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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Cometh the Hour, Cometh King Kenny’s Men

In my first year of university education, I learnt this course they called Academic Writing. While I can remember a whole lot of things about it, I’ll point out only two things for the sake of this article. First, I scored a straight ‘A’ grade on it. And second, we learnt about a certain writing skill called Free Writing. Now this kind of writing required that you simply write what comes into your mind without thinking, even if you get stuck in the middle, you make ‘stuck in the middle’ part of your sentence.  

Being a good student that I happen to be, I decided to put this kind of writing into practice. And how else to do this but look at the Liverpool-Manchester match. Okay, here we go. 

Ladies and gentlemen, this is Liverpool Football Club. The club I always, always say that everyone should pronounce and write in capital letters. LIVERPOOL. I know someone is already protesting somewhere but sincerely, I could care less. Especially if that person happens to be a Scumester fan. For if there’s any fan who needs to say least now, it should be one from the other side of Lancashire. And it’s not like those Blue armies from London have anything to say either.

Now let me get into the game. There I was tension building inside me having spent half a dollar (a fairly high amount considering most people on this side live under a dollar) to get access to the venue, a small stuffy room with a full capacity of 100 people and a 14 inch TV that kept on switching off to the chagrin of apprehensive fans. 

If there’s one tactic I wished Liverpool was going to employ, that would be that they got into the faces of their opponents with swift pass and move play that was surely going to rattle Manchester United’s makeshift central defence pairing of Wes Brown and Chris Smallling. 

A lot of talk had been made across the media as pundits rued the absence of United’s preferred center backs of Rio Ferdinand and one Serbian defensive stalwart called Nemanja Vidic. Am not sure whether their presence could have made a whole lot of a difference considering that Liverpool has leaked four past the two in one game. Remember that 4-1 thrashing? To add to that, that player who used to torment Vidic, Fernando Torres, is long gone and there happens to be a new goal-poaching and scoring machine round the Field of Anfield Road; Luis Suarez. 

Liverpool went into the United game a wounded lion having lost 3-1 to lowly placed Westham the previous weekend. It was King Kenny’s first major loss in the league since taking over from the face scratching journeyman, Roy Hodgson. United on the other hand went into the game with the swagger of a league-topping club who had also lost to fellow title contenders, but nevertheless wanted to make a statement. And what better way to do this than meet your biggest rivals in the world of football? 

If anyone could have approached me and said Dirk Kuyt would score a brace in the game or rather be mentioned as Goal.com’s world player of the week, I would have asked them to Google the Dutchman’s scoring rate or look at his position in the Castrol Rankings. In other words, scoring a hat-trick against the hard sworn enemy should have been considered as an overachievement for the Dutch forward cum Liverpool winger. But looking at how much sweat he was willing and did shed, looking at how many runs he intended to and indeed made, looking at how many successful passes the Dutchman orchestrated and completed, looking at how many link ups he made with the equally tormentuous Suarez, and of course looking at how many goals he scored to reward his never-say-die attitude, you cannot simply take away anything from him. Not his goals which were assisted by Suarez, nor his record of being the first Liverpool player to score a hat trick against the enemy since Peter Beardsley in 1990. 

The first 20 minutes was all Liverpool with the defence providing covering, the midfield being as dynamic as possible while the strikeforce, which had Kuyt as the lone striker, was functioning according to Kenny’s script. If Kuyt was dominant, Suarez was unplayable. The Uruguay international forward is fast becoming an idol of the KOP. The memories of a certain Torres are quickly fading out, thanks to the almost miraculous speed at which the world cup quarter-finalist has settled into the demanding English game. Against Westham the previous weekend, although he ended up on the losing side, he gave a glimpse of panache that is so in him. And that he did just in time too as he needed to repeat this against the biggest enemy of the all. 

A good striker creates something out of nothing. Suarez created everything out of nothing to provide his first assist for Kuyt’s first among the three. His all round performance surely made Chris Smalling feel small while Wes Brown must till now be trying to watch videos of his previous matches in his frantic effort to just find out how many players have made him turn west as the ball moved east. 

Liverpool’s midfield was almost flawless. The ever fantastic Gerard was not perfect but conducted his business with aplomb. The ever improving Lucas (he’s becoming better with his short hair – I wonder how dominating a bald Lucas would be) was simply combative and devastating to the United midfield. In this game, he blended a little bit of Alonso, a little bit of Mascherano and added some Lucas in it that escalated him to a pass completion of 84%. Where are the Brazilian’s critics now? I don’t know what to say about the mesmerizing Meireles, Roy Hodgson’s only good piece of business he left at Anfield after a short peroid of, well, disaster. And who can forget the I’ll-be-effective-when-need-be Maxi who almost grabbed a goal to his name? 

But of all this contingent of exquisite performers in the midfield, Lucas Leiva stood out for me. He was always there making important tackles, breaking up the opponent’s play, attempting and successfully completing not less than 80% of his passes and always looking to split the United defence with one or two Xavi-esque passes we are used to see Messi feed on. The former Gremio man who arrived at Anfield in 2007 at a cost of £6 million has surely found some of his best footing this season. I say some because the lad keeps on improving with every game, in every season. From being considered as Liverpool’s Achilles heel to someone who dropping to the bench is becoming unthinkable, it may not take long before the Kop start composing songs for the 24-year-old Brazilian midfielder. And as he enters the final year of his current deal at the end of the season, I believe King Kenny and the club’s owners, Fenway Sports Group, will surely offer him a new contract. And a new contract he deserves. 

The equation that led to the demolition of Manchester would only be on the anti-climax after mentioning the defensive unit. King Kenny, celebrating his 60th birthday, went for Skrtel and Carragher in central defence, Aurellio covering the left side of the defence while Glen Johnson went back to his favourite right back position. Apart from the Chicharito’s header that provided consolation for Ferguson’s men towards the dying minutes of the game and the opportunity that Berbatov was allowed to have earlier which hit the post, the defensive boys were great even after Aurelio was replaced by Greek international Kryiagos Soto. Pepe Reina may have gone into the game with speculations rife that he might leave Liverpool for Arsenal or Manchester United but he was never distracted as he easily collected everything that came his way with the class that he undoubtedly oozes.  

The climax of course has to do with the fans. What can I say here? Simply put, even Barcelona’s Xavi, with all those trophies on the Camp Nou cabinet regrets at not being able to experience the passion and atmosphere at L4 week in, week out. Liverpool fans are simply the best in the world. Whether they are watching the game live at Anfield, listening to the radio commentary in Mongolia, following through the tweets and social network updates in China, watching it on a 24 inch plasma screen in South Africa or simply enjoying it in a small club with mosquitoes sniffing around baying for blood in Kawangware slums in Nairobi like I do, they are the best fans in the world. Period. 

With a massive 15minutes still on the clock, the Anfield faithful were already singing You Will Never Walk Alone, knowing too well the win was surely in the bag, bar a major football miracle. There was also time for the largest part of the 44754 fans at Anfield to sing King Kenny a happy birthday song. How befitting. I joined in as much as my voice could not be heard beyond the pub’s frontier. But I sang anyway. At the end, the pace and trickery of Suarez, the work ethic of Dutch-workhorse, Dirk Kuyt, the menacing passing of Meireles, the faultless distribution of Lucas, the on-point long range passing of Stevie G, the stalwart defending of Carragher and his defensive charges, the safe hands of Pepe Reina, the tactical acumen of Kenny Dalglish and the rapturous and immense support of LFC fans at Anfield and across the world did the trick.  

Cometh the hour, cometh King Kenny’s men. Chelsea saw blue, Man United got red-faced. Who’s next?  

Oh, I forgot to add something. Actually not something, someone; Andy Caroll. Walk on Liverpool. YWNWA.  

And That's thesteifmastertake!!