07 October 2007

Liverpool 2-2 Tottenham

Finnan Carragher Hyypia Arbeloa
Pennant Gerrard Mascherano Riise
Torres Voronin

Voronin 12’
Keane 45’ 47’
Torres 90’

Disjointed and lucky to come away with a draw. And yet, it was progress.

Liverpool played better than in recent performances, but two things kept the team from coming away with all 3 points.

First, Liverpool could have been 3-0 up, if not more, before Keane’s strike on the stroke of halftime. Voronin took his chance in the 12th minute, on hand to tap in after Robinson parried Gerrard’s free kick, but Torres pushed a open shot wide from the top of the box, Gerrard hit the post with another free kick, and Torres, Voronin and Gerrard cut apart Spurs on the break, only to get too clever with the ball, and Gerrard had his strike deflected after Voronin passed instead of shot.

Second, Liverpool made two defensive errors, both of which Tottenham scored from. The first came with a minute left in the half, with Keane toeing the ball past Reina after getting between Carragher and Finnan, sent through by Berbatov’s flicked header. The second came in similar circumstances just after play resumed, with another flicked header from Berbatov from Robinson’s goal kick and a smart volley around Reina by Keane.

The high line did not work today. Both goals came from long balls pumped forward, Berbatov beating Hyypia in the air, and Keane getting behind the defense. Knowing Robinson loves to hoof it long, knowing Berbatov’s aerial prowess, and knowing how Keane can get into space, I have no idea how Liverpool failed to deal with the threat. I do know that Agger would have made a big difference; Carragher would have been the one contesting Berbatov in the air, and Agger would have kept a lot close to Keane.

I’ll reiterate that I thought Liverpool’s all-around play was better, but certain players’ were still below par.

Gerrard was influential in the first half, with the free kicks and his passing exemplified by the scoring chances listed above, but clearly faded in the second half, and clearly hasn’t been the same since the international break. Hindsight is a hell of a crutch, but he shouldn’t have taken the injection to play against Chelsea, even considering his assist for Torres’ goal in that game.

Carragher and Hyypia also weren’t at the races today, and neither did himself justice in Tottenham goals, while Riise hasn’t been at his best all season (although he did look better when he moved to left back when Babel came on for Arbeloa). Neither Pennant, Babel nor Benayoun was able to add an attacking threat when Liverpool needed it, and the most threatening play came either through the middle or from Finnan on the right.

But again, while a draw is infinitely frustrating (albeit better than a loss), and there are still many improvements to be made, Liverpool was better today. It was nothing like the Marseille game, where the team was absolutely diabolical. Players could actually put three passes together, they created more chances, got two goals, and all in all, aside from the defensive mistakes and missed opportunities (at least they’re finally getting into places to miss them!), it was a better display from top to bottom.

Two players stood out in my mind. In Voronin, Liverpool have a striker they’ve needed for a while, who gets into smart places for easy goals (whether they’re tap-ins like today or taking advantage of a lazy pass across the backline), for a few seasons now. He also worked his tail off for the 77 minutes he was on the field, especially in getting back to defend.

Finnan provided the cross (left-footed, at that) for Torres’ equalizer, and other than being partly at fault for the first goal, was very good today. He got forward more often and with better results than in earlier games this season, and actually got an excellent shot on target in the second half when Liverpool was struggling for opportunities.

Torres and Mascherano are also due a mention. Torres on the scoresheet, with a game-tying goal in the last minute, despite not having the best of games, is heartening, while Mascherano was absolutely everywhere on the field and almost got a goal of his own with a narrowly missed shot.

Liverpool’s league home record is draw, win, draw, draw, with the lone win coming against Derby. I know the away form was the biggest complaint last season, but it’s so strange to see the exact opposite happening this year. 3 draws out of 4 games at fortress Anfield? Had you said that to me before the season started, I’d have laughed for days.

There are very few positives from the results over the last few weeks. There is something wrong with this team, which is unacceptable with the amount spent and the talent available.

However, like the Villa and Wigan (and even Sunderland) games earlier, Liverpool could have easily come away with less. I realize I’m somewhat clutching at straws, but the fortitude required to get a last-minute draw is encouraging. This would have ended 1-2 last year, of that I’ve no doubt.

Maybe an international break will actually do Liverpool some good. A lot of the players will be away on international duty, but the team needs to have a look at itself and players need to get themselves sorted. I’m sick of writing how we know there’s talent in the team, how Liverpool is still unbeaten in the league, and how it’s only October. I still believe all of those things, but I’m also very unhappy with the way things are going.

The next game after the international break is the derby at Goodison. If there’s any game the players should be up for, that’s it.

1 comment :

Ace Cowboy said...

Well said, Nate...agreed on almost every single sentence.

Keano deserves a lot of credit for scoring goalscorer's goals, but I can't get over how many balls Berbatov won in the air. And I can't help but think the vaunted back line misses our man D'Agger. Get well soon, my man.

Also, Gerrard may not quite be playing Gerrardian football, but he had a good match yesterday. I've read a few things over the past 24 hours that say he's completely missing or invisible, but he drew that free kick, put the free kick on net, hit the post on another one and sent at least three of four well-placed thru-balls down the pitch for the strikers. Sure he doesn't look like the Real Cap'n Fantastic right now, but I'm not sure how much more you can ask of the guy.