Studs Up


16 goals, a near heart-attack, and total agony.
April 22, 2009, 12:45 am
Filed under: Football, Liverpool FC

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I can’t remember a time when two games were played out in such bizarre and dramatic circumstances, that were also so pivotal to a team’s season. Liverpool’s last two games, both 4-4 draws, have contained a rich mixture of despair, excitement, desperation, anger, adrenaline and ultimately total despair from the point of view of their supporters. One thing’s for certain, anyone who reckons Rafael Benitez is an advocate of boring football needs a firm punch to the throat.

Plenty has already been said about the 2nd leg of Liverpool’s UEFA Champions League Quarter-Final clash with Chelsea. It was a brave show of resistance from a Liverpool side shorn of their inspirational skipper, in a game littered with defensive errors, but ultimately a result over the two legs that was essentially established after the first 90 minutes. But while Tuesday night also included most of the elements described above, Liverpool had plenty of reason to feel optimistic ahead of their must-win game with Arsenal. But they didn’t win. It’s worth pointing out that Arsenal came to Anfield with their league season all but finished, and Arsene Wenger effectively chose to rest both of his 1st choice strikers. Had Van Persie and Adebayor been playing, Liverpool might not have been able to dominate the majority of the game to the extent that they did. But as it was, merely having 3 times the number of efforts on target (Arsenal scored with each of theirs), the lion’s share of possession and numerous corners without reply was not enough to secure the right result. And as has been said often, football is a results business. Credit to Arsenal, and obviously to the irritatingly baby-faced Andrey Arshavin in particular, for finishing the 4 chances they created (or were gifted) with such lethal efficiency. But for Liverpool, some serious thought has to go into how they managed to score 4 goals at Anfield and still failed to win the game.

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Either way, the league title is now all but in the grasp of Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester Utd. Fergie showed himself to be capable of stooping to levels that were possibly previously considered below even him with his pathetically engineered and downright offensive comments regarding Rafa Benitez last week. To make things personal to the extent that he did, especially in such aggressive and cruel fashion, had nothing to do with a sporting contest. If fact, his crass behaviour barely warrants a mention in the context of a proper game of football contested by two excellent sides with generally dignified managers. And for this reason, I’d expect any neutral to be disappointed with Tuesday night’s result, because Utd now have an enormous advantage going into the final stages of this season, and Ferguson’s crude behaviour looks like going unpunished. It’s not quite over, but barring a hugely surprising collapse on the part of defending champions, Liverpool will be licking their wounds this summer following another blank season.

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However, at the beginning of the season, the charge levied at Rafa Benitez was that he was not capable of building a team capable of challenging seriously for the league title. That has quite clearly been shown to be complete and utter rubbish. In Fernando Torres, notably only the Premiership’s 10th most expensive player, Liverpool have the most electrifying and devastating striker in the league (his goals-to-games ratio for this season shows that if he’d started more than half of Liverpool’s games this season, their league prospects might look rather different). And their captain Steven Gerrard, homegrown and forever Red, is one of the  best players in the world. But Benitez has added to these two stars with players such as Xabi Alonso, Dirk Kuyt and Yossi Benayoun, players who do not command the sort of fees and wages paid by Chelsea and Man Utd for the likes of Ballack, Essien, Drogba, Ronado, Berbatov and Rooney. And these players have stepped up and shown themselves to be capable of producing fantastic goal-scoring football within the incredibly systematic tactical set-up built by Benitez. There may not be a team capable of playing the sort of flowing football that Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal can conjure up on their day, but last night his young Gunners were made to look utterly helpless at times by the high-tempo pressing approach of Liverpool. Yet they banged in 4 goals and came away with a proud point. Nevertheless, Benitez has made his own point this season to his critics (who sadly include at least one of Liverpool’s owners), and Liverpool fans can at least bask in the knowledge that the great Spaniard has signed a new long term deal that looks like granting him the control he needs to bring the major trophies that they richly deserve.

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Those fans could be loudly heard singing You’ll Never Walk Alone after Arshavin’s killer 4th goal had been scored, and before Benayoun’s potential lifeline of a 4th Liverpool goal had gone in at the Kop end. Liverpool is a special club with special fans, and they covered themselves in glory in the closing stages of Tuesday night’s game, during a week in which it has emerged that secret Police Files relating to the Hillsborough Disaster might be opened early. Bill Shankly once said that football was more important than life and death, but the families and friends of the 96 fans who died 20 years ago can tell us otherwise, and so the victory secured by the determined and defiant fighters of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign this week counts for more than 3 points ever could. They may not be able to succeed in either the English Premier League or the UEFA Champions League this season, but with more wins achieved via goals in the last 10 minutes of games than any other team this season, Rafa’s boys have shown that they never give up. And neither do their loyal supporters.

Well done to Liverpool for an amazing game, but also to an excellent Arsenal side for playing their part last night. I certainly wish them the very best of luck ahead of their European tie with Utd. They’ll have the support of every Merseysider. In the meantime, while their record of 18 league titles looks set to be equalled, Liverpool can march on in the knowledge that they need only to cling to the same never-say-die attitude they have shown this season, and with Rafa in charge (hopefully with the aid of “King” Kenny Dalglish), the wait for the elusive 19th will surely be short.

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2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

it was a wonderful advertisement for the greatest game on the planet with two teams continually pushing for goals. I am increasigly impressed with the speed of your play and the amount of chances you create in a game, benayoun for one has really looked good and surely deserves more starting places
The defensive errors on both sides were horrific and worry me when we do face united. I can only hope that djourou is fit because there is only one reason why united got rid of silvestre, hes not good enough, and hes not good enough for us either. Hes shit.
Im once again impressed with wengers unwavering confidence in his young squad, which he has also received a fair amount of criticism from many including his own fans. Players such as Song and denilson have come in for a lot of stick but i feel they have both come along well (although denilson seems to be experiencing a bit of burn-out as he has been one of our most everpresent players this season). Our main problem once again in the close season will be holding on to our players. Injuries have hit hard and i wasnt expecting much last night with our defensive issues, i do wonder how the rest of the ‘big four’ would have performed with he same issues.
Anyway, i digress, in the end it was a shame not to get the three points last night as we have repeatedly let in late goals this year in such fashion (see spurs 4-4), but i have to feel happy with a point as you did totally dominate for large periods of the game. although check out those two ‘offside’ decions againts bendtner and cesc late on, could have been worse; )
I can imagine it must have been a terrible rollercoaster ride of emotions with the recent 4-4’s, i know the feeling after the nature of our knock out by you lot las year ; )
great support last night by both sets of fans, good to see.
anyway, good luck for the rest of the season and you never know with the title.

Comment by gooner

Yeah that’s all reasonably measured gooner, fair play.

I just hope you defend better against Man Utd man!!

Comment by GW




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