Sunday, April 29, 2007

Second Stringers Beaten

Hyypia Unable To Save Reds From Defeat

English Premiership

Portsmouth 2 - 1 LIVERPOOL

POR - Benjani (27min), Kranjcar (32min);
LIV - Hyypia (59min);

Emiliano Insua, Gabriel Paletta, Jack Hobbs, Nabil El Zhar and Daniele Padelli. Ring a bell?

To most neutrals, it won't. Because they're players from the Liverpool reserve team. But Rafa Benitez, with one eye on the Champions League semi final, boldly putting out an experimental squad to face a spirited Portsmouth side and were soundly beaten.

With the upcoming match deemed more important, Rafa ring changes to the side which lost 1-0 at Stamford Bridge. It was expected that Rafa will once again tinker with his squad but it's still surprising to see the likes of Jerzy Dudek, Emiliano Insua and Gabriel Paletta starting.

Belittling Portsmouth? Maybe. But we all know the reason why.

With most of the key members such as Carragher and Gerrard rested, the squad lack experience and some looked rusty. Paletta, who was made to look like an absolute buffoon by Arsenal in January during the League Cup tie, partnered with an experienced Sami Hyypia, who wore the captain's armband for the day.

But the Argentinian looked sluggish at times and was struggling to deal with the physical presence of Benjani. The Zimbabwean striker is not known for scoring but against Liverpool, he found his luck through some awful defending and calamitous goalkeeping from Dudek.

A long hopeful punt from David James dropped just outside the penalty box and as Dudek rushed off his line in bid to clear the ball, he was a step too slow and Benjani headed the ball past Dudek into the unguarded net.

Inexperience on Paletta's part for letting Benjani run free. But Dudek's mistake is pretty unforgivable, making all that he's done at Istanbul just a freak show.

Then Liverpool were caught out once again by yet another long ball. Zenden's poor control was capitalised by Lauren, whose first touch diagonal ball was well met by Croatian, Niko Kranjcar. Alvaro Arbeloa was out of position and the midfielder went on to score only his second goal in the Premiership.

Liverpool struggled to move into gear two as they failed to turn possession into goals. Fowler and Bellamy were left pretty much by themselves upfront with the Welsh striker playing in the right wing role, which baffles me.

Only when he's moved into the centre, he started to look threatening. But he was wasted down the right the whole time and Fowler's aging legs are finding it hard to cope with the pace of the game.

Despite Zenden's 25 yard half volley that rattled the bar, they had nothing to show for and once again, Mark Gonzalez was poor. He made some great runs but looked uncomfortable with the physical challenges of the Premiership and his final ball were often found wanting.

After the half time break though, Liverpool looked more determined and showed more urgency in their play. They were rewarded with a good goal from defender, Sami Hyypia.

Fowler's corner was met with his head and his header went past David James emphatically. Only then Liverpool showed some kind of belief and were cranking up the pace of the game.

But with Xabi Alonso man-marked by Gary O'Neill, Liverpool found it difficult to distribute the ball properly and had to rely on long diagonal balls over and over again. With Fowler and Bellamy, there was no height and were only constantly losing possessions.

But the spirited Portsmouth held on till the end and have a good chance to book a place in next season's UEFA Cup. They were disciplined and worked very hard throughout, making it difficult for Liverpool to play. Linvoy Primus was once again outstanding while Glen Johnson perhaps, deserves the man of the match award with a couple of well timed tackles.

For Liverpool, it's disappointing to lose the game through two terrible mistakes. But it was also a game were it looked more like a formality than anything and also, a match for the reserve players to learn and get the experience.

Emiliano Insua is perhaps, the most promising one out of the lot and performed up to standards. He was composed and comfortable on the ball, looked mature and older than he really is.

But the rest still have to buck up and improve if they ever want to don the red jersey again. Paletta needs more experience as he looked shaky and unsure at times while El Zhar had little time to make any impact.

Credit goes out to Sissoko who in my opinion, had a good game for his standards. We all know he loves to misplace passes but this game, he showed great composure and was able to do the simple things well. Please with him.

All in all, it was a forgettable match for the Liverpool faithfuls but one not to be forgotten by the Pompey fans.


Gunther said...

Since Liverpool lost to Pompey ... and Arsenal beating Fulham at the Emirates, have Liverpool actually secured the 3rd spot in the Champions League next season?


Not really, might end up 4th as well. But the rules hasn't change and 4th still can get you to the qualifiers.