Standard Liege 0
After extra time (1-0 agg)
There is not much more that can be said hasn’t already been said in the reports of our last two games. Bring on the criticism and navel gazing about the way we play. Write us off and, with a perverse satisfation, we’ll keep pulling through against the odds and stick a finger up at you, or so it seems! Is this getting embarrassing? A bit, but then again we’ve always been red!
After the first leg one would have thought Liege would begin to show chinks in their armour. However with hindsight, why should they? They are Belgium Champions and they remained strong, well organised and continued to make life very difficult for us. Again a series of Liege chances were wasted. Mbokani and Fellaini plus others made Riena either work very hard to make the save or at least admonish his defence for letting them through to shoot wide.
All of a sudden our lack of width has been held up as the cause of everything that’s gone wrong so far this season, as far as three wins out of three can be classed as “wrong”. Lack of width is not a crime if you set up your team to play in a way that accounts for this. However, when you play as we do with the intention of getting men wide and fail to do so that’s when problems occur. All too often Kuyt and Benayoun were tempted in field and, as a result, basically got under Torres’ and Keane’s feet. In addition none of the full backs, Arbeloa and Aurelio, were able to get out wide or forward often enough and are slowly, when the likes of Steve Finnan are not being picked, beginning to use up much of the crowd’s goodwill. One also wonders just how long the benched Ryan Babel needed to recover from the Olympics? He’s a big boy now Rafa!
Not that one should use the width thing as an excuse. Throughout the side there seemed to be confusion. I don’t doubt for one minute that motivation was in hearts and minds but at present the inspiration, or application, can’t be found to transfer it into our football.
Our chances in the first half were limited to a long range punts from Alonso and a poor header from Kuyt. The second saw more long range efforts from Alonso (twice), Kuyt (twice) and Gerrard and although we began to have more of the play in terms of possession we couldn’t find a way through. As the pressure increased the Liege foul count did. Such was the desperation I actually thought the only way we were going to find some space was if one of their players committed a foul too many!
So to extra time and tensions increased. Even to the extent that Rafa and the Liege manager had a tiff. Arbeloa nearly lifted spirits with a low, long range effort. We were then denied a clear penalty when El Zhar was upended. Finally Liege were broken. Babel (finally on) providing width, no more than a yard from the touch line, threaded a cross over the tired Liege defence. Kuyt, as he often does in Europe and on his 100th appearance, stole in at the far post and used his shin to end the misery.
There’s an old Pink Floyd song called “One Of These Days” It’s an instrumental apart from the sinister, spoken warning “One of these days, I’m going to cut you into little pieces”. If we don’t improve many more teams, be they in the Champions League group draw today or at home in the premiership, will be sharpening their knives? Guts, determination and force of will are all very well but “one of these days” (and soon?) it won’t be enough.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Skrtel, Aurelio, Kuyt, Gerrard, Alonso, Benayoun (Babel 61), Keane (El Zhar 83), Torres (Plessis 120).
Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Dossena, Agger, Spearing.
Standard Liege: Aragon, Camozzato, Onyewu, Sarr, Dante, Dalmat (Jovanovic 86), Fellaini, Defour (Nicaise 118), Witsel, De Camargo (Toama 101), Mbokani.
Subs Not Used: Devriendt, Goreux, Mikulic, Ingrao.