It’s the start of a new season, and for a soccer fan in America, it means setting the alarm extra early (or waking up on your own two hours early, shaking with excitement), putting on a pot of coffee, playing the appropriate tunes, and participating in rabid Twitter discussions on the coming match. The first one of the season is always special, as it seems to se the tone for at least the first half of the season.
And as a Liverpool supporter, that’s how my morning went. Shaking with excitement (and caffeine), playing “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” and arguing about Kenny’s team selection. I had high expectations for this match, especially since Luis Suarez and most of our new boys were not only in the squad but on the pitch.
The first half started magnificently, the squad showing that pass-and-move is still the Liverpool Way. Fluid, attacking movement throughout the pitch ended up with a penalty (and nearly red card) when Luis Suarez was brought down in the box. Despite my yelling and whooping in the darkness of my living room, Luis ballooned his penalty over the bar. He did, however, make up for it by putting the most subtle of touches on a wonderful Charlie Adam free kick a few minutes later. Attack after attack was then quenched by Sunderland, giving Liverpool a slim 1-0 lead at half-time.
No changes were made into the second half, where Liverpool looked decidedly impotent as an unmarked Sebastian Larsson hooked in a wonderful side volley into the net. Young John Flanagan was yards away from his marker, which showed the lad’s inexperience. On that note, Flanno did look wonderful attacking down the right, but his defending overshadowed all of the good he did. For example, losing the ball on a couple of occasions and caught ball watching for Larsson’s goal.
The rest of the second half went pretty similarly—fouls galore by both sides (Phil Dowd enjoying the sound of his whistle, it seemed) and the Liverpool third getting attacked over and over. Liverpool had a few strong attacks but they were either quenched early or sent over the bar by Carroll’s head. A very disjointed and lazy second half by Liverpool especially, and fans have plenty to complain about from Kenny Dalglish’s squad.
Player Ratings: Liverpool
- Pepe Reina: 9 – Looked good overall, couldn’t do much for Larsson’s goal. Too many punts to Carroll near the end, as he was desperate to get goals.
- John Flanagan: 6 – Good on the attack, contributed well to pass and move, but was taken too easily on the defense.
- Jose Enrique: 7 – A very bright start both defending and attacking, well worth the money. Still needs time to gel with the rest of the squad.
- Jamie Carragher: 8 – Still without a bit of pace, but did very well to lead his troops.
- Daniel Agger: 9 – Will likely be Liverpool’s best defender this season, his pace and ball playing helps start attacks constantly rather than punt it forward.
- Lucas Leiva: 8 – Liverpool’s player of the season last year wasn’t entirely visible all game, but that’s how he plays. Did well to break up attacks down the middle without resorting to throwaway tackles.
- Charlie Adam: 9 – Lived up to his hype of passing well and being brilliant on the free kick. Should have taken the penalty but nobody predicted that Luis would miss. Really needs to stop putting his entire body into a tackle, predict he’ll be sent off at least once this season.
- Stewart Downing: 9 – Worth every penny: Creativity, skill, excellent crossing. Definitely the best player on the pitch for both sides.
- Jordan Henderson: 7 – Showed flashes of his potential brilliance, but seemed a little too nervous in such a big game against his hometown team. Will develop into a proper player by the end of the season, just watch.
- Luis Suarez: 8 – Was quite brilliant, but his nerves and lack of full fitness showed when he missed the penalty and was taken off early. Could have made the difference near the end but he couldn’t help that he was so tired.
- Andy Carroll: 7 – Connected to many headers, but most were right at the goalkeeper or over the bar. Needs to develop much, much more.
- Dirk Kuyt (sub): 8 – Always hungry, always tireless, but lacks the overall skill to make a difference off the bench.
- Raul Meireles (sub): 6 – Made me sad that his impact had no teeth whatsoever, was really hoping to see him back into last season’s form. Maxi Rodriguez might have been a better selection.
I’m not going to comment much on Sunderland’s players, but Seb Larsson and Sessegnon looked good on the attack and their defense showed solid resolve to keep Liverpool out of it late on. Cattermole and Bardsley will need to calm down if they want to stay on the pitch in the coming matches.
Overall thoughts: If Liverpool play all season like they did the first half, a top 4 if not 2 or 3 position is not out of the question. The squad will need to gel and learn each other’s strength, especially Stewart Downing and Jose Enrique, who will provide the lion’s share of assists this season. If Sunderland keep it up and keep their best players fit, they could challenge for Europa places, not kidding. Steve Bruce (despite my feelings toward him) is a bit of a wheeler dealer and has picked up some shrewd signings in the offseason. Discipline and shape are heavily needed, as many of their players fit a specific role and will need to stick to that.
What are your thoughts? Give me your Sunderland ratings as well.
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