Reina og 90
No doubt the papers will be full of Jose Reina’s howler however it shouldn’t detract from the fact that although Arsenal left with a point, we put in a performance that builds nicely on the pre season optimism. Roy Hodgson might be disappointed that he didn’t start with a win however; he will be more than pleased with his team’s application particularly in the second half when we were down to ten men.
HRH’s first line up contained very few surprises. Torres was on the bench and Mascherano started, too soon for Poulsen I guess? Lucas was also on the bench a sign that we won’t be playing two holding midfielders or simply because the Brazilian was tired after international duty? Jovanovic and Kuyt rode side saddle either side of Ngog while Cole played in the hole. HRH chose to address the left back problem by going with experience, Agger taking over the reigns which left Carragher to partner Skrtel in the middle.
The beginning of the game was fairly sedate with both sides attempting to knock the ball around without making too many inroads. Some of our moves were very easy on the eye drawing appreciative applause from the crowd. Arsenal came closest first wasting a few free kicks although Vermaelen tested Reina. Then Eboue, after a slick move, found his assault on goal foiled by Gerrard’s late, but timely, intervention. Perhaps the most noticeable thing and most tangible sign that HRH will bring changes was when we lined up for an Arsenal corner. No zonel marking here every Arsenal custard yellow shirt (with rhubarb trim) was marked by a red one!
If you exclude Javonovic’s high, wide and handsome punt into the Anfield Road end, it took us until just before the break to make our mark. Johnson cut inside from the right and fired over from long range. The resulting corner, form Gerard, saw Clichy scramble Ngog’s downward header off the line. A good note to end the half on however, there was more to come causing HRH to rapidly rewrite any points or pep talks he was planning for the break.
Joe Cole’s sending off was as surprising as it was disappointing. Cole is not a dirty player nor is he malicious; this is the first time in his career that he’s seen red. The tackle was probably a result of over zealousness borne out of his desire to do well on his debut? Nonetheless this should not mitigate the fact that it was a reckless challenge which could have inflicted a much more serious, longer term injury on the Arsenal player than it did. Koscielny continued after the break and it is to Cole’s credit that reports say he showed concern and asked after the player, nonetheless the rules dictated that he had to go?
So how to approach the second half defend and hope or just carry on as if nothing had happened! Arsenal are not the sort of side you want to go one man down to however, before one could even assess what we were going to do, we were ahead. Arshavin’s sloppy pass was picked up by Mascherano who threaded it through to Ngog on the right. His fierce shot into the roof of the net gave Almunia no chance although perhaps he might have stood a better chance had he protected his near post more diligently? Nonetheless it was another notch on Ngog’s nicely developing season. Three goals in the UEFA Cup and now this, the perfect answer to those who were probably calling for him to be hooked at half time in favour of Torres?
Shortly after the goal Skrtel went close with s header and then Arsene Wenger, perhaps feeling that were not following the traditional “ten man” script, introduced Walcott and Rosicky. However, this didn’t really stop us from pushing forward. Much of this was helped by the performance of the visitors which, partly due to injures, wasn’t of the standard we’ve seen in previous visits. The passing wasn’t of their usual high tempo, defensively they didn’t look too solid and going forward they seemed limited, Arshavin, our nemesis on his last two previous visits, was anonymous.
On the whole, lead by the indefatigable Carragher, we remained resolute although this wasn’t helped by Agger who, after a blow to the head, was forced to leave the pitch for a while so he could find out what day it was! However inevitably, as the clock ticked down, Arsenal’s extra man began to slowly tell. Reina, who had experienced a quiet afternoon, was finally busy tipping over with his nails over after Rosicky and Van Persie combined. Next there was an almighty goal mouth scramble involving Walcott, Skrtel, Carragher and few “keystone cops”!
Although we had played well and held out one got he feeling that the final whistle wasn’t going to come in time? Sadly the goal was of our own making. Rosicky’s cross was lost in the sun by Reina Chamakh challenged and the ball rebounded of the post leaving Reina scrabbling about like drunk in the gutter trying to stop his last penny rolling down the grid. The end result was that he ended up helping it into his own net.
It’s ironic that Jose should feature in this way. Much of the pre match build up concerned the competency of the Arsenal keeper? Nonetheless these things happen and Reina’s mistake should be viewed in relation to the number of times he has saved us particularly last season. Ordinarily the timing of the goal, in the last minutes, would be depressing but we should be used to this after last season and of course with Arsenal at Anfield!
Even then we weren’t done and defied expectation which should have seen us on the back foot. Almunia did well to prevent a rip roaring finale by punching away Gerrard’s free kick. All that remained was for Koscielny to handle the ball and earn a second yellow to restore parity in terms of men on the pitch. His first yellow was for missing the ball and finding Dirk Kuyt’s, ouch! I suspect poor old Jose knew how the Dutchman felt!
Liverpool: Reina, G Johnson, Agger, Carragher, Skrtel, Gerrard, J Cole, Mascherano (Lucas 78), Jovanovic (Maxi 65), Kuyt, Ngog (Torres 74) Substitutes: Cavalieri, Aurelio, Kelly, Maxi, Lucas, Torres, Babel
Arsenal: Almunia, Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Clichy, Eboue (Walcott 59), Diaby (Van Persie 76), Nasri, Wilshere (Rosicky 60), Arshavin, Chamakh Substitutes: Fabianski, Gibbs, Rosicky, Walcott, A Song, Van Persie, Vela