A new month on the calendar, but the same uninspired play on the pitch.
In what looked like Liverpool of old for long stretches, the Reds were out-played and out-hustled by an inferior team, content to play long balls in hopes of finding a gift instead of working to create their own chances.
At least we can’t blame rotation for this one.
Lack of passion and adherence to any sort of coherent tactic have to be labeled as the culprits for the deserved loss. That is, unless Rafa instructed the team to mindlessly hit the ball up the field and not to exert too much effort. While Marseille closed down each red jersey with urgency, played a quick passing game, kept the ball grounded and looked dangerous at times, Liverpool did the exact opposite with contrapositive results.
Even when Liverpool tried to play in a more quick, productive manner, their touches let them down or their passing was too heavy. It would be easy to blame the weather if it weren’t for the stark constrast of Marseille’s performance.
Liverpool’s form is disturbing. For a team that’s sitting fourth in the league, we certainly don’t look the part. This is a team that isn’t passing the ball well, not playing with real passion or creativity and looks to be going through the motions for lengthy periods of time.
Maybe this team really does miss the passing influences of Agger and Alonso. I don’t know what’s going on right now. But to watch this squad consistently play the same mediocre ball they’ve played for years after having just watched them play a more attractive and much more effective brand of footy only mere weeks ago is highly frustrating.
This is a team that needs a slap upside the head. Maybe tonight’s loss can be the catalyst for change. Something needs to because this mediocre form cannot continue if they are to seriously challenge for silverware on any front. A few bumps in the road is one thing, those are expected; But an extended rough patch is quite another. Rafa needs to straighten them out. And quickly.
So, with one point after two matches, Liverpool now sit third in the group ahead of pointless Besiktas, but trail Marseille’s six points and Porto’s four. While I’m not in panic mode, there is certainly a fuck-ton of work left to do. So much for having qualification wrapped up early.
I’m interested to see how the team reacts when Tottenham visits Anfield this weekend.
We’ll see how long this stays up but…
(link courtesy of 101 Great Goals)
My thoughts on the match action:
- Cisse wasn’t fit to start, but found a place on the bench. Considering his speed versus Sami’s lack thereof, removing that dimension from that get-go was a plus for the Red defense.
- It’s encouraging to see Leto handed a start in a meaningful European game. Rafa must surely be pleased with what he’s seeing in training to include the young Argentinian.
- Marseille were kind enough to leave the salmon/orange and blue eyesores they sported for Matchday 1 back in France.
- An unusually heavy touch let Torres down as he could have strode into the box with a view for a shot after only three minutes. I have to say, more than any one player in a long time, I’m excited to watch Torres on a game-to-game basis.
- After ESPN’s Derek Rae spoke of how Marseille dumping Liverpool out of the UEFA Cup was the beginning of the end for Gerard Houllier, Tommy Smyth chimed in that is was also the beginning of the end for Cisse Liverpool’s days. Impressive, considering Cisse wouldn’t leave Auxerre for Anfield until that summer. If he was trying to make a point of Cisse’s value to Ged versus his value to Rafa, it was very poorly constructed.
- Gerrard’s yellow card was a bit harsh. He was first to the ball and only bundled up his challenger after he planted his leg between Gerrard’s.
- Sloppy, unimpressive play from Liverpool, if not both sides. I hate to blame the rain, but… *shrug* I’d prefer to see the Reds keep the ball on the rug instead of hoofing it up the field.
- Gerrard chose to keep the ball on the floor and put Torres through, only to force Givet into a must-have tackle to prevent Torres striding into the box with ball on foot. Shocking what happens when you play the ball to feet instead of head, especially with El Nino.
- Tommy Smyth suggested Mascherano for Leto is a good tactical swap. While you could reshuffle the midfield to do that, you wouldn’t. I used to share this running joke with a friend of mine that to get a job coaching soccer in the US, all you need is an accent and a limp — instant paying gig. Apparently, to commentate for ESPN, all you need is the accent.
- At what point does Crouch just get used to the fouling and stop crying like a bitch every time it happens?
- Reina made a great point-blank save, but Marseille put in the rebound. Luckily, the linesman had the flag up for offsides.
- The behind-the-goal camera angle used for Marseille’s goal kicks make their ‘keeper, Mandanda, look like a giant, but he’s only listed at 6’1”.
- It was a poor first half for Liverpool. Sadly, the weather can’t be blamed as Marseille were somehow able to pass the ball effectively on the ground, while Liverpool insisted on booting it skyward to no effect. Leto looked disappointing, Gerrard was a pedestrian offensively, but Sissoko made his presence felt defensively. And, all the true scoring chances belonged to Marseille.
- By the way, I finally ponied up and ordered a new pair of boots — the Puma v-Kat II. Unfortunately, that’s more interesting than the first half.
- Riise for Leto in the 52nd minute, just as Momo gets booked.
- I’m still unconvinced with Crouchie’s ability to play an uptempo, one-touch passing game. He has his skills, but quick/productive touches are not among them. Frankly, I bored quickly of watching Peter (playing deep into the midfield) take the ball on his chest and dribble backwards for ten yards before turning around and looking to pass.
- Around the hour mark, the crowd seemed to have enough and decided to use their voices to try and spark the squad.
- Gerrard popped off a shot (wide) after the ball squirted out to him 25 yards out. It may have been the first Liverpool shot in the second half. That is, almost twenty minutes in.
- Cisse entered the fray in the 70th minute to a genuine applause. Impressively, he was sporting a mini-mohawk and squiggly line as his, um, ‘haircut’. I do miss the hairstyles.
- It looked like Torres was initially coming off, but Voronin ended up replacing Aurielo.
- Kuyt for Crouch after 75. Finally.
- Another ball played to Torres on the ground and another moment of danger. How hard is this? Play his feet, not his head.
- After Sissoko foolishly gave possession away, Marseille cap a two-minute run of constant pressure with a sublime goal from Valbuena. Sad to say, but it was a deserved goal.
- With five minutes left, Liverpool push up in search of an equalizer. And everybody just STANDS there. How about making a small run, maybe trying to create a wall pass? The defense isn’t going to move for you.
- With a minute left, Carra played the ball back to Reina for, you guessed it, another fucking long ball.
- Benayoun had an unmarked header on the far post, but was deflected out-of-bounds by a Marseille defender. It looked like it was destined for net.
- After a flurried exchange in the box, Torres hit the post when it looked like Liverpool were certain to score. Imagine if they’d played the whole game with 3/4’s of the intensity they showed in the dying minutes?
- Cisse almost punished Reina for not securing the ball tightly enough at the top of the box. He had a quiet run-out but was unlucky not to find the goal.