The Hunger For Cups That Turned Anfield Into a Lunchtime Delight
As the day began yesterday, Anfield was bathed in Sunshine and it signalled the beginning of what would turn out to be a day to remember not only for the football on the pitch but also for the behaviour from both sets of supporters.
It was of course the first meeting of Liverpool and Manchester United since the Suarez/Evra Racism situation came to light and with the world's media watching, all parties concerned did their best to ensure that the powder keg which was waiting to combust, was dampened before it had a chance to do so.
Managing Director, Ian Ayre gave an interview during the previous week stating how important it was for the clubs supporters and players to be behave. This was followed by Kenny and Stevie stating the same in their programme notes. Sir Alex also played his part by ensuring that Manchester United's match going supporters were aware that no abuse would be tolerated. It was repeated by stadium announcer George Sephton before the game started.
There were reports of a couple of incidents, one of which has led to the arrest of a 59 year old man which is being dealt with by Merseyside Police and I am sure if it is proved to be true, then he will never see Liverpool play at Anfield again - quite rightly so of course. The other incident was I suspect just started by supporters who wanted to cause trouble by spreading a rumour. That rumour was quickly discounted by Merseyside police and although I don't hold out much hope, should be ignored.
The game itself was billed as the tie of the round. That round of course was part of the annual F.A Cup competition and could see Liverpool progress further in their quest for Silverware. Silverware, that, would certainly signal that Kenny is on the road to ensuring that the club would be successful once again.
Anfield was as expected a sell-out and as the teams arrived on the pitch, the atmosphere was a good as it was on Wednesday night and as anyone will tell you, when the twelfth man is in evidence, it sends a shiver up the spines of the opposition.
It did this to a certain degree to Manchester United the first half, who apart from old-timers Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, seemed to be unsure of how to play. Liverpool who had made four changes to line-up after our cup winning display on Wednesday appeared to settle very quickly and the football although cagey at times was a pleasure to watch.
They were constantly trying to get the ball towards Manchester United's haphazard goalie, David De Gea with Maxi getting an early strike at the goal. It was saved by De Gea and I suspect will go into the record books as the only one he saved properly that afternoon.
At the other end Ryan Giggs had a ball saved by Pepe Reina and Valencia found that the disease called hitting the bar actually happens to the opposition as well.
With clock ticking towards the 25 minute mark, it was Liverpool who finally let the supporters know, that the game was there for winning. Daniel Agger picked up a Stevie G Corner and headed it straight towards the hapless De-Gea and Anfield was alight. The noise from the supporters was amazing as it signalled that we were perhaps heading towards Wembley once more.
As often happens, these things never go to plan and Manchester United equalised 6 minutes later with Ji Sung Park equalising after picking up a ball from Raphael De silva. It also showed that perhaps our defence was going to have another bad day.
But with fingernails bitten down and nerves standing on end the supporters both at the game and watching on television were not going to be disappointed as the second half quickly which was the better team on the pitch.
With both teams doing virtually the same as they were doing in the first half, there were several shots at the goal but to no avail. Then in a match that appeared to be going along without any major incidents for referee Mark Halsey to make a decision on, Liverpool had a penalty appeal turned down. It appeared that Chris Smalling had caught a ball on the hand as he tried to intercept a pass from Enrique to Andy Carroll. Mark Halsey signalled for play to continue and I have to admit I have not seen a replay so whether it is was the right decision or not, will remain to be seen.
It was shortly after this that Liverpool appeared to be getting rather sloppy and if it had not been for Martin Sktel being alert and stopping a ball from Danny Welbeck, then Manchester United would have been in the lead.
Then came the time for the changes that would in effect change the game, Dirk and Charlie came on for Jamie and Maxi. This livened up Liverpool's play and with a slight change of shape things began to happen. Liverpool suddenly became the team that was most likely to score once again. Dirk was doing what Dirk does best and picked up several good balls but the elusive goal still at this point in time did not appear.
Kenny then made his final substitution and if I am honest, it was not the one that people were expecting. Stevie G was replaced by the new hero of Anfield, Craig Bellamy who had an immediate impact on the game.
His speed and the way in which he closes down the opposition, as well as his bright yellow boots certainly made the difference to game that was very close to becoming a replay.
The final drama though was not so far away and it came via Andy Carroll who having picked up a ball sent it towards Dirk who was running towards the box. Dirk met the ball and sent a wonderful volley past De-Gea. Liverpool was now in the lead and the last five minutes felt like an eternity.
But they passed and Liverpool will enter the draw this afternoon to learn who they face in the next round.
It was the perfect end to a perfect afternoon that saw me in tears for the second time in seven days because of my love for Liverpool Football Club