A point scavenged rather than earned.
Liverpool were no great shakes, but will still go home aggrieved that they didn’t end up with all the spoils as the best chances (or more accurately, all the chances) fell to them in the hour they dominated before Danny Rose’s shinned equaliser. We improved after we’d regained parity to the point where we even threatened a winner but before then, especially in the first fifteen minutes after halftime we looked like we were close to being overwhelmed.
Liverpool’s pressing smothered our back four meaning that we struggled for quality possession any further forward than about 30 yards from our goal and with Kane and Eriksen out of sorts and Lamela largely invisible there was too much work for Alli to do on his own when it came to creating openings. Eric Dier was as effective as anyone and it was his cross that gave Rose the opportunity to score.
There were mitigating circumstances to our performance (still no Dembélé, Walker off injured early on meaning that Dier moved to full back whilst Alli dropped into midfield alongside Wanyama) but the intensity of last season is missing together with an accuracy and sharpness near goal that we can’t afford to do without for long.
We were also minus Lloris of course but today that didn’t matter as Michel Vorm was probably our man of the match – though Toby Alderweireld was once again magnificent. The Dutchman’s save with his legs from Coutinho when the striker had time to walk the ball in came early and set the tone for the sort of assured and confident performance we’re used to seeing from the skipper rather than Vorm. Twice he won vital fifty fifty tackles with Mané that the forward would’ve been optimistic about getting to first, he also handled safely and distributed well. Ironic of course that this display came when he appears to be approaching the end of his time at Spurs given that we’re apparently on the verge of signing Lopez from Español.
Left your cards at home ref?
Much of Liverpool’s momentum and threat was down to Mané of course but on another day he would have spent much of the game watching it on the screen in the away changing room as having been booked already he gave referee Madley multiple opportunities to give him a second yellow by diving blatantly and felling Rose several times with late challenges. Lovren too was lucky with the leniency of the ref who when he finally booked the lumbering centre back made an expression towards him as though to say, “what else do you want me to do?” Well how about trying to put a stop to his antics earlier following any of the shirt pulling or piling into the back of Kane and Janssen incidents that peppered the first half?
Liverpool’s goal came just before halftime from a penalty given away by Lamela when he clumsily brought down Firmino as the Brazilian wriggled along the touchline towards goal. He may not have been put in that position if Walker had still been on the field, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t a poor decision to make a challenge where he did though.
So, much work to do.
Poch has already stated that he’s unhappy with the players’ fitness levels (though they did outlast Liverpool in this game), but there is also the form of Eriksen (in particular) to worry about, the general lack of pace and sharpness around goal and the depth of the squad – four kids on the bench today. The return of Dembélé will be a big help, his ability to carry the ball forward would’ve been priceless today and Nkoudou will supply speed from the bench, what to do with Eriksen though will present more of a challenge to the manager, but that’s why he’s paid the big bucks – or he’ll get Levy to pay the big bucks, one of the two.
Week off next week and then a visit to the Bet365 stadium in Stoke for our bloodied but unbeaten heroes. Plenty to muse on before then.
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