Steven Gerrard unfortunately didn’t make the starting lineup, but was present on the bench. Aly Cissokho was recalled at left back with Daniel Agger retaining his place in central defence alongside the stalwart Martin Skrtel. Iago Aspas was introduced to the starting XI. Raheem Sterling and the young Spaniard will be out on the wings, Jordan Henderson and Lucas Leiva in the central midfield and Philippe Coutinho sitting just behind Luis Suarez upfront. So, the injuries have forced a change in formation. All being well, the new-look side can crush Hull here at Anfield.
Liverpool started the match positively and were pinging the ball around well. Hull closed down well and were very defensive. The play all seemed to get caught up in midfield with few breakthroughs for both sides in the final third. Some hefty challenges were going in. Hull started to get the odd chance after the first ten minutes. They scored 6 goals in their last outing so it is no surprise that they have confidence going forward.
In the eighteenth minute it looked as though Liverpool had got the breakthrough. A nice free kick from Coutinho was floated in from the right and Luis Suarez got nicely on the end of it with an accurate header which skipped past the Tigers’ keeper. Unfortunately Luis was marginally offside when the kick was taken and the linesman had correctly flagged it. Hull escape….for now.
Tom Huddlestone became the first player into the referee’s book with a hefty challenge on Suarez, shortly afterwards. Nice to have him on a caution so early on. Philippe Coutinho had a speculative long free kick comfortably sail into the keeper’s arms. The Reds started to dominate and get a few more breaks, though we were not building play up enough and shooting rashly when it might have been better to build up the play.
Luis Suarez picked out a perfect pass for the accelerating Raheem Sterling to run onto. As he moved in on the Hull keeper, Allan McGregor, the goalie stepped up well and prevented Sterling from seizing the opportunity. The attacks were coming thick and fast now. Hull’s defence looked unable to cope with our forward force.
There was a prolonged period, mid first-half where the game petered out and a midfield battle ensued. Suarez seemed to be the recipient of Hull’s hard-hitting tackles. In he 36th minuted Daniel Agger climbed up around the penalty spot to get onto the end of a corner and headed the ball goal-ward. Jordan Henderson was acting as a foil and the distracted keeper could do nothing to save our central defender’s effort. 1-0 Liverpool and a goal for our captain for the day.
A frustrated Luis Suarez ended up getting booked although it was unclear exactly why. Perhaps it was a bit of backchat as he was getting too much attention from the Hull midfield and defence. Jordan Henderson missed a great opportunity to put us two up. Iago Aspas gave a nice flick into the path of Henderson who unfortunately shot just wide of the left post. It was a well-crafted move and deserved more. Just before half-time Henderson and Coutinho combined well but the Brazilian shot wide of the post. Another clear chance. Maybe we should be three up by now? We go into half-time a goal to the good.
A few minutes into the second half and our lead was indeed doubled. The Uruguayan maestro delivered one of his trademark free kicks from about thirty yards out. Suarez left the keeper no chance, with sniper-like precision. World Class is the best way to describe our star man.
Our sixty-three percent stats seemed to continue into the second half. Hull will have to really get lucky to earn points at Anfield today. Another unfortunate injury concern meant that Glen Johnson, who’d been struggling for some time, hobbled off to be replaced by Kolo Toure. Steve Bruce decided to shuffle his deck, making a three-way tactical substitution: George Boyd for David Meyler, Danny Graham for Robert Koren and Matty Fryatt for Yannick Sagbo. He needed to ‘Attack, Attack, Attack!’, as our Kop might cry in our own times of desperation. In the 62nd minute our talisman returned to action when Iago Aspas was substituted for Steven Gerrard. It seems a good opportunity to give him a run out after his injury layoff.
Coutinho and Henderson kept the pressure on the opposition goal. Luis Suarez seemed to be relatively quiet, perhaps the aggressive Hull players has successfully silenced him? Coutinho seemed to be really flying and made a fantastic run down the centre, shooting hard, only for the keeper to parry it away. Raheem Sterling left the field to give Victor Moses a fifteen minute spell to exercise his wares.
Hull continued to do battle and pressed hard to try and get something from the game, but Liverpool were calm and resolute in defence. The two goal cushion was comfortable and without being overly relaxed, they kept the Tigers at bay. Luis Suarez continued to draw challenges and a good run by him through the middle led to Curtis Davies illegally ending it and getting himself booked in the process. Luis Suarez couldn’t repeat his set piece magic in the ensuing free kick. Coutinho, in injury time, again was denied. He had shown a lot of promise today, though the end result wasn’t forthcoming. the game finished 2-0 and a good three points should put us back within our targeted top four range.
Brendan Rodgers proved his tactics were astute. Forced into a formation change he understood how best to over-rule a dangerous side who had made us look stupid only a month ago. Liverpool have successfully reversed the downward trend of our post-Christmas mini crisis. We have to maintain Anfield as a fortress throughout the second half of the season and today was a good day for tending to the ramparts. Next up is an FA Cup tie against Oldham here on Sunday.
Man Of The Match: Jordan Henderson. His deeper first half role enabled him to keep the out-of-depth Huddlestone well at bay. Henderson managed to get forward on many of our best attacks and seemed to outshine all other players in what was a good team performance. Hopefully Roy Hodgson will be taking note and Henderson could have an important role to play in the national side come the summer.