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Friday, 5 November 2010
LIVERPOOL 3-1 NAPOLI MATCH REPORT
After another confidence boosting result at the weekend for Liverpool there were high hopes of another win at home against Napoli in the Europa League. Napoli proved a decent European outfit two weeks ago. But with another tough fixture looming on Sunday against Chelsea, changes to the line- up were expected. Liverpool top of their Europa League group were hoping to cement their position with a win in this one.
As expected there were changes made by Hodgson for this game, obviously thinking about the Chelsea game on Sunday. Still, it was a strong team Hodgson sent out as he was obviously wanting to qualify sooner rather than later from this group. A strong defence was selected with Johnson coming in at right back after recovering from injury, moving Carragher back into the middle of defence alongside Kyrgiakos. It was good to see youngsters Shelvey and Spearing starting with Jovanovic on the left, Poulsen coming into the holding role in midfield. N'Gog being selected up front giving Torres a rest. I was concerned about the midfield being strong enough and creative enough for this game, but still it was good to see Roy giving the youngsters a chance again.
A good crowd for this game with not many empty seats and Liverpool started the match well in the early minutes with Jovanovic getting down the left and swinging in a couple of dangerous crosses. But the early onslaught soon waned as Napoli settled and started to dominate proceedings. Liverpool suddenly found themselves struggling for possession as Napoli sprayed the ball around. Lavezzi being the main danger to Liverpool as he made one or two good attacking runs causing concern to the Liverpool defence. Lavezzi came very close when Shelvey gave the ball straight to Lavezzi and he ran straight down the middle before firing a vicious shot that went just wide of Reina's post. Liverpool were causing a lot of their own problems with so many poor passes puting them under pressure. Then Liverpool were finally caught out on the 28th minute with another mistake, this time a poor Poulsen header put Napoli in a great position and they took advantage with a brilliant finish from that man Lavezzi as he slipped the ball past the onrushing Reina. It was no more than Napoli deserved as they were by far the dominant side. So Liverpool went in at half time with a lot to think about.
The biggest cheer of the night came when they saw Gerrard warming up for the second half as Hodgson took drastic action. Jovanovic made way for his Captain. Right from the off Gerrard flew into a challenge winning possession before being fouled, setting the tone for the second half and lifting the team and the crowd. Liverpool suddenly looked a different team and Napoli looked rattled as Liverpool drove forward. Gerrard instrumental in everything. The Italians tried to slow the game down and break up the play when they could but they couldn't stop the shift in momentum. Liverpool started creating chances as N'Gog went close with Napoli keeper De Sanctis making a good save and Meireles shooting wide when he should have scored. Shelvey should have done better with a header at the back post
With chances being missed you started to wonder if Liverpool were going to get that elusive goal, especially with time starting to ebb away. Then on the 75th minute former Liverpool player Dossena was short with a pass back to his keeper which Gerrard read and Gerrard went flying into the challenge with the keeper and the ball ended up in the Napoli net, true grit and determination from Gerrard. Liverpool now were looking for the winner. However, an unsavoury moment developed when Napoli defender Aronica lunged in on N'Gog almost snapping N'Gog's leg, unbelievably escaping the referee's notebook. N'Gog eventually had to leave the field for Lucas. Just as it looked as if Napoli were going to hold on for a draw Johnson burst into the box, and was upended by Aronica which was pleasing as he should have been sent off earlier so it was good to see him making a major contribution. Gerrard stepped up to the plate and didn't disappoint as he put the penalty away convincingly. An amazing turn around and display by Gerrard. Then a minute later in the 89th minute Gerrard got his hat-trick after Lucas made a good tackle winning the ball which released Gerrard one on one with De Sanctis and his finish was sublime as he dinked the ball over him and sent the Kop wild. A brilliant second half performance by Liverpool and another amazing performance from Gerrard.
A great comeback inpired by Gerrard once again, how many times has he done this unbelievable. If if ever there was a game of two halves. The first half was very poor from Liverpool as Napoli dominated. Liverpool's midfield remains a concern in Gerrard's abscence highlighted by Liverpool's first half display. Poulsen doesn't look good enough and made matters worse with his mistake for the Napoli goal. Spearing worked really hard but his passing was poor too often. Meireles has still to convince me as his passing was also poor. The defence looked solid enough and Johnson got better as the game wore on and done really well winning the penalty. It is worrying that we had to rely on Gerrard once again as we need others to step up to the plate and show the commitment he shows. But it was encouraging of the character shown in the second half. Good to see it was Aronica who was guilty of bringing down Johnson in the box for the penalty after being allowed to stay on the park after his horrendous tackle on N'Gog. Bring on the Chelsea three wins in a row a win on Sunday and who knows what we can achieve.
Man Of The Match - Gerrard - no competition here, only needed 45 minutes for this accolade, truly brilliant performance from Gerrard and hat- trick as well, the heart and soul of this team.