New season, same old drama, and while that might sound like the kind of tagline that you would see at the of an ever-so-slightly over the top Sky Sports advert – perhaps featuring a strutting Eric Cantona – Liverpool do seem intent on entertaining the nation at the moment. Three months after ending a season that provided rival supporters with ample opportunities for mirth and merriment at their expense, there was to be another chance to bask in a Reds mistake at the end of their opening match of the season. This time it was different however, this time it was a cruel and unusual punishment at the end of a performance that gave home fans plenty to be proud of.
For the vast majority of the first half in the Sunday afternoon Merseyside sunshine, Liverpool were intent to let Arsenal have the ball and then look on as they struggled to do anything with it other than pass it from side to side. The Gunners looked quicker and fitter, perhaps down to the fact that only four of their starting line-up played at the World Cup – with all of them getting knocked out in the group stages – compared to everyone from the Liverpool side bar David N’Gog featuring in South Africa. With the first period drawing to a close, Roy Hodgson would have been looking forward to getting his men into the dressing room for his first ever Premier League half time team talk as Liverpool manager. There was already enough to do, but then the task got a whole lot harder.
The fact that Joe Cole was late and clumsy with his tackle on Laurent Koscielny over in the corner between the Anfield Road End and the Main Stand is undeniable, but awarding the midfielder a first career red card on his Liverpool league debut was harsh. While it did appear that the French defender was hurt by Cole’s tackle – initially at least – surely anyone who knows about football and the Premier League will know that the England man would not have set out to injure the Arsenal debutant. It was a yellow card offence, but Cole will now miss three league matches, only returning for the trip to Manchester United on September 19th. Nevertheless, he will be available for the Europa League clash with Trabzonspor on Thursday night, when he will no doubt be eager to perform well and show his true qualities, as will a certain other Liverpool player.
“We goalkeepers live in a small land between mistakes and saves,” said Pepe Reina in the immediate aftermath of Liverpool winning the FA Cup in 2006, a match in which he had been widely blamed for two of West Ham’s three goals in the final, but then recovered to save three of the Hammers’ spot kicks in the penalty shootout. How right he was, and how nice it would have been had his typical, world class 86th minute save from Rosick