Away Days: Liverpool v Blackburn Rovers
Having lamented Liverpool’s woeful start to the 2010-11 Barclays Premier League season Stoppage Time – International Football Blog went back to Anfield yesterday for what proved to be a crucial three points won for the Reds.
I wrote a report for this section of the blog towards the end of last season regarding Liverpool’s UEFA Europa League quarter-final, 2nd leg against Lille OSC. The situation at that time seemed to most Liverpool fans like a desperate one: sixth in the league, fighting for a ‘mere’ UEFA Europa League place rather than the UEFA Champions League spot they’d grown accustomed to in recent years and out of both domestic cup competitions by January. With the ending of the Rafael Benítez era at the end of last season came the reality that the club were in transition and that the successes of previous years were becoming a distant memory after a fourth trophyless season. Roy Hodgson has since taken over the club and has hardly endeared himself to his new club’s supporters in recent weeks. After a start to the season which saw only one win (1-0 against West Bromwich Albion) in the first eight league games, the club lying in the bottom three and already knocked out of the League Cup against 4th tier side Northampton Town, the time had come for Liverpool to stand up and be counted.
Thankfully the recent ownership issue, in which Liverpool fans had set out to rid the club of their previous owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, had finally passed and yesterday was the first home match under new owners. New England Sports Ventures had taken control prior to last weekend’s Merseyside derby defeat away to Everton and were hopeful that their first home game would bring about the win needed to start things afresh. Before the game there was a surprise live performance of the club’s anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone” by the one and only Gerry Marsden, the only sad thing for me personally was that the backing track over which Marsden sang sounded like a home karaoke system. Nonetheless the great man was still able to do the song justice and its conclusion signalled the beginning of the game.
The first half saw Liverpool create numerous chances but Blackburn’s goalkeeper Paul Robinson was showing some of the form which once made him England’s number one. Having gone in at half-time with the game goalless Rovers would’ve been satisfied that their game plan of trying to frustrate the home side seemed to be working. However it only took two minutes after the interval for the deadlock to be broken when Sotirios Kyrgiakos scored his second goal of the season getting on the end of a Steven Gerrard corner. The big Greek has started to chip in with the odd goal just like the club’s former centre-half Sami Hyypiä used to do and his personal performances have looked more consistent in recent weeks. Unfortunately for Liverpool they let the lead slip just a couple of minutes later when former player El-Hadji Diouf, not the most popular person at Anfield yesterday and constantly booed whenever he touched the ball, did his bit to silence the home fans after his shot was deflected in by Jamie Carragher. It seemed yet another ominous sign that Liverpool would prove to be their own worst enemies when faced with pressure but this time, rather than let their heads drop, they went up the other end and scored once more in the 53rd minute. Fernando Torres, whose only other league goal this season came in Liverpool’s previous win against West Brom, would score the winning goal against Blackburn and the relief in the crowd was huge, not only because Liverpool had re-taken the lead but because the popular Spanish striker was once again on the score sheet after a recent loss of form.
There were no further goals and it was surprising that Blackburn Rovers hadn’t taken the game more to their opponents especially as they had the comfort of knowing that a Liverpool victory still wouldn’t see the Reds climb above Rovers in the table just yet. Liverpool now have nine points after nine games, the same as Blackburn, but Rovers remain in 17th position (one above Liverpool) due to a better goal difference. Nonetheless for Liverpool yesterday it was about getting back on track and it seemed that Anfield was a happy place to be once more.