For the opening 20 minutes or so, it looked like the Liverpool of old was back. Anfield was bouncing & you could see the effect it had on them, with Thibaut Courtois losing his head. It had a Reds European masterclass written all over it. The problem is, it was Real Madrid we were up against. If we’re European royalty, they’re the ones who own the palace. They weren’t going to roll over and have their tummy scratched, however much the Kop willed it into being. You can’t give them an inch, but Vinicius Junior doesn’t even need that. At 2-1 there was still time to take the game away from the Spaniards, but then the new Liverpool reappeared. “No gifts” will have been the pre-match shout, but Alisson Becker decided to gift wrap one for them. Suddenly not only were we back on level pegging, but they had the wind behind them and we’d lost our heads. All of the nervousness and worry that we’ve seen time and again this season had resurfaced, both on the pitch and in the stands.
Probably a good time for #lfc to appoint a highly experienced DoF.
A fresh pair of eyes on the rebuild job would be invaluable because major, major surgery is required.
— Dan Kennett (@DanKennett) February 21, 2023
The most important thing in the second-half was to be sensible. It was effectively still 0-0, which was perfectly fine. We weren’t sensible. A needless free-kick conceded by Joe Gomez was converted and suddenly we were behind. From that moment, it was about not losing our heads, but lose our heads we did. Real are one of the best sides on the planet. Defending European champions for a reason, a big part of which is because they can ride a wave. They did just that, humiliating us in our own backyard. We lost the game by a scoreline that we were hoping to win by, making stupid mistakes and playing sloppily as we’ve seen too many times this season. It shows just how quickly games can turn, heads can be lost. The loss itself doesn’t worry me too much, given just how good both Madrid and Carlo Ancelotti are. The manner in which we lost is concerning, though. Habits that we’d tentatively moved away from resurfacing. Can we stop our season from imploding?
We Need To Regroup Quickly
This season has been one of sloppiness. It has been one of heads lost, players under-performing and the manager compounding it all with mistakes of his own. In some ways, this match was the perfect example of where we’re at right now. The initial error came from Alisson, but it could have been anyone. The ball from Stefan Bajčetić was loose, the pass from Joe Gomez poor. It was the goalkeeper’s error, but his teammates didn’t help. The tone began to be set and the same errors we’ve been making all season crept back in after two much better performances. The manager’s job now is to ensure that the Liverpool we see for the rest of the season is the one we saw against Everton and Newcastle United. It should be easy enough to get the players to forget about this, given the fact that Real have done it to teams repeatedly of late. Put this one in a box and forget about it. Go to Spain and make the tie respectable, then attack the top four with relish for the rest of the season.
Tough defeat that. Thought a lot of the senior players went missing tonight, once Madrid went in front. #LFC
— Sanj Shetty (@SanjWriter) February 21, 2023
Things feel bleak in the wake of that result, but all is not lost. We have got more than enough in our locker to put pressure on the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle, so we regroup and we go again. We have been indifferent at times, but that is to be expected of a team chasing top four. Having grown used to witnessing near-perfection as we try to keep up with the pace set by the sports-washing project that is Manchester City, defeats feel like they’re season ending. In reality, they are the sort of thing that teams looking for a spot in the Champions League spaces suffer during a campaign, which is why none of them have been able to keep up with us and Man City when we’ve been fuming it out at the top. When Liverpool went 2-0 up, Real Madrid kept their heads. When we went 3-2 down, we lost ours. It has been the problem time and again this season, with the Mentality Monsters well and truly gone, replaced by fragile players struggling with any challenge.
Defeats Are Fine, But Collapses Aren’t
The message that the manager needs to get across in the days to come is the fact that defeats happen. Real Madrid defeated both Chelsea & Manchester City last season from arguably worse positions than they were in tonight, so losing this match is not too much of an issue in and of itself. The concern will be the manner in which we completely collapsed. In the wake of the win over Newcastle, I was bemoaning the sloppiness that we’d seen. I was told that it was just because we had the game won. My concern was that we’d been sloppy all season and needed to prove that we were back on track. Being sloppy against 10-men isn’t good and it carried on into the game tonight. We collapsed in the match, but we absolutely can’t collapse over the remainder of the season. Top four is still achievable, but not if we allow the loss tonight to be all-pervading. The manager has not had a good campaign, but he’s still one of the best in the world and can prove it again.
2-0 to 2-3 was horrendous but it can happen. At that point you maybe drop 10 yards, have a think, take a bit of time out of the game, manage the game state, remember where and who you are
Liverpool, from dugout to pitch, decided to be absolutely shite 🤷♂️
— Mark Jones (@Mark_Jones86) February 21, 2023
We’ve got a match against Crystal Palace this season that is the perfect opportunity to prove that we’re not going to allow defeat to Real Madrid, and almost certain exit from the Champions League, to completely define who we are right now. We all know that there need to be major changes in the summer, but the players that are there at the moment can still prove that they’ve got something to offer. There needs to be a clear out of the deadwood, so if players want to remain at the club then they have to show the manager that they want to fight for their place. Im not entirely sure that some of them can, if I’m honest, but this is a team that has proven me wrong time and time again. As always, there’s nothing I like more than to be made to look like an idiot for doubting Liverpool Football Club. I hope that that happens when we head to the Bernabeu and I desperately hope that it happens in the Premier League. Now it’s on the manager and players to make it so.