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.
After missing more chances than I care to mention during the loss to Manchester United at the weekend, it’s a bit surprising to say that Premier League level finishing was the difference as Liverpool ran out deserved winners at Dean Court today.
A pair of goals from Raheem Sterling, who missed more than his fair share at Old Trafford on Sunday, sandwiched a crisp strike from Lazar Markovic before Bournemouth pulled one back early in the second half through former Everton man Dan Gosling. The Cherries missed a host of opportunities to turn up the heat on the struggling Reds, but a lack of composure in front of the net — surprising for a team that scored five at the weekend — was ultimately their undoing.
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.
It’s hard to argue that Liverpool haven’t reaped what they’ve sown, but that doesn’t make crashing out of the Champions League any less disappointing. That only a goal separated glory from mere mediocrity gives both solace and frustration in equal amounts.
Steven Gerrard’s inch perfect free-kick set up a frenzied finale as the skipper drew his side, at this point don’t to ten men, level in the closing stages. Fabian Frei gave the visitors a deserved first half lead, but with Reds boss Brendan Rodgers shuffling his deck for the second, the hosts looked to be gaining a foothold in the match before Lazar Markovic was shown a straight red card after his flailing hand struck Behrang Safari with the fullback in hot pursuit. It was equal parts reckless and needless, but the job should have been done by that point anyway.