|Gerrard 68||Hernandez 81|
After such a big build up to a massive game I can't help but feel let down by our attitude today.
The first half in particular was massively disappointing. Fair enough, we were quick into the tackle and pressed the ball reasonably well but once possession was ours there was zero creativity or movement.
Old Whiskey Nose picked a defensive line-up with Phil Jones playing alongside Darren Fletcher in the centre of midfield. Rooney, Nani and Hernandez were left on the bench making clear Utd's intentions to keep it tight. Regardless of their setup we should have taken the game to them but it just never happened.
It was the 34th minute before we had a clear-cut chance. Adam drove forward from midfield and his skewed shot found its way to Suarez. After turning Jonny Evans inside out he shot straight at De Gea giving the keeper a comfortable save. At the risk of repeating myself from previous match reports, our number 7 is not just clinical enough in these situations. It's the one thing that's holding him back from being a truly world class striker.
As expected from their team sheet, Man Utd offered nothing in the first half so things were fairly comfortable at the back for us. Martin Kelly was excellent against Ashley Young giving the Utd man no space to breath. The half limped to a close with the Mancs much the happier of the two sides.
We improved marginally in the second half but there was still nothing of note for De Gea to do. The Spaniard has had a well documented iffy start to his career in England, most notably with shots from distance so I can't understand why we weren't asking him a few questions. With the likes of Downing, Adam and Gerrard's crossing ability we should have been pinging balls at him from all angles. It never happened.
After some lame huffing and puffing the game began to open up a little but it was the opening goal that at last brought things to life. Charlie Adam, who had probably his best game yet for Liverpool, drove forward from midfield and then threw himself to the floor when Rio dangled a leg out. There was no real contact but Andre Marriner was duped into awarding a free-kick. You win some you lose some, I suppose.
Steven Gerrard deftly curled the free-kick into the net from 20 yards, thanks for the most part to Ryan Giggs moving out from his position in the wall. Presumably he mistook the ball for another one of those pesky reporters. The goal was scarcely deserved but it would at least give us the platform to build on, right? Erm, no.
What followed were a couple of substitutions by the away side (Rooney and Nani) which resulted in them dominating possession for the next 10 minutes. We were quite happy to sit deep and allow them the freedom of Anfield, inviting needless pressure on ourselves. Almost inevitably, they equalised.
In the 81st minute a corner from the left was flicked on by welbeck and Hernandez, on the pitch for barely 5 minutes nodded in unmarked. It was the Mexican's lucky day because he was being "picked up" by Martin Skrtel, who would have given a penalty away if he had not let go of his man. Every time the gormless Slovak plays he is an utter liability.
The final 10 minutes saw chances at both ends as the game was in danger of becoming interesting. In 3 minutes of injury time we created more clear-cut chances than the previous 90. Stewart Downing took his man on down the left and put in a perfect cross for sub Jordan Henderson, who couldn't get over his header. It was the 92nd minute when Downing properly got at what was a stand-in right back in Chris Smalling. Some of his passing in the first half was criminal but I think that we have to accept that's about as good as Stewart is going to get..
The final whistle blew with Man Utd looking reasonably happy with themselves, knowing that they had an easy time of it today. While it was good to see Steven Gerrard back I thought he looked a bit lost in the team. Naturally the retards on Sky Sports gave him the Man of the Match award just because he scored. However I expected him to take up a fairly advanced central position, linking up with Luis Suarez whenever possible but this never materialised. Instead he drifted from wing to wing and never really got on the ball. It was only the 3rd time Gerrard and Suarez had started together so you would think things will only improve from here.
I'm not going to comment on Andy Carroll's non-inclusion because it's irrelevant. The 11 that started today were good enough to win this match but the desire didn't seem to be there. We've beaten the Mancs before simply because we wanted it more. However that wasn't the case today.
I suppose if I'm being slightly less critical this was an ok performance which resulted in an ok result. I'd just like to see a little more fire in the belly and a lot more guile and creativity in the final third if we're going to give it a proper go this season.
Subs: Henderson for Lucas (57)
Unused Subs: Doni, Agger, Robinson, Spearing, Carroll, Bellamy