Liverpool suffered defeat to 12 man Man United at Old Trafford, but there were plenty of positives to take from Kenny Dalglish’s first match back in charge of the club.
Ultimately Ryan Giggs’ second minute penalty proved decisive, after referee Howard Webb had awarded a spot kick after just 30 seconds. Dimitar Berbatov went down under pressure from Daniel Agger and Webb, despite not being able to see the incident clearly, gave the penalty.
It possibly the softest penalty award you’ll see all season, Berbatov looked far from convincing when asked if he went down too easily and ITV presenter Adrian Chiles described his dive as a “touch of the Gillian McKeith’s about it” (a UK celebrity who famously feigned fainting live on TV earlier this year).
Worse was to follow for Kenny as his captain was dismissed after 30 minutes for a two-footed challenge. It may have been a little harsh on Gerrard but in the modern game referees are always likely to dismiss a player once both feet leave the floor. The fact that both decisions went United’s way though added to a sense of injustice in the opening 45 minutes.
Despite being down to ten men though, Liverpool played much higher up the pitch, showed attacking intent and rarely resorted to long balls forward. A breathe of fresh air for the 9,000 Reds in attendance at Old Trafford.
Another hugely positive sign was the introduction of three positive substitutes, two of which came with 30 minutes remaining, in the shape of Ryan Babel and Jonjo Shelvey.
The third sub, replacing David Ngog for the tiring Torres who have forayed in the lone forward role in tough conditions with the Reds down to ten men, provided another positive. Gone was the sulk of Torres but instead the Spaniard hurried off the pitch looking happy and sharing a handshake with the new gaffer. Respect was shown in abundance.
The second half saw Liverpool enjoy some good spells and create chances. The best of which arrived when Fabio Aurelio curled a wonderful free-kick over the wall and into the top corner but Kuszcak saved.
United understandably had chances too, with an incredible goal mouth scramble which saw Pepe Reina make five saves within ten seconds.
But arguably the best performance for LFC was that of young defender Martin Kelly, who replaced Glen Johnson at right back after his wife went into labour. Kelly didn’t put a foot wrong and Johnson may now find it hard to replace him. Kelly was also excellent in the win over Chelsea back in October.
There were good performances all around, with Danny Agger looking much more comfortable, and Lucas Leiva battling in midfield.
Despite the defeat, Liverpool fans will be proud of their team, their club and their manager this evening.
The future is looking much brighter. Walk On.
Liverpool: Reina, Kelly, Skrtel, Agger, Aurelio, Lucas, Meireles (Shelvey 60), Kuyt, Gerrard, Maxi (Babel 60), Torres (Ngog 77).
Subs not used: Gulacsi, Kyrgiakos, Wilson, Poulsen.
Sent off: Gerrard (31)