Liverpool 4-1 Portsmouth
Goals: Torres, Babel, Aquilani, Torres
On the 118th birthday of Liverpool Football Club, the Reds produced three goals in six minutes to lift the air of tension around Anfield. The context wasn’t quite of Istanbul-like proportions but in the bigger picture this win may prove almost as important.
In a week which sees Rafa Benitez’s team host Lille on Thursday, fighting to stay in the Europa League, and then travel to Old Trafford on Sunday, a win – and a good performance – was paramount here.
The last time the Reds scored 3 in the first half of a Premier League match was almost exactly a year ago – when they hammered Aston Villa 5-0 to follow up wins over Man United and Real Madrid. The circumstances for this first half demolition were different but just as enjoyable after months without an attacking performance.
If you’d have asked me what I hoped in terms of team selection, I’d have said but never expected Kuyt and Lucas to make way for more attacking players. Cue my surprise and optimism when the team came through.
If then you’d have asked me what I hoped in terms of the match, I’d have said but never expected Babel and Aquilani to both play the full match, put in good performances and a goal for each would have been a huge bonus.
It would be simplistic to say this result was down to removing ‘workmen’ like Kuyt and Lucas, replacing them with more creative players in Maxi and Aquilani, and keeping pace in the attack with Babel. But then you have to take into account the opposition here.
Mind, a week ago we failed to muster a single shot on target against a Wigan team who had recorded just 3 wins since end of the October. They went on to be hammered 4-0 when Bolton actually attacked them on Saturday. C’est la vie.
Steven Gerrard moaned and groaned his way through the defeats to Wigan and Lille last week and along with Torres actually managed to focus on playing football tonight. The 2 of them combined with Johnson, Aquilani, Babel and Maxi brilliantly to give Liverpool an attacking verve we haven’t seen this season. It was no co-incidence that most the attacking threat came down the Reds right where Johnson is coming back to form following injury.
Gerrard could and perhaps should have had a hat-trick but he the only time he hit the target was when his forearm struck Michael Brown’s head. Gerrard probably remembers Brown’s many discrepancies down the years like his headbutt on Xabi Alonso a few years back. Finally some comeuppance for the thug.
Even Rafa’s subs were spot on tonight, resting the three key players, bringing in Martin Kelly for his debut, Yossi Benayoun after injury and David Ngog to keep him involved.
It’s a massive week and this was the perfect start to it, follow it up with another two wins and Liverpool fans may even be able to crack a smile.
Mind, we’ve turned that many corners already this season I’m dizzy but no doubt it won’t stop numerous quotes of how our season starts here… shame it’s mid-March!