The Reds will walk on to the lush green Anfield turf Saturday at 12.45pm to the mighty roar of thousands of die-hard faithful to face their biggest domestic nemesis, Manchester United.
Kenny and Co would have had two weeks to prepare this match both on the Melwood training grounds as well as at the drawing boards, scrupulously attempting to find possible weak spots in Utd’s impressive squad. They opt to field this starting line-up: Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Skrtel, Enrique, Kuyt, Lucas, Gerrard, Downing, Saurez, Carroll in a traditional 4-4-2 formation game-plan.
Utd too opt for a 4-4-2 layout with Rooney and Hernandez spearheading their attack. The toss goes to Utd who ‘just to piss us off’ choose to start play with their backs to the Kop, who immediately responds with chants of displeasure and insult.
The game starts with a frantic tempo as expected, the Liverpool fans inciting, applauding and encouraging each and every move made by the beloved Reds as both teams settle into the game. The Reds seem to be particularly motivated as they pass the ball around quickly with an impressive sequence of one-touch football as they build pressure on Utd’s defense. At this stage of proceedings, following Liverpool’s initial mini-siege and with both teams seemingly settled in, Utd attempt what is possibly their most lethal weapon, lightening-quick counters with an amazing amount of players participating en-masse. Liverpool defend well with Lucas breaking play on several occasions and Carra marshalling his defence in his customary military-esque manner (his screams behind heard above the fracas of a packed Anfield).
Suarez is uncontainable, and while Carroll wrestles with Utd’s centre-backs, the Uruguayan keeps coming at their defense from across the attacking front, giving them evident headaches. Kuyt and Downing work hard to help with the defense of their flanks and participating in every forward foray of the Red Army. Midway through the first half, Suarez departs on one of this mesmerizing runs taking on a multitude of Utd defenders. One, two, three players! Then he enters the penalty area and he is brought down. Ref Marriner blows and points to the penalty spot, immediately surrounding by a posse of angry Devils. There is a moment of eerie silence as Gerrard positions the ball facing the Kop. Gerrard knows De Gea is good with penalties, but Captain Fantastic proclaims his ‘I’m Back’ with a powerful strike that the young Spanish keeper does not make it in time to get to. The Kop erupts as Anfield sends shockwaves of joy across Merseyside. Liverpool 1-0 up with 15 minutes to play in the first half! The Reds contain the obvious reaction from Utd and continue to trouble them on the counter, with Carroll creating spaces for Suarez to create chances. Marriner sends everyone for a tea break!
The teams walk back out of the tunnel with the Utd players visibly sulking following a ferocious team-talk from Sir Alex in which ‘F’ word was predominant! No changes and the Reds commence their second forty-five minute (plus) portion of their battle to defend their advantage and go for final victory, three points and bragging rights.
The game quickly picks up the tempo with the teams studying possible tactical changes concocted during the break. The Kop is in full song as it urges the Reds forward. Steven Gerrard chants top the charts on this occasion closely followed by the cheeky ‘Can’t Get Enough’ directed at whizz-kid Suarez.
Twenty minutes into the second half, Utd break swiftly as the Reds loose possession in midfield, three passes are enough to unleash Hernandez towards the Liverpool goal and while the Kop holds its breathe in anticipation of what is about to happen, Reina sprints out to make the goal-mouth a small a target as possible,but the young Mexican slots the ball home with clinical precision. 1-1 and Anfield is stunned!
By the time the ball is back on the centre spot, Anfield roars back to life after minutes of amnesiac consternation. Carra shouts and claps from the back spurring on his mates, while Gerrard has a word with Suarez and Carroll before hostilities recommence.
The Reds show their unwillingness to share the spoils, and with the back four moved forward fifteen metres towards the half-way line, they commence to build pressure on Utd who again fall back on their counter-based game-plan. Lucas is brilliant in his interdictory role, and Gerrard seems on song to marshal most of our attacking options. He slices and penetrates the frantic Utd apparatus freeing Downing, Kuyt, Suarez and Carroll with the opportunity to either have a shot at goal or create assists for their team-mates. Utd are now on the back-foot and Anfield senses a possible break-thru.
Minute seventy-five and Kenny is contemplating a change or two with Steve Clarke, but with Utd having a moment of reprieve from Liverpool’s onslaught, the Reds win back possession and Enrique charges down the left-flank brushing off a couple of blocking attempts. El Toro completes a quick one-two with Downing and progresses down the flank, the move having disposed of Smalling’s guard, prompting Jones to race across to block this foray, but the Spaniard sends a venomous cross into the Utd area, Carroll wrestles away from Vidic and meets the ball with his left foot which sends the ball rocketing into the top left corner. 2-1 Liverpool! Anfield is rocking!
With fifteen minutes to go plus injury time, the Reds brace themselves for possible retaliation from Utd who take off Hernandez and bring on Welbeck. Giggs is brought on for Cleverley. The Reds stick to their plans and respond by bringing on Adam who replaces Gerrard. Stevie G leaves the lush green of Anfield to a standing ovation. Captain Fantastic has done his part but now Kenny looks to secure added buffer support to his back four. Five minutes later, Kenny brings on Henderson for Carroll morphing the set up from 4-4-2 to a more defensive minded 4-5-1. The lanky forward leaves the pitch in a cacophony of applause.
Utd now have the lion’s share of possession as they attempt to breach the Liverpool barricade. The tables have turned, and Liverpool now resort to responding on the counter. Notwithstanding their attempts, the Reds maintain concentration and break down the majority of chances created. With five players positioned just in front of the back four when Utd are in possession, penetrating solutions are almost zero, and the frustration in the visiting players shows.
Marriner concedes four extra minutes of playing time which seem like forty, but the Liverpool faithful heap added misery on ‘the enemy’ by singing the ‘You’ll never walk alone’ anthem over and over again spiriting the Reds and demoralizing the Devils.
Full time, it’s over. Liverpool 2 – Man Utd 1! The Reds have won the derby and defeated the Mancs. The Red Devils are now only three points away, and even the most skeptical can start to believe………………!