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Liverpool 1 Man City 0 - Prem (May 4 2008)

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LIVERPOOL 1 Man City 0

Report by Dave Usher at Anfield

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Scorer(s) – Fernando Torres

Half Time - 0-0

Venue - Anfield

Date - Sun 4 May 2008

Star Man – Fernando Torres

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well that’s it for another season. No more home games until August, by which time there will surely have been mass changes at boardroom level, but hopefully just a bit of tweaking on the playing side. We didn’t exactly end our Anfield campaign in a blaze of glory against City, but nevertheless I really enjoyed the second half of this game. We played some nice stuff, and the last few months of this season have given cause for some cautious optimism, even though it’s clear there is still a long way to go and this season has just not been good enough. Still, at least we have Torres.

 

As disappointing as this season has been as a whole, Torres has made it memorable. In years to come, I’ll look back fondly on this season even though our league campaign was shite, Barnsley knocked us out of the FA Cup and we suffered that heartbreaking loss to Chelsea. Yet for all those disappointments, there’s still 30 odd goals from Fernando to make the season review dvd well worth investing in. He doesn’t score tap ins either, they are all memorable.

 

This was another fine strike to add to the collection, and in the second half of this game he was electric. The whole team were though, which is a good job because the first half was flatter than a flat chested bird’s flat chest. To be expected I suppose. After the Chelsea game, our season was over. Obviously we’d still like to win our remaining games, but there was never going to be much intensity involved, either on the pitch or in the stands.

 

City’s fans were wanting to make a point to their crackpot owner, and equally were intent on paying homage to Sven, so their fans were well up for it. We were still nursing the disappointment of Wednesday night. The first half as a result, was a bit of a non event. We didn’t do much, but we were professional enough to make sure City didn’t threaten either. The players were trying, but the tempo wasn’t high enough, it was all a bit laboured.

 

We had chances though. Babel headed over after a lovely move that saw Kuyt collect a pass from Lucas and charge to the byline before delivering a great cross to his international team-mate. It wasn’t an easy chance, but Babel could have done better with it. That kind of sums up his season. Could do better. Overall I think he’s done well, after all he’s still a kid and he’s playing in a new league with new team-mates.

 

It’s just that you get the feeling with Ryan that there’s a really shit hot player in there waiting to get out. We’ve seen it in flashes, whilst at other times he seems to be doing everything a little bit too fast even for himself. If we can see more of the world beater and less of the headless chicken next season, he could be worth an extra ten points all by himself.

 

Gerrard was our main goal threat in the opening 45 minutes, twice going close to adding to an impressive season’s goal tally. There was one shot from 25 yards that flew inches wide, and another fantastic curling effort that was matched by a world class save from City’s young keeper Joe Hart.

 

City offered little in response, and young Emiliano Insua played his part in a fine defensive effort that ensured Pepe had another easy afternoon and another clean sheet. Insua has been superb for the reserves this season as a marauding full back who loves to get forward. We didn’t see too much of that in this game, because circumstances didn’t allow it. City left Vassell high up the pitch on the right wing all the time, which meant ‘Emi’ couldn’t get forward much.

 

He did set up Gerrard’s effort that was saved, and in the second half he made a couple of exciting runs, but this game will have done him a lot of good as he had to be disciplined defensively, and he was. He defended well, and got stuck in. He can be pleased with his performance and hopefully we’ll see a lot more of him next season.

 

His inclusion in this game meant that John Arne Riise was denied a chance to say farewell to the fans. That wasn’t a great surprise, although it was a shame as he’s been here a long time and provided us with some great memories. It’s sad that his last act as a Liverpool player at Anfield was that own goal against Chelsea.

 

And then there’s Peter Crouch. I’ll be honest, I was – and still am – really pissed off that Crouch wasn’t given the send off he deserves. I don’t know the full story, and mabe there’s a reason for it, but leaving Crouch out of the squad and including Voronin seemed more than a little spiteful from Rafa under the circumstances.

 

His treatment of Crouch for the last couple of years has been baffling, and at times it’s as though he’s deliberately made a twat out of him. Maybe he’s got a good reason for it, but it’s lost on me and I know I’m not alone when I say I’d much rather have seen Crouch coming on late on than the ‘not so divine pony tail’. I don’t dislike Voronin the way some do, and he showed early in the season that he can play. I’m not on the ‘Voronin is shit’ bandwagon, but it’s true that he HAS been shit for several months now, and no way did he deserve to be getting the nod over a fan favourite who would surely have been making his farewell appearance.

 

On the flip side of that, the final home game usually sees all the players on the pitch at the end to show their appreciation for the support they’ve had from the fans. Yet none of the players who didn’t make the 16 were on the pitch. Why was that? Well Rafa says that those players who aren’t in the squad are given the freedom to do what they want. They can stay at home if they like, or they can be in the ground to watch the game. It appears that the likes of Crouch, Riise, Pennant, Arbeloa, Aurelio etc either stayed at home, or couldn’t be arsed coming on the pitch. Maybe they didn’t want to get wet, or maybe they just weren’t arsed.

 

If that’s the case, then it’s poor form, especially from Crouch who was given fantastic support when he was having such a bad time early on in his Liverpool career. I can understand if he was pissed off at the manager for not picking him (I’m pissed off too), but he should have made a point of being on that pitch at the end to thank the fans who have backed him since day one. It would have been nice to give him and Riise a bit of a send off, but clearly they weren’t arsed about being there so I guess that tells us a lot.

 

Back to the football though, and at half time I was sat there bored out of my tree. The first half had been like watching paint dry, and after a brief flurry in the opening minutes the crowd had fallen silent. Apart from the City fans, who repeatedly chanted for Sven and for about fifteen minutes continuously sang (to the tune of Another Brick in the Wall) “We don’t need no Phil Scolari, we don’t need Mourinho, hey Thaksin, leave our Sven alone!”

 

They also went through a ditty of anti-scouse songs, which kind of cancels out any sympathy I had for them over the Sven situation. Most laughable of all was the ‘USA’ chant. Erm, if there’s one set of fans not in a position to take the piss out of us for our owners, it’s City.

 

Worst of all was hearing them taunt Gerrard with that ‘the baby’s not yours’ shite. I was pissed off hearing that, but that quickly turned to amusement when they then adapted the words to ‘the baby is Sven’s’. That was funny, and possibly even true as Sven must have been in regular proximity to the WAGS, and the fella is a fanny magnet let’s be honest. I wouldn’t want him near my bird, the handsome bastard.

 

The second half was infinitely better than the first, largely because of the pace we played at. Whatever was said in the dressing room had an immediate impact, as suddenly we looked dangerous any time we had the ball and Torres came to life. Within minutes of the restart Gerrard sent him clear with one of the passes of the season.

 

Torres accelerated away from the defence and found imself one on one with Hart, but he put his shot wide of the far post. Kicking towards the Kop end though, there was little doubt that the next chance he’d get would go in.

 

City were not posing much threat, but they went within a whisker of taking the lead when Elano struck the post with a curling free-kick. At the start of the season he was looking like he was going to be a real star, but he went off the boil and he didn’t do much in this game either. City’s best player was Hart, he looks a good young keeper.

 

Michael Johnson is a player who we’ve been linked with, so I was watching him closely and I thought he did ok. He was neat and tidy but didn’t do anything especially eye catching. He did track Gerrard’s runs a few times and managed to keep pace with him, which is no mean feat. I don’t know if we even have the money to make a move for him, but if we signed him then it wouldn’t be good for Lucas.

 

He’s had a good first season, but opinion on him seems to be split. He doesn’t look particularly special, but he’s been steady and hopefully he will express himself a bit more next season. He must have something, as he’s a regular in the Brazil squad, but he’s had some games where he’s looked lightweight and sloppy in possession. He’s also had games where he’s been excellent, and he’s played in some big games and not looked out of place. He’s been a bit hit and miss, but in his first season in a new country that’s understandable.

 

Lucas’ season could be summed up in the build up to the only goal of the game. He played a poor ball looking for Torres that was nowhere near him, but he immediately set off closing them down totry and win it back. His pressure forced a poor clearance from Ball that was cut out by Kuyt, who’s header landed at the feet of Torres.

 

He turned to face Dunne, and then just went past him with an ease that very few are capable of matching. Dunne did all he could to knock him off his stride, but Torres is deceptively strong and well balanced. He kept his feet, and slid the ball under Hart for his 32nd goal of the season.

 

Kuyt then went close to what would have been one of our goals of the season, when he stole in round the back post and struck a venomous volley from Babel’s cross that was parried by Hart. Lucas tried an overhead kick from the rebound, but again Hart was in the right place to make the stop.

 

Dirk was even more unfortunate when he got in front of Dunne to meet Hyypia’s brilliant cross, only to see the ball crash against the bar. It just wasn’t Dirk’s day, as shortly after he put a free header straight at Hart. I thought he was excellent once again though, and he’s proved a lot of people wrong in the last few months, me included. I was right to say earlier in the season that he was playing shite, but I was wrong to think that he wouldn’t snap out of it and prove his worth. He has done, and he’s done more than enough to deserve to stay at the club. Fair play Dirk, I’m happy you proved me wrong.

 

Torres’ continuing torment of Dunne then saw him skip past him again, and even though he was dragged to the floor he got up and retained possession. Dunne had another bite at him, but again Torres wriggled free and laid the ball back to present Babel with what should have been a tap in. Sadly Ryan absolutely ballooned his shot.

 

It was his last involvement, as he made way for Yossi. Alonso was also introduced for what will hopefully NOT be his last Anfield appearance. I noticed when Didi Hamann began warming up in the second half (to a thunderous ovation from all corners of the ground), he went up to Xabi and was talking to him. Whatever he said, Xabi kind of shrugged and was shaking his head.

 

I’d imagine that Didi my well have asked him if he was leaving, as that’s what I’d have done if I was him, it’s only natural. If that was what he asked him, then Alonso’s response didn’t say much either way, it was more of a ‘I’m not sure, we’ll see what happens’ kind of response I thought. I actually took comfort in that, as maybe it’s not cut and dried yet? I love Xabi, I don’t want him going anywhere.

 

This constant revolving door of players in and out every season isn’t helping us at all. We’re always ‘rebuilding’ it seems, instead of fine tuning. We need to keep people like Alonso, and add to them. Not sell them and then have to go and find a replacement, who may or may not prove to be a success and may need time to settle in.

 

We’ve got a good side, but we need a couple of additions to make it better. That’s why whatever cash we have to spend needs to be spent on players to go straight in the side, not more squad men who give us ‘possibilities’. If we have to sell to buy, then sell players who aren’t in the side (Leto, Guthrie, Crouch, Voronin, Carson etc) or who are just not good enough (Riise). If that means we only have the money to buy two top players, so be it. I’d rather one Fernando Torres than four Yossi Benayoun’s, and that’s no disrespect to Yossi who has done everything we could have expected, and probably a little more.

 

Torres has been the undisputed player of the season for us, but Mascherano has ran him close in my opinion. He’s quality every week, regardless of how low profile the game may be. He plays every game as though it’s his last, and he was inspirational again in this game, running all over the place trying to make tackles, and getting on the ball and making things happen.

 

He has only scored one goal so far, but I can certainly see him improving on that in the future, as he has a lot more to his game going forward than he is given credit for. There’s been times when he’s set off with the ball like some turbo charged right footed Maradona, flying past tackles and leaving defenders trailing in his wake!

 

There was a run like that against Chelsea in the 1st leg that was only halted by a snide challenge from Mongo, and against City he produced a couple more. One brilliant piece of skill by the touchline saw him leave two defenders for dead, before he got a bit excited and tried to blast a shot in with his left foot from an impossible angle! It was still class though, and piece of skill was worth the admission fee on it’s own.

 

He went even closer late on, when he won the ball in his own half and then just set off towards goal. He got to the edge of the box and let fly, but once again the outstanding Joe Hart made the save, turning the ball away for a corner.

 

There were other chances to kill the game off, even when Gerrard departed to allow Voronin a ten minute run out we still looked dangerous. The Ukranian is a capable footballer, as he showed in his first few months at the club, but he is low on confidence and frankly he looks to have stopped working. One of the things I liked about him initially was his work rate, but recently that has gone.

 

There was one instance in this game when he gave the ball away cheaply, and then just stood there and watched as City went forward. There isn’t another player in our side that would have done that, everyone else would have bust a gut to try and redeem their mistake (as Lucas did in the build up to the goal). Voronin just stood there, and I just thought to myself “Rafa has shit on Crouch to let this bum have a run out?”

 

There were opportunities for us to add to our lead late on, as City left gaps at the back in search of an equaliser. Each time though, Voronin ended the attack. He was unlucky with one attempted cross to Torres that was cut out. That was a difficult ball and noblame can be attached to him there. On another occasion he did well to control an awkward ball fizzed at him by Insua (who had made a terrific surging run forward), only to then attempt some ridiculous toe poked volley from 25 yards. That to me was evidence that his confidence is low.

 

Perhaps the worst thing he did was when Reina produced an amazing 60 yard ball that he controlled brilliantly on his chest, only to then play a hopeless pass straight tot he only City defender that was back. He had Torres in about thirty yards of space on the far side, but he tried to play in Mascherano and got it horribly wrong. I usually feel sorry for players when they become the whipping boy of the crowd, but when the effort isn’t there then neither is any sympathy.

 

The final whistle arrived, and the players did their lap of honour around the pitch. As usual, Carra’s lad and little nephew both set off on mad runs ahead of everyone else, and Rafa had his daughters on the pitch with him too. Xabi was at the back with his new born baby, and I just hope they are both on the field this time next year too.

 

It’s a shame that Crouch and Riise weren’t there, and although I am critical of Benitez for not including them, the fact is if those players wanted to be on the pitch at the end they could have been. They weren’t, and that’s a shame. We’ll probably see them next year playing at Anfield with their new teams.

 

With one game to go, you’d have to say the season has been a story of what might have been. Despite the obvious deficiencies in our side, we should certainly have been a lot closer to the top than we are. Points dropped to the likes of Birmingham, Reading and Wigan amongst others (Villa and Spurs at home would be other games we would expect to win) have cost us any chance of challenging for the title, whilst gifting the mancs another six points also made it impossible for ourselves.

 

When you look at it that way, you’d have to say that we do only need fine tuning. So why am I expecting another summer of six or seven in and the same number out, and a lot of players in the Benayoun and (even worse) Voronin category? It’s what Rafa has done every summer, he’s always gone for quantity over quality, and at what point will he actually stop that and just try to improve the first eleven?

 

I hope that point is this summer, but I can’t see it somehow. Of course, the situation above him will also dictate our transfer policy, and we can only pray it sorts itself out sooner rather than later, otherwise the next few months are going to be a nightmare.

 

We’ll have Rafa demanding we move quickly to secure his targets, we’ll have Hicks/Gillett/Parry/DIC all using their own media contacts to put out stories against eachother, we’ll have fans at eachother’s throats because some won’t like the players Rafa is going for…. actually it will be last summer all over again, only magnified by about a hundred.

 

Still, at least we’ll have that dvd of Torres’ goals to look at and take our minds off things.

 

Team: Reina; Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Insua; Mascherano, Lucas (Alonso); Kuyt, Gerrard (Voronin), Babel (Benayoun); Torres:

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