Now That Is What I Call A Football Game
Sometimes though, certain things happen, that put kicking a ball around the pitch onto the back-burner.
This morning the world of football was rocked by the death of Gary Speed at the young age of 42. As everyone from his former colleagues, his friends within the game, the media and indeed us the supporters were coming to terms with the awful news, further details began to emerge that Gary, a man with the world at his feet, took his own life. Why, we will probably never know and we must all remember the man that played for Leeds, Newcastle and Everton and began his managerial career as the Manager of Wales - a team that he was pulling out of the doldrums and into one that could make a serious challenge in any of the competitions coming up. Sadly he will never see the result of all his hard work but I am sure that Wales will do everything they can in their power to ensure his legacy lives on.
So on behalf of all supporters, can I please offer my sincere condolences to Gary's wife and two young boys, who will need the help of support of everyone around them at this awful time.
Now switching to the game itself and I will be honest in my mind the game should have been cancelled as a mark of respect. It was not, but Kenny took the decision to withdraw Craig Bellamy from the match day squad as he was a friend of Gary's, which of course was the right thing to do in the circumstances. Craig may have said that he would be able to play, but there is a time when grieving for someone must come first and today was that time.
Today's game would have been ideal for Craig but Kenny re-gigged the team and gave Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing a starting role. With Skrtel and Agger now clicking in defence, Carra although available, was left on the bench. They were the only changes and with the team knowing that they were up against the new so-called elite of English football, Manchester City, both teams entered Anfield to a wall of sound from Liverpool's twelfth man.
That wall of sound became silent as a tribute was paid in honour of young Luca Jones, who sadly lost his fight against Leukaemia a fortnight ago and also Gary Speed, who as we all know lost his life earlier today. It was of course impeccably observed by the Anfield crowd as was the clapping in their honour.
The game began and Liverpool appeared to be the slower of the two teams to start, which for the first fifteen or so minutes allowed Manchester City to have total control of the ball. During this time Micah Richards sent a wonderful shot over the bar and Aguero proved that he could at times be a nuisance by causing Pepe to come out of his goalmouth and chase the ball to prevent it going in.
Unfortunately whenever Manchester city play, incidents and cards seem to follow them, and the first yellow of the afternoon was issued to Kompany for his foul on Luis Suarez. Martin Atkinson had finally got a decision right. This seemed to signal to Liverpool that perhaps, they could prove yet again that they are a team to be reckoned with and so the onslaught began.
Things were beginning to develop nicely when our defence had a momentary relapse allowing a David Silva corner to be picked up by Kompany and it hit the back of the net. A lot of teams would have folded after seeing this, but Liverpool as Kenny would say, just got on with it and within a minute of the restart, Luis Suarz sent a ball towards Dirk Kuyt, who then sent it flying towards Charlie Adam. Now Charlie who has grown in stature over the coming weeks found a hole in the ManchesterCity defence and sent the ball flying towards the goal. It is quite possible that the ball would have gone in but to ensure it did, Joelen Lescott gave it a slight kick. Suddenly the score was again level and it was game on once more.
The twelfth man, by now buoyed up by what they were witnessing, sent the decibels around Anfield soaring. The display on the pitch was fantastic and wonderful to watch. The team were playing as a team, the pass and move style that we all love was once more in evidence and so was good old fashioned tackling. Football was finally back in its proper form on the Anfield pitch and the players proved this by besieging the Manchester City goal. Charlie Adam and Glen Johnson both tried to score, but it was not to be and the teams went into the dressing room on level points.
The next worry of course was, would they come out for the second half with the malaise that seems to affect the team - they didn't and much to Manchester City's surprise took the upper hand very quickly. Dirk came close several times as did Stewart Downing who was having one of his better games in a Liverpool shirt, but as has been the norm of late, the final ball and the back of the net did not meet.
Mancini who if I have the read the situation correctly is an extremely bad loser and on 65 minutes, his patience ran out. He took of Nasri and replaced him with Balotelli. Now, as we all know through the media reports, this young man is an accident waiting to happen. It did and he received a yellow card for pulling Glen Johnson. Now any other player and there were several on the pitch this afternoon who received yellow cards, tends to calm down, but not Balotelli who then decided that it would be a good idea to go for Skrtel with his elbow. Martin Atkinson did not hesitate, a second yellow and then the red was produced. Balotelli had lasted no more than 20 minutes on the pitch.
With Manchester City now down to ten men, Liverpool began to probe more and more, with Charlie Adam and Stewart Downing again trying to score. At one point there was a melee in the goalmouth and it was only due to the superb save by Joe Hart that the score was still level. There was no let up in the play though, with Liverpool bearly allowing Manchester City to get hold of the ball and with five minutes remaining Dirk Kuyt was replaced by Andy Carroll.
Now Andy has something to prove and it looked as though today was going to be the day that he could finally prove that he can score goals. He picked up a header and shot towards the goalmouth, only for it to fall into the hands of Joe Hart. Suarez also found a way through but it was not to be and the game finished as a draw.
A draw which on another day, could quite easily have been a well-deserved win. A win that proved good old fashioned football was now back at Anfield and the team are working as a team once more.
Lucas was again exceptional in midfield and I really do wonder why he does not wear the captain's armband in Stevie and Jamie's absence. That young man has improved to the point, that we now know the Liverbird is etched on his heart.
More importantly, what I will say to all the other teams in the premiership is this. Liverpool are on their way back and please do not fear Manchester City, because for all the money spent they are nothing more than ORDINARY.