Club Focus – Liverpool – Dalglish returns with defeat but provides optimistic future

Liverpool fans saw the return of their king yesterday as Kenny Dalglish’s second spell in charge of Liverpool began with a 1-0 defeat at the hands of arch-rivals Manchester United in the FA Cup. The Reds legend was on Saturday appointed as the club’s manager until the end of the season, following the expected departure of Roy Hodgson.

Hodgson – who succeeded Rafael Benitez in the summer – left the club just four points above the drop zone after just half a season, angering many supporters who began to lose faith in the ability of the former Fulham boss. Every poor performance was greeted with a chorus of boos by the Liverpool fans, in addition to ironic chants of ‘Hodgson for England’ and supporters calling for the return of Dalglish.

Now, their wish has been granted. There was a huge sigh of relief and an element of optimism on Merseyside as Dalglish returned to manage the club he achieved so much with in the past. Some people have questioned the appointment of Dalglish, pointing to his lack of managerial experience over the last 10 years. However, others believe he is the perfect candidate to steady the ship at Anfield.

But the Scotsman did not get off to the best of starts. Within just 30 seconds of his first game back on the touchline, Manchester United were awarded a penalty. Daniel Agger’s slight contact on striker Dimitar Berbatov sent the Bulgarian tumbling and veteran midfielder Ryan Giggs duly converted the resulting spot kick. The controversial decision angered Dalglish and some suggest that the referee’s decision to penalise Liverpool was rather harsh.

Captain Steven Gerrard was then dismissed just half an hour later for a heavy challenge on Michael Carrick, leaving Liverpool with a mountain to climb. But, unlike Hodgson’s final game in charge against Blackburn Rovers, where the Reds rolled over after conceding a goal, Dalglish’s side kept the faith and battled hard to stay in the game. Pepe Reina’s commanding performance in goal ensured that the Merseysiders did not concede any more goals and in the end, a slender 1-0 defeat was a fair result.

Under the last manager, Liverpool had been woeful on their travels, but on this occasion they played reasonably well with a determined and proud performance. And Dalglish’s team selection immediately brought some hope for the visitors too. Fabio Aurelio and Agger started ahead of Paul Konchesky and Sotiris Kyrgiakos, much to the delight of some supporters. Despite the changes, a trip to Old Trafford was always going to be a daunting task for Liverpool, and Dalglish will have many more opportunities to prove his managerial credentials.

It has been quite an eventful few days for Liverpool. Although everyone wanted Hodgson to do well, the Englishman eventually lost the support of the fans, which prompted the new owners to make a change. Now the fans choice, Dalglish, will have his opportunity to turn things around. Based on the encouraging performance against Manchester United, Dalglish’s second stint in charge could turn out to be quite successful.

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