Liverpool vs Man United: Eye witness report

Posted by Mr Dilkington on September 23, 2012, 09:48:18 PM

Would Suarez shake Evra's hand? Would Evra shake Suarez's hand? Would United sing the song they did the previous week against Wigan? Would the football once again become the primary issue? There was plenty of questions to be answered, and thankfully, all of the questions turned out positive answers. Suarez and Evra did shake hands. United didn't sing any derogatory songs ( during the match anyway). And football did take the front seat once again, mostly due to the fantastic performance of the eventual losers.

The scene was set by a stirring rendition of you'll never walk alone, as well as three poignant mosaics. 96. The truth. Justice. In front of the watching world, Liverpool fans let anyone who didn't already know, that justice was the next target.

Liverpool lined up as expected, a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Glen Johnson again playing left back and Martin Kelly right back. Joe Allen anchored midfield alongside Steven Gerrard, with Jonjo Shelvey, fresh from his two goal cameo in Switzerland during midweek. Raheem Sterling and Fabio Borini flanked Luis Suarez, who returned to his 'false 9' role.

Manchester United matched up to Liverpool with a 4-2-3-1 of their own. Nemanja Vidic missed out, so Johnny Evans partnered Rio Ferdinand. Carrick and Giggs played as a midfield 2 for one of the first times since the Champions League defeat to Barcelona. Kabaka played off Van Persie, and Nani and Valencia occupied left and right wing respectively. 

The start of the match was predictably fast and furious. Shelvey and Gerrard thundered into a couple of early challenges, and Carrick and Giggs began to play around Shelvey. It wasn't for long however, as the rest of the half was all one way traffic. Once the early sting was taken out of the game,  Liverpool started to take the game by the scruff of the neck. Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger were recycling the ball well, and Gerrard and Allen made sure Shinji Kagawa saw little of the ball. So much so that early on Kagawa was forced into drifting out onto the left hand side to find some much needed space. Patrice Evra was soon learning why there's so much hype around Raheem Sterling, as the winger gave him some early trouble. The first real talking point came on the half hour mark as Johnny Evans hauled Daniel Agger down in the penalty area; Mark Halsey was unperturbed and the play was waved on. The game changer came on 35 minutes. With Liverpool dominating the proceedings, Halsey finally evened things out. Jonjo Shelvey lunged into a tackle with both feet off the ground, and as soon as he did, it was always going to be a sending off. The problem with Halsey's decision was that Johnny Evans had gone in in a very similar manner. It was either a yellow for both, or a red for both. Instead it was Liverpool who were reduced to 10 men.

As the players came back onto the pitch for the second half, there was a change being made by both managers. Liverpool replacing the injured Borini with young Spanish midfielder Suso. For United, it was Nani coming off for Paul Scholes. That United were able to bring on a player with such experience and quality shows where both managers are in terms of what they have to work with. This isn't Ferguson's best United team, but it's a team that's been In the making for a long time. The introduction of Scholes was an important one. Because Liverpool were down to 10, there was no one there to press Scholes, and when you give someone like him time, as well as Carrick, you're going to find trouble. 

So whilst everyone in Anfield waited for United's second half barrage on the Liverpool goal, Steven Gerrard had other ideas. The ball found its way to Suso, and with a drop of the shoulder he managed to beat fellow sub Scholes. The cross wasn't a great one, but Man United failed to clear the ball. The poor attempt only found its way to Glen Johnson, who showed some impressive footwork. It seemed as though he had missed his chance to shoot, but ever aware, he scooped the ball toward Steven Gerrard, and the skipper showed excellent chest control and even better technique as he rifled a low left footed show into Lindegaard's bottom left corner. 

Only 5 minutes later United hit back. It was as though Gerrard's opener was a pale of cold water over each and every one of their players faces. Van Persie was afforded too much time in the box, his lay off found Rafael, and the Brazilian full back curled a stunning left footed shot into Reina's far post and then into the net. That could have been the signal for United to take control of the match, but it was Liverpool again who pushed for the games 3rd goal. Luis Suarez was denied what looked like a clear cut penalty 5 minutes later as he nipped in before Evans and was cut down before he could retrieve the ball. Again, Halsey was having none of it. Whether it was down to the fact he didn't think it was a penalty, or whether it was because it was Suarez, no one knows. Suarez's reputation certainly doesn't help him on these occasions, and it's becoming a bit of a worry. As cynical as it is, games are routinely decided by those kind of details. Suarez had a low rasping shot palmed away by Lindegaard on the hour mark, and not long after Suso put a curling shot toward the top corner, only for Lindegaard to again make the save. It was Suarez and Suso again who looked most likely as the latter slipped through Suarez , but the angle proved too tight and the shot fizzed past the far post. On the 75th minute the game was finally put to bed. Daniel Agger made a mess of controlling a pass on the halfway line, and Antonio Valencia stole in, broke away, and was hauled down by Glen Johnson. Penalty. It probably was, but it was less of a penalty that the ones Halsey refused on Agger and Suarez.  
Van Persie had 4 minutes to think on things, as Agger received treatment for suspected medial ligament damage. Reina got a hand to the ball, but it found the corner, and United finally had their lead.

Last week I sat and listened to thousands of United fans sing, "You're always the victim, it's never your fault."

Last week that song was directed towards 96 innocent people who died watching the team they love; this week, it couldn't have been more apt.

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