Arsene Wenger said beforehand that this game was a ‘test’. If that’s the case then there can’t be any doubt that we passed it with flying colours. Despite an early Liverpool goal and some of our players not playing as well as they can we pretty much dominated the match and had chances to win it.
The early goal came when Cesc fouled Xabi Alonso on the edge of our box. The fact that Cesc didn’t even try to protest said a lot and Steven Gerrard drilled the ball through the wall to make it 1-0. We had a decent wall and if Mathieu Flamini had stayed where he should have stayed it would have been just a crap free kick. Still, these things happen and you can be sure we’ll have more secure walls for the rest of the season.
Our best chance in the first half fell to Emmanuel Adebayor but Reina came out quickly to make a good block. Kolo Toure made a great run forward but Adebayor’s final ball was not good, much to Kolo’s frustration. Almunia saved well from Gerrard a made a good save again from Crouch at the start of the second half. Torres had limped off at half-time after being completely ineffective – he didn’t look anywhere near fit enough to be starting a game. We should have equalised when Eboue’s shot cannoned back off the post and Cesc fired the rebound wide first time. It’s easy to look at it from where we do and say he had loads of time but he really did. He could probably have taken a touch and then rolled it home.
Riise and Crouch had shots on goal but once Xabi Alonso went off Liverpool were just unable to keep the ball and we dominated the game looking for the equaliser. Bendtner, Walcott and Gilberto all came on and we began to look more dangerous. The goal came from a fantastic run from Alexander Hleb who delayed his pass long enough for Cesc to get forward. The pass itself was sublime, a little scoop into his path, and while it wasn’t the most thunderous finish of Cesc’s goals this season it beat Reina at the near post to make it 1-1. Absolutely no less than we deserved.
We could have won it too when Cesc’s shot came off the post and Bendtner did exactly what Cesc did with the earlier rebound, much to Kolo’s frustration. He had time as well and even the Mugsmasher himself felt Liverpool were lucky to get away with a point in the end. We should have had a penalty too when Carragher, just like last week against Everton, got away with some shirt pulling and man-handling so blatant that he must be sacrificing virgin goats to Satan so the refs don’t see it.
Overall though a point away at Anfield is a good result and what made our performance and domination of the game so enjoyable was the fact that, in my opinion, some of the lads had poor games. Rosicky was anonymous, I thought Cesc had his quietest game for a long time (and then he does that, I know!), Adebayor looks a little out of form right now although his workrate is still a help to the team and we were hampered by the consistently frustrating Eboue who had a poor game on the right with more embarrassing theatrics and pulling out of challenges, which is pretty unforgivable when the rest of your teammates are working so hard. And why did he wear a long sleeved shirt in the second half when everyone else wore short sleeves?
Yet in spite of that we could have had three points yesterday and that’s fantastic. Postive performances – Kolo and Gallas both had excellent games, Hleb was good again and his creativity made the difference and Almunia made good saves at the right times to show he’s the right man for the job at the moment. What more can we say about Cesc? A quiet game but his 10th goal of the season. The boy’s a genius – a fact not lost on Steven Gerrard.
There’s so much to be happy about with how we played and the result we got at Anfield. I’m sure we could have coped with losing a game but it wouldn’t have been ideal preparation ahead of United next week. And the attitude of the players is fantastic too. You only have to listen to Cesc after the game complaining that we should have won to know how they feel. Most teams would be happy with a point there, most of us fans are happy with a point, but they really do want to win every game and feel like they can.
Afterwards Arsene Wenger said:
I feel we came out of this first big test stronger. Thereâ€™s a long way to go, but in my opinion we have the talent to fight up there for the championship. I would give credit to the attitude and the quality of the team. I felt we showed fantastic quality today and our mental strength and togetherness allowed us to come back.
Leaving aside the quality of the football you have to comment on the character of the team. To come back from a goal behind at Liverpool is a challenge and even though not everyone played brilliantly the spirit and desire to get something from the game was apparent. If there were any doubts over our ability to be part of this title rest then they’ve certainly been dispelled now.
The match against United is an even bigger test, in my opinion. I know we’re at home but they’re beginning to look very good and they’re playing some lovely football. The goals are flowing and defensively they’re as solid as always. It’s going to be a very tough game.
Finally for today good luck to Mrs Blogs who decided some months ago to do the Dublin Marathon. She’s been training like a demon and I’ve just dropped her into town so she can run about the place like a lunatic for 26 miles and that little bit at the end which just seems unfair. Isn’t 26 miles enough on its own? Anyway, good luck Mrs Blogs.