Belhadj 33, Piquionne 82
Before this game Rafa lamented the Premier League’s decision to hold this fixture at lunchtime after a mid week game on Wednesday. Clearly the difference between a 12-45pm kick off and a 3pm o’clock kick off was too much?
In fairness Rafa suggested it wasn’t right for Liverpool fans who, because of the kick off time, would face difficulties getting to the match. All very true but one couldn’t help harking back to Fratten Park in April 2007 when Rafa fielded a weakened side before a mid week Champions League game. We drew 1-1 and, leaving aside the fact that not all Liverpool fans live in Liverpool, one wonders how those who made the effort to travel to Portsmouth felt about that? Let down feeling they’d had a wasted journey? No doubt some of those fans who also went on Saturday must have had feeling of déjà vu, however on Saturday there were no excuses, in terms of line up we fielded what was a strong side.
After the game Rafa repeated at least a dozen times, to questions relating to Mascherano’s sending off and other decisions, that “the referee was perfect”. Again all very well but perhaps his comments would have more resonance had his team managed to produce some kind of performance and if Mascherano, who was sent off, had been hard done by? As it is we turned in our seventh defeat of the season. Any sympathy one might have for his post match comments were was more than outweighed by the disappointment of the result. All Rafa’s comments did, together with his earlier assertion that he would guarantee us a top four finish this season, was make the day even more annoying not to mention embarrassing. Sometimes when you a get a result like this the best thing you do is to take your medicine and, as Rafa always says these days, “think about the next game.”
Thinking about the next game is not the appetising prospect it used to be. Who knows what we are capable of now we’ve lost badly to a side that is bottom of the Premiership? This game, along with next one against Wolves, were “pick up points” opportunites. Already three of the six have been tossed away. Let there be no mistake, Portsmouth deserved to win and the sending off was immaterial. Rafa’s side was strong enough if little on the defensive side with Dossena playing and Benayoun and Babel on the bench.
Although we had most of the ball there was little in the way of genuine chances. Portsmouth kept their discipline and shape and worked extremely hard to deny us space. Torres twisted and turned, around on his own in an attempt to fashion something but was limited to one shot, a wafted effort that cleared the bar. By far the best chance was Agger’s header from a Gerrard free kick however before that Pompey took the lead with needless goal. Yet again the defence was at fault allowing Yebda a free cross. The cross found Kevin Prince-Boateng, Reina blocked the shot and then Johnson, with all the urgency and competence of a Eurostar Rescue Team, headed away tamely. Belhadj seized on it and blasted home an excellent volley from an acute angle.
The Mascherano incident was deserving of a red card. His tackle on Ben-Haim was high, late and nasty. To add insult to injury The Argentine will be out four weeks with suspension and probably longer because of the injury he sustained in the tackle. After that we huffed and puffed, Gerrard had a weird effort that took about three deflections before being clawed away by Begovic. However Piquionne was allowed to turn and volley home from another acute angle when during the build up we had plenty of opportunities to clear the ball.
So more pressure on Rafa and more pressure on the team. Many thought this would be the week when we would start to turn it around however, there were absolutely no signs of that happening. Where does the problem or blame lie? Injuries, the owners, Rafa, the finances? However, when push comes to shove only the players can put this right by performing on the pitch. Saturday’s was a lifeless and cold as the weather. The fans may have left Fratten Park frozen but surely if this continues someone somewhere might start to feel the heat, it’s only a question of how damaging it will be?
In the meantime all one can do is to get behind the team? What else can you do other than join the baying packs that are after this club? That is not “The Liverpool Way” but sadly neither was this performance?
Portsmouth: Begovic, Kaboul, Hreidarsson, Finnan, Ben-Haim, Belhadj, O’Hara, Brown, Boateng (Mullins 89), Yebda, Piquionne (Kanu 90+3) Substitutes: Ashdown, Mullins, Utaka, Hughes, Wilson, Dindane, Kanu
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Agger, Insua (Aurelio 68), Carragher, Dossena (Benayoun 53), Gerrard, Mascherano, Lucas (Spearing 88), Torres, Kuyt Substitutes: Cavalieri, Aurelio, Skrtel, Benayoun, Spearing, Babel, Ngog