Johnson Kyrgiakos Skrtel Konchesky
Cole Gerrard Lucas Maxi
Benjani 38' 57'
The most embarrassing defeat in a season full of them.
We saw a side more shapeless than against Blackpool. A loss more unexpected than the 2-0 drubbing at Stoke, and far more unexpected that the deserved thumping suffered at Manchester City. It may have been less embarrassing than being beaten by Everton, but it was far less respectable as well. That Gerrard scored a consolation ten minutes from time and missed a penalty (which he won) with five remaining shouldn't obscure matters. Liverpool only marginally got back into the game because Blackburn shut off and starting defending their penalty box, in contrast to the usual harrying tactics that have beaten Hodgson's Liverpool with depressing regularity. If today isn't the straw that breaks the camel's back, the camel's utterly impervious.
And again, defensive mistakes were the culprit. Johnson switched off, allowing Olsson in behind, for the first. Kyrgiakos was beaten all ends up by Benjani, of all strikers, for the second. And Johnson and Skrtel both waved Hoillett towards goal from an impossible position for the third, with the midfielder easily squaring for Benjani's brace. It's little coincidence that defensive uncertainty returned after Agger and Aurelio reclaimed to their usual positions – the bench.
But Liverpool's insipidity again stemmed from a completely uncoordinated attack bereft of any ideas. As has happened all too often away from Anfield, there was zero plan once Liverpool got into Blackburn's half. Shakier and far more prone to punting up-field with Kyrgiakos and Konchesky back in the line-up, we had the added bonus of more Cole giveaways when attempting to run with the ball. And Cole actually created most of the offense before Gerrard fired back at the end, with a strike across goal in the 27th and the first shot to actually trouble Bunn in the 74th.
There's little point in a blow-by-blow match review: today was basically every away match but Bolton with the added bonus of conceding more than usual while actually scoring a consolation in the process. And make no mistake, no player did himself credit today. Once again, Gerrard came alive in the final ten minutes – and shouldn't be blamed for missing one penalty out of the countless he's taken – but spent the previous 80 far too far away from the action in attack yet again because of Hodgson's love affair with 4-4-2 and the captain's supposedly preferred position. Of course, morale has been plummeting through the floor for the duration of the season; it's hard to forgive, but it's understandable that the will to live disappeared after conceding first in yet another away match.
Liverpool have now lost one less away game than through all of the previous horrific campaign, conceding just one less goal as well. Of course, that's comparing 10 games to 18. Liverpool were never in 11th last season, let alone as late as January, having conceded more goals than they've scored. Five points from the bottom of the table, 19 points from the top. Blaming the previous manager is the trendy thing to do amongst the English fourth estate, but this season's dire statistics both home and away fall mainly at the feet of the current gaffer. But he simply can't be blamed; the nasty Spaniard lost the empire, not our nice old respectable English bloke.
Today's tactics were once again incomprehensible. Agger and Aurelio were "rested" with the FA Cup in mind – even though a cup run does little to alleviate the perilous league position – and the defense completely lost the positives from Saturday's match. All four made costly individual mistakes while resorting to the usual hoofs from the back instead of building up play. Blackburn, with players like Nelsen and Samba – neither of whom started in the previous meeting – ate up balls over the top and crosses from the flank, but Liverpool didn't deviate from the attacking "plan," which led to Ngog rendered irrelevant and Torres completely frustrated. As said above, Gerrard's attacking talents are often wasted when a central midfielder in a 4-4-2, especially away from home (in contrast to the magic weaved against Bolton). Today did not make sense and it was readily evident from the opening whistle and in the final score.
It would be nice symmetry if Hodgson lost his job after losing to the last English team he ruined. It's impossible (or massively depressing) to think that he'll be in the dugout come Sunday.