Kuyt 85, Gerrard 90.
Inter Milan 0
Inter Milan, 29 games without losing, last defeat September 2007, leading Serie A by eleven points. Liverpool, three wins from their last eleven home games, nineteen points behind the Premiership leaders, knocked out of their domestic cup competition by a lower division side. There could only be one result! No, you won’t get the words “funny”, “old”, “game” and “football” in one sentence in this blog!
Detractors, and there are still plenty of them, will say that victory was the result of the poor refereeing that saw Inter’s Materazzi sent off and that, with ten men to last out over an hour, they would eventually succumb. However, to do so would be to ignore our persistence and the fact that we still had to do the do the job and, to our immense credit, we dam well did!
Rafa’s line up was positive with Babel, Kuyt, Torres and Gerrard. There was still no place for Alonso which let in Lucas to shore things up with Mascherano. Crouch was on the bench which, if his sulky slouch in the tunnel beforehand was anything to go by, didn’t go down too well! Meanwhile Maicon, or was it Cambiasso, tried to unsettle us with a bit of pre match banter. Jamie Carragher’s thumbs up to him said it all, I think, or perhaps it was because he didn’t understand Italian?
As one would expect from the home side, we began by trying to take the game to Inter. Carragher had a penalty appeal ignored when his shot struck Cordoba on the arm. Presumably the referee though it was unintentional? On nine minutes Sami headed over from a Gerrard corner however, Inter didn’t look unduly troubled in fact, they looked very comfortable.
Even after the sending off which was harsh, both Materazzi’s challenges didn’t even merit yellow cards, Inter continued to hold the line. They even persevered with Cruz and Ibrahimovic up front for a good half hour or so before the former was sacrificed. In view of the circumstances Inter must have been happy with the half time score. Although we had plenty of possession, our “dominance” could only be measured in terms of corners and free kicks rather than actually shots on goal. At this stage I was thinking that the more the game goes on the more desperate for breakthrough we will get and more likely it will be that Inter will punish us, perhaps on the break?
Early in the second half another penalty appeal was turned down. This time Ibrahimovic was the culprit. Then we finally started to make inroads. Just as I was beginning to wonder if Torres was really fit he was put through by Kuyt however, Cesar did well to get down and turn his shot round his right post. Then Gerrard’s corner found Finnan on the edge of the area. He passed on the shot and found Kuyt whose centre found Hyypia who headed just over.
They say things come in threes so it was time for another handball in the box. This was blatant. Vieira, a shadow of his Arsenal incarnation, prevented Gerrard from crossing with his raised hand. Later Gerrard fed Torres whose long range shot evaded Caser but was just the wrong side of his left hand post. Inter, who were perhaps beginning to tire, were slowly being coaxed into submission but my money was still on 0-0. Because of the ten men our defence was comfortable. We were also controlling midfield mainly through Mascherano who always seemed to be there, sticking out an admonishing foot as if chastising Inter for having the nerve to attack? However up front it was same old story re chances and converting them. Crouch was bought on to present Inter with a new problem and he screwed one wide after his header had been knocked into his path by Cordoba.
Finally just as it looked as if Inter’s resoluteness was going to prevail, Pennant’s cross somehow found it’s way across they Italians defensive line. Kuyt’s shot into the ground ballooned in over Caser via a Maicon deflection. One would have taken 1-0 but Inter then conceded sloppy seconds and turned what would have been pragmatic and guarded optimism about the second leg into a golden “gosh, we can really win this now” moment! Pennant s cross was headed away by Burdisso to Gerrard, whose early shot threaded it’s way past off guard, diving defenders into the net off the Cesar’s right hand post. How significant will that goal prove to be, not just in terms of the San Siro?
One could go on about vindication, patience even “bouncebackability” and most certainly relief. Of course one result does not change things but it certainly makes you feel a lot better. Those who have consistently sought to undermine us will carry a different story today. Will this result give us the confidence to go forward? Many will say why can’t we do that every week in the league? We can but of course the annoying thing this season is that we don’t. Thankfully however, for Rafa, the fans and the season, we produced something for a game when it was needed most?
Onwards and upwards?
Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Aurelio, Gerrard, Mascherano, Lucas (Crouch 64), Babel (Pennant 72), Kuyt, Torres.
Subs Not Used: Itandje, Riise, Benayoun, Alonso, Arbeloa.
Inter Milan: Julio Cesar, Maicon, Cordoba (Burdisso 75), Materazzi, Chivu, Zanetti, Stankovic, Cambiasso, Maxwell, Cruz (Vieira 55), Ibrahimovic.
Subs Not Used: Toldo, Figo, Crespo, Maniche, Suazo.