Tuesday, 9 March 2010

WIGAN 1 LIVERPOOL 0: Nightmare for Nando as Reds roll over

Football - Wigan Athletic v Liverpool Barclays Premier League


WHEN Fernando Torres has a shot that goes out for a throw-in, you know it’s not your night.

The normally lethal Spaniard left his shooting boots on Merseyside as Wigan deservedly chalked up their first-ever Premier League win over Liverpool.

Three times Torres was presented with chances inside the area and three times the travelling Kop put heads to hands.

First he struck the foot of the post from just six yards, then he blazed over from inside the area after a smart cut back from Maxi Rodriguez and finally he acrobatically volleyed wide after Dirk Kuyt knocked down Emiliano Insua’s cross.

The effort which went out for a throw-in was barely a half-chance, a speculative effort from 20 yards. But how many times has a fit and firing Torres buried one of those?

The truth is, even if Torres had taken one of his chances, it would merely have papered the cracks on what was a woeful display.

Liverpool didn’t have a shot on target all game and few players in a red shirt walked away with any credit from the DW Stadium.

Someone unacquainted with the Premier League could be forgiven for thinking it was Roberto Martinez’s side who were chasing the pot of gold that is fourth spot.

Because it was Wigan, who prior to this match had won just three league games at home this season, that started the game hungrier for the result and finished it with their appetite for three points satisfied.

Charles N’Zogbia was a threat from the off and time after time the Lancashire side targeted Liverpool’s weak spot – left back.

Insua has had a shaky season and while he has shown promise for the future he has been relied upon far too heavily.

With Fabio Aurelio sure to depart after spending more time on the injury list than on the pitch, a quality option on that flank looks a must come the summer.

But Liverpool’s off-field crisis – and it IS a crisis – allied to a now increasingly likely prospect of finishing outside the cash cow that is the top four means the chances of that happening are slim at best.

There is the very real prospect of things getting worse at Anfield. Much worse.

Marcelo Moreno was a whisker away from connecting with one N’Zogbia ball from the right after Jamie Carragher and Sotirios Kyrgiakos had already made vital interceptions to snuff out Wigan attacks.

That was with a mere 12 minutes on the clock and, unfortunately for Liverpool, that was the pattern for the remaining 78 minutes of the game, plus the five minutes of injury time added on at the end.

Perhaps with Liverpool never tasting a Monday night victory under Rafa Benitez, the result was not surprising.

What was surprising was that it took Wigan – with James McCarthy and Maynor Figueroa particularly impressive – 35 minutes to get on the scoresheet.

The goal came from a mistake from Dirk Kuyt, the Dutchman needlessly gifting possession to Emmerson Boyce whose excellent cross was duly finished from close range by Hugo Rodallega with Javier Mascherano's desperate attempt to cover coming too late.

Aside from the Torres chances, Liverpool created little of note all game, eventually resorting to pushing Kyrgiakos up front after the introduction of Glen Johnson, Alberto Aquilani and Ryan Babel failed to impact on the play.

It was a disjointed, ugly performance, a showing that made a mockery of the pre-kick off huddle, supposedly a sign of togetherness and team spirit.

There was little sign of either from Liverpool.

Rather than a fired-up fightback after conceding the only goal, too many players decided to throw in the towel. Others opted for throwing their toys out of the pram.

Five Liverpool players ended up in the book and it could have been more. Torres - yellow-carded for a ill-advised lunge on Boyce - was particularly childish as his frustrations boiled over, moaning to officials, throwing away balls and needlessly backchatting and ruffling Gary Caldwell’s hair.

Add to that allegations that Steven Gerrard put two fingers up to Andre Marriner after going into the notebook for a bad tackle on McCarthy, and you can understand why Benitez didn’t even attempt to defend his team’s performance, Liverpool's ninth league defeat of the season.

Perhaps the only positive - if it can be called that - is that Liverpool were not on the end of a heavier defeat. Wigan had their chances, and only a header off the line from Krygiakos prevented a bizarre goal after Jamie Carragher had first took the ball past Pepe Reina, and then cannoned a clearance against Moreno which was goalbound until the Greek's intervention.

A dejected and downbeat Benitez, barely audible at times in his post-match press conference, was asked if Wigan had shown more desire to win the game.

“Especially in the first half,” was the worrying reply. “We have to show more character.”

With a home match against Portsmouth next up in the league – albeit on the dreaded Monday night – surely Benitez was confident of an immediate response to this insipid performance?

“If you don’t show character you can’t guarantee anything,” came the morose reply.

“We cannot be happy, we gave the ball away too much. It’s difficult to explain. We had our chances but we did not play well. Everyone is really low in the dressing room.”