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Friday, 11 March 2011
BRAGA 1-0 MATCH REPORT
Another massive game for Liverpool hot after that superb win against Manchester United last Sunday. Liverpool left the UK at lunchtime on Wednesday to travel to Portugal for their last 16 clash with Braga, Braga who have had good recent results against some top European sides would be a difficult opposition for Liverpool. In recent memory Braga have beat Arsenal at home last season and put out Celtic and Athletico Madrid in Champions League qualifying this season. But with Liverpool going into the game with confidence sky high after their great win at the weekend. Liverpool have struggled to score away in Europe this season with 4 draws in their last 4 away games. Still they have remained undefeated in Europe this season and went into the game confident of getting a good result.
Liverpool's squad is still a bit threadbare especially when key players are missing.Gerrard didn't travel to Portugal after aggravating his groin injury at the weekend and Suarez is unavailable for this competition, also out were Aurelio who also picked up an injury on Sunday's win and Kelly who is out for a month. But Liverpool still had options and I thought Dalglish put out as strong a team as possible with the players he had available. Carragher went to right back with Johnson on the left with Kyrgiakos and Skrtel in the middle. The midfield was Poulsen and Lucas in the middle with Cole coming back into the team on the left and a bit of a surprise with Spearing playing on the right of midfield. Meireles trying to support Kuyt who was the lone striker.
The game made a very tentative start as both teams sparred for possession. Liverpool seemed very content and comfortable at the slow pace of the game as they probably expected a higher tempo from Braga. However, out of the blue Braga were awarded a penalty when Mossoro burst into the Liverpool penalty box and Kyrgiakos brought him down for a stonewall penalty. Alan took the spot kick and smashed the ball past Reina giving him no chance as he dived the right way. The goal gave Braga a great lift as their play improved and they started to have the lion's share of possession. It was 27 minutes into the match before Liverpool had their first attempt at goal when Meireles hit a long range free kick into the Braga defensive wall. Braga were unlucky not to double their lead 7 minutes before half time when after sustained pressure from Braga the ball found Silvio 30 yards out who smashed a dipping volley which crashed off Reina's crossbar and away to safety with Reina beaten, it was a huge let off for Liverpool as they went in at half time trailing 1-0. Liverpool started the second half better as I'm sure Dalglish had a few strong words for his troops at the break. 12 minutes into the second half Dalglish brought Poulsen off for Carroll, giving Liverpool more of an attacking threat. Carroll went close with a header from a Meireles corner as Liverpool looked more threatening with his introduction. Carroll then had a shot deflected over the bar as Braga stuggled with Carroll's presence. Liverpool were looking for that precious away goal and Kuyt fired just over from the edge of the box as he produced a great effort. Braga still tried to snatch a second goal but Liverpool looked the more threatening in the closing stages but without any joy. The game ended 1-0 and Liverpool will have it all to do next week at Anfield.
It was a very poor performance by Liverpool especially in the first half as Dalglish himself commented on. It had a lot of similarities of the performance at West Ham as we lacked an edge and tempo about our game which was in abundance on Sunday. We have struggled for goals all year away from home in Europe and once again it was the same story here. Key players missing didn't help, Gerrard and the ever improving Suarez were massive losses. The goal we lost was poor, a very poor challenge by Kygriakos resulting in the penalty. Poulsen is just not good enough for us and glad to see him taken off in a good attacking switch by Dalglish bringing on Carroll as Kuyt was left isolated in the first half. Carroll gave us more of an attacking threat and I was impressed with his performance and I think he could cause Braga all sorts of problems next week. Its not the worst result we could have got away from home and it could have been worse with Silvio's effort off Reina's crossbar. I am confident we can turn it around at Anfield but we will need a huge improvement in the performance.
Man Of The Match - Andy Carroll - The big man was superb when he came on especially as he not fully fit yet. I hope he can play longer next week.