All day I refused to even contemplate the Merseyside derby. I didn't give us a cat in hell's chance of getting a result and hoped only that we'd pick our best team and give it a good go. Having darted out of work and straight towards Goodison Park, met Gary in The Brick and seen the team news, I allowed myself to get somewhat sucked in to some sort of belief that we could get something from the game. The team was pretty much our best one (yes, that was our best team!). We walked across Stanley Park a little buoyant and once at the other end some sort of scuffle broke out between a few supporters amidst a haze of blue smoke.
The crush to get into the ground was ridiculous and one I've experience at no other place than Anfield. It's something they really need to fix. This obviously took us a while to get in and the only saving grace was that I missed You'll Never Walk Alone and they were already a couple of minutes into the game by the time I arrived.
We started OK. We were catching them on the counter-attack and had the game been a few months back we might have done a bit better with our opportunities. Unfortunately instead, we played them when our confidence was flat and when we did get first half opening, presentable ones at that, we didn't take them.
It would be laughable to suggest we were hard done to of course. Even at that point in the game Liverpool had missed a couple of presentable opportunities. As the half progressed we were having to get more and more last ditch and dig in. "Just get to half time" I thought, though of course, we didn't. What disappointed me most with both goals was that we switched off. They were both from set pieces and both times we cleared the initial ball. The first one Kevin Mirallas made an excellent brave block but we didn't follow the play and it resulted in a routine ball in, easily headed in and we were a goal behind.
Even the one goal down left us at least in the game at half time but the second killed us. Again, we cleared the corner. I thought the referee could have blown then. It was a reasonable distance from goal and I've seen referees blow up against us at time in more presentable positions. Anyway, we failed to mark up and after a reasonable effort in the first half, we unforgivably switched off twice and it was game over.
The thought crossed my mind to leave at the break as even then I couldn't see a way back but I stayed on. A nightmare was unfolding, but I didn't realise THAT much of a nightmare was unfolding. For starters Gareth Barry failed to return for the second half and is now doubtful for Wembley. Ain't that a kicker. Next up Funes Mori got himself sent off. It looked a nothing challenge at the time and I thought he was getting booked for kicking the ball away. As it turns out – and I still haven't seen it and probably never will – he was red carded for an apparent nasty stamp on Divock Origi. It's sad to see players stretchered off in pain but if it was as bad as everyone says it is, - what on earth was Funes Mori doing? Another absentee headache we cannot afford.
The disaster continued to unfold. Besic dropped into centre back and Barkley, our only player with intent to attack at this point, was hooked. We were basically settling for a 0-2 defeat...or trying to at least. Any "hopes" of a 0-2 loss were bowled over when Stones gave away position and quick as a flash Liverpool were onto it and before you knew it Daniel Sturridge had made it 0-3. Oh, and then John Stones left the field... apparently with stomach cramps! So we were 0-3 down, with 10 men and no centre backs.
I watched for a couple more minutes but it was futile. We couldn't even get out of our half and when you're getting taunted by the Kopites (and we were stood very near them!) it becomes unbearable. We left on 64 minutes and got across the park, hearing another cheer as we neared base.
I hoped I'd regret driving to the game and that the only thing I'd be gutted about after the game would be that I couldn't stick around to celebrate with a few beers. As it transpired I was relieved to have the car so I could get the hell out of there as quick as I could. It says something when you get home and you're actually relieved you didn't lose by more than four. I genuinely expected to find we'd lost by five or six.
If I had to give a man of the match based on what I saw I would give it to Joel Robles. Other than to give Bryan Oviedo a zero, I wouldn't even know where to start with player ratings.
Over to Roberto then to somehow pick up the pieces from this mess without a defence and probably without Gareth Barry for our trip to Wembley. I don't know what we will do at the back, I really haven't a clue. Regardless – and it goes without saying – this is a real mess Roberto has found himself in and the only way out is surely the door.
It can't get any worse... can it?
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