Liverpool fans may well be suffering post-match trauma this morning after watching Pepe Reina single-handedly keep their Champions League hopes alive.
In what was largely expected to be a bit of a stroll in the park, Liverpool were made to look decidedly second best against Belgian champions Standard Liege in last night’s CL first-leg qualifier. Although the final score finished up at 0-0, Liverpool were lucky not to lose 3-0.
Whilst it’s unfair to blame any one player for such a collectively poor performance, Andrea Dossena, recently signed from Udinese, was in a word woeful. Apart from giving away a penalty for handling inside the box, the Italian left-back was all over the place, often caught out of position, unable to keep formation. His performance was so bad even Jamie Carragher had to give him a bollocking: It’s not every night you see mild-mannered Carra plead with one of his defenders to keep it simple.
Robbie Keane, making his Champions League bow with the club he supported as a boy, also failed to impress, chasing shadows for most of the 70 minutes he was on the pitch.
A 35-yard Xabi Alonso free-kick that curved onto the roof of the net was all Liverpool had to show for their first-half efforts and, to be frank, the Reds were lucky not to be out of the competition at half-time!
Liverpool played better in the second half but failed to create any decent chances. The mouth-watering due of Keane and Torres failed to gel and it came as no surprise really that Benitez was forced to throw on Steven Gerrard to replace Keane in a desperate attempt to bring some creativity to Liverpool’s play.
The captain, still not 100% recovered from the thigh strain that kept him out of the Reds last two season friendlies, brought some much needed class to Liverpool’s forward play and almost nicked it for the Merseyside club when he sent a curling 25-yard free-kick just wide of Standard Liege’s keeper’s right-hand post in the dying minutes.
On this showing, manager Rafa Benitez must be desperate for Mascherano and Ryan Babel to head back from the Olympics. Without the tough-tackling Mascherano Liverpool looked weak at the back and missed Ryan Babel’s creativity on the left.
Who cares about Gareth Barry now? On this showing, Liverpool need a world-class winger to provide Keane and Torres the kind of service their talent demands.
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