Liverpool lose again as 'idiot' fans undermine Anfield tribute

Sep 24, 2012

Premier League talking points: Liverpool and United fans break ceasefire, Balotelli clashes with Mancini

ALL EYES were on Anfield this weekend as Liverpool played bitter rivals Manchester United in their first home game since the findings of the Hillsborough Independent Panel came out. The tributes to the victims of the tragedy were moving, but at the end of the day Brendan Rodgers' team were still without a win and are still languishing near the bottom of the table below the likes of Wigan, Norwich and Southampton, who recorded their first win of the season on Saturday.

At the other end, Chelsea and Manchester United continue to set the pace while Everton and West Brom make up the top four. Champions Manchester City are down in seventh place and Arsenal are in fifth, both teams have nine points.

But it is still early days and there are just three points between third-placed Everton and Swansea, who are down in 11th. However, a gap is starting to emerge between the top and bottom halves of the table. Sunderland, in 12th, are three points behind the Swans and the bottom nine are separated by just three points.

Emotions ran high at Anfield on Sunday. It was Liverpool's first home game since the Hillsborough Independent Panel report that exonerated the club's fans over the deaths of 96 people at an FA Cup semi-final in 1989, and bitter rivals Manchester United were the visitors. Both clubs were determined to mark the occasion and pleaded with the fans to behave. Everything went well before kick off as Bobby Charlton and Ian Rush exchanged bouquets of flowers (above), there were tributes in the stands and Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra even shook hands.

But things boiled over when Jonjo Shelvy was dismissed for a double-footed challenge on Manchester United defender Jonny Evans. Shelvy exchanged angry words with Alex Ferguson as he headed for the showers. Back on the pitch Liverpool took the lead, only for United to come back to win 2-1.

But the major talking point came after the final whistle when the fragile ceasefire between the two sets of fans appeared to break down and there was a return to what The Daily Telegraph called "infantilism and cruelty".
United fans taunted Liverpool with chants of "Always the victims, it’s never your fault" in response to airplane gestures from the home support, a reference to the Munich air disaster. "If the idiots could not show basic decency yesterday, you wonder when they ever will," lamented The Times.

Mario Balotelli only played five minutes of Manchester City's draw with Arsenal and failed to make much of an impact, but he did manage to grab the headlines when he was shoved down the tunnel by his manager Roberto Mancini after the game. The Italian striker appeared to exchange words with Mancini as he trudged off but the City boss tried to make light of it. "I don’t remember if he asked me something but it's not important," said Mancini. "Mario probably thinks it was important. I don’t know. I will ask him next time I see him." The City boss is probably more concerned about the fact his side are yet to keep a clean sheet this season.

"These are exciting times at Everton," says The Guardian after another win for the Toffees, this time away at Swansea, left them third in the table. David Moyes' team have earned themselves a reputation for being slow starters in recent years, but nothing could be further from the truth this term. Indeed their stellar start to the campaign combined with their strong finish last season means that only Manchester City and United have more points in 2012. Everton's players are happy too. Leighton Baines and Stephen Pienaar have both been waxing lyrical about life at Goodison Park at the moment. The main question is how long they can maintain their momentum.

Andre Villas-Boas was a relieved man after watching his Spurs side come from behind against QPR to earn their first home win of the season. "The gloom is lifting for the Tottenham boss," claimed the Daily Mail, but the paper noted that there were still plenty of problems for the Lilywhites who were dismal in the first half and were jeered off at the break. At that point the only good managerial decision that AVB could be credited with was keeping Brad Friedel in goal, as the keeper made a series of fine saves to keep his team in the game. However, the under-pressure Portuguese boss earned some respect after he reshuffled the team at half time and the new-look line up scored twice in six minutes.

Sunderland striker Steven Fletcher scored his fourth goal in three Premier League games to earn the Black Cats a point at West Ham on Saturday. The former Wolves man, who cost Martin O'Neill a cool £12m, looks like one of the signings of the summer. He has scored all of Sunderland's goals this season and, according to Opta, has scored with all four of his shots on target. The Daily Telegraph notes that proven strikers like Dimitar Berbatov, Emmanuel Adebayor and Lucas Podolski swiched clubs for less money than Fletcher but "O'Neill, who has never paid more for a player, believes he could have a bargain on his hands".

Inspired by Santi Cazorla, Arsenal appear to be back to something approaching their best this season. Their passing game has been excellent and they remain unbeaten. However, the return of pretty passing does not mean that the current crop of Gunners can emulate the 'Invincibles' of the 2003-4 season. Appearing on Match of the Day 2, Freddie Ljungberg, a member of that famous team, revealed that his side had plenty of steel to go with the style. Asked what it was like to go a whole season without losing, he told viewers that he was mainly grateful to his full back Lauren who would "kick the shit" out of anyone who tried to tackle him.

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