Kelly Skrtel Agger Johnson
Meireles Poulsen Lucas
Kuyt Torres Jovanovic
The perfect start, fitting for a new era. Then the old era crept in. It's going to take more than "good feelings" to fix this side.
When Torres scored in the third minute, sent through by Kelly and smashing over Kingson from an acute angle, it looked as if we'd see a new Liverpool. The attacking, mobile 4-3-3 formation demonstrated intent.
But that formation, and individual mistakes, let Liverpool down fairly quickly. Blackpool leveled less than ten minutes later because of errors from Torres, Meireles, and Agger: misplaced passes from the first two let Taylor-Fletcher in, while Agger wasn't strong enough to hold the striker off, his "tackle" unluckily letting the Scouser in for the equalizer.
And because of the horrors from the past six months, confidence plummeted. Blackpool could have had a second minutes later, only Campbell headed wide from six yards out following a corner. Liverpool remained completely disjointed until the final minutes of the half, when Agger headed at the keeper from a free kick and Kingson just kept out Lucas' near-post flick from a corner.
But with no ability to string anything together in attack, Blackpool were by far the better side after the interval. Their confidence increased with every kick, while Liverpool's vanished – especially in defense. Only Reina prevented Blackpool from quickly getting a second, saving shots from Adam and Vaughan ten minutes after the restart.
Liverpool started to build up some slight momentum – Torres volleyed over, Meireles shot wide, and Kingson saved Kuyt's bouncing effort from distance – but mistakes and poor defending soon condemned the away side. Another Meireles giveaway led to a corner when Agger got back to block Phillips' effort. While Liverpool cleared their lines, Blackpool quickly regrouped, Evatt easily out-jumped Skrtel to head across goal, and Campbell easily headed in when Johnson abdicated any defensive responsibilities.
And that's when morale hit rock bottom. There was little attempt at a comeback after Blackpool's second. Having conceded, and lost a lead, so often this season, you could clearly see heads drop. Other than a Meireles header over the bar and a cast-iron penalty shout for handball – ignored because of a questionable push – Liverpool had no response. Blackpool spent the majority of the final 20 minutes toying with their opponents, which would be the height of humiliation had Liverpool not been humiliated so often this season.
I didn't get on Hodgson's back after the first couple of games, and I won't get on Dalglish's. Confidence is at an all-time low, and it's evident in almost every single player. Only Reina, Lucas, Kelly, and Torres can come away with any credit today.
But there were some exceptionally questionable line-up decisions which came back to haunt Liverpool. Glen Johnson is not a left-back – he's only played there once for Liverpool, against Atletico in last year's Europa League, where his mistake led to the goal that knocked Liverpool out of the competition. Jovanovic, finally given a chance by the new manager, completely disappointed. Kuyt continued his dismal form when not playing against the likes of Chelsea or United. Et cetera, et cetera...
Up until Blackpool's second, Liverpool at least tried to play football, tried to pass the ball through midfield instead of hoofing and hoping. But the lack of quality in the final third other than Torres' moment of magic and the utter lack of self-belief are unfortunate holdovers from the previous regime. A tired side following Sunday's match – which led to many of the line-up changes – didn't help; that Blackpool rested nearly its entire side in the FA Cup made a difference.
I'm already dreading the 'see, it wasn't Hodgson's fault!' comments. Hodgson's at fault for the total lack of confidence. That's not to ignore today's team selection or the individual performances. But it's Dalglish's job to restore morale, and that won't happen overnight. And it's the job of FSG and Comolli to provide funds to fix the glaring holes in the squad – specifically at left back and in attacking width, which isn't news to anyone.
At least it should be harder for the team to roll over on Sunday, at Anfield against their most bitter rivals. If Liverpool can't get up for that game, maybe the problems do run far deeper than the manager.