Di Natale shows FSG the value of a veteran

Liverpool 2-3 Udinese
Europa League Group A, Matchday 2


Death by football? This was more of a case of death by mistakes. Again. That and a veteran forward showing Liverpool’s owners the value of an experienced player.

The stats may show that Liverpool dominated possession with a whopping 691 passes to Udinese’s paltry 173, but the only statistic that matters in football is the goals scored. I doubt anyone from the Italian side left the ground thinking ‘ah, we got the win, but our passing stats weren’t as good’.

Liverpool’s problem is that for all their domination of games, they do not have enough goalscorers. A problem that has persisted for well over a season now. It was exactly the same last season under Kenny Dalglish, albeit a different style of play but regularly the Reds would dominate games but fail to show enough in the final third to bury teams.

This was the case last night. Absolutely cruising at half-time, but only 1-0 up. A second during the first half of domination would’ve put the match to bed. Of course, that never arrived.

Luis Suarez has improved his finishing considerably of late and despite only coming on after 65 minutes finished the game with the most shots of any player.

Fabio Borini may have scored goals in the Championship and Serie A but at 21 he’s not the finished product and right now he looks like a less effective Dirk Kuyt; hard work but little finish. You know it’s bad for Borini when Stewart Downing looks more like scoring.

The match itself really was the old cliche of a ‘game of two halves’. Nobody at Anfield expected anything other than a win at half-time. Especially with Gerrard, Suarez and Sterling to call on if we needed them. And so we did.

Not that Gerrard’s introduction helped at all. He added another tally to the ‘Gerrard gives ball away in middle and leads to a goal conceded’ count. Watch his reaction after he gives it away. Gestures like it’s someone else’s fault his outside of the foot pass was easily cut out by the opponent, strolls around, then finally once they get in the final third, actually breaks into a jog. It’s disappointing and I hope Rodgers has a word.

This game epitomised this season for Liverpool. Completely dominate possession, check. Not score enough when on top, check. Gerrard gives ball away leading to goal, check. Defensive mistake, check.

You had to feel for Sebastian Coates. Probably my man of the match and didn’t put a foot wrong aside for the own goal. Not an easy one for the defender to judge but he got himself in a bad position and it ended up where it did. He’ll learn from it.

Jonjo Shelvey was impressive in the first half, he’s starting to look more and more like a young Steven Gerrard – two footed challenges, runs from midfield… Let’s just hope he doesn’t pick up the habit of giving possession away so cheaply! He was rather anonymous in the second half though after their half-time change around.

Jack Robinson got a good run out and must be pushing for a start in the League soon while Enrique is out of favour / injured. Mind, Glen Johnson is performing far better at left back than right and will have to get used to playing there. The loss of Martin Kelly is a big blow so it really is a big opportunity for young Andre Wisdom.

Another positive was the superb save from Pepe in the first half. You could see it meant a lot to him. But it’s another three conceded and he must be as frustrated as the rest of us.

I wouldn’t want to blame this defeat on the Swedish house maffia looking referee, but the rugby challenge on Downing was absolutely absurd. You’d actually get sent off for that in rugby though. I’ve said for years now that those sort of ‘grey areas’ in referee decisions where ‘officially’ it isn’t a red card but it warrants more than a yellow should result in the player being booked and replaced. So the player is off but the team remain at eleven players. It’s simple to introduce and doesn’t “ruin the game”.

At least it’s prepared us for the visit of Stoke on Sunday.

The line-up last night gives us a good indication of what to expect when Tony Pulis’ lot arrive. Young Suso looks likely to start given he wasn’t included last night. It will be interesting to see how he copes with the physical style of play.

Liverpool will still progress from the group, barring a complete mess up, and the match provides a good learning curve (although that is becoming a little too often so far). The home match against Anzhi is somewhat of a ‘must-win’ though in all honesty.

Rodgers post match reaction I thought was superb. Previous managers would have told us how we controlled the game and were unlucky. Honesty is the best policy – “we got lazy” is correct.

“We concede goals too easily. It’s an area we have to work on.” — Rodgers

Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Coates, Carragher, Robinson, Allen, Henderson (Gerrard 65), Shelvey, Downing, Borini (Sterling 79), Assaidi (Suarez 65).

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