13 September 2008

Liverpool 2-1 Manchester United

Arbeloa Carragher Skrtel Aurelio
Benayoun Alonso Mascherano Riera
Kuyt Keane

Tevez 3’
Brown (og) 26’
Babel 77’

Finally. And what a way to do it.

United made a dream start, with early pressure leading to a Tevez goal within three minutes when Berbatov beat two men to the byline and was able to cut back to Tevez (Mascherano failed to follow him into the box). But Liverpool didn’t crumble, slowly grew into the game, and fortune finally favored them in the 26th minute when Van der Sar could only palm Alonso’s deflected shot off Brown for an own goal.

The old maxim that goals change games comes true again. And it’s brilliant that it came true against Manchester United – the old enemy, and a team that never loses after going a goal up.

Even though Kuyt had two decent chances in the 6th and 12th minutes, Liverpool didn’t respond right away. It took time to take control, but when you go behind to United – a team they haven’t beaten in the league in over four years – it’s impressive enough that heads didn’t drop immediately. There admittedly was loads of luck in the equalizer, but it’s about time Liverpool got that luck against United.

The rest of the half looked fairly similar to those games where Liverpool’s been the better side, but unable to capitalize. Kuyt’s dug-out shot straight at Van der Sar was Liverpool’s only effort on goal even though the home side was establishing more and better possession, while United went close in the 28th when Tevez shot over after good work from Berbatov and Anderson.

Liverpool really turned the tide after the break. Alonso and Mascherano were awesome in midfield, keeping possession and dictating tempo. Kuyt linked play well as a supporting striker, Benayoun did far better on the right (and was a threat getting into the box), and Riera finally gave Liverpool much-needed width on the left, with the debutant most impressive working as an outlet to relieve pressure when United was better early on. He also formed an effective partnership with Aurelio, who was solid at left back.

And Babel coming on for Riera in the 71st minute ended up changing the game. Gerrard replaced Benayoun three minutes earlier, but it was the speedy Dutchman who was Liverpool’s hero this time.

In the 77th minute, Mascherano did well to get to the byline, and when Giggs tried to let the ball run out instead of clearing, Kuyt was able to take possession and cut it back perfectly for the on-rushing Babel. Once again, he fills the role of supersub to a tee.

Liverpool's dominance in midfield kept United from ever really looking like getting back into the game. The home side continued to keep possession excellently, and Ferguson stole Mourinho’s desperate tactic, throwing a center-back (Vidic) to the front hoping he’ll win a long punt. And it backfired when Vidic picked up a second yellow for leading with his elbow going for a header in the 90th.

Kuyt should have sealed it in the 92nd after Babel returned the favor in a similar situation, but Van der Sar sprawled well. And United provided the requisite heart-in-mouth moment in the fourth minute of injury time, but England’s Hero™ Wayne Rooney could only fire wide when he got the ball at the top of the box.

Now that Liverpool’s finally made the breakthrough against United, after all the misfortune and maladies they’ve suffered in recent years, they need to put it to full use. This will be a massive confidence boost. They were without Gerrard and Torres. They went behind after only three minutes. And the team replied with far and away its best performance of the season.

Every player should hold his head high; it’s quite difficult to pick a man of the match, but I’ve got to go with Mascherano, who put in a sterling, lung-busting performance, and despite losing Tevez for United’s goal. However, Alonso’s right there too for his return to form in midfield, Skrtel was imperious in defense, and Riera, even though he only played 71 minutes, had a tremendous debut and looks likely to add another dimension to the team.

I’d forgotten what a win over United felt like. It’s been a long time coming.


Jerseyhoya said...

It's a nice feeling, it not even being 11 yet, and my day being made.

Manton said...

Waking up to this news is better than Christmas. Feverishly downloading now

DM Osbon said...

7th heaven!

Riera is looking very promising too...

Ace Cowboy said...

Riera was fantastic in his debut. Looked like he couldn't find his footing at all in the first 10 minutes, just like Liverpool. But then he just started flying. He also looks very much like a deadly combo of Glen Quagmire and Andy from Weeds.

Xabi was everywhere for much of that match. Brilliant control of the middle of the pitch. I can't tell if Masch and Xabi were THAT good or whether ManU's strange shape gave them the room to operate. Either way, Xabi was just unbelievable.

For a while it seemed like this wasn't Liverpool but some sort of fictional Mersey Town FC in an FA Cup battle with the Prem champs. With Gerrard and Torres out, this side was scrappier and grittier and more reliant on doggedness than talent. Kuyt and Keane were all over the place, and they both also linked up with Yossi very well. Dirk Kuyt has been immense this term already, and I think almost everybody owes this guy an apology. He may not play pretty football, and he may not be pretty himself, but he's everywhere.

It's better to be lucky than good. I've heard that my whole life. Today's first half and the VdS fuckup underscored that point tremendously. That changed everything. Liverpool came out tails up after that goal and never let up. From then on, it was red all the way. Without that goal, who the hell knows which way this match goes.

Babel's goal was coming. They had to get it. And they did. I love the way this season is shaping up. Onward and upward from here, boys.

Anonymous said...

Huzzah! An amazing performance despite many minuses before the game even started. (And especially after the 3rd minute)

Very pleased with Riera - an attack minded winger...what do you know? A huge difference. We don't possess any players who constantly attack defenders in 1v1 situations. But the combo of Babel and Riera will strike some fear on whatever sides they end up playing on.

Kuyt is everywhere - I like him up top. Add some Torres in that game and we take another 2 goals.


Steel said...

Stunning, lads. Simply stunning.

Abhiram said...

Wow!!! What a game!
I was shouting on the top of my lungs when Babel hit the goal and every one in my family came running thinking i had broken my leg or something. We simply dominated the second half. I was very happy with Benitez's aggressive attack-minded game. I feel he deliberately irritates us with games like Aston Villa before he gives us games like these so that we can savor them more.

Another cool fat: No yellow or red cards for the reds. Very happy with this.

Vidic should have been sent off for the tackle on Keane. He was clear on goal then.

My players of the match were Kuyt, Bennayoun, Skrtel, New boy Riera, Alonso and finally and importantly, Mascherano. All of them had great games. All of them deserve mentioning.

Keane did a lot of running for us but i don't want him to be another Kuyt. We need goals (lots of goals in-fact) from a 21 mil player and not miles covered! I still support him and i feel goals will come.

The icing on the cake was Benitez's final substitution! He was about to bring on Ngog, but stopped mid-way after coming to know of Mascher's injury( hope its not too serious), sent in Hyypia for a 3 - 5 - 2 formation (still attacking). Agreed it was very late in the game but every body will agree with me when i say we are not used to Liverpool playing like this against Man U.

Finally, keep this flow running guys! We are yet to get our best forward and mid-fielder back in full fitness! YNWA