Shelvey (23), Suarez (75)
Di Natale (46), Coates og (70), Pasquale (72)
One sometimes wonders if Brendon Rogers is a victim of his own philosophy?
Once more in trying to play the passing game we’ve been undone due to misplaced passes, or a lack of concentration as he described it after the game. For all our possession and dominance and, let’s face it, entertaining play we’ve still come away with nothing. This is fast becoming a season of satisfying, if ineffective, play punctuated with decisive moments of exasperation?
This was a clash of footballing cultures. I was reminded of that scene in the first Indiana Jones film were the hero is faced with a sword wielding Ninja. Exasperated by the prolonged fancy twirling and twiddling of his weapon he just gets bored waiting for the fight to start and shoots him. Tonight the Harrison Ford part was played by Udinese’s Antonio Di Natale, and with three home defeats in a row, Anfield is fast becoming a temple of doom!
As seems the norm for this type of game BR rang the changes. Henderson, Carragher and Downing returned, Assaidi was given another chance, Shelvey, not suspended for this game, returned. Suarez and Gerrard, who didn’t have to travel far tonight, were on the bench, there was no sign of Joe Cole.
We began brightly with Coates (a header) and Assaidi (a cut inside that was overrun) showing good intent. Borini also had a cross shot which, had it the legs, would have troubled the corner flag more than the Udinese keeper. In-between the visitors, via the ever threatening Di Natale’s free kick, responded with a header from Benatia that Reina, diving down to his right, did excellently to stop.
Despite the missed chances it was our half. We passed the ball well, made good use of Johnson and Downing out wide on the right and, all in all, our goal was deserved. It was a strike that summed up BR’s philosophy. After a neat exchange of passes in midfield Shelvey threaded a decisive defence splitting ball to Downing. His cross found him following up to plant home a firm, tidy header. We kept up our dominance and went in at half time with no suggestion that we would be troubled by the visitors. However when the teams came out from the break, it all kicked off!
To say we fell for a classic sucker punch might be too easy however, it’s hard not to conclude so as Udinese levelled after just 35 seconds into the second half. Glen Johnson lost the ball in midfield (don’t start me off) Lazzari picked it up crossed to Di Natale who let the ball run across his body to find the space to coolly steer it past Reina.
So a knock back and undeservedly so on the strength of our first half performance? However we preserved Shelvey, anticipating his second in trying to get on the end of Suarez’s (he and Gerrard were introduced on the hour) cross come shot, seemed to actually clear the ball away with his standing foot. This was slightly ironic as his earlier goal celebration involved something to do with glasses!
Straight way Udinese responded. Di Natale worked his magic again. This time he swung in a free kick which Coates, in trying to clear the decks, misjudged horribly. First Shelvey (clearing the ball) and now Coates (an own goal) Udinese didn’t need to try! Their third was well ….Di Natale surrounded by three red defenders still managed to keep possession and hold the ball up before passing to Pasquale who, from the edge of the area, belted it past a helpless Reina.
What to do now implement plan B? Is there a plan B? Before we could consider this we were back in the game with a brilliant Suarez free kick that arrowed over the wall into the top corner. Suarez then had a chance to draw us level with a superb nutmeg and shot that the keeper did well to stop at his near post. Sterling, from Johnson’s pass, was unlucky not to equalise as a desperate Udinese boot got in the way of his shot. He then went close with a dipping shot that just cleared the crossbar. Then Downing rifled a low shot straight at the keeper but sadly there was no home come back to complement the one the away team produced.
So, a disaster? No, it’s the Europa League and there are plenty of games left in the group to turn it around. However the manner in which we bossed possession, dominated the game for long periods but still contrived to lose is as worrying as it is entertaining. Perhaps BR should remember that behind even the most beautiful, ornate buildings, are secure foundations?
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Coates, Carragher, Robinson, Henderson (Gerrard – 65′ ), Downing, Allen, Shelvey, Assaidi (Suarez – 65′ ), Borini (Sterling – 79′ ) Substitutes: Jones, Skrtel, Wisdom, Sahin, Gerrard, Sterling, Suarez
Udinese: Brkic, Danilo, araoni Booked, Domizzi, Benatia Booked, Pasquale, Armero (Lazzari – 46′ ), Agyemang, Pinzi Booked (Willians – 70′ ), Di Natale (Ranegie – 85′ ), Pereyra Substitutes: Padelli, Coda, Heurtaux, Lazzari, Willians, Ranegie, Fabbrini