29 August 2009

Liverpool 3-2 Bolton

Johnson Carragher Kyrgiakos Insua
Lucas Mascherano
Kuyt Gerrard Riera

Davies 33’
Johnson 41’
Cohen 47’
Torres 56’
Gerrard 83’

Lucky, lucky Liverpool. The way this season’s going, that sort of luck is deserved. Any port in a storm.

It was a sloppy and subdued first half, with Liverpool unable to assert themselves as Muamba marked Gerrard out of the game. Once again, too many giveaways and not enough cut and thrust. Torres was especially disappointing early on, unable to get on the end of a couple of dangerous balls.

Bolton started to threaten after a couple of sloppy giveaways by Kyrgiakos around the half-hour mark, Torres almost headed in his own net from a Taylor free kick, and Bolton scored their first league goal of the season from the resulting corner. Yes, another set piece. Naturally.

Another Matty Taylor ball in, Liverpool were unable to clear after Elmander flicked across goal over Insua, and Davies (of course Davies) prodded in from two yards out after Carra backed off him. Christ. As much as it pains me to write, Carragher has to take a lot of the blame for the set pieces as the organizer of the defense and the most-experienced player. It’s not a coincidence his name keeps cropping up when I’m describing the goal Liverpool conceded.

Thankfully, Johnson again came to the rescue (£17m, you’re having a laugh). He’s been Liverpool’s only consistent performer and easily the best player so far this season. And after Gerrard’s corner was only half-cleared, the right back sent in a low, left-footed shot which beat Jaaskelainen.

However, just like against Spurs and Villa, Liverpool could have given it right back. Reina had to magnificently palm away Taylor’s free kick in the 45th. Yes, another set piece. Sigh. And that wasn’t the last time.

90 seconds into the second half, Jaaskelainen took a deep free kick in his own half. Liverpool were unable to clear the bouncing ball, Carragher slipped, and Cohen hammered in. You can’t make this shit up. That would be three out of four games where Liverpool has conceded within six minutes of scoring.

Thankfully, Alan Wiley soon bailed Liverpool out, although it’s Sean Davis’s own fault. In the 54th, Davis caught Lucas’ heels on the break, and saw his second yellow after the Brazilian complained. Probably soft, but I’ll definitely take it. Seconds later, Gerrard blasted against the crossbar after a corner.

But the equalizer wasn’t long in coming, as Torres struck his third of the season in the 56th. Kuyt chested the ball perfectly for the striker from Gerrard’s chip over the top, and Torres made no mistake. No matter the harsh sending off, that was a beautiful goal.

With 10 men, Muamba couldn’t solely man-mark Gerrard, and the captain started to further influence proceedings, albeit from deep with Liverpool either 4-1-4-1 or 4-4-2 (after Voronin came on for Masch in the 74th). Gerrard had a few efforts from distance either blocked or narrowly wide, including one that should have been a handball on Cohen.

As time trickled away, it looked like Liverpool might be frustrated despite the numerical superiority as Bolton kept all 10 men behind the ball. We'd seen that before, after all. But, finally, the captain broke the deadlock. Johnson crossed in after a short corner, Torres jumped highest to head down, and Gerrard perfectly placed it past Jaaskelainen from 12 yards. Oh late winners, how I’ve missed you. And that's why Gerrard's shouldn't take corners – not only are his often subpar, but he's far more dangerous lurking in and around the box.

Unable to find the fourth despite two good chances (a Benayoun volley wide and a Torres tap-in that was just cleared off the line), hoofed punts forward frightened, and given how the season's gone, it wouldn't have been a surprise to see a soft equalizer. But Liverpool saw out the win and got the three much-needed points. Thank you, baby Jesus.

It obviously wasn’t the best performance. Set piece defense is still atrocious, and the sending off was fortunate. But any win will do with three points from the first three games. Johnson was probably the best player on the pitch, Torres was kicked all over the park, but still got a goal and assist, improving as the game went on, while Gerrard saw more of the ball playing deeper, especially after he lost Muamba as his shadow. And, of course, it’s the captain with the winner. Finally, other than a couple of silly giveaways, I thought Kyrgiakos had a solid debut, and his height definitely helped out.

Now, after the hard-fought win, most of the players will go away for the international break. I still think the respite will be good for Liverpool. This team needs to regroup, and the two weeks off away help that (and hopefully see Skrtel, Agger, Aurelio, and Aquilani fitter), even with most of the players featuring for their country.

Forget the first three games – other than learning from the repeated set piece mistakes – and build on this. Burnley at Anfield on 9/12.


Mike Georger said...

Kyrgiakos had an absolutely gorgeous long ball near the start that Torres botched badly, that was pretty sweet. He made a few mistakes, but considering the circumstances, yeah, he did well.

Really think we need Agger and Skrtel together sooner than later to get this team further up the table.

Have a take on Babel not being in the side Nate?

Rick said...

If you plan on making any more charts, it might be interesting to see one on goals conceded from set pieces versus those scored in regular play (or even with the set pieces divided into corners and free kicks). It might be a revealing look at some of our defensive deficiencies.

nate said...

I love my readers.

Nice idea, Rick. I think I'll compare 07-08 and 08-09 at the least.

I don't really have an opinion on Babel, Georger. I doubt there are any ulterior motives - like his sale - but if he is sold before the deadline a replacement better be bought.

And yes, I can't wait until Agger and Skrtel are the CB pairing as well.

Mike Georger said...

Another omission from the team this year has been El Zhar, I don't know if he's hurt or what but he had some great sub performances last year.

yowie11 said...

is it just me, but is a lot of our play in our own half this season. like i mean passing side to side between defenders and midfielders. lucas and masch have to try harder to find players longer out wide because carragher is def not a passer as much as he tries. im not sure if this is too outrageous but wen aurelio is fit do u reckon he can play the deep lying midfielder role like he once did last season? oh yeh and on ur previous post diouf plays for blackburn now right?

Shaun Loh said...

El Zhar hasnt recovered from his injury in the preseason friendly...everybody is focusing on our creativity...but i think our defence really needs to be sorted out first.

Mike Georger said...

Thanks Shaun.

nate said...

Yeah, I realized that this morning, Yowie. An incredible brain fart on my part. I thought about deleting it, but it's another reminder that I often don't know what I'm talking about.

Second, Liverpool's always patiently prodded along the backline. It's just more noticeable this season because there's no Alonso to unlock the defense with a 60-yard ball. Maybe that means Aurelio will get a chance, but I doubt it. I think he'd only fill in there if there are injuries, like against Pompey last season (btw, was it just me, or was today's game a lot like last season's 3-2 over Pompey?).

Mike Georger said...

I wouldn't be shocked if we saw a defender moved into the playmaker role. But I don't think it will be Aurelio, I think it will be Agger. I'm pushing really hard for this to happen (assuming Carragher can settle down and Skrtel stops getting punched in the face). His passing is incredible and he can certainly lock down the midfield if need be.

Anonymous said...

I don't think we'll ever see Rafa play Agger as a central midfielder, and honestly I'm not sure he should play there. How much sense does it really make to take one of the best young defenders around and turn him into a midfielder? I also have trouble imagining an Agger - Mascherano or Agger - Lucas middle pairing being very fruitful.

nate said...

I'm with Marlon. Why take a great defender - and the passing attribute is what makes him a "great" defender - and try to turn him into a passable midfielder. If anyone, it's Aurelio, and I still don't think it's likely.

Just get Agger back into the team (and plz stay healthy, Danny).

Mike Georger said...

I don't think it's a permanent solution. But if all three of our main centerbacks are healthy, and Lucas continues to suck, and god forbid something happens to Aquiliani (never will spell his name right) I think it's a short term option. No crazier than when we have had to play Carra in the position in the past (obviously too old for it now). Or if Mascherano gets a red or hits the yellow limit (lets be honest, it'll be a damn miracle if one of the two doesn't happen), I'm not sure if I would rather trust Spearing or Plessis in the more tackling midfielder role.

Anonymous said...

Mike we all love Danny's left peg, but don't get carried away. He's just not a midfielder.

Mike Georger said...

Either is Lucas!

Yeah you guys are probably right.

I'm watching the PSV game on ESPN Deportes right now and Jan Kromkamp is playing. What a horrible horrible player he was.

skinny65 said...

I just wanted to say thank you for mentioning that Gerrard should not be taking corners. I scream at the tv with each one. They never have any pace and are far too easy to defend against. Drives me nuts!