Another game, another draw, another frustrated 90 mins.
Blackburn utterly dominated the first half and we looked like my Friday nights 6 aside team. There was no cohesiveness, no interplay and no end product. In fact I believe Ryan Babel had our first shot after 40 mins. Not good enough.
However, we made it to the break on par thanks to the woodwork as Bentley and Dunn both hit the framework. Dunn was unlucky; Bentley was one-on-one with Reina and should have scored.
The second half was more of the same but we clawed out way into it with a very lucky deflection putting Dirk Kuyt through on goal but he couldn't decide whether to shoot, coming in off the right wing, or pass to Gerrard. Man of the match Christoph Samba did well in cutting down his options but the man who was bought as a striker tamely passed the ball back to Friedel.
The game really changed when Harry Kewell came on for the woefully ineffective Babel. He showed a directness and willingness to attack that the Dutch had only demonstrated in fits and starts. Crouch came on with 15 mins to go and changed the game further, his knock-downs and touches bring Gerrard into the play but Friedel stood firm. The attacking fulcrum of Kewell-Gerrard-Crouch-Kuyt started to show some menace and Kuyt spurned a glorious chance towards the end as Kewell chased a hopeful up-and-under, flicked it on and Friedel dived at Kuyt's feet. The ball was crying out for a dink over the prone 'keeper but Kuyt decided to go for power, not finesse, and in a move that was demonstrative of his evening, hit the ball high and wide into the Liverpool fans.
There was one point in the first half when we played the ball across the pitch but never got further than Blackburn's centre circle. There was no life, no vibrancy and no intent. Gerrard was being played too far forward and Kuyt had the first touch of a concrete block. I hope Rafa learns two lessons from this sham of a game:
1) Sissoko and Mascherano can not play with each other. They are too similar and neither has the creativity to unlock a Premiership defence. If Gerrard isn't going to be played in the middle and Alonso is injured, I'd like to see Lucas given a chance.
2) No lone-strikers. Crouch is playing well but he's not being given the opportunities his play deserves. He was great against Arsenal last week-end and again he looked good towards the end tonight. Kuyt is not in form and I'd like to see Crouch and Voronin given an opportunity both mid-week against Besiktas and next weekend against Fulham, at home.
3) A bonus for Rafa was Harry Kewell. I'd give him the second half against Besiktas with a view to starting him against Fulham. He brings what Ryan Babel should be bringing - pace, direction, menace and width. Babel looks overwhelmed right now and I can't help but think he's been started too early - he needs some time coming off the bench when defences are tired to get some confidence before he can be started again.
It's easy to write this one up to experience and, as I said yesterday, drawing to a very good Blackburn side is nothing to be ashamed about, but the opportunity to pull two points back on the leaders was there and with so many draws, I'm getting the feeling the season is passing us by.