23 September 2012

Liverpool 1-2 Manchester United

Gerrard 46'
Rafael 51'
van Persie 81' (pen)

Fun times. Always fun times.

Well, let's get it out of the way.

There was Gerrard's dismissal in the FA Cup against United in Dalglish's first match two seasons ago.

There was also Javier Mascherano versus Steve Bennett against United in 2007-08. That one was a good one.

Suffice it to say there's some history here. Sadly, I've come to expect the worst possible decisions happening in the worst possible moment when these two sides meet. Because it's Manchester United, because it's Liverpool, and because sports are trying to kill me. And succeeding.


The closest comparison is probably Spearing's sending off at Fulham last season. Both players stupidly, rashly went in two-footed. Evans rolled around on the ground, Shelvey got sent off. Both players probably should have seen yellow, especially given all the contentious history which surrounds this fixture. But that the Liverpool player got a red card while the United player went unpunished should surprise no one.

Of course, we're not done. What, that's not enough controversy for you? Too bad.

Earlier penalty shouts for Agger and Suarez had been ignored, then Valencia gets that in the 77th minute, already falling over before Johnson even attempts his tackle. After a five-minute delay due to Agger's injury (of course), van Persie notched the winner. Liverpool rarely need help being torn apart on the counter-attack, on a giveaway of their own making – this one from Agger in United's half, prompting Valencia's three-on-two breakaway – but Manchester United certainly had help. And to compound matters, Agger eventually stretchered off after being unable to walk off. Early reports suggest the medical staff fears he tore his MCL. Fantastic.

United's two goals were United's only shots on target until a late time-wasting effort from nowhere. Liverpool bossed the game with 11 men, and were the better side with 10. And lost almost wholly because of the referee's decisions. That's hard to take against any side. It's utterly soul-killing against Manchester United.

It had been 39 minutes of butt-kicking but no name-taking until Shelvey's red. Liverpool needed the first two minutes to get the ball off United, but from there, United barely got it back until the sending off. The frequent "can't take their chances" failing reared its ugly head, but United never, never, never looked likely to spring the ubiquitous stomach punch. Allen and Gerrard bossed the midfield, while Kelly and Johnson were outstanding. Both those facets continued after Liverpool went down to 10 men.

It was only fitting that Gerrard struck immediately after the restart, aided by Liverpool bringing on Suso for Borini even though it was a substitution forced by injury, with the Italian suffering an ankle knock. The 18-year-old showed no fear, starting the move which ended with Gerrard's strike. Suso ran at Scholes and Evra before crossing, which Ferdinand headed out to Johnson, beating one man before Scholes' tackle. Which sent the ball straight to Gerrard, wholly unmarked 10 yards from goal. Chest, left foot, goal.

But Liverpool were only ahead for five minutes thanks to Rafael's admittedly wonderful goal. Rafael split Allen and Suso, and laid off for Valencia. Cross to a wide-open Kagawa, chest down to set up the right-back, insane swerver off the inside of the far post from no angle. Couldn't do it again on a bet, etc etc. It was just United's fifth shot, and its first on target. Because of course. It's now the third league match this season where Liverpool's opponent scored with its first shot on target. Through five matches. Both Arsenal and City scored with their second.

Despite the result, I remain incredibly impressed with how Liverpool stuck to its game after the sending off. Liverpool were very good in everything but goals until the red card, then changed formation twice in the second half to trouble United despite the man disadvantage. We've had something to be aggrieved about in almost every match this season, but today takes the horrific-tasting cake. The team were simply on the end of two unconscionable referee decisions and a worldy from Rafael.

Henderson replaced Sterling in the 66th to give Liverpool more support in midfield. Both Suso and Suarez had excellent chances to re-take the lead: the former's shot pushed over the bar by Lindegaard, the latter blasting across the face of goal from even less of an angle than Rafael's equalizer.

Then disaster (and Halsey) struck. Liverpool had kept the ball in United's half until Suso's ill-conceived pass to Agger. However, Agger, under pressure from van Persie, made the strange decision to back heel the ball away into unoccupied space. Valencia beat both Agger and Johnson to the ball, taking each other out in the process (where Agger picked up his injury) and raced toward goal with only Skrtel and Allen in their own half. The two defenders did well to close off passes to Giggs or van Persie, but then came Johnson charging back and that decision. Despite Liverpool's continued belief despite all those set-backs, game over. And to compound the compounded matters, Kelly also picked up an injury in stoppage time. Borini, Agger, Kelly could all miss extended spells, with Shelvey suspended and Lucas also a long-term casualty. Tremendous.

United win at Anfield for the first time since 2007. Liverpool are winless through five league games. Rodgers is now the ninth consecutive manager to fail to win his first match against United as Liverpool manager, a streak dating all the way back to Bob Paisley. Blah blah blah.

Regardless of result, and how painful each bad result as been, today truly was further evidence of progress. Just like the draw at Sunderland was, despite the disappointing draw. We were all prepared for a rocky road – or should have been, at least – especially given the dismal fixture list to start the season. Soon enough, that progress will turn into results. It has to.


Stephen said...

Nate, appreciate the focus on the true driver - Halsey. No one...I repeat...NO ONE paid to see fucking Halsey!! All we ask is two basic things from the ref... (1) consistency (2) common sense. If 2 players go in hard, both with spikes up, there's no problem w a red card, just be consistent and call it on both players (agree Shelvey/Evans should've been yellow/yellow). Someone needs to explain to me how van Persie gets no card early in 2H for going in spikes up vs Suso while Shelvey gets sent off?!? Also have the fucking common sense to hold your whistle when it's soft stuff in the area...because your fucking whistle means YOU decide the game...and as I've written...I DIDN'T PAY TO SEE YOU!!!!! Valencia was a straight dive, triggered by Johnson touching his ass a bit. Back to consistency...how's Valencia's a foul but the takeouts of Agger & Sterling directly in front of net are no-calls. Halsey ruined a wonderful match and my fucking Sunday to boot. He is a fucking imbecile who should not be trusted with a match like Man U / Liverpool.

Stephen said...

Nate, any update on Kelly? agree he played a wonderful match but, from the replay, i was shocked he walked off...looked pretty bad.

Ómar Ó'Magi frá Torfgarði said...

Good report as ever. I thought a season after season for the last 18 years would have prepared me for the ref's performance but it didn't, such is my naivety. I'm waiting for the justified uproar in the general media which as ever won't come. But the team played brilliantly and did us proud.


Anonymous said...

Nice report. informative as always. Totally gutted, not so much about the result but the injurys. Borini, Lucas, Agger, Kelly and Shelvey suspended is just the roughest salt into the deepest wound. After the 1st 2 games, looking ahead at the draw i could imagine only 2 points (at the least) from the 1st 2 games. Hopefully from some comparatively less testing (he said wistfully) we can push on, if we can get to the jan 2013 window still within 10 points of the top 8, i can defiantly see liverpool being among them in may.

Anonymous said...

i could imagine only 2 points (at the least) from the 1st 5 games*

MechaDG said...

Two yellows would have been the right call but Jonjo's had it coming, so the ref was only gonna go one way. And yep, we got jobbed on that penalty. Best league performance so far, but..it's a deeper hole we're in every week. In the absence of goal scorers, the defence has to be better.

And of course Steven Gerrard scores a goal for his cousin, and for the other 95. Justice, indeed. Like so many other moments in his career, if you wrote it, it'd be pure fantasy.

jimmy_shivers said...

Today exemplified nearly everything that people hate about ManU, from their ability to seemingly get all the 50/50 calls to their absolutely classless display by their supporters to Paul Scholes. If today was a movie, the bad guys won. Hopefully in the sequel justice is served.

Anonymous said...

How can anyone see Shelvey's tackle as a two footed tackle? And the studs were down! He leads with the right foot and contacts the ball with the side of his right foot in a side motion. When he contacts the ball the studs of his left foot are planted firmly in the grass. His left knee goes thru the play trailed by his left foot which is only carried forward from his momentum. And the right studs only come up from the momentum generated by the side of his foot contacting the ball. NO WAY that can be considered a TWO FOOTED TACKLE.

Evans on the other hand is off the ground and comes into the tackle with both feet studs up. Evans has his entire body behind his feet with studs up and follows thru with both feet.

Watching the video, I consider Evan's challenge a red card and Jonjo's tackle a no-call. Jonjo never follows thru with the left foot.

Fergie trying to grass Jonjo up and influence the ref to get him sent off is a travesty.

The penalty is just a total joke. Valencia is on the way down before any contact.

nate said...


Shelvey jumps in with two feet. Just because he doesn't make contact with both feet doesn't make it not a two-footed tackle. And it was silly.

Similarly, Evans' is two-footed, studs-up, and just because he gets a nick of the ball it doesn't make the challenge okay. Nor does the fact he screams and rolls around, then immediately gets up when Halsey goes for his red card.

They're equally terrible tackles. Personally, I think both are yellow, because of the fixture and because they're equally guilty. If Shelvey's red, it's inexcusable that Evans wasn't too. But because Shelvey got on Halsey's bad side earlier and Ferguson rules everything around me (FREAM isn't quite CREAM, but let's go with that), only the Liverpool player was sent off.


Rodgers mentioned Borini's swollen ankle and Agger's knee (gulp) in the post-match (http://www.liverpoolfc.com/news/latest-news/br-on-united-borini-and-agger), but didn't say anything about Kelly.

I'm hoping that a good sign, but long story short, no, I don't know anything.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Nate. Shelvey goes in with the right foot only. The left foot only comes thru after the tackle is done and his momentum carries him thru. Left foot NEVER comes into the tackle. Yes, he leaves the ground with two feet, but only ONE foot ever goes into that tackle. NEVER a red! Evans, on the other hand clearly comes INTO the tackle two footed, studs raised, entire body weight behind both feet. With INTENT. My read is still red for Evans and NO CALL for Jonjo.

Stephen said...

Thanks for injury update Nate ... I too hope no news re Kelly is good news as Kelly/Johnson is better than Johnson/Enrique.

Terrified at the thought of Carragher playing extended time in place of Agger...hopefully Coates is ready.

jonnySingapore said...

RVP scrapes Kelly's studs if I'm right and puts him off balance hence the awkward landing and damaged ligaments.

Not malicious.

Thing is why didn't RVP see red after scything through Suso earlier in the half? How come just a yellow for a totally out of control challenge.

Because Halsey had dinner with Fergie some days before the game. Same reason why Liverpool weren't going to get a single call.

Halsey risks a young man's career cos he refuses to send off a Utd player. a Disgrace.

He just waited for excuses to shaft liverpool. I don't think I've ever seen such one sided refereeing.

It was a result determined by a ref who very recently had dinner with Fergie.

Fergie isn't stupid, he isn't going to let an opportunity like that go to waste.

You can imagine him going on about Suarez and how hard it is for refs while Utd players are clearly told to dive the moment they feel contact.

Suarez is leagues ahead of most players in the league and refs don't like it. It makes their job too hard so they are now refusing to give him almost every call.

Absolute disgrace from a dinosaur profession.