After the month of October being one to forget, the month of November had to get off to a blinder. And what better way than a difficult game in France against Lyon to get our Champions League campaign up and running for good.
The squad that travelled to France was missing Gerrard, Johnson, Skrtel and Aurelio as well as unfit Torres, Agger and Aquilani. Though even with all these sort of problems we still gave the home side the run around. There were golden chances for Torres, Voronin, Kuyt and Lucas but to no avail.
Then a magic moment from Ryan Babel, who I’ve been heavily critical of late, gave us the lead. A 30-yard rocket into the top corner put qualification back into our own hands. Though we did see the Ryan Babel we’ve come accustomed to minutes later with a free kick that he ended up smashing out for a throw in, by the corner flag as well as a simple chance, which he scuffed out for a goal kick.
It didn’t look as if Babel’s, or any of the other, missed chances would cost us as we entered injury time with a 1-0 lead but then a complete mess up from the two centre halves allowed Lyon in and they duly took their chance to put us almost certainly out of Europe’s premier competition.
With the Carling Cup gone, Champions League pretty much gone, is it still possible we can win the League? Well if we are to do so, we’re going to need three points when Birmingham come to visit.
We certainly deserved the three points but in football you don’t always get what you deserve, just ask Alex McLeish. He felt his Birmingham side had done enough to take the three points themselves but a more than generous penalty was given to the Reds after David Ngog was ‘fouled’.
Ngog’s earlier strike gave us the lead before Birmingham’s front two of Benitez and Jerome gave advantage to the visitors before the break. But the debateable penalty, slotted away by Gerrard, gave us a point. Not that a point is good enough at this moment in time as we now sit eleven points behind the leaders Chelsea.
With the international break we’ll be looking for our overgrown injury list to shorten in time for our game against Man City. A game in which we now have to win, not only to keep the slimmest hope of landing the title alive but to keep in touch with the top four.
Another two points dropped against City and another day of not enough players performing. Skrtel scored his first goal for the club to open the scoring but then switched off entirely and Hughes’ side equalised. We were then tore open and were looking down the barrel of our sixth defeat for the season.
But a bit of magic of by David Ngog managed to fire in a cross that fell to Yossi Benayoun to knock home just seconds after Ireland had scored for the visitors.
Injuries in the first half to Agger and Babel wrecked our game plan but that’s no excuse for the performance we put in. Simply not good enough and as we still search for our first win of November we prepare ourselves for a must win in Europe. Optimism of the highest level is needed.
Despite picking up our first win of the month, we were still left with a bittersweet feeling after defeating Debrecen. Although we did our job and got the win we needed, Lyon failed to stop Fiorentina taking all three point therefore knocking us out of the Champions League.
We all know we didn’t deserve to qualify and the game in Hungary was further proof of it. We may have won but we were disappointing and after taking the lead so early through David Ngog we didn’t capitalise on it. We didn’t ever look like getting the second and even came close to drawing the game towards the end.
We’re going into the Merseyside derby with all the wrong form and the same applies to Everton. The derby is usually a scrappy affair but with both sides in the kind of form they are, this one could be even less pleasing on the eye. As long as we get all three points though I won’t mind.
After coming away from Goodison Park with all three points I certainly don’t mind the fact that we weren’t the better side. Another shaky performance from the Reds doesn’t dampen the spirits of the millions of Kopites around the world because of the 2-0 win.
A Joseph Yobo own goal and a Dirk Kuyt tap in ensured the points were coming to the Red half of Merseyside. Everton huffed and puffed but couldn’t score past Pepe Reina.
A month that started slowly, ended on a high. With back-to-back wins we can go in to December with some confidence. Hopefully we can build on these recent wins and push on in our pursuit of a top four finish.
The other news we got during the month was our FA Cup third round tie which will be away to Championship side Reading.
I don’t think there’s been too many individual stand outs this month, so I suppose the only high point was that win over Everton. It has given us our first back-to-back wins and clean sheets for some time.
I have to give a lot of credit to Pepe Reina though who, for like most of the season, has been our best player this month.
Going out of the Champions League was the obvious low point of November. For a side with our recent history in the competition, it was such a culture shock to see us fail to qualify for the knockout rounds.
Our defending has also been somewhat of a concern for most of the season, maybe more so this month. Our inability to defend properly for 90 minutes against Lyon cost us all three points, the same applies for Birmingham and Man City. As well as golden chances for Debrecen and Everton only for Pepe Reina to come to our rescue in both matches.
The disappointing players this month, well there’s been too many to list. We really haven’t seen our players play anywhere near their ability this month but with confidence flowing back into them we should see some better performances in December.
Fixtures for December
5/12/09 – Blackburn at Ewood Park (Premiership)
9/12/09 – Fiorentina at Anfield (Champions League)
13/12/09 – Arsenall at Anfield (Premiership)
16/12/09 – Wigan at Anfield (Premiership)
19/12/09 – Portsmouth at Fratton Park (Premiership)
26/12/09 – Wolves at Anfield (Premiership)
29/12/09 – Aston Villa at Villa Park (Premiership)