Wigan Athletic 1
I guess the writing was on the wall with this one. Earlier yesterday in the 12-30 race at Folkestone a horse called Gerrard was leading the field only to be overhauled and beaten. One of the horses that passed him was called Red Jester, although there was nothing remotely funny about last night’s result!
Does anyone really feel that we can win the title now? Forget the maths, forget the game in hand, forget blind faith and loyalty, just ask yourself this? Do you really see Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea all slipping up enough to let us back in the race and on this evidence can you see us wining all our games, which include away meetings with the top three, to take advantage?
Understandably, and as befits the home side fourteen places above the visitors, we had most of the play and the better chances but how many times have we heard that before? One would have thought that after the City game Wigan would be candidates for a backlash but once more we choked on our advantage and couldn’t make it pay. We only have ourselves to blame.
Benitez only made two changes and the emphasis was on attack with Pennant (a surprise return from injury) joining Kewell on the wings and Gerrard “in the hole” behind Torres.
Torres looked lively but it was Michael Brown for Wigan, who had the first decent effort with a long range swerver that stretched Reina. We replied via Mascherano after a nice one two with Torres. The Spaniard also provided Gerrard, who had beaten the offside trap, with an excellent opportunity but he fluffed his finish shooting straight into Kirkland’s hands. Torres then headed Alonso’s pacey free kick over the bar. Not exactly a scintillating first half performance but enough chances to suggest that more, and hopefully a goal, would come. We didn’t have long to wait.
Four minutes into the second half Finnan, who had earnt Rafa’s wrath a few minutes earlier with a stray pass, collected in midfield and continued his run to take the return from Gerrard. His square ball was stroked home by Torres.
So that’s it, Wigan, having faded after their good start, can now assume their expected subservient role? Not so. Bent after a good move hit the bar. Even though he was offside it suggested they weren’t going to play to the script. Gerrard nearly made it two with a trademark free kick which Kirkland, and then Bramble, bundled away. He was denied by Kirkland at the near post again after flowing move involving Torres and Pennant. However, Wigan refused to buckle and, to their credit, made us pay for our wastefulness.
A long ball into our area was knocked on by Heskey. Gerrard picked it up but his indecisive clearance hit Mascherano who could do nothing to prevent it from falling into Bramble’s path who fired home from the edge of the area. Inevitably we tried to come at Wigan again, most notably a superb double save from Kirkland after a shot and then a follow up effort from Gerrard, but they held out for their first points against the so called “top four”.
A depressing result. Although it’s a New Year we’ve still got an old habit which, after last season, I thought we had exorcised. We don’t always kill off the so called smaller teams at home. Although Torres has sixteen goals this season we still don’t force home our advantage in relation to the chances we create. Said Benitez….
“We need to do almost everything perfect now but if you lose points like this it makes it more difficult. When you have chances you need to take them and finish the game.”
No doubt Rafa will say that the title chase is still on but after the last two results how much of is now a desperate hope rather than a genuine expectation? It’s still long way to go and although the fat lady isn’t singing she is certainly practising in the expectation that she will needed fairly soon! And Lazarus? He is no where to be seen!
Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Arbeloa, Carragher, Aurelio, Pennant (Kuyt 86), Alonso, Mascherano (Crouch 84), Kewell (Benayoun 74), Gerrard, Torres.
Subs Not Used: Itandje, Riise.
Wigan: Kirkland, Melchiot, Scharner, Bramble, Kilbane, Valencia, Landzaat, Brown, Taylor (Koumas 79), Heskey (Sibierski 84), Bent.
Subs Not Used: Pollitt, Boyce, Olembe.