So another 1-0 defeat and therefore more verbal batterings? Well not quite this time
Even though we have a salvageable situation to take back to Anfield next week it was a curate’s egg of a performance. We had decent first half but will be disappointed at the way we dried up creatively as the game went on and the way conceded the goal.
Everything about the goal was depressing. Hazard’s free kick evaded everyone in a white shirt. It looked so bad, especially as it was from so far out. Had we not produced an impressive clutch of clean sheets in recent games it would pose serious questions about our defence and in particular the extent of the communication between the players. And of course it was yet another goal conceded from a set piece. I wonder if I can get a bet on this sort of thing? Liverpool to concede from a free kick or a corner – 1/3 on?
Rafa recalled the fit again Glen Johnson and Daniel Agger and Babel was bought in for the inured Benayoun. Lille had players named Mavuba and Square which presumably gives the commentators some good mileage? Mavuba when you pronounce it sounds like Hoover (“Mavuba sweeps up at the back”) and I can see the headlines if we ever sign the other player (“Red Square”)!
Both sides began positively but, as one might expect from the home side, Lille made the initial running showing good movement on and off the ball and quickly pressing us back into our half. Much was made of the condition of the pitch which is nonsense, welcome to the real world gents!
Eventually we found our feet and, after twenty of so minutes, fashioned our first move of note. Torres and Babel, in a central position, exchanged sweet moves before the Dutchman’s goal bound effort was saved by Landreau’s leg. A good save but perhaps Babel should have done better? Nonetheless it was indication of how we had weathered Lille’s early onslaught and managed to get the measure of them? This was followed up with low Gerrard free kick that was well saved. Johnson, who looks to have recovered well from injury, collected the rebound and clipped in a nice cross to Torres whose downward header was again well saved by Landreau at the foot of his post.
There was room for improvement, for example Torres was shackled which was not helped by him being often left to his own devices and Gerrard was worryingly quiet, again. However, but it was an encouraging start that must have pleased Rafa as the sides went in for half time?
The second half started scrappily and didn’t really improve. Babel came close cutting in from the left and firing a hard shot right at the keeper. Although he was eventually substituted Babel’s performance was encouraging. He was involved for much of the game, made the Lille defence work hard to contain his pace, linked up well with his fellow players and managed to carve out a couple of decent chances.
At this stage of the game if you’d asked me who would be favourite to win I would have still said us even though our moves on goal had dried up. However despite this Lille were still capable of producing. Frau tested Reina with a long range swerving effort that Reina could only put out for a corner. Then came the goal and we, with only a handful of minutes to go, were torn between going for the equaliser or defending. In the end we achieved neither. Lille nearly killed us off for good when Aubameyang’s shot found a post with Reina beaten. Then Torres and Lucas were involved in a last ditch goal mouth scramble.
After the game Rafa, perhaps mindful of his reaction after Wigan, said this….
“It was an improvement from the last game. The players’ reaction has been very positive, I am disappointed with the result but really pleased with the effort of the players. They were fantastic today.”
Here’s to the second leg and a second chance?
Lille: Landreau, Emerson, Beria, Rami, Balmont, Cabaye (Dumont 73), Obraniak (Toure 83), Chedjou Fongang, Mavuba, Hazard, Frau (Aubameyang) Substitutes: Butelle, Vandam, Souare, Dumont, Souquet, Aubameyang, Toure
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Agger, Insua, Carragher, Gerrard, Mascherano, Lucas, Torres, Kuyt (El Zhar 88), Babel (Riera 73) Substitutes: Cavalieri, Kyrgiakos, Kelly, Aquilani, Riera, Ngog, El Zhar