United 0 Liverpool 0: Fierce rivals play out reserve bore draw
Posted by nickogs20 on January 29, 2009
|Manchester United Reserves||0-0||Liverpool Reserves|
It would be fair to say that this is not one of those United-Liverpool clashes that will live long in the memory. Despite both teams fielding strong starting lineups featuring a number of players on the fringes of the two clubs’ respective title challenges, this was a game that never really got going, a game pretty much entirely starved of goalmouth action or drama. Ole Solskjaer’s side probably shaded things as far as possession and territory are concerned, but to all intents and purposes the two teams cancelled each other out on their way to a goalless draw that did little to improve their respective league positions.
With reserve games coming thick and fast at the minute (oh how times change) and other demands being placed on the pool of players available to Solskjaer, the team that took the field tonight was much-changed from that which suffered defeat at the hands of Blackburn on Monday. Tomasz Kuszczak was given some much needed minutes in goal, while the back four ahead of him was rejigged – Matt James dropping back from midfield to fill in at right-back, Corry Evans shifting inside to partner skipper James Chester in the centre and Ritchie de Laet moving across to left-back.
Another new signing was given a reserve debut ahead of de Laet on the left flank, Zoran Tošić being given the chance to build on his recent substitute appearances for the first-team with a first United start at any level. Lee Martin came in for his first competitive reserve appearance this season on the right wing, with Danny Drinkwater partnering Rodrigo Possebon in the centre of midfield. Kiko Macheda and Febian Brandy were partnered upfront, the latter looking to continue his scoring form since returning from Swansea.
Liverpool boss Gary Ablett meanwhile fielded a number of players with first-team experience – David N’gog, Nabil El Zhar, Damian Plessis and Philipp Degen all part of the starting line-up.
In all honesty, any match report detailing incidents in this game is going to be a short one. El Zhar posed some early problems for de Laet on the Liverpool right but his crossing left a lot to be desired. Other than that, neither goal was threatened until visiting keeper Gulacsi was forced into a fairly routine save from de Laet’s well-struck long range effort. Indeed, the first half saw more yellow cards than attempts on goal, the miscreants for United being Tošić and Martin, the latter for a disappointing and glaringly obvious dive in the penalty area.
Tošić’s performance was probably the highlight of the first 45 minutes, the young Serb making the most of what seemed to be a licence to roam and linking up well with his fellow attackers. One rather optimistic effort from wide on the right-hand touchline gave Gulacsi a momentary fright as it threatened to curl and dip inside the far post, and the winger’s general play gave United fans reason to be optimistic about his future at the club. Those fans almost had great reason to be optimistic about the result of this game moments before the half-time whistle, the most incisive move of the half resulting in Macheda finding the far corner of the Liverpool net, only for an extremely dubious offside flag to rain on that particular parade.
Tošić departed at half-time, presumably with first-team duty in mind on Saturday, and was replaced by Davide Petrucci, who would go on to be a similarly shining light in a mass of mediocrity throughout the second half. The closest anyone came to breaking the deadlock in the second 45 was Macheda just five minutes after the restart, but in creating room for a shot he delayed too long and allowed Gulacsi to get out to him and block the effort when it came. Otherwise, United’s second half chances amounted to efforts straight at the Liverpool keeper from Drinkwater (set up by the lively Brandy) and Petrucci, and a late Matt James strike that was well blocked by Jay Spearing.
Down the other end, Kuszczak could probably have stayed in the dressing room and put his feet up until the last ten minutes, when N’gog and El Zhar both found themselves in decent goalscoring opportunites. Even then, the Pole in Goal could probably have sent out an imposter or a scarecrow wearing his kit, given they both miserably failed to hit the target. In truth, the game had 0-0 written all over it from a very early point and the latter stages of the match were verging on excruciatingly dull. OGS sent on Jimmy Derbyshire and Antonio Bryan and Ablett made changes of his own in an effort to liven things up but it was all to no avail, most in attendance and watching on TV more than happy to hear the final whistle.
While the game itself was dire, in fairness to the United players there were some decent individual displays (in the context of the match at least) and no-one disgraced themselves. Brandy and Macheda’s workrate certainly can’t be faulted, and de Laet had by far his most impressive game in a red shirt so far. That said, another somewhat listless performance from Possebon is a bit of a concern, the young Brazilian interspersing brief glimpses of the obvious quality he possesses with too many tentative, casual or simply wasteful passes and a lack of any attacking or creative thrust whatsoever. For whatever reason Rodrigo seems to be lacking the confidence that made so many sit up and take notice of his early season form – the surging runs, instinctive one-touch passing and fearsome shooting just aren’t there in his game at the minute and haven’t been since the injury picked up in that horror tackle from Emmanuel Pogatetz in the Carling Cup clash with Middlesbrough.
While the physical effects of that incident were mercifully minor, to this untrained eye there seems to have been a real psychological effect, a definite loss of confidence certainly. Easier said than done perhaps but with the midfield talent at the club, Rodrigo certainly can’t afford to continue playing so passively and ineffectively whilst still hoping to have a long-term future and really needs to somehow recapture that early-season form. There’s no reason to think he cannot do so, but the sooner the better for all concerned.
The reserves are in action again this coming Monday, as they travel across the City for the second mini-Derby of the campaign, this time in the Manchester Senior Cup. A win against the blues should secure United’s passage into the final as they seek to defend the trophy.
1. Tomasz Kuszczak
2. Matt James
3. Ritchie de Laet
4. Corry Evans
5. James Chester (c)
6. Rodrigo Possebon
7. Febian Brandy (12. Jimmy Derbyshire 69)
8. Danny Drinkwater
9. Federico Macheda
10. Lee Martin (16. Antonio Bryan 68)
11. Zoran Tošić (15. Davide Petrucci 46)
Subs not used
13. Ben Amos
14. Magnus Eikrem
Booked: Tošić, Martin, Drinkwater
Liverpool: Gulacsi, Degen (Mendy 46), Kelly, Spearing, Darby, El Zhar, Plessis, Pacheco, Bruna (Weijl 61), N’gog, Simon (Palsson 72).
Subs not used: Bouzanis, Antwi. Booked: Plessis, N’gog.