Victory over Italian clubs is always sweet given the footballing rivalry between fans of English and Italian clubs in Malta. A particular Italian newspaper (Corriere Dello Sport I believe) described as a Euro Flop Italy’s contribution to the Europa League yesterday evening. And how fitting that heading is. This is mainly due to the inability of Napoli to contain a certain Mr Steven Gerrard who was thrown into muddy waters with the sole prerogative of establishing coordination and drive in a team lacking flair, grit and discipline. Gerrard has taken all the headlines and Roy quickly thanked his captain for the wonders produced but it’s also fair to praise the manager for throwing on his super sub right at the start of the second half. That was a perfect tactical change and one which if delayed would have had less of an effect. Timing was key and taking such a decision requires confidence and experience. So thumbs up to Roy too. It was also great to watch Mr Henry and his wife attend the match. You could see they enjoyed the second half and appreciated the spectacle a European night at Anfield holds.
Liverpool’s second half yesterday revealed two aspects, the first and most notably, is that no one player has that ability to pull the strings, take the bull by the horns and take us out of obscurity in times of trouble. True to say that Carragher, Riena are both committed characters to the cause but none of the two plays in midfield which is where games are won or lost. This is a worrying point and one which has been lingering for years now. Spearing is ever so hard working, breaking down attacks and coordinating midfield matters but he still lacks initiative and leadership skills. The only player I can think of who can really provide bulldozing strength, motivation and drive going forward is Shelvey. This is ironic as yesterday’s performance by the big man was quite simply not up to Liverpool’s standard. It felt so tremendously frustrating watching Shelvey lose possession and failing to provide decent balls for Ngog to work on so his contribution to Liverpool’s equaliser was welcomed with cautious relief. Still, one should admire his efforts and will to persist at a time when other players would have probably faded out and substituted.
Ngog had a good game but was impeded by a lack of good service. Nonetheless, his touches, twist and turns were the only positives in a first half which saw Liverpool out of sorts, the culmination of which was a poorly conceded goal after a woeful miscued header by Poulsen. I was also not at all impressed by Johnson’s impact or lack of. One always expects more discipline from the senior players.
The second point apparent after Gerrard’s entry was how a collective group of under-achievers can be brought back on their feet and aided to put in a mighty display. Gerrard was the catalyst, the ingredient to spark a chemical reaction which led to a complete demolition of Napoli in 45 minutes. Gerrard has been such a mentor time and time again and Liverpool get stick when he comes to the rescue. As pointed above, we need to seriously start thinking about the post-Gerrard days but it is unfair to give Liverpool a hard time because Gerrard and Torres make things happen when they’re on. Both are paid to do a job and if they’re fit to play then it’s their responsibility to set an example and do what’s best for the club. So as long as both are fit and can last the 90mins, we need to use their talent as much as is possible. The notion that Liverpool are pointless without Gerrard maybe true today but the same can be said of Man. Utd in the days Roy Keane was captain and motivator. A Man. Utd team without Keane was not exactly invincible.
The team put out in the first half had the capability of securing the three points easily enough. The missing jigsaw in the puzzle was that one person who could get us rolling off the launch pad. Gerrard has that special knack of pulling us out of unpleasant situations and as long as he’s given the chance to do that we cannot complain. The team is probably in seventh heaven after yesterday’s triumph so we need to get our feet quickly back on the ground and mentally prepare for the game against Chelsea. Good luck Roy, good luck Liverpool.
— As a sidenote I’d like to congratulate an ex-Red, Champions League winner in 2005, Igor Biscan for scoring a lovely header to a hand Dinamo Zagreb a two goal cushion against Club Brugge. Well done!
— A further note: The following article if true is bad news but something deep down tells me that this is a blatant attempt at putting the club in bad light. Cheap and shameful reporting: