Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Reds Blew It

Liverpool 1 (Gerrard 68)
Everton 1 (Cahill 88)

Liverpool were given a chance to reclaim top spot from Man Utd. on Monday night but missed out after a late Tim Cahill goal gifted Everton a deserved draw at Anfield against their bitter city rivals.

Just about a week ago Liverpool were sitting at the top of the table but were made to pay for their average performances this season. So far, other than the 5-1 thrashing of Newcastle, the Reds have failed to put up any sort of convincing performance.

In an attempt to draw attention away from his players during such crucial period of time, Rafa Benitez now will have to face more pressure as his ‘calculated’ attack on Sir Alex not only failed to pay off but suddenly looked as if it will backfire spectacularly

With his contract issue yet to be resolved, it proved to be another harmful distraction and probably tells us the mistrust between the American owners and the Spanish manager.

Leading his men into what he called, ‘the biggest derby I’m involved in’, he knew that Everton would do whatever it takes to stop them from reclaiming top spot. And the Toffeemen did just that.

The blue half of Merseyside were surely thrilled by the manner of how Everton got off the block so quickly and gave Pepe Reina a handful of saves to make. Victor Anichibe and then later, Tim Cahill, stung the palms of the Spanish goalkeeper and the away side was able to apply pressure despite not having a recognized striker.

But Liverpool felt that they should’ve taken the lead after Sami Hyypia’s long pass found the Fernando Torres, who was installed in the team after missing out for the past 3 months. But his rustiness in front of goal was apparent as he clipped the ball wide off the target despite only having Tim Howard to beat.

He later had a legitimate penalty appeal turned down after being bundled in the box by Phil Jagielka. But it was just not his day. Neither was it Robbie Keane’s, who was a virtual spectator throughout and contributed nothing. Benitez’s plan to dovetail the pair failed miserably this time.

Only after withdrawing Keane then did we see Steven Gerrard at his rampaging best. In derby such as this, it often just takes a moment of brilliance to break the duck and Gerrard did just that.

From 30 yards out, he lashed a driving shot which left Tim Howard hapless.

Many thought that it will be the winner and the game decider. So did Rafa Benitez, who then took off Torres and put on Lucas, changing the shape of the team. It sent out the message that Liverpool is ready to play out for the 1-0.

But we know Everton had other ideas.

With just 5 minutes left to go, Everton won a freekick near the byline through a foul by Yossi Benayoun. And we know how dangerous Everton are with set pieces, with Tim Cahill and Leon Osman constantly on the prowl.

A simple training ground routine freekick managed to unlock Liverpool and expose their faulty zonal marking system. Arteta’s freekick was met with aplomb by Tim Cahill’s head, without a Liverpool shadow anywhere near the Australian.

It must have tasted sweet for the Everton supporters, who have a short trip back home. It might not be the most ideal result for them but to thwart their rival’s title bid, they should say it’s a job well done.

Despite only losing one league game so far this season, the number of draws and goal scored must be a little worrying for Rafa Benitez. Especially for this season, the home record is not as good as it should be and there is a cause for concern here.

The Reds are definitely still in for a shot at the title but Benitez needs to commit his future quick and find a solution to the Torres and Keane formula, which is still a big mystery.

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