Liverpool came out of their Europa League clash with Utrecht unscathed, but could only grab a point from the match as the reds looked consistently indifferent, as the Dutch side looked sharp in attack.
The reds’ second tie in Europa League Group K saw a return to Dirk Kuyt’s old club before his eventual move to Rotterdam with Feyenoord. Utrecht could draw somewhat of a parallel with Liverpool at the moment, having suffered a relatively bad run of form and having finished 7th in their respective leagues during the last campaign.
The reds have travelled over without captain Steven Gerrard, who has picked up a back injury and is watching from home.
The match starts slowly, with both sides looking as indifferent as each other. As time wears on, Utrecht seem to be having the better of the attacking opportunities, yet it remains goalless.
14 minutes in, and Joe Cole sees an opportunity to shoot, but can only watch his shot glance to the left of the post. Raul Miereles then finds the ball in front of the Utrecht box, but a clever flick only finds an opposition defender.
A clever ball in from Glen Johnson, after an improved spell of passing, was cleared only as far as Poulsen, who’s high ball in to the box glances safely past the keeper. The Liverpool attack continues with Miereles latching on to a high ball up field, but he heads it too far in front of him only to see a Utrecht defender scoop it up and away to safety.
The passing is consistently improving, with another neat passage of play ending unfortunately as Miereles’ ball through to the right wing for Johnson runs too short. While Liverpool’s performance isn’t up to scratch so far, the new boy’s undoubted creative spark is there for all to see. Perhaps when the side hits form, he can be an impressive addition to the team.
Another ball in to the box from Johnson, this time from the centre of the park, sees Miereles get enough space to put his head on it, but he can only glance the ball towards the awaiting Utrecht keeper.
At the other end, the Dutch side see an attack get in to the Liverpool box, but only as far as Glen Johnson who clears it behind. From the resultant corner, Utrecht appear to have gone a goal ahead in the tie, yet the fantastically struck shot from Utrecht centre half Wuytens is ruled out as Mulenga wass fouling Carragher.
From this, the reds hit the Dutch on the counter. Torres gets the ball upfield and battles, winning a corner, yet the subsequent ball in from Miereles is headed away immediately.
Utrecht are back down our end again, putting a cross in from the right after some slick passing, but Pepe had it well covered.
Back up-field, and Torres receives the ball. After working a bit of space for himself, he has a crack on goal only to see it going wide. It looks like Fernando was finally waking up out of his alleged spell of bad form. Shortly afterwards, Torres looks like he has been fouled, yet the referee waved play on. A livelier Torres, nonetheless.
The ball is then on the left with Kuyt, who gets a cross in to Cole who flicks it on for Torres, but the Utrecht defence is on it straight away giving him no space at all.
Back in midfield, Lucas times his pass wrong and gives to a Utrecht attacker. He tracks back industriously trying to rectify the mistake, but concedes a free kick 35 yards out from goal and a yellow card to go with it. The free kick is poor, and picked up calmly by Joe Cole.
Another mistake, this time from Kelly as he attempts to give the ball to Carragher. The ball is swooped on by Mulenga and another corner is conceded. Reina saves the shot from Mertens as he gets past Kuyt with ease, conceding another corner which is headed over the bar, with Kuyt beaten once again.
Further Liverpool attacks fizzle out as backheels go astray, shots are collected with ease and defenders smother our indifferent attack. 0-0 at half time.
The second half starts as the first half ended, with the reds lacking any real urgency or innovation and Utrecht still looking the side most likely to break the deadlock.
About 10 minutes in to the half, Johnson finds space on the right and gets a cross in to Cole, who latched on to it too late. The ball spills to Torres who tried to hit the ball on the half volley but isn’t steady enough and the ball flies over the bar.
The ball is back in midfield where Torres loses possession. The Dutch side break and cross, but Reina is there once again to deny them a goal. Johnson is then booked for a foul on the edge of the box. The cross comes in, but Cole heads it behind. The corner is taken and it looks like Pepe has given them their best opportunity as he gets nowhere near it, but Corenelisse can only scuff it as the ball is headed off the line.
The ball then breaks for Kuyt up on the right, who hits a perfect pass past their solitary defender. Torres has only the keeper to beat, but Vorm gets a slight touch on it putting it behind. The corner isn’t given, however.
The Liverpool pressure comes to nothing as Utrecht continue to look the more likely side. The attacks from the reds always seeming to end with a misplaced pass or a lack of control.
Liverpool’s first subsitution comes in the 82nd minute, as Maxi replaces Joe Cole. He is immediately in with a chance as the ball is crossed in to the box. He controls, and attempts an overhead kick but can only watch it go over the crossbar.
Late on, the reds are lucky not to concede as Mulenga is allowed in between Carragher and Kelly. He gets his shot away but hits it wide.
Full time and while the result isn’t as bad as recent times, the performance is shockingly similar. Hopefully we will see an upswing in form, starting with newly promoted Blackpool on Sunday.
Hodgson said of the draw:
“It was a good point. We knew it was going to be a tough game. The occasions when they created some chances were largely of our own making. They were the result of unfortunate individual errors. I thought the shape of the team and the way we approached the game – I can have nothing but praise for my team.
Liverpool team v Utrecht:
Reina, Johnson, Kelly, Skrtel, Carragher, Lucas, Poulsen, Kuyt, Cole (Maxi 80), Meireles, Torres.
Subs: Jones, Jovanovic, Kyrgiakos, Maxi, Spearing, Babel, Ngog.