Jürgen Klopp made one change to the team that drew against Arsenal during the week. The only change being the return to the starting lineup of Lucas Leiva in place of youngster Jordan Ibe. Klopp opted for a 4-3-3 formation with the back four of Nathaniel Clyne, Kolo Touré, Mamadou Sakho and Alberto Moreno. Ahead of them in midfield, a trio of Emre Can, Lucas Leiva and Jordan Henderson. In attack, Adam Lallana and James Milner supported Roberto Firmino in the false nine position.
Liverpool started brightly and made their intention to take the game to their visitors clear. Indeed United saw very little of the ball in a frantic opening 20 minutes whenLiverpool set their stall out to attack, attack, attack. The Kop was in full voice and got behind the team in a fashion that one would expect in a fixture between two of the great teams of the modern era.
Chances fell early on for Lallana and in particular Firmino who failed to convert a glorious long range pass from Lucas. Milner was equally guilty of squandering a chance when he was teed up from an equally pinpoint cross field ball from Firmino on Liverpool's left flank. Up until the end of the opening period the hosts were easily the better of the two sides. Without doubt Klopp would have been the happier of the two managers.
Liverpool started the second half in the same vein in which they ended the first, but with even more attacking fervour. David De Gea made a fabulous double save. First from Can as he stormed into the visitors' box. And then from Firmino, who attempted to convert the rebound. To say that the Spanish international was the difference between the two sides would be unfair on Liverpool. What he was however, the factor that kept united in this fixture.
As the game went on I felt that if Liverpool failed to score, the greater the likelihood that United would snatch a goal and perhaps go from there to win the game. And as sure as "eggs is eggs", on 78 minutes Wayne Rooney - the last person you would wish a chance to fall to - capitalised on Liverpool's perennial inability to defend from corners. The United captain was able to pounce on the rebound from Marouane Fellaini's headed effort and smash home past past a helpless Simon Mignolet. 0-1, Liverpool with a mountain to climb. Needless to say this was a mountain the hosts were unable to surmount on this occasion.
Klopp in his post match interview, described the result as "frustrating". Somewhat of an understatement if the truth be known. The fact that De Gea was awarded the man of the match. simply serves to underline the frustration felt by Klopp and all watching Liverpool supporters.
In truth however, this is a game that Liverpool should have won, and won at a canter. For all their possession and 15 shots on goal, only four were on-target. This stat only serves to underline how they managed to fall short. An, even harder pill to swallow is the fact that the same stats for the visitors read four and one respectively. Go figure.
Both Henderson and Milner were guilty of poor decision-making when in front of goal as a little more composure and awareness of their teammates around them would probably have yielded a better outcome. Time after time shots seemed to be simply be blazed over the bar when there were better options available. This is something that Liverpool simply have to do better at going forward.
Ultimately as he is now the case almost in every game for Liverpool the defence falls short. I fail to see why having recruited Steve Caulker on loan until the rest of the season, he is not been given a start. Fact is, the current central defensive pairing of Touré and Sakho is not up to scratch and reinforcements and/or a change or sorely needed. Thus LFCl got what they deserved from this game due to their inability to finish and then greater inability to defend. A huge, big, fat zero.
Next up, Liverpool have the joy of hosting Exeter City at Anfield on Wednesday for the fifth round FA Cup tie reply. Klopp has hinted recently he will continue likely with the young side that secured a draw away to the Grecians in the initial tie. Lord knows, they have every chance of doing better than the lot that played yesterday.
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