Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Liverpool 2, Man City 2: A 'Sterling' performance

It is only the preseason, but that second half was some entertaining football.  I had to go and praise Coates in the first half, only to have him let me down in the second.  The Uruguayan defender couldn't really do much more save 'take out' Jovetic on the first goal and risk penalty.  Had Gerrard not deflected the ball into the Montenegrin's grasp, Mignolet would have probably scooped up the attempt.  It did slightly expose what became very apparent on the second goal, Coates needs to get stronger.  If he allows forwards to out-muscle him like the Man City forward did on his second score, he'll never make it in the Premiership.

As for the rest of the side, Sterling was the absolute game-changer.  If there ever was a sign of his world class potential, it was his very apparent ability to make his teammates look so much better, especially Henderson, who was having a rubbish bin match before our Raheem came on.  Not to take anything away from Henderson's brilliant finish, but it was Sterling's pass to Sturridge that set up the goal.  Beginning with an excellent set-up for Jack Robinson, which should have produced a better attempt on goal, Sterling provided chance after chance, terrorizing Man City down the left side of the pitch.

Sterling allowed a change in style of play, from a long-ball, centralized approach in the first half, to a possession-based, bring the ball up the flanks in the second.  Well, I should say bring it up the left flank that is, hardly anybody was on the right save Glen Johnson, who did himself no favors when it comes to his critics.  Even when he made a positive contribution, which was rare in itself, he would sure enough mangle it.

Lucas and Can were bright spots as well.  Lucas, in his cameo appearance, neutralized TourĂ©,  provided the brilliant assist to Sterling on the equalizer, and scored the winning penalty.  He provided a sense of 'calm' the team needed to get back into the match.  Can was simply a beast, roaming around central midfield causing havoc for City and making smart possession-based passes.  His style of play is very similar to the box-to-box midfielder prototype that is Yaya TourĂ©, if he can reach those heights, we'll have many years of success to come.

By the way, when did Micah Richards become such a school girl princess?  Before the match, I would have gladly had him come to Liverpool, but his wincing and whining, particularly after being man-handled by Can, has provided second thoughts.  He did more complaining than positive contributing, which is something we don't need.

Also what was going on with the pitch?  I realize it was played on a baseball field, but had this match been scheduled for the Prem or European football, it would have probably been abandoned due to horrendous conditions.  I don't know if the grass was too long or just the wrong kind, but especially in the first half, proper ball movement took an extra effort, which could have lead to a muscle strain or hamstring pull.  The stability in the 'infield' area was also questionable with a few players slipping, maybe that's why Liverpool avoided that side of the pitch in the second half.

Ultimately, this was a meaningless preseason match, despite what Guinness and Fox wants us to believe.  If Sterling can perform this well through-out the season, we'll be contenders until the end.  If Coates can play like he did in the first half, we have another option at centre back.  One thing I'm certain of, as they have both shown it the last two seasons, Henderson and Allen can play much better than they did, but Lambert and Sturridge will have to produce goals for us to have a chance at the title.

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