Officially no more fourth place

2 05 2010

Only in an alternate universe. http://www.liverpool.theoffside.com

Liverpool wrapped up their final game at Anfield for this season through yet another listless performance for which the Europa league exit is sure to be blamed for.

Despite an emotional Europa league semifinal exit, I expected the Reds to show some tooth here. But it was not to be as Drogba capitalized on a bad pass by Gerrard, in the first half and Lampard put one into the net in the second half to keep Chelsea in pole position and firm favorites to take the title next week.

As for Liverpool, it was a disgusting performance and they were largely disinterested in the proceedings. There were some surprise inclusions in the team for the reds as Aquilani started again but was not half as effective as he was in midweek.

Ho-hum, one more week to go but I just don’t care anymore. I think the fat lady has left the building after her ear drum piercing aria.

For a transcript from a live blog hosted on the wonderful http://www.liverpool.theoffside.com,  click here.





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.





The case for Aqua and Babel – Liverpool v Sunderland Preview

24 03 2010

As we get closer to the end of the season, Aston Villa and Manchester City have handed Liverpool FC a glimmer of a hope by drawing against Sunderland and losing to Everton, respectively, in midweek.

Carew's goal rescues point for 7th place Villa. http://www.bbc.co.uk

Now, Liverpool will need to take on Sunderland on Sunday, the 28th of March and MUST capitalize on this with a three point haul.

Cahil scores against Man City! http://www.bbc.co.uk

How are Liverpool to go about achieving that? By playing Aquilani in midfield and Babel on the wing. The time for a defensive mindset is long gone and Rafael Benitez has been reminded that time and again, the latest unsavory reminder coming against arch rivals, Manchester Utd last weekend. I hate retrospect but that was a match which flabbergasted me!

My starting eleven would be:

Reina, Jonhson, Carragher, Agger, Insua,Kuyt, Aquilani, Mascherano, Gerrard, Torres.

Despite Liverpool’s rotten season, I don’t see Liverpool slipping up against Sunderland and in light of recent happenings in the Premier League, live in eternal hope of a fourth place finish!

Moyes and Mancini. http://www.soccernet.com





The race to fourth place

21 03 2010

The race to fourth place is all but over for the red half of Liverpool. Some would say that the proverbial fat lady had actually left the building a week ago when we lost to Wigan. I was strongly of the opinion that a positive result today would have stoked the remaining dying embers that are Liverpool’s chances of a fourth place finish but Liverpool have probably thrown water on the said embers with a watered, somnolent display.

Unless we have a miracle, Liverpool would

Bawl!!!!!!

e plying their once attractive football in the Europa league, much to the chagrin of the Liverpool faithful. This would in turn affect their exchequer and, god forbid it, but it might lead to the exodus of players.

I think it is a given that Albert Riera is on his way out. Dirk Kuyt has failed to make an impression in the last couple of weeks or so and has looked a shadow of his former self. Gerrard has looked completely out of sorts as if he were in a foreign land and was asking for directions with disastrous results. Torres, despite being involved in a glut of goals, has looked a petulant child. As for Rafael Benitez, his days seem to be numbered and probably the only thing that will keep him at Anfield at the end of this season is the massive payoff that would need to be doled to him in case of a premature termination of his contract.

Liverpool will take on Sunderland this weekend. I would like to say that it looks like 3 points are for the taking but given Liverpool’s recidivist attitude this season, I would not like to make sensational predictions in their favor!





Liverpool lose to Wigan in what was definitely a decider!

8 03 2010

In a match where Liverpool were bolstered by the presence of their full squad, they did little to dent Wigan Atletic’s poise. The ball remained concentrated in Liverpool’s half for large portions of the first half, much to the Liverpool fan’s disgust and to the delight of Wigan’s supporters. This plus three yellow cards by the reds didn’t do much to placate the worries that have only mounted over the last 28 matches.

It wasn’t so much Wigan’s perspicacity in front of goal but the lack thereof on the part of Liverpool that eventually translated into a goal for Wigan on 35 minutes as the ball was needlessly given away for the umpteenth time in less than 15 minutes. Now, Liverpool had quite a mountain to climb further underscoring Liverpool’s lack of sting this season.

The second half started no differently as Wigan kept neutralizing any threat that Liverpool’s strike duo of Gerrard and Torres could do. Torres did have a genuine chance after Maxi Rodriguez cut into the Wigan box to provide a decent cross. Wigan’s 4-2-3-1 formation was proving to be too thick of a wall to break down. With a 1-0 lead, Wigan were very happy to sit back and get Liverpool on the break. Liverpool were as mushy as Oatmeal after 5 minutes in my microwave (very mush and soft i.e.!).

The defensive minded Lucas Leiva was replaced by a more offensive minded Glen Johnson, the latter making his return from injury in less than ideal circumstances. At this stage, Liverpool looked increasingly unlikely of being able to mount a significant challenge to win the game. We all know that a draw would be curtains for Liverpool’s Champions League hopes for next season as their close and superior competitors, Aston Villa, Manchester City and Tottenham have a game or so in hand over the reds.

On the hour, Kyriagkos had to rescue Liverpool from a clearance gone wrong by Carragher. The corner that resulted could have well been an own goal.

The listless display that Liverpool were putting up had to change if Liverpool were to get 3 points from this game but they were giving the ball away, quite easily, allowing Wigan to attempt impressive counter-attacks. Torres had settled into a wide wing position being fed by a Glen Johnson who was clearly lacking match fitness. The ball changed halves very often to Liverpool’s severe disappointment. But they only had themselves to blame as they played like they had just stirred from a siesta and couldn’t quite shake that sleepy feeling off!

Wigan were the perfect damper as they thwarted Liveprool attacks that were more ripples in a pond than waves in the ocean. Even the spate of corners that Liverpool got in the space of 10 minutes, did little to abate the gloom.  Aquilani came on for another rare appearance, with about 20 minutes to go. Benayoun was the man replaced.

With 15 minutes to go, Liverpool almost conceded a second goal as a result of some lax defending. Liverpool’s funeral dirge like style and would bring the pessimist out of the most optimistic supporters. A second chance went begging as Fernando Torres messed a kick, albeit the more difficult kick of the bicycle type!

Soon Fernando Torres and Gerrard got their own yellow cards which mirrored the kind of match Liverpool was having at this juncture. 5 yellow cards to Liverpool was a result of the mounting frustration. Ryan Babel came on for Dirk Kuyt to try and make a difference and rescue Liverpool from possibly the last match that they would play this season, before it could be ascertained with complete certainty of their Champions League chances for next season.

The five minutes of stoppage time that were allotted did little to help Liverpool’s cause. The curtain of gloom that has been continuously descending on Liverpool’s season finally completed it’s descent. It is probably safe to say that Liverpool’s champions league hopes for next season are all but down the drain.