Two changes for the Tricky Reds after the mystifying and, quite frankly, embarrassing draw with the Baggies on Sunday. Nat Phillips was brought in to replace the oft-injured Matip, while James Milner got a rare start at the expense of Gini, who either a) deserved a rest anyway after his recent run of games or b) is obviously packing his suitcases for his imminent departure to Barcelona.
A tedious first half saw Alisson have to tip a mishit cross from Wilson behind for an early corner, before our custodian of the rigging scrambled across his line to watch a header from the same player narrowly arrow wide. The Newcastle forward then outwitted Phillips to race through on goal, only to be denied by the stretching Fabinho.
The Reds started slowly and only roused from their slumber after a quarter of the game had been played. Milner’s shot was easy for Darlow and Trent’s cross-shot didn’t cause the home goalie any problems either. Firmino miscontrolled Robertson’s cross; the onrushing Darlow then made a fine fingertip save to deny Mo, who had been put clean through by Henderson.
Robbo couldn’t bring Bobby’s pass under control when he might have done better, before Murphy forced Alisson into a comfortable low save. As the players trudged off for their halftime oranges, we were hoping that things would improve after the break; they certainly couldn’t get much worse.
The second stanza started similarly slowly, with Fabinho’s yellow card for a challenge on Yedlin the early “highlight”. Joelinton then produced a comedy moment, making a complete mess of his attempted scissor kick from Longstaff’s hopeful cross. Mané glanced Trent’s corner into the side netting shortly afterwards.
Mo then cut inside Clark with ease and curled a shot towards the far corner… but it went harmlessly wide before Bobby took his turn to spurn a good opportunity, heading wide from six yards after Darlow failed to collect Robbo’s corner.
The ineffective Jones was replaced by Gini on 68 minutes and, five minutes later, the moment we’d all been waiting for (well, those of us who were still awake) finally arrived as the lesser spotted Thiago entered the fray at Milner’s expense. The Spanish international had a 25-yarder blocked and soon set about imposing himself on the game; at the other end, Alisson had to be alert to deny Clark, saving the defender’s header from Ritchie’s inswinging delivery.
And that was about that. Mané had a coming together with Darlow in the box- certain teams would have been awarded a penalty but we should be used to getting nothing from the officials by now. Shaq cane on for Mo in stoppage time- quite why, only Klopp knows. And then the ref blew for full time and everyone fell asleep.
Our wasteful finishing has become a recurring theme this calendar year, going all the way back to our Champions League elimination by Atletico Madrid in March. Sure, there are days when our forwards click and score a hatful but these are heavily outnumbered by those days where nothing seems to work; Jota helped to rest the front three but they look to be running on fumes at the moment. They need to snap out of their lethargy soon, though, or we’re at real risk of throwing our title away; we have already dropped as many points this season as we did throughout the last one.
Next up is a tricky trip to the south coast to face Southampton on Monday night. The wheels have come off for the Saints recently, with three draws and a defeat in their last four league fixtures, but they are a decent team and we underestimate them at our peril. Still, it’s the type of game we need to win if we are to retain our title.
WOTM: my other half’s sister. We are in a support bubble with her, so we spent a few days over Christmas at her place and she was the perfect host. Her food was brilliant and she even managed to get her kids out of the way by buying them a PS5 for Christmas and sending them upstairs. Good food, good wine and good company. Bliss.