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Sunday, February 19, 2006

Liverpool Cup celebrations dampened by Smith injury

It was billed as the biggest tie of the 5th round, revenge for the last minute defeat at Old Trafford. Much more than that, for Gary Neville's shirt-yanking celebrations in the direction of the Liverpool fans. Much more was made of the potential clashes between both sets of players and the reception from the home side for Neville and former Merseyside blue Wayne Rooney. Hardly anything was made on the history between the two in the cup, the ties played at Anfield previously, what happened in 1921, and much more, as if the main focus was to stir up tension.

It started ordinarily for me, without Rio Ferdinand after a hamstring injury that wouldn't let up in the warm-up, I think Utd missed his height and presence. They hadn't played up to their usual tempo with Christiano Ronaldo on one side, Kieron Richardson on the other, and Liverpool went at a leisurely pace, keeping possession well, engineering openings on the flanks. Utd were allowed near our goal for a shot by Ruud Van Nistelrooy where he was offside, and Rooney practically bustling himself through the Liverpool defence, who were poorly attempting to clear the ball. A Steven Gerrard freekick from the left found Harry Kewell unchallenged and his header pulled a great save from Edwin Van Der Sar. From the resulting corner, Gerrard played short to Steve Finnan, back to Gerrard, back to Finnan, then Finnan crossed, Peter Crouch got away from Wes Brown (I understand the Utd fans call him 'Duracell') and headed free to pull yet another save from Van Der Sar, the ball bouncing off one post, then the other and bouncing up over the line.

Kewell was bundled down from behind by Ryan Giggs, which occurred in the penalty box so it seems Howard Webb seek to avoid controversy by simply awarding a freekick outside it, from which Gerrard crossed, nobody got to and it reached Finnan near the far post, where he hit the side netting from absolute yards, unmarked, unchallenged. Should have got it blatantly on goal. The half belonged to Liverpool.

Utd came out in the 2nd half with more bite in them but were practically subdued by Liverpool, who looked to be everywhere when a Utd player had possession and closed that player down quickly. Instrumental was the middle, Mohamed Sissoko and Dietmar Hamann dug in and held well to gain possession and release the ball safely and quickly. Early in this half, Brown had to clear in the area with John Arne Riise crossing for Crouch. Neville got down the right and crossed, the ball going over Louis Saha and Jamie Carragher, Finnan being in the right spot to stop the ball reaching Van Nistelrooy, Pepe Reina clearing away. From a corner, the ball reached past all and bounced to Kewell, who had time to chest and set it up only to scuff the shot horribly wide, deflecting off Nemanja Vidic for Giggs to clear.

But with Alan Smith coming on for Darren Fletcher on 76mins, some 10mins later he went to lunge in a block to Riise following up a Hamann freekick in the Utd half and his weight came down on his left foot, dislocating the ankle and braking his leg. I despise it when such injuries occur in the game, regardless of who it is. But Smith wasn't writhing about, he summoned for attention and waited as the Utd medical team was aided by Liverpool's doctor Mark Waller, an airbag pumped around his shattered lower leg to keep it secured, one Liverpool player, Brown and Rooney giving Smith some comforting support before he was stretchered off, Neville giving him a kiss on the head as he went, just about taking oxygen, both sets of fans applauding him off and it was touching.. Was about as brave as they come, probably braver than most. Broken bones have hit some players quite hard, Smith took it quite well in his stride, in comparison. I don't care who the player is, I'm behind any player who suffers such an injury, and I wish for a safe and full recovery for the man real soon.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alan has great heart,and will come back stronger but hopefully little wiser,realsing thats he Human after all.

Still wishing he wears the white shirt of leeds.

2/19/2006 3:06 am

Blogger SKG said...

great to see the whole of anfield clapping off alan smith. lets hope for a speedy recovery.

2/19/2006 11:10 am

Blogger T said...

Ditto those sentiments...

Good match analysis too Redsman. Taking the perspective of the opposition, the best way to describe Sissoko is that he's a top class nuisance. Not brilliant on the ball but brilliant at stopping opposition players in the CM area. He smothered the Man Utd CM players into submission yesterday!

2/19/2006 6:44 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

That is a fair reaction on the Mail midfielder, T. Needs to sharpen his control on the ball, distribution and shooting but he and Hamann were dogs of war in the midfield, which can be something of a repartee of Hamann. It was needed going into the CL game with Benfica.


2/19/2006 11:05 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

I had not heard of this, and I believe I had read somewhere that a section of the Liverpool fans considered Smith was on the ground theatrically, not realising the extent of his injury. Then I come across this from the News Of The World:

"...sick Liverpool fans revelled in Smith's distress. They chanted: ‘John Arne Riise-I want to know how you broke his leg.' It was disgraceful but United skipper Neville confessed: "You expect this when you come to Liverpool. You know you are going to be given a tough time. What do you expect Liverpool fans to do? Smile and say: ‘Go on lads, enjoy yourselves?' No chance. It is part of football and you have to accept it."

This is a first. I watched it live and not one mention was made about this yet you could see and hear both fans cheering Smith as he came off. I cannot believe any fan would say this in the circumstance and if they did, they would certainly be ostracised. I personally feel this is to hype the Man Utd fans reading it since that elsewhere I have read Neville's reaction to being booed throughout the game and his reply was very similar, if not identical, to that printed above.

Additionally, it isn't surprising for a newspaper like the NOTW to embellish the facts from time to time. Liverpool fans are stated to have chanted: ‘John Arne Riise-I want to know how you broke his leg.' I note this wasn't in quotation marks. And with most of the media I've read through, none published a graphic close-up of Smith's injury other than the NOTW, the NOTW sensationalising the moment for obvious populistic gain.

I am behind the NOTW for their exposure of Sven Goran Eriksson, because I felt it was much more evidential, felt we had a right to know what Eriksson's preparations were leading up to the WC2006, to know his intentions and how they may or may not effect the team, and to know how he considered the team and fans. I hope the NOTW are right, for if they are I would deplore any fan who behaves in such a disgraceful manner, albeit they would have to be in the most strictest of minorities. I'm happy to hear Smith is recovering well after an operation and return soon to defy those who believe in mocking in the agony and pain of others. Shame on them.


2/20/2006 11:10 am

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well as a man utd fan i have to admit i did hear a section of the crowd boo smith when he was down. The majority of the fans were great and gave him an unexpected ovation. I guess every club has its fair share of extremist fans and stuff like what the liverpool fans supposedly said are parts and parcel of the game. I think Gary Neville said it best. News of the World and everyone else are really making a big issue bout the whole incident. Its worth the majority do that matters and we should just ignore the extremist group.

As for the game...i was worried when i heard Alonso was not gonna play. I knew if that happens, Liverpool will thn use Hamann which could then mean that they would be playing with to defensive midfielders and considering they were up againts a team that were just converting players to play in Scholes and Keano's position. The only chance United had was by playing on the flanks but the Liverpool defense are preety good in the air and that would be a bad option. In order to beat Liverpool, you need to play a lot of trough balls like the likes of Milan and Chelsky did because Liverpool love playing the offside trap and can be caught of position and for a lack of pace. I would like to congratulate you on your victory and thank the majority of the fans for their kind gesture when smithy was streched off.


2/20/2006 1:08 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

Thanks sid.

Anywhere you are, you will receive a minority who seemed destined not to change. I wonder if that section actually were aware of his injury and if they were, they remain minorities, far as I'm concerned. I don't condone treatment to Neville, as Rafa said fans should concentrate on being behind the team instead, and the thrown half-eaten hamburger was pathetic, nothing to do with football but more to do with personal disdain. Still, cannot account for all to behave but at least the majority, which, like sid said, counts a lot.


2/20/2006 7:41 pm


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