Ranking Liverpool's five worst performances of the 2014/15 season
With Liverpool’s Champions League qualification dreams all but over, a period of self-reflection for the Reds and manager Brendan Rodgers has definitely begun, even if the season still has two games remaining. Whereas last season it would be difficult to pick the five best performances out of a plethora of top-class, emphatic and exhilarating victories, this season has seen a significant drop in performance levels and here’s a countdown to Liverpool’s five worst league performances of the 2014/15 campaign.
5. vs West Ham United (A) 20 September 2014
The first on this list would be the early season 3-1 defeat at the Hammers, where Liverpool were simply no match for an, at that time, in-form West Ham side. The usual poor marking at set-pieces cost Liverpool the first goal, scored by Hammers’ centre-back Winston Reid in only the second minute, before Diafra Sakho took advantage of Alberto Moreno’s poor defending to scoop a fortunate finish over Simon Mignolet. And ten minutes hadn’t even elapsed. Rodgers switched to a back-three with Javier Manquillo coming off for Mamadou Sakho, and though Raheem Sterling belted in one before the break, the Reds couldn’t find a way an equaliser, with the Italian strike-force of Fabio Borini and Mario Balotelli proving ineffective.
Even the introduction of Adam Lallana and late emergence of Rickie Lambert could not spark a comeback, and it was, of course, old boy Stewart Downing who picked up the loose ball in midfield to feed Morgan Amalfitano for the Hammers’ third. This was the first game that the Liverpool fans started truly doubting new signing Dejan Lovren, and Steven Gerrard struggled in the deep-lying midfield role with Downing marking him out of the game.
4. vs Hull City (A) 28 April 2015
By the time this fixture came around, the likelihood of the Reds catching Manchester United for the last Champions League spot looked slim, and this performance probably reflected the players’ lack of belief. Balotelli, after a season of poor performances, was once again given yet another ‘last’ chance to prove himself. The Italian enigma started brightly, with a back heel effort at goal, but he was the one who played goalscorer Michael Dawson onside, and when Glen Johnson managed to get to the byline and crossed across the face of the goal, Balotelli did not anticipate it well enough nor simply attempted to slide in for an open goal.
The Reds looked bereft of ideas, even as they dominated possession and efforts on goal. Johnson showed why he should be let go at the end of this season, while Sterling once again proved why he is simply not worth the money he’s demanding for.
3. vs Arsenal (A) 4 April 2015
A defeat at the Emirates wasn’t surprising, given Liverpool’s poor record there, but the manner of defeat simply hurt Liverpool fans the most, as the Reds succumbed to a 3-0 deficit come half-time. Rodgers had Kolo Toure back in the centre of defence with Jordan Henderson at right wing-back. Rodgers still pressed his players to play out from the back, which caused the Reds to continually give the ball away to Arsenal, who swarmed forward at every opportunity and could have been 2-0 up in the first ten minutes.
These mistakes would eventually be too much even for the in-form Mignolet to keep the Gunners at bay, and a terrific strike from former Liverpool target Alexis Sanchez at the stroke of half-time left Rodgers yet again thinking of what could have been. To add to the Reds’ woes, Emre Can received a second yellow, though questions could be asked as to why Hector Bellerin didn’t get a second yellow when he gave away the penalty. Still, Rodgers’ tactical acumen was again called into question.
2. vs Crystal Palace (A) 23 November 2014
This performance probably summed up the first-half of the Reds’ season, which was terrible defending all round. At that time, Liverpool still had problems finding the net, and would have been pleasantly surprised when Lambert gave the Reds an early lead. However, Palace got into the game and managed a fortunate equaliser through Dwight Gayle when the initial shot rebounded off the post. Lovren’s poor early season form continued as he was outmuscled on the left flank, which led to Joe Ledley’s go-ahead goal, before Mile Jedinak’s superb free-kick sealed the points for what was a struggling Palace side.
This performance did lead to Rodgers finally fielding his 3-4-3 formation, which led to the good run of form in the early months of 2015, but that evening at Selhurst Park was probably worst than last season’s loss of a three goal lead.
1. vs Manchester United (H) 22 March 2015
Going into this vital fixture, Liverpool were on a good run of form, winning ten out of 13 games, while United were merely limping through games with only a 3-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur the previous weekend showing any signs of the old United. It was all set up for the Reds, at home, to come within two points of the Red Devils with a win.
Alas, United dominated the first-half, with Maourane Fellaini proving a thorn in Can’s side, while Juan Mata ghosted in behind Moreno to finish. Adam Lallana had a superb chance late in the first-half to level, but could only shoot wide of David De Gea’s post. Gerrard’s 40 second cameo at the start of the second-half was ended when he stamped on Ander Herrera, and United made the extra man count with Mata’s superb acrobatics giving them a two goal lead. It seemed that Liverpool looked better with ten men than the eleven in the first-half, and managed to get within a goal of United with a strong finish from Daniel Sturridge. However, an equaliser wasn’t coming and a late stamp on De Gea by Martin Skrtel earned him a three-match ban to add to Liverpool’s suspension list.
As with last season, Liverpool’s ambitions were effectively extinguished by Chelsea in the third last game of the season; as again, an inferior goal difference would ultimately separate the Reds from United, just like it would have been against Manchester City last year. As with the League Cup semi-finals and the Champions League group stage decider against FC Basel, Rodgers’ men have fallen short yet again and seem to have somewhat turned into ‘nearly men’.
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