Pyrrhic victory(???) for Liverpool

19 04 2010
HELL I JUST CANT SEEM TO GET MY RETURN KEY TO WORK FOR THIS POST!
Rafael Benitez continued to frustrate me with his team selection (although it would prove to vindicate him later). Ngog started as the lone striker with Gerrard playing an unusual (unusual for Gerrard i.e.) withdrawn deep midfield position. No Mascherano, No Aquilani (What’s that all about….?). Lucas started.
Both teams started in subdued manner. West Ham were mellow as a result of their low morale in all likelihood while Liverpool’s muffled approach was probably as a result of the feeling of missing out on 4th place sinking in along with the news of Torres not being able to complete the season and who might have very well played his last game for the reds.
Notably, a number of seats lay derelict and empty at Anfield — an anachronism of sorts.
Liverpool did take the lead however on the 20th minute through Yossi Benayoun’s chested deflection from a superb free kick by Steven Gerrard. Soon Liverpool took what might be considered an unassailable lead for West Ham to overtake through… wait a minute… David Ngog. (I pictured Rafael Benitez waving a milatory finger at me saying “I told you so”)
However, there was a lull in Anfield at half time as this might just be a pyrrhic victory for Liverpool. Too little too late.
The second half started in similar drab fashion as neither team tried too hard to wake the crowd from it’s deep slumber. Despite the somnolent nature of the game, West Ham allowed Kyrgiakos to score only his second goal for Liverpool from a Steven Gerrard free kick (it is debate at this juncture whether it was an own goal by West Ham goalie, Rob Greene), with nearly 40 minutes to go!
It was Liverpool 3 West Ham 0 and it looked bad for the hammers while not looking very uppity for the Reds themselves given their current league position and that of Tottenham, Man City, Aston Villa and even Everton.
The only person proving to be quite a handful was Yossi Benayoun who was flashing past defenders like they were daisies in a field.
It was the 66th minute before West Ham elicited Reina’s first save of the game from an innocuous attempt on goal by Carlton Cole. That told the story of the match.
Liverpool made their first substitution of the evening in the form of Javier Masceranho coming on for Steven Gerrard as a precautionary measure for their midweek Europa league fixture. Momentarily, Ryan Babel, Liverpool’s super-sub came on for David Ngog.
Although Liverpool won the game in clinical fashion, the match lacked the usual fervor that is characteristic of Liverpool and their supporters. They desperately need to play more attractive football.




Possible starting eleven – Liverpool v West Ham Utd

18 04 2010

Let’s just keep aside, for the moment, West Ham’s inability to get a win on the road and focus on Liverpool’s inability to challenge for fourth spot. I hate to say this but LFC need to wake up, smell the coffee (or tea if thats was gets you a kick…) and consolidate.

They must consolidate their current position (which is 7th thanks to Aston Villa beating lowly Portsmouth) or lose out on any chance of playing in Europe next season. Their fourth place chances (if any at all), have taken a cruel hit with the announcement of Fernando Torres’s unavailability for the remained of the season due to injury. Considering that Torres was the only player in the side who looked to heap misery on oppositions, it’s quite scary that we might just see a goal drought for the next couple of games. I hope I am wrong.

I would like to see the following team tomorrow against West Ham and pray to the millions of gods in Hinduism that Benitez leaves Ngog and Leiva out of this, for once.

Possible starting eleven. http://www.liverpoolfc.tv

I also hope that Gerrard and Kuyt get on the score sheet tomorrow or all might be lost.





Kissing fourth place goodbye

13 04 2010

Optimists (read ‘people who see the bright side of a plague’) might say otherwise but I think I am bracing myself for Liverpool’s absence from the Champions League next season and possibly the Europa league as well.

I might sound fatalistic but I think we need to face the facts now. If the two consecutive draws against Birmingham City and Fulham were not bad enough, Manchester City continue to make a case for themselves as far by netting 3-4 goals every game.

This brings me to think what was amiss in Liverpool’s season and this is what I conclude:

  • Lack of world class strikers other than Fernando Torres. Ngog is no where close to Torres and LFC effectively play with one striker in their whole squad. Shameful.
  • Lack of a play-making midfielder. Ever since Xabi Alonso left Liverpool, Alberto ‘I am injured’ Aquilani has done little to fill the rather gaping hole in midfield. Lucas doesn’t belong to the same mold as Alonso and it is safe to assume that Lucas may be on his way out although I might be wrong about that (sitting on the fence in an ambiguous manner there!)
  • Steven Gerrard’s less than fruitful season. Captain Fantastic hasn’t clicked this season and has lost his touch. Some say that he might be on his way out. I sincerely hope not.
  • Have the wingers ‘provided’? Barring a some good performances by Glen Johnson who isn’t really a right side midfield player, LFC clearly lacks wingers who can provide devastating crosses. The one hope that they have, Ryan Babel, has featured less than he would have ideally liked (and made that quite clear on his Twitter page!)
  • Bench strength. Lets face it. Liverpool have a weak bench. Reinforcements are sorely needed.

Anything you might want to add to this, please leave a comment! I guess we just need to bring in the changes now.





Liverpool’s fourth place chance only a mathematical possiblity now

11 04 2010

Could have been a happier picture if it were not for a draw. Courtesy: LFCTV

As expected, Rafael Benitez made his trademark changes, ‘squad rotation’ as it is stylishly referred to as. Torres was left out, probably as a precautionary measure and David Ngog was bestowed with Torres’s ‘lone striker position’.  The other surprise inclusion was that of Alberto Aquilani who was on instead of presumably battle weary Lucas Leiva.

Liverpool showed plenty of attacking intent in the first half hour of the game with Alberto Aquilani, Ryana Babel and Maxi Rodriguez being very sharp and incisive. Liverpool would have certainly had a goal or two if it wasn’t for veteran Mark Schwarzer’s interventions. The game had all the makings of “one of those days” feelings that Liverpool would fully like to avoid at all costs!

There was a moment of contention in the 35th minute when Jonathan Greening, already on a yellow card, infringed on Glen Johnson’s right to keep his feet on the ground and contrived to clatter him. Much to Rafael Benitez and Liverpool’s pique, Greening stayed on the field as he didn’t see red flashed in his face. That kind of, effectively, summed up Liverpool’s boorish season.

Somehow, all this while, Steven Gerrard seemed quite M.I.A. although he had showed flashes of brilliance every fifteen minutes or so. Much to infrequently, I would like to imagine, for a player of his caliber and class.

The first half drew to a close with Liverpool failing to take the lead. I am sure that they fully know the consequences of not winning here against Fulham. Meanwhile the somewhat heart warming news of Manchester Utd’s ineffectual display against Blackburn Rovers: a 0-0 draw transpired.

This might have well been Steven Gerrard given Liverpool's ineffectual display. http://www.soccernet.com

The second half started with somewhat the same flavor as it’s predecessor, the first half. Schwarzer continued to thwart any and all efforts by Liverpool to take the lead. Aquilani had quite a few chances in the first five minutes which were all taken weakly. The benefit of the doubt would be given to the Italian as he is, after all, just getting back to competitive football (read soccer in case you are American…) after a lengthy lay-off.

Heres a breakdown of the match so far:

  • Fernando Torres’s absence was telling on Liverpool’s strife to get a goal.
  • Fulham were at Anfield for a draw.
  • Liverpool were playing with half a striker in Ngog, up front.
  • Gerrard wasn’t venturing forward enough.

It was surprising that with Liverpool hogging possession, 77%-23% between minutes 55-60, the reds had failed to come cloes to scoring. A shame. A couple of minutes later, Ryan Babel came up with perhaps the best attempt of the match which Schwarzer put away to safety, yet again.

Dirk Kuyt was all primed and prepped to come on and provide inspiration in the face of desperation! Aquilani was withdrawn for Kuyt suggesting that Liverpool might switch into a more attacking formation with 3 up-front, with Gerrard playing in the hole in all likelihood.

As Fulham’s mainstay striker, Bobby Zamora, came off, Liverpool midfielder, Yossi Benayoun looked to come on soon. Meanwhile, Maxi Rodriguez displayed his coming of age at Liverpool as he continued to demonstrate cross-field crossing that Liverpool have failed to see in the last couple of years. With about 20 minutes to go, further attacking reinforcement was provided by Benayoun who came on. At this stage Fulham had committed about half a dozen players to defensive duty. Liverpool, however, knew that points were not awarded in the Premier League for scaring the opponents into their own box.

Time was no longer a luxury and Liverpool had to get a goal in or kiss their fourth place chances goodbye once and for all. The unfortunately ineffective, David Ngog came off for young striker Daniel Pacheco who got a rousing applause from the Anfield faithful.

An 86th minute shout by Liverpool, for handball was turned down, further adding to Liverpool’s despair this afternoon. There were three minutes of added time for Liverpool to somehow squeeze in a goal to squeeze in a shout for fourth place. As the match ended, I couldn’t help but feel that Liverpool would not be featuring in the Champions League in the coming season, what with their closest competitors for the coveted fourth place, Manchester City, leading 3-1 at Birmingham City.

Now it is only mathematically possible for Liverpool to get in and I shudder to think of the ignominy that possibly awaits Liverpool in the next season.





Liverpool v Fulham – European supremacy Part 1

10 04 2010

The title shows an obvious lack of ideas for … er …titles. However, it is rather surprising that given their antecedents this season, Liverpool and Fulham are the only two English sides still in any European competition, a stark contrast of a situation as compared to the EPL’s supremacy in Europe.

Anywhooo, this isn’t about the Europa league. Or the Champions League. This is about the Premier League. It is about whether Liverpool would reclaim fourth place which has so often been their’s over the last couple of seasons.

Given that Fulham are in the lower middle half of the table, I have a sneaky suspicion that they may rest a few key players  so as to avoid injuries to key players which might hamper their European adventure. On the other hand, Liverpool should probably play a full strength squad with Ryan Babel, possibly, returning to the starting line up after sitting out Liverpool’s mauling of Benfica. Having said that, if you know Rafael Benitez then there’s a good chance you can’t quite predict the starting line-up for tomorrows clash at Anfield!

On a side note, would we see Lucas Leiva start again or would the gaffer prefer 20 mil. man, Alberto Aquilani?

Predictions, predictions, predictions… Liverpool can’t afford a sub-par performance like the one they demonstrated against Birmingham, so I would say it would, in all probability, be a Liverpool victory: 2-0 or 2-1. Please do note that the key phrase here is “in all probability” and everyone who has followed Liverpool’s dismal season would understand my lack of confidence!





Birmingham City v Liverpool: I am at a complete loss!

4 04 2010

Set aside the glorious goal from Steven Gerrard to mark the beginning of the first half, Liverpool were mostly noncommittal, reminiscent of their match against Manchester Utd in particular.

I didn’t know what was surprising: my online stream dying or Rafael Benitez substituting Torres for Ngog much to the surprise and quizzical looks on Torres and Gerrard. Ngog would then go and miss two glaring chances  after his introduction and one in stoppage time that could have allowed Liverpool to regain the lead.

It is one thing that you get done in by bad refereeing (as seen most recently against Benfica) but this was ridiculous. Liverpool’s highly ineffectual play galvanized Birmingham City who just got ebullient as the match progressed. Suddenly, Liverpool were playing like a relegation threatened team trying to rescue a single point against a team that they would have put to the sword last year.

Benitez needs to get his priorities right: Is it Europa League glory that they are after or a Champions League place that would actually fit their status. If this choice isn’t clear, then we need a major overhaul of the coaching staff as soon as this season ends. But of course! Liverpool can’t financially afford it!





Benfica 2 – Liverpool FC 1

1 04 2010

I don’t buy this. Liverpool have a raw deal with the referees this season. I think Liverpool were better than what the scoreline suggests. I really hope the reds murder Benfica in the return leg. I just don’t buy that Liverpool would lose 2-1. I am too incensed to write much. Must stop before expletives pour out by the hundreds.