05 November 2011

Liverpool 0-0 Swansea

Remember how multiple home draws against inferior opposition ruined the '08-09 title chase? That was fun. Let's do that again.

Out of all four of Liverpool's disappointing home draws – and I include United in that – Swansea are most deserving of the point they leave Anfield with. Rodgers' tactics were excellent, soaking up Liverpool pressure for 60 minutes before pummeling the home side for 10, then settling back into their deep, resilient defense. Still, they relied on two excellent saves from Vorm on the cusp of injury time, the first he'd had to make since the 29th minute. And it all could have been different had Carroll converted his close range chance in the 7th minute instead of hitting the woodwork. Yes, yes, the 10th time Liverpool's tattooed the goal frame in this short season.

Liverpool were rarely able to stretch Swansea, to pull at least one of those eight or nine defenders out of position, to create the havoc which led to goals like Suarez's first at Stoke. Swansea defended deeper than any side that's visited Anfield, deeper than Hodgson's dismal group sat last week, squeezing every ounce of space from the final third. That Carroll opportunity was one of the few times Liverpool passed and moved their way through the Swans, with a speedy Downing-Adam one-two down the left leading to the winger's dangerous center.

Once again, we're left ruing chances left unseized. The home side took 15 first-half shots, but only hit the target twice; nine were blocked, four were off-target. Also, approximately three of those efforts were remotely memorable: Carroll's chance and two singularly created by Suarez – a turn and shot wide in the 19th and a Vorm save in the 29th after the Uruguayan danced onto his left foot. And those three came in the first 30 minutes.

After that half an hour, Swansea were more comfortable, able to keep possession and spurred on by their 28th minute opening, when Routledge's cross to Graham would have given them the lead if not for Reina's point-blank brilliance. Comfortable on the ball, when Swansea sprang from their own half, they sprang dangerously, leading to a surprisingly open game despite the away side's packed defense. Dyer and Routledge gave Liverpool more problems than any other wingers this season; their speed restrained both Johnson and Enrique far more than expected in a home game against promoted opposition. But that Graham's chance was the only heart-in-mouth moment for Liverpool's defense in the first half.

Recognizing Liverpool's lack of width, Dalglish replaced Henderson with Kuyt during the interval, his work-rate and movement preferred to Bellamy's pace. And Liverpool momentarily threatened, with an unconscious through-ball from Adam releasing Downing, but with the winger unable to replicate his earlier cross to Carroll.

That was Liverpool's last chance until an eventual flurry in the final ten minutes. After suffocating the home side for ten minutes, Swansea counter-punched as the home side's frustration turned to out-and-out nervousness. Swansea passed and prodded and passed and struck, Liverpool flustered almost immediately the few times they managed to reclaim possession, and Reina threatened to morph from hero to goat. He again saved Liverpool when rushing out to block Dyer's 64th-minute shot, but almost gave away a goal twice. Nearly turning into Graham after lingering on a back pass sparked Swansea's burst in the 58th, then he nearly spilled Dyer's long range strike to the same player in the 65th, thankfully recovering quickly.

Gower's 84th-minute blast over, free on the spot following Sinclair's knockdown of Dyer's cross, marked the end of Swansea's threat as the away side finally tired. Bellamy coming on for Carroll with 15 to play certainly helped matters, and Liverpool spent the final few minutes frantically pushing for the needed winner. Suarez, quiet for long stretches, was typically central, nearly carving openings for Kuyt and from the byline. Vorm's sprawling save on the Uruguayan's outside-of-the-right-foot cannon in the 89th was the first of two jaw-dropping stops to seal Swansea's 'triumph', mimicking those acrobatics on Johnson's desperation thunderbolt a minute later.

Once again, Liverpool's flaws are laid bare, obvious to all. Chances missed, dominance unconverted. Not to mention the unbelievably frustrating inconceivable woodwork spawned by Satan. That Liverpool continues to hit the frame is beyond implausible, improbable, and impossible. Otherwise, Swansea swallowed Liverpool whole. Nullifying Liverpool's full-backs seems most important, denying the overlap also shut down both wingers. Henderson simply ran into defenders when cutting inside, where he found space against West Brom and Stoke, while Downing continues to struggle (although admittedly again unlucky to not register at least an assist).

But that Suarez didn't cause his usual anarchy, wasn't able to arrogantly toss as many bombs into Swansea's defense, was probably just as damaging. He was shadowed by at least two, sometimes three players at all times, a symptom of their smothering defense. Liverpool remains dangerously reliant on its little genius.

11 games into the season, already November, and regretting somewhere in the region of 10 points that have somehow slipped away makes it harder to deliver the usual rationalizations. Yes, this team is still maturing and unusually prone to set-backs. At least Liverpool didn't carelessly concede, which has happened all too infrequently – and they had multiple opportunities to do so. And, while obviously disappointed, we were treated to an eminently watchable, open game – probably even enjoyable for neutrals – a far cry from the dour, turgid, defensive side seen 12 months ago. Can't throw the baby out with the bathwater, at least there's obvious potential, etc. etc.

Just, you know, start putting the ball in the back of the net please.


Sportfan said...

Attack mode

Think Liverpool were poor.And that was no jaw dropping save from Vorm in the final minutes,the save from Suraez shot was a regulation save,both hands,almost in front of his face with the curve in,Too much Suarez love me thinks.Johnson one I dont know,the channel I saw it in dint show any replays from a different angle,looked straight at him though.

And for me this game is proof that Lucas at best should be a squad player.He was invisible today.Not trying to pick on his one really bad performance this season,but for me this is the sort of game that a DM should have also contributed something towards the attack.He was up there a few times but then his skill set just doesnt allow him to contribute anything.Lucas can be as good a tackler as anyone in the PL,but I think for a DM he lacks pace and strength.Especially in games when the opponents sits so deep, he just cant move further up the field cause he has no pace to get back and when we get a chance to counter he just cant get forward quick enough either.I think pace is key in that pos,atleast in the PL(not express,but something thats faster than Barry atleast),look at Ramires for eg.I dont care if he cant tackle as well as Lucas,but I feel he contributes a hell lot more than him.

RouterLoop said...

this game left me with another facepalm, foot-in-mouth moments ..

how many times do we have to find an excuse for a draw which simply should not have been !!

Adam had a Disappointing game IMO his corners / FK's which are supposed to be his forte were all duds today given that we had so many chances of corners and Agger/Skrtel/35 Mil on pitch he was poor .. wonder he is overawed by the Kop and the expectations ?

Should've used Maximilliano Rodriguez instead of Henderson at the start from the next game ... Maxi contributes more to the goal i recollect him scoring last season

There seems to be no plan B as you mentioned we are too Suarez-reliant on the pitch ... today they had 2 guys marking him which did not give him the space to move around which shacked him

If this is the form we show at home i seriously doubt a top - 6 finish

Anonymous said...

adam wasted ball, caroll headed without ball, kenny afraid to substitute adam/caroll early (i feel releaf when henderson was substituted in second half), hoping they doing hoffing-heading becoming fruithfull. so called ten million free kick from adam cost a draw.

swansea, their passing unbelieveable. liverpool were chasing shadow. how would liverpool overcome "this kind team" next time ?

every game liverpool always like passing back to goalkeeper. this time "passing-back" almost costly. almost.

i've been dreaming a match between liverpool and barcelona (current barcelona) with their great passing rates.

4th place ? aii..champion league for us next year are fading away.

nigel.humphreys said...

Suarez's worst game for Liverpool, he looked tired and leggy from the start and dare I say it, was a little predictable for anyone who's done thier homework. Lucas offered nothing in defence which meant he offered nothing in the game. Adam's lack of athleticism was plain to see and there was a lack of positivity in the final third caused, I think, by concern about the pace Swansea had on the break. The other problem was the crowd. Liverpool supporters aren't what they once were but were anxious very quickly and very very quiet. I remain positive though, we still had the best chances and Carroll is starting to look a signing. Chin up, if we get 4 points from the next two games it won't be seen as a bad run.

Ian said...

Am I the only one to think there is something wrong with the way Liverpool have been defending this season? The team was struggling to get the ball of swansea when they were in our half and allowed them to have too much space in attack. Any thoughts on that?

Keith said...

Nah, tough to complain about the defense -- joint second in the league with 10 allowed in 11 games. Further, it's not like other teams are getting chance after chance against Liverpool and are failing to convert. If anything, it's the opposite -- teams are seemingly converting at a ridiculously high rate on their good chances. Contrast that with Liverpool, who have hit the post now, 10-15 times is it?

It's frustrating watching Tottenham get three goals on just about as many opportunities, while Liverpool squander so many chances. I'm not sure if this is just variance over a small sample, and that over the course of the season this is likely to 'even out', or -- the hypothesis I fear -- that their front six is simply better than LFC's.

In any case, the international break comes at a good time. Liverpool desperately need Gerrard to come back and stay healthy for an extended period of time. The December schedule will provide ample opportunity for Liverpool to gain some ground on Spurs and Arsenal. Further, the second half fixtures against those teams are both at Anfield, so despite all the doom and gloom, nothing has been won or lost yet.