Despite Their Flaws, Liverpool Earns FA Cup Final Date to Rescue Disappointing Season
Liverpool’s win against Everton in the FA Cup semi-final wasn’t pretty nor convincing, but the Reds took their chances in front of goal — something they’ve been unable to do for so long — and now face the winner of Chelsea against Tottenham Hotspur for a chance to win a second piece of silverware this season.
In high pressure cup matches, it’s often the mistakes that are the differences between sides, and that was true today where two mistakes and a goal from a set play helped both teams get on the scoreboard. Jamie Carragher’s embarrassing mistake in the back four for Liverpool gifted an easy opportunity for Nikica Jelavic to score Everton’s goal to open up the match. Liverpool seemed out of the match, particularly in the first half, until Sylvain Distin gifted Liverpool a goal after a wayward back pass fell into the path of Luis Suarez who calmly slotted the ball into the net to make it 1-1.
Last but not least, it was Andy Carroll who grabbed the winner for Liverpool — the second time in less than a week. After Craig Bellamy’s inch perfect cross fell into the box, it was Carroll who headed the winner into the back of the net on Saturday to send the Liverpool supporters into raptures.
I don’t think Liverpool fans or players will care too much, but the performance by the Reds was far from convincing. All that matters is that they won a match against a very difficult to beat Everton side. Looking at this Liverpool side, the most noticeable factor is that the team isn’t that good. Steven Gerrard is almost 32, looks older and wiser, but lacks the speed for those diagonal runs and blistering shots from the outside of the area. Carragher needs to retire. He’s been a legend at the club, but his playing days are long over. Carroll is improving, but he’s very much a one-dimensional player that doesn’t offer Liverpool a lot of options up front (compare him to a Clint Dempsey, where the American is deadly both in the air and will the ball at his feet). The list goes on and on. You can go through this entire Liverpool squad and pick weaknesses and players who have been playing either way below their potential, or who are simply not good enough to be playing on a Liverpool side who have much bigger aspirations.
Despite all of that, Liverpool has a golden opportunity to turn their 2011-12 season around with a FA Cup Final appearance and a chance to lift a second trophy — which is more than any other club in the Premier League can claim other than Chelsea, who has to beat Tottenham and try to overcome Barcelona to have any hope of outdoing Liverpool. Yes, the silverware is a Carling Cup and a potential FA Cup trophy, but footballers and supporters love winning. Having your favorite club pictured among the other winners at the end of the season with a trophy held aloft goes a long way to building confidence and attracting star players.
Liverpool, having made it to the FA Cup Final, have done a superb job at papering over the cracks in this side who have disappointed throughout the Premier League season. But they have an opportunity now to rescue themselves and use the Carling Cup and FA Cup finals as a launching pad to bounce from this summer, bring in new players and get rid of the old and tired ones so they can be a much better side next season. The FA Cup Final appearance will go a long way to keeping the pressure off Kenny Dalglish, but the Liverpool manager still has a tremendous amount of work ahead of him in order to turn the Liverpool ship around so they can be more of a force to be reckoned with in the top league. The players are out there to be signed, many that would love to be playing for a club who has so much history and such a massive global fanbase as Liverpool. It’s important that the club keeps its head down, works hard and learns from its mistakes. Cup finals are brilliant experiences, but it’s crucial that the Liverpool owners and management team stay focused on making the changes needed to establish the Reds as a side with Champions League aspirations. Anything less, even two potential trophies, is not good enough.