Liverpool (a) Premier League
25 mins A dangerous left wing cross from Ryan Taylor found Yohan
Cabaye and the Frenchman's goalbound flick header hit Daniel Agger's arm to deflect
past Jose Reina. Demba Ba was in close attendance to the Liverpool player but
the striker didn't touch the ball - despite another chorus of the "since
Ramadan..." song from the away end moments later that counted up to 15. 1-0
"We got in good situations, and I wanted somebody to take somebody on and be a bit more constructive, like Yohan was when we nearly got the equaliser. Those two incidents, the free-kick and clearance off the line, determined the result.
"We’re disappointed. We got ourselves in a good position in the game, and at 1-1, in the second half, it started to look like we were starting to impose ourselves even more on the game.
"The free-kick (that led to Liverpool's second goal) was a turning point. It shouldn’t have been given in the first place. We made an error in terms of Danny and Tim getting in each other’s way - I think Tim would have saved it quite comfortably.
"It’s a tactic we use to defend
that post if we think they’re going to bend it over. We’ll perhaps have
to review that.”
"If anything untoward took place I am sure the authorities will act appropriately, but I'm not saying anything did because I haven't had a close look at either incident (Coloccini's clash with Bellamy and Cabaye's tackle on Spearing) yet.
“When Steven (Gerrard's) not playing he's influential so I suppose you can add the word hugely influential when he is in the team. He's getting back to fitness which is fantastic reward for him and everyone who has worked with him to get him back to the level he's at now. He's got a lot of years to go yet and we'll look forward to that.
“He's put the pressure on himself now, scoring a goal but it's great to see him getting his reward. He's worked really hard to get where he is. It was a freak injury really, so the boy deserves a bit of luck in 2012.
“It's not the first time we've praised him (Bellamy) and it certainly won't be the last. He took the first one well because it was tight in the area and the second one was a free-kick. The defender ran back on the line for some reason and Andy (Carroll) ran back with him. It went between the goalkeeper and the full-back – it was a good free-kick and may have gone in anyway.
“We are delighted for him. We just hope
his cut eye isn't too bad. As he came off I just said congratulations to him.”
The former Welsh international was the pick of the SJP old boys on show, with Jose Enrique having an unspectacular game and Andy Carroll enduring a torrid evening - plus a good deal of abuse from his fellow Tynesiders....
Having scored twice, Bellers was forced from the field with a gaping wound over his left eye after tangling with Fabricio Coloccini but Carroll's pain continued for the whole 90 minutes as Tim Krul, the woodwork and some inaccurate shooting denied him the goal he craved.
Despite having Dan Gosling available, Alan Pardew went with Haris Vuckic in a midfield five as Leon Best was dropped, but that extra body in midfield never allowed United to turn prolonged periods of possession into any forward momentum. Demba Ba continually lacked support and the second half introduction of Hatem Ben Arfa a Pardew ploy that just didn't come off.
Unbeaten at Anfield in the league since last May, Liverpool caused problems down our flanks and bookings for Jonas Gutierrez and Taylor left us vulnerable to runs from Stewart Downing and Glen Johnson, although Jose Enrique didn't unveil one of his trademark forward forays until very late on.
Against the run of play, United had taken a surprise lead with an almost farcical goal that began with a slapstick moment of Haris Vuckic seemingly having his teeth knocked down his throat when taking the ball full in the face. As he walked towards the bench apparently holding his jaw in place, the game went on round him and somehow the ball ended up in the net - opinion divided behind the goal as to whether Cabaye, Ba or a Liverpool player would be credited with the goal.
Within five minutes of taking the lead however the scores were equal again, almost before those celebrating in the away end had been able to register the fact. And having found the net once, old boy Bellamy again caused problems with a corner that Martin Skrtel headed narrowly wide. Our sole reply was a long range effort from Cabaye that flew over the bar in added time.
Taylor was replaced at left back by Davide Santon at the interval as his yellow card and an ankle knock contributed to his substitution. Tiote and ex-mackem Jordan Henderson clashed in the centre circle and Jay Spearing and Cabaye traded late lunges for the ball, with the home player coming off a distinct second. Referee Lee Probert awarded Liverpool a free-kick but took no further action.
But the whistler had United seething midway through the second period when he awarded a foul against Tiote for what looked like a legitimate challenge on Agger, Bellamy firing home the free kick
Steven Gerrard had replaced Adam just before the hour and was being given far too much time and space to create several chances for the low-on-confidence Carroll. One saw our former number nine crash a header against the bar and Coloccini clashed with Bellamy as the ball was cleared. That would have killed off any hopes of a Toon comeback, although two minutes earlier Skrtel got back on his own goal line to miraculously clear a Ba effort that seemed destined to get us back on terms.
Other than that moment of hope for the black and whites though, 2-1 looked to be more than enough for a home win and Steven Gerrard then ended the game as a contest. Sammy Ameobi replaced the erratic Gabriel Obertan but he provided little more than a comic interlude as keeping out as the forlorn figure of Carroll became the only source of comfort for the away contingent.
It's tempting to criticise the formation and
tactics we deployed tonight and certainly eyebrows were raised by the inclusion
of Vuckic, although the shape and balance of the side was far more evident when
he was on the pitch - his passing rather than positioning becoming an achilles