Arbeloa Carragher Skrtel Aurelio
Benayoun Gerrard Babel
Mido 83’ (pen)
Fine. It was a fun few days with hope still lingering. Now that’s the title “challenge” finished.
If it weren’t so devastating, it’d be comical.
How many times can Liverpool dominate possession, but fail to carve out enough opportunities on target? If it wasn’t for Benayoun’s quick feet and guile from the tightest of angles, Liverpool wouldn’t have even scored.
How many times will it take Benitez to learn that a one-goal lead is never enough in the Premier League?
And how many times can a team that’s built its reputation on defense give up a soft equalizer? It’s very tempting to heap all the blame on Lucas for giving up the penalty, but there’s not one scapegoat today. This whole team, and the manager, has failed keep their nerve when they were at the top of the league to start the New Year on the back of two good wins. But since that 5-1 victory at Newcastle, Liverpool's drawn all three league contests. Nice job handling pressure, guys.
Once again, I’ve shown no ability to guess Rafa’s line-ups, and we got the 4-2-3-1 with no Keane (or Alonso, for that matter). It looked to work at the onset as Liverpool played keep-away from Wigan and pressed from the off. But other than a 13th minute Torres header glanced off the post from Gerrard’s cross, Liverpool again had no thrust to go with their control.
Same story, different day. Until Benayoun’s smart move, running onto Mascherano’s throughball, rounding Pollitt, and netting from an impossible angle. That Liverpool got the first half goal looked to make the difference, and Gerrard almost added a second on the stroke of halftime, sending a nearly 40-yard free kick just over the bar.
But with the start of the second half, it was back to the disappointing ways. Credit to Bruce for bringing on Koumas and Rodallega to go for it, but it wasn’t as if he was going to keep shop shut up when a goal down.
Wigan became more dangerous the longer they remained just a goal down, and had to be heartened when Torres went off for Riera in the 71st. I understand that Torres is recently back and will be needed on Sunday, but a striker for a winger at that point in the game – even with Babel moving up top – makes little sense. Gerrard almost made it a moot point three minutes later, narrowly missing the far post after collecting Benayoun’s flick on the break, but Liverpool struggled for chances there on out.
And when Wigan broke forward in the 82nd minute and the ball was swept out to Koumas on the left, Lucas, charging back to cover, unnecessarily hacked down the Welshman even though there were defenders to cut out any danger. A minute later, Mido slammed a penalty past Reina for his second goal against the team this season.
Liverpool’s response? Taking off Gerrard for Keane, an awesome substitution that had to be pre-planned, and yet wasn’t changed in the aftermath of the equalizer. Take a guess as to how many times Liverpool tested Mike Pollitt in the final ten minutes. It’s not hard.
At least Rodallega’s ferocious free kick ricocheted off the crossbar in injury time. See, your mother was right – things could always be worse.
Nothing else to say that hasn’t been say it earlier match reviews borne of the same frustration. This sucks. The cutting edge sucked, the confidence sucked, the lack of luck sucked, the substitutions sucked, and the result really, really sucks.
Now Rafa looks like Kevin Keegan part II (at least Keegan’s rant about United was amusing), the team’s confidence is probably irreparably damaged, and it’s (kill me now) even starting to feel like the last days of Houllier. I hate this. I hate this so much. This isn't 'Rafa out' – I'm nowhere near there – but to say he's had an atrocious January is putting it nicely.
It’s going to be a hard, long slog for the next few months just to see the season out if things remain the same.