Meireles 29, Kuyt (pen) 68
Distin 46, Beckford 52
It is a well worn cliché but this was a game of two halves. Riding on the wave of a fantastic “welcome back” reception to Kenny we went some way to making up for Wednesday with an improved performance…in parts. However, although we should quite rightly take some heart from this game, particularly our first half performance, this Liverpool side is still a fragile one. Just as you thought it was safe to be confident you are given a sharp, sobering reminder that the old problems still remain.
Kenny made one change Spearing was bought into midfield at the expense of Poulsen. The back four was same as it was against Blackpool meaning that rumours of a midfield birth for Glen Johnson remained unfounded.
The usual opening for these types of games is for everyone to tear into each other like they’ve never played football before and that their life depended on it. However, this was a more sedate opening with both sides trying to open up each other via actually playing football. Both sides had their moments settling well on the ball putting together some nice passing however, the early exchanges on goal were limited to two over the bar attempts, Torres for us and Osman for them. The first move of significance came from Torres who upon receiving the ball in midfield did brilliantly to shake off Distin, cut inside Heitinga, and strike the ball against the far post. Kuyt, admittedly at a stretch, blazed the rebound over the bar. However, the Dutchman didn’t have long to wait before becoming involved again.
Picking up Johnson’s cross from the left he produced an excellent downward header that Howard did well to save diving low at his near post. Howard then threw himself at the Kuyt’s attempt to blast home the rebound getting his legs in the way however he was not so lucky when the ball fell to Meireles on the edge of the area who cracked home, via a small deflection off Baines, his first goal for us.
The goal injected some pace into the game and soon after Howard was at it again saving from Torres, Maxi should have done better with the rebound. However, it was a good half even though it was a derby game we looked confident and composed on the ball. We were keen to commit players forward and if Dalglish’s effect on pepping up Torres showed small signs of working at Blackpool it was even more apparent here.
Everton offered nothing up front so, such is law of football, it was no surprise that they, with us attacking the Kop, totally turned the game on its head early in the second half.
The injury to Daniel Agger didn’t help however, concentration was lacking when seconds after the second half kick off Distin headed in Arteta’s corner. It was strong header ending a jockeying for position in our area that, not for the first time, saw Skrtel out muscled. Johnson tried to clear it off the line put the ball had too much on it. It was needless and all too familiar sucker punch administered due to a moment of laxness that undid all the good work we saw in the first half. Five minutes later the defence was caught out again. Osman, despite being tracked by Lucas and Kyrgiakos, simply threaded the ball though them to find Beckford who was quicker to react than Meireles, 2-1.
Once more any pretence that we might have about improving was undone by shoddy, sloppy defending. That’s twice in two games we’ve been in front and hauled back due to this. Players have been too slow to react, unaware of the opposition’s movement and just plain poor in terms of closing down. All the situations which lead to the goals yesterday and on Wednesday should have been dealt with long before the there was any sniff of a score? Perhaps recent games will raise the old debate between zonal and man to man marking however, whatever system is employed, there is no excuse for switching off and going to sleep? What is more galling is that on the strength of our play in other areas of the pitch, we didn’t deserve to behind. Certain areas of the side appear to improving whilst others…..?
Thankfully we were given a chance to make things better when a penalty was awarded for Howard’s challenge on Maxi. Kuyt, deputising for Gerrard, made no mistake sending the keeper wrong way. After that we strained admirably to regain our lead however, perhaps nerves got to us after Everton’s second half smack in the teeth which wasn’t really helped by their “what we have we hold” attitude. The damage had been done and the momentum had long since been lost. Time to start again in Wolverhampton next Saturday morning and see if we can carry it through? I’ve no doubt that soon we will, with or without the help of our defence.
Liverpool: Reina, G Johnson, Agger (Kyrgiakos 46), Kelly, Skrtel, Meireles (Shelvey 80), Maxi, Lucas, Spearing, Torres, Kuyt Substitutes: Gulacsi, Aurelio, Kyrgiakos, Cole, Shelvey, Pacheco, Babel
Everton: Howard, Baines, Heitinga, Distin, Neville, Coleman, Arteta, Osman (Rodwell 77), Fellaini, Beckford (Vaughan 73), Anichebe (Bilyaletdinov 81), Substitutes: Mucha, Hibbert, Bilyaletdinov, Rodwell, Vaughan, Magaye Gueye, Baxter