COLUMNIST KEN BUCKLEY
As you might expect in those circumstances, Liverpool had virtually all the play yet found themselves 1-0 behind at half-time due to their less than convincing defending at set pieces which again, as was the case on Monday. Cahill was free of markers and headed goalwards from a great corner from Pienaar for Lescott to add the finishing touch which brought uproarious scenes from the Blue hoards.
For all of their pressing, any sniff they had was dealt with in excellent fashion by our back four. Half-time and you could say we deserved our lead for taking the chance when offered, even though it may have been our only purposeful foray forward when their waves merely lapped on the rocks of the Blue back four.
Second half and with a 'Rafa Rant' in their ears their tempo and desire was on the up but yet again our rocks were well placed. At this point, I bemoaned our lack of creativity in midfield as we had no one to get the ball down and pick a pass that kept us in possession long enough to build an attack so it was a case of clear it, regroup and repel the next attack.
This we were doing with some ease until 10 mins in when Gerrard was put in on the left angle of the area and from my seat seemed to hit a tame left footer that looked to go straight through Howard, if that was the case then a bad error indeed. However, just a few minutes later and the same keeper made a quite wonderful save to deny Gerrard a sainthood from the media.
For the rest of the half, they kept attacking, we kept defending with resolution and a good dollop of class but our attacking ideas were very limited with Cahill having to come more and more into midfield. Big Vic was clearly struggling and Castillo tiring; we only had a couple of kids, Gosling and Rodwell to put on and although they played a part, in no way did or could it help with our attacking ideas. I hope Bill is on the phone tonight looking for that much needed investment before our present players are burnt out.
Final whistle and no doubt a better result for us than them considering the team they were able to field which suggested that 'Rantn Rafa' wanted it done and dusted today.
Overall, I thought it was a very good defensive job well done against an acknowledged top four Champions League side and with Cappello in attendance it should have given him food for thought when it comes to choosing an England back four as ours was not only first class but showed they don't buckle under intense pressure when faced with so called world stars. I have enjoyed both results at the games yet both have demonstrated we are short on creative numbers for the midfield, which means we are over reliant on keeping every player fit and suspension-free.
With no money available this window then, each time we lose either Arteta or Fellaini or as today both, we will rely more and more on defensive tactics to see us have a shout for Europe and who knows — a tilt at the cup.
On returning to my North Liverpool watering hole, I was quickly pounced upon by the non-matchgoing TV reds who informed me that we had been battered and were nothing more than a lucky big ball hoofing shower. I merely informed them that they had accurately identified their own problem.
Arsenal on Wednesday and as ever with the Blues I have no idea what to expect but I hope to see us in our opponents half a lot more than I did today. One thing is for certain that by the time of the replay we will be well versed in playing against the so-called elite!
See you there... UP THE BLUES
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