Liverpool kicked off their season at Anfield tonight in their second leg Europa League qualifier against Rabotnicki. Manager Roy Hodgson was in charge of his first game at home and he was certainly taking in the famous You’ll Never Walk Alone anthem belted out by the reds fans, before kick off. Standing at the Liverpool dug out, he looked around from one stand to another. This was a big night for him.
There was Anfield debuts too for Joe Cole and Milan Jovanovic. Two players who will hopefully spark some extra life into the attack at Anfield this season.
The game started off with quite a high tempo. Rabotnicki were looking for a goal. But Liverpool looked strong and dangerous on the break. In the seventh minute Johnson went on one of those tricky dribbling runs and put through Ngog. Ngog put the ball in the net but it was deemed offside by the fourth official. In the 14th minute Cole and Gerrard combined with a smoothness that will scare many defences, watching. Cole put Ngog in a one on one against the Rabotnicki goalkeeper, but Ngog was wasteful and should have done better.
From this point on, Pacheco, Cole and Jovanovic especially, were getting their teeth into the play and Liverpool slowly started to dominate. There was an attacking determination in the Liverpool play. There were obviously still some pre season rustiness in the some final balls. But Liverpool were looking a lot more sharp than last week. It was pleasing to watch.
On 21 minutes Ngog made it one nil to the reds. Again it was Gerrard linking up with Cole from a corner. Cole took the ball on his inside and crossed in one of the best balls you’ll see this season, right onto the top of Ngogs head. All he had to do was guide the ball home under the crossbar.
On 34 minutes, Rabotnicki forward, Silva, was trying his best to cause some trouble in the Liverpool box. But Carragher snuffed out the danger. It was looking pretty hopeless for the Macedonians. In the 39th minute, Ngog was held down in the penalty area and Liverpool were awarded a penalty. Up stepped Gerrard and placed the ball in the bottom right corner. 2-0. Roy Hodgson had a right to be happy.
The second half kicked off and it was a matter of minutes until Liverpool were on the attack again. Cole, who was really having a huge influence on the game got the ball down the right and crossed the ball in. The ball in looked increasingly more like a shot and eventually hit the bar, much to the keepers relief.
In the 49th minute, the industrious Jovanovic got hold of the ball in the middle of the pitch and drove forward. He unleashed a powerful shot which the goalkeeper could only parry wide for a corner. The Kop was pleased with what they were seeing from the Serbian. Both he and his fellow debutant, Cole, were simply having a very enjoyable game.
Liverpool were just taking the ball off the Rabotnicki players with ease whenever the opposition tried to break. It was getting very easy for the reds, who continued to push forward and probe their defence. When Liverpool were without the ball, they were working hard to get it back. It was very fluid.
Liverpool made substitutions midway into the second half which seen Aquilani and Maxi come on for Gerrard and Jovanovic. It was hard to tell who got the biggest standing ovation out of the two players leaving the pitch. Liverpool were still looking dangerous at this point but the game had taken a step down in tempo. Young Kelly who was filling in at left back was getting a shot or two in. Ngog was a constant danger for the defenders without testing the keeper as good as he should have done. Aquilani was playing with a lot of appetite since coming on and was covering a lot of ground. Carragher and Skrtel were pretty much anonymous. Cavalieri could have had his feet up reading the paper.
In the 80th minute Maxi found himself in a glorious position in the box after some slick passing between Aquilani and Cole. But instead of shooting early he tried to pull the ball back for a better shot and the ball was blocked. It sort of summed up a lot of Liverpool attacks on the night. The scoreline could have easily been near double figures if Liverpool were just a touch more clinical in front of goal. But some of the build up play by the reds – especially by Joe Cole – was a sheer pleasure to watch. And if it’s a sign of things to come at Anfield this season, we have every right to be excited.
Rabotnicki nearly had a penalty in the 89th minute when Skrtel appeared to bring a player down in the box. But the ref got the decision spot on after a replay showed it was a great tackle from the Liverpool defender and the Rabotnicki player was booked. This was followed by two seperate attacks from the Macedonians. One which seen them hit the post and the other with the superb Kelly getting a last ditch tackle in on the line. It would have been a huge injustice had the visiting team leveled the scores at the end.
Straight after these attacks, Liverpool broke with Cole in acres of space down the right. Pacheco was given the ball with the option of shooting past the keeper or giving it to Cole for him to simply pass the ball into the net. Pacheco opted to shoot and the chance was gone. It would have been the icing on the cake for Cole if he had got a goal. But he’s got every right to be pleased with his performance.
As has the rest of the Liverpool team. And Roy Hodgson will be very pleased. They were good to watch. A very good team performance and some very good individual performances. The most important thing that was needed before tonights game was to see the right attitude. Liverpool excelled. There’s a long way to go this season and more improvement needed, but Liverpool fans have got a right to be hopeful for a good season.