Carragher Hyypia Skrtel Aurelio
Kuyt Gerrard Riera
Ronaldo 23’ (pen)
Gerrard 44’ (pen)
Hands up if you saw that coming. Yeah, right.
The double over United. That hasn’t happened since 01/02. With four goals. At Old Trafford. Four goals against both United and Real Madrid in the same week.
Let me say that again. The double over United. Scoring four at the Theater of Nightmares. Mmmm. It gets sweeter every time.
Fernando Torres has become death, the destroyer of worlds. That Gerrard fellow’s not too shabby either. But credit goes to every player on the field. The two key men set the tone, Mascherano was his usual self while Lucas played well beyond his age, and the defense was simply strangling.
It sure didn’t look like it was going to be Liverpool’s day at the start. It took about five minutes for the visitors to get a hold of the ball as United, especially through Rooney running at Carragher (who was at right back because Arbeloa was injured in the warm-up), looked rampant.
And just as Liverpool was settling, Tevez’s beautifully weighted throughball found Park, who Reina brought down. Ronaldo stepped up to hammer it in, and it looked like it would be a long afternoon. Ha.
Torres made sure that wasn’t the case. Defenders seeing him running at them one-on-one must shit their pants – and Vidic proved that to be the case. He’s been the Premiership’s best defender for most of the season, but Torres beat the Serbian to a ball over the top, and beat Van der Sar to the bottom corner. Just like in the match at Anfield: United score early, Liverpool equalize thanks to a mistake. But Torres is one of few center forwards who can both cause and take advantage of those mistakes. Game on.
The goal took the stuffing out of United, and they struggled to regroup. And with the both sides even, Liverpool took the lead thanks to a penalty. I didn’t think Ferguson allowed penalties to be given at Old Trafford. But Evra took Gerrard out after Torres found him on the right, and the captain made no mistake from the spot. 2-1 at Old Trafford at the break. Deep breaths...
United spent the first 30 minutes of the second half turning the screws, but found few cracks in Liverpool’s defense. The pressure was constant, but the end product was lacking, and it’s nice to see Liverpool do that to the opposition rather than vice versa. Reina had to be ready for balls coming into the box from all angles and was, while Skrtel and Hyypia were imperious in the center.
In the 74th, United sent on Giggs, Scholes, and Berbatov in one fell swoop to try and change the game. Unfortunately for Ferguson, the game didn’t change as he hoped.
Three minutes later, on one of the few Liverpool forays into United’s half, Gerrard’s storming run on the right forced Vidic into a rash challenge for which he saw a straight red. Yes, there was a man behind him (I think it was O’Shea), but he was on the opposite side of the field, and that was a clear goal scoring opportunity. It was the right call, and losing Vidic for the next three games is as much of a blow for United as losing three points.
On the resulting free kick, Aurelio sealed the result with a spectacular curler that nestled inside the near post. Van der Sar was rooted to the spot, unable to do anything about it, and you could hear all the air go out of the stadium. It was a wonderful, unexpected feeling.
Gerrard could have added a second in the 85th, set up by Babel after another mistake from Evra, but the skipper skied over. However, Liverpool got the 4th for the second-straight game, and again it was Dossena. Another defensive mistake, another bouncing ball, and Dossena sumptuously chipped the keeper. Second game he’s played at left midfield as a sub, second goal. Maybe we’ve found the Italian’s position. Who wants to wager he'll be sold in the summer now?
I can’t say enough about the performance. Once again, Liverpool goes behind to United, once again Liverpool leaves the winner. And not only that, they scored four goals at Old Trafford. That in and of itself leaves me speechless. I can’t remember the last time United let in four at home.
I hate to harsh the buzz after that, but I can’t help but think of the much-referenced disappointing draws. That’s the double over United. Liverpool’s now 4-1-0 against the big four this season, with a home match against Arsenal left. That’s championship form, but it was canceled out by being unable to beat 10 men behind the ball on too many occasions.
The media will have a field day, and admittedly, it’s much more in play now, but I still have trouble believing the title race is back on. Four points with a game in hand still looks pretty secure given United’s form. But this re-opens the door. It’s about how United responds.
But I’ve made my peace with that already. Right now, it’s about enjoying the immaculate performance Liverpool delivered, and one of the best weeks in recent Liverpool history.