Liverpool fans are fuming at the suggestion that blameless young Spearing had anything other than the Corinthian spirit in mind when he tumbled in the box some distance from where his path and Mensah’s crossed. They’ll take some comfort from Pete Sixsmith‘s even-handed analysis, balancing bitter disappointment at a worrying Sunderland performance with some admiration for the Reds’ progress under Dalglish …
Three things to say about yesterday’s game: Liverpool were the better side, the penalty decision was a disgrace and we are beginning to get a wee bit worried.
First things first, Liverpool deserved their win. They defended well with Skrtl and Agger outstanding and Suarez always looked a danger. His goal was very well taken and he caused problems for our defenders, Mensah in particular. In midfield they looked tight and well organized with Kuyt having his usual solid game. He’s a good player – reliable and sound.
They look like a side on the up, with Dalglish getting them organized and beginning a rebuilding programme that seems to revolve around Suarez, Spearing and, ahem, Carroll. The only thing I enjoyed in the whole afternoon was the crass incompetence of Big Andy. He looked completely out of his depth, surrounded by far better players in black shirts than those he had played with in black and white ones. He had one decent header cleared off the line by Cattermole but other than that, he looked like a latter day Tony Hateley.
The second point revolves around the penalty decision that gave Liverpool the lead. I hope that the assessor gave Messrs Friend and Smallwood a real ear bashing after the game. Here was a case of the officials clearly not working together. Friend was perfectly positioned to give the free kick when Mensah brought Spearing down. Some would argue that it wasn’t even a foul.
However, for Smallwood to then intervene a full 30 seconds later, is absolutely indefensible. My view is that he was influenced by the antics of the Liverpool players who were surrounding Friend demanding a penalty. He then made his decision, despite being 50 yards away from play and with players between him and the ball.
I have no problem with assistant referees giving penalties; we have benefited in the past. What I do object to is such a late call. If he felt it was a penalty, he should have drawn the referee’s attention straight away, not waited until the free kick had been given. Truly abysmal officiating and something which does nothing to assuage the view that some clubs are far better treated than others.
Incidentally, it was good of Jamie Carragher to come out after the game and say that it wasn’t a penalty. That would be the same Jamie Carragher who was demanding that the referee was wrong and that it should be a penalty; the same Jamie Carragher who nearly amputated Nani’s leg at the knee and then apologised for it afterwards. He’s a prime contender for the Hypocrite of the Year Award.
And what about us? It was a major disappointment in front of a full stadium. Those who were thinking about taking season tickets for next year saw absolutely nothing to persuade them that coughing up £400+ was a particularly good idea.
We struggled at the back, partly because the two full backs were crocked and partly because our two centre backs never looked comfortable. Mensah’s sending off was a correct decision (nice to see Friend get one right without depending on his assistants) and capped a poor game from the Ghanaian, who is looking less and less likely to remain at the SoL next year.
Midfield was disrupted by losing Muntari and Richardson within two minutes of each other, which upset the balance that we had. For the first 30 minutes we had looked the better side, passing the ball well and causing Liverpool some problems.
However, we never once looked like putting Reina under any pressure and most of our attacks faded away as we tried to pick our way through the box. Gyan and Welbeck looked sharp to start to with, but it soon dissipated on the twin rocks of Skrtl and Agger.
So, we are sat at the end of March with nowhere near as many points as we would have hoped for in January. We can hear the galloping hooves of West Brom, Wolves etc coming up behind us. Like Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, we are just keeping ahead of them but the pursuit is relentless and we have to be resolute in keeping ahead of them. We are now behind Bolton and Everton, two sides who have spent a lot less than we have and who don’t appear to fall apart after Christmas.
Manchester City up next. They are having problems as well, so we may be able to get something there. And then the “easy” run in which should garner us sufficient points to finish in the top seven or eight. Exciting, eh?