Deep down every Kopite knew that the 5-1 pasting that we handed Arsenal in this fixture last season just wasn’t on, but by the way Liverpool started, you never would have thought it. That is, until you saw the way they ended.
Philippe Coutinho looked like he’d handed the Reds the lead on the stroke of half-time when his low shot was drilled into the bottom corner of the net, but Mathieu Debuchy somehow out-jumped Martin Skrtel to nod home with practically the final touch of the opening period. Olivier Giroud put the Gunners ahead just after the hour mark following some comical defending, but Arsene Wenger’s side never looked like hanging on to the lead even after the hosts went down to ten men and it would be Skrtel, who bagged a pair of headed goals in last season’s thrashing, that punished Arsenal yet again.
By the time the final whistle was blown, you’d have to wonder exactly what we have to do to finally score. With the echoes of Kenny Dalglish’s final season in charge of Liverpool ringing out as loud as it was clear, the Reds created everything, but came away with nothing as a clinical Manchester United ran out deserved winners.
Louis van Gaal’s side recovered quickly after Raheem Sterling squandered his first chance of the day with Antonio Valencia getting the best of both Joe Allen and Adam Lallana to pull the ball back to find Wayne Rooney’s perfectly timed run. The hosts doubled up in controversially fashion just before the break when Robin van Persie’s glanced header from Ashley Young’s cross found Juan Mata in an offside position to head home, but the matter was put to bed midway through the second when the pair combined again, this time with the Dutchman sweeping home in place of the Spaniard.
No one ever wants to lose this fixture; I don’t say this often, but I think I speak for both sets of supporters when I say that we don’t need Sky Sports, Mark Lawrensen or anyone else to convince us of our mutual dislike for one another. It’s not like anyone would let us forget, but we know what this means.
You can throw the form book, along with the rest of the football clichés out the window, when Liverpool visit Old Trafford tomorrow. Manchester United somehow beat high flying Southampton on Monday and the Reds dropped out of the Champions League at the hands of of FC Basel with a tame performance on Tuesday — in a normal match either of those two events might help tip the scales one way or another, but when it comes to the Northwest Derby, nothing that comes before makes a lick of difference.
Sunderland just keep on frustrating; the Black Cats look to have recovered from the thrashing they got at the hands of Manchester City midweek, putting in a resolutely defensive performance to deny Liverpool the chance to claim their third win in one week.
To be fair, the hosts did little to lay claim to it — of their 15-shots on goal, a mere two were on target as their poor run in front of net continued in earnest. A strike from Philippe Coutinho after good work from Raheem Sterling got the Brazilian on the end of the ball and a somewhat dodgy penalty appeal from the winger were two of the only events of note for the Reds, but if you want to talk chances, even though Gus Poyet’s side set up more to stifle than create, they came the closest to getting on the score-sheet.
I’ve said it many times before and you’ll excuse me if I say it again: a win is a win is a win. Liverpool record their first victory on the road since late October by downing bottom of the barrel Leicester City 3-1 in a performance highly reminiscent of their win at the weekend — far from their scintillating best, but nowhere near their embarrassing worst.
Simon Mignolet did little to assure the Reds faithful of his competence between the sticks, following up a glaring error with an own goal as the Foxes took a surprise first half lead, but that tidbit of momentum lasted a mere four minutes when Adam Lallana played poacher to level the scores. Steven Gerrard, returning to the starting eleven since riding the pine against Stoke City on Saturday, gave his side the go-ahead with a composed finish before Jordan Henderson rounded things out against ten-men after Wes Morgan was shown a straight red.