Wednesday, 5 August 2009

FC Lyn 0 - Liverpool 2

Pre-Season Match 2009

The Main (Stand) Man has certainly been clocking up the air miles this pre season! Following the Reds friendly in AT-AT country, he was even sober enough to send his Nordic match report from the 'Hurdgurdy Flurgjurgersson Internet Cafe' in Oslo! Enjoy.

I hate airplane food. And when it’s followed/preceded by some of the performances that the reds have managed so far during this pre-season tour, it is literally even more difficult to swallow. So my hopes were high that after the disappointment of Espanyol, Liverpool could come up with the sort of football that would inspire optimism in the face of the red-faced one’s attack on our club earlier today. With the Alonso ‘saga’ coming to an end, and the imminent arrival of Alberto Aquilani to replace him subject to medical, it is hoped that the main distraction faced by the players thus far is now concluded and the football can begin.

The line-up for kick off consisted of Cavalieri, San Jose, Kelly, Johnson, and Dossena in the defence, Spearing, Babel, Kuyt and Lucas in the midfield with Voronin and Ngog spearheading the attack. A mixture of youth and experience then, which seemed quite strange given the proximity of the competitive season, perhaps indicating that again players will be rotated this season according the demands of the fixture list.

The reds began well against a Lyn Oslo side that has only won one game thus far in the Norwegian League. Some clever passing almost had Ngog through within the first two minutes, and a chip forward almost found Spearing bursting forward. The home side then produced a moment of worry, as they broke clear down the right flank and fired a shot on goal which Cavalieri could only parry for a corner. Little else of interest was to be seen in the first quarter of an hour, both sides surrendering possession far too easily and Liverpool’s full backs, whilst admirably trying to get forward with pace, overhitting crosses on several occasions.

The next Liverpool attack was to originate on the right wing. Some interplay between Johnson and Kuyt led to the former slipping the ball inside to Spearing. The youngster controlled well with his first touch and then struck a decent shot which curved just wide of the upright. Kuyt then went close with a scuffed effort and had a delicate chip plucked out of the air by the keeper just a minute later. The signs were promising and Voronin took a potshot moments later which failed to threaten the net, but soon Cavalieri was called upon again. The ball found its way to the left hand side of the Liverpool penalty area, and Cavalieri was tested down to his left hand side, and a rasping shot from Ohuba then sent the reds keeper flying through the air to tip round the post. Lucas then went close with a powerful effort from outside the box, and this was followed by an excellent save at the feet of Ngog when he was sent clear by a slotted through ball from Johnson. The young Frenchman then almost created a chance for himself with an excellent flick between the legs of a defender, but the ball travelled just too close to the keeper who gathered.

With ten minutes left in the half, a flowing, first time passing move following good work from Lucas led to Voronin being sent clear. The Ukrainian attempted to scoop the ball over the onrushing keeper, and to be fair he did, however the ball also found its way about three feet over the crossbar. The reds defence then lost concentration momentarily, allowing the home side far too much space as a shot fired against the post. Again Lucas was involved shortly afterwards, when a seventy yard ball from Cavalieri found Kuyt on the right wing. His instinctive pass inside the defender found the Brazilian surging forward, but he was just unable to take the ball outside the defender. From the resultant corner, the ball found Voronin whose initial shot ricocheted back to him off Babel, but his second proved a deft chip which would have sneaked in under the bar had the keeper not tipped it over. Soon after the reds were in the lead, and on the balance of play it was well deserved. Ryan Babel set off on a trademark twisting run, pushed the ball outside the full back and pulled the ball across the goal line to find Voronin in the right place at the right time.

The referee blew the whistle for half time, and Liverpool trudged off with a narrow lead which should have been more. Rafa made five changes, Riera, Benayoun, Mascherano, Plessis and Degen replacing Babel, Spearing, Lucas, Kuyt and Johnson.

The first fifteen minutes of the second half reflected those of previous half, dull. There’s no getting away from the fact that sometimes this Liverpool squad can make the game look more difficult than it should be. However, from nothing, the reds gave themselves a two goal cushion. A raking cross-field ball from Mascherano found Dossena racing forward. The Italian took it past the full back and slid a ball across goal to leave Ngog with a relatively simple finish, slotting home into the bottom right hand corner of the net.

Soon after, Torres and Gerrard made their entrances alongside Ayala and Insua, with Voronin, Ngog, Dossena, and San Jose. The rapturous applause given to the two main attractions, though, did little to spur on the team in the immediate aftermath, and again the game descended into mediocrity for the next ten minutes. The next opportunity to extend the lead arose with just quarter of an hour remaining. Some slick passing between Torres and Gerrard was unable to break through the Lyn Oslo back four, but the ball fell to Martin Kelly who had ventured forward. The youngster showed good composure to lift his head up and he sidefooted a shot agonisingly wide of the post. Benayoun was then able to shift the ball onto his left foot and fire a shot towards goal, but the ball was too central and the keeper gathered with ease.

An injury to Albert Riera led to the introduction of Jamie Carragher as the only substitute remaining with 5 minutes left on the clock. Riera’s foot slid out from under him as he went to cross the ball and he was taken off as a precaution. The game wound down with little else of note, some potential chances being snuffed out at the last minute and some quick passing proving fruitless. At the final whistle, the reds had secured a comfortable victory against a generally poor Norwegian side.

Still, however, I find it perplexing that Rafa, in this penultimate pre-season game, found it better to go for the ‘pick and mix’ approach to his team selection. It is always nice to see younger players being given their opportunity, however with just the game against Atletico to come, I feel that the strongest side needs to be given more opportunity to rediscover their understanding in these semi-competitive fixtures before the season opener at Spurs. The performances of Ngog, Spearing, and Kelly in particular tonight were extremely pleasing, but the likelihood of any of these players getting a regular run out in the Premier League is minimal, so why are they spending so much time on the pitch now? I could understand better a decision to play the best team for the first 60 minutes and then effect a mass change to give a ‘second eleven’ a chance to show what they can do. With all this being said, we must have faith that Rafa has been through enough of these pre-seasons now to have a pretty good understanding of what is required.

To summarise then, hardly a scintillating performance at times, but two well created and well taken goals to look back upon. Perhaps the godawful Chicken Chasseur on the flight home might not be too bad now……….

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