If you take a look at the table below you’d realise that our two games against Citeh were pretty similar statistically. And interestingly we had more possession and passed more accurately than Citeh in both matches. So what was the difference really that we drew 1-1 in the League Cup Final and won 3-0 at home in the league?
Indeed the first goal is always important and has a huge influence on the outcome of any match, but although we went a goal down against Citeh in the League Cup Final we had the determination and fight to equalise through P Coutinho in the second half. On the other hand Citeh couldn’t find another gear to catch us in the league encounter after we scored first this time through A Lallana’s weakly hit but unerringly accurate long shot. For me in the end what really made the difference is simply the confidence and desire to win.
In the League Cup Final we gave Citeh too much respect and played too cautiously and this probably stems from a lack of belief in ourselves. The confidence that we would beat Citeh if we played our game and bring home the trophy. Most of the players looked a little tired to me and that could be a possible reason because we indeed had one less day of rest as compared to Citeh after our game against Augsburg just three days before the final. And what made everything we do even slower is probably because we were too cautious and therefore took more time to make our passes. But that being said the League Cup Final was a really close affair and we have got to be proud of the team’s effort. To have pushed Citeh all the way into extra-time until penalties is already a laudable achievement. But of course i can’t help but ask why not save one goal in the league game (2-0 victory) for the final (2-1 victory) instead bloody hell!!? Anyway…
A Moreno was torn to shreds on the internet after the League Cup Final and yes he was caught out of position too many times in the game. After conceding the soft goal to Fernadinho in the 49th minute, Moreno was left stranded high up the left wing again at the 59th minute as our attack broke down in midfield, and D Silva thus found space on the left-side of our defense to put in a low cross which R Sterling failed to connect with. In the 61st minute we got lucky when Moreno clearly tripped S Aguero in the penalty box. 64th minute he managed to chase back into defense after being caught high up the field again and received a yellow card for tripping Fernandinho from behind. I think the main issue with Moreno is the timing of his forays up the field. He has got to conserve his energy whenever possible and choose the right moments to support Coutinho up on the left wing. I disagree with J Carragher calling for Moreno to be sold because i think he can be a really good backup. But i agree that J Flanagan should be given a chance now at fullback.
And boy did the Scouse-Cafu grab the chance by the scuff of its neck because Flanagan was fantastic in our 3-0 victory three days after our heart-break at Wembley. It may be a joke when people said we got the match won in the first 30 seconds when Flanagan sent Sterling flying with a strong but fair challenge but it sure did set the tone for the rest of the 90 minutes and all our first eleven were just really up for the fight from the get-go. We pretty much won all the second balls and were all over Citeh from the first minute. If not for some fantastic performance from A Lallana and J Milner, Flanagan would clearly have been Man-Of-The-Match. He was to end the game with 34 accurate passes, 1 dribble and 3 clearances. His 6 interventions topped the table and he also came in second for both aerials won with 2, behind N Otamendi who had 3, and tackles with 6, behind Lallana and E Can both of whom made 7 apiece. His lung-bursting run back into our penalty box to intercept a cross in the 44th minute was as good as any of the goals we scored on the night because without which Sterling would surely have scored an easy tap-in. Besides his defensive qualities, Flanagan’s passing is actually also pretty under-rated. In the 22nd minute for instance, his one-two with R Firmino at the edge of our penalty box to instantly bypass two Citeh players who were attempting to press. For our second goal it was also Flanagan’s good ball into the feet of Lallana which led to the backheel and Firmino passing it in for the on-rushing Milner to toe-poke pass J Hart. Then again in the 47th minute Flanagan took out Otamendi when he hit a low hard pass into Milner on the edge of Citeh’s penalty box which resulted in Hart parrying away D Origi’s cross from the right. With this strong performance, Flanagan surely deserves a new contract and an extended run in our first eleven as our first choice fullback?
Before the League Cup Final many people were worried that our makeshift defense was going to be torn apart by Aguero, who arguably is the best striker in the league. But Citeh’s attack floundered like crashing waves on a rock that was the impervious Lucas L playing at centerback. Considering his strong performance in the same position when we defeat Augsburg 1-0 at Anfield, Lucas is clearly no longer a stop-gap option in defense. His bone-crunching sliding tackle on P Zabaleta in the penalty box 23 minutes into extra-time sums-up his defensive abilities. His reading of the danger and bravery to stick his foot into the fifty-fifty tackle. Lucas was to end the final with 57 accurate passes, 1 dribble, 1 aerial won, 2 tackles, 6 clearances (Topping the table with K Toure) and 7 interceptions (Behind only V Kompany who made 9). Not only does he bring better passing out of defense, much more importantly and similar to what Carragher did for us in the past, Lucas can often be seen shouting and getting the players around him organised. Did i mention i’m praying he will get better in the position and grow to become our first choice centerback? I am pretty hopeful on this because Lucas had always shown the determination and ability to remain an invaluable part of the team. Remember when he first joined Liverpool and R Benitez lauded him as a young up-and-coming attacking center-midfielder? But then he had S Gerrard and X Alonso ahead of him and was thus played more defensive in midfield? Slowly but surely he adapted and soon established himself as an excellent defensive-midfielder and today he has played for five different managers at our club. And at various times when R Hodgeson and B Rodgers were in-charge, though he was rumoured to be on his way out of the club, he always managed to fight his way back into the team. Lucas will always be one of my favourite Liverpool player of all time.
It is true that S Mignolet really should have done better standing up against Aguero’s shot in the League Cup Final that somehow slipped under his arm into the net. But it is also true that he kept us in the game until the penalties with a couple of outstanding saves. When M Sakho tripped over himself (Probably not recovered yet from the painful clash of head with Can just a couple of minutes before) in the 23rd minute, Mig was to make a fantastic diving save to push Aguero’s shot past the post. Denying Fernando in the 85th minute, Mig was to make an even better save four minutes later when he dived bravely at the feet of Y Toure from a Citeh corner and somehow maged to keep the ball out of the net. So how do you solve a problem like Mignolet? I sure hope J Klopp has the solution.
I was suitably impressed with Can too and he produced some really good all-action statistics for both games. Please keep in mind this is only Can’s second season as a Liverpool player and he is only 22 years young. And now he has proven that he can compete with the best after two strong performances against one of the strongest team in the league. I really think it is going to happen in the future and i cannot wait to see when Can leads our team out onto the field wearing the captain’s armband.
Yes Origi did not score against Citeh even though he was our main striker for the game and we won 3-0. But Sturridge would do well to start looking over his shoulders because Origi did everything Klopp wanted and the only thing lacking was a goal for his endeavours. Besides doing his defensive work by leading our press from the front and chasing down all the loose balls, Origi also contributed much to our offense with his pace and movement. Working the channels to receive the ball, he also made a couple of runs behind the last defender and his movement really stretched the play and created space for our midfielders to attack. In the short time in-charge, Klopp has already improved Origi’s overall play. Origi is now much more aggressive and is using his physical qualities to much better effect, be it using his pace to run with the ball or his strength to hold off defenders and keep possession. When he was substituted in the second half Origi was rightly given a rousing standing ovation by the Anfield faithful.
And finally take a bow Lallana. All the bruises you suffered are really trophies for you created so many problems for Citeh especially at Anfield that the only thing they could do was to try to kick you. Lallana looked like a kid who is kicking the ball for the first time when he was introduced for Moreno in the 72nd minute in the League Cup Final. He immediately injected a sense of urgency into our play, chasing down loose balls, shouder-barging Citeh players caught dwelling on the ball and putting his foot into tackles. And i liked it very much that he stood up to Y Toure (Talk about being a childish prima dona) although he almost got decapitated in the process. And i didn’t know that body suplex is now allowed in football. There was once a long long time ago when violent plays were not allowed and you cannot lay your hands on the opposing player. Where have all the flowers gone? (Indeed) And the three days of rest did nothing to douse the fire and enthusiasm in Lalla as he played like a man on a mission at Anfield and was deservedly named Man-Of-The-Match in our 3-0 rout of Citeh. Clearly having picked up some wrestling tips from Toure during the League Cup Final, Lallana decided to try it out against J Navas at Anfield by holding off and lifting him off the ground when they were fighting for possession. (Navas got a yellow card for his effort) Some would say that Lallana’s first goal was a tad fortuitous with J Hart’s positioning highly questionable but the third goal showcased the best of Lalla, as he got onto a loose ball first before showing two good feet to bring the ball under control while skipping pass Otamendi and then laying the ball off for Firmino to hit a first time sidefoot shot into the bottom corner of the net. It is true that all the Liverpool players are fighting to prove themselves under our new German manager and i think Lallana does suit the style and system that Klopp is implementing. After his best performance in the Liverbird jersey by far, let’s hope Lallana will kick-on and prove himself to be an invaluable member of our team. And incredibly Citeh has only beaten us once in 25 attempts at Anfield!
Lastly, do hear it from Klopp himself. Boom indeed!