There's apparently a bit of disagreement about whether or not Liverpool performed that poorly yesterday---some maintain that they weren't necessarily that bad, and had they not had the potential go-ahead goal waved off by Lee Mason, they'd have pushed on to get the win. I'm still of the opinion that they were an embarrassing calamity for most of the match and gave a poor account of themselves, tired or unlucky or whatever else. Bad breaks and bad calls cannot be controlled, but effort can, and Liverpool disappointed badly.
Whatever your opinion on the match as a whole, it seems that there's universal positivity surrounding the debut of 17 year-old Raheem Sterling, who came on for Dirk Kuyt in the 85th minute. Rumors of his inclusion had increased during the build up to the match, and when he was announced to be on a mostly young Liverpool bench, there were high hopes that we'd get a peek at Liverpool's next big thing.
That he came on with the side losing to the 19th-placed team in the Premier League table was unfortunate, as it'd have been nice for him to feature when he wasn't responsible for lifting the sentiment around the club and helping the club find a way out of a hole they never should have dug for themselves. His introduction was met was a nice applause from supporters, but you got the sense that it was almost too much to muster any real energy given Liverpool's failures on the day.
Once he got himself involved, though, there was a definite sense that you couldn't not be excited when he was in possession, as he quickly danced down the left and showed a burst of pace that's unrivaled in the senior team. He was smart in possession, worked hard defensively on the few occasions Liverpool didn't have the ball, and managed to create a number of fairly threatening opportunities---first streaming into the Wigan box to get on the end of a lofted ball from Jose Enrique, and then cutting in after jinking past two Wigan defenders to put a shot on goal that eventually won Liverpool a corner after Martin Skrtel had collected and seen his shot deflected.
He also chased down a seemingly hopeless ball and flicked a left-footed cross into the area that forced a clearance, and in the final moments won a free kick in a dangerous area that Liverpool ultimately wasted. As debut performances go---and certainly as far as seven minute cameos go---it was a convincing success on a day that saw Liverpool struggle to put together much of anything that was convincing or successful.
Signs of encouragement yesterday won't likely translate to immediate starts, and I don't think they should. He's not the cure to all that ails Liverpool, nor should he be treated as such. Some might disagree, but I think steadily increased minutes off the bench for the run-in is appropriate, possibly culminating in a start by season's end. There's much more for Liverpool to solve beside how a 17 year-old can fix everything that everyone else has managed to screw up. Those aren't questions that he can or should be expected to answer.
For now, though, we can just enjoy a brief but promising appearance from Sterling and hope that there's many more to come.
Video by LumixGoals