Liverpool 2 Sunderland 2: On-Field Frustrations Justify Fan's Anger

Posted by Garstonite on September 25, 2010, 09:10:10 PM

It’s been a strange few months as a supporter and this past week has been no different. Before the Northampton game in the week, Roy’s description of our League Two opponents was that “they run around a lot”. He neglected to mention that they also pass the ball better than we do, create more chances than we do and, all in all, look a better team than we are.

We’ve spent hours discussing what we mean by the term “The Liverpool Way” in the past and we all have our own interpretations. Mine, personally, certainly includes within it that we support our manager through thick and thin. But results like Wednesday’s, along with his comments diminishing the efforts of the only true custodians of this football club at this moment in time, are making things very difficult for the average man in the street to warm to him. When Roy was given the job here, his ability to handle the media was seen to be one of his greatest attributes. Thus far, that box has been left un-ticked. Clearly it is harder to be everybody’s mate when they are asking more pressing questions. But he knew precisely what he was walking into.

The simple fact of the matter is that things at this club are as grim as they have been for a long, long time. And seeing pictures of the players smiling and laughing on the official website makes me feel like we must have hired Goebbels to convince the masses that “all is well, have no fear”.

But you can’t pull the wool over our eyes. My morning started earlier than usual, as I ran a few errands before making it to Zeligs in Liverpool ONE just in time for the Spirit of Shankly EGM. The main focus of the meeting was to discuss the supporter ownership scheme and I’m going to leave the details to those better placed to deliver them and I understand the full EGM will be available on the website, but one quick point. I thought everybody spoke brilliantly. Everyone who has got involved with SOS is a credit to this club. They made the focus clear and delivered their message with passion and clarity. There were no politician’s answers and I think it is safe to say that if there was half of the passion in the board and dressing rooms as there was among those four hundred Reds fans inside Zeligs today, we wouldn’t be in the mess that we are in at this moment. If you needed any proof that the only trustworthy custodians are us, the fans, then today was it.

The fans shuffled out of Zeligs getting on quarter to two so there was a bit of a rush to get up to the ground so we could squeeze in a few pints in before kick-off. Before I carry on, credit also must go to those of you behind the “Standard Corrupted” shirts, by the way. There was plenty wearing them at the EGM and there plenty more scattered in and around the ground, including one directly in front and two directly behind where I was sat. The idea is gathering momentum and, along with Spirit of Shankly shirts and pin-badges, give an instant indication and whether or not an individual is clued up.

Now then, a match report should contain a bit of football I guess, so on to the game itself. Roy said that nobody from the game against Northampton would start today and he was true to his word. In goal, Pepe Reina, across the back four Glen Johnson, Jamie Carragher, Martin Skrtel, Paul Konchesky. In midfield, Raul Meireles on the right, Christian Poulsen and Steven Gerrard in the centre, Joe Cole from the left and up front Dirk Kuyt and Fernando Torres. Most predicted a 4-2-3-1 when they heard the line-up, but it was very much a 4-4-2, with Kuyt alongside Torres from the start.

For Sunderland, Mignolet in goal, across their back four, on-loan Nedum Onouha, Bramble and Turner at centre-half and Bardsley at left-back. In midfield, Al-Muhammadi on the right, Cattermole and Henderson in the centre, Malbranque on the left and Danny Welbeck and Darren Bent up top. A standard 4-4-2, but Danny Welbeck tucked in on the left with Malbranque going central when we had possession.

The game started and we looked ambitious. A really positive start, with Skrtel and Carragher patrolling the half-way line and Raul Meireles and Joe Cole finding angles and picking out intelligent passes. The ball was in the net after two minutes when Gerrard found Torres from a free-kick, but the linesman’s flag ruled the goal out.

But it wouldn’t be long before we made the breakthrough and it occurred in bizarre circumstances. Sunderland were awarded a free-kick in their own half and the ball was played back softly so that the ‘keeper could take the free-kick himself but Torres, and the officials, deemed it taken. Torres went one on one with the keeper and Kuyt ran up the outside to pass the ball into the empty net. Sunderland protested, but after the referee consulted with his assistant, the goal was given.

In the stands, anti-owner songs were largely shouted down, I am afraid to report. “Support the team” shouted the man who had sat silent other than the occasion he berated Poulsen for a misplaced pass. It’s safe to say there was a little disharmony among the ranks.

At this point, those in the stands were expecting us to push on. Going one-nil up against mid-table fodder (with all due respect) should signal a game of domination. We were buoyed by the goal and were flooding forward, but that lasted all of five minutes. Sunderland responded well and began to get the ball forwards with frequency and accuracy. The sight of Titus Bramble stood past the half-way line spreading the ball left and right was a hugely depressing one. Suddenly they were commanding and we were timid.

Half-way through the second half both we and Sunderland got what we deserved. The ball was attempted to be crossed into the box and it hit a Liverpool arm. The referee pointed to the spot and Darren Bent, albeit rather unconvincingly, converted. 1-1 the score and it would remain so at half-time. At this point, I had mixed feelings. Prior to the game I jotted down a scorecast of Dirk Kuyt 2-1 before tearing it up and going for a more optimistic Joe Cole 2-0. It seemed inevitable.

In the dressing room at this stage, you would expect a few things. All of these would include us going out into the second half and re-seizing the initiative. But that wasn’t that case at all. Sunderland dominated the beginning of the second half and we failed to get out of our own half for the first fifteen minutes and within that spell, Sunderland got the reward their courage warranted. Onouha crossed the ball onto the head of Darren Bent who gave the visitor’s the lead. Simple, simple goal.

Last season, fans criticised Emiliano Insua and labelled him the weak point of our backline. So what happened in this summer was that certain people decided getting rid of the easy scapegoat would be easy money. But what happened after that was we signed a man 9 years older than him for the same amount of money who has never played for a club anywhere near the level we expect to be at. Paul Konchesky went off injured in the first half and was replaced by our best centre-half. In each half, we conceded a goal from a ball coming in from our left. Just like two of the three goals we conceded against Manchester United at Old Trafford and the three opportunities we conceded against Birmingham. Great stuff.

Not even going behind kicked us into gear. Roy attempted to change things by replacing a rather hapless Poulsen with N’gog, pushing Meireles into where he should have been in the first place – in the centre – and Kuyt back on the right. But Sunderland might have gone further ahead when Lee Cattermole’s drive from outside the area flashed narrowly wide. Yet again we were reduced to playing on the counter-attack. Fortunately, we executed one with great precision. The ball was played out to Fernando Torres on the right and his deflected cross into the box found Gerrard’s head. 2-2 and an equaliser we scarcely deserved.

After we went level, Sunderland lost their heads, which was rather unforgivable from their perspective because there was no doubt they could have continued to make us sweat. We were so at sea at the back, Carragher and Skrtel repeated what they did at Tottenham last season and crashed into each other. Carragher went off for stitches and Skrtel was left with a big red bandage wrapped around his head.

As the game progressed, Sunderland appeared to be happy with what they had. Danny Welbeck spent 75% of his time on the deck, but you have to take your hat off to the lad. Being led off to the side of the pitch, he stood up to the barrage of abuse – fans foaming at the mouth – bold as brass, shoulders back. The sort of arrogance that makes you think he might well make it.

In the last fifteen minutes, we produced the sort of football we should have been attempting to produce throughout. In the dieing moments, Joe Cole played a good ball into the box that Skrtel flicked on towards the back post. Daniel Agger should have scored but directed his header wide. In fairness, a goal then would have been harsh on our opponents. The final whistle blew, 2-2 the score. The greatest summary of the game came from the man sat in the row behind me who said "For a defensive team, we can't even defend!" when Darren Bent put Sunderland in front.

Fans stayed in to protest after the game. At the EGM, one fan raised the rather valid point that this idea did not reflect what many viewed as “Direct Action”, but as was said in response, this is the platform that we will build from. This tests the water. At the back end of last season, the “sit-in” protest was attempted (against after the Sunderland home match) and I was there when a disappointing, but at least well-educated, number of fans stayed behind. From around 400 six months ago to a conservative guess of around 7,000 today shows the message is spreading. SOS are winning over the silent majority.

“Get out of Our Club” and “What do we want? Yanks Out! When do we want it? Now!” got an airing but “All we are saying, is sell up and go” encapsulated the ‘peaceful’ nature of today’s protests and hopefully it will send the intended message.

MOTM – Steven Gerrard. Really difficult to pick out our best player today, as it has been all season. In fact, I kind of regret adding MOTM awards in my reviews, but Gerrard gets my vote today. We all have our own views of what his best position is and those that say he should play in central-midfield will point to his great challenge on Al-Hammadi and, of course, his goal when he burst into the box. And that’s fine. But when your best player is picking up the ball alongside his centre-halves and covering for full-backs, something is wrong. It suggests, a) he’s being wasted and b) Christian Poulsen is not doing his job properly. The Dane reminds me of Momo Sissoko in that he wins the ball back regularly, but it had been him who had given it away to begin with. He must improve, but in his defence, so must a lot of those around him.

And finally, a special award – Banner of the Day. Plenty of candidates today – I spotted quite a lot of the “Out of the black” efforts and hopefully they will make their way frequently. But the award is a toss up between the white sheet with “Purslow” written on a marvellously drawn penis and the huge “Against Modern Football” banner that was held up at the front of The Kop. My vote must go to the latter for the ever-so-slightly more pertinent message.

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