Liverpool’s 2-3 win over Manchester City yesterday was without doubt one of the finest games in Premier League history. The Reds pulled off the sort of comeback they had previously reserved for 1990s clashes with Newcastle United and Champions League finals! Granted Liverpool’s revival was given added impetus when City had Pablo Zabaleta dismissed, but it was a terrific performance nonetheless.
The performance showed the kind of resolve that Liverpool will have to display if they are intent on launching a bid for the domestic title once again. This was the first time that the Reds’ excellent start to the season had been put under genuine pressure, and they responded excellently to continue to match Chelsea in the Premier League table.
The off-field problems that dogged the club last season are suddenly not quite as pressing. Confident performances against Manchester United and Everton seem to have instilled a confidence in the team that they are capable of mounting a title challenge. Even Dirk Kuyt should have some confidence now after bagging a well-deserved Premier League goal after 29 games without one.
Dig a little deeper than that and the answer might lie in a bit of consistency from Rotating Rafa. The starting line-up against Manchester City contained only one summer signing (although two more arrived from the bench to assist the comeback) in the shape of Albert Riera. That summer signing is another reason for Liverpool’s improved fortunes. You cannot praise Benitez too much for spotting that he needed a left-winger – any pundit worth his salt and most of the Kop have been telling him that for a while now – but now that he has balance in the side Liverpool are a vastly improved outfit.
For once Liverpool’s transfer activity has looked like Benitez’s attempts to tweak the team he has been building over the seasons rather than a scattergun search for the Premier League title. Of the comeback against City, the manager said: “We have some experience after Istanbul (when we beat AC Milan after being 3-0 down) and other games. The main thing for me was the belief of the players until the end.”
Perhaps he is not just talking about yesterday’s match when he talks of having belief until the end. The club is on the up and Benitez will be eager to maintain the confidence among his players for as long as possible to test just how far they can go this season.