22 February 2009

Liverpool 1-1 Manchester City

Arbeloa Carragher Skrtel Dossena
Benayoun Mascherano Lucas Riera

Bellamy 49’
Kuyt 78’

More heart stoppers and late heroics, but it’s not enough this time. And it’s probably the nail in the coffin.

You know the routine by now. This is just the draw that seals it.

Dominant, but insipid in the final third, for the first half. For all the possession, City even had the best chance through Ireland in the 30th. Liverpool started the second half on the back foot and fell victim to a massively unlucky deflection on (who else) Bellamy’s shot. And City kept Liverpool on the back foot until the final 15 minutes as the home side’s passing devolved. Kuyt gave a lifeline in the 78th, and it looked like Liverpool might snatch another victory from the jaws of a draw, but for all the late pressure, no such luck this time.

Throughout the first half, Liverpool just couldn’t find the finishing touch. Benayoun and Torres were lively, but the home side didn’t create enough from the flanks, and couldn’t get past Dunne and Onuoha. Riera, usually the release valve out wide, cut in too often giving room for Dossena to overlap, which rarely came to fruition. At the same time, I’m not sure why Kuyt played centrally with Benayoun wide while the opposite had worked well previously. And despite all the pressure, the best chance came from a League One-esque goal mouth scramble in the 23rd, but none of Torres, Kuyt, or Riera could apply the finishing touch.

And Liverpool almost paid for it in the 30th when – surprise, surprise – City broke. Robinho scampered down the left and slide it through for Ireland (who started the move), but the midfielder could only shoot straight at Reina and then into the side netting.

Liverpool didn’t heed the warning, and it didn’t take long after the restart to go behind. City had almost all the possession before scoring, but compare four minutes of sustained pressure to 45 unfulfilled and it’s a bit frustrating. It might even go down as an own goal as well – that shot doesn’t hit Arbeloa’s foot, it doesn’t go in. But them's the breaks.

The next 30 minutes were eminently frustrating as City stayed on top, making it hard for Liverpool to break out of their own half. Both Ireland and De Jong weren’t far away with shots from distance before Ireland had the ball in the net on the break only to be rightfully ruled offside.

Two substitutions – El Zhar for Riera and Aurelio for Dossena – helped Liverpool reassert a foothold as Aurelio’s passes succeeded at a far better rate and El Zhar was much more of a pacey outlet out wide. And in the 78th, Liverpool pulled one back as Benayoun charged down the left and crossed for Torres, whose mishit shot set Kuyt up perfectly to strike from close range.

But in the last 10 minutes, Given saved well from Kuyt and Benayoun, Kuyt dragged a shot wide, and Aurelio blasted a volley over. Benayoun’s was the best chance – in the 85th, the Israeli blasted a knockdown straight at Given when either side would have been a goal. No such luck. No brilliance from Torres or any other late magic. Just a depressing end to another draw at Anfield and the lingering hope of challenging for a title.

At the end of the day, sadly, Liverpool just weren’t, and aren’t, good enough. This’ll sting for a while.


Mike Georger said...

To quote Mark Lawrenson

"Liverpool brought on El Zhar, and yesterday, Man United brought on Carlos Tevez. That's the difference between the best and second best teams in this division."

We do not have the depth to sustain a title challenge.

nate said...

to be fair, no one in the prem has that depth. and that's why (ugh. commence wrist-slitting) they're on pace for another title.

but yeah, it certainly showed today.

Mike Georger said...

Well yeah, it's hard to compete with three 30m pound strikers, and having the referees on your side each year.

I still think they are closer than they have been to competing, but I still don't know if Rafa is the man to do it. I really do think that Jose could take this team to the promised land.

epiblast said...

I'm not sure Rafa's got it in him. He seems lost and the players are really bailing him out now. The subs weren't that influential until Rafa finally made the tactical switch by taking off Mascherano; although, I would have taken Lucas off, he is absolute shite at the moment.
In the end it's tough to say we need someone new. It'd be hard to see Torres at Anfield without an Spanish manager...

Danny Bagucci said...

Guess we only have the Champions League to look towards -- and with the kind of form Barca were in until this weekend, a Real Madrid finally getting into their stride and a host of other decent teams still in with a shout, it could be another long trek back home without any silverware.

Guess this summer, the Yanks, Rafa, Parry and everyone at this football club needs to take a long hard look at how the season turned out. In a season that was ours for the taking, we imploded in January and handed the initiative to the Mancs....