Memories, Tributes and Wrong Decisions
Today was one of those days that will be remembered for a variety of reasons. The first of course and in my mind the most important was that it was Liverpool's chance to pay tribute to our 96 brothers and sisters who lost their lives at Hillsborough.
We had been made aware all week of what was going to happen before and in the opening minutes of the game and with tissues ready (I have spent a lot of time in tears since the report was published) I was not disappointed. The words Justice, Truth and 96 were set into a mosaic pattern in the stands and looked wonderful. Flowers were then presented by Sir Bobby Charlton to Ian Rush who placed them outside by the Hillsborough Memorial. The tears flowed once the singing of You'll Never Walk Alone began. It was fantastic to hear and I suspect a lot of people did as I did and looked skywards whilst joining in.
The match itself had been billed as the biggest game this weekend for reasons other than what it should have been. These were of course, the singing of the vile chants from those supporters from both sides who believe it is clever to do and whether or not Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra would shake hands.
Now Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez may well not have looked at each other but shake hands they did, which will hopefully put that issue once and for all to bed.
The teams of course had come onto the pitch with 96 on the back of their track suit tops and I thank Manchester United for taking part in this. Sir Alex had already played his part by taking part in a pre-match interview with Brendan Rodgers.
The referee for the afternoon was Mark Halsey - a referee who I believed would ensure that the game was a very fair one. As the afternoon wore on, it proved that I had been totally wrong in that assumption.
Brendan had of course chosen what he felt was his strongest team and decided to promote young Suso to the bench, which I guess was his reward for the wonderful performance he gave during our Europa League game with Young Boys.
The game itself began with Liverpool being the better team. The football that was being played was a pleasure to watch and as young as Raheem is, his maturity shone through. There was no way he was going to allow Patrice Evra get the better of him. He played like a seasoned pro and it is just a shame that none of his passes resulted in Liverpool getting a goal.
Manchester United for their part looked very lack-lustre and Pepe Reina was more of a spectator than a game player. Most of the play centred on the midfield area and they found it very hard to get the ball from Liverpool. On the rare occasions that they did, it was lost very quickly.
How Liverpool never scored I guess is one of those questions that only they can answer but from the moment Mark Halsey sent Jonjo Shelvey off for a two footed tackle the game changed.
Jonjo of course had taken the ball from Ryan Giggs, but then lost the ball which was heading towards Johnny Evans. To win it back, he had to launch himself into a tackle. Now Johnny Evans sensed that he had to do the same thing and both players went into the tackle with both sets of studs showing. Jonjo was the player that was sent off - it should have been both.
Jonjo then compounded the situation by hurling some abuse at Sir Alex Ferguson. Now I can understand the lad being angry, but you simply do not do that. Even though it was a bad decision by Mark Halsey, Jonjo has to see it as a lesson learnt by trying to time his tackles better.
Liverpool were now down to ten men but to be honest you would have not have known. The resolve and the passion among the remaining players was there and the movement on the ball was fantastic. There was no way that they were going to let Manchester United take over the game or win.
They survived until the end of the first half and when Stevie G scored a goal shortly after the beginning of the second half, it looked as though, even with ten men Liverpool may well win the game. Stevie of course then did the perfect celebration when he pointed both arms towards heaven -the goal had been dedicated to his cousin Jon-Paul and the other 95 Hillsborough victims.
At this point it looked as though ten men Liverpool may well go onto to win the game but fate has a terrible way of stepping in sometimes.
It did by ensuring that Liverpool's lead was cancelled out four minutes later. Manchester United's new player Kagawa sent the ball towards Rafael who sent it curling into the back of the net. Manchester United was now level and this seemed to wake them and Mark Halsey up, who from that moment ensured that every decision went against Liverpool.
There were certainly several decisions that should have gone Liverpool's way including two penalty shouts. One unfortunately should have been rewarded to Luis Suarez but his reputation went before him once again and Mark Halsey believed that he had dived.
There was of course a penalty awarded but that went to Manchester United. Mark Halsey appeared to believe that Glen Johnson had brought down Valencia. Now I know that sometimes it can look as though contact has been made because of the speed, but if I can see that it had not, then so should Mike Halsey have been able too.
The penalty ensured that Manchester United won the game although to be honest the best team on the pitch was Liverpool who by the time the final whistle was blown were down to nine men.
Fabio Borini had been replaced at half time by young Suso, who apart from a few mistakes had a brilliant game and I am sure that he will, like Raheem become part of the first team set up.
Daniel Agger is our major worry at the moment as he left the pitch on stretcher. It is believed that he has suffered medial ligament damage, which unfortunately could mean that his season is over.
Martin Kelly also left the pitch with an injured knee.
Liverpool are of course still languishing in the relegation zone, but if the style of football that they are playing now continues to improve, I am sure that the goals will start to hit the back of the net. If not then come January, an out and out striker is a must buy.