Arbeloa Carragher Skrtel Dossena
Kuyt Gerrard Alonso Benayoun
Wow. Just wow.
We've been privy to some incredible comebacks in the past five or so years. As late ones go, Olympiacos and West Ham obviously top that list, but this was a special last 10 minutes in its own right. Especially when the equalizer is scored by Jamie Carragher in front of the Kop (I don’t care if they credit it to Pogatetz, I’m giving to Carragher now and forever), with the winner coming in the dying seconds thanks to a trademark screamer by Gerrard.
Liverpool were actually decent in the first half, far better than against Liege or Sunderland, but as we’ve seen in the past, were unable to convert that into shots or goals. Turnbull, who was drafted in after Boro’s first-choice keeper was injured in the warm-up, had only one save to make, on Kuyt in the 3rd minute, while Liverpool’s best chance came in the 39th, after Torres’ iffy shot was deflected wide following good work by Robbie Keane, showing what the pairing is capable of.
But it’s not as if Boro sat back and invited the home team on. As promised, Southgate continued to field an attacking side, with two strikers (and Aliadiere on the right). Reina had to make an excellent save on Andrew Taylor’s long shot in the 13th, while Boro consistently looked to counter, especially though Downing on the left.
But the second half was eminently frustrating. Little seemed to come off for Liverpool, passes weren’t finding their target, and play consistently broke down in the final third, while Boro still looked to counter, with Tuncay continuing to be a handful. His star moment was when he excellently turned Carragher (after Mido should have never gotten a cross in) in the 62nd minute, only to shoot straight at Reina from eight yards out.
And what we’d always worried about, especially with Liverpool impotent in attack, finally happened in the 70th minute. Mido got the ball at the top of the box, was given space with Carragher and Skrtel backing off and Alonso unable to get there in time, and he hammered it into the bottom corner.
Liverpool brought on Babel in the 65th, and his performance summed up the game to that point perfectly. He didn’t get his first touch for ten minutes, and when he did, he immediately gave it away.
But Liverpool started getting more pressure on the Boro backline in the last 15 minutes, with El Zhar coming on for Arbeloa in the 83rd (Carragher moved to right back, and got forward) making a difference. It paid off two minutes later. Alonso’s cross was blocked by a Boro defender’s arm, and as Mike Riley was wont to do, nothing was called. But to Liverpool’s good fortune, the ball bounced out to Carragher on the right corner of the box. The defender hammered a shot towards goal, which was deflected into the net by Pogatetz (who had been excellent to that point), and the Kop went absolutely wild.
At that point, no matter how frustrated I was with the performance (and with a draw in the first game at Anfield), the fact that it was Carragher who scored the equalizer would have left me pleased. But Liverpool kept on the pressure, and four minutes were added on because Gary O’Neil decided to waste time feigning an injury in Liverpool’s box. Gerrard forced Turnbull into a good save in the 93rd, and Skrtel missed a free header from the subsequent corner. A minute later, Alonso sent a last-ditch diagonal into the box, and Keane was able to chest it into the path of Gerrard. We all know how it ends after that.
Plus, it’s not as if Boro sat back and defended after going up. That’s not how Southgate has this team set up, and they could have scored a winner of their own in the 88th when Reina strangely ran out to Aliadiere at the edge of the box only to be rounded by the attacker, but Carragher was there to make the tackle. And that’s why he’s Jamie Carragher. And man of the match.
I’m trying not to let Liverpool’s late win paper over the cracks. There’s still something not clicking for the team. Kuyt and Benayoun aren’t good enough on the flanks, although I thought Kuyt was far better today than in his two previous outings (Benayoun was gash though). Until the late heroics, Gerrard looked ambivalent and was nowhere near as influential sitting deeper in a midfield pairing with Alonso (is it just me, or is Xabi making more of an effort to get forward so far this season)? And Alonso, although good at times, was exceptionally erratic in his passing. Plus, his corners were absolutely awful all game long.
But at the end of the day, it’s another three points and more heart-warming late heroics. In addition, Boro truly was good; I’ve clearly underrated them in my predictions, and they will cause some upsets this season. The fact that it was the combination of Gerrard and Carragher to give Liverpool the win in the last 10 minutes makes it even more special.
Standard Liege at Anfield on Wednesday.