The very first Liverpool uniform I ever owned was the gray away strip. I still have it. Back then it was sponsored by Candy and made from a material that was best described as highly flammable – as was the team that wore it. So you can imagine my excitement when I saw them take the pitch in their season opener away against Sunderland in the Stadium of Light with that same kit on their backs.
But 20 minutes in, that rush of seeing their strip remained the pinnacle of my excitement. Pedestrian would be the best way to describe a spluttering and oft failing performance. It may be some cause for concern, especially in light of their mid-week jaunt against Standard Leige in Belgium.
You can check all the boxes you want. Yes, it’s early in the season, yes there might be a few cobwebs left to dust off and, yes, Rafa has some key elements missing to International duty; but it seems like more of the same from a team that looked capable of so much more last season. The still look like they are playing 1980’s football in 2008.
Hats off to Sunderland coach, Roy Keane. He knew what he was about this off season making some well-advised pick ups, most noticeably ex-Liverpool striker El-Hadji Djouf and Tottenham Hotspur winger Steed Malbranque. Sunderland by far looked the better squad and was only a poorly placed free header away from going into the break one goal to the good.
The goal that ended up being the winner was a fantastic strike from 22-yards out by a, to that point, largely unimpressive Fernando Torres. The awesome potential of the Torres/Keane strike partnership is still just that – potential. The Irish and Spanish strikers never quite seemed to gel. And with the preferred mode of attack being the hopeful long ball up field, the midfield weren’t doing their strikers any favours either.
On the upside, it is refreshing to see Rafa give the youngsters a shout at first team duty with Nabil El Zhar and Damien Plessis cracking the nod. Also, there were signs of life in a to-date ineffective Robbie Keane with some inspired individual displays of skill at the top of the 18-yard box. We’ll disregard the unbelievable save he made off of Torres’ guaranteed goal rebound attempt on the goal line half way through the second half.
Regardless of the poor performance, it is nice to get a win away from home and especially the first fixture of the season. Especially when our neighbours to the east only managed a draw against Newcastle United.