Wednesday 17 January 2018

Adam puts wasteful Reds in spot of bother

It proved a frustrating night for Luis Suarez as Liverpool failed to score
It proved a frustrating night for Luis Suarez as Liverpool failed to score

Luis Suarez was intent on starting the process of rebuilding his tarnished reputation. Instead, Liverpool's goalless draw with Wigan enabled 'keeper Ali Al Habsi to enhance his.

With all eyes on the South American, it was the man from Oman who took all the plaudits for a series of stunning saves, especially that from Charlie Adam's second-half penalty which earned his side a point.

It ensured Liverpool began the evening cursing football's governing body, but ended it lamenting more largely self-inflicted pain in front of goal.

You've heard of siege mentalities, but Liverpool are starting to resemble Butch and Sundance, locked in their shack while the Bolivian army assembles with ever increasing ammunition outside. A statement defending Suarez steamed up computer screens when it was sent into cyberspace on Tuesday.

Last night, the DW Stadium inadvertently became the venue for club defiance against football authorities never seen before on English soil. Ninety minutes before kick-off, the Liverpool players issued a joint statement in support of Suarez. An hour later they emerged for their warm-up wearing a T-shirt sporting Suarez's name, image and squad number. Kenny Dalglish wore the same jersey in a pre-match TV interview.

"For anybody that doubted the support there is for Luis Suarez from the club, they are under no illusions now," said Dalglish.

Suarez may face another FA charge related to a lewd one fingered gesture to opposing supporters.

This was the entire staff Liverpool, metaphorically, showing two more fingers to the authorities. It may require Nato intervention to sort this one out.

Liverpool will never shirk a fight. They seem intent on revelling in it, unwilling to recognise the validity of the case and judgment against Suarez.

Inevitably, Suarez was instantly involved, irking the home fans by winning a free-kick after seven minutes. And so the boos began. This is the script for him now; loved and reviled in equal measure. In their dominant start, Liverpool tested Al Habsi through Jordan Henderson, Dirk Kuyt, Martin Skrtel and Glen Johnson, but Wigan responded, demonstrating the confidence they'd shown in their draw with Chelsea.

If Suarez was expecting any sympathy from his opponents he did not get it and fellow South American Antolin Alcaraz's challenge inside the second minute left the striker clutching the back of his head.

Combined

The 24-year-old was involved in many of Liverpool's early attacking as, after Adam drilled a free-kick into the wall, Suarez, Maxi Rodriguez and Stewart Downing combined to set up Henderson but his shot was parried behind by Al Habsi.

Adam had another goalbound free-kick headed away by David Jones while Rodriguez and Henderson both fired over ambitious volleys from the edge of the area.

Kuyt had the best chance from Downing's cut-back but Al Habsi did enough to turn aside the shot.

But for all their dominance the visitors began to lose a grip on the game and could well have gone into half-time behind had referee Michael Oliver deemed Skrtel's challenge inside the area on Victor Moses -- in which there appeared to be contact -- a foul.

Had Moses completed a 37th-minute solo dance through the Liverpool defence with a finish either side of Reina, he may have eclipsed the Suarez sideshow. By then, the home side were looking the more threatening as Liverpool's midfield pairing of Henderson and Adam laboured against the athleticism of Diame and Jordi Gomez.

It was Al Habsi emerging as the Wigan hero, however, particularly after a superb penalty save from Adam on 50 minutes. Predictably, Suarez earned it when his overhead kick was blocked by the hands of Gary Caldwell.

The Uruguayan was desperate to take it, but was told to give the ball to the Scot. Adam struck it well enough but it was palmed to safety. This was Liverpool's fourth penalty failure, as the evening followed a familiar pattern of missed chances for Dalglish's side.

Kuyt then volleyed over Adam's chipped free-kick from close range before the Dutchman and Rodriguez were replaced by Craig Bellamy and Jonjo Shelvey for the final 20 minutes while Hugo Rodallega, Wigan's scorer in two of their last three meetings with Liverpool, came on for Conor Sammon.

The Colombia international almost came up trumps with a far-post header from Moses' cross which was deflected behind by Glen Johnson.

Moses then stabbed wide from the resulting corner as Liverpool looked like crumbling before Suarez was substituted for Andy Carroll three minutes from time to a chorus of boos.

Greater tests on and off the field await the Uruguayan, but for Wigan it was another deserved point. Al Habsi believes Wigan are showing how much they have improved.

"It's a big result," he said. "The last three games we have been fantastic. Three points at West Brom and then two big teams here (at the DW Stadium).

"Everyone thought Wigan would be struggling, but we showed, as we do in training and in the dressing-room, that we'll fight to stay in this league.

"To play like we did against Chelsea and Liverpool, we showed we're improving."

Of his penalty save, the Oman international added: "They (most players) hit it at the angle he hit it at. He has a fantastic left foot and I was ready. I am happy and happy for everyone else."

Dalglish, in contrast cut a forlorn figure in giving his post-match analysis.

"We're not out there to miss them (penalties)," Dalglish said. "We're getting them, but you'd much rather be putting them away.

"In the second half we had most of the possession. We'll keep getting in there and see what happens. You feel for the players not taking opportunities, because we work really hard for them."

On Suarez, who was given a rough ride by sections of the crowd at times, the Scot added: "It's all very well and good to tell players to control themselves, the FA better start controlling crowds." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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