Liverpool started the day behind Everton and 8 points adrift of Newcastle. A win was a must if we were to get a degree of respectability back into the league season, and it would have also stopped the rot that threatens to ruin the semifinal at Wembley. Confidence is a huge thing, but the way things stand, Everton will be going into the semi final on a good run of results, and ahead of us. They’ll also have the recent loss in their minds, and we’ll be going there with our tails between our legs.
As it turned out we lost 2 nil. The first was massively against the run of play, as we had controlled the game until then and could so easily have been ahead. Carroll had an effort saved on the line by what looked like Ben Arfa’s hand, and there were a number of opportunities for Liverpool to take the lead. It had been a fantastic start from Liverpool, but once Newcastle took the lead, it seemed to deflate the entire team and the rest of the first half was a drab and dire affair.
The second half didn’t get much better. You would think being one nil down at half time would have lit a fire under some people. We couldn’t possibly contemplate being behind Everton, and you’d think Andy Carroll and Enrique would be urging their team-mates on to a win. However, with 60 minutes gone Newcastle doubled their lead, although one has to say that the sun must have been really bad for the linesman not to spot the fact that Cisse was 5 yards offside for his second goal.
From there it just seemed to get worse and worse for Liverpool. Looking mostly clueless all over the park, with hardly anything coming to Suarez, Bellamy or Carroll, the fans waited and waited for something to change, but we had to wait until over 15 minutes after the second goal for the first change. That change saw Shelvey come off for Downing. I personally would have preferred Shelvey to stay on, and for Spearing to be replaced. Spearing was mostly absent, and with a 2-0 deficit to make up, a holding midfielder that had not done a lot (not necessarily his fault) would seem to be a better choice.
Then with 10 minutes to go, the next bit of bad news happened. Carroll subbed off for Kuyt, and Bellamy off for Henderson. First of all, that just baffles me. You’re two nil down and you take off two threats up front, and one of those for a player that has been mostly invisible all season? Carroll then made things worse by storming off down the tunnel. A lot of fans seem to have fallen in on the Kenny side of this one and slated Carroll for storming off. The man is lacking the goal scoring touch, and as a result confidence. When he does play well he gets benched for the next game, and here he is doing as well as any striker against his former team. To sub him is just kicking a man when he’s down.
Now had he been subbed for somebody like Sterling then fair enough, but to see both him and Bellamy off for Kuyt and Henderson just seemed to me like we were throwing in the towel. I expect there will be some recourse for Andy Carroll here, and there may be some sort of fine, but once again I can’t help but feel that he has been badly handled. You almost feel that for his own sake he should be sold, before he becomes another promising talent that falls by the wayside. That leads to the next problem. What was up with that bench? I know he said he wouldn’t push Sterling too soon, but to not have him even on the bench seemed silly. I would have him on there just as a fear factor, and the different options he provides. We do not have anybody like Sterling in the squad, and if anything the way this game was panning out, his talents would have been useful. The back four were fairly well drilled for Newcastle today and they handled all crosses with ease. To put Downing on, and then to take off Carroll seems counter-intuitive, and it would have made some sense to bring on a player who could create something from running at people.
So surely that was enough drama for one game right? Unfortunately for Liverpool the answer is no. With 83 minutes gone, Pepe Reina stopped a shot, picked up his fumble and started to run out, before Perch tripped him up. Pepe took offence to that, chested Perch, before then moving his head towards Perch’s head. There was no contact made, and Perch girled his way to the floor, but whether there was contact made or not it was a dumb thing to do. Perch got booked and Reina got sent off (and with no subs left it was left to Enrique to go in goal). It will definitely be a one match ban, although you assume that the referee will put it down as violent conduct which will result in a three match ban. Of course there could be an appeal, but he went in with his head, the fact that there was no contact made is unlikely to be seen as a reasonable defence. That will mean that Pepe will miss the semi final game versus Everton.
However, even that was not the end to the bad news for Liverpool. The final tell-tale sign of things being bad within the club was what happened as Reina was walking off towards the tunnel. Kenny seemed to be on the pitch talking to the players and Stevie G especially. Stevie G waved him off the pitch and turned away. That to me is not a sign of team solidarity, not one of players getting behind their manager during a bad patch. It will be interesting to see what is made of that, maybe Stevie G was urging him to get off before he got a touchline ban, but it seemed more than that. This seemed like a captain that had had enough.