16 December 2006

Liverpool 3-0 Charlton

This could have been worse than Tottenham’s 5-1 battering of the Addicks. Seriously. Stop laughing. The two goals in the last 10 minutes made the scoreline a closer reflection of the game, and two or three more honestly wouldn’t have flattered Liverpool.

For once, the early goal failed to set the right tone. Pennant was brought down in the box by Djimi Traore (Cheers Djimi!) and Alonso stuck it away. As an aside, Liverpool would do well to settle on a penalty taker. There was little wrong with Xabi’s effort straight down the middle, but with both his and Stevie’s reticence to take spot kicks on record, I’d have thought Kuyt would be in with a shout.

The Charlton defense was at sixes and sevens for the majority of the first half. Luke Young and Traore (marginally making up for the peno) both had to clear shots off the line. They were very lucky not to concede more, but at the same time, Liverpool needed to have a better final touch, and I’m certain Benitez’s halftime talk centered on that.

Charlton’s best player of the first half, Andy Reid, was forced to come off at halftime due to a hamstring problem for Darren Ambrose, but it didn’t do much to change the tone or the theme of the game. Liverpool continued to boss left, right and center, with absolutely nothing to show for it.

Kuyt missed a couple of very good chances early in the second half in addition to those in the first. He really could have had 5 or so himself. I hate singling out players, especially one I fancy as much as Kuyt; every player has off games (and for strikers at this club, they seem to come more frequently), and Dirk’s quality is obvious. Give him more time, and we'll see him banging in away goals (his sole so far was against Wigan) as regularly as at Anfield.

Charlton had two chances to undeservedly snatch a draw around the 75th minute, which spurred Liverpool into action (although bringing Garcia, Aurelio, and Crouch on helped as well). First, Ambrose missed a sitter, which was Charlton’s first shot of the half, and less than 4 minutes later, Darren Bent, unmarked at the back post, pushed a serious opportunity wide. Up until that point, I couldn’t have imagined Charlton getting anything out of this game, but those two chances show how close soccer can be.

In the 82nd minute, Bellamy (who had another excellent game) scored a lovely volley from a very tight angle, and Stevie finished it off with a strike soon after. Gorgeous goal by Gerrard to be sure, but after Bellamy’s, Charlton’s heads dropped knowing they’d lost what little chance they had, and Stevie’s shot was pretty much uncontested.

A few other scattered thoughts. Thrilled to see Gonzales get 70 minutes, and am certain with more time and experience that he’ll be key part of the team. He adds so much with his pace and gives the team more natural width on the left. Also, and similarly, it was great to see Aurelio get in. He’s missed the last two months with unspecified niggling injuries (which was frequently the case when he was at Valencia as well), but his return only adds to Rafa’s “possibilities.” Finally, we're finally seeing Pennant settling in and playing better. He was one of those in for some serious stick when things weren’t going right, but he’s played a key role in the last couple of games and certainly shown improvement.

In the last three league games, Liverpool has scored 11 and conceded none, two of those games away from Anfield. I don’t care who they were up against, you can’t ask for much more than that.

Alonso for man of the match, but it easily could be Bellers or Pennant as well.

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