September 2010: The Anfield Review

Roy Hodgson begins to realise the size of the task

Not a great month on the pitch

After an indifferent August and another poxy international break, we resumed club football with a difficult trip to St Andrews to face Alex McLiesh’s Birmingham side. St Andrews has proved a difficult hunting ground for us over the last couple of years and again proved to be the cased.

Birmingham looked head and shoulders above us and had a handful of chances that they should have finished. And probably would have finished had it not been for the terrific form of Pepe Reina in the Liverpool goal. Time and time again Reina saved us from another defeat as well as giving us back to back clean sheets after the 1-0 win over WBA at the end of August.

With us thanking our lucky stars we’d come away from the second city with a point, we entered the group stages of the Europa League. The game against Steau Bucharest saw a couple of firsts for Liverpool. It was the first time Pepe Reina captained the Reds, it saw Joe Cole’s first goal for the club and it saw Roy Hodgson witness his Liverpool side score more than two goals in a single match.

Cole opened the scoring in the opening 30 seconds after a mistake by the Romanian’s defence. After they drew level, Ngog scored a brace (one from the spot) to give Hodgson his first game where we scored three. The route wasn’t complete just yet because Lucas was still to have his finest moment in a Liverpool shirt. A thunderbolt from 20 yards in the dying minutes of the game saw us win 4-1.

Just the confidence booster we needed before a trip to Old Trafford. What better way to get our season finally up and running than a win against one of our fiercest rivals?

Well, when we do let us know because this trip to Old Trafford ended in heartbreak for England’s most successful football club. We again struggled to create anything and we gave United far too much space to exploit.

Which they duly did, twice. They took a 2-0 lead before the hour mark and looked like they could run riot against us. Shortly after going two down, Hodgson brought on David Ngog and went 4-4-2.

This seemed to pay dividends as shortly after we won a penalty when Evans brought Torres down. Up stepped our skipper to knock home and give us some hope back. With our tails up, we went for the equaliser and again Torres was brought down this time by John O’Shea. The Irishman was the last man but of course with it being at Old Trafford he didn’t see the red card. Gerrard stepped up again to take the free kick and into the bottom corner it went for us to draw level.

A point looked to be on the cards before O’Shea (shouldn’t have been on the pitch) crossed in for Berbatov to score a cracking header and gift United the three points with his, and United’s, third goal.

With our League form going from bad to worse, our realistic hope of domestic success came in the Cup competitions. And it was the League Cup that was our next challenge against Northampton at Anfield. The Cobblers were the only side from League 2 to still be in the Cup. How could it go wrong?

It could go wrong because the 2010/11 season seems to have everything going wrong so far. After Jovanovich opened the scoring it went down hill thereafter.

Northampton equalised and took the game to extra time. Before opening the scoring in extra time and were off on their way to the fourth round. Luckily for the Reds, David Ngog scored another goal in an impressive start to the season to take the game to the lottery of penalties.

Ngog missed his penalty as did Nathan Ecclestone and despite the Cobblers missing their first they stroked home their remaining four and progressed 4-2 on penalties. Shelvey and Agger were our scorers from the spot. Out to Northampton, possibly the lowest point the club has been in over half a century.

The defeat in the League Cup could have been somewhat forgotten if we thrashed Sunderland the following weekend but like I said earlier, everything seems to be going wrong this year.

After Kuyt’s controversial opener in the first five minutes, Steve Bruce’s side took the upper hand. Darren Bent drew the Black Cats level from the penalty spot after Poulsen handled in the box. And it was Bent again who gave the visitors the lead when he drew off Glen Johnson to head home shortly after the restart.

There was very little on an attacking front from the Reds until Torres went down the right wing and pulled the ball back for Gerrard to head home for a leveller. The remaining 25 minutes saw an onslaught from Hodgson’s boys but the winners wasn’t coming. There was a late chance for Daniel Agger to head us to three points but it went past the post and a draw was all we could manage.

With the domestic season over for the month, we returned to Europe to take on Utrecht in Holland. This was without our captain who was being “rested” two months into the season. God how times have changed.

And without our captain we again showed why we’re so reliant on him because we were a disgrace. Again we were second best on the pitch and again the opposition had the better of the chances. The Dutch side didn’t cut us open too many times but enough for concern.

We were able to come away with a point however, which in Europe isn’t too bad a result. It gives us four points from our opening two games of the group and leaves the month of September behind us. (Thankfully)

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September 2010: The Anfield Review

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