Carroll brace sinks Manchester City at Anfield

Andy Carroll
Two stunning goals from Andy Carroll and a third one from the ever-dependable Dirk Kuyt helped Liverpool decimate Manchester City in their monday night Premier League fixture at Anfield. In what would certainly be considered one of their best performances this season, a severely depleted Liverpool side showed the qualities admired by the red half of Merseyside as passion, determination and teamwork combined in optimal proportions to run a much-touted Manchester City side ragged for almost the full ninety minutes.
The match was preceded by a minute’s silence in memory of the 96 fans who lost their lives in the Hillsborough tragedy, Lance Sgt Mark Burgen, who died in Afghanistan last week just six days before he was due to return home, and Janet Fairclough, wife of ex-Liverpool player David Fairclough, who died of a brain aneurysm.
The performance that followed was a fitting tribute as the Reds looked dominant right from kick-off. Kenny Dalglish was left with no option but to draft John Flanagan into the starting eleven as Jamie Carragher returned to his favoured central defensive position to make way for the youngster at right back. Fabio Aurelio returned to the starting line-up after another frustrating injury lay-off while Martin Skrtel completed the defensive quartet as Carragher’s partner. The midfield comprised Dirk Kuyt on the right, the central pairing of Lucas Leiva and Jay Spearing and the versatile Raul Meireles on the left. The gradually improving lethal partnership of Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll was also retained up front.
The first chance of the match fell to Dirk Kuyt in the 6th minute but his shot was well over the bar. In the very next minute, Liverpool were unfortunate not to take the lead as Luis Suarez was released by Andy Carroll but his attempt to find the right bottom corner was thwarted by the fingertips of a brilliant Joe Hart who did enough to turn the ball onto the post.
The Liverpool dominance ultimately paid rich dividends as Andy Carroll smashed home his first goal for the Reds in the 13th minute. As Manchester City tried desperately to put some distance between their goal and the ball, Raul Meireles had an attempt on goal blocked by Vincent Kompany. The ball then fell to Andy Carroll who scored with a thunderous left-footed shot from about 25 yards out giving Joe Hart absolutely no chance to pull off a save. A few minutes later, Manchester City were struck by a bolt from the blue as Carlos Tevez limped off with what looked like a serious hamstring injury to be replaced by Mario Balotelli. With the FA Cup semi-final coming up next weekend against arch rivals Manchester United, the skipper was the last person the City fans wanted to lose, especially to such a long-term injury.
The one-way traffic resumed after the substitution and John Flanagan justified his call-up to the senior team with a fantastic challenge on Gareth Barry at the half hour mark. Four minutes later, Dirk Kuyt doubled the lead for Liverpool with a superbly placed shot from just inside the area. Fabio Aurelio’s shot from the left rebounded off a City defender and Kuyt was on hand to slot it home past a desperately diving Joe Hart. Minutes later, Raul Meireles’ pass from the left was met by an onrushing Carroll who got the better of Aleksandar Kolarov to head home his second and take the match beyond City’s grasp.
Whatever was present of Manchester City’s morale vanished after the third goal and Liverpool took the game into half-time with a comfortable three goal lead.
The 2nd half was more of holding on to the goods as Liverpool were rarely threatened by an insipid Manchester City attack. As a matter of fact, it was the hosts who looked as if they would extend their lead but Kuyt’s header in the 51st minute went wide of the target. Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll continued to torment the City defence and with Meireles and Kuyt providing ample support, it was a hard day for the Manchester City defenders. The psychology of the huge squad also came under the scanner when Milner appeared annoyed at being replaced by David Silva in the 59th minute.
The only worthwhile attack for Manchester City came as late as the 82nd minute when Yaya Toure compelled Reina to parry a splendid shot for a corner. However, the resultant corner came to nothing and normal business resumed. Carroll almost got his hat-trick in the 88th minute when Luis Suarez fed him at the back post from the right but his effort sailed over the crossbar. Carroll came off to a standing ovation from the Anfield crowd with minutes remaining and the contented look on his face said it all. It is often the first goal that opens the floodgates for a striker and after a lengthy lay-off and a much-publicised transfer, Andy Carroll seems to be on the right road to success. As for debutante John Flanagan, he had a pretty comfortable game and never looked out of depth. However, it must be said that Manchester City hardly did anything constructive down their left flank to test the youngster. All in all, he looks a good prospect for the future and this experience is certain to benefit him in the long run.
Liverpool’s next Premier League encounter is away at Arsenal on Sunday. With a fifth place finish still a possibility, Liverpool would be hoping to build on today’s performance to snatch three valuable points to put pressure on Tottenham for the last European spot. Manchester City must put this performance out of their minds and focus on the key FA Cup clash against Manchester United. After all, given today’s performance, they really can’t play much worse and the motivation for silverware might just be the impetus required by the team.
Graphics courtesy: steenbergs via CC


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