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Deconstructing Cardiff's Second Goal v. Liverpool

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Liverpool eventually turned their match at Cardiff City Stadium into a fireworks display, but they also conceded three worryingly straightforward goals, none worse than Fraizer Campbell's in the 25th minute.

Maybe I lied when I said there's nothing worth analyzing from yesterday's win. Watching highlights and part of a replay last night, it was impossible to ignore how poor the Cardiff goals were from a Liverpool perspective. Fraizer Campbell's was, for me, the worst to concede, as it came about due to a major breakdown in a defensive system that had been more solid in recent weeks. Individual errors were present for all three Cardiff goals, and the third was probably the ugliest, but Campbell's 25th minute strike was far too easy.

Amid the drunken revelry, let's relive the horror.

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As we saw against Manchester United, Joe Allen acted as a shield for Jon Flanagan most of the afternoon of the left side of midfield. With neither player up to the same standard however, especially in the first half, Cardiff were able to expose space time and again down Liverpool's left.

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Here there's literally nothing but space behind Flanagan, and this is like, literally literally. Allen closes, Flanagan drifts further forward, and Fraizer Campbell starts to slide into the abyss from a deeper position. He starts in between Flanagan and Steven Gerrard above, but with the former coming to the near side and the latter just sort of...there, things get ugly pretty quick.

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Bold move from Gerrard to stop doing anything at all, and in true captain's style, it inspires young Flanagan to do exactly the same thing. Team spirit is indeed at an all-time high, but it's maybe not the smartest time to stick together. Had Gerrard continued to track Campbell he'd likely have still been a step or two behind, but he'd have at least limited the striker's options. And Flanagan not started to close down on the least threatening option on the near side, that sad-face-space wouldn't have grown. Here, it's wax statue time.

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Flanagan finally turns around and tries to get back, but right now it's Campbell one-on-one with Daniel Agger, whose lateral quickness isn't exactly the quickest in the league. Again, had Gerrard tracked Campbell, there would be both support for Agger and a dangerous option mostly eliminated. Instead, Gerrard opts for the tried and true "do as I say, not as I do" method of leadership.

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Martin Skrtel comes into the picture above after Campbell cuts inside, but neither his effort nor Agger's lunge can prevent the well-placed shot from beating Simon Mignolet.

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It's the type of collective breakdown we saw against Aston Villa and Swansea City, in which time and space gifted to the opposition is exposed in a heartbeat. Not all on Steven Gerrard or Jon Flanagan, but both conspired to leave Daniel Agger on an island, and for all of the vice-captain's qualities as a defender, that isn't a situation in which he's particularly strong.

Thankfully the second-half performance was much, much stronger, with the space between the back line and midfield collapsed, and hopefully the third (or fourth or fifth) time's a charm when it comes to Liverpool's collective defensive effort learning important lessons.