Johnson Skrtel Carragher Insua
Kuyt Gerrard Benayoun
Jovetic 28’ 37’
Decisively and deservedly beaten. Out-Europed in Europe. Liverpool never got in gear and Fiorentina were fantastic, besting Liverpool at its own game in the first half and smothering the life out of them in the second.
Playing Aurelio in midfield was a gamble, and it absolutely didn’t pay off. Liverpool were rarely able to create any attacking cohesion or string more than four passes together (may be slight exaggeration), and came under increasing pressure as Fiorentina gained a foothold. Jovetic flashed a warning in the 16th, breaking down the left with Skrtel back to timely block his shot. The reprieve only lasted 12 minutes, when the same player beat the offside trap (two Fiorentina players were off, but it looked like Insua and Johnson played Jovetic on) and beat Reina.
Liverpool had no reply and Fiorentina kept up the pressure. All too often, Liverpool pens teams in. It’s not a pleasant sight seeing it happen to the Reds. Vargas forced a good save from Reina three minutes after Jovetic’s opener, and it was the winger’s dangerous low ball into the area that Jovetic redirected past Reina at the near post in the 37th. Down 0-2 and unable to sustain any attack. Awesome.
Soon after the second goal, Setanta flashed a graphic that said Liverpool had the edge in possession 53-47%. Ha. They did little with it. It took until the 35th minute for Liverpool to get a shot on target – a Gerrard effort from distance that tamely rolled to the keeper – and it was the only one in the first half.
Halftime prompted a decent response, and things could have gone differently had Benayoun cut it back instead of shooting in the 47th or Lucas’ header from the subsequent corner hadn’t been a foot over the bar. But after 10-15 minutes of pressure, Fiorentina frustrated the away side into going through the motions. Kuyt had the ball in the net in the 75th, and who knew what infringement the ref stopped play for, but he stopped play. And from there, we ended not with a bang, but a whimper. Babel and Voronin were sent on for Insua and Kuyt respectively, but the lone chances in the final 15 minutes were a few speculative Gerrard efforts and a Torres volley high and wide created by Skrtel of all people.
Gamberini and Dainelli doubled Torres throughout, preventing the striker from doing much damage, and Kuyt, Gerrard, and Benayoun were usually too penned back to offer much support. All three ended up dropping deeper and more central to compensate for the midfield. Special mention goes out to Gamberini and left back Gobbi, who were both excellent, but Fiorentina’s team defense kept Liverpool from settling in the slightest. The misplaced passes and heavy touches didn’t help, but Fiorentina earned their three points.
I absolutely hate bringing it up, seeing as I wrote it yesterday and take no joy from being “right” in this situation, but two of my biggest fears were realized. One, Jovetic caused massive problems, evidenced by his first half brace. His second goal was right place, right time striker’s luck in the box, but the first, beating the offside trap, was something Liverpool should have seen coming. I was similarly impressed as to how he dropped into midfield to defend and hold up play in the second half.
Two, as much as I like Aurelio as a player, this is why I didn’t want to see him in midfield. It’s one thing if Liverpool’s playing Portsmouth, where they’ll see most of the ball and Aurelio will be able to exploit his range of passing. Even though he’s a defender, he’s not a midfield destroyer. Liverpool needed a midfield destroyer badly today. While it limits his gifts, Gerrard has the ability to be a midfield destroyer.
No one escapes with any credit, but I was most disappointed in Benayoun, Skrtel, Aurelio, and Kuyt. I’ve condemned the central midfield more than is probably deserved, while Liverpool often hinges on Benayoun and Kuyt and neither could knit play together today.
The only sliver of optimism is that this result will put a chip on the team’s shoulders for the trip to Chelsea. That’s all I got. Well, that and the fact that Liverpool have four more group stage games to rectify this performance.