A Boxing Day 6.30pm kickoff at Anfield saw Liverpool facing Wolverhampton Wanderers, in front of a crowd of 41,956. The Reds presented themselves with Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Agger, Insua, Benayoun, Aquilani, Lucas, Aurelio, Gerrard and Torres. On the bench were Cavalieri, Kuyt, Ngog, Spearing, Darby, Skrtel and Pacheco.
The first half saw Liverpool take a positive start with some good possession of the ball and a decent sequence of passing moves accumulating almost 70% of the ball in the first 15 minutes during which the most exciting moment was a 7th minute mesmerizing zig-zag from Torres that came very close to opening the score. On the 21st minute Ebanks-Blake turned swiftly to give Reina his first worry. Two minutes later Milijas also trouble Reina with a long range freekick effort that the Spanish shot stopper flicked over the bar. The ensuing corner say Doyle miss a clear chance at open goal from 4/5 yards as his header unbelievably did not hit the target. From this point on Liverpool went in trance, again. Only a 44th minute effort from Johnson with a shot just inside the penalty area was worthy of being described as a decent try. For the rest a very disappointing first 46 minutes as Liverpool did not manage to impose themselves.
The second half saw the team attacking the Kop end of the pitch which always gives a bit of added impetus to the team’s performance. Stevie G showed better promise in the start of the second period with a 50th minute medium range effort that gave Hanneman some trouble. Stephen Ward was booked twice in the space of a few minutes which gave the opportunity to play against 10-men for the remaining 40 minutes of the game. This advantage paid off on the 61st minute when a cross from deep left by Insua saw Gerrard thunder inside the 6 yard box and hammer a header into the net winning the ball from three Wolves defenders: 1-0. That was Gerrard’s 5th goal in the PL this season. Eight minutes later, Yossi Benayoun made it 2-0 with a shot deflected off Henry. The rest of the games saw Liverpool maintain their overall 68% possession statistic as Wolves pulled out forwards and filled their ranks with defenders. The Reds made three changes starting with Kuyt coming on for Aurelio in the 74th minute, Pacheco coming on for Aquilani on the 84th, and Spearing for Benayoun on the 88th. Both Aquilani and Benayoun received a standing ovation send off for their efforts.
All-in-all, a very ordinary Liverpool performance and well below the team’s potential. Having said that I’d play this way and take the three points any day!
Positives – we kept a clean sheet, Aquilani had a decent game and showed signs of his potential (the Italian did not stop trotting around the pitch for 84 minutes). Pacheco and Spearing could represent Liverpool’s future, so it’s good to see them get playing minutes. Pacheco is an exciting prospect. Benayoun remains our most dangerous and inventive player. Stevie gave 60% today but it was enough under the circumstances.
Negatives – we are still stuttering with our game. Our defense goes on overload one time too often, and we show a frightening fragility at times. We are not playing in a very convinced manner and we still need to work on confidence.