02 January 2008

Liverpool 1-1 Wigan

Finnan Arbeloa Carragher Aurelio
Pennant Alonso Mascherano Kewell

Torres 49’
Bramble 80’

Of all the luck. What a way to start the new year.

I am the ultimate apologist for this regime. And I’ve got no apologies to make. This was a game Liverpool should have won. I don’t want to write “should have won with ease,” because there are no easy games and Steve Bruce always finds a way to frustrate Benitez in the league, but it certainly feels like the game should have been put away at a canter after the deadlock was finally broken.

The 0-0 scoreline at halftime, although unwelcome, wasn’t completely surprising. Despite the inability to break Wigan down, the game was always going to be cagey. And while it’s easy to write in hindsight, believe me when I say I thought a goal was always coming. Liverpool was dominant in possession and passed the ball around well, even if the end product was lacking (Kewell was the main culprit, and it was good to see Pennant back) and Wigan were holding firm.

It was always going to take a fluid passing move to cut apart Wigan and surprise, surprise, it culminated in Torres’ goal. In defense of my preview, I only guessed at his fitness levels (and still left him in my fantasy teams), but he’s proving time and time again how crucial he is. And credit has to be given to Gerrard and Finnan (superbly continuing his run forward and providing the assist) for their parts in the goal, but again it’s more evidence that Torres has been far and away Liverpool’s best player so far this season.

And although you’d expect the floodgates to open after unlocking Wigan at Anfield, the second goal never came. Credit especially to Kirkland for some marvelous saves (another former keeper at Anfield performing well above recent form) and Wigan’s defense (especially Melchiot) for closing down quickly, but Liverpool also appeared to take the foot off the gas and let Wigan back into the game. I’m far too angry to do actual research, but it certainly seemed like Wigan’s possession must have doubled after Liverpool’s goal.

And then, in the 80th minute, up popped, of all people, Titus Bramble. After a free kick when Mascherano picked up a petty foul (and yellow) on Bent in the center circle, Gerrard’s sent his clearance straight at Bramble well outside the box, and he rifled it into the net. It was an absolute stunner. He couldn’t do it again on a bet.

And other than a miraculous double save on Gerrard by Kirland in the 84th minute, Liverpool had little response. And now we get to hear all about how Liverpool’s blown the title hopes for another season. Super. Can’t wait.

There’s going to be a lot of condemnation written about the team and Benitez, and I honestly can’t bring myself to defend it. Maybe later after stewing over this, and undoubtedly my reaction is more severe thanks to Liverpool's recent form and title aspirations, but this is a game Liverpool should never have drawn, and now they've opened themselves up to all the criticism that’s been bubbling. This is embarrassing; Wigan have never scored against Liverpool nor taken a point off of the “big four.”

A lot rash will be written about both players and managers, and I’ve got little desire to add to it. Yes, that’s the title assuredly gone for the season, but if that leads you to trash the team or manager, or stop following results as closely, then politely go screw.

It took a wonder goal to pull even. Liverpool got zero breaks, either from lady luck or Steve Bennett (who hasn’t given Liverpool one 50/50 decision since giving two penalties against Sheffield last season, and was doing all he could to avoid booking a Wigan player, despite their shithouse tactics). I utterly detest Bruce’s strategy (even if I understand it) as an offense to football, and I don’t think that Liverpool's 4-5-1 was too defensive, whatever the line-up leads one to think. I couldn't be angrier, but I'm also not going to write anything I regret.

FA Cup match against Luton on Sunday, which is pretty much an afterthought, then I expect the team to be out for blood against Boro a week from Saturday.


Fiftyfour said...

Halfway through the season, I must say that I feel Liverpool have improved this year. They're no longer a one-man team. With the addition of Torres, they're now a two-man team. If I were a scouser in a red shirt, I'd be very, very glad neither Gerrard or 'nando are African.

nate said...

Ugh. In past years, I've always tried to argue that Liverpool was not the one-man team everyone made them out to be, but dammit fiftyfour, you know I can't disagree with you.

This season has been the Gerrard and Torres show, and Liverpool's gotten the Arsenal disease of "pass it to Henry and hope our star wins it for us" recently.