Saturday, October 1, 2011

Exeter City 1 Liverpool 3: match report

The old maxim goes that you can't put a price on peace of mind. After spending more than £100 million of John Henry's money in the last year, peace of mind is probably the least expected of Kenny Dalglish, and he duly made sure of a comfortable night by watching a strong starting eleven despatch League One Exeter with a degree of comfort. 

Dalglish made his first statement of intent on the team-sheet. This was to be no relaxed run-out for the reserves, but an audition for Liverpool’s A-listers, with Premier League starting berths yet to be nailed down. 

Around £75 million worth of talent took to the pitch, with £35 million more in the shape of Andy Carroll joining them midway through the first half. Carroll replaced Raul Meireles, who went off with a suspected dislocated shoulder after a challenge from Danny Coles. 

This was a great shame, as for the first quarter of the game Meireles was its highlight, enriching Liverpool’s attacks with deft lay-offs and neat flicks. There was enough evidence in his brief appearance to suggest that an Adam-Henderson-Meireles midfield trinity is worth further experimentation. 

But of course Carroll introduces a third dimension of his own to Liverpool’s game, and within two minutes of his arrival he had caused consternation in the Exeter area. Jordan Henderson had space to cross on the Liverpool right — a recurring theme of the game — and under pressure, Artur Krysiak was unable to lay both hands on the ball. 

It looped out to Luis Suarez, whose volley was fierce, if stoppable. Richard Duffy got a foot to it on the line but failed to divert it to safety. The goal settled Liverpool’s nerves, but it only sharpened Exeter’s. Under manager Paul Tisdale, they have been known to play an attractive passing game, but here they looked inhibited and short of ideas. 

With Liverpool passing their way through the centre, Exeter’s wide players were drawn narrower, leaving Jon Flanagan and Jack Robinson plenty of room to advance from full-back.

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