18 August 2012

Liverpool 0-3 West Brom

Gera 43'
Odemwingie 64' (pen)
Lukaku 78'

A little bit of optimism is a dangerous thing. The threatened, bound-to-happen set-back sure happened sooner than expected.

After two frightening minutes where they couldn't get the ball off of West Brom, Liverpool dominated the first half. Suarez is ever dangerous, but fails to convert four chances, while both Johnson and Borini also miss decent opportunities. Then, just before halftime, West Brom open the scoring through Gera, a goal the player couldn't replicate with a gun to his head, with the ball fortunately falling to his feet after Skrtel's clearing header then unerringly, unstoppably volleyed into the roof of the net. New season, meet the old season.

And then came the comedy. Another Suarez missed chance, a free kick curled wide of the post, then two penalties conceded, a red card, and a third goal to rub salt in the wounds.

It all started in the 58th. Gerrard gave the ball away after extended Liverpool possession, trying to find a well-marked Suarez with an unlikely pass, and West Brom stormed down the pitch with Liverpool wholly wide open in the middle as both Lucas and Allen had come forward to join the attack. Morrison found Shane Long with a long through-ball, taking full advantage of Liverpool's high back line, and the striker eluded Skrtel, who over-ran Long trying to mark too closely then comically slipped when Long spun away. Agger retreated, but Long out-paced him, then easily fell over as soon as Agger made contact. A soft penalty, but a penalty nonetheless. You'll hear that expression again soon. With matters compounded by a straight red for Agger, the last man denying a goal-scoring opportunity. Agger should just miss the Manchester City game, a one-match ban rather than three, but he'll be a very big miss in against that class of opposition.

Reina provided a slight ray of hope, saving Long's woeful spot kick, the first he's saved since Rooney's in March 2010. But it didn't last long. Three minutes later, Skrtel again donned the motley and jester's hat, intercepting Ridgewell's cross but failing to control and clear, unforgivably dawdling in his own box then accidentally, softly tripping Long when the striker slipped in to steal the ball. Again, Long went down all too easily, looking for the penalty. Again, Dowd complied. You can criticize Phil Dowd for many things, in today's game and in the past, but the penalties aren't really among them. Both were soft. It's safe to assume neither would be given to Suarez in those situations. But the striker went down when contact was made – even if light contact, even if incidental contact – and the referee blew his whistle. That's what happens. Don't put yourself in those situations. This time, Odemwingie made no mistake from 12 yards out.

Liverpool spent the final 30 minutes just trying to save face. Carragher replaced Downing after the first sending off, Cole replaced Lucas – who had been carded earlier – in the 69th, then Carroll replaced Cole, who seemingly injured his hamstring yet again, in the 79th. Trying to get back in the game, it was a fairly attacking 4-2-3 system, but it was West Brom who attacked. Morrison missed a sitter in the 72nd with Liverpool players caught up the pitch, then Lukaku scored with a point-blank back post header in the 78th after Liverpool once again failed to clear a set play. Suarez nearly notched a consolation in the last ten minutes but unsurprisingly spurned yet another chance, this one even easier than the first five, a free header wide of the far post after Borini's strong run and cross.

It's no surprise after a three-nil loss, but there are few positives to take from that match. Joe Allen played very well, completing 66 of 69 passes (including 24 of 25 in the final third), while Suarez caused West Brom problems with everything but his shooting. Agger and Skrtel were typically solid until the 58th minute, but Skrtel absolutely fell apart after West Brom's first, and it's probably not coincidence that it happened after Agger departed. That's all I got. More importantly, the failings were failings we've seen before: missing chances despite creating chances and controlling possession, resorting to hoofs and crosses when unable to find a way through West Brom's solid back line, far too little contribution from the flanks – especially the frequent scapegoat Downing – and a failure to cope with opposition set plays coupled with mental errors in defense. Still, Rodgers' system worked in the first half outside of Liverpool's tentative start and dreadful finishing; it was the players who let him down with poor shooting then defensive mistakes.

Once again, another ex-Red punishes his former club. Not a manager, not a player this time, but an assistant manager. And Steve Clarke deserves a hell of a lot of credit. As with Liverpool's successes after his appointment in 2010-11, that win was built on defense, keeping Liverpool off the score-sheet when dominant, then having his side ruthlessly punish their mistakes.

Brendan Rodgers now becomes the sixth-straight Liverpool manager to fail to win his first league match, a streak dating back to Graeme Souness in May 1991. Dalglish lost at Blackpool, Hodgson drew against Arsenal, Benitez drew at Tottenham, Houllier lost against Leeds, and Evans drew at Norwich. Of course, that Souness was the one of those seven managers win their first match shows there's little predictive power in the first league result.

It may be the worst possible start, the worst top-flight opening day defeat since losing 1-6 to Chelsea in 1937, but it is still one match. And no matter how much we wished different, it will take time to turn this team around.


Anonymous said...

We need....

Gaston Ramirez
Nuri Sahin

and then we MAY finish in 8th...

Anyone else notice how far Stevie G has dropped off since his groin surgery over a year ago. He is done. About as useful as Carragher. You know it is bad when Jamie "Old Balls" Carragher comes off the bench as your first back up CB. Shambles. Rubbish. Season is lost. We will be luck to finish top 10. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. I blame Nasty Nate!

Anonymous said...


THAT is the ONLY logical reaction after that game.

Stephen said...

It wasnt as bad as the final score. As Nate indicated, it starts w a once in a season (or a few) strike from Gera. One Skrtel brain fart later and we're playing w 10. This is followed by a bs penalty call by Dowd...running away from net in the far corner of the area...look the other way Phil! Hard to judge the second half based on all that.

Having said that...Gerrard and Downing were MAJOR liabilities today. Lost count of how many errant passes and dispossessions from Gerrard. Neither Gerrard nor Downing linked effectively with the other or w Suarez and Borini. Suarez misses two headers and a tap in...in addition to several other chances that were more difficult. Skrtel was awful on two crucial plays preceding the penalties.

On the positives...agree w Nate that

Stephen said...

On the positives...agree w Nate that Allen played well...he, Borini, Suarez, maybe Johnson were the only ones who looked comfortable in possession. Johnson, Borini, and Suarez showed signs of linking well in final third. Prefer Johnson to Enrique on the left for that reason. Suarez made many chances though he didn't convert.

Trying hard to be patient.

Jay Wright said...

I thought that Borini was coming in to play as the focal point of the attack, leaving Suarez free to come along from deeper, wider positions, as he did for Uruguay behind Forlan, without all the pressure of being the "main man".

If last seasons profligacy in front of goal wasn't just a fluke after all, this switch needs to happen asap!

Anonymous said...

Agree with Jay Wright. Suarez is not a lone striker up top to depend on for a full season. He is great with Forlan n Cavani. Just as he would be if he had a decent striker up top. We have missed out on so many transfers. Hazard being the main one. Look at what he did yesterday. Two assists in first game. Instead we sign some other young guy who NO ONE has even heard of... Asaaid?

Sad times indeed. I do not think we can ever recover unless we get a Trillionaire owner like Man City etc. Get used to being Mid Table team. Atleast Tottenham has Bale and Adebayor and Defoe... Why can't we get just ONE world class striker... how does Tottenham have two and we have none? How does Newcastle have two world class strikers and we have none? Suarez is a creative forward at best.

Once again, blame Nasty Nate.

jonnySingapore said...

Welcome to AVB Mark 2.

What a shambles and that includes the pathetic excuses from Rodgers for the 2 nailed on penalties.

Playing a high defensive line regardless of what is going on upfield, and your fullbacks are well upfield, is always going to cause you problems. Teams will simply line up their runners against us as Clarke lined up Shane Long.

Where are our points going to come from because I can't see us even getting the 14 wins we had last term. We'll be lucky to win a game at all.

When you're obsessed with a system as Rodgers is but don't understand it's weaknesses or requirements then you are a fool.

If you can't see the problem Carragher is going to have with that then you are a blithering idiot.

Clarke was kind to liverpool. He only played one up top initially (Long) whereas Roy would put Odemwingie up there with him in his 442 because he has no time for that new fangled 4-2-3-1.

He did that because he listened to Rodgers' stupid summer broadcasts about possession yada yada and high defensive lines yada yada and quick short passes.

So he played conservative but pressing football for an hour and waited to run the centre backs, once the full backs had been sent forwards.

He knows that pass and move is not a footballing philosophy, it's what you do when you're not standing still.

Gerrard was either brain dead or doesn't know what his role is, or had few options to distribute, the wide men and Suarez being well marked. Borini isn't in the game either, so it was down to Suarez and Downing - which means it was down to Suarez, who can't finish.

Clarke was tactical, playing to his strengths, unlike Rodgers. West brom can defend all day thanks to Roy. And his changes to the front 4 with 3 behind Long has both packed the midfield and amplified their sucker punches.

We had/have a very good back 6 from Reina to Lucas. We knew/know how to bring the ball out from the back.

But Rodgers has looked to change what isn't broken - and broke it.

Forwards of Lucas is where our work is required and with Gerrard and Borini on holiday still, Suarez only had Downing to help, which is no help.

Rodgers doesn't get it and he has to hope that Gerrard and Borini wake up because otherwise he won't win a single game.

Our problem last year was finishing. His answer is to play Suarez as main striker where he struggles to score. Where were the others? Why not play Borini up front with Suarez behind him?

Allen is efficient, but is what Henderson should have been (thanks Dalglish/comolli) but cant tackle isn't fast and generally doesn't score.

A poor man's alonso so is pricey at £15m. Swansea are to get Pablo Hernandez from Spain for £5m and will do the same job. Laudrup has bought Michu for £2m and a couple of others from La ligue. His team scored 5.

The full backs are expected to be forwards hence the vulnerability of the centre backs.
Rodgers has seriously weakened us, and Lucas isn't playing his strongest position which gave us balance before.

FSG have been suckered in. Not seeing how AVB struggled with his 'system' and seem to think a proven winner like Rafa is not required.

The EPL is fast, strong and unforgiving. Liverpool are about to have the worst season [playing wise] in their history. Can Rodgers last till Xmas? Not if he can't get a result he won't.