February 2010: The Anfield Review

Torres Returns

The last day of February saw Torres make a welcome return

After a very promising start to the new calendar year we go into the month of February. A month renown for love started for the Reds with a match where love is the last thing on anybody’s mind, the Merseyside Derby.

A match that is always fiery and this one was no different with two red cards, one for either side, and many other strong challenges. Jamie Carragher set the tone for the match in the opening few seconds when he went right through Pienaar and gave the Anfield crowd something to cheer early on.

We were still cheering at the end of the game because we’d claimed another three points in our persuit of fourth place. A Dirk Kuyt header was enough for us to beat our nearest rivals although we did lose Kyrgiakos in the process for a silly foul on Fellaini.

But it was another clean sheet making it four on the spin now and our impressive start to 2010 continued. Are we able to make it five clean sheets on the spin when he head to North London to face Arsenal at the Emirates?

Unfortunately we wasn’t able to get another clean sheet and we suffered our first defeat since the infamous FA Cup tie against Reading. The game wasn’t too pleasing to watch which was a disappointment considering the talent on the pitch.

In the end it was a defensive error from the entire back four which allowed Diaby to head the only goal of the game. We were all praying this wasn’t going to be the start of things to come because we’d already experienced a far too inconsistent season thus far.

So with Europe entering the forefront our minds again can we get back to winning ways and prove that the Arsenal defeat was just a one off?

In a game of very little quality we still ended up on the winning side and were back to winning ways and keeping it out at the other end. I’m still not sure what was more pleasing in the winning goal, it’s a toss us between Ryan Babel actually putting a decent ball in for once, Dani Pacheco showing a lot composure and maturity for his age by knocking it back to Ngog or the Frenchman’s determination to head the ball home.

Whichever one was the most pleasing for people, the result was the most pleasing thing on the night. Pacheco’s involvement in the goal and game overall was outstanding though, for a teenager he showed the maturity of a seasoned professional. Maybe it was the sound of the ground singing Dani Pacheco when he entered the pitch that spurred him on.

So back to winning ways and hopefully another run of good results are coming our way. Next stop was Eastlands where we would face one of our top four challenge rivals. Can we take a giant step to claiming fourth against Man City and their millions?

Well if we were looking for a giant step, I think a stumble is a more accurate summing up of both sides. Christ it was boring and the best part of the match was the full time whistle. But it was another clean sheet and at least City didn’t pull a further three points ahead of us.

With the Europa League taking centre stage again in midweek can we put in a slightly better performance? (Well it couldn’t be any worse could it?)

And true it wasn’t any worse and in fact it a shed load better. Despite conceding an early goal to put the tie level on aggregate we showed great character and ended up winning quite comfortably on the night 3-1.

A thunderbolt from Mascherano levelled the game on the night before a well taken strike by Babel put us 2-1 up in Romania, 3-1 overall. We wrapped the night up with a Steven Gerrard record-breaking finish. Stevie became Britain’s leading scorer in European competition when his strike hit the back of the net.

Back to the Premiership at the weekend will we be able to keep up this impressive form against Blackburn?

Another three points in the bag as well as Stevie continuing from where he left off in Romania, netting another goal just like he promised he would. Not only that but we saw a certain Fernando Torres back on the scoresheet proving, once more, just how good he is.

Mascherano also showed his versatility again by impressing at right back with Kyrgiakos still being suspended along with Johnson and now Skrtel on the sidelines with injuries.

So overall the month has to be seen as a good one. Just one defeat throughout February was accompanied by progress to the last 16 in the Europa League where we will play Lille as well as the return of Torres, the return to form of our skipper and the continuous watertight back line.

High points:

Well as I’ve just mentioned our progress in Europe was a big high as it’s the only competition we can now win so we have to give it our best shot.

Torres and Benayoun’s return to the field and Stevie’s form was also a big boost as we enter the last push for fourth.

The results themselves have been almost impeccable but none of the wins were more pleasing than that one against Blackburn. And the reason for that is because of Rafa’s post match conference where he took the piss out of Allerdyce and made him look like the idiot he is. “Barcelona are looking to copy Blackburn’s tactics” – quality.

Low points:

I suppose the obvious low was the Arsenal game but it was quickly forgotten and not dragged on like it had been earlier in the season.

A few of the drab performances have also disappointed but they haven’t resulted in us not getting the wins we need so again it’s not as low as it was back in October or November.

Martin Skrtel’s injury was the biggest low in terms of players. We hope to see him back at some point during the season but I’d be surprised if we do. His broken foot couldn’t have come at a worse time as Danny Agger and Fabio Aurelio have picked up knocks as well as Johnson still not quite fit.

Fixtures for March:

8/3/10 – away to Wigan at the DW Stadium (Premiership)
11/3/10 – away to Lille (Europa League)
15/3/10 – home to Portsmouth at Anfield (Premiership)
18/3/10 – home to Lille at Anfield (Europa League)
21/3/10 – away to Man United at Old Trafford (Premiership)
28/3/10 – home to Sunderland at Anfield (Premiership)

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