Chances are most Liverpool fans will have already read every review going on this epic clash by the time this article appears. Every pass, tackle and shot meticulously analysed by the media over the weekend, leaves this writer with little else left to say that hasn’t already been said.
Or has it? Of course the British media have to be objective in their analysis. The same isn’t exactly true here on TIA, that’s not to say that we are completely ignorant and view the world through the red-tinted specs. Most reviewers have either been at the game in the press area or watching the game in a high-rise office somewhere. I think I can give it a nice everyman spin:
My review comes straight from the most traditional of viewing arena for fans that can’t make it to Anfield, yes the testosterone packed, booze-filled pub!
There’s something about standing in a packed bar with your friends with a lovely cold pint and a packet of Bacon Fries stuffed in your back pocket. It’s the closest you can get to standing on a packed Kop without actually being there, all the excitement and passion is there with fans of all ages not to mention the added spice of standing next to rival fans, waiting for the opportunity to revel in their misery as the Reds take the lead.
Kick-off approaches, temperatures are rising in excitement and trepidation in equal measures. The pub bookie has took about 15 bets in the last five minutes for Berbatov to open the scoring, looking at the starting line-up of Tevez, Rooney and Berbatov it was entirely possible. It doesn’t matter who you are, that combination is frightening added to the fact that Ronaldo will be added to the mix at a later date.
On the flip side I was optimistic going into this one, despite the absence of Gerrard and Torres in the stating XI. Rafa had set the team out nicely, with a solid backline of Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Skrtel and Aurelio with Alonso and Mascherano partnering in midfield as expected, finishing the line up with new boy Riera and Benayoun occupying the wings with Keane and Kuyt up top.
So up goes the whistle, and all that pre-match optimism goes straight out the window within three minutes as Carlos Tevez latches on to a Berbatov pass and coolly rockets it past Pepe Reina. Memories of our last outing against Utd came flooding back; this could be an awful afternoon, three or four nil if we don’t get out act together.
To pour salt into the wound I was in close proximity to a few Manc friends and the torutue ensued, complete with text messages from virtually every United fan I know even people who were in the same pub much is the nature or the rivalry.
It didn’t last long as Liverpool got a foothold in the game, Alonso began pulling the strings form midfield as Mascherano hassled the United players into silly mistakes and rushed passing. This tenacity cultivated in an equaliser for Liverpool on 37 minutes from a distraught Wes Brown. Following a flap from Van Der Sar, Brown deflected the back into his own net. I like to look at the own goal as a ‘˜forced own goal’ not as a complete fluke, the goal came as a result of Liverpool’s pressure and they deserved it, especially with Kuyt coming perilously close minutes before with a beautifully struck shot, only for float wide. Had Brown not reacted Riera was breathing down his neck to follow up anyway.
A new found enthusiasm has been found on the lead up to the goal and the pub erupted as the goal went in, naturally for a Liverpool supporters bar. The previously cocky Mancs heads were in their Guinness.
Liverpool continued to pressure leading up to half time and went into the break feeling that we could finally snatch a league win over United under Rafa Benitez. Not only that but it gave time for a well deserved piss break, another round and a few sarnies.
The Reds came back out rejuvenated by a Benitez pep-talk and continued to harass Ferdinand and co. Keane and Kuyt working particularly hard chasing down every ball and not letting the opposition settle into their passing game. The previous ‘˜fear’ of United’s forward line had deteriorated, Berbatov was back to his regular disappearing act that he done at Spurs, some say he was just safely tucked away inside Jamie Carraghers pocket.
Despite all Liverpool’s possession and tasty build-up, they still lacked that cutting edge to finish United off, even with Gerrard coming on for Benayoun (68). Cue Ryan Babel replacing impressive debutant Albert Riera (71).
Six minutes later Babel was the man to put Liverpool in front and set for a first league win over United since 2001. The goal was almost a carbon copy United’s, Mascherano wriggled is way though to the by-line taking Vidic and Giggs with him only to cut it back to Kuyt who in turn laid it on a plate for Babel to coolly slot home.
The pub exploded again as vocal chords raged in delight and not a pipe from the Mancs, they knew we deserved it.
Fearing a nervy final 15, I was delighted when Liverpool held out with ease to secure the win, the only scare coming from a last gasp Rooney strike that sailed wide.
The most important thing was gaining the three points, but such a win fills the squad with confidence to go and win games with out fear which in my opinion has been our problem at time under Benitez, being too negative only to concede late and go home empty handed. That said there a number of positives to take other than the result, we have played some of our best football so far this season; without Gerrard and Torres, we are still unbeaten, Riera looks very handy and linked up with Aurelio and could prove to be an absolute bargain buy for Benitez if he can prove himself week in week out.
This is a performance to build on, Marseille are up next in the Champions League and it would be perfect for Liverpool to go out there and take them to the cleaners, sending out a message of intent to the rest of Europe. The Reds are kicking it up a gear, watch the f**k out!