Leaking defence and isolated Carroll add to Liverpool'sg woes
A bad night for the Liverpool defence in every conceivable way. As if the club's proud reputation has not been battered enough by the gaping holes in the Luis Suarez case, there was the club's response of an ill-conceived statement before kick- off, and then the sight of Kenny Dalglish's ragged back four providing gifts to Manchester City.
Pepe Reina's concession of an early goal to Sergio Aguero, revealing the cardinal goalkeeping sin of failing to get your body behind your hands, was a misdemeanour even worse than fumbling that Danny Murphy shot which allowed Clint Dempsey a winner at Fulham last month, on another night in which Liverpool left town bitterly claiming they were the victims. It was also painfully easy for Yaya Touré to get ahead of Glen Johnson to seal a game which from then on was as bleak as the swirling Manchester rain. To add to this, Dalglish's complaints rang hollow on a night when Liverpool aired their grievances early.
It was his defence of the legal defence that was least edifying. In his unstinting conviction that "negro" means something benign, he glossed over the real reason for the commission finding against his player – the ever-changing testimony of Suarez, an unreliable witness – and sounded last night like an individual desperately out of touch. "We know what is not in the report and that's important for us. It's unfortunate that we can't be more forthcoming," he said, hinting at some kind of cover up despite the commission's findings running to an unprecedented 115 pages. "If you get into asking a linguistic expert.. they will tell you that the part of the country in Uruguay where he [Suarez] comes from, negro is perfectly acceptable," he added – despite the commission's employment of an expert linguistics team to prove this might well not be so.
Liverpool, who had gone almost as far as they could before the match in suggesting a conspiracy against them, might as well go ahead and reveal the missing details, it was reasonably put to Dalglish. Or at least put their convictions into action and appeal the decision. "That's up to the club to decide what they want to do," replied Dalglish, sinking fast.
If there is any bright side to this sorry saga then it is the chance it presents for Andy Carroll to play consecutive games and grow in confidence, though that felt like a forlorn hope, too. There were hints of what Liverpool paid £35m for, when the difference between Carroll and Micah Richards in the air proved so vast that the striker climbed so far above the City defender that he was able to chest the ball into the path of Charlie Adam. It was one of the most promising moments for Liverpool.
Yet the reason why Carroll has found the net only three times for Liverpool – and not once at Anfield – since his two goals against City in last April's home encounter with City is that the club who paid all that money for him have not calculated how to operate with him. The opportunities he was presented with were dreadfully meagre – a flick of the right boot sent a clipped Stewart Downing effort from the left trickling miserably wide – and the abiding image of last night was Carroll, surrounded by a sea of blue shirts and a good 10 yards ahead of anyone in red.
Liverpool now face a monumental battle to progress beyond a Carling Cup semi-final with City, which brings them back to this stadium next Wednesday. With no initial word on how they would respond to the commission report, it had seemed that they might push their response to the deadline – 13 January – to at least give Suarez the chance to play in that first leg, though Dalglish does not seem to have considered this.
He added Craig Bellamy, the ideal link man, as last evening wore on but Carroll's isolation continued and though it was a mildly contentious penalty which sealed a severe defeat for his side, Dalglish seemed too forlorn even to attempt a defence of the offending Martin Skrtel.