In a previous blog, which covered the away game at Middlesbrough, I lamented our unluckiness in front of goal and alluded to the fact that things would fall into place. Having taken comfort from decent wins at Wigan and Charlton and at home to Watford and Fulham, when we scored 13 goals in four games albeit against “easier” opposition, one could be forgiven for thinking that his was so. However, just as you thought Liverpool had amassed enough confidence to venture safely back into more testing Premiership waters the old nemesis resurfaced to bite us on the backside. Our inability to finish in front of goal.
Blackburn let in six last week at Arsenal and they should have let in another six. Mark Lawrenson on Match of the Day suggested that Liverpool were unlucky and that normally the chances would have gone in. However, this is in danger of becoming a habit rather than “just one of those games”. Even Benitez who with the press has often unconvincingly tried to brush over more obvious failings in favour of talking up our performances was more candid than usual. “But we have seen this already this season. A lot of very clear attempts but we couldn’t score. Then we make a mistake. Disappointing.”
It’s a totally academic and pointless thing to say but what would Ian Rush or Robbie Fowler in their pomp have done with the sort of chances that were dished up to Liverpool yesterday? More relevant is it any coincidence that our scoring glut coincided with the dropping of Peter Crouch to the bench in favour of a Bellamy Kuyt partnership. Crouch, who was restored to the side over Kuyt, was more culpable than anyone yesterday missing three very easy chances that would have given him a first half trick.
The first came early on. Finnan, who with Riise had been pushed into midfield for this game, put in a cross that was perfect and presented Crouch with a simple header from seven or so yards out. The execution was weak and Friedel was not troubled. Prior to that we had started well with plenty of neat moves and possession. The first major chances, one each, involved Robbie Savage. The blonde seventies throwback caught out Jamie Carragher and headed wide when he should have scored. Lilly was also involved in a tussle with Bellamy who turned well only to see his shot stopped by Friedel from point blank range but did the Welsh Pretty Boy hold Bellamy back?
You could tell Bellamy was desperate to score against his old club. He was booed by the Blackburn fans though one would think those supporting Newcastle would have more of an axe the grind. This didn’t deter him though and he got into some very good positions only to badly let down by his team mates. The increasing ineffectual Gonzalez missed a totally free Bellamy in the penalty box. A simple look up and pass and it would have been one nil. Bellamy this time turned provider. He roasted Todd and got round the back of the defence but no one in red had the wit or foresight to be in a position to collect his unselfish cut back.
And so on it went, chance after chance thrown away like Christmas wrapping paper. Riise blasted into the crowd after a neat interchange of passes between Gerrard and Agger. Another move saw Alonso and Riise combining well only for Bellamy to flick the final ball wide with the outside of his right foot. Crouch missed his second easy chance, another powder puff header from Bellamy’s cross and completed the hat trick of incompetence soon after.
Half time and at least six chances missed. The game should have been over. There was only one outcome after this and it came four minutes after the restart. Benni McCarthy got on the end of Pedersen’s cross to fire home after great set up work by Tugay.
After that we played straight into Blackburn’s hands by losing our composure. Kuyt getting involved with Pedersen, Alonso recklessly lashed at McCarthy after his piss taking by the corner flag and Bellamy, oh so many times! If there was way of wiring that man’s mouth up the national grid the energy crisis would be solved! Cards were showered around like confetti and if we had a more miserable referee some of them might have been red.
Eventually we clamed down and concentrated on the task in hand – missing more chances! Kuyt, now on for the Crouch, had a shot blocked and lost his footing on re-laid pitch in goal area trying to convert the rebound. Alonso smacked one against the post with Friedel beaten all hands up. As the clock ran down there was a more desperate feel to our play as if the players knew they couldn’t let this one get away. Garcia slipped as he was about the slot home Finnan’s cross and another superb long range effort from Alonso was saved brilliantly by Friedel.
Final whistle, 0-1 having dominated the game. However, we’ve only ourselves to blame. Benitez seemed to confirm this afterwards. “I have to analyse why we didn’t convert those chances” Unusually he singled out Crouch “When you are in front of goal and have three clear headers, it’s not down to a lack of confidence that they do not go in. Maybe it was bad luck. Maybe the goalkeeper was in the right position. But we are creating these chances for Peter. He was playing well and can give us a lot of things – he can win the ball in the air, and keep it – but now we have better strikers and they all need to compete for their position. If he’s there on the end of chances that shows he is doing his job, but he needs to finish.”
I find it rather odd that because Crouch is tall everyone thinks he should be good in the air. There is still a technique to this which clearly he needs to work on. However, probably the worst thing Benitez can do is now drop Crouch. He knows he had a stinker of game, look at his demeanour as walked off having been substituted. But he is our top scorer in all competitions this season and does not suddenly become a bad player overnight. Surely he will want to readdress the balance against Spurs? I feel he should be given that chance even though this is a game that he taken on increased importance as everyone behind us won to drop us to sixth place.
As for the game as a whole Liverpool could do well to ask Mark Hughes if they can borrow his copy of “Blackburn’s Big Bumper Book of Bouncing Back After a Bad Result”. It might be an inspiring read!