Liverpool were defeated by Manchester City in Capital One Cup final at Wembley in the most cruel way – Penalty shootouts.
It was Liverpool’s biggest game of the season, chance to win a silverware after four years and first under Jurgen Klopp six months in-charge.
Klopp went with an unchanged lineup that started against Augsburg, it came as a surprise for many because Lucas retained his place as a centre-back.
It was a 4-2-3-1 with Can and Henderson patrolling the midfield; Milner, Firmino and Coutinho playing behind striker Sturridge who started his fourth consecutive game after a long time. Centre-back pair was a surprise with Lucas and Sakho patrolling the heart of defense; Clyne and Moreno as expected were the fullbacks.
Let’s take a look at Reds’ shape and analyse few performances:-
Reds were given an early blow when Sakho had to be subbed off following his head clash with Can, Toure came in after only 25 minutes into the game.
Centre-back pair of Lucas and Toure did a good job at the heart of Reds defense, especially the Brazilian Lucas who was commanding and never showed signs of non-adaptability in this new role of his. He showed good application against likes of Silva and Aguero, the key was his initial movements towards the player in possession, he was tight and always ready to get body in between goal and the opposition player. Toure was also decent as far as his performance is concerned, once Liverpool were behind, fullbacks Clyne and Moreno were caught up-field on few occasions with City breaking, it was the Ivorian who stopped Aguero couple of times to go past him, he was commanding in the box too, showed no signs of real tiredness even in extra-time.
Left-back Moreno was average at best, ok he has pace and can drive the opposition with his direct runs and beating offside traps, but his primary job is defending in which he is becoming more of a liability, getting caught up-field on more than few occasions just isn’t good enough, his final ball in the box is also not great, he was the culprit for City goal when Fernandinho went on the overlap and Spaniard was just ball-watching, resulting shot should have been saved but chance was created after an average piece of defending down that left hand side.
Firmino was Liverpool’s best player so far in 2016 but he failed to bring his A game at the big stage, the Brazilian was sloppy in his passing and distribution, getting caught in an offside trap on more than few occasions doesn’t give you a good signal, he was not sharp in tight situations when City were squeezing centrally so that no ball is played through them to Sturridge or anyone. Coutinho was Liverpool’s best attacking threat throughout the game and deservingly scored the equaliser, he and Sturridge were orchestrating some good moves from left and attacking support from Moreno helped them.
There was many occasions in the match when Sturridge drifted himself on the left flank, that left Sagna to mark the striker and Coutinho used that marking to go through the gap created between centre-back and fullback. Kompany showed his experience though in covering up that gap and Fernando had the presence of mind to cover up Belgian’s position. Sturridge’s movements were clever and effective but final ball was not upto the mark.
Henderson was again not at his 100%, but to be honest skipper was the most hard-working player on pitch, covered with Clyne on the right side nicely, supported Milner moving forward but his passing and distribution was not good enough, needs to work more on his fitness and has to be more sharper if he wants to continue being the leader of Liverpool.
Klopp changed his team’s shape to a 4-4-2 diamond for final 20 minutes when his team were chasing the game :-
The surprising change consisted of Milner dropping to left-back which meant that Can and Lallana has to help the veteran defending. Lallana was influential with his clever runs in the box, he got two situations where he remained unmarked inside the City box, but on both occasions the ball was fed in to him at wrong pace. Origi made an impact as Sturridge was tiring, Coutinho never looked very tired which meant that Liverpool still had fight to turn the game around. Sturridge and Origi tried to create the gap between centre-back and fullback with Coutinho and Lallana running centrally.
Overall it was a decent Liverpool performance on the big stage, going toe to toe with an expensively-assembled Manchester City should be lauded with some credits, although not a cup this time. Klopp was positive in his post-match presser, speaking of hitting back after this gut-wrenching loss, maybe on Wednesday against same opponents could well be the way forward.
By Mizgan Ahmed on 29th February, 2016