Portsmouth 2 (Nugent 61, Hreidarsson 77)
Liverpool 3 (Aurelio 69, Kuyt 84, Torres 90+2)
For the second time in two weeks, Spanish hotshot, Fernando Torres managed to bail Liverpool out and most importantly, mitigated the critics that were heading Rafael Benitez’s way.
After a tormenting midweek game at Goodison Park, the Liverpool manager made 6 changes to the line up, with 6 of his 11 players being defenders. The changes meant that a tweak in the formation was needed.
With the untimely injury of Steven Gerrard coinciding with the departure of Robbie Keane, Benitez was left with little options up front. Torres was deemed as fatigued along with Dirk Kuyt. So David N’Gog made his full debut in their places along with Ryan Babel.
On the hindsight, the two strikers didn’t inspire much confidence and were poor. It proved a point that it’s not really a good time to let go of Keane’s service. N’Gog had a hard time up against the colossus, Sol Campbell and Sylvain Distin.
Ryan Babel, meanwhile, managed to miss an open goal in the second half. The Dutch striker have disappointed many this term, with little to deliver and frustrating to watch, constantly running into cul-de-sacs
Mere minutes later, Portsmouth took the lead through David Nugent, who’s a self-proclaimed Evertonian. He gave Martin Skrtel a real hard time the entire evening and managed to squeeze a shot past Pepe Reina.
Liverpool, always with the fighting spirit, got back on level terms through a bizarre chain of events. Eventually, Fabio Aurelio, who was deployed as a central midfielder, smashed home a free kick inside Portsmouth’s penalty box.
The Brazilian, whose natural position being a left-wing back, was seen playing in the Xabi Alonso position. And he never really look out of place throughout with several fine passes.
But he was helpless to see Portsmouth taking the lead again after Hermann Hreidersson headed home from a freekick.
With so much at stake, you just knew that Liverpool wouldn’t go down that easily. With only one loss in the league this season and several key comebacks, it seemed to be turning into a pattern.
The substitution of Dirk Kuyt sparked off a revival. He first created the chance for Babel to score from 4 yards out with an open net but his fellow Dutch totally took his eye off the ball.
Then he had the ball in David James’ net but was erroneously ruled offside.
But like a man for such occasion, it is of no doubt that somehow he’ll find the back of the net and he did when he pounced on a terrible mistake by Distin to smash the ball past James at his near post.
With 15 minutes remaining, Rafa Benitez decided that it is time and with desperate calls from the traveling Liverpool fans getting more audible, Torres was brought on to replace Babel.
With the crowd blaring out the catchy ‘Fernando Torres, Liverpool Number 9’ chant, the Spanish had little time to turn water into wine.
But being one of the most feared and clinical striker in Europe, he never disappoints and after finding his feet last week with two morale-boosting goals against Chelsea, he was hell-bent on rescuing Liverpool from yet another draw.
The brilliant Yossi Benayoun wriggled his way to the left flank before delivering a peach of a cross into the box. And make no guesses; Torres was on the end of it. Sent in at a perfect height, all he did was stood still and directed the ball past the despairing dive of David James.
He made it look really simple.
With Gerrard out for 3 weeks, most of Liverpool’s goals are surely going to come from Torres. It’s a little more comforting to know that at least he is now back on track, scoring goals and putting up decent performances.
Performance wise, again, not the best from the Reds. Although constantly in control, Liverpool looked toothless until the introduction of Kuyt and Torres. The change in formation also probably unsettled some players at first.
But it is encouraging to see Aurelio and Benayoun in such fine form. The duo stood out from the rest and deserves a consistent run of games.
Benitez and many Liverpool supporters, such as I, surely heaped a huge sigh of relief from this game. With Man Utd seemingly on a roll recently, any slip-ups now will surely deal a huge blow to the title bid.
With Chelsea fumbling and Arsenal out of contention, it seemed like Liverpool are the only team that have a minor chance of upsetting the bookies and critics. But Benitez will surely have to deal with the imbalance strike force.
And most importantly, a comeback is needed.
Monday, February 09, 2009
Portsmouth 2 (Nugent 61, Hreidarsson 77)