Forest and County

Forest Beat Eighties Enemies Liverpool For Their Second Win Of The Year

View from the stands of the City Ground at a Nottingham Forest match
Dom Allin and Rhys Thomas

It was a joyous afternoon in West Bridgford on Saturday afternoon as Nottingham Forest defied logic to record their first league win since August by beating a woeful Liverpool side. Forest fanatic Dom Allin reports on his side’s delightful day on the pitch, whilst Impact’s Rhys Thomas lays into another painful Liverpool display. 

This article is going to be in two parts, with a review of Nottingham Forest by myself (Dom), and then a similar review of Liverpool’s performance (if you can call it that) by Rhys. A further article, with a joint section concerning the fan behaviour on Saturday, will follow. 

You are probably wondering why this article on the early kick off has taken me so long. A chance to brag about beating the Champions League Runners Up. A chance to finally have one over those thousands of Liverpool fans in my life who chose the easy option in football. A chance to actually write about a Forest win! But I think the reason I delayed writing this article was that I just did not want to believe it was over.  

To put my pre-match feelings succinctly… Forest didn’t stand a chance

Forest came into this game in slightly good form, with two draws in three games that had lifted some spirits. However, no win in ten games, whilst being rooted to the bottom of the league, demonstrated that Forest weren’t on fire either. Furthermore, Liverpool had only last Sunday taken three points from Manchester City followed by victory against West Ham. To put my pre-match feelings succinctly… Forest didn’t stand a chance.  
Forest kept to their more resolute four-back. However, due to a small epidemic of injuries at left back, Welsh international Neco Williams moved across from the right, and the much-maligned Serge Aurier started at right back. Awoniyi started up top – similar to Williams, this was a chance to get back at his former employer. Brennan Johnson, after a buzzing physical performance against Brighton, dropped to the bench for the first time this season. 

This felt more like an FA Cup upset than a Premier League shock victory. Forest were thoroughly up for the fixture; attacking players turning and weaving through Liverpudlian legs and tackles that could only be viewed through grainy 70s television.  

Whilst Liverpool’s possession stats are misleading due to the prominence of sideways passes, Liverpool created a collection of big opportunities, all squandered. Van Dijk, for instance, had a hat trick of chances that he failed to convert. It could be argued this was a lacklustre performance but that would forget the magnificence of Dean Henderson. Seven saves from the loanee halted an expected goals rating of 2.13. Henderson might just have played his way back onto the plane to Qatar.  
Aurier and Williams’ attacking abilities to create width were also important. The former Spurs fullback has been so far successful at his new club. Simply being able to put consistent tackles in and to distribute the ball has been unglamorous but vitally important in Forest’s newfound defensive stability.  

Kouyaté, Forest’s controversial defensive midfielder, was phenomenal. His attacking potential was a major part of Forest’s going forward allowing for the quick and dangerous counterattacks that threatened Allison. I have praised many Gibbs-White and Yates many times before here and on my URN podcast Over The Trent, and on Saturday they did not wilt under the pressure.  

The question now is whether that performance is sustainable, or were Cooper’s side riding on the excitement of playing Liverpool?

 Forest remained bottom of the Premier League after the weekend’s fixtures, but this is only a positive step for them. The question now is whether that performance is sustainable, or were Cooper’s side riding on the excitement of playing Liverpool? If Forest can play like that on a regular basis they might be able to fight in the relegation battle.  

The Liverpool Perspective 

Where to start? Probably by congratulating Forest – without trying to sound overly patronising, I would be delighted if they’d beaten any other team. As for Liverpool, it was yet another dreary performance that leaves me again questioning whether these are really the same players that took the club all the way in all four competitions last season. 

Part of the problem is that they can never seem to get that team on the pitch at that same time this year. For the Forest game, Liverpool were missing Konate, Matip, Thiago, Keita, Diaz, Jota, all of whom played crucial parts in that wild, mammoth 63-game last campaign. That’s omitting new signing Núñez, also absent at the weekend, as well as Alexander-Arnold and Henderson who were only deemed fit enough for the bench. 

Though this is one contribution to the Reds’ downfall this season, it can be no excuse for the result at the City Ground. After all, this is a similar enough team that beat the seemingly unstoppable Manchester City just a week ago. With all due respect to Forest, they are an outfit who, at one point, looked like they would be taking Derby’s shameful title of worst-ever Premier League season. 

It feels strange to label a 1-0 defeat away from home a disgrace, but the complete absence of dynamism and intensity from most Liverpool players was exactly that. Walking, lazy passing, and uncertain finishing were all ingredients that made up a terrible performance that was deservedly punished by a buoyant Forest team. 

I could lament Liverpool for pages and pages, but reflecting on Saturday’s game should perhaps focus on the Nottingham side more. Having attended the City Ground last season, it is certainly a fortress for Forest, a cauldron of noise from which they draw the energy and intensity to match and beat teams better than them.  

If Forest can use the City Ground to this affect more frequently, they might yet beat the drop

Despite the game being an early kick off, the stadium was still noisy. Forest were up for it and Liverpool often looked like they could not care less, a stark contrast to the energy of their battling win against City. If Liverpool continue this shocking away form, even the Europa League places will be beyond them. If Forest can use the City Ground to this affect more frequently, they might yet beat the drop. 

Dom Allin & Rhys Thomas

Featured image courtesy of Dom Allin. Permission given to Impact to use. No changes were made to this image.

 In article image 1 courtesy of @officialnffc via Instagram. No changes were made to this image. 

In article image 2 courtesy of @liverpoolfc via Instagram. No changes were made to this image.

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