Leeds Utd 1 (Sinisterra 47)
Liverpool 6 (Gakpo 35, Salah 39,64, Jota 52,73, Nunez 90)
17th April 2023, Premier League.
I described the Crystal Palace defeat as an absolute shambles. This one to Liverpool deserves pretty much the same description although this was a Liverpool side that put seven past Manchester United not long ago – the last time they won actually, having gone five games without a win since. The damage was nowhere near so great this time either; we all felt the Palace game was a chance to put down a marker and show that we were capable of beating the teams around us near the bottom of the table; no one expected to get much from Liverpool.
Let’s try to put some context to this though. It is the first time in our history that we have conceded five or more goals in back-to-back games. We now have statistically the worst defence in the Premier League (many of us have felt it has been our Achilles Heel all season but now it's statistically proven!). We also need to remember that this was only the 4th Liverpool win on the road all season and, as already mentioned they were five without a win before arriving at Elland Road. Liverpool had only 13 shots tonight, the same as we had but they got 7 on target and scored with 6! I think I also heard that Illan has now been beaten by the last ten shots he's faced....
Not great by us then? No. With all the four teams below us in the table already having lost at the weekend, this had something of a ‘free hit’ look about it; a point or more would have been superb, would have boosted our flagging confidence and would have started to put real distance between us and the bottom three but it was not to be. What really is worrying though is the way, for the second time in a week, we crumbled in the second half and, yet again, the nature of the goals we conceded. We are still making it far too easy for the opposition to score, something that has been apparent all season. Radrizzani may yet come to rue his words last May when he told us a repeat of last season was “impossible” but, if he does, it will only be down to him and the club recruitment.
It has been patently obvious all season that we are not strong enough at the back and yet only the arrival of Max Wober ever looked likely to strengthen us in that department. Since he’s been missing of course, all the old frailties have come to the fore again, and how! We needed more quality at the back, we needed to recognise that we’d suffer injuries and we needed more depth in our defensive numbers. We got Max and Max got injured. Instead, we spent £37 million on a striker, Georginio Rutter, who is clearly not considered good enough to play much of a part in this scramble for survival. Even if he was good enough I doubt he'd score enough to counter the rubbish we are playing at the back!
A quick run-down of the game. Well, for 35 minutes Leeds did OK, much as we did OK for the first half with Palace – it’s this that makes the second-half collapses in both games so galling; what is happening to us at halftime? We’ve all heard the rumours about the dressing room antics, are they true? If so, is there a disagreement on the tactics Javi is trying to implement? Who knows? But it is a bit strange. So, anyway, for 35 minutes we did OK and actually created more half-chances than Liverpool did. But once they scored it looked like the confidence and belief just drained from us. The first goal should not have stood of course, it was a clear handball that ended a Leeds break forward and I will never understand why neither the ref nor VAR thought it should go unpunished; it even looked deliberate for goodness sake. Once the ball broke for the visitors we had no chance although it made me cringe to see Rasmus Kristensen looking so Ayling-like as he was left trailing Gakpo at the back post. A second goal followed quickly and again it was sloppy work from Leeds. McKennie easily robbed deep in Liverpool territory, a quick break and we leave Salah of all people free at the back post to do what he always does; score against Leeds.
We had a great start to the second half as Sinisterra robbed Konate and delicately chipped Alison to bring us back within a goal but within 5 minutes we’d messed up again as Meslier did one of his Kamikaze runs off his line and Jota outpaced Kristensen to score the third Liverpool goal. Another 12 minutes and another goal; Liverpool broke quickly down their left, Robin KOck=h was outpaced this time, the ball was sent across and Salah was there in our mythical, Bermuda Triangle back post area to fire his second of the night. The 5th was just a lazy swing of the leg that found the inside of the left post and to round off the half dozen Nunez latched onto a simple ball over the Leeds static back line and with the Leeds defenders ball watching he had all the time in the world to beat Meslier. Shambles, shambles, shambles.
A bloke stood near me at the game summed it up neatly: “We could have f****** Pele up front playing for us” he complained, “but if we defend like this we’d still get beat.”. It’s been the defence that has let us down time and time again all season and the worry is it will do the same in the next three vital games that look to hold the key to our survival. Fulham, Leicester and Bournemouth all have players who can exploit any weakness we show and I worry we can’t change enough in time to prevent it. Hopefully, we were holding Max Wober back for those games and he will make a difference but he’s not Superman, he’s going to need the rest to pull their fingers out and start earning their wages.
Leeds Utd Liverpool
Possession 26% 74%
Shots 13 13
On Target 3 7
Corners 4 2
Fouls 6 12