My first match report had to coincide with on of the bleakest games I’ve seen our team play in recent history.
On a bitterly cold yet sunny lunchtime kickoff, Fratton Park was jam packed and in song for what seemed to be start of a revival period under the management of Avram Grant. There is no doubt that the Israeli tactician gave impetus to the side since taking charge, that could already be seen mid-week against Chelsea.
On this away fixture, Jamie Carragher was playing his 600th game for the Club. This was the initial line up: Reina, Johnson, Carra, Agger, Insua, Kuyt, Mascherano, Lucas, Dossena, Gerrard and Torres. Again, no Aquilani! Sporting the white/black change strip, we were on our way.
Enjoying most of possession in the first 30 minutes, with a few chances that might have been converted into goals, we were totally taken by surprise when in the course of a rare Portsmouth attack a negligent clearance effort from Johnson saw Pompei fullback unleash a thunderous belter from an impossible angle to beat Reina. From that moment, the team came completely undone and we rarely put a string of three/four passes together. A very close headed effort from Agger on the 38th minute was followed by a crunching tackle by Mascherano on Tal Ben Hajim on the 42nd which cost him a straight red sending the team into further disarray.
Liverpool started the second half with what seemed to be a 4-4-1 game-plan. On the 47th minute Lucas was yellow carded and on the 53rd Benayoun came on for Dossena. Two minutes later Torres was booked for dissent and on the 59th Johnson too was show the yellow card for a foul. The 66th minute saw David James’ understudy Berkovic perform a miracle of a save, and a minute later Insua was taken off for Aurelio. Despite some unorganized efforts to recover the game, we were again punished on the 81st minute when Piquionne scored from almost the same acute angle as the first goal to make it 2-0. The 88th minute saw Jay Spearing coming on for Lucas and that was that. Game over.
I have no doubt in my mind that had Avram Grant been in charge of Pompei from day 1 of the season, they would not be bottom of the table, yet our performance yesterday was nothing short of shameful. I feel that our game is very predictable and we do not have the ability to change our tactics during the course of the 90 minute contest. The team showed no ideas, no character and no inventiveness. We were simply very ordinary and given what is certainly the psychological disadvantage of being bottom table minnows, Portsmouth deserved to win. I was not surprised we lost. I saw part of the Chelsea vs Portsmouth game and they made the London Blues sweat to get the three points.
I have no man-of-the-match in Liverpool colours for this game. I love Reina but the too goals were conceded from impossible angles which a goalie of his stature should have covered. Mascherano sending off ended any possibility we had of recovering the match and what’s more he will not be available for the next three games. This was a very poor performance. Benitez lashed out at ref Lee Mason for some decisions, but it’s the team that’s not performing. No more excuses Rafa!