Liverpool FC finally won a match. Who would have expected a sentence like this, written in context of the Reds, just one season back? Regardless, after some four hours of no Liverpool goal at Anfield, Mario Balotelli (yes Mario Balotelli) scored in front of the roaring Kop and got Liverpool the essential equalizer. This is the competition Liverpool can hope to secure a trophy in, and the much needed tap-in came through the man who has been under most scrutiny till now. For the past month or so, anything written about the Merseyside club has had a negative undertone. Even though this was just a ‘Mickey Mouse’ cup game, this win could prove to be very important for the team.
Liverpool’s next three games are against Newcastle (A), Real Madrid (A) and Chelsea (H). All three games are tough fixtures for a struggling side. By the looks of it, the Magpies are just hitting form and will prove to be a tough test for Brendan Rodgers side. Liverpool need three points in the game to put them in a more comfortable position in the table and ensure that the Champions League objective, doesn’t become too much to hope for, later on in the competition.
The game against Real Madrid is going to be Liverpool’s biggest test of this season. Securing anything in this game, away, is going to be almost an impossible task, especially without a prolific striker. And the succeeding game is against league leaders Chelsea who are so far unbeaten in the league. This is the first time the two face each other after Jose Mourinho stopped Liverpool from becoming Premier League champions in April.
These three games come in the span of eight days and will take a toll on Brendan Rodgers and his men, especially with a trip to Spain sandwiched in the middle. However, the win against Swansea would give them some much needed confidence against Newcastle. A successful outing in Newcastle would further give them hope as they take defending Champions League winners in Madrid. This league cup win might end up being much more important than it presently seems.
Mario Balotelli saved Liverpool the blushes of a defeat at the hands of a weekend Swansea City, at Anfield. His goal came at the right time, both for the club and himself. Balotelli has found himself under constant scrutiny in the recent past. It has been debated as to why a talented, albeit erratic, striker like Mario has not done well for the Reds. A lot of conclusions have been drawn. Firstly, in the absence of Daniel Sturridge, Brendan Rodgers has played him as a sole forward, something he is not comfortable with, something Liverpool is not comfortable with. Secondly, the Liverpool boss has been blamed with talking too much about the player and putting him under constant, unwarranted pressure. Thirdly, the media has always been on his case which hasn’t helped him. However, none of this can justify some of the glaring misses he has made in the Premier League for Liverpool. Those misses can’t be pinned on any of the aforementioned points. These are all down to how under-confident Balotelli seems at the moment. This goal against Swansea- a simple tap in, from a wonderful, inch-perfect cross from Liverpool outcast Fabio Borini- will give the ex-Milan player a lot of confidence, and hopefully for Liverpool, Balotelli will get a lot of goals in the coming weeks.
Dejan Lovren, the other summer signing under tremendous pressure for weak performances scored the winner for the Reds and although scoring doesn’t have to much to do with what his primary job is, this goal would also bring the Croat confidence. He can build from this and be the commanding person in front of goal that Liverpool paid 20m GBP for.
Philippe Coutinho played the full game and was extremely impressive. The Brazilian was creative and composed. The one thing which has been missing from his game is consistency, both in the game and in a run of games. If the 22 year old can become more consistent, he would be able to live to the potential he has shown in glimpses.
Fabio Borini was on his way out in the summer but decided to stay back to fight for his place. The Italian was brilliant in the first half, slightly subdued in the second half, but had a solid overall game, which was capped off with the sumptuous cross for Mario Balotelli’s equalizer. Borini certainly made his case and might find himself starting against Newcastle.
Brendan Rodgers has operated the 4-2-3-1 formation in the absence of Daniel Sturridge and this system doesn’t suit anyone in the team, be it the attackers or Balotelli. With two strikers in the form of Lambert and Borini up front against Swansea, it was again illustrated that the diamond formation works best for Liverpool. Till Sturridge returns, the Norther Irishman should ideally use two strikers. Borini and Balotelli should form a partnership as Borini is more mobile and can work outside of the box and move wide (like he did in this game). Balotelli can stay in the box and do what he does best.
They need to go into the international break with confidence. Liverpool can build from this performance and result, and hope that they find success in the next week.