Arbeloa Skrtel Carragher Aurelio
Kuyt Gerrard Riera
Torres 55’ 73’
This team is going to give me a heart attack, and I don’t mind. This really was a game of two halves (I love it when clichés come true).
Liverpool were on top for about eight minutes before City grew into the game. After Kuyt missed Liverpool’s best and only chance of the first half, ballooning over Riera’s pull-back, City made them pay – Ireland finished a fluid counter attack after Wright-Phillips stole the ball from Aurelio and Liverpool were unable to clear the danger.
For the rest of the first half, City beat Liverpool ends up at its own game. The home side hassled and harried the visitors every time they were on the ball, preventing them from making use of their edge in possession. And with players like Robinho, Jo, and Wright-Phillips, City were a threat every time they countered.
In the 42nd minute, they took full advantage of another mistake. Riera unnecessarily charged down Wright-Phillips on the break, and Garrido smashed the resulting free kick inside the near post through the middle of an awful two-man wall.
But a team has to do more to beat Liverpool this year. Kuyt could have had a penalty a minute in when it looked like Dunne clipped his heels, but Liverpool kept on the pressure, and Torres got one back after a flowing move – Arbeloa continued his run to get the return ball from Gerrard and centered for Torres to tap in Liverpool’s 1000th Premier League goal.
City reclaimed their bearings, with Robinho still threatening (and missing an excellent chance in the six-yard box when he should have been flagged offside), but Zabaleta’s two-footed lunge on Alonso’s standing leg brought a red card in the 67th minute. It didn’t take long for Liverpool to make use of the numerical advantage, with Torres rising highest to meet Gerrard’s corner with a free header.
The striker could have had a hat-trick in the 82nd, half-volleying over at the far post, and after Skrtel’s serious injury in the 87th made it 10-on-10, it looked like Liverpool might settle for a draw after hauling themselves back. But Kuyt was on hand for another late winner when Benayoun’s centered ball fell to him after Torres’ blocked shot. Fitting that he scored it after his late heroics against Liege, the miss in the 17th minute, and a Premiership goal drought that stretches back to November.
What a difference a season makes. These two teams scored five in their last seven meetings. And yet again, we’re congratulating Liverpool’s fortitude after another comeback win. Liverpool's won nine games this year; they’ve scored the winner after the 75th minute in five of them.
After the first half, I was all set to condemn the 4-2-3-1 for Torres’s isolation and Liverpool looking second best. But the second half was an entirely different story, even before the red card and Keane’s introduction.
And once again, it’s Torres who’s irrepressible. After struggling away from Anfield last season, he’s scored all five of his goals on the road this year. He can be frustrated for long stretches, but still finds a way to come alive when needed. There’s a reason Benitez recently said he wouldn’t sell him at any price.
But full credit to the whole team for turning it around today. City showed they are an excellent side, with Ireland and Wright-Phillips most impressive for the way they got back to hassle Alonso and Mascherano when Liverpool tried to set up possession in midfield. However, Liverpool had the guts and guile to leave winners, even if they had some help with the red card (the second-straight league game Alonso’s drawn a red).
There have already been murmurs, but this win will get the media talking about whether it could be the year. There’s clear progress, and I’m incredibly heartened by this team’s ability to turn around a deficit, especially since losing a lead was a big problem last year. You can’t underestimate how much games like this can boost a side’s confidence, but there’s an awful long way to go.
Unlike a month ago, the international break comes at an unfortunate time. The next game is in 13 days against Wigan.