Blues 0 Liverpool 1 .. Report

By Richard Barker
Last updated : 09 November 2006

Following the infamous 0-7 scoreline against the same opponents in the FA Cup quarter-final in March, Blues managed to restore a bit of pride, although that's all it was really, as the performance - and game in general - was pretty mediocre.

Liverpool made plenty of changes to their side, as expected, and Blues themselves made five changes. In midfield only Neil Danns kept his place as he moved infield, whilst Seb Larsson came in on the right, Julian Gray on the left and Mehdi Nafti in the middle alongside Danns. DJ Campbell replaced Nicklas Bendtner up front, partnering Cameron Jerome, and highlighting that I'm unable to count, as there were actually only four changes.

Blues started fairly well without looking too threatening until Julian Gray fired over when well placed. Blues were probably the better team until the midway point of the first half when Momo Sissoko took it upon himself completely disrupt the flow of the game by breaking his arm. Or dislocating his shoulder. Or something painful anyway. He was eventually stretchered off following his collision with Nafti and Xabi Alonso came on to replace him.

The first half continued to be fairly even without a great deal of chances but suddenly came to life on the stroke of half-time, and in the seven minutes of stoppage time that Sissoko had needlessly caused. First Blues went close following good work by Larsson and Martin Taylor, who drove a ball across goal that Campbell was just unable to convert.

Shortly after this, deep into first half stoppage time, Liverpool took the lead. A Jermaine Pennant corner caused problems... I'll say that again, for any Blues fans reading this who have seen him play before... A Jermaine Pennant corner caused problems, Blues were unable to clear and Danish centre half Agger who has hammers for feet (not literally) slammed the ball into the roof of the net from about two yards out.

The only really dramatic five minute period of the entire game wasn't over yet though, oh no... almost immediately, in about the sixth minute of first half stoppage time, Jerome was released through the middle. The Blues forward's run was checked by Gabriel Paletta, and referee Howard Webb waved away any free-kick/penalty/booking/sending off appeals. To be fair, Jerome did look to have got the better of Paletta who appeared only to have eyes for bodychecking the England Under 21 International - he looked straight across Jerome and not at the ball. Still, it wasn't given and that was that. It's important to note that Paletta is from Argentina, and as such, he cheats.

So, to the second half, and Blues really faded away - Liverpool dominated after the break, to be honest. They were supported by the travelling fans who sang their whole repertoire of about five songs, most of which they think are 'clever' and have been scripted to the tune of Irish songs for them by someone who couldn't point you in the direction of Anfield if he was stood in Stanley Park. When forced to think of songs for themselves those who had made the trip from Stafford, Belfast and Northampton managed to come up with "Steve Bruce, he's got a big fat head", which is clearly the pinnacle of Scouse wit, and "we only need six more" after about four minutes of the second half, meaning that it took them 56 minutes (including the stoppage time for Sissoko's injury) to refer to their victory in March. There's also talk now of a minute's silence before their next game out of respect for Sissoko and to remember him before the use of his right arm was so cruelly taken away from him.

Anyway, the second half was fairly uneventful. Blues eventually brought on some of their proper players in Bendtner, Gary McSheffrey and Fabrice Muamba, but the service to the former duo up front continued to be as poor as it had been to Jerome and Campbell who they replaced. Interestingly Muamba replaced Nafti, who refused to acknowledge his replacement, refused to acknowledge Steve Bruce and walked straight for the tunnel (including kicking an advertising hoarding on the way) and ignoring his manager's calls to come back to the bench. Nafti didn't have the greatest of nights and was booked early on - I suspect his show of dissent was more representative of him not being able to make the first team regularly at present, rather than simply what happened tonight.

Liverpool had the opportunity to double their lead halfway through the second half when they were awarded a penalty. Mark Gonzalez - nicknamed 'Speedy' because of his love of cartoons - raced down the left and after evading Stephen Kelly's 18 attempts to bring him down, eventually he was felled by Rahdi Jaidi and referee Webb pointed to the spot. Everyone knows that a super cool penalty can look, well, super cool, but for every Thierry Henry there's a Jermaine Jenas and for every Robbie Fowler (I suppose he could have taken it?) there's a Liam Lawrence. (For those who don't know what I'm talking about, go on YouTube and search for Jenas' penalty for Newcastle against Chelsea in Malaysia a few years back, and Lawrence's penalty in a play-off final for Mansfield a few years back too.) Well, if you had to pick one cocky little so-and-so who you'd wish looking like an idiot on, it'd be Craig Bellamy. Sure enough he took the penalty, and after trying to be clever and stopping halfway through his run-up he rolled the ball along the floor straight at Maik Taylor who saved it with ease.

This briefly galvanised Blues, but only briefly. Blues had some more pressure and Bendtner failed with a couple of decent attempts at through balls to Larsson, but Liverpool looked more dangerous on the counter-attack. Gray had another fantastic opportunity late on, but managed to volley straight at Jerzy Dudek from about three yards out when it looked easier to score. Gray is becoming a pet hate of mine, a bit like BT adverts. He had two great chances, but otherwise he too often deliberately makes himself unavailable to receive the ball, be it in open play, from throw-ins, whatever. Whether he's lost his bottle or what, I don't know, but Blues could do with an in-form Julian Gray at the moment so they could let McSheffrey have a go up front in a proper game, but unfortunately Gray's not proving to be an option and McSheffrey has to play wide left really because of that.

Anyway, after a few more Liverpool chances from Bellamy and Boudewijn Zenden the game ended and that was that. Are we bothered? Not really. This was a far bigger game for Liverpool, given that they've got about as much chance of winning the Premiership as I have of winning PFA Young Player of the Year 2007, and they'll clearly get beaten by Chelsea in the Champions League and FA Cup latter stages. For Blues though, they have bigger fish to fry.

The game was a bit of a non-event really - Blues looked like they were more focussed on Barnsley at the weekend (and quite right too) and Liverpool looked pretty mediocre too. Bill Shankly once said that there were two great sides on Merseyside - Liverpool and Liverpool Reserves. Well frankly, Mr Shankly, I'd back Everton to turn over this lot of Reserves. Robbie Fowler looks like someone who's picked out of sentiment, Gabriel Paletta looked out of his depth against Cameron Jerome - and that's saying something - and Jermaine Pennant looked just like this right winger Blues had when they got relegated, who was all nice touches, but no end product. Blues ended up robbing some other club for him in the end. Robbing Scousers, eh? Oh, the irony.

So Blues are out of the Carling Cup, and no one's really that bothered. I know I promised you all that we'd win 2-1, but I didn't know that Bruce would drop Stephen Clemence. I got Liverpool's one goal right, and had Clemence played, Blues would have got two, so my prediction's void. Onwards and upwards - forget these nothing games against Liverpool... bring on Barnsley!!!

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