Liverpool 4 Sheffield United 0: The Launching of the 'SSA'

Posted by Garstonite on February 24, 2007, 10:25:24 PM

After beating the reigning European Champions in their own back-yard, Sheffield United at home was, quite rightly, viewed as an anti-climax. So professionalism was required in entering the game and, with news Colin Wanker preferred a more wary 4-5-1, ahead of the expected 4-4-2, it seemed patience was also necessary.

With news that Jerzy Dudek was set to start in place of Pepe Reina in goal, there was levels of anxiety around the ground, given the fact Sheffield United’s main hopes of scoring at Anfield were set to come from set-pieces. But it also prompted a comical moment when the crowd’s mandatory ‘Yay!’ was substituted for a baffled ‘Who?’ after George read third-choice and recent signing Daniel Padelli’s name over the tannoy.

The main team news, though, was the news Javier Mascherano was set to make his debut for the club, alongside captain Steven Gerrard – back in the middle again, which is good… or is it?

It seems the deal that has brought the Argentine to Anfield is a no-lose situation for Liverpool. The £1.5m, 18-month contract is like pleasurable experiment for the man that has just cured cancer. If it fails, it fails. But surely for that amount of money for a player that is a mainstay in a top-class Argentina squad, it can only be beneficial for both parties involved?

In defence was the side that broke more records than people trying to hear satanic messages on their stereos last season, on the flanks were Gonzalez and Pennant and up front, Peter Crouch and Robbie Fowler.

Sheffield United’s side was as follows: (Oh my God they killed) Kenny, Jagielka, (I should be so) Lucketti, (Stretch) Armstrong, Tonge (Sandwich), Fathi (Bastard), (General) Montgomery, Quinn and Hulse.

The game started off fairly slowly and the most fun we had in the Paddock was mocking their right-winger Stephen Quinn. Calls of ‘Does your Mum know you’re out this late?’, ‘Well done on winning the competition’ and ‘School on Monday’ were hurled at the young, ginger haired winger who looked, quite literally, like a boy in a man’s game. Sorry for the cliché but a kid that is about five foot, five inches and played poorly? It was always going to be said.

The first effort of the game fell to Gonzalez, who got in behind the defence and brought down a long, floating Sami Hyypia ball on his chest, only to toe-poke the ball over. Only a half-chance, but it was one which opened the game up a little.
Hopes of an early goal were fading, but a rather clumsy challenge from somebody on Gerrard, with about three men on the deck, one winning a penalty, one breaking his nose, the penalty Steve Bennett gave was fully warranted. Peter Crouch went off in place of Kuyt – a move Benitez will have done through gritted teeth, as hopes of putting Kuyt on for twenty minutes with the game over, were ruined.

The positive to take was more mobility up front - as well as having a chance to look at Kuyt and Fowler as a partnership – something we’ve yet to see I think?

Fowler was forced to wait patiently for the whistle, as Crouch left on a stretcher – which requires an extension should the big man ever need it again – but he ran up undeterred and smashed the ball to Paddy Kenny’s left.

Five minutes later, another penalty was given. Dirk Kuyt’s headed pass found Gerrard rampaging into the box who, for the second time in the game and third time in the season against Sheff Utd, was awarded a penalty. Fowler stepped up, went the other way, and Liverpool led by two goals to nil.

Half-time arrived and the two goal lead wasn’t enough to lift the crowd from the hangover of Barcelona, as the game had yet to really get underway, with more injuries than shots on goal, with three substitutes – two down to injuries (Chris Morgan for Lucketti and Kuyt for Crouch).

Jerzy Dudek could have been sat on a deckchair with a glass of lemonade, whilst Paddy Kenny only had one real save to make, from a Gonzalez shot which was parried to safety.

The crowd was still quiet as the second half developed, as Sheffield United came out of the traps more. Robert Kozluk made way for Kazim Richards after Fowler slotted home the second after twenty-five minutes, but it took until the second half for that change to have any effect, with Warnock undoubtedly revising tactics during the interval.

Liverpool looked far more threatening on the break than United did applying pressure, which Carragher and Hyypia dealt with at ease.

Sami Hyypia was dominant all afternoon, handling the direct and physical approaches of Hulse and Stead, and he capped off his afternoon with a drilled effort from a couple of yards out when a low corner from Pennant was dealt with by the Sheffield United defence.

Gerrard completed the rout after a textbook move: Mascherano to Fowler whose flicked ball found the skipper unmarked. He was never going to miss. 4-0 and it could have been more. A Fowler hat-trick would have completed the day, but alas, it wasn’t to be.

On the way out, inspiration came for me to form a new campaign. Sack the RTK campaign off, the SSA campaign is where it is at now. And no, it has nothing to do with Nazi soldiers. The 'Stop Swinging Arms' Campaign starts at the beginning of next month, due to the whack I received to, as Joe Pasquale says, ‘the Jacobs’.

I went home talking like Olive from Popeye, but the result made it worth it. I think.

But, to end on a footballing note I'll say this: you can call Warnock what you will (the more offensive the better) and with his personality, it is no surprise he has so many people infuriated, but what you could guarantee that his side would play with their hearts on their sleeves. He is a manager that demands the best from his players, because that’s precisely what he gives himself.

But enough of the kowtowing, let’s laugh at the fact an anagram of his name in Colin Wanker and agree these are the sort of run-of-the-mill garbage we’ve got to beat… and we did. Heavily. So ha!

MOTM: Hyypia. Plenty of shouts. I thought Gerrard, Carragher and Pennant had good games, but Hyypia stood out the most. Dealt with everything thrown at him and scored a goal which won me a bet.

© Garstonite 2007

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