Wednesday, January 28, 2009

EPL Liveblog/Open Thread: Wigan Athletic v. Liverpool

Here comes the points-dropper, murderer, here comes the points-dropper, murderer

We're doubling up today thanks to the awful weather that has forced so many of us to stay at home. Bigus has Chelsea/Boro covered, while I will tackle Wigan v. Liverpool, a battle of ideals, of contrasting styles, of grumpy managers. Steve Bruce has much better hair, mind you.

It's also Jamie Carragher's birthday today. Celebrate with me after the jump, and give your thoughts on any of the games going on this evening. Arsenal traveling to Goodison doesn't seem too promising at face value, but then again, predicting this league is really a fool's game this season.

Lineups and fixtures after the jump. Then, 90 minutes of commentary involving my team that barely manages to hide my dissatisfaction and rage.

2.45pm sweetness:
Chelsea v. 'Boro
Man City v. Newcastle
Wigan v. Liverpool

3pm action:
Blackburn v Bolton
Everton v. Arsenal
West Ham v. Hull City

Wigan: Pollitt, Melchiot, Boyce, Scharner, Figueroa, De Ridder, Brown, Cattermole, Taylor, Zaki, Mido.
Subs: Kingson, Edman, Watson, Koumas, Rodallega, Kapo, Camara.

A Team I Once Knew, But Now Barely Recognize: Reina, Arbeloa, Skrtel, Carragher, Aurelio, Benayoun, Leiva Lucas, Mascherano, Babel, Gerrard, Torres.
Subs: Cavalieri, Dossena, Agger, Keane, Riera, Kuyt, Alonso.

REFEREE: Phil Dowd

Already, I'm nervous. Having pulled the balls out of the raffle machine, Rafa has gone with a midfield involving both Yossi AND Lucas. Keane on the bench, which will surely fuel yet more rambling column inches predicting his departure, and this really has all signs of a boring, boring draw. Oh, and I'll probably kill myself when it's done. No league wins in a month, while Man United have won their last 6, scoring 16 goals.

The EPL is a cruel mistress.

And we're off!

2 mins: Bright-ish start (well, as bright as one could get within 120 seconds), with Liverpool winning an early free-kick wide left for the foul on Babel. Stevie G floated a decent ball to the back post, but Skrtel couldn't control it and the chance disappeared.

4 mins: Long balls galore, and Mascherano collides with Zaki in the center-circle as they challenge for possession. Zaki gets the worst of it, but Phil Dowd gives a word to all involved and we're back underway.

6 mins: De Ridder shows why he prefers his right foot, as he gets marooned wide left and floats an awful cross miles over the bar with his left foot. The ball is hoofed down to the other end, where Yossi gets caught offside. I despair the thought of what horrors await over the next 84 minutes.

9 mins: The Liverpool passing machine slowly grinds into gear with some decent, but purposeless, passing around midfield that eventually ends up back with Reina. Wigan seem content to chase like headless chickens with the odd foray forward, but their third of the pitch is crammed tighter than Jenna Jameson's arse in a gangbang. No space between their midfield 4 and their back 4, all playing pushed up from the edge of the 18 yard box. Here's hoping their offside trap isn't working today.

After some 90 seconds of ball-chasing, Wigan get possession and win a free-kick.

12 mins: Gerrard gets the service he wants and tries to play Torres in 'round the back, but Boyce is up for the challenge, muscling Torres off the ball and watching the Spaniard fall to the pitch like a snowflake.

UNBELIEVABLE. Gerrard puts a lovely ball into the thick of the 6-yard box, Torres pops up and succeeds in putting his header onto the post and out. Yossi begins celebrating at the back post instead of ensuring that the ball ended up in the net. Wonderful. At least we're creating chances, right?

15 mins: Wigan do manage to get some possession in Liverpool's half, working through De Ridder on the right, but his clever chip over the top for Zaki ends up with Reina.

17 mins: A nice ball forward by Carragher finds Torres on the edge of the box, and despite some heavy petting from behind by Paul Scharner, he controls, turns, and whips a shot 10 yards wide of the post. Not a great effort, but a nice reminder of just what he's capable of if given a yard of space.

19 mins: Wigan press but get caught on the break. Gerrard surges forward with Babel and Torres in front of him, but Michael Brown goes the cynical foul route and gives up a free-kick 30 yards out and fairly central. Dowd gives him a talking-to, but no card. Stevie to take...

... actually no, Aurelio crosses it with his left foot but Wigan clear.

20 mins: As Wigan try to counter again with Cattermole down the left, they get caught on the break again as the gaps are starting to appear in their backline. Gerrard gets forward with Benayoun in support, and they win a corner for their efforts. Naturally, as with most things LFC since New Year, it's wasted.

Arbeloa tries a crafty ball down the wing looking for Babel, but he is a hair in front of Boyce and thus, offside. Still, the lackadaisical marking by Wigan in the early going is giving me hope. We might actually win a game, folks! It might well happen tonight!

24 mins: Wigan's best chances at the Liverpool end have all been via the long throw thus far, which doesn't bode well. Skrtel gives up a free kick with some pushing and shoving, but the ball into the box is Reina's after some soft header tennis.

27 mins: Liverpool flirt with danger as they give away possession in midfield, but Wigan can't capitalize as Zaki gets frozen by the offside trap, and in the nick of time, too; Arbeloa stepped up at the last second to get the call. Note to Rafa: winning the sideways passing battle doth not a title challenger make.

Neat interplay by Babel and Benayoun gives Yossi a break for the byline, and his pullback across goal is partially blocked by Melchiot. Torres and Gerrard were there, but Mario's ankle saves the day.

Despite the rather unexciting first half-hour, I'll put on my Miss Cleo mask and predict a Liverpool goal before half-time. The space is there, and the half-back duo of Boyce and Scharner look positively leaden-footed compared to the Reds' attack.

30 mins: Just as I type that last prediction, Lucas plays a simple 1-2 with Gerrard and has room to run right down the middle, but his shot from the edge of the box drags wide of the post. Just an observation: if Xabi Alonso were playing, he'd have buried that.

33 mins: End-to-end stuff! Zaki loses possession in the LFC box, they move downfield with ease and Lucas puts Babel through on goal, requiring a gorgeous tackle by Scharner to snuff out the danger. Wigan then sprint back down the other end, and Mido wins a corner off Carra the Birthday Boy.

Taylor puts the corner far too deep, but a half-chance emerges: De Ridder crosses back into the box, and Emmerson Boyce, despite looking a mile offside, heads well wide with the flag staying down. Liverpool were lucky there; instead of bothering to defend, they all appealed for offside. Turns out Boyce timed his run right, it was just the four other Wigan players around him that were offside.

Any goals anywhere else? This game is dying a slow death at the moment.

39 mins: Babel executes one of his trademark runs down the left, bursting at the seams with stepovers and trickery. He cuts inside and uncorks a powerful shot, but right at Pollitt who parries it clear. Yossi pounces on the rebound and gives it back to Babel, hoping for a better shot, but not so; he just gives the ball to Melchiot while trying another stepover.

40 mins: Wigan fans scream for handball in the box, but not so. The trouble was caused by yet another Ryan Taylor free-kick, bending it right into the 6-yard box and forcing a desperate clearance by Carragher.

42 mins: GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL, and as Ibracadabra said, Yossi's not bad against Wigan. Yossi Benayoun scores from a ridiculously narrow angle after being played through clean on goal by Mascherano. He rounds Pollitt and somehow cuts it back from the byline and into the net. A wonderful, lucky, fuck-it-I'll-happily-take-it finish by Yossi. My Miss Cleo prediction was vindicated, and it was thanks to that Maginot Line of a Wigan backline. Wigan Athletic 0, Liverpool 1

44 mins: Come on Fabio, wakey wakey. He lets a long ball bounce over his head and Mido sneaks in to collect, doing well to cut back and win a free-kick via a classic clumsy tackle by Lucas Leiva. Mido takes the kick himself and shoots low, but Zaki blocks it so Reina doesn't have to. Mido then fouls Carragher in the race for the rebound.

45 mins + 1: Figueroa hauls down Lucas 40 yards out for no particular reason, and Gerrard lines up a shot. Crazy, maybe, but it fizzes just over the bar with Pollitt beaten. Oh, what could have been. Dowd promptly blows the whistle.

HALF TIME: Wigan Athletic 0, Liverpool 1
The Reds look uncharacteristically good going forward (at least compared to sluggish recent form), and I fancy more goals after the break. Emmerson Boyce looks like a Macy's mannequin on the pitch thus far, and Ryan Babel's flurry of stepovers appear to have empowered him and given him more confidence than Rafa has since August. Meanwhile, Robbie Keane freezes on the bench in a tracksuit, thinking, wonderful, ruminating.

Now time for a break and some Bagel Bites, the cornerstone of any ambitious 26-year-old's late lunch when he stays home from work.

And we're off again!

47 mins: I heard a stat that Wigan haven't come from behind to win a game in 5 or so years. Why is this stat not in the least bit comforting?

Aurelio misjudges another ball, this time from Melchiot to De Ridder, but he closes him down well enough and concedes just a throw-in. Melchiot's long ball in is flicked on by Mido and cleared with ease. Torres gets some space on the counter-attack down the right, but his cross floats over everyone and ends up with Babel on the opposite flank. It bobbles off his shin for a Wigan throw-in.

49 mins: Torres gets a chance to run at Boyce, but Boyce recovers to tackle and clear. Dangerous times for Brucie's lads. LFC look brighter after the break. I wonder if they kinda regret not having Palacios any more? Still, they got a ton of money for him, but if they go on a losing streak due to having no good defensive midfielders, it's all for nought, innit?

51 mins: Maynor Figueroa finally gets the yellow card he's been looking for, sliding through Yossi as he began his run up the middle. Stevie to take, some 30 yards out and dead in front...

... but no, he defers to Fabio Aurelio again! The effort is good, but takes a flick off Scharner's head in the wall and lands softly in Mike Pollitt's hands. Had a chance if it didn't lose some pace on the way through.

53 mins: Zaki gives away a free-kick as he climbs Mount Mascherano in pursuit of the long ball. Looked clean enough on the replay, but even so, Wigan's attack has a yin/yang to it at the moment; Mido is the tireless, enterprising one, while Zaki just keeps getting caught offside or giving away needless fouls.

Better from Wigan as Figueroa and Michael Brown both take turns running at Liverpool's backline, to mixed fortunes. Still, Zaki is a possession nightmare, and Bruce wonders what odds and ends he has on the bench. Olivier Kapo? New signing Hugo Rodallega? Himself?

56 mins: Ladies and gents, this is beginning to look like an actual game of soccer. I'm not lying; it's wide-open at the moment, something that can only benefit Liverpool on the break. Yossi has another burst up the middle. He finds Torres surrounded by 4 Wigan defenders, but his return pass is heavy and Scharner clears.

57 mins: Lovely passing in midfield for the visitors, but the throughball to Torres is intercepted by Boyce's heel, although I'm not sure he knew much about it. Time for some subs?

60 mins: With 7 Wigan players in the box waiting eagerly for his lofted free-kick, Ryan Taylor sends it miles, acres, light years over the crossbar. The crowd is so subdued, you can almost hear Steve Bruce sighing on the sideline.

61 mins: Whoops. Wigan clear a corner and get a glorious chance to counter with 4 on 2, but Amr Zaki goes it alone and is swallowed up by Mascherano tracking back. De Ridder, Scharner and Mido were all right there with him, but his determination screwed the whole thing up. Cue frustrated noises from the home crowd, and Liverpool try to slow things down again.

Should I mention Robbie Keane again? I feel like I should. Did I mention he's on the bench, shunned, ignored, a pariah? What will the media say about this tomorrow? I can hardly wait.

64 mins: Steve Bruce rolls his 18-sided die for solutions, and it promptly tells him to bring on Jason Koumas to replace Daniel De Ridder. Bit puzzling, that.

65 mins: This is Yossi Benayoun's world, and we're all just living in it. Gerrard begins another counter-attack and finds Benayoun sprinting down the right wing. Yossi then tip-toes around Boyce, turning him inside out two or three times, cuts it back into a crowded penalty area, but Wigan scramble it clear time and time again. Mascherano has a shot blocked, Torres fails on a bicycle kick (please Fernando, watch that hammy!), and the ball pings around a bit more before finally getting hoofed to safety.

67 mins: Ryan Taylor clips Arbeloa for another Liverpool free-kick. Carragher delivers from 45 yards out but Scharner heads it clear.

Hugo Rodallega begins some light warm-ups on the sideline. He's surely replacing Amr "My Name is Egyptian for Turnover" Zaki.

70 mins: Koumas wins a corner, and I nearly shit my sweatpants. Zaki and Gerrard go for it at the near post but it ends up well over the bar for a goal-kick. I relax temporarily.

72 mins: Rafa Benitez displays his tactical nous, or lack thereof, bringing off Torres (presumably to protect the Golden Hamstring) and bringing on Robbie Keane Albert Riera. We presume Babel will play up-front with Riera and Benayoun marshalling the left and right wings.

Lucky for LFC as Mido seems to break the offside trap, but he shoots wide. The birthday boy should have done better there.

74 mins: Gerrard has a golden chance at the other end as Yossi gets fouled, but the ball breaks to Stevie on the right and he shoots agonizingly wide from a difficult angle. Yossi looks dazed and comes off immediately, replaced by Robbie Keane Dirk Kuyt.

76 mins: Reina gives himself something to do, running a mile out of his box to intercept a long ball, dribble past Amr Zaki, and whack it downfield. Zaki is promptly subbed out to avoid further embarrassment, replaced by new man Hugo Rodallega.

80 mins: Another sub for Wigan, their final one, sees Ryan "Free Kick" Taylor come off, replaced by Robbie Keane Henri Camara.

(Is that strikethrough joke still funny?)

Wigan scramble to clear their lines. Dirk Kuyt plays a lovely ball for Gerrard between the center-backs, but Stevie can't control and Boyce bundles it out for a throw-in that Liverpool squander.

Lucas Leiva clips Koumas in the box, making an easy decision for Dowd. Caught on the break, Lucas does what Lucas does best. Now Reina will have something to do. Mido to take...

GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL, and fuck Lucas Leiva. Mido steps up on his debut and sends Reina the wrong way. Liverpool throw away 2 more points, and Fergie will probably celebrate tonight by masturbating all over a cadre of small boys. Wigan Athletic 1, Liverpool 1

Rafa then brings off Stevie G, replacing him with.... Robbie Keane! Is there no end to the fun?

85 mins: 5 mins to go, no Torres, no Gerrard, but a front-line of Babel, Kuyt, Benayoun and Robbie Keane. I swear, I'm not making this up. Memo to Rafa: please stop subbing off Torres, because every time you do, we give up equalizers.

Keane passes straight to Mido, and Wigan surge forward in search of a winner. And why not? Liverpool are playing with the fear and timidity of a beaten schoolgirl who has run away from home. I will cry onto my remaining Bagel Bite.

87 mins: Dirk Kuyt has room down the right, and he crosses to no-one. Sums things up nicely, really.

Then, Riera gets some space to shoot, and does, but Scharner toes it away with Keane lurking for the loose ball. Wigan clear for a throw-in, from which Robbie Keane fouls Scharner and then Dirk Kuyt handballs at the back post in the rush to control and shoot. Sumptuous play from the turgid dregs of the Liverpool attack.

89 mins: Robbie Keane miraculously stays onside, but then fouls Scharner in the race for the ball. For those keeping score at home: Keane's fouled three times in the four minutes he's been on the pitch.

Wigan break, and Mascherano gives away a free-kick 20 yards from goal. If Wigan score now, I am sending Rafa an envelope filled with my own shit.

90 mins: Why am I not surprised? Rodallega cracks the crossbar in half, but the ball stays out, and Carragher clears. I would pretend to be gobsmacked, but after the brutality of January on Liverpool's title aspirations, nothing surprises me when it comes to the Reds.

Ryan Babel wins a free-kick 25 yards out, and both Aurelio and Riera fancy their chances...

... and Aurelio puts it into the wall. He gathers the rebound and finds Kuyt wide right, but Kuyt overhits the return pass and Pollitt collects comfortably.

90 mins + 2: Pollitt clears right down the other end, and Riera gives away a free-kick wide on the right. Last Chance Saloon, and Koumas puts it right at Mascherano's forehead. It's headed out, and Dowd's had enough. So have I.

FULL TIME: Wigan Athletic 1, Liverpool 1
That's it folks. I wasn't kidding yesterday about Manchester United never looking back. And with abject performances from teams considered to be their closest rivals, why should they? Chelsea won, Villa are right there, and I resign myself to the annual pursuit of fourth place. Still, it could be worse. We could be Arsenal.


Ibracadabra said...

Don't knock Yossi - he has a decent record against Wigan..

Excited by the Mido/Zaki partnership - looking forward to a big fantasy day from Ryan Taylor (random I know)

"Goalscorers from Giza."

KPW said...

Hopefully I won't lose my mind this match.

Mike Georger said...

Anyone got a stream? myp2p is down

Ibracadabra said...

2-1 'Pool for me. No interest in the outcome other than extreme national allegiance to Benayoun (and to a lesser extent 1/2 Israeli de Ridder - who is probably one of the most technical Non Big 4 reserve players in the Premier League - if that means anything) looking for a good video stream at work... no snow in Los Angeles, but we do have lunch breaks..

Mike Georger said...

We only got a bit of a storm, but our other campus got drilled and our classes are teleconferenced so noooo class.

ü75 said...

Word is that EPL is going after myp2p. I wouldn't expect them to be showing anything anytime soon.

Mike Georger said...

Fuck, myp2p has removed all EPL links because they're getting sued

Lingering Bursitis said...

Georger: try googling something to do with Sports on some Laptops or something

Lingering Bursitis said...

Else, you'll have to make do with my florid prose

Mike Georger said...

that site is giving my laptop a seizure

Lingering Bursitis said...

give it a minute, it'll settle.

Mike Georger said...

Can't get it to show me anything other than City

Ibracadabra said...

Same for me. Can't get 'Pool stream.

Assist by sex assaulter though for a 1-0 City lead.

Mike Georger said...

Owen's day is done

Lingering Bursitis said...

Sorry lads. Normally that site puts out with alarming regularity.

ü75 said...

you know, in Iraq they score some Goals. you would think that someone would make a website.

ü75 said...

SFBolton score. jjf3 on suicide watch.

Andrew said...

Iraq are wonderful with its Goals

Andrew said...

I've got Toffees-Gunners. Goodison Park is only 50yds by 40yds, I swear.

ü75 said...

Yossi, my goodness. How did he fit that in?

Mike Georger said...

Beckham just scored from a free kick.

I guess this means ESPN will care about soccer again. Fuck both of them.

And Yossi saved our bacon (Kosher joke? Why not!) last year against Wigan, I'm not shocked. Dirk Kuyt, exit stage right.

Lingering Bursitis said...

Georger: there are a few I'd like to see exit stage right. I wouldn't mind seeing Lucas exit in a coffin.

Ibracadabra said...

re: Beckham and ESPN/US Soccer -

Have you guys noticed the recent introduction of EPL scores to the "bottom" line on ESPN...

Should we read into this?

They never had this in the past.

Ibracadabra said...

PS I do LOVE Yossi

Mike Georger said...

They've had it before, when football gets into the playoffs and baseball is over they have a lot more free space. However what IS new is Serie B scores, for some fucking reason.

Andrew said...

Ibra: I've noticed that as well. I wouldn't read too much into it; just seems like a tease. They also do Serie A and La Liga scores.

Sam said...

Hey - anyone watching the Arsenal - Everton match. Cahill just missed a golden chance...

ü75 said...

Sam-We are currently commenting in the other thread on that one. Denilson's actual lineage is the current debate.

Lingering Bursitis said...

hey u75, stop dragging people away from my liveblog. I'll feel lonely.

ü75 said...

Fuck Cahill in the pants.

Lingering Bursitis said...

We agree on something!

Mike Georger said...

As if the season wasn't already over.

Rafa out.

ü75 said...

Strike throughs would be better if we could do them in the comment boxes.

Keith said...

why in the hell would Rafa take out Stevie G in the last 10 minutes?

Surely, this is Ferguson's fault.

The Fan's Attic said...

Fuck. Cock. Balls. Shit. Cunt. Bitch. Muthafucka.

Rafa, quit worrying about transfers when you can't keep your team focused.

ü75 said...

Wow, that was close to all 3 dropped.

Lingering Bursitis said...

Call us Liverdraw from now on, and call me an ambulance as I just took six shots of Drano.

jjf3 said...

thanks for the concern. I went through a relatively mediocre job review (not getting fired, but not exactly "Great Job!"), and got back to my desk to see the 0-2 score at half...Against SFB...At Ewood Park...
Not the best Wednesday of my life, needless to say. But even with a missed pen (by Benni of all people, who seems to otherwise be in rare form), and a header off the post, we found some fricking way to tie...Big Fat Sam ain't a genius, but I think we're sticking in the EPL this season...(or so I tell myself repeatedly until I believe it...) :)

jjf3 said...

thanks for the mention/reference on your site. I damn near won the lottery this week - 8-2, with 2 exact scores (on the ones with my snarky comments, no less) - if only I'd remembered that Fulham was in bad form, and BFS has a gift for draws, I'd have been golden... :/

On to this weekend then! Thanks again for doing the math...


Registering To Comment With Blogger Sucks said...

Here comes the points-dropper, turn it up

I think the lyrics actually say "murderer," not "turn it up."

Here come de hotstepper
I'm da lyrical gangsta
etc. etc.

ü75 said...

I always thought it was something like "word 'em up". At least that's what I say.

Lingering Bursitis said...

Thanks Registering. I brought shame to the estate of Ini Kamoze with my oversight.

"Murderer" is definitely more appropriate, as every time I see Lucas ruin LFC on the pitch, I move one step closer to being a murderer.

Bigus Dickus said...

..still drawing like thaaaaaat.

Lingering Bursitis said...

Screw you, Bigus

Autoglass said...

"You'll NEV-er win the League..."