Wigan 1-0 Liverpool
So an away game at a stadium where Liverpool have never lost. The newly named DW Stadium played host to Wigan Athletic V Liverpool. For our team and a return to the squad for Glen Johnson eventually appearing after 55 minutes of play and once again our most expensive bench-warmer Alberto Aquilani once again takes a seat for kick off despite him receiving 21 minutes at the end of the match I think its fair to say we will never see the best of him until he gets a constant string of matches.
In my own opinion I found the game very dull and the only thing worse than the Liverpool performance was the condition of the pitch which lets be honest, was fairly poor considering it was a Premier League match. In fact I found the game that dull that I am only capable of reporting on the moment that broke Liverpool hearts and the performance of one person especially.
Rodallega was the man who effectively left Liverpool’s dreams of a top 4 finish in pieces after an error by Kuyt gifted Boyce the chance to swing the ball in and Rodallega just to tap it home for all three points. The very disappointing performance of typically star man Fernando Torres only piled the misery on for kopites. After missing several guilt edge chances Liverpool were left wondering what’s happening this season.
So after yet another frustrating night, our hopes of a top four finish has almost vanished as now both Man City and Tottenham have games in hand on us and are 1 point ahead. So the outlook looking bleak for Liverpool, lets hope Thursdays match can lighten the mood at Anfield otherwise I feel both players and manager could be facing some heavy criticism. (> Match Report)
Lille 1–0 Liverpool
Well clearly hoping for a better night than Monday Rafa Benitez’s men are looking for away goals to take into the second leg at Anfield in a week’s time. For our team then and a first start in a few months for Glen Johnson filling the right back position, meanwhile Babel gifted a rare start in the team on the left wing and a slightly less rare appearance for Aquilani as he takes up his usual position on the bench. An extra little side note, the starting positions for Gerrard and Torres ushered in only the fourth time they have started together this calendar year.
Well a very poor pitch would mean Liverpool would have to adjust their style of play since we’re blessed with such a smooth surface at Anfield, but at the end of the day Lille have to play on it as well so it can’t really be an excuse. So a very lively start from the home side who immediately went on the front foot and produced several tense moments for the reds. Tense but not scary, as Lille fail to finish any of the moves with a shot that would have a chance of beating Reina. In fact the first big chance of the game fell to Liverpool as Torres gains possession just outside the penalty area and slyly slips a ball through to Babel who sees the ball go out for a corner when the defender comes sliding in. This appeared to be the opening Liverpool needed as Lille heavily retreated after that and the majority of the play was in the home sides half. Babel who has come under serious scrutiny this season after his very public outburst against Rafa seemed to be out to prove himself tonight as a lovely one-two with Torres had him through one on one with Landreau who saved Babel’s fairly poor shot with his outstretched right leg. So no goal but things looking better for Liverpool than they are for Lille at this point. Now Lille as a team were showing great sportsmanship when Torres took a boot to the face and Babel appeared to damage his leg, their fans however, felt Babel was playacting and decided to boo. This is never nice to see especially since Babel’s pain albeit temporary, seemed genuine. Ok so 7 minutes to half time and a flurry of chances for Liverpool left for a nervy finish to the half for the Ligue 1 side; ranging from a Gerrard free kick to a Torres header and even a close range chance for Lucas. So going into half time and top performers for each side had to be Babel for the reds who had a quality performance in this half and the keeper Landreau for the French side.
Out for the second then and Liverpool began as they finished the first half with a venomous shot from Babel who saw it saved once again by Landreau. However, we appeared to just lose our heads in a mad few minutes when Insua was booked for his reaction to a silly decision to award a free kick for a foul which was never a foul and also when Torres reacted strongly to a foul on him and anger ensued. After this sequence of events the ref never seemed to let the game flow like he had been for the rest of the game. Although the performance became just a series of misplaced passes and fairly bad defending. The majority of chances from the second half were from the home side as several long range shots seemed to go close but not really trouble Reina. Until one of the many free kicks awarded in this half resulted in a goal after mass confusion in the Liverpool box Lille took the lead. This resulted in the obvious last ditch push forward from Liverpool but it was too little too late.
So yet another defeat for Liverpool, this time after not such a negative performance. But the situation is not completely hopeless for us as we do have the second leg in a week so that should provide us with an adequate opportunity to overturn the deficit. My man of the match award, well there can only be one winner really and that has to be surprise inclusion into the starting XI Ryan Babel who had several good chances but wasn’t able to convert any of them. (> Match Report)