Liverpool were held to another frustrating draw in the Champions League. They drew 1-1 at Moscow against a Spartak side devoid of many first team players. A goalkeeping mistake from Karius gave the Russians a lead before Coutinho slotted in an equaliser. Chances were created in a heap but profligacy in front of goal meant it was just a point for Klopp’s men.
All the pre-match talk was about Spartak missing their key players and Liverpool winning easily. As it turned out, the game began with the home side sitting deep in their 5-4-1 formation and frustrating the Reds. The only positive for them was whenever they sprung few passes together, Liverpool looked vulnerable in defence.
The first 20 minutes was like a possession exercise where Moscow defended whatever was thrown at them. Liverpool were trying to switch play at every possible opportunity to create space for the fullbacks. But the home side were too deep, sometimes defending in 7-2-1 formation. The two wide midfielders supporting wing-backs and two defensive midfielders in front of the back-line.
For once, Emre Can who was struggling with his first touch put his team under pressure with an unkind back-pass. This resulted in Coutinho giving away a free-kick in a potentially dangerous position. Now comes a perpetual Liverpool goal-keeping analysis.
Analysis of Karius’ error: –
As shown in the above image, a free-kick situation. The goalkeeper has done well in setting up his wall, right where it should be. But, his own positioning cried out for a full-fledged dive towards his left. He could have easily stationed himself at least a yard central. This gave a clear sight at goal for the free-kick taker Fernando.
As the ball bypassed the wall, despite being hit with pace was nowhere near the corner. As shown in the image, it was stuck very much in an area where you’d expect a goalkeeper to come across and palm it away. But, in this case, Karius was caught flat-footed. It felt like he expected the wall to block it, which is naive.
Despite all those conditions, the German should have gone across and kept it out. It is baffling to see a team full of talent concede goals with mistakes all the time. The goalkeeper rotation policy is surely not working for Jurgen Klopp. He might have to chose one and go with him throughout the season. This chop and change isn’t helping Karius or Mignolet.
It is well documented in football that the back 3 of two centre-backs and a goal-keeper should have a good understanding. That pairing at the back should play 85% of the games. With this change all the time, synchronization with the team will get hampered and truth be told, none of the two is good enough to adjust. One might say, Mignolet is slightly better having more experience.
Liverpool equalise but fail to add on: –
One thing with Liverpool is that they create chances at the other end. Around the half hour mark, Coutinho and Mane played a quick one-two around the box. The Brazilian got a lovely pass from Mane and smashed home the equaliser. Spartak were caught ball-watching and the two players maneuvered in slick manner.
In second half, the possession exercise was a continual process with Spartak sitting deep, tiring and wasting time. There were 2-3 golden opportunities created by the away side but lack of good finishing deterred them. Of the notable ones, Sturridge volley, Firmino’s poor cut-back and his poor finish after winning the ball were the eye-catchers.
This is getting frustrating for Liverpool and Klopp now. Dominating teams with loads of chances, not able to score much and conceding with individual mistakes. They are not doing a lot wrong but finishing teams will be their primary agenda now. They are in a group where qualification won’t be a problem but knockout stage will be a worry against bigger teams.