Liverpool vs Liege

What have having your fingernails pulled out, breaking both legs and taking a huge kick in the groin got in common? They are all less painful than watching last nights match.

I was really looking forward to this game. I had one of the best seats I have ever sat in at Anfield and I hoped it would be the perfect vantage point to watch us breeze pass Liege. After all, we couldn’t be as bad as we were in Belgium could we?

In many ways we were much worse. After a terrible performance against Boro on Saturday we kept virtually the same team with the only change being Aurelio for Dossena. From the first whistle it was obvious Liege believed they could win. They showed more desire to win the ball and more composure and skill when they had possession. Their captain Defour had an excellent game.

Again our tactics were to play the ball to Torres and watch him do something with it. It was only thanks to a great Reina save and an airshot by a Liege forward with the goal at his mercy, prevented Liege from taking a deserved lead. The only entertainment for Liverpool in the first half was a great running battle, mostly off the ball behind the ref’s back, between Skrtel and Mbokani and Kuyt failed to get a header on target when he was wide open.

The atmosphere was about as bad as I ever remember it being at Anfield as we had absolutely nothing to cheer about from our players performances and the excellent Liege fans were loudly hailing their teams efforts.

The second half was all about Liverpool having possession and wasting it and Liege just sitting back then trying to hit us on the counter attack. Again the problem was obvious, the lack of width and the lack of pace throughout the team. Kuyt, for all his industry is not a winger and Benayoun was so poor barely qualifies as a player at all. Liege’s big defenders we easily snuffing out all our attacks as they were coming straight up the middle every time and the tempo was so slow they were able to get everyone behind the ball and deny Liverpool any space to work in.

Finally Benayoun was taken off for Babel but it still made no difference. El Zhar replaced Keane, who had been ineffective all night. El Zhar was the first player to take some of their defenders on a cause a nuisance but still Liverpool had not stretched Espinoza in the Liege goal.

The final whistle approached, much to the chagrin of Liverpool fans who were not enthused about the prospect of another 30 minutes of the terrible football we had been treated to and indeed, De Carmago missed a good chance to snatch the game for the Belgians right at the end.

The first period of extra time was pretty uneventful. Both teams were pretty tired and running out of steam and some petty fouls resulted in booking for some Liege players. In the second half of extra-time Arbeloa produced a great shot that forced the keeper into a good save. The lively El Zhar went on a mazy run, which ended when Onyewu took his legs away in the area but somehow the officials didn’t give it when it was a cast-iron penalty. The game was won when Babel got out wide and put a good cross to the back post (note to Rafa, Wingers!!) and the defender missed it and Kuyt, who had been useless all game got a leg to it and put it in for an undeserved victory.

Notes

Our bench was a disgrace. That was an important game and to not have a striker on the bench is just irresponsible, if we were protecting Voronin in case we’re selling him then fair enough, but surely Ngog or Nemeth could have been on the bench instead of one of the two defensive midfielders we had. Only having a half-fit Babel and El Zhar as attacking options is just not good enough.

The only players to play anywhere near their best were; Reina, Carragher, Skrtel, Arbeloa and El Zhar. The rest were awful. Torres can be excused as the lack of service to him frustrated him and Gerrard is excused, as he played hurt. Alonso was terrible. His role in the team confuses me. He plays as the holding midfielder but cannot tackle, his passing was diabolical and he was even failing to complete 5 yard passes and he contributes nothing to attacking play except mostly ineffective long range shots.

Benayoun is not good enough for Liverpool. Aurelio did nothing to show why he should be played ahead of Dossena (surely Insua should be the starting left-back), I’d like to see Arbeloa move to left and Carragher to right back as it is a waste to leave Agger out. Despite his goal, Kuyt was poor and reminded me of Emile Heskey in that he worked hard but had an atrocious first touch and sprayed his shots everywhere.

The return of Mascherano and Lucas cannot come soon enough. Gerrard is out fir at least two weeks and will be missed, as we have no creativity in the middle. Keane has yet to show anything near his best in a red shirt and seems to be struggling with his price tag.

We have shown no improvement from our first few performances of the season and it will take a minor miracle to beat Man Utd in two weeks time.