Well, that was shite.
Two changes for the Tricky Reds today, following the debacle against HRA (Human Rights Abusers) FC at Anfield; the injured Fabinho and not fully fit Thiago being replaced by Ozan Kabak, making his Liverpool debut, and James Milner respectively. This was our 17th (count ‘em- 17!!!) starting central defensive partnership of this most bizarre of seasons.
With HRA FC disappearing over the horizon in the league (although I refuse to accept defeat until it is mathematically impossible for us to catch them), it was essential not to drop points to the team immediately above us in the table.
A lively opening; Soyuncu nearly headed into his own net from Robbo’s cross and, from the resulting Liverpool corner, Maddison attempted to lob Alisson from his own half, but the keeper got back comfortably. Vardy managed to escape Kabak’s attentions but lifted his snapshot onto the roof of the net.
Henderson then released Salah but the Egyptian could only poke harmlessly wide, under pressure from Pereira. Certain teams would probably have been awarded a penalty for the defender’s sly nudge in the back but Mo never gets those identical decisions his way. Shortly afterwards, Mané shot wide from Mo’s cross.
We hadn’t even reached the 20 minute mark when our injury jinx struck again, with Millie limping off to be replaced by Thiago. Jones was booked for nothing, then Bobby wasted a glorious chance from Henderson’s cross. Schmeichel made a quality save but Bobby should really have put it beyond the keeper’s reach; fortunately for the Brazilian, Henderson was offside in the buildup and the goal would probably have been disallowed anyway.
At the other end, Alisson did well to deny Albrighton (after Robertson’s gaffe) and Vardy, after Henderson failed to reach a Barnes cross. Robbo had a low drive deflected wide and then Vardy hit the crossbar after Kabak slipped and Maddison played him through.
As the players trudged off for their halftime oranges, it was a pretty even game with both sides having decent chances. The best chance was the late one Vardy spurned but the visitors had certainly created a few decent opportunities and it appeared likely that the second half would bring goals.
The opening of the second stanza was diametrically opposed to the first, with sloppy passing, haphazard movement and bewildering decision making from both sides. The first decent action came just before the hour, when Trent whipped a free kick against the angle of bar and post; it took a slight deflection, granted, but was still a decent effort.
And then, on 67 minutes, a rarity- a Liverpool goal from open play. Tielemans gave the ball away and Trent intercepted. Bobby played in Mo… 1-0 to the good guys.
Barnes then tried to wriggle past Trent on the edge of the box; after a VAR review, the original decision of a free kick, rather than a penalty, was confirmed and either Maddison or Amartey scored from it; after a lengthy review the goal stood. Seconds later, Alisson inexplicably came out when Kabak looked in total control of the situation and Vardy pounced. From 1-0 to 1-2 in a matter of two minutes.
Alisson then made a great save to partially redeem himself but he could do nothing to prevent Barnes from making it three minutes later, the forward finishing with aplomb from Ndidi’s pass with 85 minutes on the clock.
Many are quick to point out that our players’ heads drop when things go against them. Was that the case last season? Or the one before? Or at any point since Jürgen came in? We haven’t acquired the tag of “mentality monsters” for nothing but it really seems as though the entire squad, from the manager down, have given up now. They know that the refs will do everything they can to shaft them and are powerless to stop it.
Next up is a trip to the beautiful city of Budapest to face RB Leipzig at the Puskas Arena in the Champions League on Tuesday evening. The Germans have won three consecutive games in the Bundesliga and Dayot Upamecano, Tyler Adams, Marcel Sabitzer and Alexander Sorloth were rested in last night’s home defeat of Augsburg. It certainly won’t be an easy one.
MOTM: those good people at Brewdog in Ellon, Aberdeenshire. I know a lot of beer snobs who turn their noses up at Brewdog, saying they’re tacky and too commercial; all I care about is the quality of their beer and their Triple Hazy New England IPA is a stonker: fruity without being cloying and very well balanced. At 9.2%, it certainly packs a punch; so much so, in fact, that I’m now going to have a nice lie down. Laters.