Beautiful game? Not at the Britannia

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Stoke and Liverpool played out one of the ugliest games of football you are ever likely to watch, with the home side coming away deserved victors.

One thing’s for sure, this wasn’t an advert for the beautiful game. Stoke are a rugby team playing the wrong sport, while Liverpool under Roy Hodgson have made watching paint dry seem appealing.

Liverpool's Steven Gerrard reacts after their English Premier League soccer match against Stoke City in Stoke-on-Trent, central England November 13, 2010. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis (BRITAIN - Tags: SPORT SOCCER) NO ONLINE/INTERNET USAGE WITHOUT A LICENCE FROM THE FOOTBALL DATA CO LTD. FOR LICENCE ENQUIRIES PLEASE TELEPHONE ++44 (0)

Hodgson brought back the in-form Sotirios Krgiakos in attempt to combat Stoke’s predictable aerial threat, meaning Jamie Carragher moved back to the position he once refused to play and is clearly uncomfortable playing – judging by the number of aimless hoofed balls he played anyway.

On Wednesday, after the miserable performance at Wigan, Hodgson blamed tiredness for his side sitting so deep and inviting pressure from their opponents. So just the one change was made here. Meaning Raul Meireles continued in his unfamiliar role of right midfield and Steven Gerrard continued in centre midfield – a position many have noted he isn’t most suited to, and instead is better used further up the pitch alongside Torres.

This match represented Roy Hodgson’s 25th in charge of Liverpool. Not many supporters have seen any signs of progress in that time, and contrary to what the manager himself says, we haven’t played “good football” at any stage under his reign. Not unless you count the odd 20 minutes here and there. To say we have played good football is derogatory to those sides who do genuinely play good football.

Given that Stoke’s main threat is the laborious Rory Delap long-throw and their physical presence from set-pieces, you’d think Liverpool would have attempted not to give away cheap free-kicks and throws in their own half. The first half was littered with both, time and again balls were thrown into the box. Fair enough, we dealt with them but there was always the feeling that eventually one would lead to a goal.

The second half arrived and so did a goal – from a Delap long throw of course. That throw was given away after Paul Konchesky’s awful backpass forced Pepe Reina to kick the ball out. No doubt Konchesky was taken by surprise that Reina dare throw the ball to a player inside his own half, that’s not allowed under Roy you see.

John W. Henry recently defended Hodgson by saying he hasn’t built this squad. If Konchesky is evidence of the type of player we will be signing if he’s given chance to build his squad then we really are in more trouble.

Pretty would not be the word to describe Stoke’s goal. Or their approach. Or their supporters. Or anything about Stoke in general. But I digress.

Liverpool went looking for an equaliser, although, by ‘looking’ this was hardly all guns blazing attacking. Maybe the full backs went a whole 5 yards over the half-way line. Although even from there Carragher’s distribution could’ve been played with a blindfold on. Not Carragher’s fault necessarily, he isn’t a full back, we all know it, he knows it, shame the manager doesn’t.

The best chance fell to Maxi Rodriguez from Dirk Kuyt’s good work down the right, but the Argentinian’s shot was straight at the keeper. No doubt he was surprised to have had a chance inside the box. It’s a rare event for LFC thesedays.

So to the closing minutes and Gerrard’s mis-placed pass from midfield which led to Stoke playing in Kenwyne Jones to make sure of the points for the Potters. This was one of the reasons Gerard Houllier first moved Gerrard from centre midfield, and why Rafa Benitez gave up playing him there and found a role that suited him. Same might be said for Fabio Capello with England. Not Hodgson though, stick him in there where he’s less effective and more prone to giving the ball away.

By this point, Krygiakos had gone to a makeshift centre forward position – an all too familiar sight in the short managerial reign of Hodgson at Anfield. Embarrassing doesn’t even come close. Clueless might.

Lucas was then rightly sent off for a second booking. His attempt at a tackle was actual quite laughable. Surely he knows only Gary Neville gets away with that sort of challenge?

The travelling Reds weren’t happy. Reports of Carragher having words as he walked off and chants of “Dalglish” ringing out from the away end. All is not well.

Hodgson commented that the Dalglish chants aren’t helpful, well, they’re not intended to be are they Roy. They’re intended to show almost every Liverpool supporter wants a change of manager and many would like Dalglish appointed, even if only in the interim. Supporters can see you are not a Liverpool manager.

5 points from 21 away from home this season.

1 point from trips to Wigan and Stoke. Added to those good old home defeats to Northampton and Blackpool.

Those who ask how come we beat Chelsea a week ago; it’s blatantly clear that Hodgson’s negative approach is more suited to being the underdog, hence his success at Fulham. Furthermore, players are quite capable of motivating and inspiring themselves against the league leaders with a strong home support riding the wave of new ownership.

The sign of a quality manager is getting results at places where you are expected to do so. Hodgson’s response is to lower expectations. That isn’t the answer.

Do the right thing, John, listen to the fans – and the players given their body language and performances on the pitch. Not to mention the numerous reports of unrest from various key members of the squad.

Liverpool: Reina, Carragher, Skrtel, Kyrgiakos, Konchesky, Meireles, Gerrard, Lucas, Maxi, Kuyt, Torres.

To mark the end of the 30-year wait for a league title, the ‘Liverpool Mishmash’ poster is available to order exclusively on This Is Anfield — the history of the Reds in one image!

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