Post by Football News on Oct 14, 2017 14:15:45 GMT
Liverpool 0 - 0 Man Utd
Liverpool left frustrated again by David de Gea and Manchester United
If nothing else, Liverpool should probably take it as a compliment that Manchester United would choose to approach the game this way. It was the second successive season this fixture has ended in a goalless draw and it didn’t need an overly suspicious mind to deduce that José Mourinho had decided the priority was to avoid being beaten – and to hell with anyone who might question their tactics.
Mourinho’s team had averaged three goals a game from their previous seven Premier League fixtures but this was the first time they had faced any of the sides in the top 12 positions. Mourinho altered his tactics accordingly and the second half, in particular, was an exercise in defensive resilience directly beneath the Kop. Liverpool were unable to break them down and Mourinho, remember, has already made it clear what he thinks about the people who might question his methods. For the story of this game, refer to his quote after last season’s Europa League final: “There are lots of poets in football, but poets don’t win many titles.”
He tends to know what he is doing but it was a risky strategy and it would have been intriguing to see Mourinho’s back-up plan if one of those Liverpool attacks had finally found a way behind the opposition defence. Instead, the home side did not have the wit or creativity to make it a happier occasion and Jürgen Klopp could be forgiven for thinking his team ought to have done more. They have won only one of their last eight games in all the various competitions and it all felt rather flat at the end. Liverpool, put bluntly, had come up short.
Mourinho, in stark contrast, will probably reflect on a job well done, no matter how much it grates with him on occasions that he is accused of putting together teams that lack adventure on the toughest assignments. They did not manage a single noteworthy attack in the second half and, as for the opening 45 minutes, perhaps the most extraordinary statistic of the afternoon was that it was not until the 17th minute that Romelu Lukaku even managed a touch of the ball.
The Belgian is often accused of lacking his best work against elite opponents but his failure to score here, the first blank in his opening eight Premier League games for his new club, owed more to the circumstances. Lukaku had one chance in the first-half when he aimed his shot too close to Simon Mignolet but he was isolated for most of the game and perhaps there was a measure of frustration in the challenge that sent Joe Gomez flying close to the touchline.
Instead this was an afternoon when Phil Jones and Chris Smalling demonstrated their improvement under Mourinho and one moment in the first half served as the latest reminder that there might not be another goalkeeper in the world with David de Gea’s shot-stopping ability.
Anfield was rising to acclaim the opening goal when Roberto Firmino deceived Nemanja Matic inside the penalty area and Joël Matip was first to the cross. Matip made a solid connection but in that split second De Gea was already adjusting his body, jutting out his left foot to block the shot on the goalline. It was an exceptional piece of instinctive, improvisational goalkeeping and when De Gea rose to his feet he still did not have a hair out of place. What an incredible goalkeeper he has become.
That apart, there was not a great amount of danger for either goalkeeper during the first half. The game had set off at the kind of speed that makes these encounters so watchable but, at that kind of pace, it was far too hectic to expect either side to pass the ball with their normal accuracy. Mohamed Salah showed, in flashes, some lovely, deft touches but there was so little time on the ball, with a challenge never too far away, that it was difficult to build possession. Both sides were guilty at times of not taking enough care of the ball but perhaps that was inevitable when everything was so fast and furious.
The second half was a more controlled affair, with Liverpool pressing forward, forcing a succession of corners. Klopp’s men played every pass apart from the killer one. Gomez came the closest with a clipped pass into Emre Can’s path but the shot went over and into the Kop and, after that, there were only sporadic moments when De Gea was threatened again. Mourinho brought on another centre-half, Victor Lindelof, in the final exchanges for Ashley Young, who had been playing as a right-winger, and the game huffed and puffed to an end, the first time ever this fixture has seen back-to-back 0-0 draws.