If Liverpool fans have dreams of winning the Premier League this season, they can kiss them goodbye. Today at Anfield, Liverpool escaped with a 2-1 win over Middlesbrough with a woeful performance that was rescued by an own goal and then an injury time goal by Steven Gerrard.
This was a cruel blow to Middlesbrough who played a strong defensive game for most of the match under a 4-5-1 formation. Despite creating far fewer chances in front of goal, Boro looked more dangerous after Tuncay spun around a Liverpool defender and his shot was saved by Reina. Then in the 70th minute, Middlesbrough took the lead after Mido struck the ball into the corner of the net.
Liverpool’s equalizer came later when Jamie Carragher’s shot took a wicked deflection off Pogatetz and into the Middlesbrough goal. Then, with the last strike of the ball, Gerrard popped up to rescue Liverpool by striking the ball into the back of the net to send the fans in The Kop into ecstasy.
While the result will go down as three points won for Liverpool, there were several major concerns about Liverpool’s performance today. After they were outplayed for portions of last week’s match against Sunderland, you would expect Liverpool to raise their standard of play for their first home league match of the new season. That was entirely not the case. Liverpool did create plenty of chances, but they were as wasteful as Arsenal are renowned for. Gerrard and Benayoun were practically invisible for most of the match, while Torres and Robbie Keane have still yet to strike up a good partnership.
But most of all, what was missing from Liverpool’s performance is their ability to strike the killer blow. For large portions of the match, especially in the first half, Liverpool almost put Anfield to sleep by playing at a slow tempo that was easy for Middlesbrough to defend against.
To me, that’s one of the major differences between Liverpool and Manchester United. With Sir Alex Ferguson’s side, you can often sense a goal when a goal is coming when they start their blistering attacks. With Liverpool, so far, they’re too predictable and will find it very difficult to outperform Man United, Chelsea or Arsenal this season.
Liverpool needs to improve considerably if they’re serious about trying to stay a top four club this season. Defensively they look strong as long as Hyypia stays on the bench, but they have issues in midfield and up front. The team is relying too much on Fernando Torres just as they did last season when they seemed to be waiting for Gerrard to create something magical.
This is going to be a long season for Liverpool based on their last two poor performances.