The game plan was clear and it looked like it may just pay off for the most part of the first half, but Liverpool found a way break us down, with two of their front three finding the net in a comfortable 2-0 win at Anfield.
Before I discuss the game in a bit more depth, here’s a few quick thoughts:
- Merino looked off the pace and needs to pick it up and sharpish if Shelvey’s set for a spell on the sidelines
- Dummett proved once again what a reliable defender he is – Lejeune and Lascelles look solid together too.
- Kenedy was frustrating – tried skill in some bad areas and was far sloppier than he’s tended to be. A reminder tonight that he’s still a raw talent.
- Atsu and Murphy need to offer more on the break if we’re going to actually cause problems as a ‘counter attacking’ team.
- Aside from one missed cross, Dubravka looked pretty assured and sharp off his line again once again.
- Don’t rage at Rafa for out defensive set up. We’ve got a very good goal difference thanks to this approach – we might’ve scored if we went ‘toe to toe’ but we’d have conceded 3 or 4 no doubt. This could be key in the long run.
From a defensive perspective we had Liverpool frustrated and passing sideways for 99% of the first half, however a fortunate break of the ball and a piece of slack positioning was all it took for Salah to get in behind and prod home his 24th goal in the league. A real blow to our game plan that was almost working to a tee up until that point – especially when Paul Dummett had contained him so well up to that point.
That being said, Mo Diame very nearly drew us level in the last moment of the first half, with his top corner-bound effort being saved superbly by Karius. Looking back, that could’ve been a huge game changer. If that’d have gone in we could’ve returned to our hand plan in the second half, but instead it felt like we didn’t know whether to stick or twist in the second.
At 1-0 down it goes without saying that you must have a go if you want to get back into it, but in doing that there’s the risk that you get put to bed at the other end as a result.
We clearly tried to stay in the game in a bid to have a go late on if the score line stayed at 1 (like City at home in December), but Mane scuppered any hopes of that by making it two. It was a well worked goal, but it was equally frustrating to see Kenedy gift them possession in the moments beforehand.
A defeat is a defeat, but 2-0 isn’t damaging – and there’s always a fear that these games could be when you’re playing one of the best attacking trios in world football.
One thing that we did get away with was Jamaal Lascelles’ late push on Salah. It was outside the box, but he was the last man and it could and should have been a sending off that would’ve seen the skipper miss the crucial game against Southampton next Saturday.
It’s a difficult one when looking back at the game itself on the whole. We never looked likely to score and didn’t really mount any sort on onslaught on the Liverpool goal, however this cautious approach against top sides has contributed to our respectable goal difference – something that will affectively give us an extra point over our rivals at the end of the season.
Yes there’ll be those saying we should’ve had more of a go, with us proving we can beat Man Utd when we did so a few weeks ago, but Liverpool away is a different proposition given their home form and firing front three.
One thing we must do, regardless of the opposition is show more quality in the final third, however. We didn’t have too many opportunities to hurt Liverpool today, but we quite often flattered to deceive, made the wrong decision or struggled with the quality of our final ball.
It wasn’t an easy watch, but this isn’t a game that will define whether we beat the drop or not. It’s upcoming home games against Southampton and Huddersfield that will be key.
Those are the games where attacking intent and a positive approach will be essential. Onto Southampton we go – HUGE game.
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