Barclays Premier League Result: Sunday Dec 16th 2007
Liverpool 0 Manchester United 1
Manchester United did what they did last season at Anfield and succeeded again. They sat back and let Liverpool try to beat them, making the most of the odd counter-attack, and got their lucky goal. Last season it happened with no time left on the clock, this season it was just before half-time. The goal came from a well-worked corner, Giggs passing the ball outside of the box to Rooney, who found an unmarked Tevez in the six-yard box. It was only lucky for United in that Liverpool’s normally strong defence had gone to sleep. United continued in the second half to let Liverpool keep trying to score, but Liverpool just did not look like managing to score.
Fernando Torres had an off-day, although it’s hard to tell how much of an off-day he’d have had in the second-half as he rarely got the ball. An unchanged eleven from Rafael Benitez did at times look somehow jaded and lethargic, the adrenaline rush from demolishing Marseille 4-0 in midweek clearly taking its toll.
Watching in the stands were the grim reaper duo of Tom Hicks and George Gillett, and the pressure their treatment of Rafa Benitez has put on the manager and his players can’t be ignored. Hicks was defiantly wearing a Liverpool scarf, Gillett at least having the decency not to, now that their true colours have been showing through. They’ve been in the country a couple of days now and haven’t had the decency to talk to the manager, to put his mind at ease. That’s no surprise, given they didn’t give the manager any support in any of their recent multitude of denials of press stories. They let the one about the boss being soon on his way out build and build, without a word to the contrary. Yesterday they failed to deny properly that they’d dumbed-down their stadium plans.
Now Rafa faces a meeting with a duo who don’t understand the game as they finally tell him what his future is. Or at least to tell him the version of his future that suits them best.
The game itself felt like a sideshow to the goings-on behind the scenes, the now £85m-richer David Moores enjoying a good laugh with the owners before the game, from his lifetime seat in the director’s box, another of the perks he got from selling to the Americans in a hurry rather than selling to the DIC consortium.
At the end of the game Liverpool went nine points away from top, with a game in hand on the new leaders Manchester United. Arsenal were about to play Chelsea, and a win for Arsenal would see the Reds ten points from the top, again with a game in hand.
But the important issue for now is to wait and see whether the owners have the courage and the decency to admit the truth about their intentions over Liverpool Football Club, of which they remain mere custodians.
Reaction to follow.
Liverpool: 25 Reina, 17 Arbeloa, 4 Hyypia, 23 Carragher, 6 Riise (12 Aurelio, 80), 11 Benayoun, 8 Gerrard, 20 Mascherano, 7 Kewell (19 Babel, 65), 9 Torres, 18 Kuyt (15 Crouch, 73)
Unused subs: 30 Itandje, 21 Lucas
Bookings: Gerrard 33, Mascherano 63
Manchester United: 1 Van der Sar, 6 Brown, 5 Ferdinand, 15 Vidic, 3 Evra, 7 Ronaldo, 4 Hargreaves, 8 Anderson (22 O’Shea, 90), 11 Giggs, 10 Rooney, 32 Tevez (16 Carrick, 83)
Unused subs: 29 Kuszczak, 9 Saha, 24 Fletcher
Goal: Tevez 43
Bookings: Evra 15, Anderson 33, Brown 36
Stats: (Liverpool – Manchester United)
Possession: 61% – 39%
Shots on target: 6 – 3
Shots off target: 13 – 2
Corners: 3 – 3
Fouls: 14 – 13
Referee: Mark Halsey