Despite playing reasonably well, Liverpool slumped to a 2-0 defeat in St Petersburg against Zenit, and face a massive task if they are to progress in this season’s Europa League. They were unable to maintain the stats I highlighted in my preview, and paid the price accordingly.
It’s not that they didn’t have chances, but Luis Suárez maintained his recent profligate run in front of goal, and so the Reds have it all to do next Thursday.
After putting all seven of his shots against West Brom off target on Monday, Suárez maintained his poor form by spurning several decent chances in Russia, and now appears to be in something of shooting slump; just two of his last eighteen attempts have troubled the opposition keeper.
For context, ten of the sixteen shots he fired off prior to this latest run were on target, illustrating that he is in something of a mini-rut at present. Perhaps playing half a season as Liverpool’s only fit striker is catching up with him?
Aside from shooting, Suárez was also caught offside four times against Zenit, when he averages around once per game, so he clearly wasn’t quite at the races for this one.
The poor quality of the pitch didn’t help the Reds either (and a reported temperature of minus four won’t have aided them), so they had to abandon their short passing principles at times. For instance, Pepe Reina played 67% of his passes long, when he usually averages just 22%.
While Liverpool were relatively comfortable for an hour, two goals in three minutes changed all that. The shot placement diagram from WhoScored doesn’t do the first goal justice, but it does indicate that Zenit found the corners twice whilst Liverpool were mostly off target:
Henderson committed a defensive error for the first (giving the ball away cheaply in a dangerous position) which allowed Hulk to score, and Glen Johnson (who with five tackles and three interceptions was actually Liverpool’s man of the match) was caught napping at the back post leaving Semak unmarked to fire home the second minutes later.
Worryingly for Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool have now conceded two-or-more twenty times in all competitons this season, and for the last five games in a row. As I discussed here earlier this week, teams lose 77% of the time when conceding twice or more, so this desperately needs to be arrested as soon as possible.
Up next for the Reds it’s a match against Swansea City, whom they’ve not beaten since the Swans returned to the Premier League, and then the return with Zenit. It’s not getting any easier for Brendan Rodgers right now.