Skipper Steven Gerrard broke his Premiership duck for the season as Liverpool maintain their excellent home form in a 1-0 win over Manchester City. Gerrard benefited from a miscommunication in the Man City defensive ranks, took the ball in his stride and thundered in from outside the box in front of the kop in familiar fashion. However, the goal was better than the game, which, for the most part was tight, cagey and physical.
Rafa Benitez started the game with three changes from the last match against PSV. Liverpool started with three at the back with Riise and Finnan working as full backs. Luis Garcia sorted out his injury problems and appeared on the left of the central three. Bolo Zenden got a start and Steven Gerrard found himself in his favoured position, at the centre of the field. Crouch got the nod ahead of Bellamy, Robbie Fowler made the bench.
Liverpool could have gone one up in the sixth minute. Pepe Reina’s excellent clearance found Dirk Kuyt inside City’s box. Kuyt nodded it down, but Crouch hit the volley way over from six yards. Few minutes later Bolo Zenden hit past the goal as Liverpool started to gain ascendancy. Steven Gerrard came close in the 19th minute. Yet, the sharpness of passing that is associated with Liverpool playing at Anfield was missing and the credit goes primarily to the City defence. Stuart Pearce fielded a predictably defensive formation with five across the midfield and only one upfront.
For the visitors Micah Richards and Joey Barton put in top class displays, but apart from a few purple patches, City offered little in way of attack. Bernardo Corradi was shadowed by Liverpool defenders every time the 30 year old Italian would attempt a foray into the heart of the Red defence. The Liverpool defence had a very good game, especially Sami Hyypia, whose raking ball created a great opportunity for Luis Garcia. The Spaniard showed a great first touch to make his marker bite the dust, before firing it onto the sidenetting from a close angle. Although he seemed a little down on fitness, Garcia added another fine display in a season of marked improvement for himself.
The first half ended scoreless. 14 minutes into the second half, Garcia was replaced, and Jermaine Pennant was introduced to add some much needed pace down the flanks. The match being scoreless for so long, City were gaining in confidence and a few gaps were starting to appear in the Liverpool defence. Peter Crouch was taken of on the 65th minute and in came Robbie Fowler. Two minutes later, Dirk Kuyt forced a poor pass out of Barton, Gerrard, timing his run to perfection broke through and hit it past Weaver with impunity and confidence. City tried their best to draw level, but Samaras’ clever effort on goal ten minutes from time was as close as they got.
Liverpool can take plenty of positives from this match. The 3-5-2 really seemed to work and the three central defenders were awesome today. There has been much talk about how Benitez would try to make right the mistakes Liverpool have been making so far this season. The repairing has started from the back. For the first time in the season, the immaculate offside trap that heckled opponents last season, was back in full efficiency. Bolo Zenden looked sharp and busy and Luis Garcia is having his best Premiership form so far. To top it all, Liverpool’s captain extraordinary has roared back in form, providing a sparkling and competitive performance. Liverpool should take heart from this and carry the confidence away from Anfield.
Postscript: As he was warming up by the sideline, Didi Hamann got an enormous standing ovation from the Anfield faithful. Watching Bolo Zenden in the position he would surely have played today, one wonders what might have gone through the mind of the Scouser Kaiser. But whatever that thought might have been, it must have been a momentary one. Didi Hamann, for the umpteenth time must have realised what a special place Anfield is. He also must have realised how special he is to Anfield.