These two teams with some of the strongest fan bases were not expected to get into the Top 4 of the Premier League. They made a case for themselves today as they kicked off their seasons with some new, not so new, and young faces on the pitch.
I couldn't have asked for anything better from the start of the season than what I saw on the pitch today. When the news broke that Rafa Benitez wouldn't be signing again with the Reds and that Roy Hodgson would come in to take his place, I didn't know what to think. Then the news broke that Carlsberg wouldn't be seen on the front of the kits. I wasn't expecting much, but I was proven wrong.
Hodgson had a very different playing style to Benitez. When a corner was being taken for the other team, Benitez had his players set up a zone defence. With Hodgson, it's a man-to-man style. It appeared to have worked better for Liverpool and in result, no corner goals were conceeded.
In today's start, Liverpool looked refreshed and revived. Arsenal is a very young team with young legs and a smart head on their shoulders. Liverpool competed strongly with the jovial youths of Arsenal and had a spring in their step I haven't seen for a long time.
With the spring in the step came a couple of close chances to getting the first goal and some very good decisions defensively were made. Arsenal had a good majority of possession, but Liverpool kept it nil-nil for the entire first half.
But if the play wasn't enough for you, Joe Cole made it interesting in his Premier League debut with Liverpool. A challenge made for the ball along the line in the Arsenal zone became a tad reckless and aggressive and earned him a red card from the referee in the dying moments of the first-half. Joe Cole brought his team down to 10 men for the second half of the game, but that didn't stop Liverpool from being who they were.
From the edge of the box at the start of the second-half, the black-and-white ball weaved in and out of the outskirts of the box. One smart move from a Red delivered the ball to the boot of David Ngoc. In the oddest and tightest of angles, Ngoc contacted leather to leather and beat the Arsenal keeper, Manuel Almunia, in a way that no Premier League keeper should be beat.
Then at one point, Daniel Agger (my favourite Dane) had to go off for a moment to be checked out by the medical team. For a good period of time, Liverpool was down to 9 men and yet they still held their ground against the (now more sluggish) Arsenal team. What got me worried was the faces Agger was pulling. It was suspected that he had a concussion and his expressions weren't helping me feel any better about it.
Before the game could end, though, Arsenal had a final call to make. Moments before the final whistle, Pepe Reina fumbled the ball. He nearly stopped and caught at the line, but in a non-Reina moment, he fumbled. And off the post the ball went and into the back of his own net. The expression on Reina's face was heart-breaking! That goal should never have been because Reina knew that nothing like that is in his repertoire.
WE WERE SO FREAKIN' CLOSE! We were THAT close to starting off the season with a 3-point win, but instead we're stuck with a 1-point draw. I'm not whining, just that it should've been ours. I am not blaming Reina or Joe Cole, I'm just saying that it should've been ours.
My Man of the Match: Glen Johnson (Liverpool #2)