Arbeloa Carragher Hyypia Riise
Benayoun Gerrard Mascherano Kewell
Distin (OG) 16’
Torres 67’ 85’
Just so we’re clear, and with all this talk of crisis, this is the 8th time in the 28 games this season (4th in the last 7) that Liverpool’s scored four goals or more.
To be honest, it was a professional performance, but one where the scoreline may flatter. It’s not as if Liverpool weren’t clearly the better side on the day, but, and surprisingly given Pompey’s form and league position, the team never truly hit top gear either.
A sustained bit of pressure saw Liverpool go two goals up in the first 16 minutes, albeit a little fortunately. While Glen Johnson, who had made some excellent tackles in the first 10 minutes, was receiving treatment, Kewell’s cross found Benayoun open at the top of the box, and Yossi smashed an excellent volley into the net. 3 minutes later, Campbell did well to close down Torres in the box, only to see his tackle ricochet off Distin’s shin and into the net.
Once 2-0 up, Liverpool were content playing keep-ball for the majority of the time, and I don’t think Pompey had a real sniff at goal throughout the entire first half, with Liverpool dominating tempo and possession. Kanu’s introduction for Utaka at half-time gave Portsmouth more attacking prowess, and his cross plus excellent footwork from Benjani gave Portsmouth an opening. Duly, the next five to ten minutes were a bit nervy, but when given an opening, Torres soon put the game beyond doubt.
In the 67th minute, Mascherano’s long pass allowed Babel to put James under pressure, and Torres made no mistake when the ball fell to him at the top of the box. With 5 minutes remaining in normal time, Carragher found Gerrard in the box, Gerrard’s header found Torres, and Torres made no mistake on the volley. It's getting tiresome saying that's what a world class striker can do for a team, but it bears repeating again.
While Torres yet again proved how much better he makes Liverpool with his second half brace (8 goals so far in the league), the man of the match has to be Mascherano. He was outstanding in both defense and attack, and was the reason why Pompey barely had a shot on target through the first half.
I also thought both Kewell and Benayoun had good games, although both faded in the second half. Yossi gives Liverpool more goals from the flanks than they’ve had in previous seasons, while Kewell showed more willingness to take on a defender, was involved in much of the play in the first half, and delivered a cracking assist for Benayoun’s goal.
Babel also improved the team after coming on for Benayoun in the 63rd, not only in helping create the third goal and his obvious pace, but in his graft and work in tracking back as well. He was involved in the buildup of a lot of Liverpool’s counter-attacks, showing how deep he was when Pompey was in possession.
But Torres is going to be the talk of the day, and it’s understandable. He adds so much to the team. There are the goals and the havoc he causes in defense, but he’s unselfish, harries defenders on the ball at every opportunity, and chases down lost causes. He may have been out of it for periods, and Campbell and Distin did well in defense, but he still pops up with two crucial late game goals.
Before the match, Carragher was quoted saying Liverpool has to pick up all 12 points from the festive period. They can now cross one of the tougher games off the list. Pompey may not have done themselves justice today, but they’re still a top-six side that can challenge anyone on their day.
The game at Manchester City on Saturday will most likely be Liverpool’s toughest challenge over this period, but the team cannot look past the trip to Derby on Wednesday.
But for now, it’s time to enjoy the three points in the bag and the upcoming holidays.