchenko two yards from goal. Liverpool couldn’t mark a statue tonight.
Gomes blundered another corner in the 64th, with Hyypia heading in after the keeper missed his punch. Two shots, both on target, two goals. And both from corners. After Spurs had already put four past Liverpool. Somehow, I’ve ended up in a parallel universe.
The second goal actually prompted better play, and Insua coming on for Torres and Alonso for Plessis certainly helped. But when Gomes’ injury in the 69th led to an extended stoppage (and there wouldn't have been an injury if Degen actually run onto Lucas’s lovely pass), Liverpool lost all momentum.
The only other opportunity, despite nine minutes of added time, was the penalty that wasn’t. Degen (to give a little credit, he actually tried to get forward in the second half) was brought down by Bale, but Riley waved play on and gave that shit-eating smile and I had to stop myself from punching my monitor.
I don’t care how meaningless the competition is or who's lined up for Liverpool. That first half was unforgivable; I feel bad for the fans who paid money to travel to London for this.
I’m glad that Benitez left everyone on the pitch for the second half to fix their own mistakes, and the team was marginally better after the break, but it’s still hard to find positives. I guess Torres getting 56 minutes and coming through unscathed was good, Insua and Alonso played well off the bench, and Babel took two nice corners that led to goals, but that’s about it.
Tottenham passed around Liverpool throughout the first half and had excellent width where Liverpool had none. And when Liverpool had the ball, lazy play led to giveaways, which put more pressure on an already shaky defense. Poor passes, little movement, isolated strikers – all the things you hate to see.
Yes, it’s like his second game for the club, and I try never to single out players. But I do not want to see Degen anywhere near the pitch on Saturday even though Arbeloa’s suspended. Play Carra at right back, or even Darby. But not Degen.
Everyone’s going to credit Redknapp for this 'miraculous turnaround,' and another four-goal performance is certainly an improvement over Ramos. Coming in and telling the players how wonderful they are definitely helps when the last manager barely spoke the language after a year in the job. But Liverpool’s backline was simply awful, and Tottenham could have had more.
It’s still the Carling Cup, and it’s not the loss that bugs me. It’s the performance, and more importantly, the attitude that’s so infuriating. And if the team doesn’t learn a lesson or two, and lets this result affect their confidence in the league, it'll be far worse than getting dumped from the fourth-choice cup.