I’m feeling a bit Shetland pony (a little hoarse!) as I write this as I have been screaming my lungs out for 90 minutes as Liverpool once again leave it late to score the winner against Wigan.
We came into this match with players injured on international duty, again. Torres has now been injured three times with Spain since he has joined us and Babel injured his ankle for Holland and Benayoun injured his toe for Israel and could not start. With Skrtel and Mascherano not available either, Rafa went with the line-up I have been waiting to see. Agger came in at the back and Pennant finally got a start on the right wing with Kuyt pushed up front to partner the returning Keane.
I was pleasantly surprised to see from the kick-off that unlike previous games, Wigan had come to play and they were playing some good football. They were missing rumoured Reds target Emile Heskey. (Dear God I hope its not true!) I was surprised not to see Jason Koumas playing, as I thought he did well for Wales in their recent two matches.
It was a pretty even start to the game with Amr Zaki making a nuisance of himself for our defence and we were not moving the ball as fluently as we would have liked.
Wigan opened the scoring when Agger received the ball from Reina and took a really bad first touch. Zaki closed down quickly and Agger left himself no choice but to try and take him on, Zaki tackled him and slotted the ball under Reina for the goal.
This woke Liverpool up and from then on they dominated. The equaliser came when Agger went on one of his trademark runs, beating Cattermole three times and passing for Kuyt to score, he positioned his shot poorly but put enough power so it still went in, via Kirkland. Liverpool were on top and Kuyt hit the bar, but I think Kirkland may well have saved it (why do keepers we let go come back to haunt us?) and Riera missed a good chance when he headed the ball wide from Pennants cross.
Wigan scored, largely against the run of play, on the stroke of half time when Valencia somehow beat both Gerrard and Dossena and crossed for Zaki to hit a superb overhead volley for a 1-2 lead at the break and send the Wigan fans that had made the journey up the M58 into raptures. That was a stunning goal.
Liverpool came out strongly after the break and dominated for the rest of the game. Riera and Pennant were getting crosses in but some brave Wigan defending denied Liverpool. Cattermole cleared off the line when Keane was poised to score and Kirkland saved well from Kuyt.
Wigan went down to ten men when Valencia lunged in on Alonso (what’s Xabi done to the rest of the league, that’s three games running!) for a second yellow card. It could have been a red itself but it was consistent refereeing as Dossena only got yellow for a similar, if less dangerous challenge. Steve Bruce complained (when does he ever not?) but it was the right call. Valencia’s first yellow came when Wigan defended a free-kick like Zaire in the 1974 World Cup (If you don’t get the reference, Youtube it, its hilarious!).
Liverpool went for the jugular and brought El Zhar and Benayoun on, meaning we had 4 players who could play on the flanks in an attacking 2-4-4 formation. This paid dividends when El Zhar went on a mazy run, passed inside, Gerrard dummied it and Riera slotted the equaliser home. Liverpool were rampant and the winner came when the excellent Pennant crossed in and Kuyt hit an overhead kick in for the winner. I’ve already heard that goal dismissed as a mis-hit but he did what you’re meant to do in hitting the ball downwards. The ground went crazy; as Liverpool had pulled another win out of the fire and kept up their great start to the season.
- Even though we were 1-2 down with eleven minutes to go, I always thought we could win it. We were playing good football and dominated most of the game.
- It was great to see Pennant in the starting line up and the two-winger system worked a treat. Hopefully we’ll stick with this midfield against Chelsea next week (I believe that was a pig that flew by my window then!).
- Yes Agger made a bad error, but he more than made up for it with his overall performance. He brings the ball out of defence well and that led to the first Kuyt goal.
- Who makes way for Torres? Keane and Kuyt both work extremely hard and both deserve a place in the team. I still would prefer a proper right-sided player on the wing rather than converting Kuyt. Pennant played well today and gave Rafa a timely reminder of his abilities.
- Dossena is the weak link in our defence. I would either play Emiliano Insua or switch Arbeloa and put Carragher at right-back with Skrtel and Agger centre-backs when everyone is fit.
- Zaki is the real deal. A great combination of pace, power and skill. He is still on loan but I expect many clubs will try and snatch him away from Wigan. I’d much rather have him than Heskey.
- We play Chelsea next Sunday and there is no way we’ll play an attacking formation. Chelsea blew Middlesborough away today and scored 5 whilst missing some of their best players. The games between Chelsea and Liverpool are usually cagey and not a good spectacle. Hopefully next Sundays game will be a good game and yield a good result.
- I am now a believer. We can win the title this season and we should be in the running all season long. There is a difference from last season in that last year we would have been grateful for the draw rather than seeking the win. It is this grit and determination that will see us through tough games this year.