Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-0 Liverpool
Tuesday, 26th January 2010
Liverpool’s midweek trip to a wintry Molineux told an all too familiar story, as same old problems continued to blight the Reds in a dull 0-0 stalemate. Rafa Benitez spoke of a missed opportunity in the quest for fourth place post-match. But the reality was Liverpool never looked likely to secure back-to-back midweek and go some way towards disproving their growing number of critics.
True the Reds never really looked like losing the match and were solid enough defensively, against a poor Wolves attack. But, at the same time, the visitors seemed to lack the guile, inventiveness and attacking edge to defeat their opponents, in a match we should have been identified as a definite win.
All too often this season post match analysis of games has been interspersed with the same problems and criticisms. And they persisted here. The starting line-up suggested a greater attacking intent than the recent fixtures with Stoke and Tottenham. Steven Gerrard returned in his familiar second striker role, with Maxi Rodriguez – making his first start – and Albert Riera either side of him.
However the Reds were so rarely able to test the Wolves defence and Marcus Hanhemann in the home goal. Too often Liverpool were constricted by a lack of ideas and intent. Aimless high balls forward from the back were generally resorted to, as Rafa’s side once again failed impose themselves on inferior opposition. Determination and fighting spirit may have been enough to secure a victory against Spurs but the Reds really need to show more here to get the result.
In hard times such at these the instinct of the more positive is to seek some semblance of progress or some shoots of hope towards improved fortunes. But at the present time such signs of positivity or improvement are in very short supply. Key players such as Fernando Torres and Yossi Benayoun remain injured and Gerrard may lack fitness but even still Liverpool should have enough to see off the likes of Wolves. And yet at the moment they clearly do not.
The Reds had plenty of possession and control in what was quite frankly a dour opening 45 minutes. However with Lucas and Javier Mascherano in midfield they failed to impose themselves on the match from the very beginning. And that was a theme which was to persist throughout the match.
With Wolves’ limited ambition evident from the kick-off the game was there for the taking for Benitez’s men. Yet the Reds seemed to lack a creative edge and ability on the ball in midfield to genuinely threaten a well-organised Wolves side. Short of ideas, the ball was too often lumped forward to the lone striker Dirk Kuyt. But, with Liverpool lacking a player up front to make the most of such a tactic and the midfield consistently sitting too deep to pick up the second ball, the centre-back pairing of Jody Craddock and Christophe Berra found it all too comfortable to deal with any Liverpool threat.
The Reds were not genuinely able to test Hanhemann in the first period and the performance improved little in the second half. Similarly Mick McCarthey’s Wolves offered little of an attacking threat, as the hosts relied predominantly on rare counter-attacks and the hard working Kevin Doyle up front.
Although the lively and pacey left winger Matt Jarvis regularly caused Jamie Carragher concern. Carragher had a difficult evening, illustrating that he is far from a long-term option at full-back. Whilst Jarvis’s threat demonstrated one thing in particular which the Reds are missing – genuine pace and potency in attack. With Torres out Liverpool often appear short of pace and movement in the final third.
Alberto Aquilani was left to watch the entire match from the sidelines as a substitute when surely he could have offered greater creativity and passed the ball with more impetus in midfield. With the Reds lacking a presence up front it was simply too easy for the Wolves defence as Liverpool asked too few questions of them.
The introduction of David N’Gog for the final quarter of the match belatedly provided Liverpool with something of a focal point and threat up front. And the Reds would probably have been better served if the young French man had started the match.
However ultimately the final whistle was almost music to the ears of all Liverpool fans inside Molineux, bringing to an end a lacklustre showing. Liverpool will surely perform better in games this season. But too many more showings like this – lacking in creativity, potency and ideas – and the Reds will seriously have their work cut out to achieve that top four finish. What mediocre, discouraging performances like this, and a number of others this season, demonstrate is that something will have to change – whatever that change may be – if the club is genuinely get out of the current predicament in the long-term.
Man of the Match
Not many contenders on a disappointing evening. But at least the Reds were defensively solid, achieving a fourth clean sheet in five matches. And the big Greek centre-back put in a particularly assured performance in the air. His performances during his recent run in the team are doing his stock no harm