|Photo by Vietmoment via Photoree|
Once again we hear from our fearless correspondent Ed, just back from Fox Soccer Channel's recent delayed showing of Blackpool's shocking victory over Liverpool:
October 3, 2010 / Anfield, Liverpool, England –
The ball exploded off the foot of Charlie Adam and into the side of Martin Skrtel’s head like a bloated round fist, the second pummeling of a Liverpool defender in as many minutes, and one in which you almost couldn't wait to see the slow motion replay of the concussion and hear the extenuated and tortured groan of the recipient. These blows packed with them a message that Liverpool didn’t seem to understand until it was too late: the Blackpool Tangerines were here to win, the Blackpool Tangerines were here to stay, and Charlie Adam was here to make sure of it.
Blackpool, if you remember, snuck into the EPL party like Tareq and Michaela Salahi into a White House State Dinner. A team that not that long ago was in Division Four (no, that’s not a misprint) and has a winning percentage of roughly 37% since 1896 (I looked it up on the internet), the Tangerines played their way in to the Premier League by beating the Cardiff City Bluebirds in a playoff, and are generally considered a lead pipe cinch to be sent back home to the Championship by season's end.
They've heard it all before: They lack pace; even their fast guys are slow. They lack stars; there’s no Ya Ya’s or Rafael’s or Gareth’s on the roster. In fact, most of them look like they’re just a blue button down and pair of khakis away from the printer/scanner aisle at the local Office Depot.
Of course, their pool-side opponents, the Reds, are longer, leaner, and more generally perfect fits for the part of today's well-groomed and well-spoiled metrosexual mega-athlete. Gerard has the build of two-legged deer, and plows through territory with long, gainful strides. Glen Johnson appears similarly, but also has the stylish corn-row hair and artful sleeve of tattoos to compliment his look. And Fernando Torres, well he pretty much has the whole Diva thing down by now, including the part about leaving the pitch five minutes into the match on account of a case of the vapors.
But despite the seemingly long odds for Blackpool, right from the game's start you knew this wouldn't be a mismatch. Early on there was Adam’s turn out of his own penalty area and 60 yard cross to the right foot of Tangerine defender Neal Eardley, who quickly took five steps and slung a venomous ball back across the Liverpool goal, only to have E.J. Campbell just miss crushing it home with a half-volley. [Editor's note: never use a half-volley when a full-volley will do.]
Then there was Adam’s treatment of Liverpool’s self-proclaimed Lionel Messi, Joe Cole. In a moment that would make even Chelsea Lately blush, Adam nutmegged Mr. Cole, turned past him, and as the hapless Mr. Cole followed like a petulant child, heeled it back past his pursuer. This brought a chill up the leg of the announcers who together squealed with glee: “He just Joe Cole’d Joe Cole!!!” And left Joe Cole screaming with dismay: “That guy just Lionel Messi’d Lionel Messi!!!”
Perhaps Adam's best play was the right-footed pass by the left-footed Scotsman that curled around the back of the now stupified Johnson (one can only image his immediate thought: “I’m too good looking for this to happen to me!”) and right onto the foot of the afore-mentioned E.J. Campbell, leaving Johnson nothing to do but yank him down in the penalty area for a PK. And up stepped Charlie Adam to flush it past Reina. Can I stop now or do you need more?
Okay, I recall one point in the match where the ball just shot up and bit old Charlie in the arm. No reason; it just happened. Adam stopped, looked down at the ball disapprovingly, and then glanced over at the ref, who quickly realized such a call was beneath the Tangerine Vice Captain (I’m not kidding about the title), and let play continue.
I recall another drive in which Adam was breaking down the middle of the field, pushing past Gerard and Kuyt and Skyrtle, and driving the ball into the left flat where there was . . . . . no one within 30 yards. You could almost hear the entire stadium thinking: “Clearly the winger was way out of position.”
Liverpool did score in this one after a free kick which resulted from a bizarre foul when one Tangerine took the ball awkwardly from another. Until this point in my understanding of the game I didn’t think you could foul your own player. Regardless, Gerard quickly deposited the ball onto the head of scowling Greek defensemen Sotirios Kyrgiakos, who slammed it into the back of the net, and suddenly the pressure was on.
Somehow an exhausted Blackpool were able to stumble and claw their way past this, minute after unending minute, and with the score locked at 2-1, the Tangerines needed just one last act of greatness to pull out the win. But this time it wasn’t Charlie Adam who came to the rescue.
At two minutes and 55 seconds into the three minutes of stoppage time, Liverpool’s Maxi Rodriguez put a perfect cross on the head of Kyrgiakos (again!), who speared it towards the corner of the goal. It was then that Tangerine goalkeeper Matthew Gilks, formerly the leading light of Norwich City, Rochdale and Shrewsbury Town, had his Gandalf moment. He threw down his staff and leapt to the left, deflecting the ball and slamming the door shut on Liverpool.
“YOU SHALL NOT PASS!!!”, he screamed as the whistle blew. And then in half-whisper to Adam and his merry band of Tangerines who had just escaped Anfield with 3 points: “You fools.... Run!!!”