Most of my childhood felt like it was spent dreading playing Liverpool. Sure there were the heroics of 89, but I was only about 5 back then. After that, it felt like every time we played them, we’d take a beating. It was only yesterday I had a think about some of the absolute classics our two great clubs had been involved in over the past fews years. Yesterday I think turned into another of those for all the right reasons.
The line up was almost exactly the same as the one that turned out for the Spurs pummeling 6 days previously. We hoped they’d be able to match the passion and battling that’d been on show for the second half of the game. That wasn’t to be. The team of the first half of last week showed up and most of it was spend hiding behind a pillow shouting at the TV.
We had no shape in the middle of the park and we were letting Liverpool pass through us and around us. Liverpool and Luis Suarez were making a mockery of our back four especially from out wide where they exposed us time and time again with low crosses fizzed across the face of the box.
The first chance fell to us though. Arteta launched a superb 60 yard pass out to Theo Walcott, he played the ball away from goal, raced into the box and let off a fiersome strike across goal that was matched by an alert Reina.
Down the other end, Suarez was played in from a Reina goal kick, Koscielny misjudged the bounce, looking to play the player over the ball, Suarez beat him, luckily for us the keeper was on his toes, he raced out, headed clear as far as a Liverpool shirt and then dealt with the second duffed shot. Great keeping early on for us.
Our midfield were having an absolute disaster. They were struggling to cover the ground needed and they were all very sloppy in posession. Downing latched onto a Dirk Kuyt flick, he looked on for a strike on goal, but super Bacary Sagna flew in to rescue the day with a brilliant sliding block.
The next big talking point came courtesy of Suarez. He turned Vermaelen and Koscielny inside out with a deft one two… our keeper came out, spread himself to block the incoming shot, but the Urgauyaun had already decided he was going down, he dropped. The ref pointed to the spot. For me, if you need to churn out 20 slow motion magnified replays to ascertain whether there was contact, you shouldn’t be awarding a penalty. A hideous lack of sportsmanship from a man who doesn’t seem to care how he wins.
Anyway, we needn’t have worried. Dirk Kuyt stepped up to do the honours, struck to his left, Chesney guessed correctly palming the save back out, Kuyt followed in with the rebound, didn’t connect too well which allowed Chesney to get back across goal and turn the ball round the post. Exceptional double save-age.
A stony silence settled into Anfield, all this nonsense about the atmosphere being wild most games seems to be of a mythical nature.
Liverpool weren’t peturbed by their miss. They broke shortly after from their own half. Gibbs was no where to be seen. Song had to race back to fill the gap. He looked centrally to pick up his man, that allowed Henderson time to pick out Koscielny in the box who banged it home clinically. The Frenchman doesn’t enjoy Anfield! It was a bit of a horror show of technique, but these things happen.
Liverpool pushed on again afterwards again exposing the fact we had a left back who was wandering. This time Kuyt was found unmarked just outside the box, he fired a shot across goal, Chesney got down to it and pushed it into the path of Suarez who drilled a low hard shot at the base of the post. We were let off big time!
We weren’t out of the tie though. Down the other end, Bacary Sagna had the ball out wide, he looked pretty unthreatening really, he made some space, fizzed an amazing cross into the box where Robin was on hand to nod past Reina supremely! What made that goal all the sweeter was seeing Carragher pulling every trick in the book to put him off.
Liverpool had two more opportunities to pull away from us. One from a magical mazy run from Suarez, his shot finding itself tipped round the post by our in form keeper, the next was Dirk Kuyt striking the post for the second time! We’d go into half time feeling very much let off by Liverpools profligacy in front of goal.
The second half didn’t start too well, Suarez was in on goal yet again, his shot not equal to his run. Things went from bad to worse when Jordan Henderson knocked out Arteta with an accidental head butt. The Spaniard didn’t brace for impact which left him too concussed to play on. On came Abou Diaby. A man we’ve not seen for an age!
That was the turning point. Our game picked up from there. The ball stuck with us for longer spells and there was a calmness about our play. That still didn’t stop Liverpool having chances. Skrtel padded down a ball into the path of a Liverpool player, our keeper was out fast but wiped out Vermaelen in the process. Moments later, Kelly missed a clear cut opportunity to score from 6 yards.
Our game started to pick up after that. Song found his touch and slipped in Gibbs, he waltzed into the box, but back to Theo who could only strike at Reina.
We changed things up again bringing off Benny and, sadly, Abou Diaby for Chamberlain and Gervinho. 8 minutes of injury time were called, you sensed something could happen. Near enough the same amount of time was added for last years dismal home match. Could we avenge that result?
Alex Song picked up the ball deep in midfield, he looked up, floated a majestic high ball over Robins shoulder, the Dutchman watched it over and placed a first time volley inside Reina’s near post!
I think everyone in the Gooniverse went completely mental… what a way to finish a game. The pass was expert, the finish sublime, the match was one for the ESPN Classics vault.
The ref blew up, victory was ours and Liverpool officially bailed out of the challenge for the Champions League spots!
Going to Anfield has never and will never be an easy task. What we did yesterday under immense pressure was absolutely superb. We didn’t sink when events conspired against us, we didn’t shirk responsibility or cower when changes needed to be made and we absolutely demonstrated our quality when it mattered.
Alex Song delivered the winning pass again. I think that’s his 7th assist in the league. I’m still not sure I’d have rated his performance outside that assist, our midfield was totally overrun for large parts of the game. However, what has become apparent is that he doesn’t like playing the holding role and that he does have a great range of passing further up the pitch. Does that mean he’s the new Cesc Fabregas? No. It does make things interesting when Jack comes back though. Does Song move into central midfield with a new DM behind him next season? Possibly…
I thought yesterday was the first game in a while I’ve seen the best of our keeper. He was commanding, brave, absolutely decisive in every way and he kept us in the game. An absolute match winner in the same way Robin was. He needs to use yesterday as his bench mark.
Robin Van Persie was once again the difference. As the fans sing it, he scores when he wants. Not only that, he scores how he wants. He knocked in a header early on like a classic English bruiser, then later on in the game he volleyed home with incredible precision. What are we going to do without this player if the worst happens next season? Either way, I feel honoured to have witnessed his goals this year.
Finally, for the sad news. Abou Diaby and Gibbs both left the ground nursing injuries. It’s easy to get angry about it, but it must be tough for the players. They are broken. You have to ask how long the club can continue relying on the both of them. That’s 100k a week we spend on two players who can’t be relied on. The real shame for me is Diaby… He’s immensely talented, I just fear he’ll never be fit over a sustained period.
Anyway, great credit to the team and the manager for delivering in the league again. These are massive games we’re taking points from, even bigger when you consider quite how bad we’ve been lately. Bore more later with talk of luck. All the league table will remember is 3 points to us. How many times have we been the team cursing missed chances?
As predicted, Chelsea and their spoilt brat players didn’t perform for a manager they wanted sacked. Hopefully they’ll fall away yet further when AVB is gone. Then we have Spurs away at United today, which I’m desperately hoping will be another drubbing. Then we’ll have the delicious proposition of being able to chase down 3rd.
Onwards and upwards Gooner’s, the sequence continues and bragging right with the Scouser’s sit firmly with us! 33 more points to play for! Buckle up!
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