26 December 2011

Liverpool 1-1 Blackburn

Adam (og) 45'
Maxi 53'

Liverpool have been massively unlucky in an awful lot of matches, but this one's going to take some beating. Another terrible, horrible, no good, very bad home draw in a season already chock-full of them.

Blackburn had exactly one chance, from Dunn in the 79th, on the break and spoiled by his own teammate. The one they scored was entirely of Liverpool's own making. Entirely. At least Larsson struck a wonder goal to get Sunderland a point. Stoke's penalty winner was harsh but fair. Norwich and United arguably merited their equalizers; Hart's been brilliant for City in the past.

There's far less of an excuse for this one. It should have been a replica of Liverpool's last home victory against QPR, going ahead early in the second half after wasting first half supremacy; 1-0 despite frustration, despite profligacy, despite a back-up keeper's brilliance. No such luck.

To be fair, Liverpool haven't been good enough in an awful lot of matches either. Same old story writ large, again and again and again. At least the woodwork wasn't involved. Blackburn's defensive discipline was enough to cancel out being "terrible in midfield" and "absolutely invisible in attack." At least until Liverpool's inevitable, typical late flurry, which again saw yet another unfathomable save from a goalkeeper with no history of them. And then a clearance off the goal-line for good measure.

Tactics changed – back to the 4-4-2 formation with Carroll in the line-up and Liverpool looking to open by Blackburn with long passing and crosses – but the story stayed the same. All the possession, mostly in Blackburn's half, with chances missed due to a combination of poor finishing, surprising keeping, and questionable decisions. Suarez created four openings almost by himself, but put all four shots off target, then spoiled Downing's excellent opportunity by selfishly touching when clearly offside. Carroll was denied during a 27th-minute goal-mouth scramble when Bunn smartly flashed a hand up to stop his point-blank effort. And Maxi was wrongly ruled offside when he should have won a clear penalty in the 32nd. Yes, yes, Liverpool probably would have missed it anyway. Ha ha.

To make matters infinitely worse, the dominant home side were behind at half-time for the first time at Anfield thanks to one player's poor decision and one player's supremely unlucky touch. Agger lingered on a Blackburn hoof out of defense, trying to be clever when under pressure from a lumbering Yakubu, conceding an unmerited corner. In beating Formica to the near post cross, Adam somehow flicked the ball just over Enrique guarding the post, nestling unerringly in the top corner. 99 times out of a hundred, that ends up in the Kop. Even this season.

As against QPR, Liverpool had tails up after the restart, almost certainly rightfully screamed at for 15 straight minutes. A 53th-minute equalizer, Maxi at the back post heading in Skrtel's (!!!) clever cross after Liverpool's corner was only half-cleared, looked karmic retribution, with more than 35 minutes to escape to victory against opposition previously unable to do anything right. Nope. Like against Blackpool last season – coincidentally, another Mike Jones match – Liverpool didn't have enough, didn't do enough, to earn the "deserved" result.

Gerrard's return, on in the 68th for the suffering Adam, improved matters, with the captain's dynamism immediately evident, but Liverpool left the late flurry late, frustrated by Blackburn's packed defense until the final minutes.

But the infinitely repeated narratives roared back with a vengeance in those final minutes. First, opportunities squandered: a Carroll header wide, Downing shots tame then over, Enrique shots well over. Then, out-of-character, unbelievable defensive heroics. Deep into injury time, Bunn preposterously stopped Carroll's flick from a yard out. On the subsequent corner, Agger's free header found 17-year-old left back Henley on the far post.

We can only blame wastefulness and misfortune so often. Once again, stats lie. 65% possession to Blackburn's 35%. 27 shots to 6; 7 on target, 15 off, 6 blocked to 1, 4, and 1. More than 200 more passes attempted and completed than the away side. Any progress this team is making, any possible optimism, continues to be squashed by Liverpool's inability to get wins they have little excuse for not getting.

Downing played well, Maxi scored again, and the defense was untroubled aside from that moment of madness. Liverpool's midfield wasn't very good until Gerrard came on – even discounting the own goal, Adam did not play well – but Liverpool also often abdicated the center of the park in favor of long balls and working the flanks.

Carroll certainly shouldn't be the scapegoat, twice foiled by Bunn, getting into position for three of Liverpool's best chances. It's not as if today's problems have only come with the much-maligned 35 MILLION POUND!!!!!!! man on the pitch. Meanwhile, all six of Suarez's shots missed the target. It seems insane to suggest, but I'm increasingly convinced Liverpool need to leave Suarez out one of these days. Few are better at creating someone from less than nothing, losing defenders with feints, shimmies, and shakes, but his shooting accuracy's been beyond horrific. To say nothing of his off-field concerns, as I won't pretend to divine his current mental state, it feels almost as if Liverpool need to see what they're capable without its attacking focal point.

With another match on Friday, at least there's little time to linger on a familiar setback. That match will finally mark the season's halfway point; it'll be a lot harder to trot out these tiresomely reiterated excuses no matter the overall progress made over the last 12 months.


Anonymous said...

its an inch short of torture.

Elizabeth said...

"I'm increasingly convinced Liverpool need to leave Suarez out one of these days"

Definitely (at the very least, the guy must be tired from playing for two years straight?), but I'm assuming Kenny is playing Suarez for every game he can get out of him before his suspension starts (under the assumption he loses any appeal he might make). This team needs to learn how to win without him and not rely on him so much, and Kenny is going to be forced into that situation shortly whether he likes it or not. So, silver lining, I guess?

Anonymous said...

im really tired of hearing about "luck" in draws against teams in the bottom quarter of the table. united, chelsea, man city, arsenal and tottenham do not have to rely on luck to determine their outcomes. they win. we do not. why is meireles gone, why is adam here, why is carroll in the game. done.

Anonymous said...

Suarez ruin his chance as much as he create chances for liverpool. He always wants to get behind opponent's feet, which is good but if he do that everytime he get the ball, a lot of chance wasted.

Adam play like shit for this game.