August 2010: The Anfield Review

Roy Hodgson begins to realise the size of the task

Roy Hodgson begins to realise the size of the task

The opening month of the season saw us suffer another defeat against Borussia Monchengladbach in our final pre-season friendly before confirming progression into the Europa League after a 2-0 win over Macidonian side FK Rabotnicki.

After taking a 2-0 win into the second leg at Anfield, Roy Hodgson’s men won by the same margin as we enter another European tour. The game also saw debuts given to new boys Joe Cole and Milan Jovanovich, both who impressed immensely. We also saw the returns of Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and Glen Johnson.

Roy kept his promise and gave a few youngsters time to impress during the second leg as well with Dani Pachecho and Martin Kelly playing all 90 minutes and Jay Spearing doing a solid job after he replaced Lucas in the second half.

Now we look forward to the draw and the opening day fixture against Arsenal.

The curtain raiser to our Premiership campaign was a mouth-watering match against Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal. We field probably as strong a side as we could but just couldn’t get any sort of rhythm going in the first half and the visitors had the best of the opening forty-five despite never really looking that threatening themselves.

Then as the half was growing to a close the game sparked into life for the Reds. David Ngog had a header cleared off the line before a rash launch from Joe Cole saw him sent off for the first time in his career just on the stroke of half time.

With us down to ten men it would have been understandable if we sat back and played on the break in the second half but that wasn’t the case. After pressing Arsenal high up the pitch, the ball fell to, surprise inclusion, Javier Mascherano who slid the ball through to Ngog who blasted home for his fourth of the season.

As the game went on Arsenal posed little threat, one good chance for Rosicky which Reina fantastically tipped over the bar. The Anfield crowd welcomed Fernando Torres back to action in the second half as well and he was soon free of the Arsenal back four only to be dragged back. Of course the official on the day, Martin Atkinson, saw nothing wrong with it.

With time running out it looked as if the season would start with three points and Roy Hodgson’s third consecutive win and clean sheet as Liverpool manager. But this wasn’t to be the case as a cross came in from Arsenal’s left was spilt by Pepe Reina and he then bundled the loose ball over his goal line to give the Gunners a point.

It was such an uncharteristic mistake from our goalkeeper which is why it was such a shock, especially after last season where he was almost faultless. Hopefully as we take on Trabzonspor in midweek, Reina won’t make any mistakes.

Reina was one of the few to keep his place from the Arsenal game as we went into the European tie with seven changes. A debut was handed to new Danish central midfielder Christian Poulsen and Fabio Aurelio played in his first game since rejoining the Reds.

Poulsen looked tidy in the middle of the park throughout the match, keeping the ball ticking over. Though our new number 28 wasn’t involved in the only game of the game, that fell instead to Joe Cole and Ryan Babel who lead the line in place of the hot firing David Ngog.

After a very disappointing opening half, Joe Cole again came to life on the stroke of the half. He picked up a loose ball and ran at the Turkish back line before sliding Babel in who took his goal well.

Babel didn’t come back out after half time, being replaced by Torres. But the game was very much the same, neither side really threatening. We did win a penalty when Lucas was brought down but Cole failed to convert from twelve yards out in front of the Kop. His miss was greeted with a rendition of Joey Cole to the tune of Daddy Cool though.

Debutant Poulsen also had a goal chalked off and I’m still not sure why, certainly wasn’t any infringement on any of the Trabzonspor players. Would have crowned what was a decent debut.

A 1-0 win isn’t the best result we could have got but it’s certainly not something to be disappointed with either. We kept them from any clear-cut chances, a few from set pieces but nothing more. And they don’t have an away goal to take to Turkey where no doubt it’ll be intimidating. We also have something to defend, meaning we don’t have to go out searching for a goal.

Next up is our fellow Europa League qualifiers Man City and their free spending squad. After they won their Europa League play-off 1-0, no doubt they’ll be full of confidence themselves. But we have a good record at The City of Manchester Stadium, losing only once in seven meetings since our first visit there in 2003.

We will however be without Italian international Alberto Aquilani after the former Roma man joined Juventus on a season-long loan just twelve months after arriving at Anfield.

Woeful is about as complimentary as I can be on our performance at Eastlands. We were a disgrace. Simple basic football wasn’t there. We gave every City player far too much space throughout the match.

I’m not even gonna moan about it because it was such a mess. No player played that well and it’ll just depress me again if I go on about it any more. So instead I’m going to brush myself down and focus on the second leg against Trabzonspor.

In the week building up to the game, Skrtel signed an extra two years to his current deal while we captured Middlesborough’s Australian goalkeeper Brad Jones for just over a 2 million. Also on the transfer front before our trip to Turkey saw Cavalieli leave for Cesena in Italy while Hungarian centre forward Krisztian Nemeth was sold for “financial reasons” to Olympiakos.

The game itself in Turkey wasn’t a classic and with a weakened squad we did well to come away with the 2-1 win. Our first ever win in Turkey as well, so a bit of history was made there this despite going a goal down in the first five minutes after a mistake by Dirk Kuyt allowed the home side in.

With time running out and extra time looming Glen Johnson went on a rampage down the right, delivered the ball into the box only for a Trabzonspor defender to get to the ball first. Luckily for us, the ball ended up in the net anyway and we levelled the score on the night.

We got the winner when Babel laid the ball back to Dani Pacheco who hit the ball cleanly but the keeper pushed the ball away to Dirk Kuyt who made up for his earlier error by tucking the ball into the empty net.

We progressed in the Europa League and were drawn in group K along with Napoli, Utrecht and Steaua Bucharest.

We went into our final game of the month came at Anfield against newly promoted West Brom again without Mascherano after we agreed a fee with Barcelona for the Argentine but Raul Meireles was in the stands after completing his signing from Porto. However the Portugal international wasn’t signed in time to take to the field against the Baggies.

It was a difficult game and in the end we scraped a 1-0 win thanks to Fernando Torres’ first of the season giving Roy Hodgson his first League win as Reds boss.

Less than 24 hours later Javier Mascherano finally got his “dream move” to Spanish champions Barcelona in a deal worth around a reported fee of £17 million. After his refusal to play against City, this move isn’t really much of a surprise.

Deadline day saw players come in and out of Anfield. Paul Konchesky arrived from Fulham while another left back Emiliano Insua left to join Galatasaray on a season long loan. There were rumours of Babel leaving and Carlton Cole joining but neither went through.

In other news we were drawn against League Two side Northampton in the Carling Cup. The third round tie will be held at Anfield during next month.

The other biggest story surrounding the club, not only during August but for most of the summer, has been the takeover speculation. We’ve been linked with several potential buyers but as of yet still nothing has come of it.

Hopefully over the coming weeks something will be sorted out and we can put an end our nightmare of Hicks and Gillett.

Match results:

5/8/10 – 2 – 0 Rabotnicki (h) Europa League
15/8/10 – 1 – 1 Arsenal (h) Premiership
19/8/10 – 1 – 0 Trabzonspor (h) Europa League
23/8/10 – 0 – 3 Man City (a) Premiership
26/8/10 – 2 – 1 Trabzonspor (a) Europa League
29/8/10 – 1 – 0 WBA (h) Premiership

September fixtures:

12/9/10 Birmingham (a) Premiership
16/9/10 Steaua (h) Europa League
19/9/10 Man United (a) Premiership
22/9/10 Northampton (h) League Cup
25/9/10 Sunderland (h) Premiership
30/9/10 Utrech (a) Europa League

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