Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Steven Beacom: Reminder to Kop - one win doesn’t lift the title

So, the big four are establishing themselves once again — Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Hull City!

At the weekend the Gunners produced scintillating football to hammer Blackburn while Chelsea put those new rich upstarts, Manchester City, in their place.

And mighty Hull took advantage of the turmoil at Newcastle to move into a Champions League place.

But what about the other member of the top four club, Liverpool?

Well, they beat some small outfit who go by the name of Manchester United.

Alright, enough already.

We all know that Hull will be relegated so let them enjoy this while they can.

As for United, it's as certain as the X Factor winner being the Christmas number one, that they will come good.

Sir Alex Ferguson will make sure of that.

That’s not to say though that United’s 2-1 defeat at Liverpool on Saturday wasn’t a bitter blow.

Fergie hates nothing more than losing to the old enemy, he has conquered time and time.

Not surprisingly he was fuming with his players for what was in many ways a weak surrender from them at Anfield in the face of a highly motivated Liverpool.

I would say, however, that the weekend fixture was one that United could afford to lose, safe in the knowledge that they have the quality and more importantly the character to maintain a push for the title regardless of what happened on Merseyside.

In terms of Liverpool’s championship ambition, I would suggest that the weekend game was one they could not afford NOT to win.

A defeat, even at this early stage in the season, would have all but killed off Liverpool’s title dream because of the mental damage it would have done to the players and fans.

A draw against a United side not at the races and there would have been the thought that Rafa Benitez’s side had not progressed enough.

But a win puts a completely different perspective on things.

I’m not saying they are going to go on and win their first title since 1990, but Saturday’s outcome will give Benitez’s boys and the Kop real belief that on the domestic scene they can finally compete and beat the best.

And perhaps the most impressive and most important point is that they largely did it without their two best players.

Without Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres, Liverpool are generally a poor performance waiting to happen.

But this time around Liverpool, without their two star turns, were a team full of commitment and conviction, who took advantage of a shocking defensive mix-up between Edwin van der Sar and Wes Brown to equalise Carlos Tevez’s early strike and then go on to dominate the game.

By the time Gerrard, fresh from a successful operation, arrived on the pitch midway through the second period, the home side were in total control and deserved their decisive goal from another substitute Ryan Babel.

Too often Liverpool have relied on Gerrard and Torres, who incidentally didn’t have to risk his hamstring injury, so it must have been especially pleasing for Benitez to see other players step up to the plate.

It was a terrific all round display with some surprose individuals such as left back Fabio Aurellio and Dirk Kuyt, playing up front, shining while new left winger Albert Riera looks to be a fine signing.

Now Liverpool must kick on from this.

It’s no use overcoming the champions of England and Europe only to fall at less daunting hurdles.

One swallow does not make a summer.

And one big victory does not win you the title.

As I’ve already said United will bounce back and when Ferguson works out how to get the best out of Dimitar Berbatov, Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez and the returning Cristiano Ronaldo, they will be formidable while Chelsea and Arsenal are going to be huge threats too.

This is going to be one heck of a title to win.

Liverpool have a long, long, long way to go to, but on Saturday they made a start.

City given a cold dose of reality despite Robinho goal

The wave of euphoria, excitement and optimism swirling around Eastlands at around 5.30pm on Saturday night was greater than that of Team GB’s Olympic cyclists in Beijing.

Two hours later while the bubble had not exactly burst, there was a serious reality check after Chelsea had delivered a performance of style and substance to beat Manchester City 3-1.

I’ve always admired the loyalty of the City fans and therefore was happy for them when the shock news of the Arab takeover was announced.

The billions coming into the club was obviously a reason to rejoice, but sadly for City it is a club with a habit for everything ending in tears. Remember the Franny Lee takeover?

I genuinely hope it works out for City this time and they can challenge the top four, although on the evidence of Saturday, they will need a few more world class players willing to join the club for outlandish wages.

Let’s face it, that’s why Robinho (pictured) is there. After his move to Manchester the Brazilian said he had joined Chelsea before being corrected!

At least he scored on his debut, although pointing to the badge, after his goal, as if it truly meant the world to him, was a bit much.

While Robinho’s goal celebration made me wince a little, it was nothing compared to Argentine Fabian Espindola, who while playing for Real Salt Lake in the MLS in the States recently performed his trademark somersault celebration after hitting the net only to break his leg on landing and then find out his “goal” had been disallowed! That really is adding insult to injury.

Lua Lua and Nani — you have been warned!

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