08 August 2009

Liverpool 1-2 Atletico Madrid

Johnson Carragher Ayala Insua
Lucas Mascherano
Kuyt Gerrard Benayoun

San Jose for Carra 16’
Babel for Kuyt 61’
Kelly for Johnson 74’
Spearing for Mascherano 79’
Voronin for Benayoun 79’
Ngog for Torres 82’

Aguero 15’
Forlan 33’
Lucas 81’

Good riddance to these friendlies.

I had to frequently stop and remind myself that it’s still preseason while watching. It was basically the first XI and will probably be the team that starts against Spurs outside of Ayala. It was full-blooded and end-to-end at times, especially in the first half. There weren’t a raft of second-half changes, unlike in previous friendlies, even for Atletico, who are two weeks behind Liverpool in preseason preparation.

News flash: Liverpool’s isn’t as good when they’re missing the top three center backs, and Atletico has the class to exploit it in Forlan and Aguero,

Carra limping off in the 13th was the key. As always with preseason injuries, I’m nervous even after Rafa’s pronouncement that he’ll be fine for Spurs. And while Carragher was receiving treatment, Lopez (Kuyt’s man) got down Liverpool’s right and delivered a cross for Aguero (who had peeled away from Ayala) to head in.

San Jose replaced Carragher immediately after, and Liverpool had something like four chances to score in the next 15 minutes, including what appeared to be a stone penalty on Torres in the 21st. No such luck, and Atleti punished in the 33rd when the defense was caught at sea, Simao’s backheel found Forlan in space, and the striker hammered a superlative shot from outside the box. A minute later, Torres blasted a thumper off the inside of the near post. Liverpool had the superiority in possession and chances, but were punished by two excellent strikes by two excellent strikers. It happens. Best to get it out of the system now.

Liverpool were better in the second half, fitter than the opposition at this stage of the season, and it showed in the amount of possession. But the team still found it tough to make the break through, with the final touch often astray and Asenjo resilient in goal.

Still, a draw would have been a fair result after Lucas pulled one back in the 81st, beating the offside trap to reach Gerrard’s throughball and slot under the keeper, and Dowd ignored another clear penalty, when Lucas was barged over after getting into the box in the 85th.

So, despite the scoreline, and despite goals again being hard to come by, I’m fine with today’s performance. Days like today can happen when two inexperienced defenders are up against strikers like those, and that Atletico saw fewer scoring chances as the game went on is encouraging. In addition, I thought Kelly again played well at right back, and deserves to be the second-string back-up behind Johnson.

The announcer repeatedly mentioned that Rafa wrote Lucas has been the best player in preseason in the match program, and the Brazilian kept it up today. The more time he spends in the first team, the more comfortable he’s going to be when making those pass-and-move forays forward, with Gerrard sometimes coming deeper to start the attack, and the formation will look more and more like a 4-1-4-1 in attack. And I’m still under the impression Aquilani will play similarly.

As today proved, that style of play can lead to more congestion in the middle unless the fullbacks provide width in attack, and as the team gets acclimated, we’re likely to see games like today’s, where the end product is lacking. There’s an additional excuse for today, as it’s preseason, but I’m still nervous about the goal return for the first few weeks.

Hopefully, having both Gerrard and Torres fit for more than 12 league games this year will make up for it. Spurs in eight days.


Marc said...

Hey nate.

I wish I could share your sense of calm regarding our shoddy preseason performances, but having watched Chelsea and Arsenal in friendlies as well, we look leagues behind in terms of consistency and focus. Our offense is so disjointed, our back line is so injury-riddled, our midfield is dealing with the loss of Alonso, and worst of all, we look like a team without confidence. Even Torres looked tense and uncertain for much of the game.

If you want to win the EPL, you have to know in your heart you're great. Right now, I fear our players are wondering if they can even beat Spurs this weekend, and that's an awful thought.

wackozacko said...

Hey nate (i'm right this time)

Yeah I couldn't agree more with you & marc. But i'm a little bit slanted towards marc's comment more.

Well, he's right. I'm worried lad. So worried. This was the same thing happened to us last season,plenty of posession but the end result, nadah. I know some of the "living in denial" supporters will condemned me by saying "oh, we have the highest goal scoring last year" BOOHOOO!! BIG DEAL WHO GIVES A CRAP!! and some might say "At least we are showing improvement" and again, pity to those suckers.

I am a liverpudlian lad. Truest KOP. But like i said before,we are still the same. We cannot crack opposition's defence. I thought this year we will be different but after watching all the pre-season, sigh, we are nowhere and still the same. And to tell you the truth marc,if we keep playing like this,we will have the highest goal scoring tally,doing double over man.u, chelski,arse senal but we still gonna finish second.

Alonso's gone. Aquilani's new & injury prone. Lucas will never play like he played Atletico in BPL (I don't know why,maybe he's leg in unsteady over English soil?)
I still hope,Gerrard play AM, Benayoun as Second striker play of Torres. Because Stevie our GLORIOUS CAPTAIN (god bless him) can tackle, shoot, pass, run, 1-2. While Bennie can dribble, tricky player. Torres is fast. So, there's no better player in the middle than Stevie. Lucas-Masch? Masch-Pleisses? Lucas-Aquilani? Masch-Aquilani? No....Gerrard can play with anybody above & must play. If he play second striker,with our CB all out injured, we can kiss our ass & kiss the BPL trophy goodbye....& worst,another trophiless season

McrRed said...

Wow! Reaches for the razor-blade...
Listen guys, I get the point...preseason has been disjointed, the manager might tinker/adjust the formation to suit different teams and personnel; we might get another signing BUT come on!!
It feels like you would be predicting Liverpool to finish outside the top four this year but secretly, I bet you think we could, just possibly, do it... ;-)
Keep believing, guys, it's fun that way!

Marc said...

Totally true, McrRed! I fear the worst but still hold out hope for the best. I believe that if anyone's going to get unseated from the top 4, right now we look like the most likely candidate. But then I think, "well, if Babel finally comes around, and Aquilani comes out blazing in a few months, and we sign one more player like Michael Turner..." and I get more optimistic about the season. I just know we can't expect Stevie and 'Nando to do it all.

I will say this: I think the game vs Spurs will be VERY telling. If we win despite all this preseason adversity, I will back off the ledge. But if we fall flat, I'm going to have a very anxious finish to 2009.

Regardless of what happens, though, YNWA!

LFC said...

Preseason games are always tough for me to watch, mostly because of something nate has alluded to multiple times in write-ups: trying to balance the desire to see the team get a result with the knowledge that these are simply run-outs to achieve fitness-"it's only preseason."

I agree, though, that this preseason has been very unique for the club, reasons mostly covered by McRed above. There's also the sentiment that this is "the" year after just falling short of the title last season. A formation that was well-oiled, the missing piece in Glen Johnson, full-fitness hopes for Gerrard and Torres.

Cue Xabi's exit, injuries start to crop up among the defense, and the results are non-existent in preseason. All of a sudden it's doom and gloom, and the title is lost before the first fixture is played.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't concerned, but if anything my concerns are focused on fitness. I have no doubts about the desire of the club or their ability to play with confidence, even if it seemed lacking in preseason.

As for how the gaps will be filled, I'm glad I don't have to make those decisions. In a perfect world, I'd love to see a 3-2-1-3-1.


I don't know how Aquilani will fit--I tend to agree with nate that a 4-1-4-1 with two central midfielders behind Torres could work, but only time will tell.

Regardless, I can't wait for next Sunday. Excited to see how the team will respond to everything that has (and hasn't) happened in the preason, excited to see the scores come in from other fixtures, excited to start another season.

Come on you Reds!

Ibracadabra said...

LFC - No room for Benayoun in that 3-2-1-3-1 huh?

LFC said...

I'd actually prefer him to Riera, but I also love his impact off the bench. I think he's more talented than Kuyt, but Rafa won't move Kuyt and probably shouldn't. I dunno, I was just spitballin', in a perfect world there'd be room for all. But as the inexplicable fame of Dane Cook reminds us, this world is far from perfect.