Say What

Published: Saturday December 28, 2013 MYT 7:30:00 AM
Updated: Friday December 27, 2013 MYT 6:47:55 PM

Tighten up the back, Reds

BEING on top felt good while it lasted, didn’t it?

It was the best Christmas present for the Reds fans as we went into the Yuletide season being perched on top of the tree.

But then, this is Liverpool, and we never do things the easy way. The Reds dropped down to fourth following the setback at the Etihad in the early hours of yesterday morning.

But Liverpool’s performance in the 2-1 defeat to Manchester City has reinforced my faith that Brendan Rodgers’ squad will be able to maintain a top four challenge till the end of season.

The only reason Liverpool are still in a Champions League spot is thanks to Everton, who gave their Merseyside rivals a huge gift-wrapped Christmas present.

Everton could have knocked Liverpool out of the top four with a home win over basement side Sunderland. But a 1-0 home loss courtesy of Ki Sung-yeung’s penalty kept Liverpool in the top four.

The Reds can take heart from their Boxing Day performance as no other team has managed to run City so close at their own fortress this season. Manuel Pellegrini’s side enjoy a 100% record there and have whacked six goals past both Manchester United and Arsenal already this season.

The match was so close that I can’t help thinking of several ‘what if’ moments which could have turned the tide in Liverpool’s favour.

  • The linesman not putting off his annual year-end visit to the optician until after the match, thus not disallowing Raheem Sterling’s perfect goal for offside when the scores were 1-1.
  • Simon Mignolet palming Alvaro Negredo’s lob for the winning goal sideways instead of up and backwards towards his net .
  • A better first touch from Glen Johnson when a deflection put him clear through with just Joe Hart to beat.
  • Sterling showing more composure from just seven metres out when connecting with a perfect cross from Suarez.

But then, this is football and we just need to take the blows on the chin and look forward to the next tie - which is third-placed Chelsea at Stamford Bridge tomorrow night. I fancy our chances if we can maintain the fighting spirit shown at the Etihad and Suarez kicks into gear again but Liverpool need to sort out a couple of defensive deficiencies before taking on Chelsea.

Injuries to Jose Enrique and his understudy Jon Flanagan have left Liverpool short of options at left-back. Aly Cissokho and Mamadou Sakho filled in the gap against Manchester City, but faced a torrid time against the likes of Jesus Navas and Yaya Toure.

Chelsea’s talented wingers will look to exploit the weaker left side again, and whoever gets the nod to play at left-back needs to be up to the task.

Liverpool’s man-marking while defending set-pieces can only be described as atrocious and Vincent Kompany’s equaliser for City laid bare the shortcomings in this area. 

It is impractical to expect vast improvements in the space of two days, but Martin Skrtel and co. could do well to be more alert against Chelsea’s aerial threat spearheaded by John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic.

Although returning to the top will be a bonus, I consider Liverpool staying among the top four at the end of the frenetic holiday period to be a good sign for a push to qualify for the Champions League.

Loganath Velloo watched Liverpool’s 3-1 victory over Cardiff City last weekend on a Myanmar network while covering the SEA Games. The match commentary was in Burmese, and the commentator’s voice rose to a high-pitched “Suarez! Suarez!” whenever the Liverpool captain was in the thick of action.

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