Sunday, March 04, 2007

Premiership Weekend Roundup: March 3-4

Liverpool 0 - 1 Manchester United
Well, damn. I have to be nice to John O'Shea for at least a week now.

His stoppage-time goal gave United the win and another precious three points. The ironic bit is that O'Shea probably wouldn't have been on the pitch at all if Wayne Rooney hadn't had to be substituted after Jamie Carragher took a chunk out of his thigh with his studs.

It looked at that point as if the game was heading for the inevitable scoreless draw -- and even more so after Paul Scholes was sent off for taking a swing at Xabi Alonso in the 86th minute. But then Ryan Giggs won a free kick just outside the Liverpool box. Cristiano Ronaldo swung in a shot towards the near post, which Pepe Reina stopped but wasn't able to hold on to, and there was O'Shea with his catlike reflexes* to poke home the winning goal.

There's no doubt that United were lucky to win; they probably would have been happy with the draw. For 90 minutes Liverpool had done everything right except put the ball in the net (actually, that's not true: Craig Bellamy did once but it was correctly ruled out for offside). But the bottom line is that you can't win if you don't score.

Liverpool mustered 15 shots on goal to United's 5, but not enough of those were really a goal threat, and they were also denied by a couple of excellent saves by Van der Sar. I was surprised that they took Bellamy off so early, because he'd been terrorizing Nemanja Vidic all game, and although the end product hadn't materialized, he still looked the most likely to score. At the opposite end of the pitch, Liverpool's other outstanding player was Jamie Carragher, who was a defensive rock as usual and threw himself into some vital blocks.

The game was really a battle of the two midfields, though: Liverpool closed United down quickly and pressed them high up the pitch rather than sitting back. They didn't let them get their passing game going -- Michael Carrick was particularly invisible; in fact, the first time I noticed him was when he got booked just before halftime -- and closed down the service to the strikers. But Liverpool struggled to settle into their attacking rhythm too, especially since Momo Sissoko seemed determined to give the ball away as often as possible.

Liverpool could find it demoralizing to have dominated this game and still lost, but I expect that Rafa will get them to focus on the positives: they've beaten Barcelona away and shut down United at home, so there's no reason why they can't similarly shut down Barcelona at Anfield on Tuesday. As for United, the main repercussion is that Paul Scholes' red card means he'll miss their next three matches, although he can still play in this week's Champions League game against Lille.

* Please note: Tongue is firmly in cheek.

Other results**
Bolton 1 - 2 Blackburn
West Ham 3 - 4 Tottenham
Arsenal 2 - 1 Reading
Fulham 1 - 1 Aston Villa
Manchester City 0 - 1 Wigan
Newcastle 0 - 0 Middlesbrough
Portsmouth 0 - 2 Chelsea
Sheffield United 1 - 1 Everton
Watford 2 - 2 Charlton

** I did watch a couple of these games, but frankly they bored the crap out of me, so no commentary. Although I will say: OH MY GOD WEST HAM WHAT THE FUCK.

No comments: