24 September 2011

Liverpool 2-1 Wolves

Johnson (og) 12'
Suarez 38'
Fletcher 46'

Phew. Excellent, if direct, first half. Terrifying, nerve-shredding second. This team doesn't do anything the easy way.

Despite Wolves running at defenders for the first five to ten minutes, snuffed out by Enrique in open play and Carroll on set pieces, Liverpool settled with another early strike. This one had more than an air of fortune – Adam shrugging off O'Hara with a shoulder feint before firing from distance, redirected into the net by Roger Johnson – but Liverpool's due that air of fortune. It'd be a rare ray of luck shining on the home side. Thankfully, they didn't need it.

From there, as against Sunderland, Exeter, Bolton, and Brighton, Liverpool should have soon extended the gap. The Suarez and Carroll finally showed signs of its promising promise, aided by Downing and Enrique's charges at right back Stearman. Carroll headed straight at Hennessey from Downing's cross. Then the massive's striker's clever cross just eluded an on-rushing Suarez. Then the Uruguayan's first time shot from Downing's cutback just swerved wide. Liverpool, content to play on the counter-attack more than in previous matches, added to ever-present jitters, but the direct style led to opportunities as defenders, specifically Enrique and Skrtel, soaked up pressure.

But unlike in all those previous matches, Liverpool finally notched a second before the interval, the first time they've scored twice in the first half in this young season. Enrique's long throughball found an onside Suarez: rushing on goal, Suarez checked back twice trying to carve out space, allowing defenders to retreat. No matter. Somehow, the tricky Uruguayan still found the room to beat Hennessey at the near post with yet another indescribable display of skill. He does things others can't even contemplate. Sometimes it leads to frustrating nothingness. Sometimes it leads to that jaw-shattering brilliance. He nearly added to that tally in injury time, picking up possession after Downing's low cross ricocheted to his feet, beating two defenders but toe-poking just wide.

To his credit, McCarthy realized the errors of his ways at half-time and reorganized, replacing midfielder Edwards with striker Fletcher and removing poor, whipped, booked Stearman with teenager Doherty. Having been thrashed 3-0 at their own ground the last time Wolves were bold enough to play 4-4-2 against Liverpool, McCarthy was understandably hesitant to repeat that error. Indiscretion immediately proved the better part of valor as Fletcher took less than a minute to pull one back; lucky to retain possession after a ricochet from Enrique's tackle, Hunt burst into the box and centered for an open Fletcher, blasting into the roof of the net from close range.

Liverpool had chances to immediately restore the two-goal advantage, but found themselves deserted by previous mistress Lady Luck. In a three-minute span, Hennessey somehow saved Suarez's shot after palming straight to the striker, Carroll somehow only found the back post after Enrique's brilliant cross, and Downing somehow hit the crossbar on the break, again saved by the Welsh keeper. Liverpool were prevented goals by the frame thrice on Wednesday, twice today. The league really should check the width of the opposition's posts prior to kickoff. That and it's always, always better to be lucky than good.

Having survived that flurry as well as the first half, Wolves were buoyant, camped in Liverpool's petrified half. Aside from Carragher and Skrtel barely scrambling a goalmouth ball away in the 56th and O'Hara's long blast over four minutes later, the away side weren't racking up chances, but Liverpool's frailty and nerves are news to absolutely no one.

Kelly, frequently one-on-one with Jarvis as Henderson had arguably his worst game of the season, invisible with Liverpool out of possession, was under the most pressure. It was little surprise to see the home side settle once Kuyt replaced the struggling midfielder in the 72nd. Honestly, I thought it led to more disconnect the few times Liverpool attacked, with Suarez and the Dutchman trying their usual flicks and tricks but not coming off with the Uruguayan clearly tiring, but Kuyt certainly settled the defense. And it led to another spate of Liverpool chances: Lucas placed a long-range low shot wide, Suarez's cutback after brilliant trademark byline run was just deflected out of Carroll's reach, and the live-wire striker misdirected a header he had no right reaching.

Nonetheless, it remained impossible to feel safe watching this team retain a one goal. Gerrard joined the fray with ten to play – Dalglish understandably hesitant to throw his returning captain – and soon created a typical effort, heading into space from Carroll's knockdown but shooting over, the type of goal he's scored time and time again for the club. Carroll should have sealed it in the last minute of injury time, but tried too hard to dance into space, the final whistle coming with Wolves' last-ditch tackle.

It would have been lovely to maintain the first half momentum, finally stringing two excellent halves together as well as maybe keeping a clean sheet for a change, but Wolves' fierce resistance under McCarthy made that impossible. That Liverpool were able to hold on despite 45 massively frightening minutes is just as meaningful, hopefully cementing the side's confidence in its own abilities.

It continues to be impossible to do Suarez justice, while his link-up with Carroll was much-improved. We saw the giant Geordie playing to potential in the first half: ever dangerous, ever frightening defenders, dropping deep, and showing his ambidexterity and passing ability. Caught flat-footed more than once, there's obviously room for improvement, but other than getting on the score-sheet, it was the performance he needed. Just as impressive were Lucas' powers of recovery – I'm amazed he showed few ill effects from Sunday and Wednesday's exertions – as well as Skrtel and Enrique's defense, regardless of the unlucky goal. The Spanish left-back was also excellent up and down the touchline, rightfully credited with the assist for the crucial second.

Needed result is needed result, with two wins on the trot. The building blocks continue to be stacked slowly but increasingly securely. The gradual process rolls on.

Now, form, style, grace, class, and loving thy neighbor will be undoubtedly thrown out the window with next week's Merseyside derby. Today's second half fight should be perfect practice for that perpetual battle of attrition.


Anonymous said...

Adam is garbage.

nate said...

Evidently we watched different matches. Wasn't great, nothing spectacular, but little stupid or costly either. His defensive positioning gets him into trouble at times, and his tackling was non-existent, but mostly kept it simple in passing with few giveaways. Hesitation in putting in tackles little surprise a match after a red card.

Nowhere near as bad as Spurs, but nowhere near as good as Bolton either. But, cool, write off a player as garbage after six league matches.

RouterLoop said...

Still not impressed with henderson, I believe no harm in trying hendo in the middle in place of adam and play kuyt in the derby game....

Carrol looked good but his first touches still leave something to desire...ing hendo in the middle in place of adam and play kuyt in the derby game....

Carrol looked good but his first touches still leave something to desire...

McrRed said...

Great result. Decent team performance...

...But, I am developing a deep and rational loathing of Adam. He riles me like no other. (And I was happy to support Biscan, Traore and a host of others in the past). Constantly jogging, always leaving it to someone else to do the hard work. It would be interesting to see his sprint per match stats. I bet they're only better than Pepe's.

Didn't close down for the Wolves goal...how Lucas manages to cover the distance he does carrying Adam on his back.

Unless he changes, we will always struggle with him in the midfield pair.

nate said...

I don't see what you saw in Wolves' goal. Can blame a few players, but Adam's low on the list.

Screencap right before Hunt assist

Adam held his position on outside of six-yard box in case Hunt went all the way after Enrique unfortunately blocked Henry's cross to Hunt's feet. More concerning are the other four in that six-yard box. Why are so many so deep? Who are Lucas and Skrtel marking? Why does no one else have Fletcher, who smartly pulled back to the spot? It's not a midfielder's job to pick up a center forward. Liverpool don't mark zonally in open play.

I would love to see Adam sprint stats. I wish ProZone stats (or other in-depth) were available online. Rarely get to see the "distance covered" stat either, but Adam was just behind Lucas in top two against Stoke.

As said above, his defensive positioning and tackling often lets him down. There's mountains of room for improvement, and I don't think a two-man central midfield formation gets the best of out him. There's a reason Blackpool surrounded him with two water-carrying CMs when he was their epicenter. Interested to see if Liverpool reverts to 4-2-3-1 with Gerrard, which I think would help Adam a lot. But work ethic hasn't been as much of a problem in my eyes. I realize he isn't everyone's cup of tea; such a divisive player. But I'm still surprised at some of the reaction he provokes.

Keith C said...

I guess my main issue with Adam(*) -- and perhaps this will change with Gerrard's return -- is that so far, it appears he's an automatic first-team choice. He clearly has his uses, and I don't have much of a problem with him starting games most games at Anfield, where Liverpool can be expected to have most of the ball (I know it didn't play out like this yesterday).

(*)And really, that's not so much Adam's fault, either -- he's not the one writing himself into the team sheet.

On the other hand, in games like last weekend at WHL, I'm not sure he should be a first choice. I think in a game like that, I'd prefer a player with a better work-rate next to Lucas. Not that I necessarily want Liverpool to play more defensive, but I think games like that are made for staying tight and compact when not in possession, and hitting back hard and quick on the counter.

So summing up, I would hope that KD doesn't feel obliged to get Adam's name in the first XI every game. We've got some good, versatile players in the midfield -- why not tinker a little bit?

Anfield said...

Enough with Henderson already!
Give him some time to develop and give Maxi a chance on the right.

Or just play Lucas, Gerrard, Adam and Downing in midfield. Kuyt deserves a chance up front as well

Anonymous said...

just stumbled upon this blog

absolutely superb

I look forward to reading the archives and all new entries

excellent work

well done!!!