Written off before the game, backs against the wall, the media having a field day – sound familiar? Of course it would, we’re Liverpool. We’re always written off before we get a chance. And that really isn’t the best thing to do, as United found out today.
There were no surprising line-ups being fielded, with Torres & Johnson making their expected returns, and Gerrard sitting this one out. United were without Fletcher, with Carrick being fielded instead.
The first-half was a tight affair, with both teams starting relatively brightly and trying their utmost to keep possession. It was a half in which the Reds created much, but were unable to find the back of the net.
The first chance fell to Fabio Aurelio, who had a free kick 25-yards out – the Brazilian’s effort was heading towards the top-corner, but a fantastic double-save from Van der Sar stopped not only Aurelio’s curling shot, but Kuyt’s follow up too.
The Reds’ second opportunity fell to Kuyt, when the ever-improving Lucas out-muscled Paul Scholes and started to run at the United defenders. A perfect pass to Kuyt looked as if it was setting up to be a vital goal, but Kuyt couldn’t get the ball out from under his feet and sent the shot despairingly wide.
But it wasn’t all Liverpool. United had a break on a couple of times, and one in particular saw Valencia beat Insua down the left and send a cross in to Rooney – who headed it straight at Reina. That would be the only save Reina had to make for over an hour. From then on, it was all the Red machine clicking into gear and whirring into motion.
Another good chance reared its head on the 36th minute when the lively Yossi Benayoun skinned Evra and crossed to Aurelio at the back post. The Brazilian’s header was highly reminiscent of Rooney’s – it was straight at the ‘keeper.
After half-time there a few decent attacks that mounted to nothing, with United countering at every opportunity they could. Pretty much their last decent effort of the game was when they won a free-kick outside the Liverpool area. Giggs swung the ball in, and Torres connected with a superb defensive-header – despite Berbatov being flagged as offside.
Liverpool found yet another gear and started going into overdrive. Benayoun played a wonderful through-ball to Torres who slid past Ferdinand with relative ease and slammed the ball into the roof of the net. An expert finish for an expert striker. 1-0.
Almost immeditely after, Kuyt wasted yet another chance as Liverpool continued with the relentless attacks, looking to possibly kill the game off with a second goal. Played through by the effective Lucas, the Dutchman dragged another shot wide – obviously not spotting Aurelio who was unmarked at the far post.
On the 73rd minute Michael Owen was introduced to very loud jeers and boos from all around Anfield. Perhaps this affected his confidence, as he did very little to trouble the Reds’ defence. The one time he looked to be the slightest bit menacing, Carragher looked to haul him down just outside the box – and got a yellow card for his efforts.
From the resulting free-kick, Nani shot straight into Reina’s awaiting arms. That would be the second and final save that the Spaniard had to make all day.
United piled on the pressure towards the end, but the Reds’ defence stood firm and weren’t phased. A clearance towards a waiting Kuyt on the half-way line was greeted by Vidic who promptly hauled the Dutchman down when he looked to be clean through. The Serbian received his second yellow of the night, and his third red in the games against Liverpool.
Mascherano was also sent off in the 94th minute due to a crunching challenge on Van der Sar, and was booked for the second time of the match.
After some sloppy United play, Kuyt and Lucas helped feed David N’Gog through on the break, creating a 1-on-1 situation with the United ‘keeper. Needless to say, the Frenchman slotted home expertly. 2-0. Game over.
Post Match Comments
“We showed character and the way the fans got behind the players was like having a 12th man.
“Everyone worked together and we won. The players answered a lot of questions with that performance.
“We just take it one game at a time, we can’t be too excited with today.”
Liverpool: Reina, Insua, Agger, Carragher (c), Johnson, Aurelio, Mascherano, Leiva, Benayoun, Torres, Kuyt.
Subs: Cavalieri, Voronin, Babel, Ngog, Skrtel, Spearing, Degen
Manchester United: Van der Sar, Evra, Ferdinand, Vidic, O’Shea, Giggs (c), Carrick, Scholes, Valencia, Berbatov, Rooney.
Subs: Foster, Neville, Owen, Anderson, Nani, Fabio da Silva, Evans
Ref: Andre Marriner
Our Man of the Match
Jamie Carragher was an absolute rock at the back today, and seems to be back to his best.