Lightening never strikes twice, does it? Whoever made up that particular statement needs to be found and shot, pretty damn quickly. Scousers are well known for their ability to rob you of your most prized possessions in the blink of an eye, and today they continued in that proud tradition.
This was by no means an attractive game to watch, but then after performances such as against West Ham and that bunch of Norwegian turkey farmers on Thursday night, that was not a problem. We at last showed the passion and commitment that has been so sadly lacking in the last two games. Have no doubt, if we had performed at this level on Thursday we would be looking forward to the draw for the next round of the UEFA cup. The question that needs to be asked is did the players put in that extra effort out of shame for Thursday, or was the game lifted simply because of the opposition? I will let you be the judge of that.
Having said all that, we left the pitch with nothing, and this time it was undeserved. This was as good a performance that we have put up at Liverpool for an awful long time. Anfield has never been a happy hunting ground for us. I think it is something like five wins in 800 years (or at least it feels that way).
It was not a game of a lot of chances. In fact, I cannot remember us testing their ‘keeper at all. However, in the other two thirds of the pitch we out-fought and out-thought them. The failure to convert our possession into goals was down to three individuals — Jesper Gronkjaer, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Eidur Gudjohnsen.
In Jesper we have a player who can, when the mood takes him, beat players either with a touch of skill or a turn of pace. Sadly, he does not seem able to utilise these abilities to put over a decent cross. Time and time again he had the chance to play the killer pass. That he managed it only once — Lampard headed wide when totally unmarked — speaks volumes. He cannot take too much criticism though, as his all-round effort for the team was outstanding. In particular, his willingness to run the full length of the pitch to put in tackles deserves applause.
Reasons two and three are more of a mystery. I am quickly forming the view that we did, in fact, let both Jimmy and Eidur leave in the summer, because what we have at present can best be described as lookalikes with little footballing ability. Jimmy has never been the greatest at controlling, passing or heading — well, come to think of it, all he ever had was his natural eye for goal. Now that seems to have deserted him and he looks a shadow of his former self. The demise of Eidur is perhaps more worrying. A second half substitute for Jimmy Floyd, he looked, if anything, less willing to chase for the ball.
I know that playing up front is all about confidence, but these two look like they have as much of that at the moment as Professor Wimp, director of the College of No Confidence, Shy City. Okay, so I made that last bit up, but I think you catch my drift. Things were so bad in the second half with Eidur that I actually found myself wishing that Jimmy Floyd had not been taken off. Personally, I would have taken a gamble and stuck Bolo Zenden on as a makeshift striker. You never know what might happen. I remember Eddie Newton bagging a brace a few years back at Three Point Lane, and you would not have expected that in advance.
Chances wise, they did have the better opportunities. Hypia had a powerful shot parried over by Carlo and Gerrard looked odds on to score with a real cracker that Carlo somehow got his fingers to and managed to push onto the bar. Their best chance, however, fell to Baros, who somehow managed to beat the superb Desailly only to blast over when it seemed easier to score. Their goal — just like last season — came in the dying moments. Heskey shot, Carlo pushed it onto the post and Michael bloody Owen beat two defenders to the rebound to tap it in from two yards out. Bugger, damn and blast. We did not deserve to win here, but we certainly did not deserve to lose.
Marcel Desailly played a captain’s innings alongside the superb William Gallas. Carlo made up for his recent slips and Petit had one of his better games. If only Jesper could cross the ball, I would be talking of him in glowing terms as man of the match. He cannot though, and suddenly our season is on the helter-skelter of despair. Let’s just hope that Manchester City perform against us in the way that they normally do. A fourth straight defeat is unthinkable.