Following the Reds’ abysmal 1-0 defeat against Steve Bruce’s Tigers, Ben Twelves picks a number of discussion points from a terrible evening at the KC Stadium.
Liverpool ended all remaining feint hopes of prolonging the race for Champions League qualification as they suffered an appalling defeat at the KC Stadium for the second successive season.
Michael Dawson’s first half header from Ahmed Elmohamady’s pin-point cross after being played onside by Mario Balotelli proved to be enough for the home side to overcome a dreadful Liverpool team, who turned in arguably their worst performance of a hugely disappointing season.
It was an unacceptable display from the first whistle to the last from Brendan Rodgers’ side, who were on the receiving end of a deserved defeat in Yorkshire – a loss that cranks up the pressure on the Liverpool manager – and here are the talking points from the fixture.
Didn't think it was possible for Liverpool to be poorer than they were at Hull last season……..
— John Bradley (@jbradleymedia) April 28, 2015
Rodgers and his Reds Continue to Crumble Under Pressure
Since a superb upturn in form forced Liverpool into top four reckoning in the middle of March, Rodgers and his side have cracked under the mounting pressure of sustaining the challenge.
The scrappy 1-0 win against Swansea on March 16th dragged the Reds to just two points behind Man United in the battle for a top four finish. After that game, just a month-and-a-half ago, Rodgers’ declared how his side could even finish second. They’ve crumbled since.
Instead, The Reds have won only two of their last seven games in all competitions, and Rodgers has looked increasingly short tactically, alongside making numerous baffling decisions with team selection in the process.
Pressure is on the 42-year-old manager more than ever before during his time in the Anfield hot-seat, and with the way performances and results have taken such an alarming turn for the worse since that crushing defeat to United at Anfield, scrutiny over his job has understandably intensified.
Simon Mignolet Continues 2015 Upturn
One positive on a desperate night was undoubtedly the performance of Mignolet who once again turned in a decent display between the sticks.
The Belgian produced three superb saves to keep the score goalless before Hull finally made the breakthrough with Dawson’s well placed header – something the ‘keeper could do nothing about – and everything he was called upon to do, the 26-year-old did well, and decisively.
Been saying for weeks that Coutinho has been our best player in 2015, but it's actually Mignolet isn't it?! #saves #LFC
— The Redmen TV (@TheRedmenTV) April 28, 2015
With the home side focussing much of their play on dominating the Reds with crosses from wide and balls into the box, Mignolet dealt well with all that came his way, including a couple of excellent punches when under enormous pressure form the piling in Tigers – which saw him clean out striker Dame N’Doye and teammate Dejan Lovren on one particular occasion.
Usually criticised for his distribution, Mignolet remained composed with the ball at his feet – and was arguably more productive with it than all but one of the 10 shirts in front of him – and the golden glove contender enjoyed another composed game as he again looks every inch of a Liverpool first choice stopper.
Coutinho Reliance a Familiar Concern
Another abject performance from Rodgers’ struggling Reds followed a familiar pattern, as Philippe Coutinho became Liverpool’s go-to man once more.
The Brazilian magician was the Reds only hope of any creative spark and attacking intent on a miserable night, and the 22-year-old’s desire to be the man to make the difference – shown as he recorded the most shots-on-target, key passes and dribbles of any Red – despite a complete lack of support around him, was as commendable as it was depressing.
Anything even mildly impressive centred around the tireless work of the Brazil international – who came closest to breaking the deadlock when his well hit strike from Jordan Henderson’s corner stung the palms of City stopper Steve Harper – and due to the distinct lack of movement ahead, it seemed the only way Liverpool would get back into the game was if Coutinho could latch on to one of his three key passes.
Coutinho the only goal threat. yet again.
— Dan Kennett (@DanKennett) April 28, 2015
Despite his teammates having seemingly written off the season with five games to go, the memo clearly hadn’t reached the Brazilian who was the only shining light of the outfield players, in a side who appeared to have joined the supporters in their boycott of the game, and it is already worrying to think of the interest that will undoubtedly appear across the course of the summer.
Square Pegs in Round Holes Results in Disjointed Display
On a forgettable night in Yorkshire, Rodgers’ selection of a number of players out of position unquestionably proved a vital factor behind the Reds’ resulting poor performance.
With Emre Can at right back, Glen Johnson at left, Raheem Sterling shoved to an ineffective wide-role and Balotelli unsuited as a lone striker, Liverpool struggled to get a grip on the game due to the deployment of those picked operating in unnatural roles, and under-performing members yet again favoured over better options on the bench.
It's great to have versatile options, and Can is a good RB going forward, but it's clearly damaging playing everyone out of position.
— Jack Lusby (@jacklusby_) April 28, 2015
The Reds struggled to find any rhythm in their play and comfort with and without the ball as a result, and even when attempting to freshen his side up and swing momentum in Liverpool’s favour, Rodgers made the bizarre call to introduce Lazar Markovic at right-back, rather than into a natural attacking position while specialist defender Javi Manquillo remained on the bench.
Lazar at right back. Emre at centre back. Johnson on the pitch. Rodgers loves playing players as far away from their position's as he can.
— MB (@MrBoywunder) April 28, 2015
The consequences were plain for all to see as a hideous performance and result ensued for Rodgers’ men, and it really does beggar belief that the Liverpool manager continues to cause himself more problems, by opting against utilising players to their natural strengths when it is wholly avoidable in most cases.
Mario Balotelli Blows Chance to Impress
The Italian striker had the opportunity to show why his time at Anfield shouldn’t come to the end widely predicted this summer, but he failed to grab the chance handed to him.
Though he was not helped by the uncreative and dysfunctional attacking line-up in support of him, Balotelli certainly didn’t help himself on the night, as he once again displayed a desperate lack of movement to compliment his un-productivity on the ball, making for a blunt Liverpool attack.
The 24-year-old enjoyed the fewest touches of any Liverpool player on the night (19) showing how little he was involved in the game overall – something he could have helped had he been more willing to support the one-man show of Philippe Coutinho – who desperately tried to spark some life into the isolated front man.
A clever attempt with a back-heeled effort was as good as it got for the Italian, who came in for some rough treatment from the home side, but at a time when his Anfield future is of much speculation with reports indicating he will be one of the first out of the Anfield exit door this summer, Balotelli simply didn’t show enough in the 65 minutes played to force any change of opinion.
Next up for the Reds is other relegation threatened side, QPR at Anfield on Saturday.
(Stats via Whoscored.com)