Ngog 22, Gerrard (pen) 40
For Liverpool FC August 2010 could prove to be a significant month in it’s long and eventful history.
Not only might we be faced with the joyous prospect of finally breaking free from the stifling incompetence of the Star Spangled Duo but also perhaps we will see a new era on the pitch?
Rafa had plenty of plus points but occasionally instilling positive tactics and playing players in positions that allowed them to fully express themselves sometimes took a back seat to what he rightly or wrongly saw as the expediency of getting the result? We will play many teams that are better than last night’s opposition this season. It was comfortable win. However more importantly it was positive one suggesting that this season, organisation and doing the right things permitting, Roy Hodgson might present us with a freer and fresher Liverpool?
The line up was a mixture old (Gerrard, Carragher), young (Ngog, Kelly), and new (Cole, Jovanovic). There was also a place for Pacheco who had retuned from Under 17 International duties. Interestingly Gerrard was in his preferred position in the centre of midfield playing behind Joe Cole. With ten days to go before the first Premiership game HRH still couldn’t field his preferred side however, I think it fair to say that his was the strongest side he has been able to send out so far.
Rabotnicki began as if they were expecting to have a difficult evening. We began in way that suggested that it be on the cards with plenty of good movement, crisp passing and above all space. The first inkling of a goal came when Gerrard and Cole combined, hopefully giving an early sign of productive times to come, to set up Ngog. The Frenchman, instead of trying to shoot in sight, tried to round the keeper only to be foiled by Bogatinov’s outstretched hand. Too casual, or even cocky, on Ngog’s part or perhaps a sign at least that he is confident? You decide.
After that we probed and probed. Gerrard and Cole linked up more and more and it only looked a matter of time before we would score. Sure enough after twenty minutes or so Cole picked up Gerrard’s corner in an unmarked position. He had plenty of time and space to measure his chip into the box. It found Ngog’s head perfectly enabling the Frenchman to make no mistake with his finish via the underside of the crossbar.
I guess with the game now definitely safe there would be time for us to play with freedom? Jovanovic looked lively making some good, positive runs and nearly scored when his long range effort in the second half caused the keeper to fumble. However Joe Cole in particularly seemed to rise to occasion looking sharp and keen to impress, always looking to play in Ngog or Pacheco and combining well with Gerrard. Cole was unlucky not the score hitting the crossbar from what he would, deep down I suspect, admit was a cross but also later on he twice tested the keeper at his near post. The first was particularly impressive due a neat little turn and shot. Any more games like this and Cole will be in severe danger of becoming a firm favourite with everyone! In short, a very impressive debut
Our second came from the spot thanks to Lopes upending Ngog and, as he was falling pushing him down, just for good measure! Gerrard made no mistake easily sending the keeper the wrong way. Just before half time Ngog could have got his fourth of the tie but unselfishly tried to square to Gerrard after a delicate move between Cole and Pacheco opened up the Rabotnicki defence.
In the second half things petered out a tad although as mentioned before Joe Cole wasn’t finished seemingly determined to mark his proper debut with a thoroughly deserved goal. HRH took the opportunity to chop and change wheeling out Maxi for the time this season and giving Spearing and Aquilani run outs
All in all comfortable and enjoyable evening thanks largely to Mr Cole. However that is where in ends, in ten days time the real test begins.
Liverpool: Cavalieri, G Johnson, Carragher, Kelly, Skrtel, Gerrard (Aquilani 62), J Cole, Lucas, (Spearing 73), Jovanovic (Maxi 67), Ngog, Pacheco, Substitutes Gulacsi, Wilson, Kyrgiakos, Aquilani, Maxi, Spearing, Eccleston
Rabotnicki: Bogatinov, Dimovski, Adem, Belica, Todorovski (Petkovski 87), Gligorov, Tuneski, Fernando Lopes, Filho (Mojsov 62), Da Silva (Marcio 81), Dos Santos, Substitutes: Kandikijan, Sekulovski, Roberto Carlos, Sinkovic, Marcio, Mojsov, Petkovski