The Two Man Team is Back in Town
Or is it? Today we saw the Liverpool Football Club of old emerge from the shadows. Every player this afternoon played their heart out and it was one of those matches that turned out to be a pleasure to watch.
At a quarter past two this afternoon, I received the team news and immediately my heart was lifted, knowing that Blackburn can be a hard team to beat. It was Reina, Mascherano, Aurelio, Agger, Caragher, Lucas, Gerrard, Benayoun, Kuyt, Rodrigeux and Torres. The Substitutes were Cavalieri, Aquiliani, Babel, Insua, Ngog, Kelly and Ayala. The referee for the afternoon was Alan Wiley.
The teams came out into a stadium that was in full voice, which was wonderful to hear, after the quiet weeks that we have witnessed recently. Blackburn kicked off to start the game and almost immediately Pepe Reina was in action and I must admit at this point, he seemed a little unsure of himself. This was not going to stop Liverpool though, they were in for the kill right from the start, their passing seemed to have improved overnight and there was very little that Blackburn could do except fight for the ball. The old Blackburn emerged very quickly and it was not long before Salgado earned Blackburn their first yellow card of the afternoon for bringing down Fernando Torres
Liverpool's defence at this point in the game did appear to be a little ropey but all things considered, we survived. The moment then arrived that sent a massive vote of confidence through the team and supporters alike. Step up Stevie G. The man is back, he picked up a ball from Benayoun and the strike was wonderful - Liverpool were now 1-0 up
Blackburn restarted the game and for a short time had a period of good play. Penderson put Pepe Reina under pressure, but thankfully whatever was bothering him early in the game had disappeared, our goalie was also on form and the shot was saved. Blackburn's bad penny surfaced then Diouf put Reina under pressure from a corner but again thankfully he did what he does best.
For the rest of the first half, Liverpool exerted enough pressure to ensure that Blackburn was not given the opportunity to score. This included several free kicks, one of which was a late challenge by Diouf on Stevie G, but he got away with it. Mascherano , who seems to have found his game over the last 4 matches, again did everything he could to try and score a goal. It was at this point in the game that it became blatantly obvious that Torres was a marked man, if the Blackburn players could bring him down they did.
Play was beginning to get fierce and Liverpool had to make an early substitution with Insua coming on for Aurelio who had torn a thigh muscle. Then came the only hiccup of the game, when Jamie accidentally handled the ball and Alan Wiley gave Blackburn a penalty. Pepe Reina did his best to stop the ball, but was just not low enough. The score was now 1-1. Liverpool though had no intention of letting this mar their afternoon and after some brilliant passing by the lads, Mascherano kicked the ball towards Torres, who had timed his run perfectly? Liverpool was now 2-1 up and went in at half time knowing that they had to hold on to the score.
Liverpool kicked off the second half, knowing that Blackburn was going to do everything they could to turn the score around. Torres and Stevie G came out of the blocks very quickly and set the pace for the rest of the game. Diouf though, had other ideas and was already causing problems. How he was never carded at this point in the game, I don't know, but if he could commit a foul, he did. It was during one these periods of play that Olssen deliberately handled the ball and was immediately given a yellow card by Alan Wiley. Liverpool though seemed to be complete control of the game and with Blackburn not getting a lot of the ball, the game was beginning to turn into what I would call a good old fashioned match, tempers were being to fray and the action was good. Then came yet another yellow card for Blackburn with N'Zonzi getting one for bringing down Lucas.
Sam Allardyce who was now sitting on the Players benches decided at this point it would be better to make a substitution replaced Olssen with Chimbonda. He immediately joined in the action but it lead to a free kick for Liverpool which was taken by Stevie G. It was picked up by Daniel Agger, who then miss-kicked it and the ball was far too high. Maxi was having a wonderful game and feeding the rest of the team some good balls, decided to go for goal himself, but put just a little much effort behind the ball and it missed.
I don't know what it is with Blackburn but I guess the frustration of not getting far was becoming too much, or they are just plain dirty but it did not take long before Cavendish received a yellow card for fouling Mascherano. Play continued for a few more minutes before Sam Allardyce again decide to swap one of his yellow carded players, this time taking of N'Zomzi and replacing him with Grella. Out of all the Liverpool players though, it simply was not Dirk Kuyt's afternoon. He tried a back pass but missed the goal - another day it would have been, one of those wonder goals that found their way in.
Blackburn at this point, had one of their small periods of the play, which led to Howlett trying for a goal but thankfully yet again this was saved by Reina. Diouf who for some reason seemed to be getting away with murder fouled Insua and got away with it. What would happen I wondered if any of the Blackburn players were injured as Blackburn made their last substitution with Roberts coming on for Howlett. Our defense as this point seemed to be a little ropey and I prayed that they would not be having their usual lack of concentration period as the game entered its final quarter. Then it appears Alan Wiley woke up and Diouf was finally given a yellow card for bringing down Mascherano.
Liverpool were all over the place now and the effort they were showing was something that I had not seen for quite some time. They had several more chances at the goal but apart from a deflection off Insua, the third goal had no intention of appearing. Blackburn somehow then managed to get the ball into their goalmouth and Cavendish went for a shot; unfortunately he collided with Reina who appeared to have come off the worst. He lay on the ground for several minutes and there were fears that he had dislocated his shoulder. Cavalieri was seen warming up, but thankfully Reina recovered and took his place back in goal. Play continued but was stopped with a player protest after Chimbonda went in with two feet and tackled Rodrigeux. The question here is, WHY NO RED CARD, according to the commentator, there was an official nearby who must have seen it. Alan Wiley, I honestly believe made a mistake and should look at the footage and apologize to Rafa Benitez and the team.
Shortly afterwards, Ryan Babel replaced Yossi Benayoun for the closing minutes of the game, which turned into a very nervy seven minutes as the fourth official added 5 minutes on at the end of the game. Liverpool then earned their only yellow card of the game when Lucas kicked the ball away. Samba picked up the ball from the free kick and Pepe Reina made a magnificent save. A few minutes later the match finished.
What we have to hope for now is that Tottenham and Manchester City slip up because the boys are back and that fourth place is looking to be within reach.