LIVERPOOL 2-0 MANCHESTER UNITED
Liverpool have gone from recently defeating the Blues of Manchester in the Premier League victory against the Reds of Manchester in the Europa League. The north is ruled by Liverpool, not Robb Stark! (I hope you all watch Game Of Thrones to get that reference!)
A variety of commendable efforts by Liverpool’s players saw all three points and the first of two legs go in our favour as we hope to qualify for the next round of the Europa League, the Quarter Finals.
Klopp put a strong side out, including choosing Daniel Sturridge for the starting 11 and on the substitute bench, he included Sheyi Ojo who recently scored a hat trick for Liverpool under 21s side – this young player is proving himself to be good enough for the first team, the classic way… by scoring goals.
The first half went well, Liverpool started out showing both strength in defence and strength in attack. We didn’t look likely to concede any goals when United pressed forward and when Liverpool made their way to our opponents penalty area, every offensive play looked dangerous and possibly to end in a goal for the home side.
What worried me a little more than our opponents players was actually the referee. He’d given two yellow cards to Liverpool in the first half and also a couple to United. From what I’d seen of the incidents Liverpool were shown cards for, we’d just challenged for the ball a couple of times and got booked for it. Henderson put a high leg up towards a United player, but honestly – he won the ball from the player, it was a legit challenge that required Hendo to get up in the air because that’s where the ball was. He wasn’t attempting to just kick a player. Dejan Lovren also was making a hard but legit ball-winning tackle as United attempted to make their way past our central defender to score, which of course it is his specific job to stop them from doing. He looked genuinely frustrated with the referee when he brought the yellow card out, – his natural reactions proving that he hadn’t tried to foul anyone, he was just doing his defensive job which just got twice as hard because now he’d have to be more careful when defending so as not to get sent off later in the game.
It’s not like I can claim any kind of bias against Liverpool by the referee because Memphis Depay and Marcus Rashford both received the same treatment when their relatively harmless challenges were deemed worthy of being shown yellow cards for, also. Both teams had to suffer this.
Someone needed to tell the match official that this was a game between two rivals and that there would of course be some rough play, it’s standard play for a Liverpool V Manchester United fixture and does not require as much action as was taken. He could have let all the bookings in the first half slide for this reason alone and shown no cards to anyone, but he’d seemed intent on policing this fixture with his cards ready to pull out whenever he wanted to display his power to affect the game.
Aswell as seeing the several cards the referee had to show to people, we saw a goal scored in the first half too.
Just after Firmino had been part of an attack and unselfishly gave the ball to Nathaniel Clyne who made his way into our opponent’s penalty area, Memphis Depay made a clear pushing action on Clyne’s back and pushed him down to the ground. The referee noticed straight away, took his yellow card out and booked Depay and shook his head at him signalling “you can’t push people in the back – that’s a foul!” and awarded Liverpool their penalty.
Daniel Sturridge would take it and confidently put the ball into the left bottom corner. David De Gea did manage to dive the correct way, but it was such a powerful and well placed left footed shot in the far left side of the goal that it went into the net before De Gea could stop United from conceding from the penalty spot.
This goal was Daniel Sturridge’s sixth of the season and despite all his injury problems which have kept him out for very long periods of time, he’s actually managed to score more than Mario Balotelli did in an entire season (Balotelli scored 4 goals in 28 appearances for Liverpool in the 2014/2015 season before going back to Italy to play for AC Milan on loan this season. He’s also only scored three goals for AC Milan this season).
I’m proud of the guy, that he’s returned from such challenging physical problems to prove that he’s still got the great skills he’s always had and that he knows how to put the ball in the net, when the opportunity arises. Before the game had kicked off, I was most confident of all players that Sturridge would perform the best and maybe even score. He helped prove me right in this. My confidence in him was well placed, he went out there to show everybody what the forever loyal Reds fans know he can do.
Under great pressure to help Liverpool win a fixture against their biggest rivals (outside of Merseyside) in a competitive European fixture, he coolly stepped up in front of 45000 people at Anfield (and everyone watching on TV around the world) to do the strikers main job – scoring. We needed goals and he’s provided one for us, which gave us a lead. Of course he can’t score for Liverpool when he’s out injured but right now he’s fully fit and scoring in important fixtures. Nobody could possibly be disappointed with him any more. He is BACK! I’m naming Sturridge Man Of The Match.
This was only the 15th minute of the game! There was plenty more action to go, but Liverpool had their lead and the confidence to win this fixture from early in the game.
United would keep going after the goal, they didn’t look like they’d given up all hope of winning. Their goalkeeper David De Gea was actually on good form, stopping Coutinho from scoring at close range and other shots that could have been goals but weren’t, thanks to him. I know they eventually lost the fixture, but the United goalkeeper would still deserve some praise from his teammates manager and fans, it could have been so much worse without him between the goalposts.
Liverpool had to work very hard if they wanted to score against him, a goal that was not taken from the penalty spot perhaps. That would be even harder to score.
There was still attacks and counter attacks in a game where both sides made their own chances to score but one side came out as winners after better defending and better seizing of opportunities to score and actually converting them into goals.
By half time, Liverpool still had their lead. Our defenders (and goalkeeper) had worked hard and United had not scored yet. How many teams can even say that they kept their side from conceding against Manchester United in the first half? Or in a full game? (We did make it to the final whistle without conceding).
The manager wouldn’t have had to inspire his team very much at the break, they were performing well enough without his words surely. Perhaps a short talk about “more of the same in the second half, you’re doing very well… don’t lose your lead” from Klopp.
That’s what we did. Liverpool started the second half with the same kind of gameplay that we’d seen from the start of the game – an overall versatile strong attack and strong defence type of tactic which requires effort from the entire team (if one part fails, the tactic doesn’t work out and you still may lose the fixture) and that attempted to not allow goals conceded (successfully achieving this by the end of the game) while also managing to score yourself. Game winning tactics, if you can pull it off.
As the game drew on, Liverpool looked more likely to get a second goal than United looked to score an equalizer. If felt like it was going to happen for us and not them. All signs and instincts were saying this.
This would happen around the 73rd minute and it would be an assist from Adam Lallana that saw Roberto Firmino find enough space to lift a shot over Chris Smalling and strike it past David De Gea and into the far right side of the net for his goal. Well placed by Firmino who had to avoid being tackled by Smalling by jumping over the defender’s challenge and into the air with the ball and then also put the ball as far away from the goalkeeper as possible without missing and well assisted by Lallana, helping out his teammate for a goal is a contribution worthy of praise. Well done, lads. Great teamwork and effort for the lead up to this goal.
There was a look of determination from our defence that made me feel like it was going to turn out well. Simon Mignolet and the defenders in front of him (Clyne, Moreno, Lovren and Sakho) deserve a lot of credit and praise for not allowing United to score at all. This particular fixture is a Europa League fixture which comes with an “away goals” rule that could easily have been taken advantage of by our opponents. Drawing 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, 4-4, 5-5, 6-6, 7-7, 8-8. 9-9 or any other draw where both sides have scored equal amounts of goals at Anfield would certainly have benefited Manchester United.
We did not let his happen, hopefully under strict instruction from the manager who should have been aware of this and telling his team that “we can’t let them have any AWAY GOALS!”. Now that Liverpool did not concede at Anfield and have a two goal lead and travel for their fixture at Old Trafford, a drawn aggregate scoreline where both teams scored (like if United won 3-1 at their ground, making it 3-3 on aggregate) would even see Liverpool qualify for the Europa League Quarter Finals. Not that we want to let United score three goals against us as we only manage to get one goal, but I’m just making point that away goals are a fairly powerful part of this European competition and can now be used to Liverpool’s advantage, if the need arises. If we were losing 3-0 to United and managed to score a single goal late in the game, it’d be a way to qualify for Liverpool. We do need to qualify and continue in this competition.
We’ve been knocked out of the FA Cup already and lost to Man City in the League Cup Final, so this is the biggest trophy we can possibly win this season now. We’re not so deluded as to believe we’re going to win the Premier League this season – that’s just not possible, we’ll be fighting for a top 4 place and Champions League qualification at best in that competition. So the Europa League is important and the most realistic trophy we could have by the end of 2015-2016 season. We’ll do all we can to progress right to the Final, even if it means taking advantage of the away goals rule for qualification.
So, the next leg of this exciting double-fixture Liverpool have to play in order to reach the Europa League Quarter Finals will take place next Thursday, yet another evening game but this time at Old Trafford.
What we can do now? Walk on, with hope in our hearts and You’ll Never Walk Alone, Anfield Family.
[written by] Stuart Drewery.
I’m an Englishman (born and raised in Liverpool in the 80s). My whole family including my parents and grandparents were Liverpool fans so I was born into being a red.
I’ve seen Liverpool win the league (more than 25 years ago) and I’ve been 100% loyal and committed while supporting the Reds through all the good times AND the bad times since the 80s.