Liverpool win the battle of Anfield to nudge ahead in 4th place race
A well worn statistic that is trotted out ahead of every Merseyside derby is the fact that there have been more red cards in this fixture than any other Premier League clash.
The fixture duly obliged on Saturday lunchtime as the metamorphosis from the “friendly derby” to footballing war was confirmed with at least four X-rated challenges and two red cards.
Jamie Carragher struck the first blow within the opening seconds with a full-blooded challenge on Steven Pienaar – the tone had clearly been set. Pienaar himself got into the action with a nasty lunge that scraped down Javier Mascherano’s shins. Only a yellow was produced by referee Martin Atkinson, with Pienaar’s favourable reputation in the disciplinary stakes perhaps saving him.
Carragher soon got stuck in again, perhaps as an act of retribution, when he clumsily ploughed through the back of Pienaar. Referee Atkinson had allowed a few challenges to go in the opening exchanges in an attempt to let the game flow. Unfortunately for the official the players didn’t play ball.
Sotirios Kyrgiakos deservedly saw red for a gruesome tackle on Marouane Fellaini – though the Belgian was hardly innocent himself and the match deteriorated into a fractious and sometimes vicious encounter that Liverpool won with a commendable rearguard spirit combined with limp attacking play from the visitors.
Liverpool don’t yet know how crucial that win will at the end of the season but with Spurs and Aston Villa drawing later that day, it was at least good enough to lift them into the Premier League top four.
The Reading FA Cup defeat aside the Reds have slowly but surely re-built their season through a gritty determined defence. Without Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard for the majority of the year so far Benitez has ensured the goals against column is a low as possible, meaning a single goal, like Dirk Kuyt’s header on Saturday, can prove crucial.
They deservedly won the battle of Anfield on Saturday, despite the bruises and scrapes. And if their ever-improving form is anything to go by, they could win the war for fourth place as well, the football odds certainly suggest they’re in with a chance.