Soccer: All-out attack key to title

By Glenn Moore

Goal difference taken out of equation as top clubs target the net at every opportunity.

Luis Suarez goes for goal whenever possible. Photo / Getty Images
Luis Suarez goes for goal whenever possible. Photo / Getty Images

Two seasons ago, Manchester United scored 89 goals, 56 more than they conceded, yet lost the English Premier League title by a goal difference of eight to Manchester City. It seems the lesson has been learned.

This weekend, the top three Premier League sides scored a staggering 17 goals between them, taking their combined total for the season to 220 in 89 matches.

With the fixtures running out it is becoming increasingly apparent that goal difference could be decisive again and Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea are all doing their best to ensure they will not lose the title that way.

Chelsea (62 goals, goal difference +39) and City (76 goals, +49) ruthlessly punished Arsenal and Fulham after their opponents were reduced to 10 men. The attitude of Liverpool (82 goals, +44) was shown when, with Cardiff chasing an improbable revival having reduced the arrears to 3-5, Luis Suarez reached a long ball launched towards the corner in injury time.

Not for him the time-wasting corner-flag routine. He cut inside and went for goal. It didn't work out that time but a minute later he took advantage of another opportunity to score Liverpool's 24th goal in six matches.

While this cumulative focus on scoring big is frightening for opponents, particularly Sunderland, who have to go to all three teams in the run-in (and Crystal Palace, who host them all), it is good news for spectators.

All three teams played some excellent attacking soccer, but with four of City's goals coming from dead-ball situations against a team who have now shipped 70 goals, and Chelsea's coming either on the counter-attack or against 10 men defending abjectly, Liverpool's 6-3 win in the Welsh capital was the most impressive. Cardiff twice led, were in the game until the hour mark and never gave up. But even when they were ahead and defending with five at the back and four in midfield they were no match for Liverpool's attacking brio.

Brendan Rodgers deployed the same diamond midfield that embarrassed Manchester United at Old Trafford last week, but fielded the guile of Philippe Coutinho at its apex rather than the pace of Raheem Sterling. Coutinho helped knit Liverpool's attacks together but the three sweetest passes of the day came from Jordan Henderson (a perfectly weighted inside pass for Glen Johnson to provide Suarez' first), Daniel Sturridge (a smart backheel for Suarez' second) and Johnson's long forward pass for the Uruguayan's hat-trick.

This abundance of providers in a team that also has the passing range of Steven Gerrard and Joe Allen's precision explains why it is so difficult to stop Liverpool when they are in full flow. Statistically, and aesthetically, it is the most entertaining Liverpool team since 1987-88, when Kenny Dalglish signed John Barnes and Peter Beardsley and regained the title.

"I think the variety and imagination in our game is at a real top level," said Rodgers.

"We showed our power in the offensive game. We can be better, there are areas defensively where we lapsed a little bit, but I know as a manager that, when you are stood on the touchline, the thing you fear in a game is the opponent and their offensive threat.

"[Playing us] you are playing against a team you know can score from anywhere, any angle, and a team that can dominate the ball."

- Independent

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf05 at 09 Dec 2016 22:03:35 Processing Time: 701ms