Zenit St Petersburg 2-0 Liverpool
1-0 Hulk (70), 2-0 Semak (72)
Same old same old, different location different tournament however, it was familiar story last night as once more we wasted plenty of opportunities that would have set us up nicely for the second leg. As it is the two goals that Zenit will take to Anfield will surely, given our finishing at present, be enough?
The frustrating thing about results like this and Monday’s is that the promise is there however, we seem to making the same errors time and time again. How long, and how many games, will it take for Brendon Rogers to try a different, more risk free approach or inject some variety into the way the side plays? Daniel Sturridge seemingly offered that when he played and many will say it’s a no coincidence that we’ve lapsed as he been injured or, in the case of this game, cup tied. However, is it Sturridge? Surely it is the response to that absence, to fall back on tried and tested but not necessarily successful methods that is the problem West Brom, Zenit whatever the side or the conditions the approach, and the eventually outcome, is seemingly the same?
Perhaps if Luis Suarez had been just tad sharper last night I wouldn’t be writing like this however who can blame him, we seemingly have no other tactics other than to filter every forward move through him with the unreasonable expectation that he should deliver any time and any place anywhere?
BR named a strong side which suggested, after using the group stage of this competition to give younger and squad players a run out, it was now time to take things seriously? Allen and Sterling were bought in for Shelvey and Lucas. The omission of Lucas was something of a surprise given the nature of the opposition and the need to contain them with view to finishing off the job at Anfield, sadly he was only deployed after the damage had been done.
Similarly one might also doubt the inclusion of Joe Allen and his passing game on a surface that had seen much better days? Significantly Martin Skrtel was recalled to face his old club at the expense of Daniel Agger who, arguably has been found wanting for three out of the last four goals we conceded? Don’t worry Daniel after this game Martin seems to well on the way to matching this!
Both teams, perhaps mindful of the subzero temperatures, began briskly. In the first five minutes Reina saved brilliantly from Kerzhakov and then Hulk. In-between Suarez did well latching onto Johnson’s pass, bamboozling Neto with a little “Ali shuffle” before guiding it just wide of Malafeey’s, in Zenit goal, left hand post. The tempo continued, Suarez intercepted Lombaerts’ slack cross field pass and rounded the keeper however he took it too far allowing the tracking back Zenit defender to atone for his mispass. Zenit replied via Hulk’s shot which squirmed through Reina’s arms and onto the post. Suarez missed third chance which could have seen him with a first half hat trick and us out of sight, when he flicked Sterling’s cross wide from around five yards out!
The second half began well with long run from Johnson that Malafeey did well to stop. Suarez missed another trying to deftly find the top corner from the distance. However despite all this it was not to be Luis’ or, eventually, the rest of teams night. Henderson lost possession which allowed the ball to run to Hulk. The Brazilian was allowed to run on with three red shirts in close attention and crash a unstoppable shot into the top corner, a great goal that was not matched by our attempts to stop it occurring. Minutes we really rued the chances we missed when Skrtel failed to deal with Anyukov’s cross. Semak converted with Johnson well I just don’t know what he was doing perhaps looking at the pitch for daisies to lace into his hair!
Suarez nearly pulled one back from a free kick however BR battened down the hatches and bought on Lucas with a view to damage limitation and preserving what slim chances we might have for the second leg..
So another frustrating night which thankfully wasn’t made worse by the much reported vileness of certain sections of the home crowd. After the game BR suggested that we might have won had we been more solid at the back and taken our chances. Basic stuff Brendon but thanks for the enlightenment! He then went on to say
“So we’ve lost the game when really we should have won it and that’s very disappointing. It is something where, in six or 12 months’ time, we won’t be making those mistakes”
I agree, if we carry on repeating these mistakes to the end of the season and ploughing the same predictable furrow BR and many of the team won’t be making them in six or twelve months time, at least not for Liverpool anyway?
Zenit St Petersburg: Malafeev, Aniukov, Lombaerts, Luis Neto Booked, Hubocan Booked, Danny (Semak – 54′ ), Shirokov, Denisov, Witsel, Kerzhakov (Faitzulin – 82′ ), Hulk Substitutes: Zhevnov, Rodic, Lukovic, Faitzulin, Semak, Evseev, Djordjevic
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Jose Enrique, Carragher, Skrtel Booked, Gerrard, Henderson, Downing, Allen, Sterling (Lucas – 78′ ), Suarez Substitutes: Jones, Coates, Wisdom, Lucas, Shelvey, Borini, Suso