15 August 2010 – Premier League – Result
Liverpool 1 (Ngog 46)
Arsenal 1 (Reina (og) 90+1)
New season, new manager and a couple of new players – but for now it’s still the same old owners and the bad luck they brought with them in 2007. That bad luck was at its worse on the field last season with injuries, beach balls and volcanoes all playing a part in a season that was bad from start to finish. Today’s events suggest that it’s not gone away yet – but that there’s plenty of fight in the squad to prevent it taking hold.
Joe Cole was sent off for a tackle that made the red card – the first of his career – look more than a little harsh; certainly harsh enough that we’ll see many more tackles like it go unpunished before the season is out. Down to ten men and with all subs used up Hodgson found his side under more pressure when a head injury left Daniel Agger all but out of the game with what looked like suspected concussion. Agger had to come back on and do his best for what time was left in the game, whether he remembers any of it later remains to be seen.
But bad luck happens. Officials make bad decisions, balls bounce off the wrong side of posts (or inflatable merchandise), players make mistakes.
The key is to bounce back every time, not to let the adversity turn into a depression. Liverpool did their best in that respect today; despite those setbacks the players fought, fought hard, and looked like getting the three points that David Ngog’s instant second-half goal deserved all by itself.
Ngog showed again how much he’s improving and made a case for his future to be at Anfield as part of the squad. His goal – his fourth in three games – was well taken and instinctive. Javier Mascherano showed that even if he does want to move elsewhere for personal reasons he’s an excellent professional and is determined to perform in the red shirt until such time as he no longer wears one.
In fact it’s unfair to single individuals out, there was determination throughout the side, almost every player on the pitch knowing that a new manager means new ideas and they have to work hard to ensure they remain part of those ideas.
In the end the bad luck proved too strong, the usually impeccable Pepe Reina scoring an own goal he’d rather forget to hand Arsenal a point that they perhaps thought they weren’t going to get.
But Liverpool must move on from this game with heads held high, if this is a sign of the determination they’re going to put in from here onwards even the bad luck might find them too strong to compete with.
Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson (on Joe Cole’s red card): “There was certainly no intention from Joe Cole to foul the player, that’s out of the question. A guy like Joe, he’s got an unblemished record – he’d been previously never been sent off and has had very few yellow cards. Everyone who has watched him play will agree he does not go in for ‘blood curdling tackles’, as I heard it described by a radio reporter.
“I think the ref saw it from an angle which made it look worse than it was. He is devastated – his debut at Liverpool, fantastic atmosphere, so desperate to do well. He wasn’t playing at the top of his game, but was trying hard to get to that level, when suddenly he gets sent off. He was saddened by it all and not least because it put us in a difficult situation. 0-0 with ten men gives the advantage to the opposition.
“I’ve seen it on the video. At the time, from our position on the bench, I don’t think either myself or Arsene had a strong opinion on the incident. Of course, we now have the benefit of replays on the TV and those replays suggest to me he was a little bit unlucky because I don’t think he dived to tackle the player; he dived in front of the ball to try to stop it being played down the line. He’s throwing himself to try to block the ball.
“In real time it would have been very difficult for me to have a clear opinion of it. Obviously those challenges where players throw themselves and unfortunately there’s a collision – the referee often sees it as worse than it is.”
“I thought he’d got a bad injury but was pleased to see there was no serious damage as he was able to play the second half.”
(Asked if the club will appeal the decision): “The fact the player wasn’t seriously injured means we might just be fortunate enough that an appeal might go in our favour. It will be a big loss if he is suspended.
“We will look at the video again and try in some way to find out from referees and experts whether we do have a case for an appeal. I don’t want a frivolous appeal, that’s for sure, but it’s a bit early in the day to ask me the question if we will appeal.”
(On Pepe Reina’s error that handed Arsenal the equaliser): “He’s very disappointed. I thought he did very well as he’s struggled with a shoulder injury. He took it hard because he is a very serious professional who really believes in himself and the team. There were an enormous number of positives but the unfortunate negative was that he let in a goal which under normal circumstances he would have kept out.
“We’re disappointed the game ended that way but very proud of the performance. I thought our second half performance was better than the first half; I thought the two central midfielders were good. We made up being a man short and had every bit as much possession and chances as Arsenal but it’s a disappointment to get this close to the end of the game and not get three points.
“I thought it was a fantastic effort but points are hard to come by in this league, so when you get so close you can’t avoid that feeling of disappointment. Maybe that second-half performance deserved all three and not just one, but if someone had said at half-time you’ll defend well and get a 0-0 or 1-1 I would probably have accepted that. But to lose it so close to the end to a rather scrappy goal was tough on us.”
Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher (on the Arsenal equaliser): “I’d have to have a look at it again, but a lot of time you get a foul for that. I know they say they’re protected. I’d have to see it again, but he’s the best goalkeeper in the world and you saw that last year.
“It’s the same for any team when you concede a late goal, even if it’s 11 versus 11. Arsenal played very well in the first half, but in the second half you know what you’ve got to do. Hopefully you’re going to get a goal and we’ve done that. We’ve defended very well and it’s unfortunate to give a goal away at the end. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got 10 or 11, and we’re very disappointed. It’s not even a goal where they’ve used their man advantage.”
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger (on whether his goalkeeper was at fault for David Ngog’s goal): “It’s difficult to say. He’s been beaten at the short corner but you give credit to Ngog.
“When we played against ten men it became more difficult. They defended very deep and defended very well. They took the fluency, intelligently, out of the game. I give credit to my team, we just kept going and threw more and more people forward and in the end got, I believe, a deserved equaliser. I couldn’t see us losing a game like that without being deeply hurt. When you play at Liverpool a draw is always a decent result. It was tense and competitive. I think Liverpool played quite cautiously with players behind the ball. It was difficult to create chances, it looked like we lacked spark in the final third, in combinations, in speed, but overall we have shown the right attitude.”
(On the Joe Cole sending off): “It was completely in the corner and I was on the bench, so I couldn’t see it, but Joe Cole is usually a fair player, he is not one I would record as a guy who tries to hurt people. It is not his style. Maybe he was a bit rushing in his tackle. One thing I can say is that Laurent Koscielny didn’t make a meal of it. He kicked him – certainly accidentally – well because he had a big knock on his shin. Fortunately, his shinpad protected him well. We were scared it was broken because when he was moved off the pitch the physio told me it could be broken.”
Liverpool: 25 Reina, 2 G Johnson, 5 Agger, 23 Carragher, 37 Skrtel, 8 Gerrard, 10 Cole, 20 Mascherano (21 Lucas, 78) 14 Jovanovic (17 Maxi, 65), 18 Kuyt, 24 Ngog (9 Torres, 74)
Unused subs: 1 Cavalieri, 6 Aurelio, 34 Kelly, 19 Babel
Sent off: Cole
Arsenal: 1 Almunia, 3 Sagna, 5 Vermaelen, 6 Koscielny, 22 Clichy, 27 Eboue (14 Walcott, 59), 2 Diaby (10 Van Persie, 76), 8 Nasri, 19 Wilshere (7 Rosicky, 60), 23 Arshavin, 29 Chamakh
Unused subs: 21 Fabianski, 28 Gibbs, 17 A Song, 11 Vela
Booked: Koscielny, Wilshere, Rosicky
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Stats: (Liverpool – Arsenal)
Possession: 42% – 58%
Attempts on target: 4 – 6
Attempts off target: 2 – 6
Corners: 8 – 10
Fouls: 11 – 10