Monday, May 9, 2011

Fulham v Liverpool: Picking Up the Pieces

32 seconds into the game and Schwarzer is picking the ball up from out of his goal. We all knew it was going to be rough from there, but it wasn't until 17 minutes later when we knew exactly how rough it was going to be. We were bad tonight. The defense looked poor. Maxi and Suarez ran around Hangeland and Hughes and the fullbacks did little to stop Liverpool from attacking down the flanks. There are a myriad of reasons (see excuses) that we can give. Hangeland is still recovering from his virus. We have nothing to play for, with no chance at relegation or a European position through our placement in the table. Nine days of no play left us rusty and killed our momentum.

Ultimately, we just had a bad night. The whole team looked flat and unenthusiastic, while Liverpool were up for playing and had a lot to play for. Suarez was brilliant on the ball and Maxi's hat trick struck a dagger into Fulham's heart. The back 4 was uncharacteristically poor. Even Schwarzer was miserably out-of-form, letting in Kuyt's shot that should have been easily saved. It'd be easy for me to go on about how miserable we looked, but I'd like to try and find at least a few positives, so here's my week attempt.

I think we found where Dembele needs to be placed. That is, in the midfield and not as a striker. I know that is a small sample size, but I think it holds a wider truth. Dembele is much more effective in the midfield than as a striker. He has shown off excellent ball skills, but hasn't shown great form at the tip of the attack in front of goal. In the first half, when he was playing as a striker, he completely whiffed at his one attempt on goal. In the second half, when he was playing deeper, he came in and attacked from a deep position to net our first goal. He looked more effective farther back; he was able to show his ball skills and passing skills.

The other thing we can take from this game is that the team didn't give up or lash out when they went down so quickly. At 0-3 down, I was worried about two things: that we would drop out of the game completely and lose by 7 or 8 and that our players would get angry and play rashly, causing us to pick up red and yellows that could hurt our chance of a Europa League spot through the Fair Play table. Thankfully, neither happened, though the first did a little. I was impressed by how the team fought back at the beginning of the 2nd half. We placed a lot of pressure on Liverpool and there was a lot of spirit in the team after Dembele's goal. Maxi's hat-trick-completing goal put a damper on that, unfortunately. In the last 5 minutes of the game, the Whites still had some fight in them. After Sidwell's goal--which was a gorgeous strike--Kakuta ran to the goal to get the ball quickly in order to get the game started again. Soon after, Schwarzer made a really good diving save, which was encouraging after his miserable mistakes earlier in the game.

The game was a bad one, but there were some positives, even if they are small. Let's hope this was a one-off thing and we can rebound against Birmingham this weekend. COYW!

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