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Thursday, 16 December 2010
LIVERPOOL 0-0 UTRECHT
With Liverpool already having qualified for the knock out stage of the Europa League this was a welcome change of being a match with no pressure. Great to see Liverpool letting kids in for free for this match and reduced prices for adults a tremendous gesture by the club. A good chance for Hodgson to rest some of the regular players once again as he has done in all of the Europa League fixtures this season. Liverpool hoping to finish of their group with a convincing win at home in their final group game.
As expected Roy made many changes to his team for this one from the team that lost to Newcastle at the weekend. Hodgson made a total of 10 changes and once again great to see so many youngsters starting and gaining more experience. Great to see the likes of Jones, Wilson, Kelly, Shelvey and Nathan Eccleston making his first start, also good to see other fringe players starting and Joe Cole who has had a tough start to life at Anfield and still trying to find his true form.
With the reduced prices and free admission for kids and a very large and very loud travelling Utrecht support this made for a great atmosphere at Anfield. The game started off very slow paced and to be honest continued in this theme for most of the game. Utrecht passed very cautiously with much of their play being controlled between their defenders and their goalkeeper. Young Eccleston showing a bit too much passion with his first start picked up a deserved booking as he went flying in late on a Utrecht player in the 6th minute. Then on 8 minutes Jovanovic made a good run into the Utrecht half and sent a 25 yard effort crashing off the Utrecht cross bar, this was about as good as it got as Utrecht looked to frustrate Liverpool and showed little in the way of ambition. Liverpool didn't show much in cohesion either as they looked like a team that had been flung together. Joe Cole found it hard to get into the game as he was playing out on the left and looked a frustrated figure at times. Young Kelly had a shaky start as Mertens looked to take him on at every opportunity and he almost let Utrecht in early in the game with a slack pass to Skrtel who did well to cut out the danger. Eccleston and Babel worked hard and made some good runs up front but they were not getting the service their runs deserved. Poulsen was being very sloppy in his play although Shelvey worked hard and was always looking to create something. Aurelio had a good chance with a free kick on the edge of the box but his shot hit the wall. Utrecht were dealt a blow when striker Van Wolfswinkel fell awkwardly and had to be stretchered off with a suspected broken collar bone right on the stroke of half time.
The second half was only slightly better as Liverpool struggled to create chances. Babel had a fine run and shot narrowly wide of the target as he aimed to impress. The introduction of young Pacheco gave the game a bit of a lift and he created a good chance immediately sliding a pass through to Babel who failed to pick out a Red shirt in the box, and seconds later after good play by Jovanovic, Kelly broke down the right and drilled over a dangerous low cross which Babel almost got on the end of. Kuyt came on for the last 15 minutes mainly for sentimental reasons to face his former club and reach his 50th appearance for Liverpool in Europe. Liverpool pushed for a winner but the closest they came was in the last 5 minutes when Cole smashed a shot net bound from inside the box but it was brilliantly blocked by Sander Keller. Liverpool had to settle for the draw but it was a poor spectacle for the supporters but more experience for the youngsters which can't be bad.
This was a very strange game with no pressure on the result but much pressure still mounting on Hodgson and his team's performances. This was a very poor game, Liverpool struggled to impress and looked disjointed with no cohesion although Utrecht looked to frustrate. Great to see the squad being used by Hodgson and especially the youngsters gaining more experience. Shelvey played really well in the middle of midfield, and Kelly came on to a very strong game after a shaky start, Wilson looked very assured at the back beside Skrtel then Kyrgiakos. Babel and Eccleston worked hard without much sevice. Aurelio played well at left back after being out for so long he seems to be getting sharper. Poulsen was very poor again and still doesn't look good enough, he gave the ball away sloppily quite often and Joe Cole is still struggling for form as he found it hard to influence the game I personally would rather see him play more central. Overall it was a poor game with not many chances although Utrecht showed little intent and seemed happy with 0-0. Plus points were experience for the youngsters and game time for the fringe players.
Man Of The Match - Wilson strolled through the game and dealt with anything he had to do, looked very comfortable, good on the ground and dominant in the air, looks very promising.