Liverpool 1 Blackpool 2: Steadying Ship Hits An Iceberg

Posted by Garstonite on October 3, 2010, 08:54:30 PM

Thousands of fans protested before and after today’s game hoping and dreaming of a brighter future: a future that rids this proud club of the two cancers that are sucking the life-blood out of us. As we marched through Walton Breck Rd outside The Kop, several Blackpool fans stood on the pavements taking photos in either awe or amusement at what they were seeing. To paraphrase from a song of theirs, they really are just on a ride and they are enjoying every second of it.

We headed into today’s game in 18th position, already dumped out of the League Cup at the hands of Northampton and off the back of a very disappointing performance in the only competition we’ve so far excelled in against Utrecht.

After the stronghold Blackpool took upon the game in the opening fifteen minutes, the saddest feeling was that of expectancy. Ian Holloway last week vowed that he was going to go into this fixture and “have a go at their back four and see how good it is” and the side he picked didn’t renege on his promise.

Liverpool set up with a fairly standard 4-4-2 formation. Pepe Reina in goal, across the back four Glen Johnson, Martin Skrtel, Sotirios Kyrgiakos and Jamie Carragher at left-back out of necessity. In midfield, £11m central-midfielder Raul Meireles on the right, Christian Poulsen, Steven Gerrard and Joe Cole and up front, Dirk Kuyt and Fernando Torres.

For the visitor’s, Matt Gilks in goal, across the back four Eardley, Evatt, Cathcart and Crainey; in midfield Vaughan, Adam, Grandin and up front Taylor-Fletcher, Campbell and Varney. A bold 4-3-3 that showed no sign of being 4-5-1 when not in possession.

Amidst the doom and gloom that has dominated this season, today a bright spot shone – a bright tangerine spot. Amidst the vein-bulging anger and the knee-jerk reactions in the stands that saw shouts vary from “give the youth a go” and “Christian Poulsen is the worst player I have ever seen in a Liverpool shirt, the floppy-haired, useless waste of flesh” (I’ve adapted it), there was no bitterness. Nobody could begrudge Blackpool their win.

Holloway’s side dominated the opening exchanges and the frustration was already evident. Before going off with an injury, Fernando Torres almost set up Joe Cole for his first league goal for the club. But Blackpool didn’t mind giving us chances. They came with an attitude that if we were to score three goals, their aim was going to be to score four. As clichéd as it sounds, they were a breath of fresh air. Charlie Adam in the centre of the park was absolutely outstanding, head and shoulders above players that have cost twenty times his price-tag. Not only was his passing sublime (one in particular that got Varney in behind Johnson was exquisite) but the defensive side of his game was flawless.

Liverpool’s sloppiness in possession and lead-legged defence, plus Blackpool’s speed and accuracy on the break spelt inevitability. Varney ran at Glen Johnson who had no response to his directness. He took the player down to the ground, got up and had the audacity to complain about the referee’s decision. And OK, clearly the response derived from a mix of anger and frustration but goodness me; the phrase “stone wall” was invented for challenges like this one. Charlie Adam stepped up to the mark and his shot squeezed underneath an unfortunate Reina sending the opposition fans into raptures.

In response, we mustered a few moments down at the other end that got the crowd on their feet. Kyrgiakos had a header cleared off the line, but other than that, Blackpool contained the pressure well. And Blackpool seized the initiative again: another threatening counter had our defence back-tracking and Liverpool supporting Taylor-Fletcher chipped in a delightful ball to Varney drilled the ball underneath Pepe Reina. Two nil on the brink of half time. The whistle sounding the end of the half was met by a volatile response from the crowd.

Some will say “not the Liverpool way” and I would be inclined to agree, but the fans did redeem themselves by giving the Blackpool side a terrific ovation as they came out into the second half.

I said to the old codger beside me that a half of football has never been so important. Liverpool did come streaming forward but lacked the quality that made you believe that a comeback was ever only a matter of time. You can add Joe Cole to the list of Dirk Kuyt and David N’gog for players you expect to lose the ball more than they do anything useful with it. Cole is the ultimate luxury player and to say the current situation doesn’t call for it would be a massive understatement.

Ten minutes into the second half a free-kick was lofted in and Kyrgiakos attacked it. His header crashed in off the bar and Liverpool were back in the game. For fifteen minutes, we were on top of the game and Martin Skrtel was doing a terrific job and stifling Blackpool counter-attacks, with good reading of the game. Christian Poulsen, who had an absolutely terrible game, was replaced by Milan Jovanovic who offered industry but nothing of much quality. Jamie Carragher spent the rest of the game shouting at the Serbian when in most cases, it was he who was at fault.

As time ticked on, Blackpool’s dream result was edging ever-nearer. Maxi Rodriguez – a player of great technical quality in the final third when the team is on top of the game – was given all of five minutes to make an impact. In that time, he linked up with Glen Johnson better than Dirk Kuyt and Raul Meireles – who occupied the right-flank before him – had all game. One final effort from Kyrgiakos that was scrambled away from a magnificent Blackpool defence in the final few minutes was all we could muster.

Final score – Liverpool 1 Blackpool 2.

While I advocate the continued campaign to see the back of the two owners, the simple fact of the matter is performances and results like today are at the feet of the players. There was seven regular internationals in the side that we fielded at the start of the day. Somewhere along the line, something is going terribly wrong. The players aren’t responding to Roy’s tactics and he has no Plan B.

Yet with that said, the chants for Kenny Dalglish on the final whistle were ironic to me as it sums us up at present. Liverpool Football Club is a team stuck in 1980s, constantly yearning for the halcyon years to return. In 2007, we had a forward-thinking manager and when Tom Hicks and George Gillett walked through the door we crossed our fingers and toes that we had found ourselves two forward-thinking owners. How wrong we were.

When the metaphorical steam train of modern football arrived at our stop, we were too busy moaning that our chocolate bar was stuck in the vending machine back at the station. When it came back round again, Manchester United were already light-years ahead of us. We simply weren’t clever or astute enough, which is totally unforgivable given our massive global market potential. But what the message from the march today shows is that we can write off these years. We can hold our hands up and admit to our mistakes. Because we can pioneer the future; we can be the team that people aspire to and we can be the team that people look back on and say “they set the new standard”.

In the meantime though, Hodgson’s days have to be seen to be numbered. His job was to keep us competitive on the field while things off the field were resolved. So far, he has categorically failed. Not only that, he is isolating the sort of players that we hope we can build the club around when we finally get rid of Hicks and Gillett. Early report card reads a great big fat F.

E-i-addiyo finance the fans.

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