Liverpool's Luis Suarez Ghost Goal Can't Hide Team's Faults
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Another week goes by and Goodison Park this afternoon was witness to yet another Liverpool performance that raises far more questions than it answers.
Brendan Rogers' young team will be satisfied with a point, having put in a spirited performance in a typically full-blooded Merseyside derby. Yet in many ways, the result typified everything negative about their season thus far.
Fortunate to surge into an early 2-0 lead, Liverpool couldn't cope with the sheer physicality of Everton's attack, and the youngsters on which so much praise has been heaped in recent weeks—Suso in particular—looked overawed at times.
A reshuffle at the interval, moving from a fluid 4-3-3 to a more conservative 3-5-2, helped the Anfield side regain a foothold in the game, but a last-minute Luis Suarez goal, wrongly chalked-off by the assistant referee, would have been unfair on Everton to say the least. The home side dominated from the moment they scored their first goal.
The Uruguayan striker showed both the his best and worst qualities in a performance that was as impetuous as it was imperious. But rather than Suarez' antics, it's the similarities between this performance and so many others this season that should be the focus for Liverpool fans after the match.
Rogers is a famed disciple of Barcelona's 'tiki-taka', high-pressing, high-passing approach, and his new team have been a delight to watch at times, particularly in contrast to the neanderthal tactics of Roy Hodgson.
But the managers' reign, soon to enter its sixth month, has been marked by a failure to turn performances into points, and were it not for Suarez carrying the team the Reds could be sitting even closer to the bottom of the table.
Once again Liverpool looked unable to cope with early balls into the box and were particularly vulnerable at set-pieces. The team also looked worryingly unable to 'kill-off' a game after taking a lead, and play was just as open when 2-1 up as it was when going for a last-minute winner in injury time.
Poor decision-making in the final third was another all-too familiar problem, one own goal and a Suarez header from a brilliantly flighted Steven Gerrard free-kick glossing over the countless opportunities wasted in advanced positions, with both Sterling and Suarez taking it in turns to shoot when it was best to pass, and pass when it was best to shoot.
While Rogers can claim that injuries and a poorly-managed transfer window haven't helped his side, finding the right balance between attack and defense—so critical to his philosophy—seems just as far off as we approach the 10th league game of the season as it was after the first. How much longer will it take for things to 'click'?
Much is made of the team's high levels of possession, and the excellent passing statistics boasted by the likes of Joe Allen, but the fact remains that Liverpool—still the most decorated side in English football—sit below the likes of Swansea and West Ham after almost a third of the season gone.
If Liverpool finish in the bottom half this season, the amount of sideways five-yard passes made by their midfield three will be of comfort to no one.
A year ago tomorrow Kenny Dalglish oversaw a 2-0 away victory over West Brom that propelled the Reds to fifth in the table. This evening Liverpool sit 11th, as close to relegation as they are Champions League qualification.
While there are reasons for encouragement—not least the remarkable progress of Raheem Sterling—how much longer will fans, and Liverpool's owners, put up with poor results?
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