Missed opportunities cost us

By Paul Traill 02/04/2017  32 Comments  [Jump to last]
Liverpool 3 - 1 Everton

Over the years there's just been too many times that I've dared to dream going to Anfield only to leave dissappointed, that now I go with no real expectation at all.

Still we went. My brother actually flew in from New York for this one and after my Dad dropped us over near Soctland Road, we had a quick pint at the pleasant Barlow Arms before making the relatively short walk across Stanley Park. We gave ourselves a bit of time. On the last few visits to Anfield we've set off through Stanley Park a little too late and ended up getting caught in a chaotic queue to get into Anfield. This time we were inside some 20 minutes before kick off and even had time for a quick beer in there before finding our seats in time for kick off. Pre-game there was a fitting tribute to Ronnie "Bugsy" Moran from the Kop End before we got under way.

Like most I imagine, I was surprised to see Matthew Pennington included. My assumption was that Gareth Barry would be in to add steel into the middle. Though the selection raised an eyebrow, I wasn't exactly disappointed. It's good to give the young players opportunities and Dominic, Mason, Matthew and Tom will all have learnt a lot from the defeat. It was a shame we were so hampered by injuries. Losing both Morgan Schniederlin and James McCarthy was a heck of a blow, as too was Seamus Coleman. There's also Ramiro Funes Mori and not to mention the long term absentees of Muhammed Besic and Yannick Bolasie. I was watching ToffeeTV on YouTube in the morning and the host Peter McPartland made a good point that we never seem to be able to go there with our best team, likening it to going in with one arm tied behind your back against a karate expert.

It was a shame we conceded so early as up until then there was nothing in the game. I believe it was in fact the first real attack of the game when Mane had us panicking, his low drive eventually going through the legs of Matthew Pennington and finding the corner. Phillippe Coutinho missed a good opportunity which was well saved by Joel Robles and then headed away from under his crossbar by Phil Jagielka.

We eventually settled somewhat and were able to get up the pitch a bit more and forced a corner. This shows Liverpool's vulnerability somewhat from set-pieces, as it was quite easy for us to force a goal - a flick on from Phil Jagielka, the ball breaking loose to the alert Matthew Pennington who stabbed home from close range. Having now watched the game back, one of the pleasing moments was seeing how much it meant to the young players when they celebrated the goal.

It was short lived of course and a bit of magic from Philippe Coutinho soon had Liverpool back in front. I never really watch Liverpool games so don't really see enough of Coutinho, but I was impressed with how he took that goal. He runs at you with pace and just shows you enough of the ball to make you believe you can nick it, and then it's gone, and he' s past you. He lead Matthew Pennington a merry dance before finishing well past Joel Robles and Liverpool were ahead again....Coutinho, Firmino and Mane celebrating like dicks.

With little else created before the break I was relieved enough to go in at 1-2. The system wasn't working and we needed to give them more to worry about in attacking areas as it was easy enough for them to focus on our main goal hope Romalu Lukaku. No change was made at the break however and we returned to the field as you were.We began the second half brightly and missed two golden chances before Liverpool went 3-1 ahead. Ashley Williams had a pretty good opportunity when, again highlighting Liverpool's vulnerability from set-pieces he got to a deep free kick and when he perhaps could have headed goalwards or put his laces through the ball, he could only tamely side-foot his volley straight into Simon Mignolet. To be fair to Williams, as the lad next to us pointed out, he was probably expecting Mignolet to come for the ball, not do nothing. The other big chance came and went when I think Ross Barkley found Mason Holgate inside the penalty area with a great opportunity to shoot. Given how close he came to scoring later on he'll regret not having a go when the chance came. Instead he tried to square the ball and it was cleared.

It can't have been long after that when Liverpool went 3-1 ahead. Quite how substitute Divock Origi found himself in so much space, central on goal, I'm not sure, but that he did; however, what Joel Robles was doing, I just don't know. He was in no-man's land, way off his line, and for some bizarre reason decided to second-guess which way Origi was going to put the ball before he struck. As he decided to set to go one way, it was too easy for Origi to slot the ball the other way. He didn't even have to nearly find the corner.

Though we rallied and created a few more openings, it was not making the most of our opportunities and then gifting Liverpool their third goal which killed us. With our two opportunities we didn't even test the goalkeeper really, and then we gave them a simple goal. Had we have gotten to 2-2 with Mane off the field injured you never know how it might have transpired. Simon Mignolet also made a wonder save from Mason Holgate's deflected drive and Dominic Calvert-Lewin missed a good headed opportunity. Had we have gotten to 2-3 with time left in the game, who knows?

I'm not sure Liverpool were necessarily that much better than us. They took two goals very well and were gifted another. We created enough but were wasteful. We also missed key players with injury. The young lads will learn from it. I don't necessarily blame Ronald Koeman for going with three at the back. I can see why he didn't want to put Gareth Barry in there. Mason Holgate's most notable performances this season have been on the right of a three man centre back partnership. Though he tried, his ability to get forward and get crosses in from right wing back isn't really his game. Maybe putting a more natural right back there like Jonjo Kenny and putting Mason where he is more comfortable in the centre might have reaped better rewards.

On we go, then... and while disappointed we lost, I'm optimistic we can come back to Anfield stronger next season.

Player ratings

Robles: There was one moment in the first half when I wondered why he didn't come for what seemed like a routine cross, but his biggest sin was with Liverpool's third goal. I've no idea what he was doing. After some pretty major blips at Tottenham Hotspur and now at Anfield, I'd be tempted to put Maarten Stekelenburg in for Tuesday's trip to Old Trafford. 5

Baines: Did pretty well getting up and down the flank throughout. 6

Jagielka: Held firm at the back and was the best of our three defenders. 7

Williams: I thought he generally had a good game also. Will rue that missed opportunity. 7

Pennington: He struggled but never hid and didn't let anyone down. Nice to see him score his first Everton goal. 6

Holgate: He will also rue not shooting when he had a great chance. He'll also be disappointed that Simon Mignolet made a brilliant save to deny his deflected drive. Overall he didn't let anyone down, but we did miss quality of delivery from the right side. 6

Gana: Was our best midfielder. Showed quality in the tackle and composure on the ball. Speaking to a few Reds in the pub later on, they were all very complimentary of him. The ironic thing is that he will be disappointed not to have won his tackles in the build-up to their first two goals. 7

Davies: Was hampered by his early yellow card and then couldn't impact on the game as he would have wished. He still did pretty well and will learn a lot from the game and come back stronger next season. 6

Barkley: Had an infuriating game but, as my brother pointed out, he always at least has the courage to come back and try again once he makes a mistake. The easy thing to do would be to stay out of it but he never stops looking for the ball. We needed more from Ross to win this one. That didn't come but it wasn't for lack of effort. Oh, but stamp out that diving please, Ross. It's not welcome here. 5

Calvert-Lewin: Though he missed a golden chance I thought he had an excellent game, his best one yet for us, and he fully justified his inclusion. I now see why Ronald has persevered with him. My Man of the Match. 7

Lukaku: Isolated at times and Liverpool did a good job of stopping him, but I believe he could have given us more. If he wants that move to a Champions League club, he really has to make his mark against some of the big teams. Lucky for him, he's got another big chance to do that on Tuesday at Old Trafford. 5

Valencia (for Davies): Made quite a big impact and caused them some problems down the right. 7

Barry (for Pennington): He tried his best to influence the game in difficult circumstances. 6

Mirallas (for Calvert-Lewin): Probably should have been introduced sooner. He was certainly looking a bit miffed warming up on the touchline and he did one great run before skying way over the crossbar. Made a decent impact in a short space of time, which hints at what might have been. 7

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