Liverpool 3-2 Latics
Saturday 18th October 2008
It’s somebody else’s turn to apologise, this week; I’m just not certain whose it is. According to Rafa Benitez, there’s nothing to apologise for, his team were the better one, they were never in trouble and the sending off didn’t change things, la la la la [fingers in ears].
According to Steve Bruce and the players it should be Alan Wiley on the basis that his overall performance didn’t deserve the respect that referees keep asking for. Me? I’m not so sure that the players shouldn’t be showing just a bit of regret. I wouldn’t expect then to say sorry for being tired, but for a lack of focus and a fair dose of stupidity, yes I would.
Despite what the Match of the Day editors would have you think, Latics’ first half performance was spot on. They played Liverpool in their own half, moved the ball quickly in possession and closed the opposition down when not. In the second half, for the most part, they didn’t.
Whilst tiredness will have played it’s part, the home side having the luxury of resting their players who had just landed from South America, it can’t be the sold reason for such a dramatic switch in approach. Maybe Liverpool had underestimated Latics in the first half and were reinvigorated by their siesta, who knows? That said, you just got the feeling that Latics were sitting more than being forced, back.
If that was by design then the tactic was folly, inviting a team like Liverpool onto you can only bring trouble and they’re bound to punish you, one way or another, especially when you’ve a pair of central defenders who are the physical embodiment of the phrase ‘lapse in concentration’.
This time around it was the turn of my old mucker, Paul Scharner. The free kick if have away, right on the edge of the box wasn’t anything earth shattering, but it was a silly, unnecessary challenge that was only going to lead to one thing. That Gerrard nearly scored from it is almost inconsequential compared to what happened in the lead up to him actually taking the thing.
Watch the real masters at dead balls and you’ll see nothing other than concentration from them. Now watch Liverpool, they’re masters at a different game. I’m not saying that their whingeing is designed to do anything other that distract the opposition, but they tend to get their own way in the end and so it was that Louis Antonio Valencia found himself 9 yards away from the ball and in the referee’s book.
If I tell you that it wasn’t a deserved booking then you’ll just call me biased, if I tell you about the letter of the law, then, well it’s an ass. Not as much of one as Valencia, mind, who less than two minutes later was jumping in and over the ball with inevitable consequences. If not for the earlier incident then the debate would have been about whether a booking may have been too lenient.
So there you are, sitting back against one of the best teams in the country and down to ten men, it’s a good job you’ve got a lead, eh?
There’s no cynicism intended there, ok so Latics had given themselves a job to get off the back foot and into the half, but with the introduction of a few fresh legs, who knows whether they could have managed it. There’s no denying that the sending off immediately restricted Bruce’s options and made that job practically impossible.
If what happened in the last 20 minutes was bleeding obvious then what had happened in the first 45 would have taken Derek Accora by suprise. Latics came flying out of the blocks and into the faces of a Liverpool team who looked a little short of ideas without Torres. This was like the City game except against one of the teams everyone was making them out to be.
It was never going to last of course, give things ten minutes and the Scousers and Spaniards would be in control of things and then it would be time to dig in and hope. Don’t try to tell me that I was the only one thinking that, right up until Agger gifted Zaki his 7th goal of the season and Latics fans hope that this time we might actually get something out of one of *these* games.
Dirk Kuyt will have to excuse me for brushing over his equaliser. It was a decent goal, against the run of things that failed in any meaningful way to swing things the way of his team but what followed was a bit special. No, not the enjoyment of watching Latics match, if not better, Liverpool for 20 or so minutes, but the icing on that particular cake. I doubt my words will do it justice, so I’ll hand you over to Alan Shearer on that point.
It was almost the last kick of the half, was deserved and gave Latics a 2-1 lead at half time at Anfield for the first time in 19 years. It’s almost a natural reaction to follow that statement with “and we all know what happened then”, but I guess that some of you were doing other things back then. Nor would you have got the pleasure of out singing the Kop whilst they were being conducted by Joey Boswell.
Not that it’s important, what matters is that Liverpool worked their way back into the game then and they did the same again here. It might have been a bit closer this time around, but the net result is the same. We get over excited, they get the victory.
It’s tempting to say that we shouldn’t be too worried about this result, and to great extent that’s true. After all we won’t keep our place in this division based on results against Liverpool and their ilk. However, ‘we didn’t deserve to lose that’ is an uncomfortable catch phrase that, if nothing is done about it could easily be replaced with ‘we didn’t deserve to get relegated’ come May.
At the end of the day it doesn’t matter how puzzled you are about it, you get relegated because you don’t have enough points and whilst it’s way too early to start panicking, perhaps we should stop bemoaning our luck and start asking questions about why we aren’t winning, if that’s really what we deserve?
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