10 March 2018

Liverpool 1-2 Manchester United

Rashford 14' 24'
Bailly OG 68'

Away games against Liverpool's peers have not gone well this season. At least we've got complaining about the referee to mitigate the tire fire that was the first half. Because Liverpool absolutely got Mourinhoed in the first half.

Jose Mourinho's top-six strategy is well-known. Kill the game in your defensive half and try to exploit the main weakness you can find in the opposition's half. And oh boy did they.

14th minute. De Gea hoof. Lukaku beats Lovren in the air, with Lovren way too tight. Lukaku heads on for Rashford, in behind Alexander-Arnold. Alexander-Arnold overruns when retreating. Rashford's wide open to beat Karius.

24th minute. De Gea hoof. Lukaku beats Lovren in the air, with Lovren way too tight. Lukaku controls, tries to find Mata. Van Dijk tackles, but it falls perfectly for Rashford, who's wide open as Alexander-Arnold overruns when retreating.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

And to make matters that much more fun, van Dijk had shouldered a corner just wide from five yards out less than minute before United's second. Football's fine margins, etc.

So not only did Liverpool get Mourinhoed, we got a game that began almost exactly how Liverpool's 1-4 loss at Tottenham began. That's not a good place to start from. Liverpool had gone down 0-2 in 13 previous games under Klopp. They won one – I suspect you remember Borussia Dortmund – and lost 12.

Unlike the match at Tottenham, it at least did not get worse. Liverpool at least began doing a marginally better job controlling those situations. But that's also the difference between Pochettino's Tottenham and Mourinho's United.

Tottenham – like Liverpool in those positions – will continue to attack. Manchester United will absolutely destroy any semblance of a football match.

They'll destroy it with eight or nine men behind the ball. They'll destroy it with those midfield monsters planted in the middle of the defensive third: 6'4" Scott McTominay and 6'4" Nemanja Matic. They'll destroy it with the darkest of arts: time-wasting on throw-ins and goal kicks, sly fouls when the referee's not looking and dives when he is, faking injuries with Liverpool in possession in the final third then booting the dead ball to Liverpool's goalkeeper to reset the defense.

It'd be awe-inspiring if it wasn't so maddening to watch at the best of times and mass murder-inducing when your side's got to play against it.

But not only did it not get worse for Liverpool, it actually got better in the second half. If "righteous indignation" and "unexpected but ultimately unfulfilled optimism" is better than "I would like to fire these Liverpool players into the sun." I can go either way, honestly.

We have complained about the referees a lot this season. I imagine every team complains about the referee as often. I am still going to complain about the referees some more.

You should not expect to get much at Old Trafford, but you still expect things like "Young's pulling Salah back there" and "that hit Valencia's arm" and "Fellaini got Mané's leg there" to be called when those things happen inside the penalty box. Maybe at least one?

It does not help that the referee was Craig Pawson. You may remember him from such films as "Calvert-Lewin Gets A Penalty" and "Liverpool v West Brom: The Case For VAR."

It does not help that Liverpool had somehow gotten back into the game thanks to Eric Bailly, an incredible own goal from Mané's byline cross in the 68th minute, hilariously followed by Bailly pretending to be injured for the next two minutes out of embarrassment.

It does not help that Liverpool did not find some way to get an equalizer, despite an egregious amount of possession, despite moments where we actually, stupidly thought they might, unable to overcome the two-goal deficit they dug their way into. The spirit was willing but the flesh was weak, from almost all involved.

But for the misplaced optimism following Liverpool's goal, for all the complaints about the referee and decisions or moments that could have gone the other way, the grand total of Liverpool's attack was the own goal, three penalty shouts, and a couple of headers from 13 corners. From one of the best attacks in Europe.

Salah was supremely stifled, Firmino often had to drop deep to try to start a meaningful move, and we got one of those "I've got too much time on the ball to think about what I'm gonna do and that often ends badly" Mané games.

Liverpool put just two of 14 shots on-target. United blocked half of Liverpool's shots. All five of Liverpool's in-box shots came from set plays. Liverpool have now scored twice in four matches against Mourinho's Manchester United: a penalty and an own goal.

Liverpool failed in a couple of decisive moments and were punished for it. Again. For the fourth time in four matches away at a top-six rival. And Liverpool got Mourinhoed. Again.


Anonymous said...

hi nate
here are the highlights:
if you choose extended (middle one) and go to 02:57 (you can also adjust -
reduce - playback speed and don't forget to set the quility to the max) you can take a closer look at the situation before the 1st goal when de gea passes the ball to lukaku and lukaku is (marginally) offside. although it's hard for the linesman to see that, with all the debate about VAR that situation should be brought up. it does not change the fact that liverpool were bad in the 1st half, but it is a game changing decision by the ref nevertheless.

Anonymous said...

... apparently not an offside when it is a goal kick

Anonymous said...

Even with Var, the referee can choose to stick to his decision right, no matter how ill received it is.
We have been screwed over 2 times too many already this season alone by this guy.

Yup it is strange how mané continues to be the only one sent off for the kick. And even from the spurs match alone, thie offside rule is still left unanswered, with us being the unfortunate beneficiaries of poor decision making and incompetency.