It was supposed to be a match between two hot teams that happen to two of soccer’s oldest rivals, competing with a lot on the line.
Instead, it turned into the Steven Gerrard sideshow.
Liverpool’s living legend lasted about 30 seconds on the pitch after coming on as a half-time substitute. He was supposed to change the game – and he certainly did.
After some jostling with Ander Herrera, Stevie G stamped on the Red Devil’s ankle and saw red.
While some would argue that it should have been a yellow, you can’t say that it wasn’t dangerous, even if it wasn’t intentional.
It wasn’t the only testy incident either. Mario Balotelli – in a fashion only he could pull off – was held back by fans after tangling with Chris Smalling on the sidelines. While I don’t think that the Italian was about to get sent off for anything rash, it was quite the sight.
Even on the final play of the game, Martin Skrtel stamped on David De Gea while chasing a through ball. It was the appropriate ugly ending to a rough game. You have to wonder if he’ll be hearing from the FA about it shortly.
The game itself had its thrills, with United looking the better side for much of the game. It wasn’t until late on, even while a man down, that Liverpool looked most threatening. But, of course, it was too late.
The implications of United’s 2-1 win are pretty big with the season winding down. There’s now a five-point gap between the Red Devils in fourth place and Liverpool in five, putting a little barrier between the Champions League and the Europa League teams.
How about Arsenal?
A little quietly, the Gunners have been the best team in the EPL since Christmas, even better than Liverpool.
And now, it stands in third place, just a single point behind Manchester City.
While we’ve said that Chelsea’s lead is pretty much unassailable, wouldn’t it be interesting to see the two London clubs duke it out at the top of the table?
The top four teams all won this week, meaning a status quo at the top of the table. Chelsea nearly blew dropped points at Hull, but was saved by a late effort from Loic Remy, who came on after Diego Costa suffered a hamstring injury – which could put a damper on the Blues’ form.
Manchester City had it easy after West Brom went down a man early on – even if Sergio Aguero didn’t pick up any extra fantasy points for hopeful owners.
As for Arsenal, it had a war with Newcastle and ended up on top. For large portions of the second half, the Magpies were looking likely to even up the game and escape with a draw, only to have the Gunners defend stoutly in their own end.
With the North London side getting healthy and playing well on both ends of the pitch, this is a team that won’t be fading any time soon.
AROUND THE LEAGUE
Oh, Angel Di Maria. Should the erstwhile United winger not have been sent off for his absent-minded handball? Catching a ball that’s inbounds – though certainly on its way out – should at least have been a yellow … Another week, another amazing performance by Harry Kane. This time the future England hero hit a hat trick to take atop the scoring race … Olivier Giroud is proving to be about as true of a No. 9 there is. Between him, Kane and Costa, this league has some of the world’s best poachers … You have to believer that Alan Pardew is ecstatic that his Crystal Palace side is now above Newcastle in the table … Leicester City’s defending against Spurs showed exactly why this team is going down while Tottenham’s defending in the same game showed why it’s not close to contending for a Champions League spot.
THE LAST WORD
While I realize in this day and age we can stream essentially every soccer in the world almost, I still don’t understand what BeIN Sports is, what channel it would be on my box and how the heck it got El Classico.
Really, it’s the biggest game in the world – sorry United-Liverpool – and it was on a channel that many probably didn’t even know existed.
How has TSN or Sportsnet not stepped up to broadcast this game, or even one or two La Liga games per week at this point?
Soccer is on the rise and the Spanish first division is arguably the world’s second-most popular. It should have a platform in Canada that isn’t a specialty channel.
As much as I’m sure people love watching a game on their laptop, it should be a lot more accessible than it currently is.