Liverpool Out Of Cup, But Solidarity Shines Through
The scoreline may not have quite turned back the clock but the performance, seeing Kenny and Fergie in the dugout, the fans, the "YNWA" rendition at the end... It all seemed like a different time.
As Dalglish himself said in a pre match interview, there is no point in everyone pulling in different directions, we all need to be together. As proved yesterday by the fans, the manager, the staff and the team, we were all one and i felt Dalglish just being there instantly instilled a new sense of solidarity.
For Dalglish's first team back in the hot seat he started Pepe Reina in goal. His back four already put smiles on many fans faces, Daniel Agger was reintroduced, Konchesky was dropped and in my opinion the better option Fabio Aurelio started. Martin Kelly was confidently chosen to replace Glen Johnson who was with his partner who was due to give birth and the fourth man was Martin Skrtel.
Midfield was made up of Maxi, Kuyt, Meireles and Lucas with Gerrard sitting off Fernando Torres up front. I was impressed with the immediate change too from Kenny from 4-4-2. As i've droned on about for weeks, although they are both good players, Torres and Ngog is a no go in my eyes.
Ferguson fielded a strong side, perhaps the only noticeable absentee being Wayne Rooney, but then again when was the last time he did anything of note anyway? Haha.
Before Liverpool fans even had chance to soak in the reality of Dalglish back on the sidelines in his rather large waterproof coat, Howard Webb had blown his whistle.
Without getting into a humongous debate, it wasn't a penalty. Daniel Agger's face said it all as Berbatov lay on the floor appealing to the linesman. Terrible.
Anyway, predictably, Manchester United netted the penalty courtesy of Ryan Giggs. Reina chose the right direction and almost got his fingertips to it but the pace was enough for United to celebrate.
Ok, we were down, but there were still more than 80minutes left. We were far from out of it yet.
Liverpool were already looking like a totally revamped side. Despite many of the same team players Hodgson started being on the field it was clear there was a twinkle in their eyes. Maybe it was because Manchester United were the opposition but i'd find it hard to find a Liverpool player who wouldn't be excited and want to show what they can do for Dalglish.
The passing was superb through midfield and to the wingers. Martin Kelly was fantastic not only in his defensive abilities (let's not forget he's actually a centre back) but also his threatening attacks deep into the oppositions half and his crosses whipped in.
I really hope this lad stays with us and doesn't get sent on loan. With Kenny at the helm i have faith he'll be a helpful aid in Kelly's transition into the first team on a regular basis. Real talent this guy.
Fernando Torres in the meantime, although unfortunately still looking ineffective he did appear more lively. A headed shot at goal and a blocked attempt in quick succession to me proved how much he likes his space as the sharp point of the Liverpool starting XI.
Reaching the half hour mark without any real threats for Reina to deal with was good going and Liverpool looked solid. However what followed would be a massive dent in Liverpool's hopes of getting back into the game.
Steven Gerrard with a questionable challenge, tackled Michael Carrick. I personally think the red card was harsh and thought the captain got some of the ball but perhaps (no more than perhaps) Howard Webb had a case. I thought a yellow would have sufficed but again, i'm not gonna go on and on about the refereeing abilities of Howard Webb, see Ryan Babel's TwitPic updates for that! Hahaha.
So with our influential captain now off the field, Liverpool with an hour to go would have to attack United with just ten men.
A very close effort from Jonny Evans smashing off the post meant that Liverpool had survived until half time, able to recoup i still felt we could be proud of our performance and i still felt we were still in with a chance here.
Second half and Liverpool were still looking the stronger side. United were playing more like they were 3goals up than hanging on a 1 nil lead. It was dangerous to say the least.
A block from Rio Ferdinand after a shot from Fernando Torres near to the hour mark sent hearts racing as Liverpool tried to find an equalizer.
Shortly followed by a double substitution i'd say it was perfect timing by the boss to shake things up. Meireles was poor and was replaced by Jonjo Shelvey and Maxi Rodriguez wasn't having one of his good days so was replaced by Ryan Babel.
Babel had an immediate effect after producing a threatening attack and also having a shot on goal just minutes after entering the field of play. He still frustrates me but fair play for his efforts yesterday.
The next notable moment is probably best explained by the info on the BBC's vidiprinter -
Rafael Da Silva takes a shot. Jose Reina makes a save. Dimitar Berbatov takes a shot. Save made by Jose Reina. Rafael Da Silva takes a shot. Save by Jose Reina. Ryan Giggs takes the chance to get an effort at goal. Save by Jose Reina. Corner taken left-footed by Ryan Giggs, Dimitar Berbatov takes a shot. Save by Jose Reina."
I'm sorry but that display of goalkeeping was arguably one of the best in the world let alone the league! Too often is this guy underrated, perhaps because he's playing in a below par Liverpool side at the moment but people need to wake up and smell the coffee. Van Der Sar and Petr Cech have nothing anymore on the star that is Pepe Reina. What a keeper!
Michael Owen entered the game just before 80minutes. I've never really voiced my full opinions on Michael Owen and his move to Manchester United, i suppose i'll get round to it one day but whatever you think/thought about him there is no way anyone could have taken him putting one past Reina. Thankfully, he didn't.
Shortly after Dalglish made his final substitution. Ngog replaced Fernando Torres. Although it's always hard to watch Torres when he's struggling, i am glad Kenny wasn't scared to take him off, just another point to prove no player is bigger than the team in Kenny's eyes. This mentality will bring out the best in Torres i feel and bring back that fighting spirit.
Despite some attempts from Ngog, Babel and Dirk Kuyt in the dying moments Liverpool couldn't quite cause an upset and make what would have been a memorable replay at Anfield.
As mentioned at the start though, this is not the end, this is the beginning, the start of something new.
Whether Dalglish stays for a longer period or just until the end of the season, i have faith in his ability to pull Liverpool in the right direction.