Leeds United 0
Liverpool and Leeds have produced some classic encounters over the last forty years or so. However although last night’s match was important for the home side as it reminded them of past times and where they want to return to, it won’t have either set of fans, once they reach their dotage, reclining in their bath chairs and reminiscing with wonder and amazement!
Nonetheless it was a satisfying victory. Despite being two divisions lower Leeds had a full house and lined up defending a fifteen match unbeaten run at Elland Road. Potential problems? A bit but in the end it was OK
As expected Rafa made some changes but perhaps not to the extent one expected. Jay Spearing was the only youngster who was picked and Torres, Gerrard and Johnson were on the bench. A sign that Rafa is taking this competition a bit more seriously or a lack of strength in depth?
As always seems to be case with these sort of cup ties the home side began brightly. The first effort was from Doyle who headed over unchallenged and unmarked. Almost immediately afterwards Leeds had a goal disallowed for offside. Was it? Leeds might have grounds for complaint but their case wasn’t helped by Becchio needlessly getting involved when the ball was goal bound? Later Ryan Babel gave us a glimpse of why he promises so much and then frustrates with a excellent run, down the right and then a weak “finish” – it would have been stretching the imagination to breaking point to describe it as a shot!
In the second half Beckford went close only to be denied somewhat unconvincingly by Calvalieri. However, the more the game went on the more one had the feeling that it would be decided by a moment of magic or a mistake. Beckford nearly supplied it with an overhead kick that went just over. All in all Leeds had the better of the opening second half exchanges so, as is the way in football, it was no surprise that just on after the hour we finally woke up and scored!
Aurelio gathered his own short corner only see his cross cleared to Mascherano. The Argentinean was lucky to be on the pitch after he appeared to clout Beckford with his arm and then later falling awkwardly on his back. His aimless shot from distance found its way to Ngog who evaded Michalik with a spin and turn that would have had Alesha Dixon, although I’m told she is no judge, saying good things to plant a low right foot shot into the far corner.
It was a timely goal as surely, with around half and hour to go, Rafa was contemplating the prospect of wheeling out the big guns? With the goal perhaps he now felt able to keep them back or a least some as the Degen, struggling with yet another injury, was replaced by Johnson. Gerrard was finally bought on for Ngog who out all our players tonight looked the sharpest leading the line well and of course deservedly scoring. Torres was wheeled out and then told to sit down. Perhaps it was a threat just to warn the Leeds defence, who might have been thinking about throwing caution to the wind in favour of attack for the last five minutes? A bit like someone saying “look I’ve got a gun and I’m prepared to use it”
However as the game meandered on it became apparent that the goal had changed things and dampened Leeds’ resistance to point that it had almost petered out. They played well and had plenty of chances to a make a name for themselves and turn it into a great night however they simply did not take them. They can be pleased with their performance but, in terms of damage done, bodies rested and bodies played, so will Rafa.
Liverpool: Cavalieri, Dossena, Carragher (captain), Kyrgiakos, Degen, Aurelio, Spearing, Mascherano, Riera, Babel, Ngog. Subs – Gerrard, Torres, Plessis, Voronin, Johnson, Skrtel, Reina
Leeds United: Higgs, Hughes, Kisnorbo, Michalik, Crowe, Johnson, Doyle, Howson (captain), Snodgrass, Beckford, Becchio. Subs – Ankergen, Naylor, Prutton, Showunmi, Robinson, Grella, Kilkenny