Monday, 31 December 2012

QPR 0-3 Liverpool: Great Performance, But It Could Have Been More

On Sunday 30th December, in the last Premier League game of 2012, Liverpool faced QPR at Loftus Road. Liverpool dominated the whole game, and came out comfortable victors.

The first half performance from Liverpool was scintillating. They played the sort of football we all hoped for when Brendan Rodgers was appointed as manager (though incidentally, he wasn’t at the match due to illness), with the team passing the ball around brilliantly, stretching the opposition, and creating chances. They carved through QPR’s defence with ease, and the first goal looked inevitable right from the start. Sure enough, in the 10th minute, Luis Suarez opened the scoring with a great goal. Suarez continued to look exceptionally lively, in my opinion the best he’s played all season. He darted around, terrorised the defences, but also passed when it was the right option. He got his reward for such excellence, with another goal in the 16th minute. Liverpool continued to press, and Agger headed home in the 28th minute to make it 3-0. In all honesty, we could have been 5 or 6 goals up at half time, but we had to settle for 3.

In the second half, the tempo dropped significantly. Although QPR never looked at all likely to score, I was quite disappointed with this. After the first half performance, I wanted the players to go out there and carry on where they left off. They created a few chances, but were not able to score again, meaning the game finished 3-0. Obviously, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter at all, because we went on to comfortably get the three points. However, it would have been a huge lift for the players and fans had they gone on a real rout. They were certainly capable of scoring more.

Suarez looked absolutely deadly in this match, with no trace of the ankle injury which looked set to keep him out of the game, and, until he came off injured, Enrique looked great. Other performances worthy of note were those of Allen, who pulled the strings exceptionally in midfield, and Agger, who got forward a lot, resulting in a goal, and defended well on the very few occasions he was called upon. Sterling was disappointing, but showed some promising signs. Downing also played quite well, and played a large part in the second goal. I certainly hope he doesn’t get sold in January, as he has been an asset to us in the last few games.

On the whole, I was thrilled with our performance. Although QPR were frankly poor, Liverpool capitalised on their bad play brilliantly, and the first half was the best 45 minutes of football I have seen them play all season. Admittedly it was a shame they slowed down in the second half, but overall I was delighted with the win.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Liverpool vs Aston Villa- Post-Match Rant!

On 15th December, Liverpool put in a lacklustre performance against Aston Villa, resulting in a 3-1 loss. Although there were some decent individual performances, such as those of Glen Johnson and Stewart Downing, in my view a 3-1 loss to Aston Villa at home means that no player did their job well enough.

You may be thinking that this is a little harsh. Perhaps you’re right, but as a Liverpool fan I am fed up of seeing my team lose games we should be easily winning. We have a whole team of very talented players, and a very good manager, and yet the results still aren’t coming. I thought that maybe after our win at West Ham we’d turned a corner, but it seems not. It is so frustrating to know that had we played to our full potential this season we would be in the top 4, but as it is we are sitting in 12th place.

To be fair to Aston Villa, they did play well. I said on Twitter before the game that we would have to be wary of Benteke, a striker I rate very highly. I was proved right, as Benteke went on to score two and assist the other. Weimann was also impressive. However, the fact still remains that Aston Villa are a team we should be beating.

The worst part is there is nothing specific I can put my finger on to explain why we are doing so badly. Obviously one of the problems is finishing, but that can’t be the only reason. If the problem cannot be identified, then it is almost impossible to solve. I hope that one of the problems, the issue of having only one real striker, will be solved by the imminent return of Fabio Borini, but to be honest he didn’t impress me when he was fit at the start of the season.

In conclusion, Liverpool continue to frustrate me. I can see all of the talent in the team, but it just doesn’t seem to be working out. I am not used to seeing Liverpool in the bottom half of the table, and I don’t like it. I sincerely hope that we can turn the results around soon, because I am not sure I could take another loss to a relative weak team such as Aston Villa! We need wins, and we need them soon. Rant over.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

West Ham 2-3 Liverpool

Today (Sunday 9th December), Liverpool won 3-2 in a dramatic away win against West Ham United. All three of Liverpool’s goals were scored by ex-West Ham players, Johnson, Cole and Shelvey. West Ham’s goals came from an own goal from Gerrard and a penalty, scored by Noble.

In the first 10 minutes, I have to admit I was worried. West Ham were attacking well, and Liverpool were just sitting back and absorbing the pressure, not looking too comfortable. However, Liverpool looked fairly threatening on the counter, and so it proved on the 10 minute mark. Glen Johnson absolutely tormented the West Ham defence, darting through two or three players before smashing it into the top corner brilliantly from outside the box. It was a superb goal, and for me Johnson was our best player throughout the match. After this we played excellently, and we were unlucky not to add another one, with both Shelvey and Sterling coming close.

However, in the 35th minute, the match was turned on its head. The referee, Lee Probert, awarded West Ham a penalty for a dubious Joe Allen handball. The ball was smashed at him from a yard away, and he couldn’t really have got out of the way, although his hands were raised. Mark Noble slotted it away comfortably. This spurred the Hammers on, and they got back into the game. Things got worse for Liverpool just before the break, when a ball whipped in by Jarvis was headed in by Steven Gerrard. The own goal was almost comical, as the header was so well paced, and would have been a quality goal had it been at the other end of the pitch!

Fortunately, Liverpool came out strongly in the second half, but for about half an hour the sides were at a stalemate, with nobody coming up with many particularly meaningful attacks. However, on 75 minutes, Liverpool finally drew level. An exquisite ball from Sterling put Joe Cole through on goal, who finished beautifully into the bottom corner. This served as a platform to spur Liverpool on to the win, and from this point on they were by far the most positive side. They were rewarded for this positivity when substitute Jordan Henderson whipped in a wonderful ball, aimed at Shelvey. James Collins just beat him to it, and somehow ended up inadvertently lobbing his own keeper; the second time this has happened to poor Jaaskelinen recently. Admittedly this was a rather fortuitous way to regain the lead, but on balance I think we deserved the goal.

West Ham gave Liverpool a few scares in the dying moments of the game, but they held on for the victory, gaining us a much needed 3 points. With that we finally move back up into the top half of the table, and are in fact currently only 4 points away from a Champions League spot. Overall I think we gave a great performance, and really showed that we can cope without Suarez. Jordan Henderson impressed me when he came on, and Sterling looked good in the second half, but as I said earlier my Man of the Match has to go to Johnson.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Lucas Returns, Liverpool Keep a Clean Sheet

On Saturday 1st December, Liverpool played relegation candidates Southampton at Anfield. Despite having a plethora of chances, Liverpool only managed to get one goal, but were solid at the back and earned a 1-0 win.

This game was notable in the fact that it featured Lucas. After returning from a long-term injury a few months ago, he then promptly got injured again, and only yesterday returned. He has been sorely missed, and I think he improved our midfield no end. He is capable of pushing forward, but is mostly defensive-minded and kept the team solid, making us less vulnerable to the counter-attacks we have been so susceptible to so far this season. The fact that we were able to keep a clean sheet is in my opinion, partly down to the return of Lucas.

Our attacking was also quite good. Suarez and Shelvey both struck the post in the first half, either of which could have ended up in the net on another day (I’m still not sure how Shelvey’s stayed out). It looked like it was going to be one of those days, but fortunately Daniel Agger was on hand to snatch a goal for Liverpool, a powerful header into the corner after a good cross from Glen Johnson. In the second half there were fewer chances, but Liverpool came close a couple of times. With the game nearly over, a wicked cross was whipped in from Gerrard, and for some reason Suarez tried to punch it into the net. This was completely stupid, and got him his 5th yellow card of the season, meaning he misses our next game (against West Ham United).

Overall, Liverpool were very solid in this game. They never looked like they were going to concede, and created some good chances going forward. Once again they should have converted more of these chances, but what matters is that we converted one of them and got the three points. Having Lucas back was a great boost, and I think he made the difference.