Liverpool's lunch time kickoff against Manchester United a week a go was always going to be a game worth talking about.The events leading up to it between Suarez and Evra, and the events that transpired during. Having taken a week to digest, asses and formulate thoughts on, I have decided to not comment on it. I could being as this is a Liverpool dedicated blog, but Liver n' Onions has decided to move on. Talking about it anymore will just continue to distract the footballing public from what really matters…the football. This was certainly the case in the game, where the Suarez, Evra storyline stole the show.
This weekend the EPL was not in action as the FA cup took center stage once again. Liverpool took on Brighton & Hove Albion Sunday in the FA Cup 5th round, as they looked to continue their good form in the cup's this season. The match took place Anfield, for better or worse as the reds have yet to be defeated but have made it a habit of drawing matches. Taking into account how the Brighton side play under Manager Gus Poyet ,who on a side note publicly supported Suarez in the race accusations, could give Liverpool a run for their money. Brighton play a good brand of pass and move football, similar to Swansea City in the Premier League, but Liverpool's defensive solidity was backed to reign supreme. Brighton defeated Newcastle United to reach this level of the competition, a side who is challenging at the top of the Premier League:
Before the match I made some mock line-ups for the two teams.
Proposed line-ups for pre match:
Kelly, Carragher, Coates, Robinson
Maxi, Spearing, Adam, Downing
Actual starters Henderson ( For Maxi) , Johnson ( For Kelly) , Sktel ( Coates), Enrique ( Robinson)
Calderon, Greer, Dunk, El-Abd
Noone, Forster-Caskey, Barnes, Buckly,
Vokes started up top, LuaLua on the wing and Navarro in the center forming a 4-2-31
The line-up spoke volumes about how Dalglish feels towards the cup. A line up that is for me stronger than the one put out against Manchester United last weekend. Brighton is certainly a lesser opposition compared to United, and against United you can't really blame Dalglish for setting up more defensive. This said, Liverpool did exactly that, play defensively. Throwing caution to the wind sometimes gives players confidence as the intent to get a win is shown, and this was seen against Brighton. With a strong line-up emerging from the tunnel we can see that Liverpool's targets this season have changed. Fourth spot looks to be lost, and the chance of winning the league, was never a realistic expectation. Making it to the quarters of the FA cup and to the final of the Carling Cup is certainly a statement, and a valid possibility of acquiring silverware.
Martin Skrtel started proceedings off on the right foot for the Reds as he headed a corner in for the first goal just 5 minutes into the first half.
Right from the off you could see something start to click up-top for Liverpool. This is because Suarez and Carroll both started on the pitch. Bought for the dynamic big-man, small-man combination, we all have been left wanting, as they rarely see game time together. In this game you can see that you need them both on the field on the same time. When you play Carroll you need Suarez, because it allows Carroll to lurk in the box, as Suarez will come a little deeper to get the ball, so Carroll doesn't have to. Carroll doesn't seem to manage all the tasks required when he play's up top on his own. He's not a complete striker, he's rather one dimensional, although he claims otherwise. He needs to be able to rampage into the box, and be physical. He needs it served him, but when he gets isolated he has to work too hard to get service, forcing him out of position. Suarez is the perfect tonic, as he will roam, drop deep, pick the ball up and connect with one-twos in and around the box.
You could also see the importance that Gerrard plays in this delicate ecosystem. The accuracy, and vision in a pass, gives Liverpool the option to play it short with Suarez, or long to Carroll with deadly accuracy. Gerrard is the common denominator in this, and this cohesion has been missing through a variety of reasons, suspensions, injuries and such. We saw last night that it works, and well when all three are on the pitch at the same time.
A shaky start for the Brighton side was remedied with a wonderful strike from Lualua in the 17th minute, penetrating Liverpool's….Uhmmm wall? A blistering grass cutter gave Reina no chance as it leveled terms.
Another goal from Liverpool exposed a lethargic looking keeper Brezovan, as he punched across into the air with bodies falling everywhere. Suarez had time to take the lose ball down out of the air and release a shot that rocketed back off the Brighton keeper into the air falling to Glen Johnson who headed it in to Brighton's Bridcutt, who on trying to clear but ricoched it into goal.
Brighton looked particularly vulnerable off crosses, and corners, and most of the promising moves for Liverpool came down Stewart Downing's side. Liverpool flooded the box when Downing and Adam got the ball, and a few crosses wen't close to connecting with the pony-tail of Carroll as he vied with defender El-Abd for room to breath.
Let's face it Stewart Downing has been a sheer disappointment since his move from Aston Villa. Stats don't lie and the most glaring is his in the 2011/12 EPL season. He has played 24 goals, 0 goals, 0 assists ( that's right 0, not quite the ammunition for Andy Carroll) and he has registered 49 shots. I wish I could say well this is okay because he tracks back, "Puttin in a shift," but this is not the case. He is exposed when he plays a defensive role, a large part of his positions make-up is to help out his fullbacks, but Downing provides slim support. This is not to be forgotten, but with the Downing and Carroll combo finally connecting against Brighton things should be looking up….hopefully. In the 57' min Downing cut a ball into the box and the left foot of Carroll took care of the rest making the game 3-1 and possibly the killing the competition. Unbridled joy spread across the face of of Dalglish as two of his, highly scrutinized, big money signings combined.
Killing the competition is exactly what this did as, but losing 3-1 away at Anfield is no embarrassment for the likes of Brighton. Neither the scoreline or the lack of embarrassment proved to be true as Brighton was hit with another sucker punch in the form of a second "Og." 71' minute it was Bridcutt once again scoring in his own own net as he tried to clear a Gerrard shot off the line. The the match commentator offered some consolation to the Brighton player saying "it's not often you come to Anfield and scores twice. Don't think he'd see the funny side though.
Losing a grip on reality, Brighton suffered another tragedy when just three minutes later a 3rd own goal went in. Poor control in the box lead to defender Dunk kneeing a cross into his own goal making it a 5-1 scoreline. If I can get a bit "punny" with it it was certainly a slam dunk of an own goal...oh that's bad.
Polar opposites were Poyet and Dalglish on their respected benches. Everything going horribly wrong for Brighton, and all the hopes and dreams of Dalglish coming true as the 6th goal was a product of the Liverpool's highly priced, and anticipated strike duo combining. A cross found its way onto Carroll's head, who headed across goal to Suarez, finishing in front of a spineless and humiliated Brighton defense. Having just missed a penalty he makes it 6-1, and a smile reaching ear to ear beamed from the face of Dalglish.
Liverpool emphatically reach the quarter finals of the FA Cup and will face against Stoke City.