Tottenham 2-1 Liverpool
Well a new season kicks off and after Chelsea getting off to a winning start against Hull and United winning just before our kick off against Birmingham, Rafa’s men knew that they needed a result against Spurs.
So to the team and fast improving youngster Emiliano Insua continued to hold down a first team place at left back and despite many rumours and doubts Liverpool had two first choice central defenders available for selection (although not for very long), completing the defence was new £17m right back Glen Johnson who has looked to be a good purchase for the reds. With a gaping hole in the centre of the midfield left by Xabi Alonso’s exit from Anfield, Lucas was trusted with the gargantuan task of trying to replace Alonso; at least until new signing Alberto Aquilani is fit. The final shock in Rafa’s first team of the season was the inclusion of Ryan Babel ahead of Yossi Benayoun on the left wing. The Dutchman faced his fair share of criticism last season and both he and Rafa seem determined to prove all critics wrong. The remaining four players (Kuyt, Mascherano, Gerrard and Torres) were all expected to start.
A fairly poor first half for the reds which saw Spurs take the majority of the possession, chances and the only goal. One thing all Kopite will have been happy to see was Pepe Reina win the mental battle with former Liverpool man Robbie Keano not once but twice in a one on one situation Reina saved the Irish mans efforts. Starting with a header from 3 yards out which looked to be a certain goal then followed up by one on one situation in which Reina extended his left hand to put Keane’s effort out for a corner. The reds defence were finally undone when a free kick that rebounded off the wall landed at the feet of Benoit Assou-Ekotto who fired passed Reina for the opening goal of the game. At half time Jamie Carragher left the field with a head bandage and Martin Skrtel left with a cut on his chin and possibly a more severe injury after a lack of communication resulted in them both going for the same ball and the results being disastrous.
The good news for the second half was that both Carragher and Skrtel emerged from the tunnel at White Hart Lane. It got even better for reds fans when a surging run by Johnson resulted in him cutting between two defenders and winning a penalty when keeper Heurelho Gomes took the England defender down. Steven Gerrard stepped up and converted the penalty by going down the centre of the goal. So 1-1 and the reds appeared to be gaining momentum, the possession had shifted and everything was happening in Spurs’ half. However, a free kick swung in by Luka Modric was fired past Reina with a great header by Sebastien Bassong. True the Liverpool defending was questionable but there can be no doubt over the finish. In the dying minutes of the game red’s fans thought they were sure to be level pegging again when Andriy Voronin broke the spurs defence but was launched off the ball. Obvious penalty, yes? No. Referee Phil Dowd denying Liverpool a stonewall penalty. As for the second penalty, I don’t think Dowd was a complete ignoramus for that as I think it would have been harsh.
Overall a bad day for the reds. We were 3 points behind United, Chelsea and Arsenal and facing a fixture against a team who we never beat home or away last season.
Liverpool 4-0 Stoke
So to our first home fixture of the season and two changes for the reds. Daniel Sanchez Ayala replaced Martin Skrtel who seemed to do more than just cut his chin in that collision with Carragher against Spurs. Yossi Benayoun preferred to Ryan Babel after Babel put in a fairly dull performance against Spurs, however I don’t think anyone will agree that he was the only one.
To kick off then and Liverpool were looking to break their Stoke duck tonight. It took 4 minutes for the reds to breach Stoke’s defence. It fell to the man who had to wait till February for his first goal at Anfield last season, Fernando Torres had already beaten anything he did in the Spurs game when he put Gerrard’s low cross past Sorensen to make it 1-0. A great start by Liverpool almost got better when a cross found youngster Insua free of all markers in the area. Unfortunately he never connected as he would have liked and the ball went just wide of the post. The reds however doubled their advantage on the stroke of half time when a corner whipped in by Lucas connected with the head of Dirk Kuyt who saw his effort cleared off the line, fortunately Johnson was their to score with an elegant scissor kick from 5 yards out to grab his first Liverpool goal.
The second half kicks off and the best thing that happened never even took place at Anfield. 55 minutes into their game Michael Carrick missed a penalty at Turf Moor meaning the score was still Burnley 1-0 Manchester United; a sweet scoreline for any red. Meanwhile at Anfield, the reds were still 2 up and dominating. Reina’s first real challenge of the game arose and he answered it in magnificent style. As the ball feel to Rory Delap he struck it at goal and the quick reactions of the keeper denied him and Stoke the goal they really needed. The first goal of the second half went to the home side though as Javier Mascherano flicked a ball through to Gerrard who performed a simply masterful turn which enabled him to slide a ball in for Kuyt, who in turn put it past Sorensen for the third goal of the game. We all thought we had had our last hurrah when news filtered through that the Mancs had lost 1-0 to Burnley but David N’gog had something to say when he netted our fourth in the 92nd minute, after a Johnson’s cross was pushed away by Sorensen and it fell to N’gog to head in off the underside of the bar from a yard out.
Overall a good performance by the reds but we still have ground to make up already to catch Chelsea. But it is only two games gone. There is plenty of time and Liverpool thrive when they are the underdogs, last season is the biggest example of that.