What was evident in Liverpool’s attacking play against Blackburn was their lack of a target man or someone they could rely on to get into the right areas and feed the ball to. Daniel Sturridge was invisible for long periods of the match and was seldom involved in the home side’s movements up front. Raheem Sterling, Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson are the key players who have been in form for Liverpool lately, but when they are not having their best day, someone else needs to step in. Sturridge is struggling to rediscover his best form since returning from injury and that is understandable as he was out for five months. Mario Balotelli was brought on in the second half, and while he was often involved in Liverpool’s attacking play, he struggled to make an impact on the game, which is also highly unsurprising. Brendan Rodgers must hope one of his strikers come out guns blazing before the end of the season because they will need it in their challenge for the FA Cup and more importantly, a top-four finish in the Premier League.
£25m seemed a very hefty price for a player like Lallana when Liverpool signed him last summer. He was part of a Southampton side that played free-flowing and attacking football – and he was tremendous at times in his role at the club. Many would have expected him to transfer that form and ability to his new club where the manager’s philosophy is to attack. He suffered injury troubles at the start of the season but since his return he has failed to live up to expectations and his price tag. In each opportunity he has been given, the England international has looked rusty, lacked confidence and as a result, far from the player he was last season. Against Blackburn, he had the chance to prove himself in his desired playing position but he was arguably the worst player on the pitch. He gave the ball away on a number of occasions, failed to connect some of his passes and struggled to take on players. The 26-year-old will slowly run out of first opportunities unless he can prove his qualities and perform even glimpses of what he showed last season.
Blackburn were up against a side that only lost twice since mid-December and were firing on all cylinders. However, Gary Bowyer’s side made Liverpool look average and clueless from start to finish. They defended superbly from the first whistle and even created chances in the first half and at the start of the second. Had Alex Baptiste, who was the best player on the pitch, scored after the break when Simon Mignolet saved his header, Blackburn might have nicked a surprise win. But even when they failed to take their chances and were put under intense pressure for most of the second half, they coped brilliantly. They restricted Liverpool to very few clear cut chances and they shut down key players such as Sterling and Coutinho. The Reds lacked ideas and creativity. Blackburn will take confidence from this performance, after having already upset the odds to a certain extent. If they can take a similar game plan with more attacking intent into the replay Ewood Park, they may just claim a place in their first FA Cup semi-final since 2007.
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