Arbeloa Hyypia Carragher Dossena
Benayoun Gerrard Alonso Riera
So glad I was actually able to see this game.
I guess it’s a good sign that Liverpool’s top of the league on December 1st and hasn’t comprehensively beaten any team yet this season. But at the same time, I can’t remember the last time Liverpool had successive 0-0 draws at Anfield in the league – I suspect it’s been quite a while.
And even more infuriating than the successive goalless draws is the fact that they came against West Ham and Fulham (in addition to another against Stoke in September). No offense to either club, as they've earned their points, but both finished in the bottom half of the table last season and I’d be surprised if the same wasn’t true by the end this one.
United and Chelsea were enormous wins, but I still don’t think Liverpool’s played to their full potential in any match so far. Outside of PSV and West Brom, nearly every win’s been close for a while. And unfortunately, as was bound to happen, that capacity to win at the death has ceased for the time being.
It could have been different had Hyypia hit one of those headers (the best chance came in the 16th minute, while Cole cleared one off the line in the 21st) or were Ilunga penalized for his 5th minute handball in the box (among other times he handled). Collins had to clear off the line from Riera’s effort in the 13th, while Green made a fantastic save on Benayoun’s attempt in the 56th. Gerrard also tried to win another last minute penalty, running into Ilunga just inside the area as Liverpool again upped the tempo late, but Peter Walton was having none of it.
However, had Bellamy’s break in the 37th not ended with his shot careening off the inside of the post, Carlton Cole not put a free header into the side netting in the 67th, or Boa Morte not slipped in the box wide open on the left in the 89th, it could have three points dropped, which would have been even more sickening than last year’s loss at Upton Park.
Ngog came on for Keane in the 66th and Babel for Riera in the 78th, and the Dutchman looked the more threatening, but neither changed proceedings all that much. I’m tempted to read too much into the fact that Ngog came on 12 minutes earlier than Babel, and it does seem strange as Babel's more established, quicker, and more of a goal threat. Also, while Keane’s not the youngest and wasn’t having a great match, I was a bit surprised he was taken off for Ngog in a match where he’s dying to get a goal. But Benitez sees these players in training every day; chances are he knows a bit more than I do.
Unfortunately, it was another one of the games that Liverpool’s far too prone to. I’ve said before that I could write templates for match reviews like these. Liverpool had far more possession, Liverpool had more chances, too many of those chances were shots from distance, the opposition had a couple chances of their own, and while some players did well, the team as a whole didn't do enough. Wash, rinse, and please stop repeating.
Alonso was at the center of everything and played some lovely passes. Hyypia was a threat from set plays, got forward, and defended well. And Dossena looked more assured than in the past. But the good things individuals do seem less important when the result’s such a disappointment.
Most frequent readers will be aware I’m superstitious about writing of any title chances, but it feels as if it needs to be said. Also, this result makes me more pessimistic than usual; I’ll probably regret this after calming down. But I have a very, very bad feeling that Liverpool is going to deeply rue these three draws.
Don’t get me wrong – I said I’d be happy if Liverpool contended for the title, and I still think they can. The fact they haven’t fully clicked yet but are doing as well as they have is an ominous sign for other clubs, and the side’s far different when Torres is healthy. I’m fairly certain there are much better things to come from this team. But it’ll be very tough to swallow if the six points dropped to these three clubs stop Liverpool from that title chance.