Liverpool won against Sunderland 1-0 and ensured that the second half of the campaign is where they really fight for the top 4 spots. An early Lazar Markovic strike was all that was needed for the Reds to walk back with all the three points. Here are three things we learnt from Liverpool’s win.
Young summer signings continue to show their worth
Lazar Markovic shone at the Stadium of Light. In the opening thirty minutes, he could have helped Liverpool be 3 or 4 goals up. A stonewall penalty against him was denied in the opening minutes. He soon scored after calmly escaping the clutches of Black Cats defenders. Soon after, a delicious looking volley hit by the Serb struck against the crossbar. Had that gone in, it was sure to be a goal of the season contender, if not the winner. The former Benfica man operated as a right wing back in the first half, but Gerrard’s substitution mid-way meant Emre Can was slotted on the flanks and Markovic moved up-front behind Borini and alongside Coutinho. The 20 year old has had a rough beginning to life at the Premier League club but his recent outings have shown that knee jerk reactions are not right and time and patience, especially for a young foreigner plying trade in one of the most demanding leagues in the world, are necessary.
Emre Can started in his now familiar role in the back-line and again showed how useful he is in the defence. The German has a calming effect in the Liverpool defence, and the fact that he is naturally more suited in the midfield means that he is much better on the ball and can move the play forward. His versatility again showed as he occupied the right wing-back spot in the second half after Dejan Lovren came in for Steven Gerrard. Can’s darting run in the opening minutes of the second half resulted in Liam Bridcutt being sent off, giving the Reds a one man advantage.
Brendan Rodgers heaped praise on his young recruits of the transfer window.
“Look at Emre Can today, young Lazar, Alberto Moreno and the other players. It has just taken them time – they have come to a new country and there’s a big spotlight on them because of what we did last year,” said the Liverpool boss
“It has been difficult for the team, but they are starting to settle into the philosophy of how we work and how we play.
“[Markovic] was fantastic – not just with the ball in his goal and the one that hit the crossbar, but his ability to press people and defend, which is important for us. He is only 20 years of age, so there’s a big future for him.”
Selling Lucas to Inter Milan this January would be a huge mistake
Lucas Leiva was about three or four seasons ago, one of the top 3 defensive midfielders in the league. Just a year back, he was surplus to requirements with the Reds. This was because of both his personal form taking a dip because of recurring injuries and subsequent lack of game time, and Steven Gerrard being operated in the holding role. When Lucas did get a one-off start, it was alongside Gerrard in that deep role and anyone watching Liverpool regularly will tell you that these two don’t work together playing in that defensive midfielder double pivot. In Rodgers’ recently fielded 3-4-2-1 formation, when Lucas has been used alongside Jordan Henderson in the midfield, he has done exceptionally well, as was the case today. The 28 year old shielded the Liverpool defence well, ensured the momentum remains with the visitors and helped his teammates boss the heart of the pitch.
Roberto Mancini has made it very clear that he wants the Brazilian to join Inter Milan. Recent reports suggest the Italian side is tabling a 7 million bid for him. Three or four months ago, that prospect would have been very exciting as 7 million pounds is a good enough sum for Leiva. Doing so now would be a terrible, terrible mistake. Unless replaced with a better defensive midfielder (which won’t happen). Lucas is the best player in that position in the side and has done very well in the last month or so, and his performances have made sure Rodgers can’t drop him. Liverpool’s shaky defence is better with the 28 year old in it, than without him. The player would be instrumental in the club’ quest for a top 4 berth and for a trophy in other competitions.
Liverpool need to continue this momentum
“In the last number of weeks, we have started to see that – the domination with the ball, the control, but also with tempo and pace in the team. Put alongside that a real willingness to defend then we’re slowly getting back to where we want to be,” said Rodgers after the game.
“We’ve still got a way to go, but the exciting thing is that in my two years here we’ve always been better in the second part of the season, that’s the business end.
The Reds put on a great first half which was just as good as any half they played last season, albeit without the end product largely. The second half was mostly subdued, but Liverpool were able to see out their one goal lead, and get an away clean-sheet. Last season’s title runners up need to make sure that the really crucial part of the season is met with similar performances and results. Things are going to get better as Daniel Sturridge has returned to training and could feature in next weekend’s clash against Aston Villa. Raheem Sterling was given an off today and would be returning against the Villains. In the next three to four weeks, Liverpool will also see Adam Lallana and Jon Flanagan return to the squad and their options would largely increase. Rodgers seems to finally have found a winning formula and now has to make sure he and his team implement and execute it on the field every single time from now to the end of the season if they wish to finish it in the top 4 spots.
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