I was lucky enough to snatch up some tickets before they were all sold-out and attended the match last night. Liverpool is the most loved club in this part of the world and the seats were filled more than two hours before kick-off. An hour before the game, the Liverpool squad came out into the middle of the pitch and did the traditional Thai greeting led by Sammy Lee (who got a great reception for putting out cones for training) which sent the crowd into raptures. However, Peter Reid’s Thailand (remember him?) were able to fend the reds off, and the scores finished 1-1, leaving Liverpool winless in each of their pre-season games thus far. On a more significant note, Martin Skrtel looked to pick up a bad hamstring injury and limped off 10 minutes into the second half. Shortly after, fringe first-teamer Nahib El-Zhar was substituted after injuring his knee attempting a ludicrous bicycle kick from outside the box. Liverpool looked pretty dull and rusty for the majority of the contest but they surely got a workout as the humidity was high and the conditions unforgiving: after having endured a muggy climate for the majority of the match, the skies opened up 10 minutes from the end, and a rainstorm of epic proportions drenched players and fans alike.
Read on for brief match analysis, more pictures and the highlights.
Ryan Babel opened the scoring after about 5 minutes, running onto a good ball from stand-in captain, Jamie Carragher (Stevie G may or may not be going to prison…), which put him behind the Thai defense and left him the easy task of guiding it past the keeper. However, the floodgates did not open. From my expert analysis, the Thais kept at least 10 people behind the ball, and defended well as a unit and looked to counter-attack at all times, which frustrated the reds.
On offense, the Thais were very quick (predictably) and their possession consisted of neat one-twos, flicks and tricks. The reason behind this is that speed was the only real weapon the Thais had against Liverpool. There was no way a Thai player could look to hold the ball up and if they were to slow the tempo, the Liverpool team would have time to set itself up and would be a lot harder to break down. It’s important to remember that the Thais are naturally shorter than Europeans, so crosses and long balls would be ineffective. This made Liverpool even more dangerous on set-pieces and corners – they came close on a few attempts but they were surprisingly wasteful of these chances, as none of them troubled the keeper.
Javier Mascherano came on in the second half and couldn’t help but force himself into the book after about four fouls in quick succession. He soon found himself to be on the receiving end soon after, as he was clattered from behind and spent some time milking it on the ground. So much for a ‘friendly’. The Thai player went in strong, but replays on the big screen showed there was actually no contact at all, which drew a few jeers from the crowd – me included. He was booked anyways.
The most exciting moment of the night came in the 73rd minute, when Thailand equalized. It came off a neat one-two (surprise, surprise) which caught the Liverpool defense following the ball and not the man. The Thai substitute number 17, Sutee, buried a shot in off the post and ran off to drop-kick the corner flag and do his best ‘Scarface’ impersonation a la Robbie Earnshaw. You can see him kick the corner flag, but amazingly his scarface impression didn’t make the highlights. Disappointing.
However, the biggest cheer of the night was reserved for the arrival of Torres in the 80th minute. With his first touch, he dribbled at the Thai defenders, going past three before having a shot saved. If that had gone in, the place would have gone absolutely bonkers. With his second and third touches he sent a header wide and played Voronin in behind the defense. The Ukranian couldn’t convert, and missed a sitter that surely would have sealed the game. Liverpool fans have come to expect this from him and I don’t think many people were very surprised. I think the Thai players were a little intimidated by the Spaniard at first, as they gave him the time and space to create chances.
But the Thais were able to hold on, and played well throughout. Liverpool won’t be too disappointed with the result, but will be worried with the two injuries they’ve picked up. Another big story was that Alonso was ‘injured’ and didn’t even make the bench, fueling speculation that he will soon be off to Madrid. Funny because the day before the match, I saw Alonso and a few others at an Addidas store in Bangkok and he looked fine; plus there was no word of his injury until shortly before the match. Nonetheless, many fans showed their support for him as he got a standing ovation for walking onto the pitch before kickoff and there were signs pleading with him to stay.
The match was a good experience for the Thai players and it really meant a lot to the crowd. Some people are against these faraway tours, but Liverpool were happy to come, and I’m sure they’ll return in the near future.