September’s wins over Everton and Man United provided a huge boost in morale for players and fans alike. It wasn’t just that we won these matches, it was the manner that was also impressive. Suddenly our rivals and the media began taking notice. So, as encouraging as September was, Liverpool fans knew that if we were to put a genuine title bid this season that we would have to keep the form going.
October would be an important month with trips to El Nino’s old stomping ground and a mouth-watering battle at Stamford Bridge. Liverpool began the month at home against PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League group stages. Any fears of an uneasy night evaporated as Robbie Keane’s first Liverpool goal added to Dirk Kuyt’s early opener. It was something that the fans had been willing to happen since Robbie’s arrival at the club. Whilst he’d hardly suffered the goal drought that Peter Crouch had on his arrival to the club, he had a lofty Â£20 Million price to live up to. Even Robbie’s goal was analysed with pristine as Sky commentator Andy Gray claimed that Robbie didn’t look like he meant it. The fans’ response was ‘œOf course he did.’ Steven Gerrard also had a good night as he finally hit his 100th goal for the club he’s never left. The linesman against Stoke could almost be forgiven for delaying Stevie’s century as he blasted a typical free-kick into the top corner.
Back to the league and Liverpool remained unbeaten and in a good position. The fixtures weren’t getting easier though as the Reds headed to Manchester for the first time since Manchester’s City‘s takeover by the multi-billionaires from the United Arab Emirates. It wasn’t City’s new Brazilian superstar Robinho that hit the opener for the home side though; Steven Ireland blasted the opener after some slack Liverpool defending. It only got worst for the visitors as Garrido scored what can only be described as a ‘œwonder-goal.’ 2-0 down and Liverpool looked sunk. Had this been a season or two ago Liverpool may well have lost the game but this was a galvanised side with a never-say-die attitude. Rafa’s team talk must have been a darned good one because Liverpool looked a different side in the second half. City began to make a catalogue of errors and after Torres got a goal back, Pablo Zabaleta walked for a horrible challenge. I said in September that I couldn’t see Liverpool going another month winning without some intervention from Gerrard and/or Torres. It was Torres that got the decisive equaliser at the City of Manchester Stadium and suddenly Liverpool were pushing for a winner. We got it through Dirk Kuyt, who’s been making a habit of scoring important goals lately. The media began to take notice that perhaps Liverpool had that special something that wasn’t there before.
Liverpool’s comeback mentality was making us an exciting side to watch but it was also giving the fans heart attacks. The defence was looking particularly shaky at times and this wasn’t helped by Martin Skrtel’s horrific injury against City; the only downside of the second half. His replacement, Daniel Agger, didn’t lay a marker down that he would have liked as he gifted a goal to Wigan‘s in form Amr Zaki. He redeemed himself with some wonderful approach play that led to Liverpool’s equaliser but Liverpool again looked nervy at the back as Zaki got his second with a superb overhead shot. Liverpool eventually equalised as Albert Riera scored his first for the club but we were helped by the harsh double-yellow card of Antonio Valencia. Dirk Kuyt scored another decisive winner with an acrobatic finish of his own to give us another 3-2 victory but it was tense. Rafa’s red-men were scraping victories against the most meagre of opposition and yet we lay top of the table along with Chelsea.
Liverpool’s puzzling form continued against Atletico Madrid. The match will be remembered for UEFA’s chaotic plans for the game which they later took back. The few thousand Liverpool fans heading to the game almost missed the game because of supposed racist abuse from Atletico fans against Marseille. The match was also to be a special reunion for Fernando Torres but he missed the flight due to injury. His stand-in, Robbie Keane, placed the ball into bottom corner after 14 minutes. He nearly doubled his lead later in the half but poor judgement let him down. It was a half that Liverpool dominated and yet the second saw Liverpool virtually lose interest. Benayoun had an effort disallowed, as did Atetico’s Maniche but the home fans were finally left cheering after 83 minutes. Atletico’s goal came as a result of more disappointing defending from Liverpool. Jamie Carragher will be blamed for his mistake in missing the header but Arbeloa’s poor positioning meant that Carragher was unable to cover as Simao blasted into the corner. Fans were relieved to get a point but also disappointed with the lack of desire from the players in the second half.
Chelsea at Stamford Bridge would come at a pivotal time. With Torres still out it was expected that Liverpool would play for a draw against a side that had not lost in 86 home matches but Rafa had a few tricks up his sleeve. Indeed Liverpool defended better than they had all season with particularly commanding performances from Carragher and Alonso. But Liverpool also looked surprisingly comfortable on the ball as Gerrard, Kuyt, Riera, Alonso and Mascherano took the ball from right to left with plenty of aplomb. Liverpool did get luck in the winner with Alonso’s finish deflecting in but the victory was well deserved with chances from Gerrard and Alonso both coming agonisingly close. For all Chelsea‘s possession, they created little with only Deco and Ashley Cole breaking the ranks. Jamie Carragher’s challenge on Deco in the last 10 minutes may go down as one of the moments of the season. It was one of those days where everything went right as Liverpool headed to the top of the table. Keeping our heads on our shoulders was important but Liverpool were winning habitually now against all forms of opposition. Everything that had been thrown at Liverpool so far had been dealt with but there were potential banana skins coming up.
Portsmouth were the first and this would be the last game of the month. Liverpool unsurprisingly bossed the game but it took a Gerrard penalty to win it. It was half-expected that a win away from home against the title favourites would be followed with another classy performance. To be fair to Portsmouth they hassled Liverpool but the midweek game saw Liverpool keep the run going.
As it stands in November Liverpool remain in a strong position, joint top with Chelsea, despite having lost our first league game of the year at Spurs, there remains a sense of optimism on Merseyside. The wins over Chelsea and United have shown that Liverpool are in it to win it this season. Early signs remain promising but we approach the time of season where Liverpool traditionally hit their slump. Expect November and December Red Reviews to be eventful ones, with a busy fixture list ahead.
Can Liverpool keep this going?