Monday, September 13, 2010

Pepe Reina Leaves St. Andrews Rapt In Admiration

When Pepe Reina signed a six-year deal to remain at Anfield until 2016 in April this year, he bucked a trend. He proved that loyalty and integrity have a place in today's increasingly mercenary football world.

I found this in the BBC Forums in reference to Reina signing that deal,
"It's refreshing in this day and age to see a player obviously very settled and happy, proud to wear the shirt and showing a lot of love for the club and the fans"
It aptly describes why Jose Manuel Reina in a Liverpool shirt, is well on his way to becoming the greatest Liverpool goalkeeping legend.

Martin Tierney of said that Liverpool have the Premier League's best goalkeeper, midfielder and striker, therefore Roy Hodgson should be relishing the chance to turn the ailing club into a dominant Premier League force once again. Unfortunately Birmingham in recent times are hard nuts to crack. Without a confident Torres, the task of beating Birmingham at St. Andrews just got tougher.

If not for three world-class saves by Pepe Reina, Liverpool could have whimpered out of Birmingham with no points. The resident Scouser, Reina dived low to his right to keep out Cameron Jerome's header off a Bowyer cross. Then he punched out a teasing cross from Larsson to stop Jerome again from getting on the end of it. Finally, he kept out the influential Craig Gardner from scoring with another one-handed save, diving to his right yet again. Birmingham never recovered from the brilliance of Reina in the first half and Liverpool got better in the second half.

Roger Johnson and Scott Dann are not high-profile celebrity footballers but they did an awesome job keeping the Kop goal machine, Torres quiet throughout the match. Jamie Redknapp lambasted the Spanish Kop icon  for his performance which I felt was unfair. Birmingham's high pressure game did not allow the Reds enough time on the ball to provide the right ball to Torres. Milan Jovanovic and Maxi were jostled and hassled out of their stride by the Blues and the two wide men were ineffectual throughout the match. Milan Jovanovic is steadily turning into a misfit for Liverpool, let's hope he can get better as the season progresses.

It took until 76 minutes before Raul Meireles was brought on to provide some much needed thrust from midfield. His forward runs allowed Liverpool to move the ball better and with more menacing intent. Surely he must start next Sunday against Manchester United, Roy. His arrival gave Torres, on the 82nd minute, a chance to run at the Birmingham defence and almost stole three points for the Reds.

A 4-1-3-1-1 lineup with Lucas as DM accomodating Meireles as CM will free Gerrard to reenact the Gerrard-Torres fearsome partnership. But who should play on the right side of midfield with Dirk Kuyt injured? Roy could promote Martin Kelly to RB and profit from the attacking instincts of Glen Johnson on the right side. This is the formation that could bring out the very best from the Reds.

I expect a much improved Liverpool performance against Manchester United this coming Sunday. Both teams are not having the best of starts to the new season. Man for man, Liverpool have the marginally better players, though Nani and Fletcher have improved so much in the last two seasons. However with Joe Cole back replacing Jovanovic and Raul Meireles poised to start, Liverpool can rely once more on the explosive and telepathic tandem of Gerrard and Torres.

Here are some more vintage Reina saves to remind all about just how truly magnificient he has been as a Liverpool player.

There is something special about a Manchester United-Liverpool clash. Liverpool players normally rise to the challenge of their fierce rivals, especially at the back of a tame display against a resolute Birmingham City. All signs expectantly point to a classic Liverpool performance against United, a derby that I look forward to every season.

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