Venue: Anfield, Liverpool
Optimism: Very little
Given the size of the task in hand, it was hardly surprising to see Jokanovic name a back 5, which quickly revealed itself to be a back 4 with Callum Chambers playing the holding midfield role (!?). Even the FFC app didn’t see that one coming.
With TFU not exactly covering himself in glory on Monday, he made way for Christie at right back with MLM filling in on the left. Alfie Mawson finally got himself on the team sheet, which given the rumours that have been flying about this week was something of a pleasant surprise, alongside Slav’s favourite Belgian. Rico was once again given the task of trying to remember who was playing in front of him.
In midfield, as if someone had been paying attention to the Twitterati, Jean-Michel Seri found himself on the bench with Zambo joining Cairney in the middle with Sess and Schurrle out on the wings. Mitro, on the off-chance Liverpool would let us have the ball that far forward, took up the lone frontman role.
The teams made their way out into the midday sun with YNWA bellowing out around the ground before the near 55,000 Anfield crowd fell silent in respect on this even-more poignant Remembrance Sunday.
The game kicked off and despite a bright start (for the first ninety seconds or so) it wasn’t long before Liverpool started taking control of possession. Given their front 3 of Mané, Salah and Firminio, you’d be forgiven for feeling those 2,500 brave souls who made their way up to Merseyside were in for a very long journey back to the safety of the South.
However, after a few close shaves with Rico having to be alert on a couple of occasions, it was Sess who had the first clear opening on 24 minutes as he raced through before dragging his shot just wide of the far post. Schurrle then had a go 5 minutes later, with his effort from outside the area being spilt by a bloke with a beard called Allison, which required some last-ditch defending to stop to thwart the Whites’ chances of taking the lead.
And then in the space of 13 seconds in the 41st minute, jubilation turned to despair. A perfect Cairney cross following a short corner was met by a powerful header from Mitro who found the back of the net, only for the assistant referee to raise his flag for offside. With the players momentarily distracted by this kick in the proverbials, Liverpool broke and Salah engaged 5th gear and next thing we know, it’s 1-0 just before halftime. To make matters worse, replays showed that Robertson was probably just playing Mitro onside. Where’s VAR when you need it?
Mitro did have a chance soon after to level up but his weak shot was easily saved and the Whites headed back to the changing rooms somewhat unfortunate to be behind.
The second half kicked off and Liverpool started off strongly and less than 10 minutes later and it was 2-0 and another for the “Where was the defending?!” list. Following a wonder save from Rico to deny Mané, the resulting corner found its way to Andrew Robertson who whipped a cross into the far post, where an unmarked Shaqiri was on hand to sweep the ball into the net while Christie waved his arms in the air, which I assume was his way of saying “Oh, was I supposed to be watching out for him?”.
The match soon petered out, with the usual array of questionable substitutions being made, and any chance of the most unlikely of comebacks soon disappeared as we remembered that Liverpool are just much, much better than us.
The final whistle sounded and the players trudged off, another defeat under their belts. At least it wasn’t the demolition that many had predicted: routine, yes; embarrassing, thankfully not.
Final Score: Liverpool 2-0 Fulham
Two more goals in the GA column, another nil points and another couple weeks bolted to the bottom of the table as several players fly off to various corners of the world to give them a bit of respite from the dismay of Premier League football.
You’d have been the most eternal of optimists if you thought we’d come away with anything from this game. The first half did deliver moments of hope and on another day it could have been 1-0 Fulham at halftime, but it was not to be. There was some nice movement on show and it looked like we’d certainly come to try and get something from the game, but we certainly weren’t the best side out there. The second period, unfortunately, seemed to revert back to the toothless displays of recent weeks, but thankfully we were spared the demolition many had assumed was heading our way.
For the Slav Out crowd, this is hardly going to change their minds, but it also wasn’t the type of game that should ever decide a manager’s future. That test comes in 2 weeks when Southampton head to the Cottage. Anything less than 3 points in that and you have to imagine Alan Pardew will be hand delivering his CV to Shahid’s office (and hopefully straight into the shredder).
After the international break this time last year, the Whites only failed to win 8 of the remaining games in the season; what would we all give for a run like that again!?
If Remembrance Sunday teaches us anything, it’s perspective. And whilst we are going through a horrible time on the pitch (and lord knows what’s happening off it), we still have our club to support and we still do it because we love it, even though we wonder why sometimes!
Onwards and, hopefully, upwards. Come On You Whites!