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Liverpool 2-2 Middlesbrough (14-13 on penalties)

Posted on 24.09.2014

Shanks Grandson Christopher Carline on the Capital One Cup victory

Wow. Not seen anything like that for a while. Think that was the sentiment on many fans lips as they left the ground coming on for 23:00 last night.

The epic penalty shootout that eventually saw Liverpool run out 14-13 winners, both teams having missed a penalty a piece in the initial 5 taken, before a sudden death shootout that saw 4 of the original 5 takers have to go for second time, perhaps masking what is a niggling concern I have with our spluttering start to the season.

Sterling and Lallana were for me surprise starters in a first 11 that was largely made up of players who aren’t considered first choice starters in Brendan Rodgers strongest team. Even more surprising however was that both finished a gruelling 120 minutes ahead of the Merseyside Derby on Saturday. I have to say; that worries me as both should in my opinion start that game. It was perhaps for the best however in the interest of ‘getting a result’ as both were Liverpool’s most inspired performers on the night. Lallana for me was man of the match, and looks to be getting fitter with every game. At the end of last season; I was asked who we should sign and he was the first name that rolled off my lips. His low centre of gravity allows him to twist and turn under pressure and he possesses the ability to glide past opposition players riding challenges. He ran his backside off last night adding work rate to his game and he of course despatched TWO penalties in the shoot out.

Sterling was Liverpool’s creative spark all evening, and always looked the most likely to do something; yet in a strange twist of fate doubled up as pantomime villain on the night also; being the player who’s misplaced back pass allowed Boro to win a late penalty to equalise; and being the player who missed Liverpool’s crucial 5th penalty that would have avoided the epic 9 that were to follow. Still; his performance was refreshing and a Sterling in full flight is a site to behold.

Honourable mention also for Jordan Rossiter; who making his Liverpool debut bagged himself a first goal, demonstrating calm beyond his years to slot home into an empty net from distance after a defensive mix up by Boro. His overall performance was neat and tidy in the centre of midfield and fingers crossed the kid has a future here.

Most notably so is the lack of fluidity up front that seems to be dogging us and is hands down the defining characteristic that sets Liverpool of 13/14 apart from 14/15 so far. It is my hope that the return of Sturridge to the team will address this, his movement and pace a key feature of our game. For me, when he is fit, Liverpool should prioritise Sturridge, Sterling and dare I say Balotelli as the consistent front three and try and to settle them into some sort of partnership. We were so devastating last year because of the understanding and fluidity of Suarez, Sturridge and Sterling and we need to try hard to bring something back that resembles that; but key to this is Balotelli improving his work rate and movement.

A quick word of note on the penalties, which from Liverpool’s perspective, one aside, were coolness personified, even from the likes of some unlikely candidates. If we could add some of that coolness and composure to our defending at times, we wont go far wrong. For now however, we as fans were left to behold another defensive performance that at times dare I say brings flashbacks to the days of Bjorn Tore Kvarme and co! The defensive frailties continue to dog us consistently and whilst three of the back four who played last night are hardly first choice, we’d be lying if we said what we saw last night was a break from the norm of what we have witnessed so far in Premiership and Champions League games. It needs sorting. And fast. Especially ahead of the derby at the weekend, where we will be faced with delivery from the likes of Baines and aerial prowess of that belonging to Lukaku.

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