24 August 2009

Liverpool 1-3 Aston Villa

Johnson Carragher Skrtel Insua
Lucas Mascherano
Kuyt Gerrard Benayoun

Lucas (og) 34’
Davies 45+2’
Torres 72’
Young 75’ (pen)

See, I told you I’d jinx it. Three games into the league, and Liverpool has the same number of losses as the whole of last season. This is why I never guess the outcomes of Liverpool games, and why I’d never written I thought they’d win the league before. I am sorry. I truly am.

Something like five chances in the first 15 minutes, including three in the same move, and somehow Liverpool ended the half two down. There’s “that’s football” and “that’s fucking impossible,” and today was the latter.

33 seconds in, Benayoun could only flick a header wide after Torres’ chip over the top. In the 9th minute, Torres, Gerrard, and Benayoun somehow failed to score after Torres’ shot was blocked, Gerrard couldn’t make contact, Benayoun scuffed his effort, and Friedel’s failing foot kept out Gerrard’s stab. Five minutes later, Kuyt teed up Gerrard at the top of the box, but the captain’s trademark curler rose over the bar. With chances like that, it could only be a matter of time. But from there, Liverpool found a way to completely throw the game away.

Of course, it began with Lucas. The kid perpetually can’t catch a break, and neither could Liverpool. The home side saw less and less possession after the 15th, as Villa settled and Liverpool lost the ball too easily, and after a good start, Lucas concedes a stupid free kick, and has the resulting Young strike deflect off him to wrong-foot Reina. Now that’s a scapegoat moment. And these moments make it so hard to defend him.

Other than a Torres blast in the 38th that Friedel smartly saved, the last ten minutes of the half were a farce as Liverpool, for lack of a better term, tried too hard and were easily frustrated. The stupid giveaways that had intermittently crept into their play became commonplace.

Unsurprisingly, the team paid for it in the second minute of stoppage time as Davies, who wasn’t even supposed to start, got in front of Carra and Torres to head in Shorey’s corner at the near post. Summing up Liverpool’s half, Reina had picked up a yellow for kicking the ball away, seemingly questioning whether it was a corner, which it clearly was.

And then, the second half. Oh, the second half. Nearly 30 minutes of half chances against a packed defense – par for the course on the day – before it looked like Torres gave Liverpool a lifeline. Voronin came on in the 66th for the unfortunate Lucas, and started the move that ended with Torres’ volley after a Kuyt dummy opened up space for Insua to cross. Game on. Just like those late wins which saved Liverpool’s bacon last season.

Two minutes later, game off, just like against Spurs (okay, it took Spurs three minutes). Gerrard, of all people, recklessly dove in on Reo-Coker in the box, and Young hammered home the resulting penalty. 1-3 with 15 minutes remaining. No heroics left, nothing like last season’s stunners, just a smattering of near misses and saves, with Friedel renewing the trend of former Liverpool keepers playing out of their minds against the club. Liverpool gave up by the 90th minute.

So, let’s sum up the scapegoats. Lucas, obviously (please, keep it in line, Liverpool need him this season, like it or not). Two goals conceded from set plays, so let’s add zonal marking. Torres, and the entire team, overly frustrated and sniping at the referee. A careless penalty conceded by Gerrard that harkens back to the reckless days of five-plus years ago.

Let’s also add the inability to break down 11 men behind the ball (well, once, but once wasn’t enough). We can also blame Liverpool’s awful home form, carrying over from last season. I’d also like to reiterate that Liverpool should have seen this coming: a five-man midfield and a congested middle, but the fullbacks pinned back thanks to the pace of Milner, Young, and Agbonlahor. Probably should credit Villa’s defense too, which clearly remembered the last meeting between the clubs. At least no one got injured. That’s all I got.

So, now that the season’s over, we can look forward to a trip to Bolton this Saturday. For once, the international break can’t come soon enough.


Anonymous said...

Any word on Aquilani? I admittedly know very little about him, but they paid better than 20 million for him -- what's the hold up? Injury? Still getting into "game shape"?


nate said...

Still recovering from ankle surgery he had in March. As of last week, prognosis was "4-8 weeks." So yeah, another month or two. This team has to improve, because nothing's radically changing in that time span. Sure seems like the owners won't do anything to improve the team in the next week.

Mike Georger said...

Spearing or Plessis have to start against Bolton. You cannot go without punishing Lucas' performance. Rafa has been a massive pussy when it comes to this (Riise) and manages to freeze others out for no good reason (Crouch). But if he wants to get back in the good graces of the fans who are rightfully throwing him under the bus, he must drop Lucas. Surely it can't be worse right? Famous last words maybe, but fuck it.

We haven't conceded from open play yet this year, but I guarantee he sticks by zonal marking. Bless Paul Tomkins' noble soul, but there isn't a column he could write that would convince me zonal marking is the way to go. Whenever a team parks the bus against us and we waste corner after corner after corner, they are playing man on the set pieces, and we never score from them because of that (and because Rafa likes taking short corners).

I don't want to give up quite yet, but this does not look promising. At this point, either the tactics, or the manager, need to change. Bottom line.

Mike Georger said...

Sure does look like we're done in the transfer market. But there is no way Rafa didn't know that when he bought Aquilani. He's the one who replaced our best player from last year with someone who can't help us the first fifth of the season, not the Yanks.

Christ I'd prefer Momo right now over Lucas. That's how bad it is.

nate said...

If Torres is actually guarding the zone instead of hanging close to the post, because Carra wasn't going to follow Davies, we wouldn't be debating zonal marking, because the own goal was a freak occurrence. But I'll leave the larger defense of zonal marking to those more talented, like Tompkins. My main support for the tactic is height; Liverpool doesn't really have the players to mark man-to-man.

And, no offense, but Spearing or Plessis? Did we watch the same preseason? The last thing I think we want to do is take Lucas out of the side and kill his confidence further. He has to play - Liverpool needs him until at least Aquilani is fit - and he needs to put today's game behind him as soon as possible.

Mike Georger said...

The preseason in which Lucas and Babel stood out above everyone? I was excited about that fact. But ... it was the preseason. I told myself it would be different than when Voronin, or Gonzalez, or Penannt, or Ngog, shined in the preseason, but I think I was lying to myself.

Mike Georger said...

Okay that's unfair to Ngog.

Anonymous said...

Last season,ManU got 5 points from their first 4 games....Im was gutted by the performance of last nite ...

CSD said...

We've played three very different teams and have used basically the same system. What is Rafa's deal with not changing the formation? We knew that it would be difficult for the fullbacks to get forward in this one. Ugh.

By the way, always enjoy the posts. Keep it up.

Anonymous said...

let's not panic here. It was a bad showing all around. If we must point fingers, Gerrard had an absolute howler of a game. Visibly frustrated, disappearing for long stretches, and giving the ball away with alarming regularity.

Look at last years standings: United lost FOUR games! And can be expected to loose that many this year. We lost the league because we drew too many games. The season is hardly over.

Mike Georger said...

Saw a stat this morning that made me feel better. If we can turn six of our eleven draws into four wins and two loses, that's still a gain of six points from last year.

Kind of bummed Nemeth went out on loan. Considering how thin we are at striker I was hoping he'd get some bench time, and I really hope this isn't an indication that they don't think he's progressing.