Saturday, September 13, 2008

Liverpool 2-1 Man Utd

Last season, we took just four out of a possible 18 points against the other three top four clubs. Draws home and away to Arsenal and Chelsea meant that we didn't lose any ground against them but, had we won instead of losing our two games against Man Utd (a big IF, admittedly), we'd have finished ahead of them.

Although we beat Utd in the FA Cup, Benitez had yet to register a league win over them, even if most of the games had been very tight - with Utd sneaking a few that they didn't deserve to. As a Liverpool fan, I tend to think that every year will be different, only to be disappointed yet again. When Berbatov pulled back for Tevez to open the scoring after only 3 minutes, I feared that those hopes would be dashed yet again.

Although there was some fortune about our equalizer - when Van der Sar punched the ball into Brown, only to see it rebound into the net - there's no denying that we were dominating possession and chances, even with Gerrard and Torres confined to the bench. Although there were unsurprisingly some scary moments, such as a Giggs shot that Reina was forced to tip over, had we a striker more clinical than Kuyt or Keane we may have put the match to bed earlier. (Not that I'm faulting them - both worked tirelessly to close down from the front and harry Utd into mistakes).

Better was to come when Mascherano beat Giggs, the ball fell for Kuyt in the box and he squared for Babel to score. There were a few nervous moments after that, but Vidic's dismissal for two yellow cards - either of which could have been red - helped ease the pressure in the final moments. Having ground out victories over Sunderland and Middlesbrough without playing well, it was pleasing to produce our best performance of the season and have even Ferguson admitting that the best team won.

Last year, Benitez was criticized several times when he rested Gerrard and/or Torres against 'weaker' opposition, resulting in drawing games that we should have won - it was nice to see the rest of the team step up this time. Mascherano and Alonso won plenty of plaudits in midfield, while Riera looks a useful signing - even if he did cut inside quite often. Certainly, after the first five minutes, his debut out-shone Berbatov's.

On the subject of former Spurs strikers, a lot seems to have been made of the fact that Keane hasn't hit the net yet, but last season apparently it took him a while to get off the mark before going on to hit 23 goals (in all competitions). I think he was probably over-priced, and we've had a struggle to fit him into our system, but I would rather have him than Berbatov.

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