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Yet another somewhat disappointing result on the back of another international break. Back in September, Liverpool went into the first international break of the season beating Manchester United at home, but returned and played out a bizarre 2-2 draw with Jonjo Shelvey and Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium. This time around, another 2-2 draw was played, this time at St. James’ Park against Alan Pardew’s French Toon army.
It appeared right from the beginning that Pardew got his tactics right, stifling Liverpool’s possession play and snuffing out Brendan Rodgers’ 3-4-1-2 formation. The Reds looked leggy too, tired from all the traveling and the two international games in the past week or so. Daniel Sturridge looked off his game, his heavy involvement in the two Wembley qualifiers seeming to take a toll on him. Luis Suarez returned from South America – always a long trip no matter how you look at it. Victor Moses involvement in the African continent also meant he had a tiring plane ride back.
Add on to all the traveling, Glen Johnson and Aly Cissokho returned to the starting eleven for the first time since their respective injuries around one and a half months ago. Both were still looking for match fitness and were deployed in arguably one of the major roles in this formation, wing-back. Loic Remy and Yoann Gourcuff, along with their respective overlapping full-backs Davide Santon and Mathieu Debuchy, were always going to outnumber Liverpool’s unfit wing-backs whenever they doubled up on them.
This inevitably pulled either Jordan Henderson or Steven Gerrard to either flank to help out number-wise, but this in turn left space for Yohan Cabaye and Moussa Sissoko to exploit, one that Cabaye did to perfection. His long range shot could have been better defended by Mamadou Sakho, whose tame attempt to close down Cabaye’s effort only served to block the view of Simon Mignolet, leaving the goalkeeper with no chance whatsoever.
Liverpool got the upper hand late into the first half, when Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa held Suarez back in the box as the Uruguayan was about to bring a racking pass down. Being last man, Yanga-Mbiwa had to choice but to be sent off, and Steven Gerrard slotted home his 100th league goal of the season. 1-1 at the break with the prospect of a full half with a man advantage. Rodgers’ side should have gone on to win.
Instead, Liverpool’s frailties at set-pieces proved their undoing again. Cabaye’s lofted free-kick evaded everyone before substitute Paul Dummett sneaked around, escaping the attentions of Sakho and Cissokho in the process, to slot home from close range.
With Sakho arguably having a role to play in both goals, and in part as he picked up a knock, he came off for Luis Alberto as Rodgers switched to a 4-4-2, pushing Moses from number 10 to the left wing. It was a good move by Rodgers as now Liverpool could double up on each flanks, with Cissokho and Johnson providing more threat and width.
Only the brilliance of Suarez in the box…
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