Liverpool Game One Review

by Michael Healey

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Approaching the ground on Saturday 13th August I had a good feeling regarding the opening game of the season. A home game at Anfield against Sunderland, who had brought in 9 new faces during the summer, was surely the perfect opportunity for Liverpool to take 3 much needed early points. I left Anfield with a feeling that the opportunity had gone a begging, despite it being there for the taking.

As the game kicked off the intensity from the crowd filtered its way down to pitch side to the players and at first the Liverpool players seemed incapable of keeping possession, a clear sign of nerves were shown from a number of players. After four minutes the returning and latest Kop icon, Luis Suarez, charged down a clearance from Kieran Richardson and was in on goal, faced only by Simon Mignolet in the Sunderland goal.

As Suarez headed towards goal I was thinking about how he was going to finish. Was he going to place it neatly? Would he lob the goalkeeper? Suarez chose neither and opted to take it around the goalkeeper only be clipped from behind (although seemingly accidentally) by Richardson as he looked to atone for his mistake. It was a clear penalty kick.

Now here was referee Phil Dowd’s big decision. After only 4 minutes he already had a huge decision to make that could change the game. Does he send Richardson off as being the last man or was Suarez going too far away from goal. He chose the latter. And he got it horrifically wrong. Now, you may think that’s biased opinion from a Liverpool supporter but the plain and obvious fact is that Richardson was the last man and denied Suarez the chance of scoring a goal. The end result was Dowd shied away from making the correct call and booked Richardson. Much to the disgust and sheer dismay of the home crowd.

As Suarez placed the ball on the spot and waited for the referees whistle the crowd were expectant. The end result was the penalty kick nearly took off out the stadium and onto the streets that surround Anfield. It was a disappointing blow and a let off twice over for the away side.

It didn’t take long for Suarez to get his name on the score sheet. Stooping to head home a fantastic delivery from Charlie Adam after a cleverly timed run had Anfield screaming in delight. For the rest of the first half the Liverpool players stroked the ball about with confidence.

That was the disappointing aspect of the Liverpool performance when analysing it after the final whistle. At times Sunderland players couldn’t get near Liverpool as they stroked the ball around with assurance with new boys Jose Enrique, Stewart Downing and Charlie Adam all impressing. As the game wore on and in particular after the away side equalised from a fantastic volley from Seb Larsson, Liverpool looked clueless when going forward and were often neglectful as Sunderland got the scent of blood in their nostrils and began attacking Liverpool on the counter.

As a supporter it was very disappointing that Liverpool couldn’t add to their lead and secure the victory but there were positives as well as negatives to take from the game. The positives far out shone the negatives mind. The negatives were simply a lack of creativity in the final third at times, players seemed to tire easily and often the ‘route one’ ball to Andy Carroll was considered too much.

The positives are what I would like to focus on. The fact that three of the 4 summer recruits that started the game seemed to fit into the system very comfortably was a major plus point. Charlie Adams range of passing and set piece delivery was outstanding at times whilst Stewart Downing was able to switch flanks with ease and deliver both crosses and shots (just look at the way he ghosted past 3 Sunderland defenders and cracked the cross bar with a fantastic drive). Jose Enrique’s performance at left back was very enjoyable as he was solid when defending as well as breaking forward whenever possible and linking with Downing down the left.

This weekend’s game away at the Emirates will show if the Liverpool can hunt down the wounded animal that is Arsenal at the moment. If they manage to leave North London with all 3 points it will give them the confidence that they can go anywhere and win as they haven’t beaten the Gunners since 1999.

Then, as the saying goes, records are there to be broken.

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