19 September 2010

Liverpool 2-3 Manchester United

Johnson Carragher Skrtel Konchesky
Gerrard Poulsen
Maxi Meireles Cole

Berbatov 42' 59' 84'
Gerrard 64' (pen) 70'

Liverpool, you are trying to break my heart.

Two-nil down and all was lost. Liverpool had gifted United the lead near the end of a tepid first half when man-marking failed on a corner, then Berbatov doubled his tally right before the hour mark with a stunning individual goal. But somehow, they reeled us back in: a Gerrard penalty – yes, Liverpool again won a spot kick at Old Trafford – and free kick within the span of six minutes saw Liverpool level. But John O'Shea somehow stayed on the pitch when fouling Torres to set up Liverpool's equalizer. And he's the one who provided Berbatov's winner, for the Bulgarian's hat-trick. Life is not fair. This sport is not fun.

Liverpool set up as expected, focused on keeping the shape and keeping United off the score-sheet. Packing the midfield with Poulsen, Gerrard, and Meireles (who again played further forward than the skipper), Liverpool created absolutely nothing in attack – with Johnson's 25th-minute shot wide the half's only attempt on goal – but United's frightening moments were limited to Nani's missed sitter in the 16th minute despite the Portuguese winger targeting Konchesky (and diving at every possible opportunity).

But then man-marking saw Torres out-muscled by Berbatov and Konchesky unable to help from the near post to give United a barely-deserved lead going into the break. As per usual, Liverpool were marginally more cohesive after the interval, but Berbatov doubled the lead with a brilliant bicycle kick, back to goal and controlling the ball before rifling it into the top of the net, after Konchesky gave Nani – who had hit the post two minutes earlier – too much space to cross.

At that point, it looked like Liverpool were on their way to another City-esque embarrassment. Which made for odd viewing when they were level ten minutes later once Torres sprung to life. First, Evans clumsily fouled the striker after Cole's throughball found El Niño in the box, with Gerrard sending Van der Sar the wrong way from the spot. Six minutes later, with United reeling, Meireles split the defense with a pass aimed for Torres, only to see O'Shea – the last defender – haul the striker down at the top of the area. Webb, who had been "favorable" to Liverpool until that point (any ref who dares give the opposition a penalty at Old Trafford is "favorable), only brandished yellow. Gerrard's free kick made its way through the wall thanks to Fletcher creating a gap, but you just knew O'Shea staying on the pitch would come back to haunt Liverpool.

Even though United were on the ropes, Liverpool couldn't take advantage, and the home side began penning the ball in the opposition half. Hodgson showed ambition, and made the right decision, in bringing on Ngog for the uninspired Maxi moments before the penalty, but once the sides were level, Liverpool's 4-4-2 formation (as Jovanovic also replaced Meireles in the 79th) allowed United more time in the middle of the pitch. And in the 84th, Berbatov made them pay. Yes, that languid misfit. Who's now a United cult hero.

Once again, United was given too much space on the flanks with Konchesky and Jovanovic sucked inside, and Berbatov out-jumped a static Carragher to head in O'Shea's cross. Despite Liverpool's priorities so far this season, the defense lost this game. Berbatov deserves a massive amount of credit for his performance, but two of those goals were regrettable to say the least. Carragher and Konchesky, as well as Torres' man-marking on the corner, should come in for the most criticism.

It's only been five games, and yes, era of turmoil off the pitch, new manager, etc., but this loss means it's Liverpool's worst start to a league campaign in 18 years. There were some poor performances in addition to the two soft goals – Maxi was awful, Poulsen had shaky moments, and no one in Liverpool's backline inspired confidence – but this was still one of Liverpool's better displays in the league, even considering the lack of attack outside of those six crazy minutes. Yes, that's not a heart-warming sentiment, but it was never going to be an easy game. Nearly every team is on the back-foot at Old Trafford, and Hodgson has focused on making the team disciplined and stingy, not pushing players forward. That just broke down at two terrible moments which United took advantage of, and those involved in the breakdowns have to bear the blame. And it wouldn't be Liverpool vs United without the controversy of O'Shea not sent off to add the expected kick to the crotch.

The positives were the mental fortitude needed to haul the team back into the game, created by Liverpool's talismans: Torres won both the penalty and free kick, and Gerrard converted both. The captain was Liverpool's man of the match, while Meireles also had an impressive league debut considering circumstances and opposition. It was surprising to see Cole on the left, and he wasn't nearly as involved as when in behind the striker, but his runs created space for Konchesky to get forward (pity that his crosses were awful, but all of Liverpool's crosses were awful; Maxi and Johnson were just as guilty) and he provided the pass that won the penalty.

This is gut-wrenching, heart-breaking, and demoralizing. Liverpool were second-best for long stretches, but it still feels like a point lost, a much-needed point that could have raised spirits immensely. However, if Liverpool can replicate the 15 or so minutes following United's second – again delivering a better performance after halftime – there might be light at the end of the tunnel. At least on the pitch.


ace cowboy said...

Nice review, as usual. Gotta get six points from the next six available leading up to the derby. If not, it's over before it starts.

Anonymous said...

Liverpool win or lose are pathetic and it points to Roy defensive 4411. There is no difference between this match and Birmingham or WBA. Start to miss rafa, at least win or lose Liverpool always looked like the one to win the match. Not this frustrating Roy.

nate said...

Not to be glib, but there was a difference: Liverpool scored twice. It wasn't enough, and Liverpool still have had less possession and fewer shots on goal than in almost every game last season, but it's the first time the team's scored two in the league this season.

Anonymous said...

Don't blame lucas and polsen midfield partnership as it doesn't matter as long as Roy tactic is timid or bend over for any team even WBA. Dreadful display. Roy's tactic is so obvious, tries not to lose away or even home. If anyone disagree ask yourself so far against any BPL teams is Roy set up his team to win? Ars, mancy, WBA, bir and of course mu. The quality of players Liverpool have shouldn't play like bend over for any teams. Maybe that is Roy all a long.

Anonymous said...

It is the attitude and mentality of Roy that need to be examined. This is liv, not fulham so play like one. His comments is full of shit. I don't have high expectation, no money, in transition, blah blah blah. Mind you Liverpool still have quality players, Roy so don't talk as if Liverpool like stoke, bus parking team. That is Roy Liverpool f**king bus parking team. If rafa is cautious, Roy is timid.

drew said...

Tempted to dig up my Ferguson rant from last season, because once again I am left staggered by the sheer luck of the man. Tactically he was extremely naive today, setting up in the one formation that actually allows Liverpool time in the midfield. I also can't remember United so sloppy or uninterested. And yet, with Rooney looking utterly at sea (which last year would have meant a toothless United), his afterthought 30m+ signing is suddenly hitting the form of his life.

Losing the game in such circumstances, with United absolutely there for the taking, left an extremely bitter taste in my mouth, something I'm sadly growing very used to. (As is Roy, apparently, given his eagerness to dine on Ferguson's puckered arsehole.) The only bright spot I see is maybe this next run of games giving Torres, Gerrard, Meireles, and Cole a chance to get comfortable together. Once Dirk is back that's still a formidable front, but that won't matter much if we can't defend any better than today.

Honestly, these days I'm much more eager for the Carling Cup and Youth Cup runs, with a chance to see some of the astonishing range of young talent brought in over the last few years. Our only real hope for the next few years, bar the bailout team purchase that isn't going to happen, is that some of those lads come good.

Anonymous said...

I am afraid worst is yet to come. If Roy tactic can't dominate WBA at anfield what make a lot fans out there think liv is going to have easier fixtures after mu? You can have same set of players but manager's tactic and mentality make a lot of difference. Think mu can play like they used to without Alex. Their players are not outstanding but tactics and Alex's attitude and mentality, team play are superb. Do you fans think man for man liv is worse than mu? I don't think so.

Anonymous said...

Youngsters will be sold if other clubs come up with decent fees, so don't bank on it as long as hicks is around. Anyway Roy is shit. He is trying to brainwash liv fans into thinking Liverpool is mid table team at best. Or he is trying to cover his own arse. Great power come with great responsibility. He is irresponsible to say liv fans should not expect much from him afterall he is just here to steady the ship even with quality players at his disposal. If-I-win-I-am-genius-lose-not-my-fault irresponsible prick.

Anonymous said...

Before today game, I am afraid the worst if gutless Roy set out his team to play like against bir or WBA, don't matter Lucas and polsen midfield selection. It is the defensive 4411 tactic and try not to lose attitude will put us to shame. And indeed Roy is so predictable. Other teams must be eager to play us as long as Roy is in the helm.

nate said...

Lots more anti-Roy vehemence than I expected. I felt similar after Birmingham and WBA, not so much today, but I also don't expect much from trips to Old Trafford.

It feels unfair to blame Hodgson with so much shit going on with the owners/board, but I'm also annoyed at the meekness in possession and 'mid-table' tactics. But, again, it's still early days. As Drew said above, Torres, Gerrard, Cole, and Meireles – and when Kuyt comes back – could lead to better in the future. The minimum requirement is bettering last season's form, and right now, Liverpool's taken the same number of points from equivalent fixtures; the difference is a point gained home v Arsenal and a point lost at City. Otherwise, draw at Brum, beating a promoted side at home, and losing at Mancs are the same.

Also, definitely agreed on Carling Cup and reserves matches being more enjoyable. I'd also add Europa League matches like last Thursday's in theory. Really hope there will be streams for Liverpool v Northampton, as it doesn't appear to be on TV, at least in the US. Should be starts for Pacheco, Kelly, Spearing, Wilson, and maybe Shelvey.

Ash said...

Nice report.
I think Konchesky takes some of the blame for the first goal as well, he should be right on the post.
Encouraging signs were Meireles display, he really played some great stuff.
There were two great moments that made me cheer too. One was Konchesky using his strength to win the ball of Nani, who was left on the floor, and then playing the ball out. Nani's acting was tiresome.
The second was Torres shrugging off two or three attempts to snap him by United players. For a short spell, he looked like the Torres of the blonde days.
I also thought Joe Cole looked quite good in the second half, and looks to improve each game. Even bearing in mind this is one of the worst defences United has had in recent times, I thought Liverpool played quite well at times, and you could even argue that before Berba's magical second, the momentum was very much with Liverpool.

TimC said...

Over the last two league games, Liverpool have given up plenty of chances to the opponent through the air (converted twice today, stuffed by Reina last week). Arsenal's equalizer, as aesthetically unappealing as it was, also came from a cross. It is concerning to me that teams have been able to attack the defense with such success from the flanks.

Part of the problem lies with the center of defense and the issues those players are having in dealing with big forwards. But I also think some of the issues are coming from further up the pitch and how the wide midfielders/wingers are being deployed by Roy. It seems to me that the 4411/442 that Hodgson can go to drops our wide players deeper into our own half and allows opposing fullbacks more space and time to move forward. O'Shea was a factor today and I do not think that he is so talented a player that he should have been. When our centerbacks are looking so shaky in the air, it is puzzling to me that the tactics laid out by Roy are allowing opponents to send the ball in from such dangerous areas. Hopefully getting Kuyt back helps out in this area but simply waiting for him would allow opponents to continue to pound our box with crosses.

steven. said...

our lack of width really factored in today, as did our fragility from set pieces and corners .. besides all that, it was probably one of our best performances against top drawer opposition in recent memory ..

shame it couldn't have amounted to at least a point.

Ken said...

Nate Liverpool didn't break you heart, Roy did.