Season | 2002-03 |
Matchday | #32 |
League Game | #23 |
Premier League Match-week | #23 |
Manager Game | #45 |
Saturday, 11 January 2003
Premier League | Away | Liverpool | Anfield | 43,210 |
Manager | Graham Taylor |
KO | 15.00 |
Referee | Paul Durkin |
HT Score | 0-1 |
FT Score | 1-1 |
FT Result | Drew |
Last 5 Games | LWWLD |
Scorers | Dion Dublin | 50’ pen |
League Position | 13th | +1 |
Line Up |
GK Peter Enckelman |
LB Alan Wright | BOOKED | 79' |
CB Olof Mellberg |
CB Ronny Johnsen |
FB Jlloyd Samuel |
M Lee Hendrie | SUB OFF | 52' |
M Gareth Barry |
M Thomas Hitzlsperger |
M Ian Taylor | BOOKED | 41' |
CF Dion Dublin | GOAL | 50' |
F Darius Vassell | SUB OFF | 46' |
F Stefan Moore for F Darius Vassell | 46’ |
RB Ulises de la Cruz for M Lee Hendrie | 52’ |
Unused Substitutes |
CF Peter Crouch
GK Stefan Postma
D Rob Edwards
Yellow | Ian Taylor | 41’ |
Yellow | Alan Wright | 79’ |
Team Stats |
Starting XI Average Age | 27.02 |
Oldest Player | M Ian Taylor | 34.63 |
Youngest Player | M Thomas Hitzlsperger | 20.78 |
Monday, 13 January, 2003
Match report by Dominic Fifield
Liverpool fail to leave out the rubbish
The arena, a packed pocket of doom and gloom, was fast emptying to a chorus of grumbles when the announcement came. “Please respect the sweeper zone and pick up your litter,” droned the Tannoy without a hint of irony. “Let’s keep Anfield tidy.”
Liverpool were not rubbish on Saturday, but they came close. Only for seven tantalising minutes did they threaten to conjure a first league win since early November but, against one of only two sides in Britain yet to muster an away success this season, they soon reverted to type.
In the end, a depressingly disjointed display earned them a point they scarcely deserved to leave the fourth Champions League place, now the height of their Premiership ambitions, a worrying four points out of reach.
That gap will be stretched to a gaping seven if Newcastle win their game in hand, a home fixture against lowly Bolton, though after 11 stuttering matches without a victory, surrealism is fast taking hold on Merseyside.
The radio phone-ins had kicked in by the time Gérard Houllier had left Anfield, the growling callers hellbent on ignoring years of progress at the first sign of a downturn, but reality dictates that immediacy is no longer about European qualification or a belated title charge. Once-lofty aspirations have been reassessed; now all Houllier and his players crave is a win.
“The season is not a catastrophe yet,” muttered Danny Murphy, one of the home side’s better players on the day. That is true enough. Liverpool are still in three cup competitions, even if that progress has failed to compensate for the league slide. “If we have the type of run we know we’re capable of, we’ll make it into the top four, but for many of the players this is the first bad spell that they’ve ever had.
“The boss told us that all the great sides have had to come through adversity at some stage. What we have here is a very positive staff - perhaps sometimes they are too positive - but now we really need to repay the manager. He’s taken so much stick recently. He can only take that for so long. The morale isn’t bad. We’ve been through a hell of a time, but it’s brought us closer together. The problem is it doesn’t take a lot for our confidence to slip away.”
That much is clear. It no longer takes the concession of a goal to shatter Liverpool’s fragile self-belief - concession of a chance will do. Leading through Michael Owen’s first Premiership strike since the sorry sequence began, a rasping drive across Peter Enkelman with the linesman flagging for a penalty for Olof Mellberg’s handball, the seeds of Liverpool’s prolonged frustration were sown 29 seconds after the break.
Last week Wayne Allison’s shot against the bar sparked Sheffield United’s startling Worthington Cup comeback against the Merseysiders. Against Villa, Ian Taylor’s header from Stefan Moore’s cross, tipped aside by Chris Kirkland, had the same effect.
Within two minutes, a panicked Sami Hyypia had tripped Gareth Barry in the area and Dion Dublin slotted home his fourth goal in as many league games from the penalty spot. He should have won the match but nodded Ulises de la Cruz’s centre over the bar as Liverpool, all composure drained as they cried out for a Gary McAllister figure to calm their jitters, lurched back into crisis.
“Every mistake was highlighted by the fans and that edginess transposes itself on to the pitch,” said Graham Taylor. “It’s magnified by the crowd here.”
“Subconsciously, we take our foot off the pedal when we’re leading,” added Murphy. “It’s not something we do deliberately but, when you’re in a run like this and you get something you tend to think: ‘Let’s keep it.’ You sit back instead of taking the initiative.
Sometimes we need provoking and we only play our best football when the opposition has scored. That proves it’s mental and not physical. You can see where we need to change things. Each player has to look at himself and knuckle down.”
The implication from that is that some are not performing, with a clear-out looming large come the summer. Meantime, William Hill yesterday cut Liverpool’s odds to be relegated from 1,000-1 to 66-1, with 150-1 on offer should they not win another Premiership match all season. Back in 1953-54, they were relegated after a 14-match streak without a win. Liverpool now face Southampton and Arsenal before visiting West Ham. It says much that that fixture is rapidly looking a home banker.
*Man of the match:* Ian Taylor (Aston Villa)