26 December 2006

Liverpool 0-1 Blackburn

This is an easy one to analyze.

All those black dots? Those are Liverpool’s missed attempts at goal. There’s something like 20 of them. Meanwhile, Blackburn, with about half the opportunities, made theirs count.

The game should have been over midway through the first half. But unable to put the ball in the net, Liverpool went into the break tied, and Benni McCarthy made them pay soon after the restart. Tugay beat Gerrard and cleverly played Pedersen out to the left, who crossed in for McCarthy to sweep in from close range. The rest of the game was just as frustrating, with Liverpool putting in the effort, but a combination of excellent goalkeeping, lousy finishing, and the woodwork seeing Blackburn stay in front.

When a team is that wasteful in front of goal, especially away from home, there’s not much else to be said. At the very least, Liverpool should have come away with a draw. Ewood Park is never an easy place to play no matter how Blackburn’s doing in the league, especially for Liverpool. Rovers are one of those teams, like Bolton, against whom Liverpool struggles for results. But today, Liverpool dropped points they should have gotten.

Too many good chances, evidenced by that lovely graphic, went from the box straight to Brad Friedel. Don’t get me wrong, Friedel had an excellent game (as ex-Liverpool keepers are wont to do against the Reds), with an absolutely superb save to deny Xabi Alonso near the death. But too many shots went directly into Friedel’s arms instead of the back of the net, especially from Peter Crouch, who made absolutely no claims for a starting place today. Singling players out, especially after a loss, does little good, and I understand that Peter hasn’t been playing regularly and isn’t the most prolific striker anyway, but today was poor, simple as. Other players disappointed as well, and it certainly seemed as if Blackburn wanted it more, but Crouch’s performance stood out because of Liverpool’s overall profligacy.

The loss sees Liverpool drop to fifth or sixth (depending on Arsenal's result), although league places at the moment (between 3rd and 7th, anyway) mean little right now. There are two clear packs at the top of the table, United/Chelsea, and everyone else. This game hurts, but Liverpool is still in the thick of it and it’s crucial not to lose sight of that. Of course Liverpool fans are disappointed with the result, specifically the finishing, but I’m afraid the moaning is going to go overboard. These games happen. There’s class in this team and class in this strike force. It’s one game. There are more than enough fixtures coming up to earn back the dropped points.

Roll on Spurs.

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