Carroll reignites Euro ambitions

Liverpool 3-0 Man City
Monday, 11th April 2011

Injury and ineligibility had negated that Kenny Dalglish had previously been unable to unleash his newly acquired striking duo in front of the Anfield faithful. However Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll combined to confirm just what their new boss had been missing out on in the two and half months since the pair’s arrival on Merseyside.

Two Carroll goals – his first for the club – either side of a well-taken Dirk Kuyt strike, saw of high-flying Manchester City. And earned another three points for a tireless Liverpool, to further strength their dominant home record.

Few who arrived at Anfield on Monday evening could have expected should a comfortable victory. In fact, the final margin of victory should arguably have been greater; such was Liverpool’s dominance against the new wealth of Manchester.

In truth, the ease of this victory should hardly come as a surprise. In recent weeks, Liverpool have now defeated three of the Premier League’s current top four. But also conspired to collect just a solitary point from fixtures against Wigan Athletic, West Ham United and West Bromwich Albion.

In fact the Reds have won a decent total of 13 points from 7 games to date against the league’s top four. Whilst earning a poor 8 points from 8 games against the current bottom.

That tells you all you need to know about Liverpool’s season. Capable of losing to just about anybody – particularly away from home. But on any given day, capable of beating the toughest of opposition. This lack of consistency being a trait of a squad which undoubtedly possesses quality but currently lacks the strength and depth to regularly challenge at the top.

The Reds almost appear to prefer to play against stronger opposition. This could be attributed as an attitude issue or a profligacy of ‘big-game’ players. But, more likely, it relates to a preferred style of play. One which is better suited to depriving the opposition of space and opportunities and taking your own chances when they come. Rather than the burden of taking the game to the opponent and wearing down stubborn, well-organised defences.

The atmosphere may have had something of an end-of-season air prior to kick-off. Defeat against West Brom in their previous outing had inflicted a heavy blow on the Reds fading European aspirations. But a tantalising first half display roused the Anfield crowd and maintained hopes of a positive end to the season.

Liverpool got out of the blocks far quicker than Man City and harried the visitors out of time and space. City may have had one eye on this weekend’s FA Cup Semi-final meeting with their city rivals but it was Liverpool’s work rate and desire which made them look like inferior opposition.

Jay Spearing and Lucas did not give the Man City midfield a moments peace and others followed suite. The loss of the ever-dangerous Carlos Tevez in the opening 10 minutes was of course a boost for the Reds and a hindrance for City. But the Liverpool defence barely gave the likes of Adam Johnson, Eden Dzeko and, the farcical, Mario Ballotelli a chance.

The decision to revert Jamie Carragher back to the centre – a position he is far more comfortable with – and bring in both Jonanthan Flanagan and Fabio Aurelio in the full-back positions, was a move well made. Young Flanagan was excellent on debut – comfortable in possession and intelligent beyond his years. Alongside Aurelio, he provided Dalglish with the rare luxury of utilising a genuine full-back on either flank.

But it was the forward players who won this game. Liverpool may have paid big money for Suarez and Carroll, yet, on this evidence, those deals were positively a bargain when compared to similar money which City laid out on Dzeko and Ballotelli. Liverpool’s striking duo put the Man City pair well and truly in the shade, on this occasion at least.
Suarez may have adapted quicker to life on Merseyside, as Carroll struggled with fitness. But the Uruguayan was forced to be the bridesmaid as Carroll stuck twice in the opening 35 minutes.

Suarez had actually almost opened the scoring himself prior to Carroll’s first. The forward out-paced the city defence to gather a pass and fire a shot against the post – replays proving that Joe Hart had actually got an important touch on the effort.

Carroll broke the deadlock after 13 minutes though. His first was a thunderous strike; not too dissimilar to the one he struck against the Reds earlier in the season. The ball deflected off Vincent Kompany and into the path of Carroll. The number 9 hit a left footed shot first time from all of 25-yards. Raw power beating England team mate, Hart.

Carroll’s second followed before the break. This time the ball broke to Raul Meireles on the left. His excellently flighted ball found Carroll at the far post. The big forward got the better of Kompany and flicked his header beyond Hart, to all but win the game before half-time.

Sandwiched between those two goals, Kuyt got his eleventh of the season to reaffirm his status as the club’s leading scorer. Liverpool were threatening a goal and Meireles and Aurelio both saw shots blocked, before the ball broke into the path of Kuyt. The Dutchman expertly side-footed the ball into the far corner of the net from inside the area.

The second half was less enthralling as the job had been done in the first. But the Reds continued to look the side more likely to add to the scoreline. City’s attention fully turning to this weekend’s engagement.

Hart was forced to save Meireles’ low drive. Whilst the Portuguese midfielder’s delivery from corners was a constant threat. Kuyt should have at least tested Hart from a narrow angle, following a counter-attack instigated by Pepe Reina. And Carroll could have completed a dream hat-trick with a late header.

At the other end, Reina’s only real moment of concern was a thunderous Yaya Toure effort, which the ‘keeper just about beat away. But Liverpool were able to stroll to victory and maintain any hopes of European qualification.

Man of the Match
Kuyt performed well and led by example, whilst Jonathan Flanagan was excellent on debut. But Carroll was the match winner and truly marked his arrival at Anfield.

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