Liverpool 0-0 Hull City: Five things we learned

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Liverpool dropped to seventh in the Premier League after drawing 0-0 with Hull City at Anfield.

The Reds' best chance fell to Mario Balotelli in the dying seconds of injury time, however the Italian failed to convert his effort from six yards out.

Brendan Rodgers' men dominated the game for large parts, and almost went into the break 1-0 up, when Dejan Lovren met a Steven Gerrard corner with his head, however he saw his effort cleared off the line.

After chances going begging in the second half, Steve Bruce's men walked away with a second successive point against a top four side from last season, having drew 2-2 away at Arsenal last weekend.

A clean sheet is a start

Liverpool have been very under-par at the back this season, having conceded nineteen goals in all competition. The new-look defence, spearheaded by £20 million summer signing Dejan Lovren, have not gelled at all and been plain awful when keeping out goals.

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However, against Hull there was a significant improvement. All of the back-four looked to be playing with a lot more confidence and were positive in their decision makings. Albeit, they had a fairly quiet afternoon, with Steve Bruce making the decision to start Abel Hernandez as a lone striker, yet Liverpool dealt with the threat efficiently and effectively.

Lovren showed glimpses of why Brendan Rodgers paid so much more for him, reading the game extremely well and making some superb tackles and blocks when Hull did get a sniff around the Liverpool box. His central defensive partner, Martin Skrtel, also went about his business well and put in a good performance.

The confidence from the defence also had an effect on Simon Mignolet in goal. Too often this season, the Belgian has made mistakes and not communicated with his team-mates. On Saturday, he looked much more convincing when coming to collect the ball, something that has not been present previously. It's just one performance, but Liverpool can build on a good performance from the back-four and start cutting out more silly goals.

Coutinho is finding top form

The Brazilian was ever so influential last season when the Reds finished second in the top flight. This season, he had a rocky start, looking well off the pace of games and losing the ball far too easily.

His form now, however, seems to be coming back. Philippe Coutinho put in superb shifts against both QPR and Real Madrid and it was surprising that he was dropped back to the bench. When he came on against the Tigers, the former Inter Milan was a real spark and inspired his team-mates to go up a gear in their performance. Coutinho attacked the Hull defence with so much venom, dazzling Curtis Davis and co. for half an hour and the pace injected into the game changed the dynamics of the Liverpool performance.

He almost was a hero, when hitting an inch perfect pass to find Mario Balotelli in the closing stages, but the chance went begging. Coutinho almost netted himself for a second successive week, when his crashing shot from 20 yards out was tipped over the bar.

The problem Coutinho has is that he is inconsistent. Even when he was menacing defences last season, he had the occasional off day. However, Rodgers must be prepared for this, as he is a real talent and a good run of games should help.

Balotelli is under pressure

Mario Balotelli still is yet to break his Premier League goal duck. The Italian had several chances to bag, with his chance from six yards out at the end of the game being the highlight.

It was an improved effort from the 24-year-old, who's movement was a lot better than it has been in the past. He worked himself into better positions, making a superb run when slipped in by Raheem Sterling in the first half. These are encouraging signs for Reds fans and if the former Manchester City man continues to grow, goals will come.

Unfortunately, he was not helped by Rickie Lambert's performance. The 32-year-old came on and shone for his side. He was all over the pitch, working hard to win the ball back and was showing a lot of neat touches and lay-off's to make things happen for his team. Lambert linked up well with Steven Gerrard in the second half, likewise Sterling who both should have done better with their efforts.

The 32-year-old's efforts surely have not gone unnoticed by Brendan Rodgers. With Balotelli not firing up front, his place is a serious threat.

Can brings dynamic

I thought it was a great bit of business when Liverpool secured a £10 million deal to sign Emre Can from Bayer Leverkusen,

After being riddled with injury for much of his Anfield career, he's started in the Reds' last two Premier League games. Against Hull, he was very impressive going forward driving at defenders, as well as helping his side out at the back. He hit some excellent passes starting attacks for his side and almost assist Balotelli in the second half.

Can, can both attack and defender. This takes a lot of pressure off Steven Gerrard. Too often this season, the Liverpool captain has been wasted by playing far too deep and not getting himself in goalscoring positions, as he does not have suitable cover if his side are caught on the break. With Can able to stay back and hold the fort, it allows the 34-year-old to get up the pitch and threaten. 

Add Jordan Henderson back into the Liverpool midfield, and you have three players who are all capable of getting forwards and tracking back. At times, the Reds have missed a powerful player in the centre of the park who can take games by the scruff of the neck. At times, it's even put pressure on the defence, as their's not been enough man power to break down attacks. Can completely changes things.

Sterling is becoming a marked man

Raheem Sterling has been outstanding for Liverpool this season. The youngster has come on leaps and bounds, even after being mighty impressive last campaign and is one of the leagues most feared players.

Unfortunately, teams seem to now be targeting the England international closely. Steve Bruce set about dealing with the teenager by putting Robbie Brady on Sterling, not letting him have an inch of room.

The 19-year-old dealt with being man-marked very well, getting the better of Brady on several occasions, but it's something that is going to happen on a weekly basis. It will test Sterling as a player, especially when he comes up against top sides, but he seems more than capable to shrug his marker off.

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Raheem Sterling
Premier League
Mario Balotelli
Hull City

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