Tuesday, August 28, 2012

One Step Closer : Liverpool 2 - Manchester City 2

photo by punakonevia PhotoRee

Displaying the same sense of magnamity as did Martin Skrtel over the weekend, Correspondent Scott is in a giving mood as he discusses Liverpool's performance versus Manchester City:

Well, it was a lot better than The Horror at West Brom last week, but Liverpool found a new way to give the game away when they hosted defending champions Manchester City on Sunday.  This time, perhaps in some misguided attempt to foster Slovakian - Argentine relations, normally reliable defender Martin Skrtel literally gifted a goal to Carlos Tevez via his philanthropic backpass.  Tevez pounced on the mistake, skirted the helpless Pepe Reina and rolled the ball into the net, evening the score at 2-2 and plucking 2 points from a Liverpool team beginning to come alive.

With new loan signing Nuri Sahin watching from the stands, a changed Liverpool lineup took the field for the season’s home opener.  Sebastian Coates joined Glen Johnson, Martin Kelly and Skrtl in the back while Steven Gerrard, Lucas Leiva, Fabio Borini and Joe Allen started in the middle.  Meanwhile, Luis Suarez was partnered with the youngster Raheem Sterling up front.  Unfortunately for Lucas, an injury in the 5th minute forced a substitution for Jonjo Shelvy.

Manchester City started strong and, except for a couple long range and very wide efforts from Gerrard, Liverpool never really threatened during the first quarter hour.  Even worse, possession was dramatically tipped in City’s favor as the visitors had more and better time on the ball.  But around the 25 minute mark, after a miss by Borini on Sterling’s lovely cross and a Tevez dribbler off the post, Liverpool began to assert more control.

Within minutes, more and more chances were being created such that when, in the 33rd minute, Skrtl expertly and powerfully headed home Gerrard’s corner, the lead was deserved.  The balance of the first half saw the home side continue their recent dominance, albeit without additional spoils to show for it.

And that dominance continued into the second half with Liverpool seeing more and more of the ball, keeping possession and looking confident.  It was unfortunate, then, when in the 62nd minute Yaya Toure was in the right place at the right time when the ball bounced off Kelly to sit appetizingly in front of the Ivorian who made no mistake in equalizing.

That score line lasted mere minutes, however, as Jack Rodwell handled the ball outside the area when blocking a shot, and Suarez perfectly rounded the wall and scored at the near post with his shot.  Of course, celebrations were arrested 10 minutes from time by Skrtel’s blunder.

Still, Brendan Rodgers will likely be pleased with the performance overall as, after starting slowly, Liverpool controlled the defending champions for the majority of the game, creating chances and even scoring a few this time.  Rather than being outdone by City, they simply gave the game away with a bad pass and a moment of sloppy defending/goalkeeping.  While such lapses can be frustratingly fatal, they can be corrected.

Sebastian Coates and Raheem Sterling, both youngsters, had solid games but showed immaturity at times.  Coates lunged a few times, often getting lucky, but that luck will surely not last so the Uruguayan will need to exhibit more self-restraint in the future.  Sterling showed flashes of speed and skill, offering a couple nice crosses and combinations.  But he also fouled needlessly several times and will need to learn how to cope with larger defenders.

Joe Allen was a man among boys in terms of his possession skills, ability to anticipate passes to win back the ball and his distribution skills.  It is clear why Rodgers so coveted the talented midfielder and, despite his young 22 years, plans to build the team around his strengths.  He may not score many fantasy points but his contributions to the team will be huge.

Steven Gerrard is not playing like himself lately.  Turning over the ball far too often with errant passes for the second game in a row, the captain needs to find his groove in order to contribute to Rodgers’ game plan.

Suarez, on the other hand, seems to finally be finding his goal scoring groove.  He still seems to have 1 or 2 bad misses each game but his brilliant free kick should hopefully give him a taste that only increases his hunger for goals.  But if he would just keep his mouth shut!  2 yellow cards for dissent in 2 games?!  They are not to be collected like baseball cards, Luis.

Pepe Reina has been solid with his shot blocking but has taken a step back in terms of his aerial efforts.  In both games so far he has had more than once flailed at a cross without making contact, to disastrous effect on Saturday as it led to Toure’s goal. 

A point taken from the defending champions should feel good but it doesn’t when you should have taken three. Yet Liverpool’s performance was vastly improved from a week ago and glimpses of a championship team could be seen.  The faith of fans and the confidence of players has been restored.  Now let’s continue the mission.
This is farlieonfootie for August 28.

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