This is the biggest match of the season for most Liverpool and United fans (sorry Evertonians!) and I admit I watched this game with trepidation. With Gerrard and Torres not able to start I admit to wondering how we could win. I completely agree with not starting Torres or Gerrard, as it is way to early in the season to take risks with our best players.
Let’s start with the negatives. We started badly and conceded a sloppy goal when Mascherano had a rare lapse in letting Tevez breeze past him to get on the end of Berbatov’s speculative pass. United were by far the better team in the first 20 minutes of the match. Our passing was poor and we were giving the ball away when under no pressure at all.
However, United failed to turn that pressure into chances and Liverpool gradually grew into the game. . The equaliser came when Alonso’s effort was deflected across the area and Van Der Sar made a rare mistake in palming the ball onto Brown for an own-goal. Our passing was much sharper and Kuyt and Keane were putting pressure on the United defence. We played with much greater width than we had done all season. Riera was giving Brown problems and our crosses were causing confusion in the usually solid United back four. The turning point came when Carrick came off worst in a tackle with Benayoun (seriously!) and had to be replaced at half-time as United than had trouble in winning the ball and retaining possession.
Thankfully Liverpool came out in the second half with the intention of winning the game rather than settling for a point. United changed formation and this seemed to unsettle them. Our midfield was excellent and knocked United off their usual slick passing game. Riera was stretching the game and Mascherano was completely dominating the middle. Alonso raised his game too after some poor performances to start the season.
Defensively Liverpool was solid. The much-vaunted United triumvirate of Berbatov, Rooney and Tevez was mostly kept quiet. Carragher and Skrtel had excellent games and Arbeloa and Aurelio were pushing forward to help out the attack. Still, for all of Liverpool’s possession they couldn’t score, eventually bringing Gerrard and Babel on in search of a goal. United almost scored against the run of play when Gerrard made an error and Giggs forced a great save out of Reina.
Mascherano went on a run down the right and didn’t give up even when Giggs looked likely to put the ball out of play. Instead, Mascherano won the ball and Kuyt got the ball and passed to Babel who finished emphatically. United were rocking and nearly gave another away when a bad pass sent Keane through on goal only to be cynically fouled by Vidic who got the benefit of the doubt in only receiving a booking. Vidic got his sending off when he barged into Alonso for a second yellow.
United never really troubled Liverpool and we should have scored another when Babel found Kuyt who could only shoot at the keeper. That was pretty much it and we recorded our first league win against United at Anfield in 7 years.
- Once again, Benayoun was poor. I’d love to see Babel or Pennant play on the right to compliment Riera on the left, who looked good.
- Where do you play Kuyt? He doesn’t have the killer instinct of a striker and isn’t a natural wide-man but his effort and work-rate are superb. I’d still replace him with Torres for the next game though.
- Surely now Rafa must think about a strong league challenge and play strong teams in every game. We have thrown down the gauntlet to the rest of the league today and have no need to fear anyone. It is good to see we can win without Torres and for the most part, Gerrard.
- If our results against United last season were reversed we’d have won the league. As long as we don’t drop stupid points by playing weakened teams against bottom-half opposition we should be still in the hunt towards the end of the season.