08 March 2015

Liverpool 0-0 Blackburn

Blackburn came to Anfield to do exactly what Bolton did in the fourth round. And Blackburn got the same result that Bolton got.

If you can't play out from the back, you can't play. Not in this system, and not against a team that sits as deep as Blackburn did.

With Can and Sakho, Liverpool have two excellent passers of the ball, especially in close quarters. Lovren is hit and miss; sometimes it works, usually it doesn't, and he has an Enrique-esque propensity for the long ball even when it's not on. With Lovren and Johnson, as Can was needed in midfield, and with Skrtel going off after a very early head/neck injury, Liverpool's back line was a mess, at least at building from the back. And, subsequently, Liverpool were a mess.

Liverpool missed Joe Allen and Moreno, ostensibly rested. Liverpool missed Sakho, only fit enough for the bench. Liverpool even missed Gerrard, not yet fit enough for the squad. And then Skrtel's frightening third-minute injury completely threw off the side, resulting in an eight-minute stop and requiring Toure to come on. And Liverpool were off balance for the next 20 minutes, if not the next 80 minutes.

Still, Liverpool had chances to win. Liverpool had almost 70% possession. Liverpool took 21 shots to Blackburn's four. Liverpool had two, possibly three penalty shots ignored. Liverpool hit the woodwork. Liverpool had a goal correctly ruled out for offside. After 80 minutes of dross, Liverpool managed a late flurry, the sort which resulted in winner at Bolton and against Besiktas after disappointing performances, but without reward. Liverpool should have won that match but didn't and now Liverpool have to deal with a replay.

Of course, if Liverpool don't win, we're complaining about Liverpool's shooting. And we're complaining about Liverpool's shooting. 21 shots, but just four on target. 10 off-target (including Toure's header off the post), 7 blocked. 19% shooting accuracy. And it's not as if Liverpool were just speculatively letting fly from distance (although that also happened); 13 of those 21 were in the penalty box, two from point blank range in the six-yard box.

At least Liverpool didn't do anything stupid at the back, which always seems likely – despite Liverpool's recent defensive record – and feels especially likely when the back three is Johnson, Toure, and Lovren. Blackburn's one memorable chance, from a corner when Baptiste found space behind Can, was impeccably saved by Mignolet.

Mignolet's probably the only player who escapes with any credit. We've already mentioned Toure, Lovren, and Johnson, who did some good in defense but a lot bad with the ball. Henderson and Can weren't especially poor, but didn't have the composure that Henderson and Allen do; both tried too hard to push the play, Liverpool missed the metronomic passing that Allen (or Lucas) can provide. Lallana and Coutinho were especially disappointing. Sturridge and Balotelli (on as a substitute after an hour) were fairly well smothered, neither able to conjure something from nothing with the supply erratic at best (although Sturridge should have won at least one penalty, if not two, while Lallana also should have gotten one). Liverpool clearly need the rest – both physically and mentally – that the next eight days will provide.

But, as with Bolton, credit where it's due. Evans and Williamson did very well to nullify Lallana, Coutinho, and Henderson/Can. Baptiste and Kilgallon were perpetually in the way. Blackburn's wingers tracked back wonderfully to make sure Sterling, Markovic, and Lallana (after substitutions) were almost always doubled up. Blackburn – keeping a clean sheet for just the second time in 2015, for just the third time away from home in all competitions – defended really well.

It's just that Liverpool helped them do so. And it's not for the first time this season. And now, Liverpool will have to cope with a replay, whenever the FA can find the time to schedule it.

1 comment :

Swinefever said...

Nice take on the game but you didn't mention the biggest difference between the two sides - the sheer physicality of the Blackburn compared to LFC. They out-muscled and and out-tackled us across the pitch and not always legally. And of course, the ref just let them. At least two studs-up tackles that should have seen red and a fair few more, particularly on Sterling, that would have crippled the player if he hadn't pulled up or turned away before they could connect. We never play well when we're being battered and until we learn to cope with that aspect of playing lower league teams we'll always struggle in these kind of fixtures.