So no change from last season it seems with on the field activity being played out against a background of behind the scenes conflict and acrimony. Although one is behind Rafa I can‘t help thinking if his latest outburst of frustration, this time over the handling of Gareth Barry, issue, could have been timed better? Not the sort of thing to announce just before the first game of the season of did it suit Rafa, given his alleged dispute with others at the club, to do just that? Add to that reports that Xabi Alonso is has finally lost patience with the way he has been treated and wants away and off the field it is, sadly and embarrassingly, business as usual.
Not that any of this should used as an excuse for yesterday’s performance. I didn’t see a great deal of it. A seven hour trip back from Cornwall together with the well meaning friend, who was looking after our house whilst we away, unplugging the Sky Plus box meant I missed the “Sultana” coverage and had to content myself with Match of The Day. From what I heard and could see we took a while to get going where a tad unlucky with what looked liked a penalty decision. However, finally through a piece of Torres class we managed to overcome a Sunderland side that made life difficult for us for large parts of the match.
Nothing less than a comprehensive win with Torres and Keane running riot would satisfy our critics. No doubt title hopes are already being written off with what many will see as an unconvincing, lucky win. Truth is many of those stupidly seek to dismiss us, even at this early stage, didn’t think we had any title hopes in the first place! They and we know that the side will play better this campaign and we can take satisfaction that we’ve avoided a potentially tricky start and come through with three points.
Much has been written about our new striking partnership but it’s clearly got a way to go yet. For example Torres should have scored when Gordon spilled Kuyt’s shot but saw his shot blocked by Robbie Keane! Keane cannot have been too pleased at being substituted. He looks hungry for a goal, the nearest he got was a wide effort just before half time. Some of the Sunday papers suggested he needs a goal or that he is trying too hard but Keane is too experienced and professional to let things get to him, and I’m sure he will net soon. As for Torres what can you say? He did exactly what we bought him for. One opening, one goal. When you’ve someone as predatory has him you’ve always got a chance even if the rest of the team are labouring?
As for Alonso his omission, due to a dead leg sustained in Belgium, will only provoke further speculation. However surely, now that the campaign is underway, only a few will want to see these close season issues rumble on. That is not the main priority now, three more points against Middlesbrough next Saturday is?
Sunderland: Gordon, Chimbonda, Nosworthy, Collins, Bardsley, Malbranque (Edwards 73), Tainio (Whitehead 57), Reid, Richardson, Diouf (Chopra 81), Murphy.
Subs Not Used: Ward, Leadbitter, Higginbotham, Stokes.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Hyypia, Dossena, Kuyt, Gerrard, Plessis (Alonso 46), Benayoun (Aurelio 81), Keane (El Zhar 77), Torres.
Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Agger, Ngog, Skrtel.