Liverpool’s new owners had generously decided to allow children under 17 free admission for the Reds’ final Europa League group game at Anfield on Wednesday evening. It turned out to be a bad move for both parties.
The kids left wondering if watching football was always this boring, and the owners had subjected them to 90 minutes of mind-numbing, negative football. For the regular matchgoer though it was nothing new since Roy Hodgson became manager of this once great club.
Against a midtable Dutch team, albeit with a weakened side, Liverpool rarely looked threatening, sat deep and showed no inspiration. The manager meanwhile sat motionless bar the now infamous face rubbing which is becoming more frequent by the match, almost as though he is doing it on purpose to wind us up.
The kids would have arrived at Anfield excited to watch the likes of Fernando Torres and Pepe Reina, with Roy having said the Spanish duo would be involved the day before. But come kick off Reina wasn’t in the squad and Torres was on the bench. Roy explained he had been advised not to play them by the medical staff. Shame he didn’t consult them before making such promises. Torres never made it off the bench and thus another PR bungle to add to the growing catalogue.
There was a surprise start for youngster Nathan Eccleston up front, preferred ahead of the highly-rated Dani Pacheco. Eccleston lined up alongside Ryan Babel, a player of similar style to the Englishman and the two failed to click. The first 45 minutes was tedious stuff.
Joe Cole was ineffective on the left, with the whole midfield sitting deep, Christian Poulsen carried on where he has started his LFC career – poorly – and the best players were Jonjo Shelvey and Danny Wilson, two youngsters signed by Rafa Benitez. Yet Hodgson continues to proclaim how he inherited a poor squad.
Fabio Aurelio at least showed improvement over usual choice Paul Konchesky.
Milan Jovanovic provided the most exciting moment of the match on 8 minutes, cutting inside from the right and hitting a powerful shot from 25 yards which was tipped onto the cross bar.
Things got marginally better in the second half with the introduction of Pacheco and moving Cole into the middle but the breakthrough never came and Liverpool ended up defending desperately to keep it at 0-0 in the closing minute.
This was not a match to remember, the result may not have mattered but the performance and tactics won’t have done anything for Hodgson’s already depreciated talents on Merseyside.
Roll on Fulham on Saturday.
Liverpool: Jones, Kelly, Skrtel (Kyrgiakos 45), Wilson (MOM), Aurelio, Jovanovic (Kuyt 68), Poulsen, Shelvey, Cole, Eccleston (Pacheco 58), Babel.