Midseason "friendly" games are often unbalanced affairs as both teams rarely have the same motives for playing the game. Liverpool's 1-0 loss at Glasgow Rangers was supposed to be an exception, but fit the mold in the end.
Kenny Dalglish promised that his side would match the continental atmosphere at Ibrox with a showing worthy of the occasion. His team consisting of squad players and regulars, who were returning from injury, let him and the travelling supporters down.
Rangers midfielder Lee McCullough scored the 20th-minute goal that would stand as the difference in the scoreline. It was just one moment in a commanding performance the hosts gave for the large majority of the game.
For their subservient visitors, Tuesday's friendly will stand as a missed opportunity. It was not that the club and supporters failed to represent themselves well off the field (they were superb). The players on the pitch failed to use the friendly to validate their claims for increased playing time in games that count. It was only after Dalglish replaced them with regulars that Liverpool looked like it might take something from the glamour friendly.
Oft-Injured veterans Daniel Agger, Glen Johnson and Fabio Aurelio returned to action and played around 65-75 minutes each. Their days were understandably difficult as it takes time to return to form after two-plus months on the sidelines.
Others — Danny Wilson, Sebastian Coates, Maxi Rodriguez and Andy Carroll — cannot hide behind the excuse.
Rangers did not show the cutting edge that has them leading the Scottish Premier League, but they were more energetic and determined than the Reds in the first half. After a sloppy opening, they pressed forward and found many gaps in the Liverpool defense.
Juan Manuel Ortiz found space along the left side after ten minutes. Some confusion about the offide rule saw him pass to himself, but Coates intercepted his attempted center. It was a sign of things to come. Ten minutes later, fullback Steven Whittaker skipped past the Uruguayan and fired a shot that was well saved by goalkeeper Doni.
The ensuing corner kick bounced around the Liverpool area as Johnson failed to clear it with any conviction. McCullough recovered it and slotted it low past Aurelio, who was manning the post.
Liverpool's lone bright spot in the first half was the performance of Doni. His string of saves shows the sharpness he's maintained by practicing with the unstoppable Pepe Reina. Unfortunately, he dislocated his finger making a save in the 57th minute. He left the game and it is uncertain when he will be available for selection.
Liverpool rarely threatened as the attacking trio of Carroll, Bellamy and Maxi could not connect in the Rangers half. It was not because of good defending. They were that out of sync.
The latter's decision in the second half to pass up an uncontested shot was the lone talking point in an equally lifeless second half. It was only after Charlie Adam manned the midfield at the stadium he once called home that Liverpool showed any attacking impetus.
Carroll and Jordan Henderson saw attempts go just wide. Rangers effectively closed down the game as the Liverpool starters showed their teeth.
Dalglish did not mince words after the game. He seemed to exonerate his players that were returning from injury, but admitted the team performed poorly.
"I haven't seen much of Rangers this season so I don't know if that was them playing well or badly. For us, that was us playing badly. But that's not to take anything away from Rangers.
"I don't think there was food for thought for the Norwich game. It was a disappointing result and we're a lot better than that but I suppose it was in mitigating circumstances because we had people coming back who haven't played too often."
Liverpool hosts Norwich City on Saturday, and –- the suspended Lucas aside -– the team that nearly beat Manchester United should keep their spots at Anfield.
The squad players that appeared today will have their shot at redemption in next Wednesday's Carling Cup game at Stoke City, but more than one played his way off that team with a lifeless performance against Rangers.
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