Liverpool FC hit a new low -
the graveyard slot of Match of the Day
Comment by Dominic King - Liverpool Echo
Out of the Champions League, floundering
in the Premier League but now a new low in this season of
woe – relegated to the graveyard slot
on Match of the Day.
Liverpool have become accustomed in recent years to having
the majority of their games broadcast live and even when
matches have kicked-off at the traditional 3pm on Saturday
afternoon, extended highlights can be pretty much
Things, however, are changing. While the Reds’ trip to
Blackburn was never going to command top billing in the
weekend just gone, they can consider themselves fortunate
that the ‘MOTD’ producers decided to give this fixture air
time at all.
But should Liverpool keep playing like this in the future,
they will have to get used to being shuffled down the
pecking order as, ultimately, there were moments at Ewood
Park when watching paint dry would have provided infinitely
Though it was never going to be a stroll against a side who
pride themselves on being hard to beat and relish a physical
battle, Liverpool ought to have seized the chance to
maintain the momentum a derby day win had given them in the
In keeping with the way the past two months have gone,
though, here was another missed opportunity, another hugely
frustrating experience for Rafa Benitez, his players and
supporters, another stuttering step.
While it is true to say Liverpool enjoyed the greater
possession and threatened occasionally to break the
deadlock, there can be no complaints that they returned to
Merseyside with just a point.
Quite simply, they didn’t do enough to win the contest and
the fact Blackburn keeper Paul Robinson was relatively
untroubled during 90 humdrum minutes says everything you
need to know about Liverpool’s shortcomings as an attacking
Yes, they could have emerged victorious and had Glen
Johnson’s ball into David Ngog not taken an outrageous
bobble as he shaped to shoot, there is reason to believe his
effort would have whistled past Robinson rather than crashed
off the crossbar.
“It was the worst bobble I’ve ever seen,” Johnson, who
caught the eye once again, groaned. “Sometimes luck doesn’t
go for you. We were pushing and pushing and it was so
frustrating we couldn’t get that goal our play deserved.”
Still, for a side that has designs on reclaiming its place
among the Champions League elite, it was nowhere near enough
and you only have to compare Blackburn’s fortunes against
the Reds’ biggest rivals this season to see their failings.
Arsenal thrashed them 6-2 at the Emirates Stadium in
October, the same month that Chelsea put five unanswered
goals past them at Stamford Bridge and Manchester United
beat them 2-0 in a canter at Old Trafford.
Blackburn might epitomise obduracy on home turf – they have
only been beaten twice at Ewood in the Premier League since
Sam Allardyce took over as manager last December – but
Liverpool should have had enough wit and wisdom to come out
Or should they? This was largely the same side that had
struggled to create clear chances at Goodison Park six days
earlier and, if anything, it had more of an attacking lilt
to it, as Yossi Benayoun and Albert Riera came in for Ngog
and Fabio Aurelio.
Yet Riera created little during the time he spent on the
pitch and Benayoun – normally such a bright, busy, inventive
figure – huffed and puffed to no avail, never moving with
the élan that has graced his play this calendar year.
You may have thought, then, this would have been the ideal
place to give Alberto Aquilani a lengthy run-out but, again,
he spent his time shuffling up and down the touchline.
Had Benitez not come out afterwards and state emphatically
Aquilani will start against Fiorentina on Wednesday, the
conspiracy theorists would have had a field day and, in all
probability, started asking serious questions.
Benitez attempted to explain last week why Aquilani has
hitherto been a spectator, citing that his lack of fitness
and match practice could ultimately prove detrimental to
both team and player.
Of course, Benitez is right to protect a key asset and given
Liverpool’s wretched luck with injuries this season, the
last thing he wants is to pitch Aquilani in and see him
either pull up lame or be on the receiving end of a
juddering tackle that set him back.
Aquilani’s rehabilitation has clearly been more complicated
than many have imagined but does there not come a point when
the manager simply has to decide ‘enough is enough’ and he
asks the graceful Italian to start making a difference?
Take a glance at the table; Liverpool have not been cut
adrift in the race for a top four spot by any means and
there is sufficient time for them to retrieve the situation.
That, sadly, is easier said than done and what concerns
Liverpool fans most of all now is Tottenham, Manchester City
and Aston Villa don’t give the impression they are going to
squander too many points.
To make inroads on those sides, Benitez needs to find a
place in his team for Aquilani, he craves the return to
fitness of Fernando Torres and needs others to take some of
the match-winning responsibility off Steven Gerrard’s
Liverpool’s talismanic captain did everything he could to
mark his 500th appearance in the best possible way.
Unfortunately, his best was not good enough this time and
Blackburn – for whom Ryan Nelson and Christopher Samba were
outstanding – thoroughly deserved their point.
A Blackburn victory would, inevitably, have made bigger
headlines and left those in charge at Match of the Day with
a headache, as a ‘shock’ always demands a chunkier segment
of the programme.
If Liverpool are to claim that place in the running order to
which they are more accustomed, it is imperative they buck
their ideas up; if they don’t, the end of season DVD risks
being turned into a video nasty.
Johnson upset by 'ugly' Rovers
Glen Johnson has vented his frustration at
Liverpool's stalemate with Blackburn Rovers by branding Sam
Allardyce's side's style of play as 'ugly'.
The Reds slipped further off the leading pack in the Premier
League on Saturday as they could not find the back of the
net in a 0-0 draw at Ewood Park.
Liverpool's French striker David Ngog wasted the best chance
of a woeful match as he hit the bar from close range after
being set up by Johnson.
The full-back, whose cross was arguably the only moment of
brilliance, believed he and his team-mates deserved to win
and is annoyed they failed to defeat Rovers.
Johnson said: "It's always difficult against Blackburn
because they don't play much football and just launch the
ball forward at every opportunity.
"They play an ugly game very well and play to their
strengths. It makes life difficult for the opposition at
"We knew what to expect and we tried to get the ball down on
the floor and play. The pitch wasn't great and we took a
while to get used to it, but that's football and you have to
live with things like this."
The England international added: "We deserved to win,
especially after our second-half performance.
"I thought we'd scored when I crossed for David but the ball
hit the worst bobble I've ever seen before his effort came
back off the bar.
"Sometimes luck doesn't go for you but I thought we played
the best football and did enough to win the game. We were
pushing and pushing and it was so frustrating we couldn't
get that goal our play deserved."
Aquilani set for Viola start
Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez has revealed
that Alberto Aquilani could make his long-awaited first
start for against Fiorentina on Wednesday night.
Aquilani was once again an unused substitute in the goalless
draw with Blackburn Rovers on Saturday.
The Italian midfielder could now make his first start in
Wednesday's Champions League clash with his countrymen
Fiorentina with nothing at stake in the encounter.
"Maybe we will start with Aquilani in our next match because
today was a very difficult and tough game," said Benitez.
"But against Fiorentina maybe he will start.
"We were thinking of putting him on today but the game was
too open. When a player isn't match fit, it is a risk to put
him on the pitch. Maybe it would have been worse for him. At
Anfield, with our fans behind him, I think it will be
"It's also a question of the other players being injured.
Gerrard was injured before and is fit now. With Gerrard,
Lucas and Mascherano we now have balance in the midfield."
Aquilani has made just three substitute appearances since
recovering from ankle surgery in the summer, but despite
calls for the player to be included in his starting XI
Benitez is refusing to rush the former Roma man
"He is a player who needs to settle down," added Benitez.
"We are watching him in every training session and he is
improving and doing well.
"He can only get match fitness by playing. We were hoping to
play him in the reserves the other day but the game was
postponed, so we have to carry on and then he will have a
chance against Fiorentina."
Benitez also revealed Fernando Torres could return for the
Fiorentina tie after recovering from a groin problem.
Allardyce rues Kalinic miss
Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce could not
resist a return to the dug-out and saw his team almost treat
him to a victory over Liverpool.
Allardyce had spent much of the match in the directors' box
following his heart surgery last week, but he ventured down
to the dug-out for the closing minutes of the goalless Ewood
He said: "I felt okay until the last few minutes, they were
"But in those minutes we could have won it. Nikola Kalinic
was through, and should have at least got his effort on
target. He was flattened by (Jose) Reina just outside the
box, but he still should have rolled the shot on target.
"I was delighted with the way the team played. It has been a
good week for us, beating Chelsea in the Carling Cup as
"Considering our lads had played two hours and then
penalties in that match, and Liverpool didn't have a midweek
game, I felt it was a great testimony to our fitness.
"We could easily have lost it in the second half, and I felt
we deserved the bit of luck when (David) Ngog hit the bar.
"But there was also another chance we should have put away
when Franco (Di Santo) was clear in the box. That is the
difference between the big boys at the top and teams like
us, they take those chances.
"But considering Liverpool are a great club, we restricted
them to just that chance against the bar. As the game went
on we put Keith Andrews on to man-mark Steven Gerrard, he
was the best player out there.
"And that meant he could not get the space to produce a bit
of magic to win it for them."
Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez was left
frustrated after his side were held to a goalless draw by
Blackburn at Ewood Park.
The Reds dropped further behind the leading pack after
seeing two points go begging as a result of the stalemate.
David Ngog had the best chance of a disappointing encounter
midway through the second half when he saw his shot from
Glen Johnson's cross come back off the underside of the
Benitez was disappointed with the first half showing, but
more happy with the second half display as Liverpool created
more goalscoring opportunities, but to no avail in the end.
"I'm a little bit frustrated," said Benitez. "I felt we
could win the game.
"In the first half we didn't play very well but it was a
difficult match. They were very direct and we were expecting
"After that we changed it with Ngog in attack and Nabil (El
Zhar). We were more dangerous and had chances to win. They
also had two counter attacks which could have seen us lose.
But I think the team played much better in the second half.
"It is a clean sheet and we played better football than the
other day, so we are improving, but you have to win these
types of games. We had chances, but you need to score from
them if you want to win matches."
Benitez admitted he was surprised to see Ngog's close range
effort come back off the crossbar, but he was impressed by
the impact of Ngog and his fellow substitute Nabil El Zhar.
"I was convinced it was a goal and after that Kuyt had the
rebound but it was well blocked," added Benitez.
"We were disappointed but in the last minute we nearly
conceded a goal. This is football.
"I was pleased with Ngog and Nabil did well when he came on.
Hopefully Torres will be available for the next game and
maybe he will be on the bench - if everything is okay over
the next few days."
in Ewood bore draw
Blackburn and Liverpool fought out a 0-0
draw at Ewood Park, with David Ngog coming closest to a goal
with a shot that rattled the crossbar.
The first half was a shocking, grim affair with neither side
producing anything worthy of note.
After the break Liverpool were arguably the better side, but
even a third successive clean sheet will not mask another
display which lacked drive and belief.
Blackburn deserved their point in a good week which also saw
them beat Chelsea in the Carling Cup quarter-finals.
They made four changes from Wednesday's victorious side with
Michel Salgado, Nikola Kalinic, Morten Gamst Pedersen and
Jason Roberts on the bench and the fresh legs of Gael Givet,
Vince Grella, El Hadji Diouf and Franco Di Santo all back in
Liverpool had Albert Riera and Yossi Benayoun returning to
the starting line-up from the side which won at Everton last
Dirk Kuyt played as the lone central striker with Steven
Gerrard, playing his 500th game for the club, delegated to
his supporting role.
With Riera and Benayoun out wide and a clear decision to
defend in depth, Liverpool were looking to hit Blackburn on
Rovers accepted the initiative handed to them in midfield
and came forward with purpose with ex-Liverpool man Diouf
prominent as the home side monopolised possession.
Not one serious chance was created in the opening half,
Liverpool not having enough up front to make things happen
and Blackburn finding it tough to weave their way through
Liverpool's massed ranks.
Rovers boss Sam Allardyce, back after his heart surgery but
leaving the dug-out to his assistant Neil McDonald, would
have been reasonably pleased with what he was watching.
Liverpool chief Rafael Benitez fashioned his side to counter
Rovers' aerial threat at set-pieces.
He has always been preoccupied with competing against
anything Allardyce comes up with, either at Bolton or now
The first half saw precious little penalty box activity.
Givet's 36th-minute free-kick presented Di Santo with a
flick-on chance, but Jose Reina was alive to the danger.
A minute later Gerrard burst into the box from the left, but
Chris Samba's lunging tackle deflected the shot wide of the
Di Santo should have scored a minute into the second period
when Steven Nzonzi's pass put him clear, but the young
striker was painfully slow to get the ball under control and
was dispossessed by Daniel Agger.
Then Liverpool again lost Riera to injury as he limped away
to be replaced by Ngog, Kuyt moving to the left.
Gerrard soon tested Paul Robinson from 25 yards and then saw
another flighted chip clear the bar. Diouf was booked for
tripping Javier Mascherano, the tempo of the game finally
Gerrard had another shot blocked and Benayoun's header from
his captain's corner flew over the bar.
Rovers hit back when they took advantage of Lucas falling
over in possession, surging away for Di Santo to test Reina.
Glen Johnson's exciting run past four men ended with a low
cross that Ngog smashed against the bar after 71 minutes,
Kuyt's follow-up being blocked by Samba.
David Hoilett came on for Diouf and Nabil El Zhar replaced
Benayoun, with Benni McCarthy shooting inches wide before
being taken off after 76 minutes, Kalinic taking over.
Johnson's cross was then headed back by Gerrard for Ngog,
who failed to connect three yards out under pressure.
Rovers sent on Keith Andrews for Di Santo with six minutes
left as Liverpool surged forward, but they could not manage
the decisive finish.