09 November 2009

Liverpool 2-2 Birmingham

Johnson Skrtel Agger Insua
Lucas Mascherano
Benayoun Kuyt Riera

Ngog 13’
Chucho 26’
Jerome 45+3’
Gerrard 71’ (pen)

The beach ball season rolls on. That’s seven league games without a win against Birmingham.

And both sides will feel cheated. With the amount of possession and chances, it’s two more points dropped by Liverpool. In front thanks to yet another set piece goal conceded by Liverpool and a wonderful second, Birmingham will rue Ngog’s dive for glory, which rescued said point.

After a quarter of the game, it looked to be just what was needed. Liverpool were ahead after patiently carving open Birmingham. Ngog scored a wonderful left-footed volley from Riera’s cross after Hart miraculously kept out two previous efforts. The home side were on top, especially down the right, as the beating Glen Johnson was giving Liam Ridgewell would see him jailed in 37 states. Didn’t last. Couldn’t last. Not this season.

It started when Liverpool conceded what was probably the dumbest equalizer of the season, which is saying something. Lucas gave up an insanely soft free kick, holding on a goal kick. McFadden lofted it into the box, and Birmingham won two headers (Roger Johnson at the back post over Glen and Ridgewell over Skrtel) before Chucho pounced from about a yard out. This is a short team, missing its most important defender, but come on.

Once again, Liverpool were knocked off-stride by conceding. But they still should have retaken the lead with a plethora of chances around the 32nd minute. First, Hart barely tipped over a Mascherano shot from distance on the break. When Birmingham were unable to fully clear the subsequent corner, they were under siege before an open Ngog miskicked and Lucas’s tame effort was cleared off the line by two players. Finally, Skrtel blasted a volley over from the top of the box, giving Birmingham a reprieve Liverpool would dearly regret.

After that, we were back to constant pressure, no end product, before Cameron Jerome notched the best goal he’ll ever score. And Birmingham had the best chance before that, on the break, only to see Reina thankfully come out to push Chucho too wide for a shot on target. Riera and Benayoun switched flanks to little effect, Birmingham blocked a smattering of half-chances, and then Riera pulled up injured, clutching the hamstring that previously kept him out. Surprisingly, Gerrard came on. Surely, Superman would change the game. Well, the game sure changed.

Less than two minutes later, Scott Dann headed out of defense just looking to clear his lines. Jerome collected, held off Mascherano, and unleashed a dipping shot from over 35 yards. Reina, marginally off his line (as he should be in that situation), had no chance. Sums up this season. Liverpool had 75% of the possession and Birmingham had two goals from three shots.

One up and unable to believe their luck, Birmingham were even happier to park the bus in the second half. Had luck been with Liverpool, Kuyt would have won a penalty in the 51st when Ridgewell clipped his ankle in the act of shooting. Of course, if luck had been with Liverpool at all this season, they wouldn’t have been in this situation.

Naturally, you’ll counter with “you make your own luck.” Which is exactly what Ngog did. More and more frustration led to sloppier and sloppier play until the 63rd, when Gerrard caromed a header off the post. From there, Liverpool found another gear and turned up the pressure before Ngog dove his way to an equalizer six minutes later.

Let’s get it out of the way now. We’re all against diving. Diving is bad for the sport. I’m sure more than a few British pundits will mention Ngog’s from France. At this point, I’d push my own mother down a flight of stairs for a Liverpool win, and she’s just recovering from a broken ankle. So I’m not going to complain if Ngog goes down when Carsley lunges in. Ngog and Carsley had some handbags – understandable on Carsley’s part – and both saw yellow before Gerrard sent Hart the wrong way.

That was the point where Liverpool would find the breakthrough. That was the point where Liverpool would turn the season around, get the winner, and go into the international break deeply relieved, only a point behind fourth. Ha. At least they didn’t concede. Again.

Liverpool found chances harder and harder to come by with 10, then 11 men packed in Birmingham’s box. The home side saw all of the ball, and Birmingham were all hands on deck, but the breakthrough wasn’t coming. Continuing the luck with injuries, Benayoun pulled up with a hamstring injury in the 78th (for those counting at home, that’s two attackers lost to hamstring injuries today), with Babel coming on, before Aquilani made his home debut for Lucas in the 83rd.

Unable to write the dream script, I thought Aquilani actually slowed down play too much. Before anyone gets carried away, I’m not blaming him for anything, and I’m thrilled to see him healthy. But with Benayoun and Lucas out, Liverpool resorted to crosses and hoofs from the middle, and Birmingham’s defenders had more than enough to keep that out, even with Liverpool throwing every man forward.

For the next two weeks, I’ll be reduced to repeating ‘at least it’s a point’ in an effort to keep sane, fully aware that Liverpool needed a dive to draw against the 15th placed side. That’s normally, and obviously, not good enough – even against a bogey team like Brum with injuries as they are. But this hasn’t been a “normal” season for some time now. The team’s holding on by their fingernails.

At least it’s a point. At least it's a point. Sigh.


Mike Georger said...

"Naturally, you’ll counter with “you make your own luck.” Which is exactly what Ngog did. "

Exactly what I said after it. After the beach ball thing, I'm not even remotely feeling bad about any decision that goes our way.

What irritated me the most was how we stopped trying to get into the box. We were able to get in there and cause problems, even though they were packing it, we were still winning lots of corners. Then for some reason we stopped the attack at the top of the box and just started chucking long shots that had no fucking chance. Between Skrtel, Masche, and Lucas, that's what, three goals in their career for this team? Yet they had no problem shooting at will. I just don't get it.

bfriel0120 said...

Regarding this run of bad luck LFC is having, a lot of this would go away if they could defend at all on these set pieces.

nate said...

What irritated me the most was how we stopped trying to get into the box. We were able to get in there and cause problems, even though they were packing it, we were still winning lots of corners. Then for some reason we stopped the attack at the top of the box and just started chucking long shots that had no fucking chance. Between Skrtel, Masche, and Lucas, that's what, three goals in their career for this team? Yet they had no problem shooting at will. I just don't get it.

This. This is what I was trying to say where it reads like a criticism of Aquilani.

It had a lot to do with both Benayoun and Lucas going off, that's for sure.

Anonymous said...

Donno what was wrong with trying for the long shots?Youd thought Jerome had a chance from 35 yards??But he did score dint he?Other than maybe Skrtel ,Masch n Lucas had every right to go for them,n i think Lucas had what 3 shots? and for 1 of them Hart almost spilled it.You gotto try something different at times,just trying to hoof the ball into the box when they have got 7-8 ppl in the box and we have just 2 hardly works and it dint work yeserday.But i was really pissed with Reiras shooting yesterday,had a lot of other way better options when he tried to shoot and somehow was acting blind.

Lucas was brilliant yesterday, my MOM.Kuyt n Insua were appalling.

Fan Futbol said...

I did not have the "pleasure" of seeing today's match. But for the love of pete -- I cannot believe that better coaching/training on defending set pieces would not improve our woeful performance in that regard.


Mike Georger said...

I have no problem with long shots from someone who has a history of making them (Gerrard) in most situations.

And I don't mind them when it's a situation where you are outnumbered, like their goal today was. You don't have the numbers to set up a sustained attack, so take your shot.

But what bugs the crap out of me is when Lucas or Mascherano try them when we have a sustained build up. Especially when we were able to work the right side so well and get balls into the box. When nothing else is working, okay, fuck it, shoot. But when we were getting in service and forcing saves, don't kill the attack with a very low percentage play. We got a corner out of one of them I think, but I would much rather have Hart peppered with shots from tight angles that will force saves in the field of play. With such a presence in the box like we had the first third of the game, good things tend to happen. Like a series of rebounds eventually falling to Ngog.

Mike Georger said...

And those shots work the best when you catch the keeper out a bit further than he should be, like today, like Insua against Arsenal, like Stevie against 'boro. When the box is packed with players from both sides, the keeper is not as likely to be wandering forward.

Anonymous said...

There was no the Brums were letting Gerrard,probably the only guy with reputaion for shooting in our team have a shot in from distance.
The thing here was it was getting too monotonous with putting the ball into the box and it was just coming back,and for me we just dint have enough people in the box.When most of our attacks/crosses were coming in from the right that takes kuyt(the other candidate to possibly win a header)out and benayoun would never win a header when its packed.So it was just ngog n gerrard.
And most of the shots were after we tried to put the ball in the box a few times , they just was coming back,mostly due to frustration i guess.And really dont remember a save that Hart to make from a goal mouth scramble after the first goal.

And you can hit either side of the keeper when hes standing on the line :P You dont have to score over the keeper all the time do you?

nate said...

Long shooting is so dependent on the individual situation, unless it's Gerrard, who's allowed to shoot whenever he wants. It's a lot tougher to pull a miracle goal like Jerome's when there are eight defenders in the box compared to zero.

Mascherano wasn't as guilty today as some previous games, but he still shoots too much for my liking when he should spread the play. Two glaring chances fell to Skrtel, which led to me screaming "NOOOOOO" at the TV twice. If it had to be a defender, why couldn't it have been Agger. Lucas is the best of the three named, but he's only scored two from long range from my memory. And it was the tame effort cleared off the line after Ngog whiffed around the 32nd which really stood out.

Still, Lucas has a shout for man of the match, although I'd probably pick Johnson. Kuyt's looked fatigued since the last international break (where he picked up a knock), but I was still glad to see him with the armband in Ste and Carra's absence. I didn't think Insua was that bad, but the left flank was woefully underutilized. Had Riera passed to Insua on the break two minutes after Liverpool's opener, I'm convinced the Argentinean would have scored his second, and the game would have been over. Thems the breaks.

Liverpool was having the majority of its success when Johnson, Benayoun, and Ngog were running at defenders and getting to the byline. Led to Ngog's goal, the penalty, and Liverpool's best chances. I thought for sure bringing Babel on would help that even with Yossi off, and yet Liverpool spent the last ten minutes pumping long balls and crosses into the box, which Birmingham ate up. It was infuriating.

It wasn't a matter of Liverpool having enough players in the box; with both Skrtel and Agger forward, and Mascherano taking a late corner, I was deathly afraid Liverpool'd concede another another injury-time winner. It's a matter of not being tall or especially good at set plays, while Birmingham's an incredibly stingy, and taller, defense.

Anonymous said...

Comedy, tragedy. It's all here this season.

Not enough people talking about how shameful Birmingham played. Normally when teams keep a clean sheet by putting everybody but 1, occasionally 2, men in the box they are criticized for their "negative football." Don't know why it's different today. Maybe their two fortunate goals and maybe because of our ridiculous and complete domination.

(And maybe for the shameful dive by N'Gog, who should be benched 5 games for his dive. As a player myself I understand that he was in a tough spot with the tackle, but he went out of his way to sell it and made no attempt to rectify his cheating. Very, very disappointed. That's the replay being shown worldwide right now. Liverpool stands for a bit more than that. It has to stop somewhere and we should be setting an example.)

I understand the team not working straight into the box - Birmingham lined up well and packed it in. Benny wasn't himself with his cuts and Kuyt didn't have a great game. Plus, we were successful all night on both wings, especially Johnsoninho. Our attack was relentless, but when we went for that bite it just happened to have venom-less.

The beach ball season rolls on...


Anonymous said...

Fair enough.

On the shooting thing,even if the box is crowded,if the shot is on TARGET it has as good a probablity for a deflection or the rebound falling to our player,just like a hoof into the box finding our player.

And dont you think Benayoun is not really good enough in the left flank,too predictable,think that was the reason the left flank was underutilized.but hey,Insua is no Johnson.

And absolutely agree with you on Liverpool being no good at setplays,we were first to the ball many times but still couldnt hit the target.And i was talking about not enough players in the box from open plays.

Mike Georger said...

You can't fault any team for parking the bus when they score twice at Anfield. A point from this game would have been massive for them, and considering they have one hell of a record of getting points off us, I don't blame them.