September was an overall positive month for Liverpool. It could turn out to be the defining month in our season already for a number of reasons. The disappointing display against newly promoted Stoke was patched over with a terrific display against Everton and of course the thrilling win over Man United. Liverpool have managed to steer the way to the top end of the table quite early. At time of writing we sit second on goal difference.
At the beginning of the month an odd but not entirely unfamiliar sentiment was being felt on Merseyside. Liverpool began the month unbeaten but only the most naÃ¯ve fan would claim that we deserved to be in this position. Against Aston Villa at the end of August Torres had limped off, Gerrard didn’t play and we came away almost relieved with a 0-0 draw. As is per usual Rafa came under a lot of fire for our style of play and many pundits including Alan Hansen commented on our distinct ‘˜lack of width.’ Rafa responded by securing the purchase of Spanish winger Albert Riera from Espanyol.
On the 13th at Anfield we faced United and Riera was straight away given the opportunity to shine as he was placed in the starting line up. Everybody knew we had to win this match from the manager to the fans. It was one of our many failings last season and it is a well known fact that two wins over United would have secured the title. Wishful thinking perhaps but this year the players were determined to make it a reality. This team we didn’t field a defensive line up but Rafa named an attacking line up with Riera providing width. The absence of Torres and Gerrard through injury was enough to convince the pundits on Sky that United were favourites – which was exactly what we needed.
Nevertheless it was United that took the lead through Carlos Tevez with a beautiful curling finish. However, instead of the floodgates opening, Liverpool proceeded to take the game to United. Robbie Keane and Dirk Kuyt were both unsung heroes in this respect as both were significant in pressurising the United defence. This pressure worked and we were handed a spot of luck as Van der Sar and Wes Brown’s communication error led to a wacky own goal. It was just the confidence boost the players needed and Liverpool began to show more invention than we’d seen from them all season. Albert Riera proved a valuable asset and created some good chances while Pepe Reina quietly kept out some tough shots at the other end. It was Riera’s replacement, Ryan Babel, that got the breakthrough in a goal that was almost a carbon copy of the United opener. An uncharacteristic error from Ryan Giggs allowed Ryan Babel to slot the ball home and sent Anfield into raptures. The match ended with Rafa Benitez finally leading Liverpool to victory over United in the league, and the win was a huge confidence boost that we could really challenge for this title after all.
Steven Gerrard returned against Marseille and it was he that proved the difference with a brace. The performance was disappointing though and an indication that we still weren’t playing at the level we could have been. The new arrival Dossena was struggling at full back and we were leaking uncanny goals. Only Martin Skrtel looked close to excellent in defence with some sound performances beside Jamie Carragher.
The return of Fernando Torres was welcome against Stoke City and the fans hoped we’d finally see the Reds firing on all cylinders. Instead we were frustrated on a glorious Saturday afternoon at Anfield. Steven Gerrard’s goal was disallowed after a puzzling offside was given. Yet the second ‘˜opener’ didn’t come as the Stoke players parked themselves in front of the man of the match Thomas Sorensen. It was one of those days as the newly promoted side limited our shots to long range efforts and not even a bit of magic from Stevie G could win it. The glum faces at the final whistle said it all as we were left to ponder yet again why we weren’t beating a side of Stoke’s stature at home.
The League Cup provided a brief respite from the already turbulent Premier League campaign with Crewe Alexandra the opposition. Daniel Agger’s made a statement of intent with a thumping free kick in the first half. Even our reserves were looking poor though and Crewe soon equalised. Lucas secured our place in the next round with a header.
Back to the league then and another massive match. The Merseyside derby at Goodison Park approached and a much needed three points on offer. We started well with some good play in the midfield. Xabi Alonso was coming back into form and Steven Gerrard was picking out some wonderful passes. However we created little and our lack of precision in the final third cost us dear yet again. Luckily we this time managed to play well and win as a certain Fernando Torres stepped up. The Blues had been chanting abuse at him only 5 minutes prior to the goal as Joleon Lescott frustrated the young Spaniard out of yet another chance. Fernando proved his class by bouncing back though. Gerrard managed to link up well with Keane before Robbie crossed it in for Torres to smash it in. Much like London buses, Liverpool’s goals often come in twos. The second from Torres was sublime finish and despite missing out on a hat-trick because of a supposed offside, Liverpool still won comfortably.
It’s nice to look back on a month so eventful especially as Liverpool have since recorded another character boosting win over Man City. Whether Liverpool have enough to finally bid for the title is still debatable but the important thing is we are getting wins. The arrival of Riera is encouraging and gives us more options for invention. However I feel that the rest of our results in October may well come down to two players that won games for us in September: Torres and Gerrard. That’s not to say we are a two man team though; this month was a major step forward as well as a learning curve.