Hull City 0
Changes as expected in the starting eleven, with Javier Manquillo and Albert Moreno in at the back, Jordan Henderson dropping out, and Adam Lallana restored to the starting eleven after coming off the bench midweek. Mario Balotelli was given another start by Brendan Rodgers up top, again without a direct partner to provide support, with Raheem Sterling getting his third start in six days along with Steven Gerrard, Martin Skrtel, Dejan Lovren, and Simon Mignolet.
There wasn't anything particularly new for most of the first hour, with Balotelli failing to influence the match on his own in attack, Sterling running out of gas (and in an ineffective role on the right), and the midfield leaving far too much space on the counter. Neither side were particularly threatening, though Balotelli did manage a good shot on goal after running onto a Sterling through-ball and Lovren forced a goal-line clearance with a header from a Gerrard corner. Liverpool also had a shout for a penalty for a foul on Lallana turned down, while Hull's counters mostly fizzled apart from some half-chances just before the break.
At the 60-minute mark Rodgers brought Philippe Coutinho and Rickie Lambert on to replace Adam Lallana and Joe Allen, and the change in Liverpool's play was almost immediate. Coutinho forced the issue in an advanced role on the left, and the home side were in the ascendancy for the remainder of the match. Prior to their introduction they'd had only a curling Gerrard effort that narrowly missed wide, but after they looked a completely different side.
Chances came for Lovren, for Gerrard, and, most notably, for Balotelli, but none found their way into the Hull net. Lovren whiffed, Gerrard was blocked, and Balotelli missed, stumbled, and was stopped by Eldin Jakupovic in the dying moments. It looked as though he'd win it, especially with the chance created by Coutinho with the final attacking move of the match, but it wasn't to be, and it was two points dropped on the day.
It was, in many ways, an improvement over the win at QPR, which seems slightly goofy considering the result was worse. But Liverpool felt more in control here, and especially over the last half hour, looked as though they actually had an idea of what they were doing going forward. The goal didn't come, which will continue to irritate considering the quality of the chances missed, but there's a possibility to move on from here with some semblance of an identity.
That identity in the immediate future has to involve Philippe Coutinho, who was again superb after coming on, and possibly Rickie Lambert up top to aid Mario Balotelli. Lambert's presence seemed more important than his quality, and he managed to link play well with Balotelli and Raheem Sterling in advanced positions while taking up spaces in the forward areas that had previously been unoccupied. Sterling had his customary moments of brilliance but largely looked exhausted, and while he's certainly in the picture moving forward, he needs time on the bench or out of the squad to recover.
The midfield started poorly but improved as the match went on; none of the individuals involved were poor on their own, but Steven Gerrard, Joe Allen, and Emre Can weren't particularly cohesive as a midfield unit, and in the first half Hull managed to exploit the space they afforded early. Allen was energetic early but faded in the second half, Gerrard was about what we've come to expect other than a few chances in front of goal, and Can proved capable of getting forward with in possession even if the final ball was lacking. Jordan Henderson came on late but was largely underwhelming.
At the back it was better, with Hull piecing together only a late first-half flurry to cause any danger. Alberto Moreno and Javier Manquillo were again impressive, and Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren were mostly competent in the middle. Lovren blew a few chances at the other end but was relatively less error-prone defensively, which counts as high praise given how shaky he's been.
Everything but the goals, really, but none of it overwhelming. Better throughout the squad, which feels like a moral victory of sorts even if the finishing isn't coming. Tuesday should provide a nice run-out for the squad players, but it's all about figuring out what's going to work away to Newcastle next weekend.