Rafa's Reds lose more ground
Published 27/01/2010 | 05:00
Liverpool didn't add to their total of seven league defeats this season -- but it felt like another loss. This was as dispiriting and disjointed for their supporters as any of those reverses.
In Rafael Benitez they had a manager looking on helplessly; in Alberto Aquilani, a £20m unused substitute, doing something similar.
On a bitter evening, they were bitterly disappointing, hopes of a Champions League rally disappearing into a Black Country-sized hole.
For Wolves it was a point, but an opportunity lost. The chance was there for Mick McCarthy's side to earn a greater glory, a greater return, but they fell short and hover above relegation.
Come the reckoning this could be the one that got away.
The return of Steven Gerrard -- earlier than expected having tweaked his hamstring in the FA Cup exit to Reading 13 days ago -- instilled an initial purpose to Liverpool.
But that evaporated at a shocking speed.
There was a little audacity with the midfielder swivelling and trying to beat Marcus Hahnemann from 30 yards, scuffing his shot instead.
And, from Liverpool, for the first period, that was it -- before a late flurry in which Maxi Rodriguez, the free signing from Atletico Madrid making his debut, almost reached a threaded pass by Gerrard, only for Jody Craddock to intervene.
The poverty of Liverpool's play was shocking. There were no pretensions of being a top side here. This was slumming it with the rest of the Premier League.
In truth, neither side appeared able to string passes on a pitch challenging to be among the worst in the league.
The ball bobbled -- when it wasn't flying through the air with increasing desperation as each side pumped it forward.
The game cried out for something special. Fragmented and bitty, the contest demanded some continuity, a little nous, a shard of skill.
But there was an intriguing sub-plot developing down Liverpool's right-flank, where Jamie Carragher was trying to make the best of the position he despises -- only to find himself up against a speed merchant in Matt Jarvis.
The winger is quick and he swept past Carragher, turning in a low ball which Kevin Doyle attacked. However, Emiliano Insua, just, beat him to the ball to stab it narrowly wide.
Wolves came forward again. Once more Jarvis was the threat, cutting inside and picking out Kevin Foley who tried to head the ball back across goal to the onrushing Nenad Milijas, but found the arms of Pepe Reina.
Liverpool attempted to rally after the interval with Albert Riera hooking a shot goalwards and almost deceiving the backtracking Hahnemann and then Gerrard, man-marked throughout by Michael Mancienne, just lost control as he burst through.
Finally a contest was flickering and as the ball fell to Karl Henry, his shot was blocked before Doyle delayed and then struck a rising effort over.
Back came Liverpool. Gerrard tangled with Mancienne and pushed the ball to Dirk Kuyt who steadied himself, only to fire wide with Hahnemann scrabbling.
For Liverpool it was laboured, but frantic, the ball pumped forward with arising sense of alarm, Gerrard crowded out, while the impressive Doyle continued to harry their defence, drawing fouls from the lumbering Sotiros Kyrgiakos, and running for the cause.
It's a pity some of Liverpool's players didn't show the same fierce determination. (© Daily Telegraph, London)