Liverpool 1 Blackburn 0: Misfiring Reds stutter to three points

Posted by Barrettski on October 16, 2005, 06:22:57 PM

Nobody knew what to expect for this one.  Nil–nil looked like a safe bet, but there was a feint whiff of a three or four goal afternoon in the air too.  Either way, the walk in definitely had a certain masochistic feel to it.  This was Blackburn after all.  Mark Hughes would align his collection of agricultural tractors in banks of four and play for the point.  If we were really lucky their drummer would turn up too.

Further pre-match analysis didn’t help the nerves any.  We’re not the same team without Steven Gerrard but it’s not in the midfield battle where we miss him most.  Without him I wonder where our goals are going to come from and who would create the space by dragging players out of position or simply by burning their lungs out.  Add to that the inevitable tiredness of our international stars vs. Lily Savage who was probably been limbering up on his Playstation for a week and I was wondering more than a Stevie Wonder tune about wondering.

Hughes’ blue and white collection of farm machinery lined up with a 4-4-2 formation looking like this:  Friedel (good to see again) in nets.  Across the back Gray (war horse), Nelsen (dray man), Khizanishvilli (manilli) and Neill (police escorted I hope).  The midfield lined up as Pedersen (habit of scoring), (Lily) Savage (habit of whining), Tugay (habit of going awol) and Bentley (new habit of playing).  Without Bellamy we saw Kuqi (coochy coo) and Dickov (no ov required) upfront. 

Liverpool lined up with two strikers and a 4-4-2 formation.  Pepe started in nets but with a new look back four of Warnock, Carra, Josemi and Djimi infront of him.  I can see why.  A four man midfield of Zenden, Momo, Xabi and Finnan looked equally unfamiliar but not as much as (wait for it) a two man strike force.  Although recent stats suggest Couch and Cisse are more Arthur Scargill than Ian Rush in the striking department. 

An unnaturally tuneful rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone was followed by a rousing reception for Brad Friedel and then we kicked off attacking the Kop (which let’s face it is all wrong).  While the optimists still thought a goal fest was possible, I needed to see how we shaped up for a few minutes.  But within a few minutes we had the pattern for the game and they could have been right. 

In the first ten we saw Liverpool apply some pressure, spray a few missed passes around, look for flicks from the top of Mount Crouch and a couple of corners.  From one of the early corners we saw one of the features of this game, namely a clear missed chance.  Cisse found himself free on the edge of the six and flapped at the volley like a bear catching salmon.  I scored one of those on Thursday night and I don’t practice all week. 

Blackburn continued to muster a well organised defence, but it seemed to be excessively deep and chances looked likely to follow.  Liverpool however looked nothing like the creative passing engine that works and breaks down defences like these.  Our best hope therefore seemed to be in an abundance of crosses.  Carragher got on the end of one but headed wide under pressure. Cisse got hold of another free head from a corner but put it woefully wide.

The game cried out for an early goal but whilst we weren’t short of ideas we were short of finesse.  One exception was the through ball from Zenden to Cisse that sent him in on goal.  Khizanishvilli forced him wide but was ultimately beaten for pace and up ended Cisse on the edge of the box.  Be fair to Halsey now, he pointed at the ground outside the 18 yard line, looked at the linesman and then gave a thumbs up.  That’s not someone who gave a penalty and then changed his mind.  My money is on him confirming with the linesman that Kerthingy was the last man and therefore worthy of a sending off.  In the stands a penalty and a yellow card would have been nice.  But the right decision would have been a free kick and a yellow as Cisse was heading away from goal. 

As it turned out Zenden beat Brad with the free kick but didn’t manage to squeeze it under the bar.  So there we were at 0-0 with Blackburn set to park the muck spreader in front of their goal for an hour.  Great.  If I’m being harsh on Blackburn and their agricultural approach to defending here, it’s probably out of frustration.  They represent a victory of graft over talent and of toil over craft.  Which is admirable, but then the classless bleating that Lucas and Robbie get through in a game when they’re picked up for late challenges and ankle scraping defies belief and brings a club like Blackburn down.

There was time for further chances in the half.  Cisse put a free header from a Xabi corner wide.  Let’s be clear here, this was the definitive free header where you lose your marker (Gray’s vision clearly obstructed by his nose bag) and from seven yards out manage to miss something twelve yards wide… and by a good few yards.  Blackburn did manage to threaten, mainly when Tugay got involved but their best chance was taken off the foot of our favourite floppy haired blonde idiot before he could pull the trigger. 

The half time debate attempted to define the most impressive performance in the first half.  Momo Sissoko’s tackling and Gerrardesque drive was narrowly pipped to the post by the paper aeroplane that almost found Xabi as he prepared to take a corner.  Impressive.

Away in the distance the second half took place at the Annie Road End.  With the kind of Eagle Eyes that Action Man would be impressed with I could see that Warnock was unlucky not to earn a penalty after receiving a neat ball from Xabi.  The Kop view was also good enough to see that Cisse should have done better with a side foot that he put wide but clearest of all was Savage arriving in the wrong time zone to up end Bolo around 30 yards out.

Optimism and negativity had filled the air in equal measure up to now.  Some were clearly berating the fact they hadn’t put money on a nil-nil.  Others felt a goal coming.  They were right as Alonso toe poked the resulting free kick for Cisse to launch a fierce low drive that gave an unsighted Friedel little chance.  Cisse went on to goad the visiting fans and then sought out Rafa to clasp hands in celebration.  It was a two minute cameo that summarised Djibril perfectly.  One minute it’s brilliance, the next it’s ill advised antics and then it’s a heart warming and public act.   

The goal forced Blackburn to open up a little, but in the words of the hamster headed magician, not a lot.  At this point though the barn door mantle moved from Cisse to Morientes.  On in place of the lofty one, he proceeded to head his first difficult chance over.  His second came as Finnan skipped down the wing and cross beautifully, only for Nando to make a non-descript and embarrassing hash of it by choosing not to head or volley the ball but to usher it out for a goal kick with his groin.  Nando’s third and worst miss came after Brad could only parry Riise’s thunderous effort.  A side footed pass from six yards would have put the game safe but instead he chisel footed it wide.  The Spaniard looked rustier than a sheriffs badge.  Maybe he had one of his three European Cup Winners medals in his boots.  Either way, by his standards this was dismal.

The second half petered out to a close without Kuqi scoring the equalising header he could have done and we were left think about which camp we belonged.  Were we optimists, knowing that we’ve earned more points than we managed in the same fixtures last year?  Or were we pessimists wondering how on earth we could survive to January without a natural born scorer?  Me?  I’m a  pragmatist.  We won this nasty little fixture without Stevie, kept a clean sheet with Josemi and Djimi playing and created enough chances to sink any team.  BUT, without some class in defence, some better creative juices going forward and someone who knows where the onion bag is I think we’re in for a rocky season.  Bring on the oil tycoon.

Redmen performances:

Reina:  Mostly untroubled (again).  Opted to punch more often than I would like and was soundly bollocked by Rafa for launching it upfield when a tap to carra would have done.  Nothing to judge, but I see Chris Kirkland played had a blinder.

Warnock:  Added more thinking to his game than we’ve seen recently.  I still think he has to stay as first choice left back, simply because he is improving that much.  And how could the England set up be wrong?

Carragher:  Add your own favourite Carra comments here.  He played a fine game marshalling what could be difficult customers in Kuqi ad Dickov.  Also looked utterly goosed in the final ten minutes.  But then he’d play with a flapping leg wouldn’t he?

Traore:  Never fills me with confidence but managed to get through this game unscathed.  Seemed to stay left with Warnock going forward at times.  I’m sure someone will correct me though.

Josemi:  Hard tackling and commited but ultimately only a squad player performance from him today and nothing to suggest he’s a solution to Rafa’s quest for a world class back four.  Lost possession and was out of position too many times to meet the grade for me.

Finnan:  Had a classy and productive game but looked utterly goosed at the end.  I like that.  He played his heart out today and should have seen Nando put his perfect cross in.  Would much rather have seen him at full back.

Xabi Alonso:  Seemed to have three bob boots on today.  Not everything went to feet, which to be fair seemed symptomatic of the entire team.  Almost seemed to fall into Momo’s shadow at times but provided the perfect foil for him.  A great centre mid combination in the making there.

Momo Sissoko:  A Man of the Match performance that showed all his greatest qualities.  Speed, tackling, pace going forward and sensible distribution of the ball.  But what topped it was the 40 yard tracking back which could so easily have been Steve Gerrard.  I suspect there’s more to come from him too, one miss kicked effort in the first couple of minutes could easily have been a fine self made goal.

Zenden:  This was a solid performance by Bolo.  He played wide, got crosses in and sent Cisse in on goal for the penalty, I mean free kick.  Easy to see how he was crowned Boro’s player of the year.  Less easy to see how he fits in here, especially with his obvious preference to play centrally and come in off the wing.

Crouch:  Much maligned and misunderstood.  In fact Peter is that bizarre he could very easily be Ebeneezer Goode.  And he is good.  His touch on the ground was once again exemplary.  He even one a few headers or “non contests” as the papers are calling it.  Our goal scoring problem doesn’t lie here, it’s not what he’s here for.  But I do wish that volley had flown into the top corner from the edge of the penalty area.

Cisse:  A catalogue of missed chances and instances where he berates midfielders for not reading his mind.  I also think his work ethic was still with the French team today.  But what a goal.  What a beautifully taken moment of power.  But for me that’s all we can rely on from Djibril, occasional moments of brilliance.  The players around him will be playing masters football in twenty years time.  I don’t think Cisse doesn’t have the footballing brain to join them when his athleticism disappears.

Riise:  Usual hard working performance.  Usual blast into the wall from a free kick.  Usual graft and industry.  Usual exocet fired on goal.  Usual respect and admiration from the fans.

Morientes:  Give him time.  And a cows arse and banjo to practice with.

Kop:  If the opening YNWA was Val Doonican the final whistle version was more Shane McGowan.  Interesting though… and more of an atmosphere than we normally muster for these games.  Or was that just on the left? 

Them  “Stand up if you’ve won the league”…??  Comedy. 

Referee:  Have to say I think that was decent refereeing.  Booked the whining convict for, well whining and produced the right penalty and sending off decision even if I’d rather the player stayed on. 

© Barrettski 2005

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