15 minutes of scoring at will followed by 75 of grimly hanging on doesn’t quite tell the whole truth of this game but that’s what it felt like watching from the stands. A great start was followed by a display that alternated short periods of good possession with spells where we looked so tired and inept that you felt a six goal start wouldn’t have been enough let alone two.
Bale’s current form is something everyone should be sure they’re treasuring and not taking for granted. After seven minutes he saw off the challenges of four black shirts (why weren’t Liverpool playing in red) before crossing beautifully for Lennon to tap in at the far post. Previous to that Reina had already struggled with one Ronaldoesque free kick and another beat him, with the help of a deflection, after quarter of an hour.
Liverpool had already made what (from memory) turned out to be their best couple of chances, Henderson missed an empty net from 25 yards and Suarez placed a shot too close to Lloris, but the majority of the rest of the game was characterised by them on top and trying to do better (mostly by walking the ball in rather than having a go). Half chances and penalty shouts punctuated the game until with fifteen minutes left Lennon hoiked a ball off the line straight into Bale’s face from where it rebounded back into the net. The remainder of the evening’s entertainment promised to be slow torture but surprisingly, whilst I wouldn’t say it flew by, it was relatively comfortable. Rodgers made a couple of subs that seemed to help us, the error-strewn cameo from Assaidi in particular, and remarkably we held on.
A few points – Some of the defending was last ditch and desperate but a lot of it was top class. Through Downing, Enrique, Sterling and Johnson Liverpool fired in more crosses than you’d see at a Celtic home game but very few weren’t met with a solid Dawson or Gallas header or block. Sandro, Walker, Vertonghen and Dembele all contributed and Lennon’s chasing down and energy in the last twenty minutes were inspirational and instrumental in helping us get through. One mad dash from the goal line excepted, Lloris was excellent once more.
In true Rodgers style Liverpool played with a lightning tempo. Goal-kicks and throw-ins were taken instantly with Joe Allen always available to knock a ten-yard ball and be available for the return. Basically it looked like it was just too quick for some of our players. Concentration had to be total. When he wasn’t overwhelmed by earth’s gravity Suarez made some great runs which the likes of Gerrard were ready and able to pick-out, we looked like we were caught by surprise by too many of them.
Defoe was mostly anonymous. The one thing we needed from him was the one thing he doesn’t provide, i.e. a reliable and strong outlet. The ball never stuck to him long enough for Bale or Dempsey to join in and give the defence a break. Vertonghen in particular looked like he needed one as Johnson and Sterling doubled up and were continually found by Gerrard. The Belgian’s hoofs towards the head of Lennon were laughable as far as keeping possession goes but, particularly after Dempsey went off, he really didn’t have many options.
Dembele looked knackered well before he was replaced but it was great to see him back. His strength and dip of the shoulder ghosts past people offer options we don’t have elsewhere. Like everyone else he’ll hopefully have a long and deserved rest before our visit to Fulham on Saturday. Well done lads, a really good three points.
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