Expectation is not matched by delivery on opening day

So the team stuck in the past was finally cancelled out by the one that always seems stuck in the future. And the fans of neither could be especially surprised should their entire seasons prove to be compacted into 90 minutes of passion and frustration. For their common cravings must already feel as though they are beginning to reach, not across years, but geological epochs.

To the visitors, the Invincibles doubtless seem immured for ever in the abandoned stadium at Highbury; in the Kop, however, the title was last celebrated early in the Cretaceous period. Relative to the paroxysms of ambition breaking the crust at Manchester City, these two mighty clubs must somehow shift a tectonic weight of expectation. By the time Arsenal bundled in an equaliser, an almost comical rejoinder to the alarming lack of penetration in everything they had previously contrived, it already seemed optimistic to expect seismic progress from either during the months ahead.

But these clubs also share the supervision of men seasoned in the addictive illusions of a new campaign. Arsène Wenger's pen hovers over a contract that should keep him at Arsenal to the end of his career, whereas this was Roy Hodgson's very first league game with Liverpool. Both, however, will have sensed pristine satisfaction in sending out 11 young athletes into the summer sunshine with their hopes as unblemished as the glossy Anfield turf.

One of these sages, however, reserves his obstinacy for matters of vision; the other prefers to make it the defining characteristic of his players. Hence Hodgson's pragmatic deployment of Daniel Agger as full-back, to stem a notoriously porous left flank. Hence his perseverance with the unsettled Javier Mascherano, and the studied caution of his team's build-up, with Joe Cole often forced to drop deep to get involved.

So much, anyhow, for fresh starts. Cole's scissoring tackle on Laurent Koscielny succeeded, however tangentially to his intentions, in reiterating the fragilities that abide in both clubs. Cole and Koscielny were both making their league debuts in these colours. The arrival of the former had persuaded the twin totems of Anfield, Steve Gerrard and Fernando Torres, that Hodgson was no mere firefighter; while the latter had left Arsenal fans to wonder, yet again, whether Wenger had sufficiently fortified the heart of the defence, their perennial anxieties freshly compounded by the departure of William Gallas. As a torpid first half suddenly ignited in its final seconds, however, both men left the pitch in circumstances that might have instantly contaminated the optimism of both teams for months of attrition ahead: Koscielny on a stretcher, preceded by the banished Cole.

The image evoked the grisly loss, in successive seasons, of Eduardo and Aaron Ramsey. But Koscielny trotted out for the second half unharmed; while Cole, of course, could scarcely be further removed from the brutish destroyers who ostensibly set out to smother Arsenal's bright, delicate candles. So it was that a sense of corporate indignation instead inflamed the home team, who took the lead within two minutes of the resumption.

It was odd to see the goal finished with such élan by David Ngog, whose first half had been so clumsy that much its biggest cheer was prompted by Torres warming up. But the gusto with which the whole team rallied to the crisis implied that it had offered Hodgson precisely the impetus his men would otherwise seek in vain.

For we have seen enough of Hodgson over the years to know that there are some here who are already a bespoke fit for the disciplined, courageous cut of his footballing cloth. Never mind Gerrard, whose presence automatically alleviated a numerical deficit. How about Dirk Kuyt, whose lungs will with any luck have been discovered by the groundstaff as they replaced divots after the game? Little wonder if Rafael Benitez would like to take Kuyt along to San Siro. However cherished by his predecessor, the Dutchman is himself more than the sum of his own parts – a template for the way Hodgson will endeavour to restore stability to a club racked by bitterness off the field.

The random favours of the fixtures computer skewed the opening round in favour of Chelsea and Manchester United, with home fixtures against promoted clubs. Liverpool and Arsenal had instead been made to watch Manchester City and Tottenham square off on Saturday, before essaying a statement of intent on behalf of the old order. But they came up with something pretty equivocal – a goal apiece from isolated strikers who each had to redeem his previous anonymity, Ngog over 45 minutes and Marouane Chamakh over 90. And when Koscielny picked up two late bookings, a player off apiece as well. One step forward, in other words, and one step back.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Extras
indybest
News
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
education
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform