It’s been a week of hell for the players and supporters of Liverpool Football Club, but a much deserved 2-0 win against their arch-enemy Manchester United Sunday will remove the gloom and doom on Merseyside and offer Rafael Benitez vindication as a football manager.
Simply put, Liverpool were deserved winners in this game. Throughout the match, Liverpool seemed more hungry to win fifty-fifty balls. As soon as United gained possession, a player on red pressured the United player. Liverpool controlled midfield where Lucas Leiva had one of the best games of his career. Javier Mascherano, alongside the Brazilian, was also pivotal at closing down United and creating new attacks.
You could go through this entire Liverpool side and identify each one of them as a hero on Sunday, such was the level of determination and skill that they showed. For Manchester United, it was an unusual performance by them where they seemed to be completely on the back foot and were limited to counter-attacks that were snuffed out by the stellar back of Liverpool with Aurelio, Johnson, Carragher and Agger having a sound game.
Fernando Torres, for me, was the man of the match. Not because he scored the opening goal (and what a brilliant goal it was, showing a perfect example of his strength on the ball), but the way he came back into midfield and, with his back to play, headed countless balls back to Liverpool to start new attacks. Torres was butchered and badgered throughout the early parts of the match, but he stood tall, took the hits against him and soldiered on.
For me, Liverpool could have put this match safely out of the reach of Man United if only they had been more clinical in front of goal. There were several occasions where either Dirk Kuyt or Yossi Benayoun took one too many touches on the ball instead of shooting at Edwin van der Sar.
A couple of other observations:
- I don’t want to hear moaning and complaining by either set of fans about how the referee was unfair or how calls were missed. This was an incredibly difficult match to referee, but I thought Andre Marriner did a superb job. Vidic deserved the two yellows. Mascherano did too. End of story.
- Commentators Jon Champion and David Pleat usually amuse me, but they got on my nerves today for most of the match (until the end where Champion rose above his game). Champion and Pleat discussing the League Manager’s Association for me was drivel and annoying.
- Full credit to Fox Soccer Channel for allowing the broadcast of the match to continue past the final whistle instead of immediately cutting to commercial. The atmosphere of Anfield drowned the TV set and was a fitting end to a well-deserved win.
- Manchester United supporters should have seen plenty of things to worry about from this game. Dimitar Berbatov was well below par and seemed out of his league on several occasions in this match. Rooney tried hard but seemed to be one of the few United players giving 100%. Is this the beginning of a downward turn for United?