Ngog 52, Benayoun 65.
So hopefully some confidence and belief regained after Saturday. It wasn’t always pretty but the important thing is that it’s three points where all too often in these situations it’s been one.
Rafa made some changes all of a sudden he seems to think he has a problem with right back this time Mascherano was pulled out of the holding midfield role to fill in. Insua, on the left side, completed the Argie sandwich with Carragher and Skrtel the central filling. Up front Ngog was drafted in preference to Babel.
The first half threatened to begin where we had left off at The Riverside. Sunderland hit us on the break with good passing and movement out of their own half. Jones received the ball on the half way line, got the wrong side of Carragher and ghosted past Skrtel as if the centre back had concrete in his boots. Thankfully it was left to Jose Reina to save what should have been an easy goal by out psyching the forward, staying on his feet, not committing himself and inviting Jones to beat him. Jones looked at Jose, Jose looked at Jones and before we knew it our man had the ball via an easy dive to his right. How would we have responded had that chance been converted? Thankfully we’ll never know.
Later Riera produced a good save from Fulop by cutting inside and producing a low drive that deflected off Leadbitter. Then Mascherano actually skimmed, as opposed to cleared, the bar with a long range effort, he’s getting closer, remember Rob Jones? However Sunderland remained resolute and, as has often been the case this season, we seemed to have great difficulty in breaking them down. This has happened all too often this season and one wonders just what else Rafa can do about this?
It was not until the second half that the breakthrough came. Riera easily beat Ben-Haim on the left and the cross found Gerrard who had ghosted into the box unmarked. He headed it back into the path of Ngog on the edge of six yard area who dabbed it past Fulop to lose his premiership cherry in front of The Kop. An important nerve calming moment for team just as it was a personal milestone for Ngog?
The importance of the first home goal in these situations was underlined by Sunderland’s reaction. Needing to chase the game they made changes and almost immediately and, as a result, we had more space. Insua went for glory when perhaps a cross was the right the choice but soon after the hour Benayoun side footed home a second after Fulop failed to deal with Ngog’s speculative cross. A third seemed likely with Riera firing over, Fulop saving point blank from Lucas’ header and then Babel from a run and shot that we’d like to see him try and pull off more often. However it was not to be and Rafa had to be content with making some changes to give players a rest.
So a frustrating first half but we kept at it, eventually grew in confidence and prevailed where so often we haven’t in this type of game. The table looks better, until you see the games played column and clearly the next league game, at the theatre of delusion (or not now it seems?) is key. Until then it’s a welcome weekend off and plenty of time to prepare for Real Madrid.
Liverpool: Reina, Mascherano, Skrtel, Carragher, Insua, Benayoun (El Zhar 90), Gerrard (Babel 82), Alonso, Riera, Kuyt, Ngog (Lucas 70).
Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Dossena, Hyypia, Aurelio.
Sunderland: Fulop, Ben-Haim, Ferdinand, Collins, McCartney, Malbranque (Edwards 81), Whitehead, Reid, Leadbitter (Cisse 62), Richardson, Jones (Murphy 76).
Subs Not Used: Gordon, Bardsley, Davenport, Healy.