01 January 2015

Liverpool 2-2 Leicester

Gerrard 17' (pen) 40' (pen)
Nugent 58'
Schlupp 60'

Embarrassing. Meet the new Liverpool, the same as the old Liverpool. Welcome to 2015.

I cannot believe Liverpool followed up Monday's performance with that.

Liverpool weren't good, but Leicester and Mike Jones had contrived to hand Liverpool the win. Liverpool handed it right back. The worst part of it all is that Leicester fully deserve the point.

A 2-0 halftime lead at home against the bottom club should finish an easy win, no matter how bad Liverpool have been this season. Leicester frightened early, taking the game to Liverpool – as every opponent should – with Mahrez hitting the post and firing over from 12 yards. But two first half handball penalties – the first clearly not a penalty, the second deserved – put Liverpool in control.

There was none of the penetration we saw against Swansea, there was little of the pressing which disjointed Swansea and forced mistakes, but Liverpool were in control. Liverpool kept the ball, Liverpool kept Leicester from threatening after those two early efforts. That's one of the main benefits of the 3-4-2-1 formation. That should have been enough.

It's hard to look past the changes from Monday's XI. Gerrard and Lucas were decent against Arsenal, less so but at least acceptable against Bournemouth and Burnley. Gerrard and Lucas were bad today. Both a step slow; that's just where Gerrard is at this stage of his career, and Lucas was never the quickest, especially when starting his fifth match in 15 days.

Both Leicester goals were excellently taken, but blame for both lies primarily in midfield: Leicester allowed way too much time and space to pass around and through Liverpool before a ball over the top found Vardy, chested down for Nugent, hammered into the net. Two minutes later, Mahrez running through the middle, with neither Gerrard nor Lucas getting near, before setting up an open Schlupp just outside the box, with all the time and space to arrow past Mignolet.

Both incidents stemmed from Liverpool's complete lack of control in the second half. They'd had the control in the first half. But, with a two-goal lead, Liverpool attempted to sit deeper, giving Leicester the opportunity to take full advantages of Liverpool's weaknesses. This is not last season's Liverpool; this season's Liverpool often fail when trying to shell and counter, and it happened yet again.

So the problem is two-fold. Liverpool's need to bring Gerrard back into what was a much better performing side and Rodgers' desire to play for the counter despite Liverpool's problems in defense.

And Liverpool certainly weren't helped by an injury to Lallana just before Leicester's goals, the tricky midfielder replaced by Borini, with Sterling shifting into Lallana's position. Lallana's both more creative and better able to track back and, unlike Sterling, Borini's not running in behind anyone despite Liverpool often playing long passes.

Liverpool tried to come back, tried to reclaim the advantage. Markovic replaced Lucas, switching the side to 4-2-3-1, then Lambert replaced Moreno. But from Leicester's second goal until the 86th minute, Liverpool's best two chances were blocked by Liverpool players: Markovic in the way of Borini's effort, Borini in the way of Coutinho's. As demonstrated in the reverse fixture, Leicester are more than capable of blocking shots, Liverpool didn't need to help them. The final flurry saw a third possible penalty ignored (Morgan's shove on Borini), Henderson one-on-one with Hamer but denied, Markovic heading wide from 12 yards, and Gerrard skying an effort following a corner. All decent chances, all spoiled by terrible finishing.

Unlike Monday, Liverpool's shooting simply wasn't good enough. That it took 66 minutes for Liverpool to register an open play shot on-target summarizes just how impotent they were, both before and after Leicester's goals.

So maybe Monday was a fluke. Liverpool won't be that cohesive in every match, Liverpool won't put more than 50% of its shots on-target in every match, Liverpool's fragility and intermittent mistakes won't go unpunished in every match.

Or maybe the festive schedule finally caught up with Liverpool, and they'll be better with more rest and more players available. That the bench featured seven players who either weren't with Liverpool or didn't make a first team appearance for the club last season shows how shallow today's squad was.

Or maybe Monday demonstrated that it's finally time to stop hoping a Gerrard-Lucas midfield will finally come good.


Anonymous said...

With Lucas certain to have tired legs today, we definitely needed Hendo's energy in midfield protecting the back line. Such a mind numbingly obvious necessity.

2 penalties, one a gift and a 2 - nil halftime lead should never not be enough against the bottom side at home.

Can't carry passengers in the Prem. without getting punished. You just can't do it.

To think that we could have set up the team the same as on Monday with Kolo in for the suspended Skrtel and pressed them the same as we did Swansea. Only Lucas would have been a little short of energy. But we had to play him anyway to help cover for SG. That was and is a young team that would have been just fine playing 3 days after Monday's match.

2 points lost. Momentum lost. The manager under fire again. Why?

TomW said...

Thanks Stevie G for all the memories and, at times, single-handedly winning us games in what were some mediocre Liverpool sides.

At peak, he was the perfect combination of a no nonsense tackler, incisive passer, driving runner and accurate shooter. A once in a generation player that we've been so fortunate to witness.

Oh you beauty.