29 November 2006

Liverpool 0-0 Portsmouth

This game fits the definition of dropped points. I can toss around phrases like “lack of cutting intent” and “wasteful in front of goal,” but that doesn’t go far enough. How this game ended 0-0 is unexplainable. Liverpool dominated, with 16 shots (only 4 on target), 11 coming in the first half, compared to Portsmouth’s 4. The side netting and advertising boards took a battering today.

To make matters worse, Bolton, Villa, Everton, and Arsenal, the teams around Liverpool, all lost. With all 3 points, Liverpool could have moved up to 3rd, tied with Bolton on goal difference. Granted, they are only 2 points behind 3rd with less than half the season played, but the gap between 3rd and 13th is 6 points.

I understand the side is depleted through injuries, and Bellamy’s pace would have been helpful, but Liverpool should have won today. That’s been said far too often, and it’s even less acceptable at home. Like many other sides, Pompey played not to lose, but Liverpool must be able to overcome that.

The injuries forced a strange bench, and ignoring the result, it was nice to see Nabil El-Zhar get a run out for the last 20 minutes, even if it was an act of desperation. He’s gotten rave reviews in the reserve team, and I believe it’s the first time a youngster has played in the league this season. Guthrie joined him for the last 10 minutes, but neither of the kids was able to provide a dream debut.

A couple of other points. One, Pennant was off his game tonight. Less worrying is the lack of form, as I still think he has quality and the ability to spray in crosses from the wing, evident last season at Birmingham. But his lack of confidence and immaturity is not good; his rash tackle on Matty Taylor resulting in a yellow card and his subsequent substitution summed up his night. Two, I don’t understand why Crouch is frequently the first player substituted when Liverpool is chasing a game. He runs an awful lot, but I find it hard to believe he’s frequently spent by the 60th minute no matter how often he’s playing. Pretty much every team, if they’re fighting for the win in the last few minutes, will force the long ball into the box, which seems perfectly suited to Crouch. And it’s not as if he was taken off for pace, although Fowler is far and away a more natural goalscorer.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m rarely an optimist. When it comes to sports, it’s frequently a forced faith that supersedes my cynicism. And while there’s little evidence of it coming on, I’ve got a good feeling about the upcoming run of games. Granted, it’s an easier schedule than what Liverpool’s faced over the last month or two, but this is the time of year the team gets it together. In a month, it may look like false hope with egg on my face, but I really don’t want to succumb to the frustration voiced in the media and over the rest of the internet. There's far too many drastic, and patently false, things being said. I know this team has the talent to come good.

Roll on Wigan.

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