As Liverpool were comfortably humbled by champions Manchester City at the Etihad last night, the boo boys were well and truly out-and-about on social media.
Despite an encouraging first 35 or so minutes for Brendan Rodgers’ men, the wind was taken out of their sails by Stevan Jovetic. The Montenegrin pounced on hesitancy from debutant Alberto Moreno to rifle home past Mignolet. Up to that point it was the side in red that looked on top, playing it around nicely and looking well organised at the back. As the sides trooped back in at the half time whistle they were no doubt rueing the fact they failed to score whilst dominant.
The pendulum had swung and it was evident on the faces of the Liverpool players as they went down the tunnel. Perhaps that’s why they were out so early for the second half. Kompany and co. kept them waiting and when the two sides finally kicked off after the interval, the encouraging performance of the first 35 minutes was well and truly gone. City were on top and the Liverpool defence now looked as organised as a Primark sale items rack. The defensive line was anything but straight and Jovetic made it two in no time at all. With that came came a change and on debut Lazar Markovic looked bright. City introduced Aguero and within nanoseconds he was racing away from Dejan Lovren and slotting past Mignolet at the near post. Both the Croatian defender and the Belgian ‘keeper could be called at fault for the simple nature of the game-sealing goal.
Rodgers threw on Rickie Lambert and Emre Can and not long after his arrival Lambert forced Zabaleta into an own goal. It looked for a while as if the boyhood red had scored his first goal for the club but replays showed that, after his initial header, it had ricocheted in off the Argentine man, Zabaleta. It was beautifully set up by Daniel Sturridge, who delivered a deft cross with the outside of his foot.
With the hosts already feeling the game was won, Liverpool were almost gifted a way back into it but as the ball bounced through to Lambert a minute later, he spurned the chance to shoot and opted instead to look for Sturridge, attempting to return the favour but his pass was off target and hooked away by Kompany.
Before the end Liverpool had injury problems as Johnson pulled up with a pulled thigh and went off leaving Liverpool with 10 men and new boy Moreno turned his ankle but played on gallantly. And so it proved to be 3-1 at full time and Liverpool fans took to trying to analyse the problems and the reasons for the defeat.
Glen Johnson, the ever popular England man, took the brunt of the blame in the aftermath and despite his performance being obviously poor, one cannot help but feel he is something of a scapegoat. He was undeniably below average and so can be said for many of his performances in the recent past but on this occasion he was one of many for Liverpool. The fact that all three of the City goals came down the left hand side, the opposite side to Johnson, should attest to that fact. Moreno had a difficult debut and despite glimpses of promise, he was well and truly at fault for the energy-sapping opener. As Lovren made a weak header in the box, the young Spaniard was caught on his heels as he tried to hook away and the rest is history.
Steven Gerrard has also taken a lot of flack following the game. Many bemoaning his lack of mobility, or his defensive frailties. The fact is that last season Gerrard was in tremendous form. 13 goals and 13 assists from a deep lying playmaker role is the proof in the pudding for that and although at times the defence does need a little more protection, who would you play there instead right now?
It was a below-par performance but fans mustn’t lose sight of reality. It was never going to be easy playing the champions in their own back yard and it was the club’s first away defeat in 2014, that’s rather impressive. This defence is a project in the making and with so many changes it is perhaps inevitable that cracks may still be evident at this stage. Liverpool have 3 points from Southampton at home and Manchester City away. The reds’ return from the corresponding fixtures last season? 0, zero, nilch. Rodgers was quick to point that out in his post match interview too. It was also hardly a flying start to the campaign last year either, 1-0 wins scraped against Stoke and Villa remember.
So, with Balotelli to come in and a weeks more training under their belts expect an improvement against Spurs on Sunday. Perhaps a return to the 4-4-2 diamond formation that worked so well last season. We also have Lallana and an increasing fit Markovic to bolster the ranks. There are 36 games to go, don’t let the boo boys get you down!
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