Talk lfc match report
Match Preview and match report by Robbie Amins at talklfc
The Reds take on the devils from Manchester on Monday after two fantastic back-to-back wins at Anfield. Man Utd and neutral fans are all talking about Rio Ferdinand's long-awaited return to action after his ban due to temporary amnesia. Liverpool fans though are all still rubbing their eyes in disbelief after watching their side victorious over West Brom and Monaco with smooth, flowing, imaginative attacking footy. Some of them perhaps are still not used to it yet. Gerard Houllier's footbore has become a thing of the past since Rafael Benitez took over and many are rather optimistic that they will get a good result over their arch-rivals.
This match represents the biggest challenge so far for Rafa and his Spanish armada. Benitez is expected to retain the same 4-4-1-1 formation that has served him well in the last couple of matches and he only has to decide on whether to bring back the calming influence of Didi Hamann or stick with the assured efficiency and astute distribution of Xabi Alonso. Luis Garcia during his time in Spain has played in Barca-Real Madrid clashes which is something of an equivalent of this imminent fixture. And the in-form forward will be relishing the opportunity to further enhance his popularity among Liverpool fans if he can come up with another classy performance against the Mancs.
Midfield juggernaut Steven Gerrard will once again come up against Roy Keane, the man who he has been compared with so many times in the past. But age has caught up with the Irishman and it is now widely acknowledged that Stevie G is the better player. Even Sir Alex Ferguson himself has admitted that Gerrard is the most influential midfielder in England and Keane will be trying his best to prove his boss and his critics wrong on Monday.
Man Utd have flattered to deceive in the last few matches. Late goals in matches against Bolton and Blackburn earned them draws and they were trailing by two goals at Lyon in the Champions League only for Ruud Van Nistelrooy to rescue them with a brace. There's no denying their competitive spirit to come back in those matches but the draws also showed that they are not defending very well at the moment.
Liverpool won this identical fixture by a single goal on the 24th of April this year, thanks to a coolly taken penalty by Danny Murphy who has a good record against Man Utd. It was the first time in ten years United had had a League penalty scored against them at Old Trafford - the first successful spot kick by visitors to the Theatre of Dreams since the effort from Ruel Fox for Norwich in December 1993.
This time round, there will be no Danny Murphy but there's confidence in the air about Liverpool at the moment. Especially with Ferdinand lacking match fitness and Tim Howard and his defensive colleagues looking short of their best form, surely there will be goals in this one (hopefully from the visitors).
Probable Liverpool line-up:-
Dudek, Josemi, Carra, Hyypia, Riise, Finnan, Alonso, Gerrard, Kewell, Garcia, Cisse
Probable Liverpool bench:-
Kirkland, Baros, Traore, Hamann, Warnock.
Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool
Silvestre (20, 66min) - O'Shea (o.g 54min)
The bubble had to burst. After impressive back-to-back wins over West Bromwich Albion and Monaco, Rafael Benitez's men were brought back down to earth by a Manchester United side buoyed by the return of Rio Ferdinand.
The pre-match headlines were all about his return to action but after the match, the plaudits were to be given to his defensive partner Mikael Silvestre. The Frenchman (who rejected a move to Anfield because he did not want to play at fullback) scored two headed goals - one in each half - to give his side the three points. It was very poor marking from the Reds and they were punished for the defensive errors.
Liverpool (especially in the first half) did not look like the same team that they were in the last two matches. The Red Devils had more desire and were attacking at a high-tempo while the Merseysiders looked bereft of ideas.
Cristiano Ronaldo was United's biggest threat. The stepover specialist was at his effervescent best. On many occasions, John Arne-Riise and Harry Kewell had to double-team to stop him in his tracks.
The Reds did have the first chance of the evening. If not for Cisse's miskick after Josemi's low cross, they could have taken an early lead. That warning was enough for United. From then on, it was the home team asking all the questions. Liverpool were pinned back at their own half for most of the first half.
And after Ryan Giggs swung in an enticing free kick from the right flank, United were not to be denied. The Reds defence scandalously failed to mark Silvestre - allowing him the simplest task of running in and heading home at the far post.
Liverpool were handed a further blow when their skipper Steven Gerrard had to come off due to a foot injury. The signs did not look too good for the visitors.
Benitez's half-time teamtalk seemed to have done the trick as the Reds came out in the second half with a vastly-improved performance.
Liverpool were desperately in need of a life-line and they were handed it - from one of Xabi Alonso's superb deliveries into the box. Steve Finnan got at the end of his pass and John O'Shea deflected the ball into the back of his own net.
Giggs, now on the right flank, skipped past Riise's challenge - although it did look like he fouled the Norwegian. And as he continued his run, another moment of controversy arised. Sami Hyypia made sure Giggs had the last touch of the ball to earn his side a goal kick but the referee gave United the corner. From the resulting corner kick, Silvestre yet again unmarked in the box powered in a bullet header which gave Dudek no chance.
No way back for Liverpool this time round. Alonso did test Roy Caroll with a fantastic cheeky lob from just over the half-way line but the keeper was alert enough to run backwards and smother the effort.
Liverpool's Man of the Match:- Xabi Alonso