Everton Snatch Draw at the Death

Originally published on LFCOnline.com website.

Red and blue collided at Anfield in the first Merseyside derby of this year’s Premier League campaign.

While only six games into the new season, given the each team’s early struggles, this match already looked like a crucial clash. It proved to be the most dramatic match of the season yet, as Everton snatched an unlikely equalizer in stoppage time, courtesy of a Phil Jagielka wonder strike, for a 1-1 draw.

Little motivation is needed to get up for a Merseyside derby, and the six new Reds making their first appearance in this classic fixture were introduced to just how hot blood can run from the opening whistle. It took little more than a minute for the first yellow card to be issued by referee Martin Atkinson.

As Liverpool came out flying down the pitch, Adam Lallana slashed his way across the pitch at speed, just outside of the penalty area, when Gareth Barry hatcheted him down.

Five minutes into the contest, Everton’s Romelu Lukaku broke into the Liverpool box, colliding with Alberto Moreno, without a call. As Lukaku reached an arm across Moreno, looking for a penalty call, Moreno may have masked a slight tug. Still, play continued and bodies continued fling into tackles all over the pitch.

In the 9th minute, the kind of controversy familiar to this derby flared when Raheem Sterling unloaded a lash from outside the left corner of the penalty area and into the outstretched arm of Gareth Barry in the box. While it could be argued that the arm was high to protect his face from the blast, many a penalty have been given for less.

Then less than a minute later, Barry was fought dawdling on the ball when Mario Balotelli worked hard to dispossess him only to be hooked by an embarrassed Barry. After this second incident it was curious how Gareth Barry remained in the match. Perhaps Barry actually benefitted from such an early caution, that referee Atkinson was reticent to send off a player less than 10 minutes into a match.

Yet, it almost didn’t seem to matter, as the Reds looked eager to score from the onset. Lallana won a free header on a Steven Gerrard corner, but could only force a sprawling save from Tim Howard.

Still, Liverpool looked much brighter from the start of this one, showing a refreshed sense of urgency to their game. Adam Lallana, in particular, is growing in confidence as he gets on the ball more and continues to play his way into form after the early injury. Also, Sterling remains the most menacing player in red on the pitch and looks to forge a partnership with Balotelli, despite generating no goals yet.

In the 26th minute, Leighton Baines beat Lazar Markovic to a ball in the Liverpool final third, before driving a low, hard cross dangerously across the Reds net, which Dejan Lovren hastily cleared. Markovic has yet to look up for the physicality of the Premier League and is definitely lacking confidence to make a genuine impact.

A few minutes later, Jordan Henderson unleashed a strike that was repelled by Howard. In the ensuing counter, however, he quickly recovered to stop Kevin Mirallas on the other end, before Mirallas pulled a hamstring in the effort. In the 31st minute, Aiden McGeady would replace the injured midfielder.

Liverpool fullbacks continued to whip crosses into the area from either side of the field, and Moreno nearly found the head of Balotelli, who seemed to simply miss-time his jump when attacking the aerial ball. Balotelli also seems to still be finding his way in the side, struggling to know where to be, what positions to take, and often dropping deep to get on the ball and glean some touches.

Just before the half, Henderson won the ball and started a counter, where he found a streaking Sterling, angling into the box on the left but lacking the finish. The moment seems to sum up the first half for Liverpool, who were energetic and at times surging forward but lacking a cutting edge.

The second half was more of the same, as Liverpool continued to firmly control the match, creating chances but unable to find the finish.

In the 48th minute, Sterling fond Markovic flashing down the center of the pitch with a beautiful through ball behind the Toffee’s defense, only to find Markovic unable to keep control and eventually going to ground when challenged. Markovic would eventually yield way to Philippe Coutinho in the 60th minute.

The match took a turn, when in the 63rd minute, Balotelli, again dropping outside the area got the ball on the right and looked to cut into the middle when he was fouled by Baines 20 yards away from goal, in a dangerous position right of the goal. Then Gerrard bent a spectacular drive over the wall and into the upper near-post corner, pinging off a desperate Howard palm, for the game’s first goal. There was no stopping the strike by the Red’s captain.

Moments later, Lukaku would mirror Balotelli’s missed header in the shadow of the Kop End, which launched a counter that saw Sterling slip behind the defense and cross the ball to Balotelli for a quick finish. However, Howard got the slightest of touches on the ball, sending it to carom off the crossbar and out of play. It was a missed chance that would prove costly.

Everton gained possession for stretches of the second half and Liverpool seemed all too content to contain and defend the attack far from the goal. Yet, the Reds dropped deeper as the half continued, conceding ground to the visitors. When they yielded a corner in the 90th minute, albeit only the second of the match, concern was not out of order.

Then heartbreak hit, as a weakly cleared header by Dejan Lovren bounced just left of the arc where Phil Jagielka would rip an unstoppable, slicing, 20 yard strike into the far corner of the net. There was nothing an outstretched Simon Mignolet could have done to even get a touch on it, and a draw that feels more like a loss was sealed.

Despite the a draw at the death, Liverpool showed definite signs of progress. The Redmen played with a much higher tempo and attacking threat than their recent Premier League fixtures. This match even showed a somewhat refreshed industry to create more chances, but Liverpool continue to struggle to find the incisive final pass and suffer from a failure to finish. Both the team and the match longed for the return of injured Daniel Sturridge.

If Liverpool can build on the positives and forget the draw at the death in time for their Champions League trip to Switzerland, the newfound energy could help propel them to greater strength in performance. Still, Sturridge cannot return to the lineup soon enough.

Reds Rocked by a Hammering at Upton Park

Originally published on LFCOnline.com website.

Fresh off a fortunate win in their midweek return to the Champions League, Liverpool were rocked by West Ham at Upton Park for a second straight league loss.

Just 80 seconds into the fixture and the home side found the net from a sleepy Reds defense on the first game’s corner.

A long corner to the back post was headed down and back into the fray by James Tomkins, where Winston Reid pounced on loose ball, punishing Liverpool practically from the opening whistle. Worse still, there was little let up from the Hammers as they continued flying into tackles and countering with pace in the extreme.

It did not take long for West Ham to double their advantage, when in the 7th minute Diafra Sakho drove into the penalty area, wide of the goal on the left, and chipped the entire Liverpool back line, including a frozen and out of position Simon Mignolet.

A shellshocked Liverpool side were all over the ground, reeling, as a suspicious starting eleven struggled to even gain a grip on the match. For the first 15 minutes, the Hammers repeatedly blitzed forward, reminiscent of Liverpool last season, leaving the Merseysiders looking like they were just  promoted.

While more questions have been surfacing about Mignolet’s quality in goal, they will only multiply and be amplified after this performance, which found him standing or scrambling in equal measure, both out of position and unaware.

After 16 minutes, frustration may have started boiling over as Mario Balotelli, chased down a back pass to Hammers’ goalkeeper, Adrian, catching him late in a challenge. Adrian did not take kindly to it and loomed over a flat Baloetlli. The two squared off momentarily, before both received yellow cards. Still, it was a sign of life.

Under Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool often struggles against physically rugged sides, especially when playing away from Anfield. If their pressing and possession are not clipping at a quick pace, players find themselves regularly getting caught in tackles and pounded on and off the ball. West Ham capitalized on this and continued to blunt any Liverpool rhythm with a high and suffocating press when briefly out of possession.

In an attempt to find some way to seize a foothold in the midfield and match, Rodgers substituted Javier Manquillo for Mamdou Sakho in minute 21. This tactical move introduced more size and changed the shape of the side with three at the back and Alberto Moreno pushing higher into the midfield.

The results looked promising as Raheem Sterling streaked into the box to slash a quality finish from a Balotelli shot that rebounded off the marking defender at 25 minutes. A minute later, Hammers midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate was given a yellow card for a high, late challenge on Moreno in the Reds penalty area, and Liverpool looked like the short break might help them play their way back into the match.

In the the 34th minute, Dejan Lovren and Sakho clashed heads and the game saw another long pause, as Lovren received treatment but eventually returned to play. It was a questionable decision to let Lovren return but the medical staff was never in a rush to assess his condition.

The first half ended with more West Ham, as Downing pulled the strings in almost trequartista fashion, carving up the Reds defense with real menace.

As the second half began, Adam Lallana was added for Lucas and Liverpool made another attempt to claw their way back into the match.

In the 52nd minute, Balotelli found Fabio Borini in the right channel, racing forward and into the box before taking a weak near post shot from a poor angle. Yet the sequence showed some intent and the beginning of a spell where the Reds threatened briefly.

Only 8 minutes later, a scrum of yellow bodies were flying in the West Ham penalty area, as the away side pushed for and equalizer. Lallana was eventually sent sprawling at the top of the box and the ball found its way to Borini who lashed a curler high over the crossbar.

In the 75th minute, Liverpool looked like they might yet find a point, as they looked more composed on the ball and were attacking with more speed, but still lacked edge in the box. Rickie Lambert was introduced for Borini, who only be described as putting in an almost invisible performance. West Ham countered by shoring up their defense by sending James Collins in for Enner Valencia.

Lallana looked brighter in this appearance as he tried to spark a Liverpool comeback. Yet, one foul after another, injuries, and slow restarts became the norm for the final quarter-hour. Plus, the Hammers packed in at the back and looked only to counter.

With little or no penetration into the Hammers’ box from anyone other than Sterling, who seemed to play all over the ground tonight, hope began slipping.

Then, in the 87th minute Downing’s man of the match performance continued against his old teammates, when he sloted Morgan Amalfitanowith a through ball that lead him past Martin Skrtel for  a cool finish in the far side netting, past a frozen Mignolet. it was an unsurprising end to horrible all-around display by Liverpoool.

Two league losses in a row may not be cause for panic, but will certainly raise mounting questions as to whether it is the beginning of a trend. Once again in league play, Liverpool began with the wrong starting eleven, wrong tactics, wrong start, and poor, poor play. The international break, which came just as the Reds looked to have found their form, and saw their squad rocked with a rash of injuries has definitely proven problematic. It has left this team short of confidence and form, and unable to reclaim their identity as one of the top teams in the Premier League.

Readings & Reactions: To Diane Ravitch and Anthony Cody – Really?

Image: EdWeek's Top Performers blog banner

Photo: Marc S. Tucker   Photo: Anthony Cody

By Marc Tucker @ EdWeek’s Top Performers blog

This recent blogpost where Marc Tucker rebuts Anthony Cody’s previous criticisms of education’s impact on the economy is a fascinating window into two very different points of view that more likely talking past one another rather than to one another.

While I certainly cannot speak for Mr. Cody, I would point to a small but significant distinction between the point I think he was making and the point that Tucker is countering.

It seems to me that in Tucker’s rebuttal is making education and schooling synonymous, which is common. However, as one part of a wider discussion, which seems to be Mr. Cody’s major endeavor both in his former EdWeek column and beyond, is that education and schooling are not necessarily as synonymous as sometimes believed.

Of course, it is foolish to argue against many of the facts that Tucker offers about income rates generally being higher for those that complete more schooling, but a much stronger argument could be made that the individuals that complete the various scholastic benchmarks cited begin with an array of advantages that might otherwise enhance their income. This point gets no mention in the column.

I would also add that “higher levels of knowledge, skills and technology,” may be a product of higher levels of education, but is not a guarantee. Ideally, this is true. Yet again, education and schooling are not necessarily the same. The educational system, made up of schools, is not the only source of education, nor should it ever be. Employee training programs can also be a form of education that can enhance income considerably, when done well, and that is only one additional source.

However, many companies cut training and development opportunities to increase their bottom line and satisfy shareholders, while blaming the decline of the educational system for its inability to produce qualified workers.

This raises the spectre of another wider debate about the purpose of an education, and how much of that purpose be strictly vocational, but that easily exceeds the boundaries of one column. Still, education may be the result of schooling, training, apprenticeship, and far more opportunities and alternatives that exist beyond what is considered the traditional educational system.

To suggest that there are not places where the existing educational system can be improved is folly, but admitting that also does not require the admission that the system is failing. Plus, comparing our students to other nations’ students is also not without serious flaws, again far more than would fit in a single column.

It seems to me that Mr. Tucker and Mr. Cody might very well be writing past one another, using common vocabulary but meaning very different things.