Thursday, April 19, 2007

Gerrard Double Spares Blushes

Shifting Captain Back To Central Midfield Was The Key

English Premiership

LIVERPOOL 2 - 0 Middlesbrough

LIV - Gerrard (58min, 65min);

Gerrard - 58min:

Gerrard - PEN 65min:

Sometimes it just takes a moment of brilliance to change the face of the game. Last night, Stevie G was the ultimate difference between two sides after a rather lacklustre and frustrating first half.

But it was only made possible after Rafa Benitez decided enough is enough and took off Momo Sissoko off the central midfield position. His passing was up to his usual standard (you know what I mean) and wasted a load of possession from the middle of the park.

In came Gerrard into his favoured central midfield position. Not right wing, not supporting striker. And he showed where his true self lies and that absolute cracker from outside the box characterised that.

He's still the man that change the game and as cliche as it sounds, grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck. When his fellow men in red failed to push into gear two and look anywhere interested, he stood up and made the difference.

The first half was absolutely torrid and wasn't a very pleasant match to watch in the eyes of the neutral but also, infuriating in the eyes of the Liverpool fans. We all know they have something to play for yet they continued to show their lethargic self and struggled to get into any sort of momentum.

It was especially frustrating to see the number of misplaced passes everywhere on the pitch and it's unfair to pinpoint one player because everyone was just as bad. And the number of diagonal long balls baffles me and most of the time, it just flew out for a opposition throw in.

The Liverpool players were unable to motivate themselves and looked very distracted by the upcoming semi finals against Chelsea. Even the ever reliable Jamie Carragher had a lapse of concentration and presented Boro the best chance of the first half.

He slipped and Fabio Rochemback, supported by Yakubu, was nearing the penalty area with only Daniel Agger back in position. Instead of passing it to his Nigerian team mate, he took a pot shot and it went just wide to the relief of Reina, to the dismay of Yakubu, who was obviously better positioned.

It does definitely rang the alarm bell at the back for Liverpool but with only Crouch up front, there was a lack of support for the striker and with both managers setting up 4-5-1 formation, the central midfield was congested and players were canceling each other out.

Momo Sissoko, despite showing that he can get into the box at the right time, was once again utterly disappointing. As clubfooted as he is, one of Liverpool's best chance fell to him and all he could do was to mis hit it and it went out for a goal kick tamely.

He squandered possession on countless of occasions and looked low on confidence. When he was later replaced by Dirk Kuyt, his body language showed everything. With Benitez laying down the challenge for players to play for their future, you've got to wonder how long will the manager bear with his wastefulness and ineffectiveness.

But the introduction of Kuyt was a good decision as he provided more support upfront for Peter Crouch, who had to drop deep into midfield on some occasions just to get the ball. Gerrard, who was largely anonymous in recent games and also in the first half, was moved back into central midfield.

With Boro packing the defence and looking well drilled, Gerrard decided that playing it all patience isn't the key always and had a go with his miraculous right foot that had saved Liverpool on so many other occasions. He rifled it into the goal and Anfield erupted, like waking up from a long slumber.

It was a much needed confidence booster to Liverpool and when they finally found the momentum, they sored a second through a controversial penalty. Peter Crouch was adjudged to be pulled back by Andrew Davies and Graham Poll pointed to the spot.

Gerrard, who have missed some penalties in his career, including one at the World Cup, stepped up and finish it with aplomb.

For the rest of the match, Liverpool once again looked disinterested and was just going through the formality of finishing the whole 90 minutes. Although Crouch could've added a third as also with Kuyt but overall, it was a good job done and an important 3 points.

With such a demonstration of class and tenacity in the middle of the park, does Rafa still need more evidence of where Gerrard should be playing? Playing him elsewhere seemed like taking the very soul out of him and last night, he was given the freedom and license to roam and dominate again.

No better evidence, than this.

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