Crouch 57, Torres 69, Gerrard 89 pen.
Sometimes Rafa doesn’t help himself. It’s almost as if he gets a kick out of hovering his hand over the self destruction button or testing the goodwill of his supporters.
His rotation policy has its critics but I guess there is a certain logic to it if you swap players who play in the same position, Kuyt for Crouch, Hyypia for Agger and so on. However, when for no apparent reason you decide to play people out of their natural position it simply becomes mystifying. Rafa made five changes from Wednesday’s side and we looked unbalanced from the moment the game started. Jamie Carragher was moved to right back to accommodate Skrtel whilst Finnan, a “full time” right back sat on the bench! However, nowhere more was this apparent than with Lucas who was deployed out of position on the left of midfield. From Wednesday’s encouraging performance the Brazilian looked decidedly out of sorts but it was not just him. The first half was nothing short of dreadful, a disjointed performance lacking consistency and teamwork. This made life easy for Sunderland and provided grist to the mill for those who seek to argue against rotation.
Sunderland probably couldn’t believe their luck in the first half. Their defence, despite being busy, was hardly stretched. Had Roy Keane known how easy it would be he might have attacked more. Although the loss of Richardson early on probably didn’t help, they opted to sit back, get behind the ball and let Liverpool on to them. An unadventurous, unimaginative approach mirrored by the Sunderland fans who, despite a raft of subjects to bait us about, still opted to trot the ”Sign On” song. I bet they’d sing ”I Will Survive” on a karaoke night or “Streets of London” if they were buskers.
This paucity of wit and originality was mirrored by the play on the pitch. Perhaps the best chance was Torres’ header from Pennant’s cross but it had little power. Mascherano then had an effort from all of forty yards out which was impressive but never likely to reap dividends.
The second half had to be better and finally the break through was made. Carragher, crossed and Crouch’s header was almost perfect, leaving Gordon sprawling vainly at the foot of his right hand post.
The goal seemed to galvanise us. Crouch went close again with a sort of scissor kick that produced a good save from Gordon. Gerrard fluffed the rebound. Torres had a volley well saved by Gordon but it wasn’t long before he was in on the act running on to Crouch’s through ball and outpacing his marker to make it two.
Sunderland were unlucky not to have had a penalty. Carragher appeared to handle but Rob Stiles, who gave Chelsea a controversial penalty against us earlier in the season, wasn’t convinced. To add insult to injury we were awarded a spot kick after Pennant was up ended by Nosworthy. Gerrard’s penalty wasn’t the best but it managed to creep in off Gordon’s hand.
Listening to some of the fall out from this game you’d think we’d lost. Given our form of late I would have been happy just to get three points. However, the mind isn’t really eased and no one, particularly after our performance in the first half, can convincingly argue that all is now well and that we are back on track.
After game some of the crowd staged a protest against the Americans. Rafa has been lucky that all this unrest has deflected attention away from performances of late and been used as an excuse for them by some. However, he can’t hide behind this forever. Hopefully we can take something from the second half and move on. We will need to, next week it’s Chelsea away!
Liverpool: Reina, Carragher, Hyypia, Skrtel, Aurelio (Finnan 46), Pennant, Gerrard, Mascherano, Lucas (Benayoun 61), Crouch (Kuyt 83), Torres. Subs Not Used: Itandje, Babel.
Sunderland: Gordon, Bardsley, Nosworthy, Evans, Collins, Chopra (Waghorn 83), Whitehead, Miller, Richardson (Prica 7), Murphy, Jones, Prica (O’Donovan 55). Subs Not Used: Fulop, McShane.