Arbeloa Carragher Agger Dossena
Pennant Alonso Gerrard Riera
Zaki 29’ 45+2’
Kuyt 37’ 85’
This cannot keep happening.
So much for Wigan coming to Anfield and shutting up shop. They deserved to be 1-2 up at halftime for their willingness to get forward, but both goals were of Liverpool’s making. The away side seemed happier to stay behind in the ball in the second half, but another sending off opened up the game, and another two goals in the last 10 minutes won it.
Wigan were truly better throughout the first half. Liverpool couldn’t get a hold of the ball for the first ten minutes, and the visitors were far more comfortable in possession.
The first warning came after 23 minutes, when Reina had to save from Kapo and clear the potential rebound after the attacker was put through. Six minutes later, Agger dwelled in possession when Reina gave him the ball at the top of the box with Zaki ten yards away. The Egyptian hitman closed him down immediately (although the Dane’s touch didn’t do him any favors), stole the ball, and slotted past Reina. With the form Zaki’s in, it’s unforgivable to give him a chance like that.
It looked like Liverpool would turn matters around fairly quickly, and Agger was at the center of it. He worked hard to redeem himself, bringing the ball out of defense and continuing his run for a return ball from
The goal settled Liverpool, and only Kirkland’s fingertips prevented Kuyt from securing the lead with a thunderbolt from outside the box in the 43rd. But Wigan struck again on the stroke of halftime. Dossena (along with Agger) was unable to close down Valencia or stop the cross, and Zaki bicycled a beautiful volley after Arbeloa drifted away from him.
And the second half was fairly standard fare until the 74th minute. Wigan were more content to sit back and soak up pressure, which they did (Kuyt had a great chance in the 58th, with Kirkland making another excellent save, but that was about it) until Valencia was sent off for a two yellows.
Bruce was infuriated, but he couldn’t have any complaints about the second yellow, which was an awful tackle on Alonso (how does he keep drawing these?). And the first was Valencia’s stupidity two minutes prior, finally booked after refusing to stay 10 yards away from a free kick.
Liverpool quickly took advantage. Benitez sent on El Zhar for Dossena and Benayoun for Arbeloa and it paid dividends right away. Riera gets full credit for the first, running through defense and getting a return ball from El Zhar after a pretty Gerrard dummy, which he side-footed in from the top of the box with his right foot.
And once again, Kuyt got the winner. Five minutes after the equalizer, the Dutchman met Pennant’s cross with an effort similar to Zaki’s acrobatic second. Unsurprisingly, Kuyt’s was far less aesthetically pleasing, but it was just as effective. That’d be his third late winner of the season, and his fifth goal in five against Wigan.
What can you say about this team? There was an element of luck with another sending off, and yes, for the first 70 minutes Wigan deserved their lead, but Liverpool still had to score the goals. Plus, Valencia earned his dismissal; the second yellow could have seen red itself.
But there’s a bit to worry about in defense. Agger wasn’t the most assured in his return (although I’m still very pleased he didn’t hide after his mistake, and was instrumental in the equalizer), and honestly, I thought Dossena was flat-out awful (and could have seen red himself, lucky to only get a yellow for a bad tackle in the 39th).
However, I can’t help but be happy. There are things to worry about, and I reiterate what I said in the opening – this sort of fortune isn’t likely to last forever. But it’s another never-say-die comeback win that Liverpool needed to keep pace with Chelsea, and it happened right after an international break and with Torres, Mascherano, and Babel all absent. That’ll certainly do.