The pre-game tributes were powerful. The fans were (mostly) on their best behavior. Steven Gerrard scored at the 45:51 (45+51 = 96) mark despite being down a man. Possession was rarely surrendered. Pepe Reina guessed correctly!
Not of that was enough to get a point, much less three, for Liverpool. After a controversial red card was shown to Jonjo Shelvey in the first half, Captain Fantastic seemed to have single handedly saved such a special day for Liverpool supporters everywhere. Unfortunately, Manchester United fullback Rafael curled an unstoppable effort into the upper 90 and Robin van Persie buried a controversial penalty kick.
United 2-1 Liverpool
There’s a lot to discuss, so let’s break it down bit by bit…
Jonjo Shelvey’s Red Card
The more I watch it, the more I can’t help but feel like it was deserved. It was an incredibly reckless challenge that never should’ve been made in the first place. And any time you go in studs up you take that chance that you’ll see a straight red for it.
Robin van Persie’s Spot Kick
This one I do have some beef with. It looked like Valencia was already on his way down when the contact was made. The contact itself was minimal and certainly not enough to bring down Valencia on its own. But again, when you gamble like Glen Johnson did by leaving his feet, you open yourself up to that possibility. Poor Pepe Reina even guessed correctly but it still wasn’t meant to be.
The pre-game tribute around the stadium was quite powerful. The supporters were loud and proud on both ends…for the most part. Unfortunately there are still bad apples out there who continue to ruin things for everyone, but for the most part I enjoyed what I heard. The officiating certainly didn’t help calm things down either.
Brendan Rodgers did not sound optimistic after the match. He claims the training staff mentioned something about a possible ligament issue and that’s never a good sign. Ever. As if things were tough enough without Lucas, losing Agger would be an even bigger blow.
So where do we go from here? This was supposed to be the match that got everything back on track. First one back at Anfield since the Hillsborough Report and against United no less! The crowd was supposed to propel the lads to victory and get things back on the right track. The “tiki taka” was supposed to take full effect starting today. Steven Gerrard’s goal was supposed to hold up. Everything seemed to be going Liverpool’s way until the Shelvey red card. Even after that, Gerrard scored that wonderful goal and, for a moment, all seemed right again. But then United woke up and took advantage of the advantage they had been awarded.
I’ve seen a lot of supporters express optimism about the future because Rodgers’ system seems to finally be sinking in among all the players. I can’t say I agree. I still think Liverpool are in for a battle against the dreaded R-word. I think at this point we can rule Daniel Agger for at least the next 30 days and Fabio Borini had to leave at halftime with a knock on his ankle as well. I’m also pretty sure that any appeal on behalf of Jonjo Shelvey will fall on deaf ears which means he’s out for three more matches. I don’t care how well the players are getting at playing in Rodgers’ system, I don’t see any silver lining right now. And I stand by my previous sentiments about relegation being a necessity. I noticed one prominent writer on Twitter trying to compare this squad to last year’s Arsenal side that started slowly and still finished Top 4. I’m sorry, but that’s so wildly inaccurate I’m not sure why I dignified it with a response. I see a lot more similarities with Newcastle right before they went down to the Championship a couple years back. They ultimately dominated the lower division and came back the following season with a new appreciation for life in the Premier League and how they could succeed. Liverpool need that same wake up call right now. What is there to gain by finishing 15th or 16th, which is what looks realistic at this rate. Granted, this has been an incredibly difficult early schedule with matches against both Manchesters and Arsenal already in the books, but the lack of proven talent on this squad cannot be overlooked, especially with a daunting Europa League campaign ahead in addition to the cup competitions and trying to stave off relegation.
I’m trying to remain as optimistic as possible, but after the events of today it’s hard to see any bright side. At some point it has nothing to do with bad luck or poor officiating. At some point it has to be about this team, as currently constructed, simply not being good enough. It’s going to be a very long season. Let’s hope some good can come of it before the end.
“Walk on with hope in your heart and you’ll never walk alone!”