Match Report : Liverpool 1-1 Sunderland: Liverpool can’t maintain quality for full 90 minutes

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Liverpool could have had three goals in the first half against Sunderland with a dominant display, but the Reds allowed Sunderland back into the game, leaving themselves under pressure and forced to hit long balls. The question is, why?

Liverpool couldn’t have been better in the first half — much like in the opening exchanges against Valencia — their aggressive pressing and fast fluid passing gave Sunderland all sorts of problems.

Stewart Downing continued to show his value linking up with team mates, running at defenders and providing the kind of quality crosses Anfield hasn’t seen in years. Not to mention his almost 34th minute wonder goal.

Jose Enrique was handed a surprise debut too, and put in a solid performance.

Tactically, Dalglish had gotten it right, at least in the first half. Luis Suarez hovered in the ‘hole’ between midfield and defense, while Henderson shifted between wide and central areas, giving Liverpool an extra man in midfield whenever he came inside.

With Henderson less advanced and Lucas performing his usual defensive role, Downing was given a license to attack and he caused problems for Sunderland’s defence on both the right and the left side of midfield.

Cattermole and Colback were unable to pick Suarez up, allowing the Uruguayan to form the link between midfield and attack, and with Henderson often playing centrally Liverpool tended to have a numerical advantage in the centre of the pitch and therefore dominated possession.

Despite creating plenty of chances, poor finishing and not a lot of luck let Liverpool down. Luis Suarez really had no excuse in blasting his penalty over the bar and even though he made up for it later, that could have been the difference between winning and losing the match. On a side note, it was the first time a player has failed to score a penalty at Anfield since Gerrard missed one against Fulham in 2006.

You can say what you like about Phil Dowd’s decision to not send off Keiran Richardson but Liverpool need to be good enough to win the game without the help of referees.

Similarly, Carroll’s foul on Wes Brown was a borderline call which probably could have been waved on, but again, Liverpool should have done enough by that point.

Andy Carroll was the most wasteful of Liverpool’s players in front of goal, only managing two out of a possible eight on target throughout the entire match.

The target man has had big expectations laid on his shoulders by Dalglish, but so far he’s not shown the quality in return for that faith. Nevertheless, he’s only young, so he deserves judgement to be withheld so he can show us if he really is good enough.

This match was the epitome of a ‘game of two halves’.

Liverpool seemed to have not turned up for the second half as Sunderland came out and pegged the Reds back.

Luis Suarez’s quick descent into fatigue — having won the Copa America only a few weeks earlier — as well as the rest of the side, could offer a possible explanation as to what went sour for the reds.

Whereas Sunderland had struggled to pick him up in the first half, Suarez was clearly tiring in the second, and his link up play became less effective as the game wore on.

With no real creative outlet in the centre, Liverpool’s other players increasingly turned to the easier option of hitting the ball long to Carroll, or making a bad pass in defence as Sunderland increasingly turned up the pressure.

This played right into Sunderland’s hands, allowing the vastly experienced Wes Brown to easily deal with Andy Carroll and eventually leading to Larsson’s excellent equalizing volley.

What Liverpool really needed at that point was someone like Gerrard, Meireles or Aquilani to come into the side and re-gain control of the midfield. Someone with the ability to take control of the game.

With Gerrard out injured and Aquilani not even making the squad it was a surprise not to see Meireles starting. Whether that was due to injury, or due to being inferior to Jordan Henderson in the eyes of Dalglish it’s hard to say, but nonetheless his introduction was too late to have a significant impact on the outcome of the game.

Arguably, Meireles would have had a larger impact had he been given the more central free role Suarez had earlier occupied but as it was he was positioned on the left with Kuyt and Carroll teaming up in attack.

That partnership seemed to lack imagination and ideas and increasingly it led to long ball football, which was neither pretty or effective.

Despite that, there were more than enough signs in the opening 45 minutes that Liverpool are capable of a top four finish this season. With a wounded Arsenal side next stop on the road, the Reds could well take all three points, but only if they can maintain their quality for the full 90 minutes.

Statistics from Guardian

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  1. Played well but can do better, good football 1st half in fact excellent, more of that and we will be very good this season!!!!.

  2. Liverpool can’t maintain quality for full 90 minutes

    Its strange…why can’t ANYONE criticise Kenny Dalglish? Why can’t anyone say “Steve Bruce can’t things around at half-time and Dalglish had no answers”?

    If Rafa spent £100M+ over the summer and delivered that second half performance everyone would be [quite rightly] sticking the knife in (in fact even the first half did not scream £100M+). And don’t forget this is £100M+ in a depressed market…in a bouyant market he would have spent 25% to 50% more.

    Kenny Dalglish has spent a Real Madrid budget to give us something resembling a Sam Allardyce team and no amount of colourful analysis will hide this fact.

    And no I still do not understand why the owners gave Dalglish a two-year contract plus £100M+ to spend.

      1. You’re right my mistake. He’s spent £100M+ in two windows 5 months apart.

        And in my humble opinion the ONLY value for money player he bought has been Suarez

        1. Really if you are so concerned with spend you should find another club to follow

          If you are concerned with value for money then are you saying that <£6m for Adam is overpaying? I assume that you are referrig to the likes of Henderson at £16m. But considering in 5 years time Adam will not have a transfer value and henderson will be at his peak and probably command a higher fee than the one paid but let's say he's a flop and is only worth 70% of his current transfer fee (which is unlikely) - this would mean he cost us 4.8m and Adam cost us just less than 6m. So bad value for money? Now it seems to me that you have seen him play a game for the U21s and a game for Liverpool and on the basis of those 2 games and with a complete lack of understanding of transfer values you decide he's a waste of money. Forgive me if I dont side with you and your ignorance

    1. Hey Ahmad,

      I think in terms of tactics, style of play (at times) and motivating the team Dalglish has been good.

      I allude to it in this article and talk about it in more detail on my blog, that some of his signings haven’t been that great.

      Andy Carroll, in particular has failed to impress. I’ve never been a fan of traditional English centre forwards like him and both John Aldridge and Ian Rush were much more skillful on the ball than he is.

      I think he ruins our style of play completely at times, because him just being there tempts our players to hoof it up under pressure.

      Let’s be honest, Dalglish had £35 million pounds to spend and he could have bought almost any striker with that amount, so Carroll was always going to be underwhelming.

      Perhaps it was a panic buy, perhaps not, but he certainly can be ugly to watch.

      As for the others, Downing’s proven to be class and Henderson and Adam haven’t been terrible.

      As far as criticizing Kenny, he did save us from a very tight spot this year and had us playing some pretty good football too, so I don’t think it would be fair to have a go.

      I’m hoping he can find a way to integrate Carroll into a pass and move style or otherwise has the cojones to admit he was wrong and drop him.

      1. I repeat…Romanticism aside I do NOT understand why Kenny Dalglish was given a two year contract and £100M+ spending money (in a depressed ie BUYERS market). The owners must have been insane.

        As for saving us from a very tight spot…is that because Kenny was so good…or because Roy Hodgson was so very wrong for Liverpool?

        We’ll see how things unravel…but I suspect Dalglish is not going to enjoy this season

      2. Carroll cost us nothing according to Commolli – he said that the price for Torres was £15 + the cost of his replacement, so if Carroll cost 15m then Torres would have been £30m

        Sor why criticise Carroll for the price

        Also how many TOP strikers are on 90k per week – Aguero’s transfer fee was similar but he costs >250k per week, not far off 3 Andy Carroll’s – plus how many TOP strikers would play for a side outside of Champ’s League places with no guarantee of getting back in

        Let’s face it it’s not a panic buy or a waste of money – who would you have bought in the circumstances? …and dont say you would not have bought anybody in jaunary and waited for the summr – in January we all thought we would get relegated

    2. You Can criticise Dalglish if you want. You just run the risk of being shown up

      I think with all the proven knowledge and experience in Dalglish and Clarke most sensible people and true Liverpool fans are putting their trust in management because they have so far shown they know what they are doing (previous experience + end of last season) so when somebody who has probably less expience in life than these 2 have in football thinks they know better then they should really post their credentials.

      If, as I suspect, you have no credentials then do yourself a favour and shut-up and wait and see if they get it right. Put it this way, I would give them time than give you the time of day

      Bit of respect please, wait and see and dont show your ignorance by jumping to conclusions after game one of a new season with new players

  3. Liverpool can’t maintain quality for full 90 minutes

    Its strange…why can’t ANYONE criticise Kenny Dalglish? Why can’t anyone say “Steve Bruce turned things around at half-time and Dalglish had no answers”?

    If Rafa spent £100M+ over the summer and delivered that second half performance everyone would be [quite rightly] sticking the knife in (in fact even the first half did not scream £100M+). And don’t forget this is £100M+ in a depressed market…in a bouyant market he would have spent 25% to 50% more.

    Kenny Dalglish has spent a Real Madrid budget to give us something resembling a Sam Allardyce team and no amount of colourful analysis will hide this fact.

    And no I still do not understand why the owners gave Dalglish a two-year contract plus £100M+ to spend

  4. Agree with your analysis of lack of creativity from the middle of the park in the second half. Getting a bit dismayed hearing about how amazing Charlie Adam was. Adam was referred to as a quarter back spraying the ball around all day. Don’t get me wrong, his set pieces are outstanding and he is a goalscoring threat but he lacks in open play. He seems unable to do things simple, have a clear head and keep the ball moving. He did this in part in the first half but got caught on the ball when he could have move it. On a side I began to appreciate Lucas, won the ball back well. I think Liverpool need a playmaker to complement Adam, Lucas, Gerrard,Downing, running out of space in midfield!

    1. Yep, I can hear that. I think he gives us something we haven’t had in a while in set piece delivery, but he’s not as good at the simple things as are the likes of Meireles, Aquilani and Gerrard.

      1. All of those players are advanced midfeilders with no responsibility for sitting deep – consequently their range of passing needs to be shorter. Adam can’t play short risky passes from his deeper position as it will leave us too open so he must also spray the ball from deep

        Gerrard can do that but can’t keep the discipline to track his runners and we want him closer to goal which is why we bought Adam and didn’t play Aquilani as defensive midfielder


  5. I watched the Man Utd and Chelsea game and assure all of you that Chelsea were boring for the full 90 minutes except for some individual efforts and Man Utd were lucky to snatch all three points.
    This no to justify our performance which in the second half was below par, but at least a couple of other top teams did not do much better than us.
    It’s useless discussing the Manager’s choice for games past, what we need is for mistakes in selection not to be repeated!

  6. Something I needed to add to my comment: there is a very big different between ‘LIVERPOOL CAN’T MAINTAIN QUALITY FOR 90 MINUTES’ and ‘LIVERPOOL WERE NOT ABLE TO MAINTAIN QUALITY FOR 90 MINUTES’.
    This makes your statement a very bold one not leaving room for improvement and the possibility for the team to prove itself.

  7. I am a Japanese Liverpool fan who visits this site every day, and this is a very well written article.

    First, I have to tell you that I am supportive of Kenny Dalglish and still keep believing that he is the man to take Liverpool to former glory days. However, his choice of the starting eleven against the Black Cats raised my eyebrows in several ways.

    Firstly, as many people point out, why did Flanagan have to start as a right back when we have Kelly, who did as well as Johnson, if not better, during the middle of last season? His poor mark on Larsson led to the equaliser for Sunderland, and I doubt Kelly let him score. But, John is still 18, so please don’t be so harsh on him. It is Kenny who should be blamed for choosing him over Martin Kelly from the start.

    Secondly, why were Kuyt and Meireres dropped to the bench, the former a player who runs tirelessly and works harder than anyone else in the squad for the entire 90 minutes, and the latter the 2010-2011 PFA Player of the Year for the unproven Henderson, who just joined us this summer? He may be a good prospect, but he is simple not yet ready for our starting eleven. At present, he is not so great a player as to replace the ironman Dirk Kuyt or the versatile Raul Meireles.

    Finally, why was Aquilani not even on the bench, after the impressive pre season performances? When our players were relying only on wasteful long balls in the 2nd half, he is the man who can change situations like this with his amazing passing sense. By removing him from the squad, we virtually lost the crucial Plan B.

    Again, I repeat that I trust Kenny from the bottom of my heart and believe we can get to the Champions League under him. But he should reconsider his over preference of English players (Such as Henderson over Kuyt, Meireles and Aquaman) to get back to where we should be.

    1. In regards to Henderson, I’m hoping it was just a sympathetic start against his old club as both Kuyt or Maxi should start ahead of him.

      Disappointing to see Meireles dropped too. I was looking forward to seeing him link up with Aquilani for the first time but clearly the Italian’s not in Dalglish’s plans anymore.

      Nevertheless, the team showed they have some quality in them in the first half and if they can just maintain it they’ll be right for the rest of the season.

      1. After spending a King’s ransom on the side, I would expect there to be SOME quality in the team

        1. There is enough quality in the team if u look at first half. just the intensity was not kept up throughout 90mins.

        2. You didn’t spend the money did you so what right do you have to ‘expect’?

          There’s plenty of quality in there – did you not watch the game?

          Chelsea didn’t win their game and they had a £50m striker playing

          Just because young Flanno missed his marker and Dowd made a couple of wrong calls you now insinuate there’s NO quality in the side?

          Knee Jerk – or just Jerk?

  8. Again, I repeat that I trust Kenny from the bottom of my heart and believe we can get to the Champions League under him. (Japanese Kpop)

    Now that he’s burnt £100M+ (in a depressed market), we haven’t many options but to trust Kenny

  9. Why is kenny daglish always sticking to English players?,,,lucas adam and meireless should ve started and latter introduce Aqua the magician in the 75mins,remember what he did against valneraga for just 9mins…
    2. Downing suarez and kuyt should ve started then u latter use Carroll,,….if king kenny continues with his STUPID ENGLISH PLAYER POLICY THEN HE WILL GET SACKED,,,PLZ KEEP AQUA WE NEÉD HIM AT LEAST FOR EVERY LAST 10MINS

    1. Why oh why did FSG go for Kenny and Clarke when you’re sitting there, plainly able to do a much better job?

    1. Not after winning the titles he did with Liverpool or creating a title winning side for Blackburn, or indeed his stints with Newcastle or Celtic? Or taurning a relegation threatened side into Champs league contenders with youngsters and deadwood and without settled strikers or our best player who carried us for 10 seasons

      That’s what I love about the internet, it allows those in short trousers who have not been there and seen it to give the impression that they have been there and seen it

      I already have an idea of his managerial capabilities, and for the record you will not see those capabilities in a mere 5 games – if you do, then you should have already seen that in his 1st 5 games – remember he started in january

      1. Ged I like your robust defence of the manager. It shows strong allegiance to him.

        Unfortunately from a footballing AND business perspective you don’t have any legs to stand on…and Kenny Dalglish HAS taken a massive gamble.

        Still as I said time will tell…and the first five games will determine how the rest of the season unfolds. I wish Kenny well…but I don’t think he should have accepted the job, never mind spend a King’s Ransom on the club

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