16 July 2011

Liverpool 6-3 Malaysia XI

First Half
Flanagan Carragher Agger Robinson
Spearing Coady Adam
Meireles Cole

Second Half
Kelly Kyrgiakos Wilson Insua
Shelvey Poulsen
Kuyt Aquilani Maxi

- Hansen for Gulasci 69'

Adam 27' (pen)
Rahim 42'
Ngog 68' 70'
Maxi 75' 90+1
Safee 79' 82'
Kuyt 90+4'

Liverpool made sure to entertain on its Far East trip, scoring 10 while conceding six in its two Asian preseason games. Adam tallied his first for the club, Ngog and Maxi both notched for the second-straight match, and Aquilani ran the show after coming on for the second half.

The first half line-up seemingly attempted to be 4-3-3, with Spearing-Coady-Adam forming an effective triangle in midfield, but Cole and Meireles were both too far removed from Carroll and far too wasteful for the formation to truly work.

Liverpool had a near monopoly on the ball, patiently building from the back with Adam in a starring, tempo-settling role, but either of Liverpool's "wingers" would summarily lose possession before truly threatening the Malaysian goal. Midway through the frame, Adam's dangerous deep cross won a soft penalty, with Carroll seemingly pushed by a defender, and the new boy notched both spot kicks after having to retake the first for a supposed encroachment.

But with Liverpool unable to turn possession into more goals, as they did in Guangzhou, Malaysia equalized three minutes before intermission after Adam handled, conceding a free kick 22 yards from goal. Both the wall and Brad Jones' positioning were questionable (read: terrible), but Safiq Rahim's unstoppable blast wasn't.

Again, halftime saw wholesale changes and a completely different XI, similar to the first half against Guangdong – a more orthodox 4-2-3-1 with Ngog up top. Shelvey, holding central midfield with Poulsen, and Aquilani, behind Ngog, were the creative axis, passing their way through the Malaysia midfield time and time again after taking 15 or so minutes to settle.

Ngog took Liverpool from 1-1 to 3-1 in the space of two minutes, first scoring after Insua's cross luckily pinballed around the penalty area for an easy tap-in, then blasting a sweet 18-yard shot past the keeper after Aquilani cleverly found him. Five minutes later, Liverpool had four for the second straight match, again set up by the Italian, who found an open Insua in space with time to send in a low cross for the on-rushing Maxi.

The collapse came earlier than on Wednesday, as Malaysia reduced arrears to 4-3 with goals from Safee in the 79th and 82nd. Hansen was at fault for the first, palming a cutback from the byline to Safee's feet; Wilson was at fault for the second, allowing Safee in behind to run onto Ismail's long-range throughball. The extra time after Liverpool's cheap concessions allowed the visitors time to add even more emphasis to the score, with Maxi's second in the 91st and Kuyt's capstone with the last kick of the game in the 94th.

Once again, there were more positives than negatives, a somewhat-unusual occurrence in Liverpool preseason friendlies. Aquilani, Adam, Shelvey, Spearing, and Kuyt all played well, Ngog and Maxi scored again, Carroll worked diligently in holding up play, and the young fullbacks again showed their clear promise. Cole and Meireles disappointed (as did Hansen in again conceding twice in less than half an hour of action), but I'm tempted to attribute the latter to being shoehorned into an unfamiliar position across from the black hole that is Joe Cole.

The most ink will be spilled over Liverpool's misfit toys: Aquilani was the star of the show, again getting a shout-out from FSG's John Henry, while Insua assisted two of Liverpool's five second half goals. Neither is guaranteed to be on Merseyside come August, but neither did their cause any harm, especially the purposeful Italian.

Liverpool have a week off before the next friendly, back on British shores against Hull City.

FYI: I'll be away for the next four or five days, most likely without internet until Tuesday or Wednesday. Thankfully, Downing and Doni have been signed, so chances are I won't miss anything massive. But if something notable comes up, I'm sure Ed and Noel at Liverpool Offside will eloquently and thoroughly opine on it.

You kids play nice while I'm gone. Don't try to set the babysitter on fire like last time.


DM Osbon said...

Impressed by Aqu' his passing was neat and forward thinking. Got the wing play involved with Insua and found Ngog on a number of occasions. Like you say it's hard to know if he or Insua will be wearing the LFC red come season start.

vinnie said...

I have always rated aquilani and especially insua. both players were rushed in to replace xabi n injured aurelio. haven't watch much of aquilani n not sure how well he'll fair against the physical play of epl in a long run but I always thought that insua was too young to be rushed in

Abhiram said...

John W Henry on twitter:
"One missing link last year: Acquilani. Put the ball near Ngog and the goal and it's going in. Too much talk of them somewhere else."


Hope him and Insua stay. We'll have a formidable team then.
Only dead wood like Cole and Poulsen should be shown the door.

Genusfrog said...

Hello from a Malaysian!

Firstly, indulge me a little pedant - Malay and
Indian names are patronymic, so what looks like a surname is actually the lad's father's first name. Hence, Safiq Rahim should be Safiq. You got Safee right (he's Safee Sali). The Ismail you referred to should be Farisham. :)

Was at the game and it was thrilling, a spectacle, if only just a preseason one. A few thoughts on the game.

I'll start with the disappointments. Carroll looked lazy and unbothered. Leading the line and holding the ball up should have been a piece of cake against comparatively pint-sized center backs but Carroll seemed unclear about how to bring his collages into play. Perhaps Cole and Meireles added to the disjointedness, but neither induced big Andy's haphazardry and disinterest. He better show more desire against Hull now that Downing has been brought in.

It was great to see Adam start and his passing range was immediately evident. More often than not though, they found fullbacks in relatively deep positions rather than wingers making runs at the box.

Aquilani had a good day, as the press has pointed out. Perhaps his role should be as a traditional trequartista, with more defensive colleagues sweeping up behind him. Whether we can afford this luxury, or if it fits Dalglish's ethos, is another matter altogether.

Kudos for Insua for a lively return in a red shirt. It must be noted, though, that he was caught out of position a good few times, especially after Malaysia brought on their first choice right winger Amirulhadi. At least one of these lapses was punished, and Amirulhadi created Safee's first goal from space on the right.

To add a bit more Malaysian perspective, Malaysia's own bluntness was caused in large part by the absence (till very late) of both Safee and Amirulhadi, and Safee's strike partner Norshahrul, who missed the match altogether. The presence of this attacking trident may have punished our rickety second half back line further, remembering that Safee scored twice in the 12 or so minutes he was on. Of course, this might all be inconsequential to most of you, but as a Malaysian, it's only fair to point these things out.

Enjoyed the game, though the mixed allegiance thingy feels strange, and while I celebrated all nine goals, each also felt like a concession. Thanks for the good article.

nate said...

Two days after the fact, but thanks much for that in-depth comment, Genusfrog. Really appreciated. Couple of responses to points you made.

On Safiq and Salee: That'll teach me to go by LFC.tv's in-match text updates/line-up sheet.

On Carroll: Could also be that he was gassed having played a hard half in China so recently (although that could be said about most of the team), as he's still recovering from his long term injuries. But yeah, Cole + Meireles didn't help, but he looked far more up for it against Guangdong.

Pity those Malaysia players you mentioned were unavailable. Backline needs to be tested as much as possible in preseason to work out these unnecessary mistakes.

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