“For once I would like the players to decide the course of the game rather than the referee”- Steve McMahon (Ex – Liverpool and current television pundit)
In the aftermath of the Liverpool defeat, Mr. McMahon fumed and was not at all impressed by Mark Halsey, the referee. At that juncture though, it was not just Mr. McMahon who shared the same sentiments, but all Liverpool fans. For instance my friend put up this message, “If the red card was harsh, the penalty was criminal. The referee should have just let LFC lose, why make them play even.” For once though, no Liverpool fan had any harsh words and I believe LFC fans can proudly say “In Brendan we trust”. While the results may not be coming, the football has been fabulous to watch and at times exhilarating. Sympathy was what Rogers experienced more than disgust. While we can keep on berating the referee for his decisions, it was an outstanding game to watch from a Liverpool perspective.
The match was dominated by Liverpool from as early as the 6th minute, when two quick crosses unnerved the Manchester defense, but there was no one from Liverpool to take advantage of it. Then came along Gerrard’s dart and drive which deflected off Van Persie albeit slightly. Then again, in the 13th minute, a perfect through ball was delivered by Suarez to Borini, but Borini had a heavy touch which turned what should have been a shot into a cross. Frustratingly for Liverpool, it has been a continuing soap opera with no finishing touches. Currently, the Liverpool squad is a work in progress with a finisher needed to complete this beautiful piece. The way LFC dominated with 11 men, it was hard imagining Manchester getting anything from the game. That was until tragedy struck at Merseyside when Shelvey, after doing well to steal the ball from Giggs, went into a tackle for the loose ball with Evans. To a certain extent, the red card wasn’t surprising but the way Evans went for the ball and lost out also deserved a red card. Maybe the referee could have done better, but it wasn’t the worst decision of the night.
The first half ended with Liverpool dominating in the same fashion as it was with 11 men, but Manchester knew that it was only a matter of time before they could make that extra man count. The second half started with 2 quick goals of the highest quality from Gerrard and Rafael respectively. The match continued to flow from end to end. While it was a treat to watch for the neutrals, there were no clear cut chances for either team, and the closest one came to a goal was a shot from Suarez which Lindegaard tipped over. The introduction of Scholes at the beginning of the second half had already led to Manchester United slowly strangling Liverpool for possession, as was expected. But Brendan Rogers still didn’t throw in the towel and instead put in positive substitutions by introducing Henderson.
While Suarez has been rightly accused of diving once too often, the tackle made by Evans on Suarez in the penalty box suggested no hint of acting, which only made a mockery of the referee’s decision later on. To make matters worse for Liverpool, Agger joined Borini on the treatment table. But before that Agger and Johnson clashed against each other only for Manchester United’s Valencia to nick the ball before both of them. As Valencia dilly dallied on the ball in front of the goal, the retreating Johnson went in for a tackle, Valencia collapsed like a pack of cards at the minimal contact. Van Persie then proceeded to thump the penalty off Reina, who could do nothing.
Referees are generally told to let the game flow but some of the instances where Liverpool were given advantage instead of being awarded a free kick was head scratching. The Van Perise yellow card late in the game was one of the several erratic decisions where it was almost similar to the Shelvey tackle but different consequences.
The emotions on display by the Liverpool players at times were inspiring and it showed how much the game meant to them. Every performance on the field was 100%, and the way the team chose to put themselves on the line was what endeared themselves to all the LFC fans. Maybe results do matter, but Rogers can’t complain about lack of effort from his players who played their hearts out. Steven Gerrard had already ensured himself as a legend in the folklore of LFC but his tireless running was impressive. There can be no complaints but only compliments which all the LFC players deserved. While Liverpool’s misfortune continues, it is Manchester who is chasing the league leaders Chelsea as Manchester City and Arsenal drew their match. As it is, Liverpool are now stretched in terms of the squad and from now on things can only get better from here.