In a new monthly recap feature, Vital Liverpool’s latest columnist Charlie Cresswell looks back at LFC’s fortunes over the past month…
What a month it has been for Liverpool Football Club and its supporters!
On paper it looked a difficult four weeks with 5 testing fixtures which included away matches against fierce rivals Manchester United and, the only team to have won against us at Anfield this season, Southampton.
The other three games were equally important and potentially challenging; away at Cardiff and home against both Sunderland and Tottenham.
We may have had some luck along the way, with Chelsea losing two games and Arsenal also losing at home to the Blues, but it was still primarily Liverpool’s own ability that has catapulted us to the top of the league.
The Reds bagged all 15 points available in March and scored an impressive 18 goals in the process.
The Southampton match always promised to be an important one that would provide a good test of Liverpool’s capabilities of at least securing a top 4 finish. Going into it, a win would put Liverpool 3 points clear of nearest rivals Tottenham and also gain revenge over the only team to taint our otherwise undefeated home record.
Within 16 minutes the Premier League’s top scorer had done it again. It was an instinctive finish as Southampton’s Fonte accidentally diverted the ball into Suarez’s path and there was no chance of him missing it.
Southampton did soon improve their share of possession and begin to test Liverpool’s defence however.
After half time things decisively swung in Liverpool’s favour when young Sterling, who had replaced Coutinho just 80 seconds earlier, scored and effectively killed off the hosts’ chances.
The remainder of the match was fought end to end but with some great defensive work, something not always seen this season, Liverpool managed to deny the hosts throughout. Then in the final minutes Suarez drew a foul in the box which Gerrard calmly converted to make it 3-0.
The display showcased the team Rodgers had always wanted to create; lots of offensive attacking but with the whole team being involved in stopping the opposition scoring.
The trip to the South Coast was followed by another important match; a fierce derby against Manchester United. With United struggling and Liverpool in fine form, it seemed the perfect time to show why we were finally on course to bring Champions League football back to Merseyside and boy did the players show the country their true ability.
A 3-0 scoreline hardly illustrated Liverpool’s utter domination of the game and it could easily have been more. Two Gerrard penalties made it 2-0 before he missed the chance to become the first player in the Premier League era to score a hat-trick of penalties. To add insult to injury for the struggling champions, the SAS partnership shone once more with Sturridge feeding Suarez, via a lovely ball, to allow the Uruguayan to finish things off.
This was Liverpool’s big statement and Gerrard subsequently described it as one of his ‘greatest ever wins’. Liverpool had utterly dominated the game from start to finish to strengthen their position and also add to David Moyes’ mounting woes.
Six days later and a visit to Cardiff was next on the cards. This was a team who were struggling to avoid relegation and had conceded more goals than any other in the league.
However, Liverpool started weakly and conceded within 10 minutes to Jordan Mutch. Thankfully the goal gave the visitors the spur they needed to take control of the game and 7 minutes later Suarez had brought the score level. Despite enjoying lots of possession the visitors surprisingly fell 2-1 behind but just as Liverpool fans around the world were preparing for half time, fan favourite Skrtel brought it all level again.
Liverpool came out all guns blazing in the second half and within 30 minutes the score had become 5-2 thanks to further goals from Suarez and Skrtel, plus Sturridge’s first and only goal of the game.
As the match began drawing to a close Cardiff made it 5-3 but Suarez wasn’t going home without the match ball and when one on one with the keeper there is only one result as the Uruguayan duly completed his hat-trick to make it 6-3.
This match showcased the good and bad of Liverpool at the moment; their utter inability to defend set pieces to a high standard but also an unparalleled attacking prowess. It must be said that even if we concede lots of goals, as long as we out-score the other team the points are still ours.
Then came a rare home game, Liverpool’s first in over a month, as Sunderland arrived determined to prove they still belonged in the Premier League.
Although many expected a Liverpool whitewash in front of a partisan Anfield crowd, many of whom had come to cheer and wave flags as the team bus arrived, the match was surprisingly even.
Liverpool enjoyed much of the possession but Sunderland’s tactic of playing 5 at the back paid off as the Merseysiders struggled to find a way through. Liverpool eventually had its saviour in the form of the skipper; Gerrard pounding home a fantastic free kick which helped to fill the men in red with confidence.
Within 10 minutes the talent of Liverpool’s potent strike force showed its skill once again as Sturridge curled home a brilliant shot from the right side of the box with the help of a small deflection.
The later stages of the second half were considerably more even and in the 76th minute Sunderland scored from a corner to make it 2-1. The rest of the game remained close with good chances for both sides but, to a large degree of relief around the stadium, the game ended 2-1.
The three points gained moved us one off the leaders Chelsea.
Finally in March there was another game at Anfield, this time against a Tottenham side who earlier in the season Liverpool beat 5-0 in what was to be Andre Villa-Boas’ last game in charge of Spurs.
A win and we would go top…
Like many Anfield matches it began very quickly, Johnson’s cross turned into his own net by Kaboul. Not long later, Suarez brushed aside Dawson to put the ball beyond Lloris and make it 2-0 at the break.
It took only 10 minutes of the second half for Liverpool to wrap up the points, a long-range strike from Coutinho went past Lloris to cap a great individual performance from the Brazilian.
To add further gloss to the result, Henderson pulled a free-kick through a mass of players into the corner to make the final score 4-0. It was another stunning performance that moved the side top of the table.
Overall, March was a fantastic month for Liverpool as they cruised to the summit of the Premier League courtesy of maximum points and a winning streak that now stretches to 8 games (a joint record this season alongside Manchester City).
Games played: 5
Total points gained: 15 (W5 D0 L0)
Previous position in league: 4th
New position in league: 1st
Goals scored this month: 18
Goals conceded this month: 4
My Player of the Month: Suarez (6 goals [including hat-trick against Cardiff], 2 assists & he is the leading scorer in Europe)
Highly commended: Coutinho (1 goal, 2 assists)
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