Date:Thursday February 2 2006
Glorious Glorious Glorious . Blues came out of this game losing three players with injury and illness, one sent off and the so called European Champions surrendered a point with an Alonso own goal. That was sweet irony as Liverpool’s foreign legion had dived, squirmed fell over at the slightest, touch and until injury time, actually rarely looked like breaking Blues rear guard.
Blues were rocked an hour before kick off when Jarosik fell ill and Izzet was not available.
Kilkenny took his place in midfield with Dunn wide on the left. It was Dunn who took the eye in the opening half hour running former Blues man Finnan ragged. Pennant on the right caused Liverpool to be stretched. A sweeping move involving a 60 yard pass from Dunn to Pennant whose first time cross just eluded Heskey. On 25 minutes Blues created the first chance when the ball rebounded off Heskey to Sutton whose low shot was well saved by Reina.
The game swung completely away from Blues on the half hour when Damien Johnson clashed with Aggar on the half way line. The clumsy challenge caused the Dutchman to writhe in apparent agony suggesting that the tackle had at least caused terminal damage. Uriah Rennie obviously impressed by the theatricals brandished the red card to the amazed Johnson. Aggar then made a recovery that Lazarus would have been proud.
Johnson could feel hard done by but considering the circumstances he should not have been surprised at the out come.
Further bad news for Blues as within a couple of minutes of the sending off Dunn signalled to the bench all was not well. In spite of Dunn being in difficulty the referee would not allow him to be attended to and in the end the substitution was made with Stan Lazaridis taking his place wide on the left.
Not surprisingly Blues were now on the defensive and Gerrard free of his nemesis took over the show and began to dictate the play.
The second half saw Lazaridis back to left back and Sutton in mid field. Gray went wide left as Blues through up an eight-man wall in front of the rampaging Liverpool side.
Latka on his debut grew in stature as the game wore on. Crouch had gradually become more anonymous and was about to be substituted when Gerrard took a return pass from Morientesl and stabbed the ball past Taylor.
The heroics from Blues looked as though they were going to go unrewarded and further bad news followed when Kilkenny was forced to leave the field after an ankle injury. Fowler came on to delight the home crowd but really did nothing to speak of.
Rafa Benitez seeing Blues look totally disheartened and only Oliver Tebily to compete with in midfield took off Gerrard. As stated in this column yesterday without Gerrard are just ordinary. Alonso replaced him and Blues realising that a grave error was occurring noticeably pepped up.
Using Pennant as an outlet with the shear will of Melchiot as a foil Blues gradually gained momentum. On 87 minutes Stan Lazaridis controlled a towering ball brilliantly on the halfway line passing two Liverpool players as he did so. He whipped over a superb cross which Heskey met perfectly only for Reina to deny him with a fine save. Blues seemed to have lost their chance. The resulting corner was returned to the Liverpool box and Reina and Alonso perhaps not communicating in the same Spanish dialect, got in a mess as Heskey headed goalwards. Alonso clearly handled the ball but thankfully it crossed the line to avoid Uriah Rennie having to make a decision.
Three injury time minutes became four as Bruce sent on son Alex for Lazaridis. With the Blues defending desperately but heroically Uriah Rennie gave Liverpool another unjust decision as the magnificent Upson towered above the rest to head clear. The free kick from Alonso was arrowed to the top right hand corner only for Maik Taylor to astound the packed house by somehow turning the ball over. The corner caused havoc and twice the ball was cleared of the line before being turned on to the bar.
Liverpool did eventually get the ball into the net with Robbie Fowler’s first touch only for the linesman’s flag to rule out the score. This gave the national hacks something to right about and ignored the ten heroes in Blue shirts.
The match did eventually end after about 95 minutes but brave Blues had defied all the odds to capture a point. The loyal travelling fans were ecstatic and proud of the team who can look forward to the weekend with relish, if we can find eleven fit players.
Reds: Reina, Finnan, Hyypia, Agger, Riise, Luis Garcia, Gerrard (Alonso 72), Hamann, Kewell, Crouch (Fowler 63), Morientes.
Subs Not Used: Carson, Carragher, Warnock.
Goals: Gerrard 62.
Blues: Maik Taylor, Melchiot, Latka, Upson, Gray, Pennant, Kilkenny (Tebily 64), Johnson, Dunn (Lazaridis 34), Heskey, Sutton, Lazaridis (Bruce 90).
Subs Not Used: Vaesen, Forssell.
Sent Off: Johnson (28).
Goals: Alonso 88 og.
Ref: U Rennie (S Yorkshire).
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