15 January 2017

Liverpool 1-1 Manchester United

Milner 27' [pen]
Ibrahimovic 84'

It is hard not to feel incredibly aggrieved.

Liverpool were without Clyne because injury – requiring a first league start for 18-year-old Trent Alexander-Arnold – Mané because the African Cup of Nations, Matip because FIFA, and Coutinho because he was only fit enough for the bench. Liverpool compensated with something of a diamond: Firmino and Origi up front and Lallana everywhere. Sometimes it looked 4-3-3, but it mainly allowed Firmino to play more centrally, revitalizing both player and press.

Liverpool were ahead for 83 minutes. Deservedly so, if only after Milner opened the scoring. United had seemed the more threatening side before Pogba crazily handled a corner, with Milner's penalty hit too fiercely for De Gea to save. The concession not only knocked United back but emboldened Liverpool, and Pogba – who had impressed prior – fell off the face of the earth. The diamond increasingly controlled the midfield, with United needing the flanks to get forward.

Michael Oliver gave Liverpool absolutely nothing after the penalty he simply had to give, ignoring four possible yellows and an "I've seen 'em given" red or two.

Liverpool had defended excellently, at least in the second half, with Mignolet responsible for keeping United off the scoreboard in the first, brilliantly denying Ibrahamovic's free kick and Mikhitaryan's wide box effort. After the restart, United took just two shots before the move leading to the equalizer, both from outside the box and off-target.

Liverpool could and should have extended the lead with chances on the counter, Firmino and Lallana denied and Wijnaldum heading over, Liverpool looking better in attack after Coutinho came on for Origi, but for the most part, Liverpool did what Liverpool needed to do.

And then, with United needing to resort to Fellaini and crosses and headers and not much more, United equalize. Valencia's cross to Rooney, Rooney's cross to Fellaini off the post, then Valencia's cross to Ibrahimovic and a stooping header looping over Mignolet with Alexander-Arnold unable to clear off the line. In the 84th minute. Sigh.

Oh, and Valencia was clearly offside in the build-up.

I am told this is something like United's fifth or seventh goal at Old Trafford thanks to an uncalled offside this season and maybe hashtag fake news I don't really remember but I absolutely believe it.

All told, it's a lot like Liverpool's draw at Tottenham in August. A point's not the worst result and a lot of supporters would have taken it pre-match. United had won nine consecutive matches in all competitions and Liverpool hadn't won at Old Trafford in almost three years. But Liverpool should have won. Liverpool seemingly did enough to win. Liverpool would have won if they'd taken just one more chance and Liverpool would have won if a linesman did his job.

And, of course, it's much, much worse because it's Manchester United and how aggrieved we all rightfully are.

Unfortunately, it is what is it. Two points dropped and an equalizer conceded in the final 15 minutes, not for the first or second or third time. Liverpool remain without a win in 2017 with three draws and a loss in all competitions. But Liverpool also remain in the hunt in three competitions. Liverpool remain third in the league, level on goal difference with Tottenham, three points ahead of City, five ahead of United, and seven behind Chelsea. Liverpool remain unbeaten against a top-six side. Liverpool remain in a good position going forward, with 17 games still to play, with Coutinho and Henderson returning and the Matip situation probably getting figured out if FIFA doesn't completely FIFA.

And now, another interlude with the kids in the FA Cup before Liverpool go again against Swansea on Saturday. Back to work. There's nothing else Liverpool can do.

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