23 April 2011

Liverpool 5-0 Birmingham

Reina
Flanagan Carragher Skrtel Robinson
Spearing Lucas Maxi
Meireles
Kuyt Suarez

Goals:
Maxi 7' 66' 74'
Kuyt 23'
Cole 86'

After seven consecutive draws, a five-nil thrashing. Complete domination, a Maxi hat-trick, and a capstone from Joe Cole. Predictable.

In a lot of ways, this match paralleled the much-referenced 7-0 FA Cup mauling, mostly because Birmingham again committed seppuku after Liverpool's early goals. The result was a formality by intermission, and the opposition wouldn't have scored if they played until Tuesday.

Another tactical curveball from Dalglish and Clarke worked like a charm. With Carroll unavailable after Sunday's knock, Maxi was drafted in. More surprisingly, the formation shifted to a 4-4-2 diamond, with Spearing and Maxi bombing forward in support of Meireles and the ever-willing front line.

The movement was superb: Maxi, Spearing, and Meireles shifted from flank to flank, while Suarez dropped deep to link. The interplay and support led to the early opener, with Maxi first to the rebound when Foster spilled Spearing's swerving shot from the top of the box.

Brum's response – keeping possession and marginally threatening through crosses from fullbacks – lasted less than ten minutes, and Liverpool got the crucial second midway through the half. Meireles, in acres of space just inside Birmingham's half, strongly flicked Reina's goal kick onto Suarez, unforgivably open thanks to Johnson stupidly cheating forward. Jiranek did well to get back, while Foster redeemed himself with close-ranges saves on the Uruguayan and trailing Kuyt, but couldn't keep the battery-powered Dutchman out a second time, pinned by Carr and left watching the turned shot find the netting.

To compound matters, Foster picked up an injury during the scramble and was substituted 17 minutes later. Liverpool could have extended the gap before the interval, seeing two halfhearted penalty appeals not given in the 39th (for a Gardner shove on a Kuyt and a Carr "handball"), Kuyt heading a corner wide in 44th, and Suarez tamely shooting at substitute keeper Doyle on the break in added time. But by the second half, Liverpool were fully content to soak up pressure and look for more on the counter.

This was where Lucas came to the forefront. Relentless when Birmingham entered Liverpool's half, the opposition rarely made it into the final third, shut down by the Brazilian and the covering Spearing and Maxi. Both Flanagan and Robinson did well to prevent crosses (Flanagan was again exceptionally impressive), while Carragher and Skrtel doubled-team the isolated Jerome.

It took 20 minutes for Liverpool to dissect Birmingham on the break. Suarez beat the offside trap – played on by Carr, who was distracted by Kuyt – and charged into space down the right, finding a wide-open Maxi at the back post for the clever volley. Eight minutes later, Liverpool had a fourth and Maxi had his third, again on the rebound, this time when Doyle saved the Argentinean's shot and Meireles poked the ricochet back to him.

Once again, it was awful defending by Birmingham, letting Reina's goal kick bounce for Suarez to pick up, then leaving Maxi open as every defender converged in the Uruguayan's direction. That kamikaze defense led to Liverpool's fifth by Cole barely two minutes after he replaced Meireles. Given space to run into the box after linking up with Kuyt (again from a Reina pass out), Cole's weak effort slipped past Doyle and inside the near post, a shambolic error reminiscent of Maik Taylor allowing Cisse's blast to roll under him for Liverpool's seventh in that romp five years ago.

Today's performance was a thorough beatdown, clearly aided by some Birmingham errors. But it's also worth remembering just how many players Liverpool are missing; Gerrard, Carroll, Agger, Johnson, Kelly, and Aurelio all would have started.

With so many players injured, including the talismanic captain, this team's taken on the persona of Kuyt and Lucas – rarely the most talented, but often the hardest-working and most reliable – with a heavy dash of Suarez's talent. It also helps that Suarez never stops running either. Liverpool won today by swarming the midfield, pressing in droves, and forcing Birmingham into those errors.

Which is why Suarez and Lucas vie for man of the match. But, as against Sunderland, Manchester City, and Arsenal, this was a team performance. Maxi's goals get the headlines, Kuyt scored for the third consecutive game, Spearing and Meireles worked nonstop, Flanagan and Robinson again belied their age, and Carragher and Skrtel never yielded. Reina, utterly untroubled, is an afterthought.

Dalglish's renaissance continues, and Spurs' home draw with West Brom opens the door just a little bit more (the first good thing Hodgson's done for the club). Maybe Liverpool doesn't have such a shallow squad; even with all these injuries, the team's taken 13 of the 18 points available since the start of March.

Now, with only four games left, the season looks promising. Funny how that works.

7 comments:

Neel said...

A couple of things which were notable:

- Suarez was much safer in passing today than past weeks. Less ambitious. More short passing.

- A few amazing passes from Spearing which make me say "From where the ....?!" and "perfect" for the first time since Xabi Alonso.

- Flanagan noticeably understood his poor crossing ability and crossed less. And players came short when he went forward - which was very very often. In fact, All of Liverpool's 9 crosses were unsuccessful

Anonymous said...

In fairness to Roy, he did bring us Meireles...

NastNidge said...

From where I was it looked easy - but I think it was the workrate of Liverpool - even Merieles was chasing back.

nate said...

@Neel:

Yeah, Flanagan's crosses were poor, but I was surprised how often he got forward in support. Played some clever one-twos with Kuyt and Meireles. Robinson, on the other hand, rarely left his own half. Not that I'm complaining about either teenager's performances.

@Anonymous:

Still think Meireles was a Macia signing. Roy had to approve, but the way Hodgson used Meireles over the first few months (read: incorrectly) suggests he wasn't Roy's purchase.

@NastNidge:

Agreed, tried to make that point with the paragraph about the team taking the persona of Kuyt and Lucas.

Anonymous said...

Suarez "The Creator"
Suarez directness & clever play show what is liverpool missing during torres tenure..split passing movement was exceptional. He is just made to be our No.7 "The Playmaker" & "The Killer"

Flanagan Is Good But Robinson Is Exciting Prospect.
Though Flanagan is 18, i thought Robinson 17 did well going forward maybe not in this game but at arsenal, if u study close between the 2...Jack was immense linking up going forward and passing the ball more positive. Don't get me wrong, Flanagan defending was great but the way Robinson played..remind me of the young "Glen Johnson"..He stayed back most of the time b'coz he instructed to...as Flanagan is supporting the other end so u cant have to youngster flowing down the lanes all the time which we may end up exposed at the back.

Meirless "The Portugal Magician"
Great going forward. Clever interception whenever we need to stop them. Can't wait for him pairing with Aquilani..we will b having our own Xavi & Innesta.

Lucas "Our Midfield General"
People may want him to be replace by Sissoko or M'via or Matuidi but what he show today is what is made of. Can u think off Lucas not playing and Meirless teaming up with Gerrard or Spearing down the middle...now u see the picture. That's why rafa, roy & kenny..playing hims every game. He is compose, playing the ball forward, making swing passes, covering fullbacks, defending the ball and the best is intercepting danger down the heart off midfield..some pundit may say he is making stupid block & challenges by getting a yellow card but if u study the games this season...the yellow card that he received is where opponent is breaking aways when we are out numbered at the back. He won my vote of approval.

Maxi "Hatrick Hero"
Great hatrick but he got to give credit to suarez of making things happen out of nowhere...but credit to maxi for being the right place at the right time.

Kuyt "Workhorse"
Hardworking but still lack of the pedigree that we need. Next season, ashley cole/sanchez/hazzard/lennon/payet/Blazs Dzudzsak/Affenley may just outsit him in the team.

Shelvey "The Next One"?
I still doubt the his ability, i just felt he & spearing is not good enough but i'm really looking forward conor coady next season...he is the young mould of gerrard.

Spearing "Next Midfield"?
Apart from the Man City game, i just see him chasing players with the ball but he unable to intercept play or read the game. If u compare to Lucas..he is just chasing here and there. If spearing want to play, he should start doing his homework. U may argue he is still adapting but if u look at the way Flanagan/Robinson/Kelly adapt into the game, u will know that they are made to b at the "Starting Eleven" He reminds me of John Welsh.

Cole "Lucky Boy"
Was lucky to score where he should pass the ball for suarez to score. Cashing him in the summer may help for summer war chest. Best time have flown away.

Chris Lam Fr Malaysia

Anonymous said...

hey guys
i thought maxi deserved a lot of credit, the first and second goals by him were the result of following the play and continuing runs.... i can remember a lot of games where he did neither and was roundly panned for being ineffective. Maybe kenny has sparked something in him, though i still feel this revival would be better served by cashing it in in the summer as opposed to hoping to be able to count on him next season.

on a side note, seeing kenny celebrate every goal with the fans makes every hodgson game worth watching. i have to admit, being an american and seeing "retired" coaches come back almost always fail in all four major NA sports, I was skeptical about the return of the king. God damn has he proved me wrong and i am proud to say it.

pancreality said...

It's reported Maxi is over the mooon he recieved a standing ovation.. I like to think the King had exactly this in mind when subbing Maxi @ 89mins - if so, great feelgood conducting (sir) Dalglish..