Latics 1-1 Liverpool
Wednesday 28th January 2009
Is the day where we’ll finally beat one of the big four any closer after this one? Well, I’m not going to pretend that this was as good as the one at Old Trafford a week ago, but in some ways that makes this a more satisfying performance. The result brings its own satisfaction, but when added to the fact that it involved Latics coming from behind and in a way that was much more than a punchline to some sick joke for this year’s pretenders to the Premier League throne it’s hard to think of another draw that was quite so encouraging.
Or a reaction to one that had me chuckling quite so much. Keegan’s “I’d love it” outburst had Sir Alex placed as the master of football mind games, but these days it seems that he doesn’t even have to try. The pressure of having Fergie below you in the table is enough to make some managers flip. Maybe Rafa is prone to vertigo, or there could be something in the product of the official hydrogen dioxide partner to the UEFA Champion’s League.
Either way, his rambling paranoid excuses about it being a “crazy game” made a meeting between Barry Fry and Ian Hollaway seem like a meeting of the Ludlow Temperance Society.
The football? Well there way decent stuff on show from both sides and in between the bits where Steven Gerrard MBE, ABH, rolled around on the floor or moaned at the referee, there was a fairly good game. Latics had their (becoming) traditional slow start but had managed to get into the game before Liverpool managed to make anything of it.
Worryingly, their goal came through the same channel (between left back and centre half) that United’s did last week. Whether it’s Scharner, Figueroa or Taylor (or a combination) that’s at fault hardly matters, we can’t afford to have an obvious weakness so some work on the training ground is required on that point.
Apart from that, Latics handled Liverpool pretty well. Rafa made the job a little easier by leaving Alonso on the bench but all in all, keeping Gerrard quiet for 83 minutes should be an achievement in anyone’s book, so a big thumbs up for Cattermole and Brown. Word is that Rafa didn’t agree, and that he was a bit mard over big nasty Michael Brown picking on lil ole Stevie G. Yep the same Gerrard who once revelled in making his then team-mate, Deitmar Hamman squeal like a baby when on international duty.
Also up for praise is Mido. For a man with supposedly big shoes to fill, he looked at ease and, considering that he’s supposed to be a bit moody and arrogant, he did a good job of coaxing and encouraging his colleagues along. There weren’t too many signs of a ready made partnership with Zaki, in fact at times it looked like neither was too sure about what role they should have been playing, or when, but I guess it’s too early to make a judgement on such things.
Less encouraging were the performances of De Ridder and Taylor. With Real and United allegedly sniffing around the injured Valencia, there was a good chance for both to stake a claim for the right wing berth. De Ridder got the nod to start off with, but they attempted to switch on more than one occasion, with little effect, if I’m honest. It’s coming to the sharp end of Taylor’s Latics career, and on this showing he doesn’t look particularly bothered about whether it continues or not.
There were signs here that it might not matter. We’ve all been looking for open play that matches his set pieces but shots from Mido and Rodallega and corners from De Ridder all showed that we’ve now got other people who are adept at making things happen with a dead ball. Surely it’s obvious what would win out in the choice between a good player who’s reasonable at set pieces and some one who’s the other way around?
Overall, it was a game of promise for Latics. Steve Bruce will be pleased at how his team did, despite being forced to introduce new players alongside relying on a couple of fringe players. Yet, we’ve still got plenty to worry about between now and the end of the window and there’s plenty to think about before we can even consider this being the season where Latics become a different sort of Premier League team.
Mido and Rodallega did enough to show that there will be life without Heskey but the holes in midfield left by Palacios and, potentially, Valencia will be more difficult to plug. Whilst the performance may have done a lot to settle some nerves, draws against Liverpool are hardly a rarity this season and the short answer to the question I started off with is that we need to be careful of reading too much into games like this.
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