Three words sum this game up. What a comeback!!
Liverpool travelled to (should it now be known as Middle?) Eastlands on Sunday for a match against Manchester City. I watched this match with trepidation, as I believe this was a very tough game on paper and it proved to be so. I knew City would come out fighting after a poor loss to Wigan the previous Sunday, and I also felt Kuyt speaking in the newspapers about how City’s money won’t help them get the best players will ill-advised (although true) and would only serve to motivate City more.
Once again, Rafa seems oblivious to the ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ school of management as he dropped Keane for Mascherano. When I heard this I believed that he was intending for Mascherano to man-mark Robinho and play a 4-1-4-1 formation. Instead we got the 4-2-3-1 formation we played with success at the tail end of last season.
We got off to a decent start as Riera played with a point to prove against his former team, although it was obvious that playing one up front wasn’t working as poor Torres was getting a battering from Dunne and Richards, one of the leagues best centre-back partnerships.
A good early chance was wasted when Riera found Kuyt in space about 8 yards out and hit maybe the worst shot I have ever seen a professional player hit. The ball almost went vertically up in the air. In fact it went so high that the TV cameras on the stadium roof lost track of it.
We were having problems with Robinho and Wright-Phillips causing our full backs problems and a mistake from Aurelio (no surprise there!) led to City’s opening goal. He gave the ball away and Wright-Phillips ran down the right, Carragher came out to close him down, the cross came in looking for Robinho and hit Arbeloa who had done the hard bit by following his man into the box, Arbeloa couldn’t quite get a proper connection on the ball and it squirmed up in the air and Ireland smashed in a volley.
We started getting sloppy as we were forcing passes where they couldn’t work. Torres was getting frustrated and playing Mascherano wasn’t working out. Riera continued to have a fine game on the left. I was using my full repertoire of swear words while watching this passage of play and I even used some interesting hybrid swear words that I’ll have to try and remember!
The second was a shambles. City got a free-kick in what looked like a place to put a cross in. However, we formed an appalling defensive wall, which offered Reina all the protection of a net-curtain condom. Garrido seized his chance and curled the ball into the near post for the goal and City lead 2-0 at the break.
We came out unchanged for the second half, which was a surprise, as we needed another man up front. We should have had a penalty not long after the restart when Kuyt was brought down, but referee Peter Walton was too far away to make a decision and his assistant wimped out of raising his flag.
We played much more like we had in recent games in the second half and we pulled one back when Torres slotted home from Arbeloa’s cross to finish a great move which saw us move the ball from one side of the pitch to the other.
We should have conceded another when Robinho missed an easy volley from 3 yards out which proved costly. Zabaleta was sent off for a bad tackle on Alonso a few minutes later. Mark Hughes complained as it was a genuine attempt for the ball but it could easily have broken Alonso’s leg. We went for the jugular by bringing on Keane and Dossena and we equalised moments later.
City went to sleep from a corner, and somehow failed to pick up Torres who powered his header in. City can’t really be blamed as our corners are usually as effective as a chocolate teapot so the must have been shocked that one actually made it into a good area!
From then on there was only going to be one winner and Torres should have got his hat-trick but missed the easiest chance he had all afternoon by putting the ball wide when he had all of the goal to aim for.
We were reduced to ten-men too as Skrtel injured his Posterior Cruciate Ligaments intercepting a pass, and we had used all of our substitutions up. The injury to Skrtel looks really bad, you know if Skrtel needs to be given oxygen on the pitch than he is in agony. I hope he isn’t out for too long, but it will be at least a few months before he is back in action.
Torres had a shot in injury time, which hit Keane and fell to Kuyt, who scored a rare league goal for the winner.
We dominated possession and were excellent in the second half. Rafa must have said something good at half-time as we were a different team and this result will put us firmly in the list of title contenders. With Arsenal faltering again we need to continue this run of form into the game against Chelsea in two weeks.
Torres is now Liverpool’s all-time highest scoring foreign player with 38 goals. He overtook Patrik Berger (one of my all time favourites) and hopfully will continue as hew has started.
The injury to Skrtel is bad news but Daniel Agger is a more than capable replacement and will get the chance he has been asking for.
No game this weekend due to internationals. We play Wigan the following Saturday and whilst we should win, one note of caution is were a generally rubbish after international breaks so this game could be tougher than expected against a Wigan team who have some real threats like Amr Zaki and rumoured Liverpool target Lius Antonio Valencia.