January 03, 2008 |

As predicted, Wigan stood resolutely with 10 men behind the ball as Liverpool squandered three more chances than they should have while chiseling chances out of a granite Wigan defensive wall. Torres’ strike was masterfully taken off the most fundamental of lead ups you will see in soccer. And then the giant slumbered, seemingly contented by the leanest of pickings.
As good as the ₤21m striker’s goal was, ₤3m defender Titus Bramble’s was as nice and perhaps even more resounding. The irony is that the 20-yard finish came from a poorly cleared ball off the perhaps one of the biggest boots in the stadium, if not world soccer, in Stevie G.
Oh yes, Kewell was abysmal – right up until the 74th minute when he was about to get subbed and he fizzed one over the bar from distance. It also continues to amaze that Pennant, when he was obviously not playing well, saw time well into the second half. Babbel didn’t even dress for the occasion. Must’ve been ill.
I’m no coach, but the decision making coming off the bench was… interesting. A 4-1-4-1 formation with Stevie right behind Torres. Different approach to a staid defensive pattern? Perhaps…. He leaves Kewell on long after Melchiot and Kilbane had put him to bed, and Pennant soaked up valuable time when someone that hadn’t sat through injury for five weeks might’ve had more of an impact.
If Rafa is looking to future games by sitting better players in “smaller” contests, someone should point to the 07/08 horizon that is sneaking up ever so quickly. Right in front of his yearly review.
Because with all the talk of still having a shot at the title, it’s starting to look grim. At twelve points off the pace half way through the season, this is becoming a big hill to climb with some very large and very unyielding obstacles, whose second teams are thumping opponents, blocking their path. And with four points lost in two games, draws at the midway point in the season are now tantamount to third, fourth or even fifth in the Premiership.
If Liverpool is ever going to be a title contender, they have got to learn to put their foot on the throats of smaller teams when we have the opportunity. They have to find that kill switch that puts the game away beyond a shadow of a doubt. Rafa is seemingly content with simply “creating good chances” in close games that we should win, but I’m not and neither are Gillet and/or Hicks. I haven’t spoken to either of them recently, but I’m sure they feel the same way I do.
We would almost be better losing a game or two to shake us out of what is most delicately described as a reverie. This bout of tied games is causing that same stagnancy and lack of creativity that we suffered from when we were preserving the unbeaten run earlier this year. It was only ever after a loss that we started to play good football again.
The road to the top is becoming mired in poor results from meandering efforts. For whatever reason (and there could be many) the lads fade are fading in and out. They did it again today and they got punished for it by a team that had nowhere near the talent or a third of the scoring opportunities.
All that is academic though, as we coughed up another two points to another bottomish team that has, correction had, yet to get a point from the big four. That is also a bit of a misnomer because now Liverpool is fifth.
Steve Bennett was another glaring example of why officials should be hunted for sport. He gave Torres the weakest card of the new year and let a thuggish Brown off Scot free after numerous niggling and cynical challenges. I’ll leave it at garbage although a few more succinct terms come to mind regarding his performance, his demeanour and his genealogy.
Speaking of coughing up, it’s the third round of the FA Cup against Luton Town this weekend. It’s $10 to watch. I’ll read the match report. It’s free.
Stay warm.