Football isn’t a funny old game, as the old adage might lead you to believe — it’s days like these that you know it’s a cruel one.
Steven Gerrard sent Anfield into raptures with a trademark free-kick that all but put a stamp on Liverpool’s dominance in a tense Merseyside Derby, but Phil Jagielka’s picture perfect injury-time blast from a full thirty-yards out left the boys on the Kop slack-jawed as it swerved past a diving Simon Mignolet at speed before bulging the top corner. It wasn’t the banishment of 15-years of Anfield misery Everton so hoped for prior to kick-off, but with three points looking certain to be added to their neighbours tally, it’s better than they expected — and far more than they deserved.
It’s a disconcerting pattern that needs to be rectified sooner rather than later. I’d say it was two weeks in a row that we conceded an early goal to put our backs against the wall before the match even really got started, but that’s not entirely true — this week, we gave up two of them.
Oddly enough, West Ham United looked a bit like the Liverpool of last season that we’d all become accustomed to as they raced out of the gate. Winston Reid headed home his first goal in just under a year after a mere 80-seconds had been played and summer signing Diafra Sakho made it two with a well worked chip well before the ten minute mark. Raheem Sterling pulled one back before the break and the Reds looked on course to find an equalizer after it, but Morgan Amalfitano rounded out the win on the counter-attack as the hosts claimed their first home victory of the season.
It’s Aston Villa, isn’t it? Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers did his absolute best to banish the myth of the “bogey team” last year by downing pretty much each and every one of the sides that the Reds have traditionally struggled with, but the Villains have continued their amazing run of form at Anfield to keep their unbeaten start to the season going.
Full credit to Villa boss Paul Lambert — his side came with a plan and they executed it to near perfection. Contain, stifle and counter-attack was the name of the game and when Liverpool leaked an early one, there was no need to deviate from it. Kopites everywhere don’t even have to watch Gabriel Agbonlahor’s early goal to understand that it was born not so much out of the visitors ingenuity and work rate as it was out of the Reds terrible record on the backfoot. It killed us last year and it’s starting to do it again.
It was a combination of Tottenham Hotspur being that bad and Liverpool being that good that saw the Reds follow up their 5-0 victory at White Hart Lane last season with yet another commanding performance in the Big Smoke.
Raheem Sterling got things started early on when he finished an excellent Jordan Henderson square ball across the face of goal before a second half penalty from Steven Gerrard doubled up on the youngster’s opener. There were doubts that new boy Alberto Moreno would be fit after twisting his ankle in the 3-0 loss to Manchester City on Monday, but he showed no signs of the knock when he sprinted from well within his own half on the counter-attack to curl one past Hugo Lloris.
Although neither side quite hit the beautiful heights over the 90-minutes that we witness from these two last season, Manchester City showed why their being pipped to retain their title with a comprehensive victory over Liverpool as new signing Mario Balotelli watched from the stands.
Brendan Rodgers side took the game to the defending champions, but it a familiar defensive slip saw the hosts take the lead through Stevan Jovetic just before the break. The Montenegrin striker was on hand to finish a flowing move before Sergio Aguero put the icing on the cake, finishing past Reds ‘keeper Simon Mignolet immediately after entering the fray. Rickie Lambert forced Pablo Zabaletta into an own-goal after heading an inch perfect Daniel Sturridge cross on net, but it was little consolation as they slipped to their first defeat the season.