Sunday, February 04, 2007

Reds Held At Anfield By Bitter Rivals

Reds Crumbled Under Pressure

English Premiership

LIVERPOOL 0 - 0 Everton

When so much was expected of Liverpool to perform against a local rival that hatred that stretched beyond decades, they crumbled while Everton put up a fantastic defensive show to thwart Liverpool's slim chance of catching up with 2nd place Chelsea.

With all the off the field distractions this week, Liverpool had to simply concentrate on this game and put up a good show for the fans as to avenge the team's humiliating 3-0 defeat at the hands of the bitter rivals earlier this season.

But fans who thought that it's going to be a walk in the park for Liverpool were soon disappointed. To be fair, Everton didn't really come to Anfield for a win but the game plan was set up to frustrate and contain Liverpool and credits to where it is due, they deserve the point.

Liverpool started with the 3-pronged attack again after implementing it successfully against West Ham on Wednesday. It was a bold move as it's possibly a game that Liverpool cannot afford to lose not only because it'll be the end of a proud 16 months unbeaten at home record, but also to lose to Everton twice in a season is unthinkable.

Everton started brightly and forced Liverpool on a back foot. The Reds were unable to find the tempo and were struggling to string passes especially in midfield where Everton piled players in that area and their closing down work makes life difficult for Liverpool.

Andy Johnson, who just recovered from a seemingly serious injury, was a danger man and causing the Liverpool back line all sorts of problem with his diagonal runs and his run into the channels. His strength and holding up of the ball is good as well and it worked brilliantly for Everton.

The visiting team were able to carve out some chances when they're up against a water-tight Liverpool defence while the Reds actually had the ball in the back of the net and unfortunately, it was ruled offside. Bellamy's one-two with Kuyt was deemed illegal and the goal was disallowed.

As Liverpool huff and puffed, Everton looked more and more threatening with Osman nearly scoring a header at the near post. They had the minority of the possession but you must admit that they made full use of it every time.

Changes were expected at half time as the 3-4-3 formation don't look good at all and the three strikers were not linking up well. Kuyt was on the left wing most of the time and Bellamy could only use his pace on some occasions. Crouch was largely ineffective against the towering Alan Stubbs and Joseph Yobo.

The Kopites were seemingly restless and frustrated and the whole atmosphere at Anfield was not very encouraging to the home team. And a lapse of concentration from Xabi Alonso nearly gifted Everton a precious goal when he misplaced a pass in his own half. Andy Johnson took the ball and jinked past both Agger and Carragher before firing a shot but it was brilliantly saved by Reina.

The whole Anfield heaved with a collective sigh of relief. If that went in, we all know what could've happened.

As Liverpool continue to toiled on, Everton held on with some brilliant defensive display by Tony Hibbert, Joseph Yobo, Alan Stubbs and Joleon Lescott. They dealt with our long ball with finesse.

And Everton grabbed hold of a precious one point from this trip to Anfield and it's an invaluable one. They'll be the happier of the two sides while Liverpool could only blame themselves.

Drogballs' Thoughts: So very disappointing. Everytime when we're put under pressure, we crumble and this is the example of blowing the chance. Chasing Chelsea is not impossible but the chances are slim. Now I should say were. Because I think there is almost no chance of us catching them up anymore. Who to blame? Ourselves for not turning up when we're required to.

The 3-4-3 formation was a mess to be honest. I understand why Rafa used the tactics. He wants all the three strikers to be in the same squad due to their good form recently while it shows a bit of boldness and willingness to attack but now it seemed like the more the cook, spoils the soup.

Kuyt was drifting in and out of the game and no matter how much he ran, he was like a headless chicken. Sorry to say that, but the formation doesn't suit him. He was isolated on the left yet again, he wasn't on the left. So I don't know where his exact position is.

Their midfield was well organised and pressed Liverpool players who're on the ball. Lacking composure, they just lump the ball forward and hope that someone will be able to pick up the ball. We're not allowed to play football and that was what Everton came to do. Unsettled us and rattle us.

Disappointing performance on everyone's part except for perhaps Agger, Carragher and Reina.

Drogball's Player Ratings:

Reina (8) - Saved our bloody arses. Man of the match for Liverpool

Agger (7) - Did okay with a few vital blocks
Carragher (7) - Hard time marking Andy Johnson
Finnan (6) - One vital tackle and nothing for the whole game

Riise (6) - Didn't notice him.
Alonso (6) - Showed passion but his passing was very, very poor at times
Gerrard (7) - Wasn't able to break through the defence and got crowded out
Pennant (6) - Tries to be too clever with his tricks but nobody fell for it, unfortunately

Bellamy (7) - Some good runs and unfortunate not to score
Crouch (6) - Ineffectual
Kuyt (6) - Aimless. Confused. Frustrated


psychohare said...

i love it when i heard Rafa say that Everton is a small team.. HAHAHAHA... how true is that! For once Rafa has decided to speak the truth rather than giving his opponents too much face!

Anonymous said...

"We crumble"? Surely you jest. Our backline was superb for the entire match apart from one poor back pass which gave Johnson a chance.

The 3-4-3 was far from a mess, we created a host of half-chances and we were never going to get many chances against a team that is happy to sit 9 players in their own box.

The biggest sign of this was whenever a cross was cleared it fell straight to one of our players outside the box. Everton are one of the most negative teams in the Premier League, added to that the fact that it is a Derby means we were going to get very few easy shots.

Our mistake was to not move the ball quickly out to the wings (we take far too long to move the ball around) and to always favour the right wing. Everton were happy to stay central and attempt to pack the box and clear crosses rather than commit men out wide. Late in the game our wingers came to the centre too much and crowded the area.

I think we played very well, broke down their attacks and pressured them quite well. A bit more composure would have seen us score a goal.


Well, we always screw it up under pressure don't we? A lot is expected from this match not only is it a Merseyside derby but also to revenge that painful defeat. We're chasing after Chelsea who's in 2nd place as well and that win will certainly put pressure on them.

But once again, we failed to deliver.

In football, we're talking about taking your chances and scoring goals, not how much possessions or how much 'half chances'. We failed because we failed to take those 'half chances' while I could only remember a Crouch volley and a Alonso long shot, that was the closest we went.

I personally think 3-4-3 was a mess because with the trio upfront, there will be little freedom of movement and required a lot of team work. We saw no linking up of the front men except the Bellamy's offside goal.

Defensively we're not solid. Osman nearly scored as well if you could remember.

Agree with you on the point about composure. Considering it is a Merseyside derby, players might lose their head and got anxious. That's what I felt and they were not patient enough. We also lacked a creative spark from anywhere on the pitch. We were just insipid and lacked imagination.