Yesterday I rediscovered a valuable element of the art of watching football. It’s absent for a good reason – when Spurs play it’s a serious business as far as I’m concerned and I’m totally absorbed. Wouldn’t have it any other way, that complete commitment is the source of the passion, but it can be draining and debilitating sometimes. Watching Spurs, you know what it’s like. Yesterday however, there were times when I could throw back my head, punch the air, slap a few backs, jokes even. Yesterday I rediscovered laughter.
Glorious flowing football, top quality performances, opponents imploding, four goals and above all, the last 20 minutes just to sit back and lap it up. I often say that I can relax only when we’re 5 up in injury time but sadly that’s not so far from the truth. Even yesterday, when we were utterly dominant in the first half, there was always the danger that one ball onto Carroll’s head would undo the marking that left him anonymous or the scintillating play that should have given us a three goal lead at the very least after 55 minutes. But two in quick succession, against 9 men, and I was chuckling with the wild joy of it all.
Never mind the dismissals, we started supremely well and maintained that level of excellence. Modric and Parker set the tone, get on the ball and push it around. Adebayor holds it, knocks it off, in the air or on the ground, finds space and finds the channels, and if he’s in those channels, Luka, Scotty and Niko in the first half, Rafa in the second, will find him. Crouch seems like a bad dream. That was all in my imagination, right?
We slaughtered Skirtel, destroyed by a combination of Bale’s pace and Benny pinging classic first-time passes inside him. On the hour, he’d had enough. That foul was his only means of escape.
In case it’s escaped anyone, Luka might have wanted a transfer but he’s a professional. No hint of anything less than his supreme best. And the goal, pouncing on a loose ball, up and onwards, up and onwards, we were right behind the line and in the air before it hit the netting. I didn’t come down for a few minutes. The break in play that followed shortly afterwards provided respite to marvel and wonder. And there followed the imperceptible dip of the shoulder, leaving two men in his wake, the pass that took out four defenders. Outstanding.
In a game with so much at stake, even this early in the season, Liverpool fell apart. I can’t recall the last time I’ve seen a top team cave in so easily. Their attitude was all wrong and too many were absent, Henderson, Carroll, Suarez and Downing, all players I rate. However badly we are playing, Spurs inder Redknapp would never show that attitude.
Suarez did provide one of the classic comedy moments. Berating the linesman, he was the last man in the ground to realise his was about to be booked as the ref strode officiously towards him. Still he carried on, until the ref suddenly appeared in his line of sight. Comedy gold.
I thought the ref was OK, although I suspect Liverpool fans think otherwise. His booking threshold early on was low, which I don’t like, but he was consistent, and Adam and Skirtel can have no complaints.
Bale was dangerous throughout but selfish – too many long shots. However, he made several chances and just as you began to fear the worst, one up and wasting opportunities galore, Defoe held on and took his chance. Manu followed soon after. It will go down as tucking in a rebound or some such platitude that doesn’t do him justice. He flicked up and over the keeper, and in. The chuktspah of it all. That’s class, top class, because it was done with such nonchalance.
Credit to Harry for setting up the team so well, literally the shape of things to come. Parker as DM, stays back or rather comes forward last, Luka’s starting position is deeper than last season but the platform gives him and others more freedom to get forward. Benny has clearly been told not to venture too far forward too often. This makes it easier for Niko/Rafa to cut in and Walker has room when they do.
Parker, the fifties throwback, neat short back and sides with a hint of daring in the fringe, baggy shorts and black boots, centre of gravity somewhere beneath the earth’s crust. it’s his first touch that stands out. Or maybe his positioning, tucked in deep, sliding into the gaps in the back four or shepherding the ball away. Short passing, yes, that’s it, pass and move, always there, keep the tempo high. How about long passes, like the one late on, picked out his man, on the spot. I had a little chuckle, so many on the boards said he wasn’t good enough for us because he was at WHam.
The little things that matter so much, that show we’ve prepared well. That show we care. Ledley, knee knackered, groin groaning, pocket large enough for both Carroll and Suarez, gets 7 minutes rest at the end, not that he broke sweat all afternoon. 7 minutes left, 3 goals and 2 players to the good, he pauses at the touchline to give Bassong detailed instructions.
Walker, major player in the defensive mess that nearly gave a goal away, moments later has the presence of mind to stoop low and head back to his keeper when he could have been forgiven for just banging it anywhere. A cool head and no fear, more precious even than his pace.
Friedel, Friedel what’s the score? No answer. Gomes and Robinson would have played to the crowd. Brad is focus and concentration. I know which I prefer and that professionalism is turning a good team better. I’m still laughing.