Liverpool’s decision to allow kids free entry with an adult saw helped Anfield to it’s biggest Europa League attendance this season, in a game with little riding on the outcome after Liverpool had already qualified for the next round, and Utrecht were already out.
However, Roy’s promise of involving Torres and Reina in a strong line up, with neither taking part saw him fielding questions after the game suggesting that he decided against it, and didn’t lie to supporters to try and boost ticket sales.
Strangely however, Torres was on the bench, which made the whole affair even more bewildering.
So thousands of excited children came to their first ever game at Anfield with their proud parents, to witness a truly abject display. Symbolic of the recent football on offer.
The passionate Utrecht fans were amongst the highlight of the night – occupying parts of both the lower and upper Anfield Road. Their mexican waves, bouncing and their Beatles songs kept many entertained. Liverpool fans however seem to have already lost the will and levels of expectation seem to be on the decline. It almost looks like the reds fans have moved past anger and on to apathy. Screams at the players have gone, and been replaced with heads in hands and looking to the sky.
In the first half Jovanovic and Cole occupied the wings, although both were clearly struggling to cope in their positions. Jovanovic did hit a shot against the crossbar early on but that was about as good as it got. It seems he would have been far better utilised up front, as a target man, but the ineffectual Babel played up top – another depressing performance from him. When he had a chance to shine against Dutch opponents in a no pressure game.
Martin Kelly had a busy night but coped well. Busy in part because both Poulsen and Jovanovic insisted on passing backwards to him some of the most awkward passes they could.
Joe Cole was another disappointment on the night. When one ball landed at his feet in a great opportunity late on, he took on the appearance of a rabbit staring in to headlights, before firing the ball at the keeper.
Dani Pacheco offered glimpses of his talent. He came on second half but this time was played on the left wing. His first touch an excellent forward through-ball, one of the best passes of the evening. He won a free kick later on, and immediately grabbed the ball to take the dead ball. Cole snatched it off him before firing it low at the wall.
Dirk Kuyt did get a late run out, an opportunity for him to play against his old club. Their fans had been singing for his appearance for most of the game. Although he too failed to produce any work of note in his brief cameo.
Liverpool win the group and with the 23 other qualifiers and 8 teams from the Champions League will go in to the final 32 of the Europa League.
In a game at Anfield in which Liverpool could have set out with a degree of creative freedom, the reds were poor. Let’s hope the next generation of Liverpool fans are prepared to give the club another chance.