Liverpool’s pathetic start to the season continued on Saturday following another dire display in a 2-2 draw at home to Sunderland. So what did we learn about the two sides following a game which included a penalty, dodgy refereeing decisions and plenty of action. Read on below to find out…
The pressure increases on Hicks and Gillett
Liverpool supporters’ group, the Spirit of Shankly, organised a mass protest against the club’s American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett after their side’s dreadful display against Sunderland on Saturday. It was a huge success with thousands of supporters remaining inside Anfield in a visible sea of red demonstrating against the current owner’s ill-fated regime.
This was acknowledged by captain Steven Gerrard and defender Jamie Carragher who clapped in support of the protest as they came out for a warm down after the game. Banners aimed at the American duo read ‘ You’ve done enough damage’ and ‘Built by Shanks, broke by Yanks’. Supporters are increasing the pressure on H+G to sell ahead of the imminent October 6 refinancing deadline from the Royal Bank of Scotland and more protests seem likely.
Question marks remain over blunder referee Stuart Attwell
Referee Stuart Attwell, formerly the youngest ever official to take control of a Premier League game, continues to make headlines for all the wrong reasons. The 27-year-old has already made a series of blunders throughout his short career, most notably awarding Reading a goal in a Championship match against Watford, despite the ball going wide by four yards.
Sunderland boss Steve Bruce labelled Attwell’s decision to allow Dirk Kuyt’s goal on five minutes to stand as ‘wrong’, after defender Michael Turner innocuously knocked the ball back to his goalkeeper to take a free-kick. Turner was also bemused by the decision, standing in amazement as Spanish striker Fernando Torres ran onto the moving ball and teed up his strike partner Kuyt.
The Professional Game Match Officials have however backed Attwell’s decision under Law 13, which acknowledges the ball was in play as soon it was kicked by the visiting player, Turner. Despite this, a FIFA source has revealed the game’s governing body will discuss a rule change later this year in an attempt to eradicate unfair goals. The source revealed, “It is certain to be looked into”.
Darren Bent & Sunderland continue to impress
Despite 24 league goals last term, Black Cats striker Darren Bent failed to make it into England coach Fabio Capello’s World Cup squad. The decision backfired as Capello’s side struggled for goals in South Africa, as the former Tottenham striker Bent contemplated retiring from international football.
Bent decided against this however and the prolific frontman has continued his good form and remains the league’s current second highest scorer, behind Dimitar Berbatov and Florent Malouda, on five goals. Despite a poor loss to West Brom, Bruce’s side have beaten Man City and drawn against both Arsenal and Liverpool and should improve on last season’s 13th placed finish.
4-4-2 and a chronic lack of width
When Raul Merieles signed from Porto earlier in the summer I doubt he would have thought he would be handed an unfamiliar right-midfield role after manager Roy Hodgson brought him into replace Italian flop Alberto Aquilani. England midfielder Joe Cole also found himself on the wing on Saturday, a role he performed at Chelsea, despite reiterating his desire to return to a central position shortly after signing for the club. The Reds suffered from a lack at width as both players continued to cut inside throughout the game.
Manager Hodgson remains unconvinced by the wing talent of Argentine Maxi Rodriguez and perennial underachiever Ryan Babel, yet his decision to swap Merieles and Kuyt from their regular starting positions was a baffling one. Hodgson continues to switch between a 4-4-2 and 4-2-3-1 and is yet to find a preferred formation. One positive was David N’Gog’s encouraging contribution alongside Torres as a substitute.
Hodgson continues to lower expectations
Many Reds fans were dismayed by Hodgson’s defeatist comments after the Sunderland game and Liverpool’s worst start to a league campaign in 18 years. He said: “It wasn’t the result we wanted but it was the performance we wanted.”
Liverpool however were outplayed for extended periods of the game and reverted to attacking the visitors on the break, while Bent believes his side were unlucky not to take all three points. Hodgson needs to turn Anfield into a fortress once again and should have blasted his players after one win in six.