Liverpool old and new re-ignite race

Football FanCast columnist Lee Hemmings reflects on Liverpool old and new re-igniting the title race.

Liverpool's match away at Man Utd on 14th March 2009 was billed
as a game they could simply not lose. 7 points behind Utd, a goal difference 11
worse off having played a game less, things were not looking good.

This was the day the Man Utd machine would put Liverpool out of contention,
pat themselves on the back and relax knowing their old foes from down the M62
had only the crumbs of Champions League qualification to fight for whilst they
enjoyed their title feast.

On the back of a 4-0 thrashing of Fulham, a 2-0 home win against Inter the
Champions League, 14 games without conceding a goal, the well oiled, smooth
running Manc machine would be off in the distance before we knew it, we wouldn't
see them for dust, might not as well turn up.

Most pundits did not give us a hope, and the bookmakers had all but written
off the location of the League title, some of them already paying out on a Utd
triumph.

The game started off pretty evenly, with Liverpool showing some early
promise, but as has been often the case at Old Trafford in recent years; the
early hard work was undone by an error of judgement.

Reina needlessly came hurtling off his line for a ball through to Park which
covering defenders seemed to have under control, bundling the Utd man over,
blatant Pen.

Here we go again it seemed, another capitulation at the Theatre of
Nightmares as Ronaldo dispatched the penalty with ease into the Stretford End
net.

United had won every game in the previous 46 that Ronaldo had scored in at
Old Trafford, yet another omen for Liverpool to overcome, and those witty japes
in the K Stand revelled in mocking the Liverpool end, 'Rafa's cracking up',
'You might as well **** off home', Ho Ho Ho!

Liverpool were not done though, and Torres and Gerrard were soon to make
life hell for United's defender of the season and favourite for PFA player
Vidic.

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An uncharacteristic mistake pounced on majestically by Torres 1-1. Torres
and Gerrard combined again, penalty Liverpool 2-1.

The anticipated United fightback second half did not quite materialise and
things were compounded by another Vidic error when blatantly hauling down
Gerrard when clear on goal to get a deserved straight red-card.

Aurelio scored a stunning free-kick from the restart, and the much maligned
Dossena scored a fantastic chip in injury time to make a 4-1 win for Liverpool
its best victory at Old Trafford since the 1930's.

More importantly, United's aura of invisibility was shattered, and the Man U
machine speeding to the title whilst not quite having its wheels come off, was
now riding on unsafe tyres. The seeds of doubt had been sown.

After a similar thrashing of Real Madrid a few days earlier, Liverpool had some
momentum and self belief that they really can win some silverware this season.

The next round of matches served up a footballing feast for Liverpool fans
to saviour.

Saturday morning's action started with an aperitif served up by Liverpool
old boy Peter Crouch, as he scored two as Portsmouth came from one down to
defeat city rivals Everton 2-1. A nice way to whet the appetite for what lay
ahead.

Next up for United was Fulham away whom they had smashed on the same ground
just weeks earlier. This was their chance to show the Liverpool game was just a
blip, a blessing in disguise even, important only to keep their feet on the
ground.

The reality however was rather different. The hangover from the Liverpool
defeat was there for all to see. United sadly missed the suspended Vidic at the
back, and the previously self assured United side were second best to a rampant
Fulham side 1st half.

Scholes was sent off for handling a goal bound shot on the line, and up
stepped ex-Liverpool player and United nemesis Danny Murphy to slot home the
resulting penalty.

Good old Super Dan. An unprecedented 3 league match winners at Old Trafford
whilst at the mighty reds, followed it up with another match winner against
them in a Fulham shirt.

Defeat for United was exacerbated by a late goal to make it 2-0 and a
sending off for the frustrated Rooney in an act of petulance a schoolboy would
be proud of.

Add the histrionics of Ronaldo, and from the outside looking in, the
pressure certainly looks to be getting to the defending champions.

Liverpool made sure the heroics of previous weeks were not to be in vain by
serving up their best home performance of the season in a 5-0 thrashing of
Aston Villa, a scoreline which not only cut United's lead at the top to just
one point, but ensured the 11 goal difference deficit Liverpool faced had been
transformed to a 2 goal difference lead a whopping 13 goal shift.

In two rounds of matches, the title race has been re-ignited by Liverpool
players old and new and the momentum is firmly on Liverpool's side at present.

The International break gives all the title challengers time to take stock
before they swap opponents as Liverpool go to Fulham and United host Villa.

Liverpool will hope for the win which will take them back to the top for the
1st time since January whilst also hoping United's losing streak
continues the following day!

United's two defeats have not only cost them a healthy lead but leave them
without the suspended Vidic, Scholes and Rooney for the Villa match.

With this week's news that Villa keeper Brad Friedel's one match ban has
been rescinded, Liverpool's fans are hoping that him and another Anfield
old-boy Emile Heskey can pile on the misery for United's men and keep the Liverpool
momentum going.

Come on you reds!