|photo by The Travelling Bum||via PhotoRee|
Week 37 on the calendar, in which Correspondent Scott checks in once again from Anfield:
Anfield / Liverpool, England / May 15, 2011 / Liverpool 0 – 2 Tottenham
If recent form were lunar cycles, Liverpool has been a waxing gibbous, atop the league with 16 points out of their previous 6 games, while Tottenham’s waning crescent has only managed 6 points during that same period. But yesterday, with Europa League hanging in the balance, astronomy gave way to a moon of another sort as Liverpool consistently showed its ass over 90 minutes at Anfield. Even the recently-hat-ticking “Maxi Man” Rodriguez played as if he had a posterior tear in his spandex.
Although Spurs did not see their first real effort toward goal until the 7th minute when Rafael van der Vaart shot way wide, it was only a few minutes later when his lobbing volley, with a slight deflection, found Pepe Reina flat-footed and we heard the first ripping of seams. In the 20th minute, Luis Suarez, frustrated by Michael Dawson going down easily from a challenge, kicked the defenseman and was very lucky not to see red from referee Howard Webb. Ironically, but perhaps not surprisingly, Suarez took a tumble of his own in the 33rd minute after receiving the ball and being challenged, but it was a good no-call by Webb. Liverpool was lucky again in the 42nd minute when Maxi Rodriguez escaped a yellow card for an obvious dive. Clearly, including Andy Carroll up front and dropping Dirk Kuyt back behind him and Suarez was not working.
Only 5 minutes into the second half, van der Vaart was forced to leave with an injury, replaced by the speedy Jermain Defoe. Then Liverpool’s luck ran out when, in the 55th minute, John Flanagan, who had defended so well all day, was called for fouling Steven Pienaar in the penalty area. With expletives ricocheting off my walls and ceiling, I attempted in vain (obviously) to explain to Mr. Webb the nuances of a shoulder-to-shoulder challenge, of which Flanagan’s was a perfect example. But apparently refereeing the World Cup final has gone to his head because the selectively myopic official acted as if he didn’t even hear me. Nor did Luka Modric heed my request for him to fire high or wide, instead drilling the resulting spot kick right down the middle while Reina skillfully dodged it.
A few minutes later, though, Liverpool started to control the play as they increased their intensity in an effort to get back into the game. But when Suarez put the ball over in the 63rd minute and Jonjo Shelvey (who had come for Jay Spearing) fired just wide three minutes later, it was clear that neither the stars nor natural satellites were aligned for the Reds. And while it was nice that Carroll emerged from his hangover long enough in the 87th minute to control well with his chest, make space for himself and get a shot on target, the ease with which Carlo Cudicini handled the effort was typical for the day. In the end, Liverpool fans could only hope they were watching a preview of next year when Flanagan’s brilliant 93rd minute run down the flank resulted in a nice dish to Kuyt, even if the Dutchman failed to convert.
This is farlieonfootie for May 17.