Liverpool failed to learn the lessons from last week and failed to score the extra goal that would have put this game to bed. Five draws in seven league games tells it’s own woeful story as the reds put a miserable January to bed and drift in to 3rd place in the Premiership. The lead at the top of the Premiership has turned in to a 2 point deficit and United have a game in hand. Liverpool face Chelsea at the weekend, the side who overtook the reds to second place on goal difference.
In what was almost a re-run of last Monday’s game against Everton the reds dominated possession, scored a goal, then gradually defended deeper and deeper. Benitez, again, replaced Torres with a midfielder and like last week a midfielder giving away a foul led to a late equaliser. For Yossi last week, read Lucas this week. Deja vu.
In fact, Liverpool’s support up at the JJB Stadium was almost as grim as the second half back-pedalling. The ticketing policy at Anfield truly has gone to pot when soulless individuals begin to outweigh Liverpool’s traditionally positive and famous support.
Back to the game and on reading the team sheet eyebrows were raised. Babel retained his place and Lucas replaced Alonso in midfield. Yossi stepped in for Kuyt on the right wing.
The reds dominated the first half, restricting Wigan to only one chance on goal. But despite possession, Liverpool still appear to be having problems up front. The reds mustered only 2 shots on target, one of them being Yossi’s goal towards the end of the half.
Torres hitting the post was the other decent chance in the half before a Mascherano break cleverly found Yossi who took it wide past the keeper. It looked like Benayoun would take the ball out of play but he managed to fire a perfectly angled shot which brushed the post on it’s way in to the net. Liverpool had scored just before half-time and a Gerrard free kick from 35 yards out, 2 minutes in to injury time, narrowly passed over the crossbar.
In the second half the reds passing however got shocking worse. Mascherano seemed unable to play at pace and stifled a lot of Liverpool moves. You can picture the reds getting half way in to the opponents half and then running out of ideas. Passing balls sideways, and sideways until eventually Carragher gets the ball and gives it back to Reina. Depressing stuff.
Off went Torres and on came Reina. Babel was expected to move up front but he not only had been playing poorly but I’m convinced he doesn’t have the intellect to follow such instructions. Either way he seemed to be about 5 seconds behind the play all game, with a first touch abhorrent to Liverpool fans brought up on a feast of great footballers down the years.
With Torres off, and with Wigan correctly using their substitutes by throwing on attackers, Liverpool started to withdraw.
Next off the pitch was Yossi Benayoun, Liverpool’s best player in the game, and Kuyt was sent on.
Nobody was holding the ball up anymore, and eventually the reds got caught out. A quick break from Wigan and a ball to the left wing saw the reds without a defender on that side. Lucas managed to get back in time, but a quick move from Jason Koumas outfoxed Leiva who tripped the player in the area. Mido scored the penalty on his debut.
With 7 minutes left the reds made a quick change to try and rescue the game.
So Benitez took off Gerrard for Keane. That’s right, Gerrard our inspirational captain, when at least 7 other players should have been taken off instead.
Benitez later said that Gerrard was ‘tired’. Sorry Rafa, 3 awful substitutions. Three negative substitutions. And that starting 11 wasn’t our strongest 11 either. A poor display from the Liverpool manager and a poor display from a lot of multi-million pound players. Last night’s performance was well below the standard expected at Anfield.
Yossi Benayoun goal
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Skrtel, Carragher, Aurelio, Benayoun (Kuyt 75), Leiva Lucas, Mascherano, Babel, Gerrard (Keane 84), Torres (Riera 72).
Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Dossena, Agger, Alonso.
Goals: Benayoun 41.
Wigan: Pollitt, Melchiot, Boyce, Scharner, Figueroa, De Ridder (Koumas 63), Brown, Cattermole, Taylor (Camara 80), Zaki (Rodallega 77), Mido.
Subs Not Used: Kingson, Edman, Watson, Kapo.
Goals: Mido 83 pen.
Ref: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire).