28 January 2009

Liverpool 1-1 Wigan

Arbeloa Carragher Skrtel Aurelio
Mascherano Lucas
Benayoun Gerrard Babel

Benayoun 41’
Mido 83’ (pen)

Fine. It was a fun few days with hope still lingering. Now that’s the title “challenge” finished.

If it weren’t so devastating, it’d be comical.

How many times can Liverpool dominate possession, but fail to carve out enough opportunities on target? If it wasn’t for Benayoun’s quick feet and guile from the tightest of angles, Liverpool wouldn’t have even scored.

How many times will it take Benitez to learn that a one-goal lead is never enough in the Premier League?

And how many times can a team that’s built its reputation on defense give up a soft equalizer? It’s very tempting to heap all the blame on Lucas for giving up the penalty, but there’s not one scapegoat today. This whole team, and the manager, has failed keep their nerve when they were at the top of the league to start the New Year on the back of two good wins. But since that 5-1 victory at Newcastle, Liverpool's drawn all three league contests. Nice job handling pressure, guys.

Once again, I’ve shown no ability to guess Rafa’s line-ups, and we got the 4-2-3-1 with no Keane (or Alonso, for that matter). It looked to work at the onset as Liverpool played keep-away from Wigan and pressed from the off. But other than a 13th minute Torres header glanced off the post from Gerrard’s cross, Liverpool again had no thrust to go with their control.

Same story, different day. Until Benayoun’s smart move, running onto Mascherano’s throughball, rounding Pollitt, and netting from an impossible angle. That Liverpool got the first half goal looked to make the difference, and Gerrard almost added a second on the stroke of halftime, sending a nearly 40-yard free kick just over the bar.

But with the start of the second half, it was back to the disappointing ways. Credit to Bruce for bringing on Koumas and Rodallega to go for it, but it wasn’t as if he was going to keep shop shut up when a goal down.

Wigan became more dangerous the longer they remained just a goal down, and had to be heartened when Torres went off for Riera in the 71st. I understand that Torres is recently back and will be needed on Sunday, but a striker for a winger at that point in the game – even with Babel moving up top – makes little sense. Gerrard almost made it a moot point three minutes later, narrowly missing the far post after collecting Benayoun’s flick on the break, but Liverpool struggled for chances there on out.

And when Wigan broke forward in the 82nd minute and the ball was swept out to Koumas on the left, Lucas, charging back to cover, unnecessarily hacked down the Welshman even though there were defenders to cut out any danger. A minute later, Mido slammed a penalty past Reina for his second goal against the team this season.

Liverpool’s response? Taking off Gerrard for Keane, an awesome substitution that had to be pre-planned, and yet wasn’t changed in the aftermath of the equalizer. Take a guess as to how many times Liverpool tested Mike Pollitt in the final ten minutes. It’s not hard.

At least Rodallega’s ferocious free kick ricocheted off the crossbar in injury time. See, your mother was right – things could always be worse.

Nothing else to say that hasn’t been say it earlier match reviews borne of the same frustration. This sucks. The cutting edge sucked, the confidence sucked, the lack of luck sucked, the substitutions sucked, and the result really, really sucks.

Now Rafa looks like Kevin Keegan part II (at least Keegan’s rant about United was amusing), the team’s confidence is probably irreparably damaged, and it’s (kill me now) even starting to feel like the last days of Houllier. I hate this. I hate this so much. This isn't 'Rafa out' – I'm nowhere near there – but to say he's had an atrocious January is putting it nicely.

It’s going to be a hard, long slog for the next few months just to see the season out if things remain the same.


Tram66 said...

I'll be the first to admit that I'm a complete novice when it comes to football discussions. I've only been following since the last World Cup and most of the time I've had cable, so my games have been limited.

So, sorry if this is a stupid question, but I'm trying to learn. It seems to me, that the past 4/5 games Lucas has played in, he's been atrocious. Why is he continuously in the lineup? Is it strictly to rest other players?

Bilal said...

I doubt Rafa see's Lucas as strictly a rotation player, although resting Alonso for Chelsea may have played a part today, but perhaps as more of a long term project along with Babel, both young players that need games in order to progress and can offer something different to the team.

To be honest, even though I was happy when he signed as there was quite a bit of hype around him, I'm having my doubts about his ability and potential, he can pick a great pass on occassion but he's been caught out defensively a lot, and as a holding midfielder thats worrying.

On the bright side of that depressing game, Babel's body langauge looked a lot better, he's seems more committed and might be picking up his form again. Not that it'll do much good unless Liverpool catch fire and United lose their way.

Shawn said...

Rafa has no idea what he's doing with this team right now. Torres, Benayoun, and Gerrard were the only 3 players making chances and attacking, yet he took all 3 off. And unless Alonso is missing a leg, he's gotta be on the pitch for a game that while not against a big club, was a must win for the Reds. This is depressing. If they win on Sunday vs. Chelsea it'll be a miracle.

Mike Georger said...

Rafa, Parry, and the owners have to go. I'm done.

Bilal said...

Oh come on lads.

First things first. The owners are pathetic and shouldn't be allowed to own a rabbit nevermind a football club, I would be happy to see Parry go, he's made plenty of mistakes over the years, and Rafa... well, Rafa's judgement calls haven't paid off recently at all and I'm afraid he seems to be losing his way after 5 years at Liverpool.


Rafa hasn't gone crazy all of a sudden, the logic behind a lot of his moves (except any involving Robbie Keane) is solid but mistaken, i.e. if your trying to defend a lead and with Chelsea in a few days you would take off key attacking players and shore up defensively but it was a mistake to defend a slender lead against a committed Wigan side. In theory Keane is brillant signing, a Daglish to Torres' Rush, except form and formation have made it look like a buffoon's error.

The season has taken a turn for the worse, and yes, Rafa's misjudgements have played a huge part in it, but remember this is Liverpool. We've had slow but steady progress over the last 4 years and it will continue, I never thought we'd win the league this year but that we could build a platform to win it next season, we can still do that. Rafa isn't perfect but he is still one of the most tactically astute managers in the league and hopefully learning from the errors this season. Remember Houllier couldn't do that and stuck by sub-par buys, Rafa throws them out quickly and can adapt. We need him to continue, don't despair.

Django said...

How is making 3 attacking substitutions defending a lead in any way, shape, or form? Kuyt has been awful maintaining possession, so no sense in bringing him on to "protect" a lead. Riera does alright in defense for a LM but not spectacular. And taking off one of the finest all-around midfielders in the world for a striker at the nadir of his career is not defending a lead. You can't defend the side selection or substitutions today. It was tactically poor, showing no signs of solid logic. Taking off our best attacking players for attacking players that are worse does mean our defense is better. It just means we are worse in attack and, in this case, it backfired big time. The form of Lucas and Kuyt recently has been equal or worse than Keane, yet they are continually selected and continue to contribute little in the way of positives. I don't get Lucas--he's always impulsive in the challenge and gives us nothing in the way of attack. This is about the worst I've felt about Rafa, still behind him (I think), but unbelievably confused about why he's doing what he's doing. We've been learning from errors and building for next year's title for a long time. One of these years is next year.

Bilal said...

I think I did overstate the case for Rafa's logic a bit too far, but looking at the bench, Kuyt and Riera were a good bet to throw on to see out perhaps a 2-0 game, but Gerrard off at 1-1 was ridiculous even with Chelsea at the weekend.

I know that Liverpool fans bang on about 'next year, next year' constantly, but this is the most promising side since the treble winners, but of course we seemed to lose our nerve after 2002, not helped by awful signings. After years of team building, next season will truely be crucial, otherwise we'll probably get a new manager and another few years of team building, and by then the mancs will have probably shot past our 18 league titles. Not a pretty prospect. We need to hope Rafa holds his nerve and sorts out the problems soon.

vinnie said...

i stand by my comment few weeks back that we will never win the league under rafa. i hope i was wrong but sadly...

and well said, mike: "Rafa, Parry, and the owners have to go. I'm done."

i know changing managers too often doesnt help as it will take more time and money to sell, buy and build a squad to suit a manager's plan... but i just dont wana see established, especially our few homegrown players getting too old by the time the right manager comes in. having said that, looks like the chance for our local heroes to win at least 1 league medal is very slim. how many years more can gerrard and carra play on?

nate said...

i'm a lot closer to bilal's point of view than any 'rafa out' discussion.

but torres, gerrard, alonso, carra, and reina need to start every game from here on out. rotation, freshness, whatever be damned.

sloh said...

another frustrating night. Lucas actually had a slightly above average game before that mistake in the penalty box, but he is still very young and at least he is getting more Premiership experience than Anderson. I agreed with the Gerrard substitution as he looked real tired in the last 20 mins. However, Torres still looked sharp to me and he should stay out there just to give Scharner something to think about. Aurelio lost possession quite a number of times, and just doesnt look like he is physical enough for the epl.Overall another frustrating night, hope that Insua coming back can improve things a little. But we really need another right winger/midfielder, Kuyt is not scaring anybody.

Django said...

I'm all for holding our nerve, but I agree with nate that we need our best side on the field almost exclusively the rest of the way. Not implying that he's part of our best 11, but where has El Zhar been recently?

Juggernaut said...

Din see the game but on seeing the score I was happy I was spared of the pain...
Yes..Gerrard,Alonso,Riera,Torres and Carra should play..

But I want to see Agger and Insua back in the squad ...they are people with their eye always on the goal and have the pace to see it through....
Keane..tell u a truth..gerrad,keane and Torres trio is more of a dream now.Aside some flashes,I havent really seen them work together....

The game against Chelsea is crucial,
we announced our title credentiality by the ending Chelseas unbeaten streak of 4 years...
Lets hope it turns out to be another one this time..
Fingers crossed......

steven. said...

where did Liverpool go?

McrRed said...

Oh come on, guys, I'm dying here! Whatever happened to that Istanbul half-time spirit? Sheesh!
I'm as frustrated as the rest of you by what appears to be irrational selection/substitutions etc. but come on....this was a narrow defeat and we could've been a win but for one rash moment that produced the (plausible) dive from Koumas.
And we always have a hard time against Steve Bruce's sides.
The difference this year is not going to be Rafa's tactics but the nature of the support we give the team in the final weeks of the league. Remember Michael Thomas? That was the last day of the league. Istanbul? Footballing miracles can happen - and it's about time for the pendulum to swing the other way down the M62!!!
Rafa's not a bad manager, and he still may prove to be a great one. Let's stick behind the side until the death and then pick over the spoils, eh?
Keep your peckers up.
And sing two choruses of You'll Never Walk Alone as penance (and listen to the words).

vinnie said...

i have been a liverpool fan for 13 years even though we havent won any of the much sought after league title. and what about the latest crazy rants by rafa?? he had just undone all his effort for the past 6 months and it's killing the team morale. miracle can change a few matches and even games like CL final but you can't depend on miracle for the whole season, that's why the best team wins the league

i will still walk with reds fans any day even if liverpool doesnt win the league for another 20 years