By Arun Nair – (@Nair_39)
2012 may not have been a year to remember in terms of league performance for Liverpool, as inconsistency has plagued the Reds as they limped to an 8th placed finish in 2011-12, and find themselves in 9th as the year draws to a close. However, there have been moments of joy; two finals in the domestic cup competitions, including the end of our trophy drought with a victory at Wembley in the Carling Cup Final over Cardiff City, have brought smiles to the faces of Kopites and provided solace after a year of many disappointments, while there have been some spectacular goals on the pitch, and poignant moments off it, like the breakthrough in the fight for justice for the 96. Below are some of the Liverpool highlights in 2012.
Matches To Remember:
1) Bellamy Strike Puts Reds Into The Final
Liverpool 2-2 Manchester City (Aggregate 3-2)
After a 1-0 win at the Etihad courtesy of a Steven Gerrard penalty, Liverpool began the second leg of their Carling Cup semi-final against Manchester City with an aggregate lead, and full of confidence, asserting control over the game forcing Joe Hart to rescue his side with superb saves numerous occassions. But despite the Reds dominance, it was the away side that took the lead, very much against the run of play, Nigel De Jong curling past Pepe Reina from range. Anfield was suddenly a worried place, but Gerrard settled the nerves of Reds fans, converting another spot-kick just before half-time.
Joe Hart again denied Liverpool after the break, thwarting Martin Skrtel and Stewart Downing among others, before City again struck while the home side were exerting supremacy. Aleksandar Kolorov found space on the left, and his cross was turned in by Edin Dzeko to put the league champions-to-be ahead.
The deficit was cut within seven minutes. Craig Bellamy exchanged passes with Glen Johnson before coolly slotting past Hart to send the Reds to Wembley.
2) Late Kuyt Sends United Out
Liverpool 2-1 Manchester United
With Manchester United having knocked out neighbours City in the 3rd round of the FA Cup, Sir Alex Fergurson’s side would have been confident of securing a first victory at Anfield since 2007, especially as Liverpool were without Luis Suarez, who was serving his ban for allegedly racially abusing United’s Patrice Evra.
However, as the Uruguayan watched on from the stands, his side took the lead despite the away side enjoying the majority of possession, Daniel Agger heading in a corner.
The lead was short-lived however as Park Ji-Sung struck to equalise before the interval, converting Antonio Valencia’s cross.
Chances were few and far between after the break as the match seemed to be heading for a replay, but with minutes remaining, Andy Carroll rose highest to flick on a long ball, and substitute Dirk Kuyt ghosted in past Evra before volleying past David De Gea to send the Kop into raptures.
3) Liverpool Lift Carling Cup After Shootout Drama
Liverpool 2-2 Cardiff City (Penalties 3-2)
Liverpool claimed their first trophy since 2006 with a penalty shootout triumph over plucky Championship side Cardiff City. Despite their status as overwhelming underdogs, the Welsh side took the lead in the first half, Joe Mason slotting past Pepe Reina after he was slipped through by Kenny Miller.
The Reds levelled after the break, Martin Skrtel firing home after Luis Suarez had diverted an Andy Carroll header back off the post.
Despite heavy Liverpool dominance, the Reds nor Cardiff could find a winner in 90 minutes as the match went into extra-time. It was substitute Dirk Kuyt, so often the scorer of important goals for Liverpool, who put his side in front, firing in on the slide after his initial shot had rebounded back off a Cardiff defender, to put Kenny Dalglish’s men on the verge of silverware.
The goal prompted a response from Cardiff, as they rallied while the clock ticked down, with Kuyt forced into heroics at the other end of the pitch, blocking a goalbound effort. However, from the resulting corner, chaos reigned in the Reds penalty area and Ben Turner scrambled home to send the match to penalties.
Steven Gerrard had his spot-kick saved and Miller hit the post as both sides failed with their first attempts. Charlie Adam blazed over before Don Cowie put the Bluebirds in front. Kuyt held his nerve to level before Rudy Gestede struck the woodwork. The much-maligned Stewart Downing scored his spot-kick, while Peter Whittingham was successful leaving the scores level going into the final kicks.
Glen Johnson crashed his penalty into the roof of the net, before Antony Gerrard, cousin of Steven, rolled his kick wide to hand Liverpool the Carling Cup in dramatic fashion.
4) Carroll Heads Reds Back To Wembley
Liverpool 2-1 Everton
Liverpool faced their rivals Everton as the Merseyside duo battled to progress to the FA Cup Final. Despite the Reds winning both League Derbies in the 2011-12 seaosn, it was the Blues who took the lead, a defensive mix-up between Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger allowing Nikica Jelavic to slot past Brad Jones.
Andy Carroll missed a glorious chance early in the second period, heading wide from point-blank range, before another defensive error provided the Reds with a route back into the game, and Luis Suarez was only too happy to oblige, punishing Sylvain Distin by latching onto his weak backpass before firing past Tim Howard.
The match seemed to be heading for extra-time as neither side could find a winner, but with 3 minutes of normal time remaining, Carroll glanced Craig Bellamy’s free kick beyond Howard to send the Reds into the Final.
5) Rampant Reds Exact Chelsea Revenge
Liverpool 4-1 Chelsea
After a narrow 2-1 defeat to Chelsea in the FA Cup Final, Liverpool left Roberto Di Matteo’s side feeling blue with an emphatic victory days later at Anfield. The Londoners were second best throughout and, despite Branislav Ivanovic heading against the post and ex-Red Fernando Torres hitting the bar, they fell behind early on , Luis Suarez jinking past numerous Chelsea defenders before his low cross was turned into his own net by Michael Essien.
The Reds appetite was only increased by the goal, and they duly added to the scoreline, Jordan Henderson slotting in after John Terry’s slip allowed the Liverpool midfielder to bear down on goal.
Andy Carroll and Suarez terrorised Terry throughout, and it was the former who leapt higher to head a corner back across the face of goal for Daniel Agger to nod home.
It could have been worse for the Blues by half time, Stewart Downing seeing an excellent dipping volley from range hit the bar, before the Liverpool winger, less forgivably, struck the post with a penalty after Ivanovic sent Carroll over in the area.
Ramires bundled in to reduce the deficit after the break but Ross Turnbull’s mistake allowed Jonjo Shelvey to drive in from 30 yards into an unguarded net to cap a superb display from his side and provide some consolation after the Cup Final disappointment.
Goals To Remember:
1) Suarez vs Norwich
To cap a superb lesson in finishing after two excellent first half strikes, Liverpool’s talismanic striker Luis Suarez completed his hat trick in stunning fashion with a goal of pure audacity. Recieving the ball barely inside the Norwich half, he spotted John Ruddy off his line, and executed an inch-perfect lob which sailed over the Canaries keeper and into the net.
2) Suarez vs Newcastle
With Liverpool 1-0 down at home to Newcastle, Luis Suarez produced a stunning goal to level the scores. After brilliantly controlling Jose Enrique’s long ball on his shoulder unerringly, the Uruguayan rounded the helpless Tim Krul before prodding home with his third touch.
3) Coates vs QPR
With the Reds struggling to break down a resilient Rangers side, it took a moment of magic from Sebastian Coates to break the deadlock. After Bobby Zamora cleared Stewart Downing’s shot from a corner off the line, the ball dropped in the box for the Liverpool centre back to leap and execute an acrobatic volley to reward his side’s domination.
The Best Players:
1) Luis Suarez
Luis Suarez has so often proved the saviour for Liverpool in 2012, especially under Brendan Rodgers, providing moments of mesmeric skill and of course countless goals and assists and justifying exactly why the Reds fans ‘just can’t get enough’.
2) Martin Skrtel
Martin Skrtel has proved a rock in the Liverpool defence this year, contributing strength, aggression and committment to the cause, as well as important goals, such as the equaliser in the Carling Cup Final. Mistakes are still an occasion part of his game, but these errors have become something of a rarity, and along with Daniel Agger Skrtel has established himself as an integral part of the Reds defence.
3) Glen Johnson
Glen Johnson has shown why, despite his numerous critics, he is one of the best full-backs in the world during 2012. Like Skrtel, he is still prone to the odd mistake, but likewise with the Slovakian these mistakes are uncommon, whilst Johnson’s attacking threat is still very much present.
Last But By No Means Least:
2012 saw the familes of the 96 Liverpool fans who never returned from a FA Cup Semi-Final at Hillsborough on the 15th of April 1989 finally saw the truth unveiled after the Hillsborough Independent Panel concluded that the original statements vilifying the dead and other Liverpool fans were false, and instead that the tragedy was due to lack of control by the authorities, who consequently tried to cover up their faults. 2012 was the year of truth for the 96 and their families, and 2013 will hopefully be the year of justice.
Thanks for reading, and let’s hope that 2013 will be a successful year for the Reds, on and off the pitch.