13 May 2012

Liverpool 0-1 Swansea

Graham 86'

What an appropriate end to the season. As the Premier League explodes everywhere else, Liverpool fumbled aimlessly and purposelessly before unnecessarily conceding late on. The longest nine months in memory gave birth to this. Glimpses of potential, hints of rebuilding, few and far between blessed high points, but mostly just frustration and disappointment.

We'd hoped that Tuesday's match against Chelsea wasn't an aberration, that Liverpool were determined to finish as strongly as possible after failing in the FA Cup Final and for the majority of the league campaign. Nope. That happened because it was Chelsea and because of Chelsea's hilarity. Liverpool immediately reverted to first-gear shiftlessness, an all too common occurrence in this abortion campaign.

It was an awful lot like the reverse fixture except for Graham's late winner. Swansea dominated possession, attempted and completed nearly twice as many passes as Liverpool, and monopolized all the early chances, mostly made by Liverpool mistakes. Allen robbed Shelvey, but his cross/shot narrowly skittered wide ahead of Graham. Doni strangely handled Carroll's back pass after Carragher left it, but Carra and Maxi combined to block the free kick. Saves from the stand-in keeper denied goals for both Sigurdsson and Dyer. Meanwhile, shots from distance – wide by Maxi, straight at a defender from Shelvey, across the face of goal from Carroll – were Liverpool's lone ripostes.

Liverpool were marginally better after the interval, with Vorm cleverly denying Carroll twice – first on a brilliant bicycle kick in the 56th, then 20 minutes later when the striker was set up by substitute Kuyt. But with less than five minutes to play, as the game died a slow, painless death, Sinclair found Allen in acres of space down Liverpool's left with Johnson sucked inside, and the midfielder centered for a wide-open Graham, as Swansea's top scorer unforgivably found space smack in the middle of Liverpool's box, easily freeing himself from Carragher's "marking." Celebration for the home fans, delighted all season long by Swansea's unlikely strength. Ambivalent shrugs from the players in red.

Swansea did well to contain Carroll and stifle Suarez, clearly taking hints from Chelsea's failures five days ago, but no one in red looked especially bothered. Which, once again, remains the biggest sin. That Liverpool can look so potent on Tuesday and so impotent and apathetic today is more infuriating than Liverpool's final league position and litany of awful statistics which follow.

There'll be plenty of time for the coming hateful eulogies and excuses, but a quick rundown of the pain seems unavoidable. Eighth place is joint-worst since Liverpool returned to the old First Division 50 years ago. 52 points is the worst total since teams earned three points for a win. The Carling Cup trophy – any trophy – is a small consolation, with sad emphasis on small, and it admittedly takes time to build any team, no matter the money involved. Still, there is little to celebrate this season and little to celebrate today. And an awful lot of questions to be answered and work to be done.

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