With the spectre of facing defending Champions League holders Real Madrid home and away up next, these are troubling times indeed for Liverpool.
The Reds hopes of navigating their way out of Group B and into the knock-out rounds of the Champions League were dealt a major blow with a 1-0 reversal at the hands of FC Basel in Switzerland last night. Marco Streller scored a poachers goal after embattled ‘keeper Simon Mignolet initially prevented an own goal following Martin Skrtel’s inexplicable header towards his own goal from a dangerous corner kick. Defensive error — the on-going hallmark of the Anfield outfit — aside, the visitors created little in the way of problems for their welcoming hosts as the Swiss side kept their rather impressive record against English opposition alive and well.
Football isn’t a funny old game, as the old adage might lead you to believe — it’s days like these that you know it’s a cruel one.
Steven Gerrard sent Anfield into raptures with a trademark free-kick that all but put a stamp on Liverpool’s dominance in a tense Merseyside Derby, but Phil Jagielka’s picture perfect injury-time blast from a full thirty-yards out left the boys on the Kop slack-jawed as it swerved past a diving Simon Mignolet at speed before bulging the top corner. It wasn’t the banishment of 15-years of Anfield misery Everton so hoped for prior to kick-off, but with three points looking certain to be added to their neighbours tally, it’s better than they expected — and far more than they deserved.
You got a bit tired of watching penalties by the end there, didn’t you? I’ve never been one to actually enjoy the drama of spot-kicks, but that dragged on a bit too long — and when you consider it should have been done and dusted on more than one occasion, that just makes the whole thing even worse.
Jordan Rossiter opened the scoring for Liverpool on the 10-minutes mark as the 17-year old made his senior debut for the boys in red, but the one goal lead always looked precarious as Middlesbrough kept up the pace and they were well rewarded for their effort when Adam Reach headed past Simon Mignolet to send the contest to extra time. Suso looked to have sealed progression in extra time with his first goal for the Anfield outfit, but Patrick Bamford’s last gasp penalty sent the travelling support in raptures and the two sides into a shoot-out.
It’s a disconcerting pattern that needs to be rectified sooner rather than later. I’d say it was two weeks in a row that we conceded an early goal to put our backs against the wall before the match even really got started, but that’s not entirely true — this week, we gave up two of them.
Oddly enough, West Ham United looked a bit like the Liverpool of last season that we’d all become accustomed to as they raced out of the gate. Winston Reid headed home his first goal in just under a year after a mere 80-seconds had been played and summer signing Diafra Sakho made it two with a well worked chip well before the ten minute mark. Raheem Sterling pulled one back before the break and the Reds looked on course to find an equalizer after it, but Morgan Amalfitano rounded out the win on the counter-attack as the hosts claimed their first home victory of the season.
A win is a win no matter how it’s accomplished, but the 2-1 victory over PFC Ludogrets yesterday certainly echoed the age old adage that there’s no easy matches. Not even one.
I’m getting tired of saying that and you’re probably getting tired of hearing it — unfortunately, it’s the truth. While more than one pundit decided that the Bulgarian side would be easy pickings for their more prestigious bedfellows in Group B, what we saw yesterday at Anfield was an organized, disciplined side that weren’t about to be told who was going to do what to them when. We learned that quite quickly, didn’t we?