Sometimes I just like to put the football on the TV in the background and just work away to the sounds of commentators, chanting and the usual football profanities from the crowd. Call me crazy but I find it very soothing.
There is a massive problem with this however, in that when a game becomes lively, it’s very hard to ignore what’s happening. Last night was a quality example of this happening as Liverpool beat (just) Blackburn Rovers 3-2 in a match that will surely go down as a Premier League classic.
The match didn’t start on fire or anything, I found it to be very scrappy in the opening exchanges. If I’m honest, that same ‘broken’ style of play would later provide the basis for an enthralling match and thirteen minutes in, Martin Skrtel picked an incredible 60-yard pass for Craig Bellamy to run on to. Blackburn’s defending for this goal was naive to say the least, there was no line, everybody was scattered, there was just no organisation as Blackburn tried to press Liverpool and Skrtel’s pass had torn Blackburn apart. From Bellamy’s position, baring down on goal from the inside-right wing, his low cross inside the area eluded a recovering Blackburn defence who were helpless to a Maxi Rodriguez tap-in.
Moments later, Maxi had doubled his goal tally and Liverpool’s lead when an Andy Carroll shot came off of Paul Robinson and fell invitingly into Maxi’s path. With the ball in an awkward position for Maxi to strike and presented only a limited window in which to strike the ball, Maxi had to get his technique perfect in order to score. Whatever Maxi lacks in pace and power however, he certainly makes up for in brilliant technique (watch the below video) and the Argentine put Liverpool 2-0 up with 17 minutes played.
Liverpool’s form since winning the Carling Cup (is it cursed?) has been dreadful. Nines matches played in all competitions and only two wins (one in the FA Cup versus Stoke City) has made for massive questions to be asked over the ability of Kenny Dalglish as a manager and of Liverpool’s squad as a whole. Personally, I think Dalglish is a poor manager. In post-match interviews he’s seen to be a horrible man and put it down to passion or whatever, but I think it’s bang out of order to act in such a way. Dalglish was a great player for Liverpool but as a manager I believe he’s very poor and Liverpool are deserving of much better.
2-0 up and seemingly flying, Liverpool’s Alexander Doni was sent off in the 25th minute for bringing down Junior Hoilett and as last man, Doni had denied Hoilett a clear goalscoring opportunity. I felt very sorry for Doni who must have found it frustrating to sit on the bench all this time, only to come into Liverpool’s first XI due to Pepe Reina’s suspension, have an FA Cup Semi-Final to look forward to and then have that privilege taken away from him because of a poor Jon Flanagan pass-back.
I do find it harsh for goalkeepers in that instance to receive a red card when they’re merely trying to win the ball. All the same, Brad Jones came on for Jon Flanagan and Jones’ first action was to save Yakubu’s penalty. Having spent a lot of time together at Middlesbrough, Jones knew Yakubu’s routine and saved with ease.
Following the passing of Jones’ five year old son, Lucas, in November, it was a very touching moment to witness when Jones first saluted the Liverpool fans, before turning his attentions to the skies to a watching Lucas Jones. Brad Jones dedicated the save for his eldest child and it was a touching moment for us all to see.
Ten minutes later, Yakubu had atoned for his earlier error, heading home from a cross and suddenly, Blackburn had what had seemed an unlikely lifeline.
At 2-1, Blackburn, pressured Liverpool and for much of the second half, Blackburn played attack v defence, hammering Liverpool’s defence and such relentless pressure eventually told as Brad Jones, wanting too much time from a back-pass, fired a clearance into Junior Hoilett. Jones failed to catch the ball on its way down and with Hoilett going away from goal to receive the ball, Jones pushed Hoilett to unbalance the Canadian.
In the heat of the moment, it was thought that a red card should have been given. In this circumstance, Hoilett was moving away from goal to collect the ball, meaning Liverpool’s defence were allowed time to recover had Hoilett travelled much further to get the ball, before turning round and positioning himself for a shot. A yellow card was sufficient enough for Jones, Hoilett had not been denied a clear goalscoring opportunity.
Not making the same mistake, Yakubu converted his penalty and Blackburn looked good to snatch another goal.
It really was relentless pressure from Blackburn as they desperately tried to claim the three points that would prove enormous in their bid for survival but sometimes when you’re at the bottom, fighting for your life, luck can play tricks on you.
With the clock ticking, a long-ball was directed Daniel Agger, positioned in Blackburn’s penalty area, the Danish international flicked a header on for Andy Carroll to thunder a header past Paul Robinson’s flailing arms.
From Carroll’s goal there was no way back for Steve Kean’s side and Blackburn’s home match versus Wigan Athletic in the penultimate match of the season will prove to be a decider in the relegation battle.For Liverpool, unable to claim European football or indeed find themselves relegated, they are not playing for pride, with the exception of Saturday when they travel to Wembley to play Everton in an FA Cup Semi-Final.
Finally this morning, I’m going to pay homage to the FA’s ridiculous decision to not award Italian striker Mario Balotelli a lengthy ban for his horror tackle(s) on Arsenal’s Alex Song over the weekend. (if we’re talking plural, look at the three challenges he made on Bacary Sagna)
A referee’s first priority is to ensure the safety of his players. The official that saw this challenge is failing on his very first priority and it just adds to the catalogue of errors we witnessed over the weekend. What makes the decision all the more stupendous if that the FA reviewed this decision and decided Balotelli’s tackle was okay?! Were the FA drinking Carlsberg Special Brew and throwing darts as they made this decision? It’s schoolboy stuff.
To rub salt into the wounds, QPR’s Shaun Derry will be made to serve his one-match ban for Ashley Young’s dive at the weekend. If you’ve not seen the challenge, an offside Ashley Young is brought down after Shaun Derry ‘pushes him’. When I say push, I mean that Derry barely touched Young, it’s a crazy dive and even if Young had have scored, he was offside, thus rendering any foul illigitimate
That’s your lot from me this morning. See you in the comments.