23 July 2011

Liverpool 0-3 Hull City

First Half
Kelly Carragher Ayala Robinson
Poulsen Coady
Cole Aquilani Maxi

Second Half
Flanagan Kyrgiakos Wilson Insua
Spearing Adam
Kuyt Henderson Downing

Brady 21'
Koren 34'
Simpson 58'

Let's get the excuses out of the way now.

• It's preseason
• It's because Liverpool wore blue (fine, white with cyan trim)
• Hull, at home, wanted it more
• It's preseason
• Liverpool were missing Suarez, Gerrard, Reina, Lucas, Johnson, Meireles, Agger and Skrtel.
• All of Hull's goals had an element of luck
• It's preseason

Continuing defensive mistakes are both frightening and disappointing. Liverpool rarely looked like scoring, especially in the first half. The side frequently looked flat, slow, disjointed, and second-best. Of course, it is preseason. All that matters is players' fitness.

Nonetheless, the first half was particularly torpid. With the likes of Cole, Aquilani, Ngog and Poulsen involved, Dalglish shined a spotlight on those Liverpool would like to sell. Georger succinctly summarized the subsequent result on Twitter: "If this is a shopwindow tactic, the store is on fire and any potential customers are fleeing for their lives."

It's tough to decide which was more disconcerting: conceding two regrettable goals or the complete inability to dictate possession in midfield. Hull's 4-4-2 often danced through Poulsen and Coady while Liverpool resorted to chipped balls over the top, often from Carragher or the Danish midfielder. Sometimes Ngog held play up, trying to involve runners, sometimes attackers looked to run past the last defender. It rarely worked; the lone drama came when Hull's on-loan-from-Liverpool keeper Peter Galaxy (© @sidewaysdown) saved Ngog's blast set up by Aquilani, with Cole ballooning the rebound into orbit.

Meanwhile, Hull tallied twice. First, Robbie Brady steamed down Liverpool's right with both Kelly and Cole caught upfield. Coady backed off long enough for the winger to cut in and around the retreating Kelly (at least he, unlike Cole, actually retreated), with the fortunately-deflected shot curling into the far corner. 13 minutes later, Hull's midfield triangles easily carved through Liverpool's tender underbelly, again giving the attacker – this time Robert Koren – space to sumptuously blast in from the top of the box.

Liverpool looked sharper after the interval with more of the first team involved, including new boys Downing, Adam, and Henderson. Downing nearly notched with his first touch, set up by Kuyt but well-saved by Basso, before again testing the keeper with a tame half-volley. But Hull's third came at the worst possible time, sending the visitors back to their corner just as momentum mounted. Hull again passed and moved through the midfield, ending with Kilbane's open cross from Liverpool's right. Adebola beat Wilson in the air and Insua played Simpson (just) onside, turning and firing past Jones.

After five or so more wonky minutes, Liverpool reestablished the upper hand, but that upper hand was often parried by excellent defending from center-backs Chester and McShane, as well as McKenna from midfield in the second half. Carroll poked wide following a swift counter-attack, Henderson had the ball in the net but was well offside, and Basso smartly prevented Kuyt's injury time consolation. That's about it. Otherwise, Liverpool attacks broke down in the packed final third, while Downing was far less effective on the right after switching with Kuyt midway through the frame.

But, in case I haven't mentioned it yet, it's preseason. No one got hurt, and Clarke and Dalglish have more footage of mistakes to use in their ongoing attempt to beat defenders out of their complacency.

The next stop on the Fumble Toward Sunderland train stops in Turkey in five days time against Galatasaray.


Mike Georger said...

Here's my plan:

1) Fire the new and improved fitness Aussies or whatever the hell they are and replace them with hypnotists.

2) Hypnotize Insua to thinking that opposing players are sandwiches, guaranteeing he'll never let one get past him.

3) Flog anyone who even remotely suggests we don't need at least two new defensive signings.

4) Have Insua sit on anyone who says that Kelly is ready and can start on the right with Johnson on the left.

5) Get rid of Jay Spearing.

Sam said...

I'm not saying the defense isn't a worry, but considering the starting back six against Sunderland will almost certainly be Reina, Aurelio/New LB, Agger/Skrtel, Carra, Johnson and Lucas and a grand total of ONE of those players played at all today, I'm not sure how relevant it is.

Mike Georger said...

It's relevant because Agger and Aurelio are sick notes and Johnson has injury questions too. When three of your four first choice (on talent) defenders miss substantial time and no reinforcements have been brought in, that's a major concern.

One of the Echo writers just said the biggest bright spot of the game was Kelly. Really?

Mike Georger said...

ESPN's recap says that Doni should have done better with the first goal and it's cause for concern about Reina's deputy. I fucking hate this sport sometimes.

Anonymous said...

Downing and Adam played well but I wasn't impressed by Henderson. I wish Dalglish could have played Aquilani with better players, he didn't have a good game but you could see he was a class above Cole Maxi Poulsen and Coady. And defense can be worried about later when we get our actual defense on the pitch

Mike Georger said...

58. 58 league appearances between Johnson, Agger, and Aurelio. We have to reinforce the defense. Not doing so is the best way to derail a season that is probably the most important we've had in a decade.

Keith C said...

Mike: I definitely don't disagree with your assessment of the defense -- I was excited when I saw they were linked with Zapata, and somewhat disappointed when they lost out -- but one thing working in our favor this year will be the absence of midweek European ties. It should mean what, something like 10-15 less games over the course of the season? That's not insignificant...

Your point still stands, though. I think the goodwill and fervor around Dalglish's second half masked some of the defensive issues. I'm not as concerned about the full-backs (it's far from a strong spot, don't get me wrong), but the centerback situation is a bit frightening. Both Carragher and Kyrgiakos are in decline -- Carragher, of course, is falling from a bit higher peak, so he's still useful. The latter looked absolutely looked past it last season. Skrtel seems to have his moments, but I don't think he's nearly consistent enough to be anything more than a third or fourth CB option on a team hoping to reach the top four. And, while I love Agger, his health is unreliable (putting it nicely). Is there anyone from within that's positioned to possibly take a step up? Ayala? Wilson?