Much improved at Anfield but another defeat
Someone must have had a warped sense of humour to send us to Manchester City and Liverpool for successive away games just ten days apart and I am sure no one will be surprised to have seen us come back from both with defeats.
Both have been by a 3-1 scoreline but there the similarity ends. At City, we hardly bothered them and I’m not so sure they even had to step up from first gear to beat us. Yesterday was so different and this was really a game we could so easily have got something from but for big mistakes at either end of the pitch for which we paid.
Our inability to defend set pieces showed its ugly head yet again with goalkeeper James Trafford clearly at fault with the first goal, and at 2-1 down we missed three glorious chances to score, two from David Datro Fofana and one, a follow up to the first of those misses, by Wilson Odobert.
A late change to our plans yesterday saw us travel to Manchester by bus and then on the train to Liverpool Lime Street with the shuttle bus from there up to Anfield, and a very different looking Anfield to the one we last visited in 2021 with the new stand now open at the Anfield Road end. Once inside, with the digital ticketing system negotiated, we were actually on Anfield Road which is now part of the concourse.
The players were just finishing their warm up but the team news had come through just as we were approaching the stadium on the bus and it showed three changes from the team that came back to draw against Fulham last week with two of those changes in defence. Hjalmar Ekdal and Vitinho were left out of the starting line-up, taking places on the bench, with Maxime Estève, for his first start, and fit again Hannes Delcroix coming in. There was a first start too for David Datro Fofana who replaced the injured Lyle Foster.
Defending in front of us in the first half, it was perhaps surprising to see how much of the play was at the far end. We started so well and forced the first save of the day from Liverpool’s stand in goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher when he quickly came off his line to smother an effort from Zeki Amdouni.
We really did have more than our fair share of the play in the first half hour and looked the more likely but it was the home side who edged in front from a most predictable way. They won a corner on the right which came right into the centre of the six-yard box. Trafford came but got nowhere near which left Diogo Jota with the simple task of heading home. Trafford, in vain, appealed for a foul but it was O’Shea he’d run into. This goal, I’m afraid, was just down to downright bad goalkeeping.
We’d reached the final minute of the first half and we were so unfortunate to be a goal down, but then got ourselves a fully deserved equaliser. Odobert did well on the left and played the ball across to Aaron Ramsey on the right hand side of the box. His touch was poor and enable Andrew Robertson to get there at the expense of a corner, taken by Josh Brownhill. The corner was met by O’Shea who headed home brilliantly into the corner from around twelve yards out. From the far end, it looked a good header, seen again, it really is outstanding from O’Shea.
That quietened Anfield with Klopp scurrying down the tunnel, presumably having forgotten that it’s no longer Sean Dyche chasing him when Burnley visit.
It really had, overall, been a good half for us and I’d dare to suggest that’s the best I’ve seen us play away from home all season. Could we continue that in the second half? Could we get something from a Premier League game at Anfield for the fourth time?
We had a wait for VAR to decide whether it was offside or not but it didn’t appear to check the potential foul on Ramsey and that ultimately led to Vincent Kompany joining Klopp in getting a yellow card which will now mean he will have to take a seat in the stand next week when we play Arsenal.
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen us come from behind twice to get anything at Anfield so now the task was huge but my word we should have done with three big, big chances in less than four minutes. And it all started from Trafford making a good save from Núñez which ultimately resulted in us winning a free kick for offside.
Trafford kicked long and Liverpool allowed the ball to go through for Fofana who was one-on-one with Kelleher. He should do better, but credit Kelleher for the save but the rebound reached Odobert who took a touch before slicing his shot horribly wide. Two chances gone and there was one more to come. Delcroix headed a ball forward for Amdouni to flick on, leaving Fofana clear to the left of goal. This time he beat Kelleher, but his right foot shot went wide of the far post and with it, really, our chance of getting anything from the game.
There were still twelve minutes to go and I now feared the worst. Any more goals and it would like a hammering which it very much wasn’t. Thankfully, there were no further goals with Trafford having just one more save to make to keep out a Núñez effort.
There is no doubt, right now, that we’d just played one of the best three teams in the country and we’d equipped ourselves well overall but it left us reflecting on the big mistakes at either end of the pitch.
Generally, I thought we defended well and I can’t find much, if anything, to justify any criticism of our back four, but we were pulled apart by Alan Shearer on Match of the Day for our inability to defend set pieces and our insistence in playing out from the back. We’ve been caught out time and time again and you have to wonder about our defensive and set-piece specialists.
But overall, I left yesterday really pleased with how we’d played in general, just as I’d done after the game at Villa a few weeks ago. It was a huge improvement on the awful performances against Manchester City and Fulham in our last two games.
That wasn’t me quite done. It was back to Lime Street and on foot too given that there would likely be long queues for the shuttle buses. I made it, and in time for a train back earlier than expected and home in good time to watch it all again on Game of the Day.
Hopefully, we will take the positives from this performance into the Arsenal game next week. I’ve all but given up hope of catching the teams above us, but some positive performances and some better defending from set-pieces and who knows?
The teams were;
Liverpool: Caoimhin Kelleher, Trent Alexander-Arnold (Harvey Elliott ht), Jarell Quansah, Virgil van Dijk, Andrew Robertson (Konstantinos Tsimikas 90+7), Alex Mac Allister (Bobby Clark 90+7), Wataru Endō (James McConnell 90+7), Curtis Jones, Diogo Jota, Darwin Núñez, Luis Días (Cody Gakpo 82). Subs not used: Adrián, Ryan Gravenberch, Lewis Koumas, Fabian Mrozek.
Yellow Cards: Jarell Quansah, Wataru Endō, Darwin Núñez.
Burnley: James Trafford, Lorenz Assignon, Dara O’Shea, Maxime Estève (Vitinho 80), Hannes Delcroix, Aaron Ramsey (Han-Noah Massengo 81), Sander Berge, Josh Brownhill, Wilson Odobert, Zeki Amdouni (Jacob Bruun Larsen 86), David Datro Fofana. Subs not used: Arijanet Muric, Hjalmar Ekdal, Josh Cullen, Jack Cork, Manuel Benson, Jay Rodriguez.
Yellow Cards: Dara O’Shea, Josh Brownhill.
Referee: Tim Robinson (Bognor Regis).
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