Matches of the Year: Liverpool FC
For the last few years, Liverpool’s struggles on the football pitch has been well documented. There was a time when a top-four finish for one of the most decorated clubs on English soil was a foregone conclusion.
The recent rise of Manchester City and Tottenham meant that this hegemony has been shattered. The situation has changed to such a dramatic extent that Liverpool now find themselves fighting for a mid-table finish.
The summer of 2012 witnessed tumultuous changes at the club as Kenny Daglish was replaced by Brendan Rodgers. A number of players were released. And a deadline day goof-up left the side with only two senior team strikers.
With a new coach implementing a new philosophy, understandably we are hard pressed to find matches from the 2012-13 season to include in the top-five list. Despite this fall from grace, we bring the few high points that punctuated the journey of Liverpool FC over the course of 2012.
It took an FA Cup final loss to stir the Reds into playing their most dominant game of last season as they thrashed the Blues 4-1 at Anfield. Coming in the 37th match of their Premier League campaign, it certainly was too little too late for Kenny Daglish’s charges. It was also a match which saw Fernando Torres play at Anfield for the first time since his transfer as the Kop bid adieu to Maxi Rodriguez and Dirk Kuyt. Carroll and Suarez terrorized the Chelsea defence and the Reds raced to a 3-0 lead at halftime. Agger, Henderson, Shelvey and Essien (OG) scored for Liverpool while Ramires pulled one back for the Blues.
Given the recent dominance of Manchester City over English football, few teams have come back winners from the Etihad Stadium. Liverpool, to their credit, defeated City in the away leg of their FA Cup semifinal tie. All it took was some early pressure, some disciplined defending and a 13th minute penalty which was slotted away by Steven Gerrard to settle the tie. What made the victory even more remarkable was that Liverpool were missing their talismanic Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez who was still serving a part of his 8-match ban. Liverpool would go on to draw 2-2 in the return leg at Anfield on 25th January to book their place at the Carling Cup final at Wembley.
It is always a feisty affair when two of the most successful clubs in English football go head to head. This particular occasion was made even more hostile by the Patrice Evra – Luis Suarez incident which took place the last time the Red Devils visited Anfield. The match was looking poised to go to a replay at Old Trafford after goals from Agger and Park Ji-Sung cancelled each other. With two minutes to go on the clock, Dirk Kuyt got on the end of an excellent Andy Carroll flick-on to slot is coolly past De Gea to send the Kop into exulted celebration. Liverpool thus put both the Manchester clubs out of different cups in a single week.
It promised to be a treat – a Merseyside derby at the Wembley. Unfortunately occasions of this magnitude are more decided by errors (or the lack of it) rather than virtuosity. A calamitous mix-up by Agger and Carragher gifted Jelavic with an easy scoring opportunity and the former Ranger’s man duly obliged. Everton were all too eager to return the favor as an outlandishly short back pass by Distin was picked up midway by Suarez who made the scores level after 62 minutes. Everton never turned up in the second half as wave after wave of Liverpool attacks pounded on Tim Howard’s goal. Eventually Carroll headed in a swinging Craig Bellamy freekick in the 87th minute to send the blue half of Merseyside home empty handed as Liverpool would return to Wembley to play Chelsea in the final of the FA Cup.
Undoubtedly the finest moment for Liverpool in the whole of 2012 was their first piece of silverware in six years – when they took home the Carling Cup. Liverpool was making their first appearance at the iconic Wembley stadium for the first time in 16 years. They put up a dominant display but they found themselves trailing in the 19th minute by a Joe Mason goal. Skrtel leveled in the second half when he tapped in a rebound between the goalkeepers legs. The match proceeded to extra time and Kuyt looked to have wrapped things up for the Reds when he blasted past an instinctive finish in the 108th minute.
However there was yet another sting in the tail as the tiring Bluebirds pushed forward for an equalizer and Ben Turner bundled one across the line after a goalmouth scramble as late as the 118th minute. The match had to be settled on penalties. Liverpool missed their first two spotkicks with Adam shooting wide and Gerrard powerful effort well saved. It was advantage Cardiff after two kicks apiece. But the Reds would be on target on all the next three as Cardiff slipped twice with Anthony Gerrard’s miss proving decisive. Liverpool would win their eighth League Cup and it would be the only one Kenny Daglish would win during his second spell in the Anfield hotseat.