They were better. Just not good enough. But the tactics were sound, the effort apparent, so no psychodrama about what we learned in this one. Of course the instant Son hit the bar after rounding Allison we all knew that chance to win had come and gone, and now it was just a case of whether we could contain them enough for a point, and we couldn’t.
I felt bad for Aurier who overall had a pretty good game including the goal-saving tackle he made seconds before getting tangled up with Mane for the decisive penalty. So today we can be a little more dispassionate and assess the XI on the pitch and what it might say going forward.
I presume that Erik Lamela had some sort of knock coming out of the Red Star game—there can be no justification for playing either Eriksen or Winks ahead of him—and the fact that he was not subbed in by Poch would reinforce that view. The game was lost in the midfield—not that we were going to prevent Pool dominating possession, but simply that when we did get the ball we were so wasteful and either missed chances for threatening counters or immediately gave the ball back.
Eriksen had his moments with a few sublime passes, but too often per usual he was behind the ball—and Liverpool knew that once Aurier moved forward, Robertson could torch the Dane down the left flank. Winks was active but just not very good nor physically imposing enough. His main job is to collect and distribute the ball—he did neither particularly well. Dele was the most obvious culprit—simply didn’t seem to be in this game—at either end. I no longer expect an action in the opposition third that could lead to anything special—he is adequate in defence.
Son had a bad or unlucky day. Hit the bar, but Kane was there for the header. Hit the bar again early in the second half with the entire goal open. After that I thought he was more diminished. And Kane simply doesn’t win aerial duels against this defence— Van Dijk or Lovren—so a lot of Gazzaniga clearances amounted to nowt and Liverpool amping up the pressure even more.
Ndombele was an obvious upgrade the minute he took the field—I see no justification for playing Dele or Eriksen over him going forward—Poch will have to determine which of those two get whatever playing time remains. Sissoko does what Sissoko does—and Rose was pretty awful on the left—can be blamed for the Henderson goal and surely his time is nearly up with the club. The final move to the inside followed by a horrific shot said it all.
Gazzaniga had a fine game—I assume the xG margin was more like 3 to 1.5—so give him credit. Our toughest fixtures in the first half are now complete—let’s hope we can find some form in the next two months playing the rest of the league.
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