Belfast Telegraph

Hernandez able to expose Liverpool's flaws in defence

By Steven Beacom

Relief and joy for David Moyes. Frustration and fury for Brendan Rodgers. What a difference a few weeks makes.

At the start of the month Liverpool defeated Manchester United 1-0 in the Premier League. Last night it was the Red Devils celebrating a slender success against their biggest rivals in the Capital One Cup. After what was a humiliating 4-1 defeat to Manchester City on Sunday, Moyes needed this victory.

Another defeat, following on from the derby demolition, and the heat, already on Sir Alex Ferguson's successor, would have been turned up to sweltering levels.

The furnace was switched down a notch courtesy of a striker with wonderful goalscoring instincts aided by some of the worst defending you are ever likely to see in a top level football match.

Javier Hernandez, Chicharito, Little Pea, call him what you like, if given the time and space that Liverpool allowed him inside the area, he'll take advantage. That's exactly what happened. The United and Liverpool fans had barely settled in their seats after the half-time break when Wayne Rooney floated a corner into the area towards Hernandez, who had the freedom of the six yard box and presence of mind to quickly adjust his feet and knock the ball into the net from four yards out.

Four yards out and nobody near him! As a defender there are laws against that!

Jose Enrique had been marking the striker initially but criminally didn't follow when he made a move.

It was kamikaze defending that beggared belief and angered Rodgers. On Saturday Liverpool conceded a soft goal to a corner in their home defeat to Southampton in the Premier League, but this one was even worse.

They'll have to sort out that part of their game ahead of Sunday's match at Sunderland, where, with Paolo Di Canio gone much to the delight of the players, the Black Cats will be scratching and fighting for every inch.

Otherwise more silly goals will be conceded and potentially a third defeat in a row will beckon for the Anfield outfit, even with Luis Suarez in the line-up.

Suarez, far from being the controversial figure on the return from his 10 match ban for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic's arm, was verging on being the model professional at Old Trafford last night.

He didn't complain when rough tackles came in, limited his barking at the referee and was not involved in any misdemeanors whatsoever.

Was this really Luis Suarez? Maybe the nasty side will return when he's played a few more games.

I'm not sure Liverpool can afford him to be too nice.

The South American hit the bar with a deflected free-kick as Liverpool chased the game and illustrated on occasion with his ability why Rodgers fought so hard to keep him.

It should be noted though that as Liverpool pressed to level, he was guilty along with Daniel Sturridge, Jordan Henderson, Victor Moses and Kolo Toure of being careless when opportunities arose to make a final ball or shot on goal count.

It would be wrong to say Liverpool, in a 3-5-2 formation, didn't play well at times, but the bottom line is they did not play well enough to win with opportunities wasted and slack defending gifting United a precious goal.

Moyes was not bothered by that. He would have taken a world class strike from 35 yards or the scrappiest effort ever to emerge victorious.

Making EIGHT changes to the side thumped by City and playing against what was effectively the strongest XI available to Rodgers, Moyes will see this as a huge win for him personally and the football club which was taking criticism from all angles after the weekend mauling.

Wayne Rooney again excelled while in central defence Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling stuck to their task which was more than Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic did on Sunday.

Perhaps Moyes should think about retaining the pair of them for the visit of WBA on Saturday. He'll enter that match feeling a whole lot better than he approached this one.

Belfast Telegraph

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