Carragher Skrtel Agger Aurelio
Kuyt Gerrard Benayoun
Another good performance despite the match being played at a typical last-day pace, unsentimental Rafa made us wait for Sami, and Robbie Keane’s a jerk. Sounds about right.
Liverpool started brightly, with Gerrard’s strike ending up on the roof of the net and Benayoun spooning over from six-yard on the half volley before five minutes were up. And an interruption in the stream (so much for technology) for about 20 minutes evidently coincided with Tottenham growing into the game as the game slowed down.
But thankfully, normal service resumed just as Liverpool got off the mark, predictably thanks to #9. Torres jumped highest, in between Hutton and Corluka, to meet Kuyt’s chipped cross at the back post, ricocheting a header off the underside of the bar giving Gomez no chance. Tottenham rarely threatened for the rest of the half, with the lone chance coming on a ball over the top that Reina did well to close off under pressure from Defoe. But neither did Liverpool, which wasn’t all that surprising with a lead in the last match.
The second half saw better from the start, with Torres getting involved and Alonso nearly scoring from his own half (again), while Liverpool could have had a penalty in the 62nd (yes, yes, ball to hand, but his arms were out – and the situation was repeated in the 90th). But two minutes later, Kuyt got the second, although it’ll probably go down as a Hutton own goal. Kuyt and Benayoun passed their way through the box, with the Dutchman’s effort deflecting off the defender past Gomes.
Gerrard should have added another, hitting the post from an impossible angle and shooting surprisingly wide from a trademark position, before Keane ruined Reina’s chance at a fourth-straight Golden Gloves. The Irishman was barely onside, probably played on by Carra, and beat the keeper at the near post. Of course it was Keane. As if it was ever in doubt.
Benayoun made sure of the win, Liverpool’s 10th in the final 11 games, after Mascherano won the ball back and Gerrard turned wonderfully to put the Israeli through. And the captain could have tallied three minutes later when a free kick was narrowly wide – had he taken his chances, he’d have finished level on goals with Anelka.
Finally, after the missed free kick, Hyypia came on to replace the man who replaced him as captain, taking up the armband for a final time. Once Hyypia’s name wasn’t on the team sheet, you knew he would replace Gerrard in the final few minutes, but it would have been nice to see him on from the start. The Kop spent the remaining time singing the Finn’s name, and he almost finished the dream script with a header in the first minute of injury time, only for Gomes to scramble it away.
And that’s the 2008-09 campaign. Second place, the most goals scored, and the highest points total in the Premiership. And of course, we’re left wanting much more. August can’t get here soon enough.
I should have a bunch of post-season stuff in the next few days – a narrative review, the season awards, the top 10 goals, and a few other things. It’s been a good year. The disappointment over second place can’t override that.