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Monday, 16 August 2010
LIVERPOOL 1-1 ARSENAL
Well fellow Reds great to have the season underway and what a fixture to kick it off. Great anticipation beforehand with all the activity in the summer, it certainly made me really excited about the new season. With Roy Hodgson coming in and some summer signings with the obvious snatch of Cole being the most exciting one, I think it has given us all real anticipation for this season. A difficult pre-season for Hodgson with all the speculation regarding Gerrard, Torres and Mascherano and with many players coming back for pre-season training late after their endeavours in the World Cup. All this plus early having to rustle up a team for Europa League qualifying games didn't make it an easy start for our new manager, but credit to him I think he has handled it brilliantly.
I would just like to let you know what I thought of the match I actually only saw the closing stages of the first half and the whole of the second half but I watched the highlights at night on Match Of The Day 2. One of the first things I saw was Cole's sending off and I just thought to myself sarcastically, what a great start to the season this is.
I was very pleased with team Hodgson sent out I thought it was as strong as we could be. Agger once again being a makeshift left-back which we know he can do well at. Great to see Jovanovic starting wide left I like what I've seen of him so far and looks like he has the work ethic complimenting Kuyt down the right giving the side a good balance. Also pleased to see Cole start just behind the striker N'Gog making Gerrard play deeper in midfield where he will influence games more from. Great to see Mascherano start I personally thought he had played his last game for us so that selection was a surprise for me.
From what I could make out from the first half it looked like Arsenal having most of the possession but Liverpool defending comfortably and looking lively when they broke from defence. One good break saw Cole play a nice little pass in the midfield releasing Jovanovic who made a strong run through the middle before sending a good pass out wide to Kuyt whose cross unfortunately failed to find Jovanovic who had continued his run into the box.
Liverpool had a couple of chances just before halftime with N'Gog having a header from a Gerrard corner cleared off the line and Johnson having a shot tipped over the bar by Almunia. But then just on halftime we had the turning point with Joe Cole trying sliding in late to try and block a clearance from Koscielny, but as Koscielny cleared Cole slid in catching the Arsenal defender. When I saw it I thought right booking, but when I saw the red card pulled out I couldn't believe it, and then I thought right must have been a second booking but then a guy in the bar came up to me and said that he thought that was a really harsh sending off and when he informed me that it was a straight red I could only agree, obviously Koscielny making a meal of the incident didn't help Cole's case and he was rightfully booed when he entered the field for the second half.
I was honestly fearing the worst for the second half being down to ten men and in all honestly I would have settled for a draw. But what an amazing start to the second half with Liverpool starting on the front foot, winning a few corners at the start but then with great pressure high up the field they forced Arsenal into a mistake on the edge of their own box which Mascherano pounced on and he played a great little pass to N'Gog as he ran into the right hand side of the Arsenal box and he unleashed an unstoppable shot into the top corner of Almunia's near post, I really thought it was a terrific strike and I think this young player is getting better all the time.
Liverpool really caught Arsenal cold at the start of the second half especially with the goal. But as the half wore on Arsenal started to dominate and you felt a goal had to come but Liverpool defended brilliantly and I was totally proud of their effort and every player gave everything which is what the fans have been wanting from the team which was lacking in so many matches last season.
With the legs tiring Hodgson had to make changes first he took Jovanovic off and brought on Maxi, then Mascherano was taken off when he really had nothing left in the tank, some effort from a player that wants away, Lucas replacing him. Finally N'Gog was replaced by Torres with both players recieving a standing ovation. But then Agger took a blow to the head from the ball blocking a cross and for the rest of the match he didn't really know where he was leaving Liverpool effectively down to nine men.
Getting towards the end of the match I just felt Arsenal were starting to turn the screw and the pressure was mounting, Liverpool defended valiantly and what a difference at set pieces without that zonal marking. But Arsenal were getting closer and Gerrard picked up a booking which resulted in Reina producing a great save from a Walcott free-kick. But then inside the last five minutes a goal looked certain when Rosicky was clean through but Reina pulled off what already could count as one of the saves of the season finger tipping the shot over the bar.
Just after Reina's heriocs though he was almost caught out when he thought a ball was safely going out for a goal kick only to see it headed back across goal which Liverpool were relieved to scramble to safety.
But after all Liverpool's resolute defending Liverpool were undone with sheer misfortune.A Rosicky cross was met by Chamakh getting in front of Reina but diverting it against the post but as Reina tried to gather the rebound he could only bundle it into the net and gift Arsenal an equaliser.
But in true Liverpool character Liverpool tried to grab a winner in stoppage time winning a couple of corners and Gerrard coming close with a great shot from a free-kick which Almunia saved well from. Reds fans were pleased to see Koscielny getting sent off at the end after a deliberate hand ball.
Initially I was gutted just like most Reds at the end, but now that the dust has settled I have taken great encouragement from the game. The commitment every player showed made me proud even after losing that late goal Liverpool still showed great spirit in trying to score a winner. Very happy with Hodgson's team selection and tactics. Gerrard looked back to his old self covering every blade of grass. Mascherano at his best, what does the future hold for him. N'Gog getting better with every game. Jovanovic I really like the look of him. The defence was superb all day martialled by an imperious Carragher. We looked more solid defending set pieces due to man-marking and dropping the zonal marking debacle. But overall I think we have so many positives to take out of this game, great attitude, the team and players gelling already and Reina will never let in a goal like that the rest of this season. Playing the way we did with ten men against probably the best passing side in the league was brilliant. After writing this article I can honestly say I have got the disappointment out of my system so bring on Thursday night and the rest of the season.
Posted by james walker at 12:46