Liverpool supporters talk about European nights at Anfield, but it was French side Lyon who “did a Liverpool” Tuesday night with an injury-time goal to seal a 2-1 come from behind victory on Merseyside.
The win for Lyon was a bit of a harsh result for the Reds especially since Rafael Benitez’s side played far better than they did against Sunderland. However, that was until Lyon equalized in the 72nd minute from a goal by Gonalons. Not surprisingly for Liverpool, the equalizer for Lyon came from a corner kick and the defensive weaknesses were again exposed as several Liverpool players stood frozen watching Jose Pepe Reina pull off two impressive saves only for the third attempt on goal to sail in near the far post.
Prior to that goal, the man of the match was Lyon goalkeeper Lloris who pulled off several magnificent saves to limit Liverpool to the solitary goal. But for the final 20 minutes of the match, Lyon looked the team more likely to score so it was little surprise when Delgado popped up near the far post to slot the winner during injury time.
For Rafael Benitez, he is in a whole lot of trouble right now. His players aren’t coming out on to the pitch all fired up and determined to win. Even bottom placed Portsmouth look more committed to fight for a win than the Liverpool players do right now, which is a troubling sign that even the players have lost faith in Benitez.
Other than injuries, the other issue Benitez finds himself grappling with is player selection. For example, based on Tuesday night’s performance, the only four players who gave 100% and were fighting for Liverpool were Dirk Kuyt, Jose Pepe Reina, Yossi Benayoun and Fabio Aurelio. The other players were invisible. Where was Javier Mascherano, Lucas Leiva and David Ngog — just to name a few?
The player selection issue is not what players to start, but which players Benitez should drop. The challenge that Benitez faces is that he can’t afford to drop many players because who is he going to replace them with?
A continued worrying sign for Liverpool is that they’re impotent where it matters, up front. I understood Benitez’s decision to take Benayoun off the pitch because he felt the Israeli international was getting tired, but even a tired Benayoun has more skill in his left foot than Andriy Voronin.
Really, this Liverpool side is in such a shambles right now. Stranger things have happened, but I don’t see who in this Liverpool side are willing to stand up and be counted against Manchester United at Anfield. Kuyt will give his 100% as he always does, but other than the Dutchman and a couple of other players, the spine in this team is incredibly weak. On top of that, Gerrard and Torres are out. This could end up being a very embarrassing day in Liverpool on Sunday if Manchester United play to their upmost abilities.
To me, this Liverpool side has regressed and doesn’t seem to be improving. How is it that regular viewers of Liverpool can notice so many areas that need to be fixed but nothing is done? The most obvious example is Rafael Benitez’s insistence that Liverpool use zonal marking on corner kicks. But time after time again, we have seen how this hasn’t worked and has lost Liverpool vital points. Instead of being so stubborn, why doesn’t Benitez admit his mistake and have his team settle on man-to-man marking during corners?
Liverpool’s other obvious weakness has been up front and finding a suitable player to step in for Fernando Torres when he’s injured or needs relief. Robbie Keane, despite a poor start at Anfield, would have been the perfect player to fit into that role. But even though things didn’t work out with Keane, there are plenty of strikers at other clubs who are far more dangerous than Ngog and Voronin combined.
Speaking of Torres and Gerrard, there are only so many times you can call on them for help before the well runs dry. Both players have pulled off so many late winners that you have to argue that they’ve been carrying the team for too long and that the rest of the players have gotten comfortable in allowing the dynamic duo to bail them out time after time.
You would think that out of Liverpool’s 46 players in their squad, they would have more depth in terms of quality. But, no. Take a look at the list if you don’t believe me and tell me what the heck many of these footballers are doing on Liverpool’s books. In comparison, Manchester United has 38 players in their first team squad and there is far more depth there than at Anfield.
The one thing about Liverpool is that when you least expect them to pull off a incredible victory, they do it. Even with Liverpool’s renowned ability to pull off miracles, a win against Manchester United on Sunday will be one of Rafael Benitez’s greatest victories just when Liverpool need it the most.