FULLTIME AT ANFIELD REVIEW: POINTS SHARED IN THE BATTLE OF THE REDS..AS ZLATAN IS UNITED’S SAVIOUR
On a day of desperately needed wins, the points were deservedly shared in the most watched “derby” in the football universe with viewership eclipsing even the Spanish ‘El Clasico’. Two managers went head to head for a second time in this EPL season, one looking to keep a winning streak going and the other looking to get out of a rut of depleting momentum, the Reds having failed to register a win in their last three matches (2D, 1L).
With the competition for top 2 on the log getting fiercer, and with Tottenham looking more unlikely to drop points at this second half of the season goes on, it was up to the Reds to show they were very much in the running; but with precious points on the line, confidence not where the Kop would want it, and injuries sidelining another of our starters (Nathaniel Clyne), and our Senegalese talisman whisked away on international duty, a match against our arch-rivals, Manchester United in impeccable form looked an unlikely fixture to ease our way back into league title contention.
The first half saw Klopp’s men offering little in terms of creativity and directness in their build-up play but the Red Devils seemed unsettled more by the occasion, with memories of the first leg were Liverpool ran riot for 90 minutes but failed to convert, than by what they were facing and the mistakes ensued – the first by Phil Jones, who made a mess of things at the back but wasn’t made to regret it as Firmino took one touch too many allowing Marcos Rojo to make ground enough to force the ball out for a corner, United’s second mistake, albeit a questionable one, led to a penalty resulting from Pogba handling the ball from an in-swinging corner. Milner converted the spot kick to give us a curious lead in the first half.
Play, or the lack of it, resumed with Liverpool finding it hard to do much with the possession they were gifted and doing even less with more mistakes United tossed their way. As time went on, United started closing the gaps and pushing forward making Liverpool work extra hard to get the ball out of their half. With the push came chances for United with Ibrahimovich delivering a thunderbolt of a freekick which forced a reflex save out of Mignolet. Mkhitaryan caught our defenses flat-footed as he made it past our back line to get on a gem of a pass from Herrera but couldn’t get Mignolet to commit to a side for the easy put away as our keeper stood his ground forcing Mkhitaryan to direct his attempt straight at the keeper, an easy stop for the Belgian.
The half ended with Liverpool doing little worthy of note to cause United any problems after our spot kick with the home side looking increasingly comfortable going into the break.
The second half was pretty much an extension of the our first half post-Milner penalty goal, a much needed substitution getting a lack luster Origi out of the match almost got us immediate results as Coutinho ruffling United’s backline and setting up Firmino who let the homeside off the hook with a very tame effort. Interestingly Mourinho seemed to change tactics after that bringing on Fellaini and opting for long balls to trouble our center backs as Fellaini teamed up with Ibrahimovich to give our back four more to think about as the match progressed.
The lads seemed to retreat more and more as United forced the issue in our half again with piercing crosses and resolute defending keeping our attacks at bay which in the end were too few and far between when put side by side with United’s.
The breakthrough came in the 84th minute, albeit with a hint of offside, as Rooney skipped past Alexander-Arnold before chipping a cross that was met by Fellaini who teased his header past Mignolet but struck the far post, the attack was kept alive as Valencia sent in another chipped cross from the right with Ibrahimovich having to get creative with his header but did enough to get it over Mignolet and into the back of the net.
So it stayed with United putting the Reds under increasing amounts of pressure but couldn’t get another as Liverpool resorted to putting almost all our players behind the ball to see us leave the Theater of Dreams sharing points in what was a very much toothless performance by Klopp’s men.
Simon Mignolet7.0; Trent Arnold 5.5, DejanLovren6.0, RagnarKlavan5.5, James Milner 7.5;
GeorginoWijnaldum6.0, Jordan Henderson 6.5, Emre Can 4.7; Roberto Firmino4.5