Well I took the half hour drive down to the nearest pub for me here in the States to take in what I figured to be a crucial match if we were to seriously contend for the title. Now with that said, there was one thing I really and truly took away from this victory:
We completely and utterly dominated the Scum from 5 minutes in until the final whistle.
After the “dominance” they have shown over us in recent years via the late squeaker or the sending off that leaves me in disbelief, it was gorgeous to see such a tantalizing performance that actually brought home all three points.
Riera looked solid in his debut with several jinking runs, including an incredibly deft little tap around his defender before sending one of many telling crosses into the box. I think it will take us some time to get used to having regular service from the wing, as it has been awhile since we’ve seen anything like that in our side. The only complaint I could really put on the new boy was his tendency to hit the dirt after contact. Several times I recognized those plays as fouls in La Liga, but he needs to come to terms with the physicality that is allowed in the Premiership. He seemed powerful enough to endure, he simply needs the time to adjust to what is expected of him and, indeed, what he can bring to the table for us.
If Riera’s debut was a successful one, that of Dirk Kuyt making his bow for us up top this season was not. His touch was poor as ever, and while he did have one near chance cleared off the line he never really looked threatening in the slightest. He and Arbeloa simply do not even attempt to advance with the ball in their possession. Even Jamie can be found slinking between the top two defenders on occasion, and I don’t think we should be having our strikers coming to our center halves for offensive tips!
Generally other than those mentioned, we looked rather lively all evening. The additions of Gerrard and Babel opened up the match even more, with Babel scoring the winner in the 77th minute. A beautiful drop back off the line allowed him to slot it home past Van der Sar. This coming after an own goal off Wes Brown (punched off him by Van der Sar), and the opening from Tevez for United in the 3rd minute.
After seeing us go down so early, I really feared for our chances. I was anticipating our confidence and determination faltering on us and leading us to yet another home defeat at the hands of Fergie and Co. Yet I also believed that perhaps that was the best thing that could have happened for us. It forced us to open up and go for it from almost the word go. (3rd min) From that point really, we never closed up shop again. We pushed forward with intent both on the attack and the counter. We just seemed interested in playing the game rather than focusing primarily on not conceding. Essentially we went out there to win more than we did not to lose, and that showed in the performances both individually and as a team.
As of this writing the victory leaves us top of the table with 10 points from 4 matches, and United far below with 4 points from 3 matches. It’s crucial to build on the points we picked up off them here today. Beat the teams we should beat, continue to get results in the big games, and that’s the stuff champions are made of.
Today is a day to be proud of your club. In that respect, I shall leave the comments of the off the pitch activities and Gillett’s singing prowess for my next post.
Come on you Reds.