06 December 2008

Liverpool 3-1 Blackburn

Arbeloa Carragher Hyypia Insua
Benayoun Gerrard Alonso Babel

Alonso 69’
Benayoun 79’
Santa Cruz 85’
Gerrard 90+5’

Well, I didn’t expect that scoreline after the first half.

For 68 minutes, it was frighteningly same old, same old, despite the changes to the team. Liverpool had some intricate passing in the middle of the pitch, and dominated possession, but broke down in the final third time and time again. With the team patient and passing, Blackburn had time to get two solid lines of four behind the ball, and Kuyt was often isolated alone in the box against two six-foot defenders.

Liverpool didn’t manage a shot on target in the entire half. The best, and really only, opportunity came when Gerrard put through Benayoun through, but he couldn’t get the shot off before Warnock got back to cover. And only Reina’s fingertips prevented Pedersen from scoring in the 29th when Gerrard gave the ball away, and Pepe had to push the midfielder’s shot onto the crossbar.

It was marginally better to start the second half – Alonso’s shot from the top of the box was too close to the keeper in the 57th and Babel’s nice run from the right teed up Gerrard, who forced a save from Robinson, in the 62nd. Immediately after that good work from the Dutchman, which was one of his few highlights today, he was taken off for El Zhar. And seven minutes later, Alonso finally got the goal that Liverpool have been waiting for.

Benayoun got the ball to Gerrard on the right, and the captain centered looking for Kuyt. Typical for the match to that point, the striker couldn't connect for the first-time shot, but Alonso was there to cover, and perfectly placed a side-footer past Robinson.

After the goal, Blackburn opened up, and this Liverpool team is built for taking teams apart in that situation. Kuyt’s gorgeous diagonal found Benayoun in acres of space on the right, and he was able to get around Warnock and beat the keeper with a lovely shot inside the far corner from a narrow angle.

It should have been done and dusted at that point, but Liverpool fell asleep in the 85th, when a quickly-taken short corner was flicked on for Roque Santa Cruz open at the far post, which made the final minutes much edgier than they should have been. But Liverpool stood firm, and again countered in the final seconds. Riera tried to put El Zhar through with a smart pass, but Robinson was quick to come out and block. However, Riera followed up and found Gerrard wide open on the right with the goalmouth gaping. He doesn’t miss those. And it’s a far more flattering scoreline than the first two-thirds of the game merited.

Alonso’s performance was impressive; his range of passing was as usual, he was often further forward than Gerrard, and he was there for the crucial goal. But Hyypia’s probably my man of the match – the Finn was consistently awesome in defense, heading out long balls pumped forward and corners, and keeping Blackburn from getting much of a sniff. Aside from the one moment of madness, the entire defense was excellent – even Insua, who never looked out of place, although he was under orders to stay home more often than not. And the defense is the reason that Liverpool's done as well as they have this season while still struggling to score.

It was surprising to see ninety minutes go by without Keane. Liverpool got the right result, and it’s dangerous reading too much into this, but that can’t be good for his confidence. It was also a big game for Babel, and for the most part, he disappointed – during halftime, he was utterly excoriated by Pat Dolan on Setanta. And while Dolan's often just a loudmouth reliant on hyperbole, Babel did give the ball away too often and made the wrong decision too many times. And his best bit of play was followed by him being hauled off – another move that probably won’t help the player’s confidence.

But Liverpool won. And that's all that matters. The team kept working, finally got the break-through, and got two more in twenty-five minutes for good measure. Aside from one piece of lax defending, the backline was awesome. Hopefully, this result will snap the attack back to attention.

PSV on Tuesday, with a chance to win the CL group.


Mike Georger said...

babel isnt a winger and will continue to look out of place in that position.

the first chance of the second half was created by insua, that was good to see. he made a few nice defensive plays too, i was impressed.

its a result

Abhiram said...

Babel played as a winger the whole last season. Suddenly when there's talk that he's actually a forward, he seems to play badly as a winger. Why would he be doing that? Is it just me or you guys too observed that he started playing a little better in the second half. Probably Rafa told him that he'd be sub-ed at 60 minutes.

The best players of the game according to me were Hyypia and Bennayoun.

Did anyone watch the Mancs game. The f**kin commentators were simply drooling at the manc players. Disgusting!

nate said...

"Is it just me or you guys too observed that he started playing a little better in the second half. Probably Rafa told him that he'd be sub-ed at 60 minutes."

This is a really good point that I didn't consider. Babel started pressing more around the time he knew he would be substituted (if rafa didn't tell him outright), and that led to his best move of the game.

Also, yes, agreed on your third point, Abhiram. Watch 90 minutes where Liverpool fail to score compared to 90 when United fail to, and you'll be sickened unless you're a Manc.

And let me re-emphasize my pleasure at Insua's performance. More and more, Dossena is looking like an unnecessary £8m. Not because I don't think he can cut it in the Prem - it's too early to tell, and he's had good moments (more often than not when going forward) - but Insua's almost always looked able to cover those times when Aurelio's injured.

vinnie said...

"Suddenly when there's talk that he's actually a forward, he seems to play badly as a winger."

i thought he was always a centre forward before rafa utilise him as a wing forward that cuts into the box (not a true winger that deliver crosses). he's problem at the moment is he's been out of form since returning from injuries

and so far, i've only seen babel played well as a sub

Django said...

Pleased with the result that, for me, underlines Xabi's importance to the club. Gerrard was off and on, and more off than on early. Xabi picked up the slack, as he has most of the year, but as noted in the write-up, yesterday he was forward more than usual. I'm glad that talk has died down of his possible departure in January. For my money, he's been our player of the year so far. Consistent as can be this season, and offhand, involved in at least 75% of our go-ahead goals or match winners this season--Blackburn, Marseille, Bolton (setting up Torres to Gerrard, which put the match to bed), Chelsea, Everton, Sunderland...okay, offhand turned into some actual research. Not to mention he's drawn 4 red cards...indispensable for me, and quite glad we have him instead of Gareth Barry right now.

Here's to hoping some of our youngsters get a good run on Tuesday, YNWA