28 January 2012

Liverpool 2-1 Manchester United

Goals:
Agger 21'
Park 40'
Kuyt 88'

For the second match in a row: *shakes head* Football, man. Football.

A first half set play goal, followed by increased United pressure and the inevitable equalizer following a defensive mistake. In a 4-1-4-1 formation with Carragher holding in midfield, Liverpool were unable to settle on the ball, in a typically frenetic no-holds-barred cup game.

Then, Dalglish's substitutions changed the game. Bringing on Adam and Kuyt for Carragher and Maxi just after the hour mark allowed Liverpool a greater foothold, with Bellamy for Gerrard 10 minutes later giving Liverpool greater impetus going forward without conceding ground in the center of the park. Meanwhile, Ferguson's response, removing United's third midfielder – the tiring Paul Scholes – for a forward, matching Liverpool's 4-4-2 formation, ensured United were outnumbered in the middle, with Chicharito's theoretical release valve smothered by the impressive Skrtel. Kuyt's late winner, his first second goal of the season, came at the best possible time, a hammer blow with little Fergie time left for a comeback. It's the first late winner (in the final ten minutes) since Johnson's at Stamford Bridge in November, and only Liverpool's third of the season.

The home side had the first chances, with De Gea saving Maxi's fierce shot in the 4th and Gerrard unable to control Henderson's cross in space in the box five minutes later. Meanwhile, Valencia cannoned an effort off the bar after bursting down Liverpool's left in the 17th, cutting in after beating Maxi for pace. But Liverpool struck first, and on a corner no less. Carroll, parked in front of De Gea, cleared out the goalkeeper and three defenders, leaving plenty of space for Agger to connect with Gerrard's cross. His first goal of the season as well, I might add.

But Liverpool were unable to take advantage of the early lead. Dropping deep and unable to settle on the ball, United grew in ambition. Unsurprisingly, Liverpool paid the price for a singular mistake, as Rafael – easily United's best player in the first half – out-muscled Enrique far too easily, sped towards the byline, and cut back for an open Park parked on the penalty spot.

Liverpool needed some stellar defending soon after the restart, as Agger scrambled Giggs' cross out of the six-yard box and Skrtel did well to cover after Reina was exposed, chasing out of his area trying to close down Welbeck, who beat Liverpool's back line to a ball over the top.

Then came the game-changing substitutions. Kuyt provided far more of a threat than the again-disappointing Maxi, even prior to his winner, while Adam added far more to Liverpool's midfield going forward without the feared decline in overall defending. Bellamy replacing the gassed Gerrard was more of a surprise, but removing a midfielder for a striker, shifting to 4-4-2, didn't expose Liverpool in the slightest.

Still, a winner didn't look on the cards. Kuyt had a couple of half-chances – a shot from the top of the box blocked, a downward header from Downing's cross tamely wide – while Welbeck spectacularly spurned a couple of very speculative opportunities. Then, Kuyt popped up with a classic Route 1 goal with two minutes left. Reina punted the goal kick down-field following a wild Welbeck shot, Carroll easily beat Evans to the header, cushioning it perfectly for Kuyt to run onto with Evra caught ball-watching. Bursting into the box, De Gea was unable to save the Dutchman's powerful low shot, and the Kop absolutely erupted. Liverpool should have increased the final margin a minute later, again via Carroll and Kuyt, but the striker's back post point-black header hit the crossbar and the substitute could only toe-poke the rebound wide. Otherwise, the two, along with Henderson, trapped the ball at the corner flag for almost all of the three added minutes, with United wholly out of ideas.

Today was an excellent day for Liverpool's usual scapegoats. Carroll was probably man of the match, heavily involved in both goals. Kuyt scored the winner, with a second game-changing performance after a a few months of disappointment, another big game performance which hopefully marked another second-half-of-the-season resurgence. Adam's entrance vastly improved the side, Downing did well whether on the left or right. Outside of Enrique's mistake, Liverpool's defense rarely, if ever, looked like conceding; Skrtel, again impeccable, deserves special mention, as does Martin Kelly. But, like against City, it was a team-wide win, the proper response to last weekend's utter failure.

It wouldn't be Liverpool v United lately without a focus on off-field concerns. Evra was booed on every touch, which seemed to decrease as the match went on, coupled with reports of repeated Hillsborough chants from the away end (obviously, I wasn't there). More concerning were was a Liverpool fan photographed ostensibly making monkey gestures and a report of three United fans allegedly arrested for spitting on the Hillsborough memorial after the match (later denied by Merseyside Police; whoever started that rumor needs multiple smacks). All are regrettable and worthy of condemnation, the former two unfortunately expected and the latter two especially vile. There are bad people who support every club. Sadly, which probably says too much about what I expect from humanity, I expected worse. Pity there's another on the horizon so soon, with Liverpool traveling to Old Trafford in two weeks with Suarez back from suspension. Please, everyone, be better.

Despite the lamentable need to condemn idiots, all idiots, I really hope the actual football makes more headlines. It deserves to. Liverpool have truly responded to poor performances against Bolton and Stoke, deservingly beating City over two legs followed by yet another Anfield FA Cup win over United. Neither alleviates the long-standing concerns about beating sides Liverpool are supposed to beat, especially at home, but both results are incredibly welcome, far better than the alternative, and a sturdy platform for second-half improvement. Roll on, roll on.

7 comments:

NastyNidge said...

I was there today, and yes there were Hillsborough chants from the United fans - mind you there was also one dick doing aeroplane impressions a couple of rows down from me so there you go.

Mike Georger said...

I overslept and missed the first half, which of course meant I was dreaming that I was watching the game.

Andorjan's first half brace was fucking STUNNING.

sharon said...

That was kuyts second goal of the season, nate. He scored against brighton in the carling cup. also, i firmly disagree with the idea that Carroll would me man of the match. with the exception of the one wonderful flick on and the late chance that hit crossbar, he was not winning much in the air, and hardly ever involved on the ground. He looked better yes, but certainly not commendably better. skrtel/agger men of the match by far.

nate said...

Ha, thanks Sharon. You'd think I'd have realized that, seeing as I wrote that Kuyt had a goal in yesterday's match preview. Embarrassing. Unsurprising.

Thought Carroll was man of the match for those moments combined with improved work rate. We've seen similar from Skrtel and Agger all season, both were on usual form. In fact, I've been less impressed with Agger in this match and against City than in previous. Skrtel admittedly was excellent, and I've no qualms with him getting the man of the match gong. Still, thought this was Carroll's best match by far when you combine his role in both goals with that workrate. For long stretches, he was an isolated lone outlet; don't have the stats as it was a cup match, but it seemed the flicks and headers came off far better than we're used to. Which hopefully is a good sign of things to come.

Georger, dammit, if you're going to crush on the kid, it's Adorjan. I don't know where this other N keeps coming from.

And thanks for the first-hand report, Nidge.

Anonymous said...

Nate,

Carroll was one of the worst players on the pitch. If it had been bellamy and kuyt pairing form the start we'd of been up 3-1 at the half. Did you even hear the commentators complaining about Carroll's work rate, poor heading ability, lack of technical skill!? They even compared him to Crouch and both agreed Crouch was better at heading and had more technical skill. Get Suarez back and send Carroll away. He puts for effort in last 5 minutes somehow in your eyes making everything he did prior in the game okay? Don't forget the ball passed RIGHT in front of him in the first half that if he even put forth 50% effort he'd of intercepted and had a huge scoring chance. Carroll is shit and he knows he is. Stop being delusional with your "man of the match" to Carroll.

Kuyt made the run
Kuyt scored the beauty
Kuyt almost scored again but the ball had an awkward bounce
Kuyt always works hard every game

Carroll got LUCKY with his header. He was maybe 5 for 28 in headers this match. Evans who is shorter and weaker beat Carroll on every corner.

So why do you give Carroll man of match and not Kuyt? Very curious... Kuyt scored, Carroll didn't. Kuyt makes runs, Carroll CAN'T. Kuyt cares about the club and has come through for us many times, Carroll will be gone in the summer. He hasn't improved at all.

ANOTHER GAME, AND NO GOAL FROM CARROLL

THAT is the headline.

Someday soon you'll stop this manlove for Andy... hope its soon.

mj said...

Anon,

What does YNWA mean to you then? I heard the commentary about Carroll too, and rather than 'listening' to it, it kinda pissed me off.

Re: that pass between the United defenders, who says that pass gets made if Carroll is sprinting across? You can't criticize him for not winning every single fucking header either. Have you tried winning a header before? The tallest/strongest doesn't always win the ball (see Chicharito).

You probably slagged off Lucas a few seasons back too. We fucking beat United in the FA cup and you're hating on the player that essentially set up both goals and hit the crossbar. Unbelievable!

Anonymous said...

Why is everyone hating on Maxi? Great shot early, good movement again. He´s a scapegoat for us not having possession. Carragher was the reason we couldnt hold onto the ball!

And seriously. Carroll? People claiming he assisted for that goal?he didnt do anything.