Confidence and luck running low at Anfield.
27 shots to 5. That’s the real story of last night’s match. It seems that whereas previously we were not performing and rightfully coming out of games with nothing we are now not getting the rub of the green.
But for late goals in both matches against Lyon we would have seven points and not four from our Champions League encounters and now we find ourselves having to deal with yet another set of dropped points, this time at home to Birmingham.
Rafa Benitez is obviously struggling to make do with the players available to him after injuries and suspensions decimated our squad and the line up he sent out should still have been able to overcome Alex McLeish’s side. In the first half we got the early goal we so dearly need these days to settle confidence but too many players were not firing on all cylinders.
Albert Riera was as greedy as ever. The Spaniard always takes too long to move on possession choosing to either take another touch or more often than not going it alone and failing to achieve anything other than picking out a fan in row Z with his flailing shots. I am afraid my patience for the winger has run out and I just don’t see him being of sufficient quality to play for us.
Our centre backs once again switched off from a set piece and failed to deal with a fairly standard ball into the box, failing to deal with the initial delivery and then not being able to stop Cristian Benitez from scoring from two yards out. It seems that whatever pairing we pick to put in front of Pepe, they consistently fail to deal with the most basic aspects of the game.
One member of the back four who does come out of the game with nothing but plaudits is Glen Johnson. He was awesome, a constant menace down the right, so often the instigator of our waves of attack the England man is a cut above and in my view the best right back in the country right now.
David Ngog took his goal well and was also a positive to take from this match. There was nothing much that could be done about Cameron Jerome’s long range strike, yes Reina was off his line but I don’t think we can blame him for not being able to stop that thunderbolt, the former Cardiff man really hit it in the sweet spot.
The second half was all us and Riera’s injury, and he would surely have been subbed at half time anyway, meant we got to see Stevie G earlier than the boss would have brought him on. More than likely our gaffer would have waited until the hour mark to bring him on so thankfully he was forced into making a decision we would all have liked to have seen much earlier.
Lucas was pretty solid as was Javier Mascherano and it really was down to our back four’s inability to get rid of the ball and defend in a confident manner that cost us all three points.
Now we come to THAT penalty. I’m afraid that even though we don’t want to admit it, we have to say it as we saw it, regardless of whether it’s by a member of our own squad. David Ngog took a horrible dive the kind that really should have gotten him booked. Lee Carsley made no contact whatsoever and only a sub standard ref, and that is what Peter Walton is, would have fallen for it. Gerrard put away the spot kick perfectly and we then had twenty minutes to get the winner but try as we might we just couldn’t manage it.
I think the introductions of both Ryan Babel and Alberto Aquilani would have been best made just after that penalty and not when they did. We needed to exert pressure on our opponents at that point and I do think that Rafa once again dawdled too long and didn’t give either sub enough time to get themselves into the game.
So it’s a point that keeps us in seventh place which is a hideous position to be in and we really have done ourselves no favours in the top four race. The boss can blame injuries all he wants but we shouldn’t be so dependent on Gerrard and Torres in the first place so anytime Rafa claims that the absence of either party is to blame it just serves to show how ineffectively he has handled additions to the squad.
Reina 6 – Didn’t have much to do and perhaps should have been on his line for the second
Johnson 9 – Man of the Match without doubt. Fantastic attacking play
Agger 5 – Tried to come forward more in the second half but was not good at all
Insua 6 – Average game from the Argentine
Skrtel 5 – Clumsy and unable to deal with the basic aspects of defending
Riera 4 – Truly horrid performance. Greedy, lazy and slowed down every first half attack
(Gerrard) 7 – Good touches and took his penalty well
Benayoun 7 – A little subdued but as always looked like he would spark life into the team
(Babel) 6 – A couple of bad touches but not enough time to impose himself on the game
Mascherano 7 – Good game
Lucas 7.5 – Continues to grow as a player. Good distribution
(Aquilani) 6 – Didn’t have enough time to get into the game
Kuyt 7 – Dogged running, full of determination as always
Ngog 7.5 – Took his goal well and made other chances as well