Johnson Carragher Skrtel Insua
Kuyt Gerrard Benayoun
Lucas (og) 34’
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.