It could have been so much better. We could be sitting top of the league, having leapfrogged Manchester United and beaten our local rivals yet again. Tim Cahill’s 86th minute equaliser at Anfield last night to deny Liverpool three points means last night’s game can only be seen as an opportunity missed. It was the Reds’ second consecutive Premier League draw and now questions are being asked as to whether Rafa Benitez’s men have the stability to maintain a threat on the title at all’¦
Oliver Kay of The Times looks at the match, to potential matchwinner Steven Gerrard, and to shocking last minute defending and can’t help suggesting that Benitez’s recent ‘œwar of words’ with Manchester Utd boss, Alex Ferguson, has sorely backfired.
As the final whistle blew, sparking frenzied celebrations among the away supporters, Gerrard looked disgusted. He had done his bit, driving forward to beat Tim Howard from 25 yards to give Liverpool a slender advantage midway through the second half, but, as he looked at the crestfallen faces around him, he was no doubt reminded of the words of Sir Alex Ferguson.
The Manchester United manager had suggested, with more than a touch of malevolence, that Liverpool would struggle to deal with the pressure of trying to win a first title in 19 years. Rafael BenÃtez, the Liverpool manager, was riled by the suggestion, but Ferguson was right ‘” and no team could take more pleasure from proving it than Everton.
Sam Wallace of The Independent sees it as the difference between being Champions and not Champions; in that you have to hold on for those slender victories. And maybe Liverpool aren’t capable of doing that just yet.
With three minutes left to play it was just another one of those classic Steven Gerrard nights at Anfield, one more spellbinding occasion when the course of Liverpool’s history is shaped by their captain’s heroics. Then in the space of a second it became just another one of those nights when you wonder if Rafael Benitez’s team are ever going to last the distance in a Premier League title race.
On a brighter note, Henry Winter of The Telegraph perfectly describes another classic Gerrard moment.
How often the Kop had seen these situations, Gerrard letting fly from 20 yards, opposing defenders despairingly throwing themselves into vainful blocks. Howard had no chance, Gerrard’s low shot disappearing in a blur past him. Gerrard was already charging to the corner where the players’ family and friends gather, sliding across the glistening turf and yelling his joy.
Whether we do have the strength and determination to pick up form again when the Premier League resumes on 28th January and go on to continue challenging for the title remains to be seen. The ingredients are there, perhaps distractions such as mind games need to be forgotten.
As fans left Anfield last night, there was stunned silence and a massive sense of disappointment. But had we been given this situation in August, we would have taken it: we’re second in the table, only on goal difference, with 16 games to go and we’ve taken points off the rest of the top four.