Liverpool started off the game with a promising stride having both Joe Cole and Andy Carroll testing the goalkeeper. Trailing from a goal down in the first leg, Liverpool had to push on and go for it at home against Braga.
But what pace and punch Liverpool posed early on in the first half, it soon fizzled out and left a sluggish, dull outlook under the Anfield floodlights. No doubt about it, Braga were here to frustrate and waste time. Yet at the same time, they worked hard to put Liverpool under pressure and even tried to play it about a bit. And who could blame them? This was the famous Anfield they were playing at, they might as well make the most of it.
As the first half dragged on, Joe Cole was trying his best to dent some damage in a tough defence. Andy Carroll was a clear threat by his movement off the ball and presence in the box. But like we’ve seen on so many occasions in recent times with Liverpool, the creative edge from back to the middle was little or nowhere. A few offsides and that was about it really. Apart from Kuyts hard work. That doesn’t always create goals though. We needed more.
The second half kicked off and it wasn’t long until Carroll ended up with a yellow card out of frustration. Understandable really. He’d been making some great movement off the ball but there wasn’t really the craft or vision to back him up. He ended up chasing a ball down to the byline and lashed out at a defender with his foot.
Only the 60th minute and there were chants of “attack, attack, attack-attack-attack!” from the Kop. Mixed with frustration and nerves, Kenny Dalglish and the Liverpool fans were watching football that was all too predictable.
In the 75th minute, it was a double substitution. Ngog and Spearing on, Maxi and Cole off. Ngog instantly having an effect on the game by holding the ball up and even having a shot on goal. Finally a bit of attack from the reds.
Liverpool were pilling the pressure on and the Anfield crowd were finally finding more vocal power.
But Liverpool’s passing was not quite up to the highest of standards and we were pegging ourselves back with wayward passes in the air. The officials didn’t help with things of course as some decisions were raising more than an eyebrow.
In the 85th minute Carroll was denied by his own team mate Kuyt for his first Liverpool goal, as the big number 9 got on the end of a corner only to see the ball hit the back off Kuyts head instead of the back of the net. Typical. Straight away Skrtel was given an opportunity to blast the ball home but was denied by the advancing keeper. A mixture of bad luck and lack of composure kept the scores at 0-0.
Ngog went agonisingly close trying to get on the end of a free kick in the dying minutes but he just couldn’t get that vital touch on the ball to head it home. And that was the end of Liverpool’s Europa League hopes, ended there.
The tie wasn’t lost in the first leg. It was most certainly lost at Anfield. The pace was too slow and the quality was missing in many places all over the pitch for the reds. To win trophies you have to really penetrate teams and be able to start attacks from the back. You have to have some imagination and invention. And most of all, quality passing. Coasting along with some players who gain a lot of credit just for hard work alone, does not meet the standard expected at Liverpool Football Club. And tonight is another example of how it is costing us.