Saturday, November 3, 2012

Derby Day

Correspondent Scott likes his hats on Derby Day
photo by Corey Annvia PhotoRee

Scott checks in with the lowdown on Liverpool:

Some jobs are easy – like being a night guard at a museum - simply watching the security monitors for anything moving, especially things wearing a mask. Or being a babysitter for kids who are already asleep for the night when you arrive. Now, being a linesman (sorry, assistant referee) in soccer isn't quite as easy as either of those jobs but, in the case of certain situations, such as a free kick, it is really quite simple - practically speaking, your only task at that point is to just make sure that when the ball is played forward by the attacking team no red jerseys are beyond the blue jerseys (assuming the goalie has not gone rogue). So how is it that these calls are consistently blown? In the case of Liverpool's game, the wrong call robbed them of two points (and me of fantasy points!). In the case of Manchester United, the wrong call gifted Darth Ferguson and the evil empire those two points.

Of course, if truth be told, I begrudge the United call less than the Liverpool call because I would rather err on the side of offense. Unless you are really sure, you don't disallow a winning goal in extra time and later proclaim something along the lines of "I think so" when asked if you are certain. Nor was that missed call the only of the game. Immediately after kickoff, a blatantly missed offside call nearly led to something very dangerous for Everton. Time to watch some televison monitors or sleeping kids, Mr. “Assistant Referee.”

Of course, as with any game, not all the blame can be put on a single call since, invariably, the players have made numerous miscues along the way. For example, in merely the second minute of the game, if the newly-shorn Jose Enrique had possessed anything remotely resembling a right foot, he could have played the breaking Raheem Sterling through on goal. And while the Spaniard acquitted himself nicely in the runup to Liverpool’s first goal by virtue of a nice touch back and then cross, his ball-watching and lax defending in the 35th minute allowed the men in blue to equalize.

I suppose it seems apropos that a Liverpool derby should reek of highs and lows, for there were plenty of both. Brad Jones seemed to be grabbing Pepe Reina’s crown when he fingertipped away a dangerous cross and lunged to boot away a corner-bound backpass. But his poor punch clearance in the 22nd minute went straight to Leon Osman in a wide-open position at the top of the box and directly led to Everton getting back in the game, seriously jeopardized his bid to dethrone the Spaniard. Then there was Sterling who was running dangerously at Everton, winning free kicks and manufacturing a 1v1 situation with his speed, before absolutely muffing said 1v1 and making yet another forced, bad pass.

Other key ingredients of rivalry games were also present: aggressive play, showboating and, in this case, a double dose of irony. Not surprisingly, as the game wore on as a draw, after the flurry of goals in the first 35 minutes, the tackles became increasingly aggressive and the fouls increasingly chippy. In the last quarter of an hour there were barely 90 consecutive seconds of play without a foul. Credit should go to the referee for keeping the cards in his pocket unless needed.

As for showboating, Luis Suarez, the subject of all conversations related to diving and the object of derision by David Moyes (among others) earlier in the week, pantomimed sarcasm by celebrating his ricocheted goal (actually an own goal by Leighton Baines) with an emphatic flop directly in front of the Everton boss-man’s technical box. While a little funny, the faux fall will merely steel the opinion of the Uruguayan’s haters. What he really needs to do is put his head down and play football (while on both feet).

Ah, but irony was also on display at Goodison Park. In an almost laughable twist, it was one of Moyes’ men who was carded for simulation. Phil Neville seemed as bewildered by his dive as the rest of the stadium, but it was a clear flop and will likely haunt the Everton captain who was on record before the game speaking about how important it was not to get any silly cards that might reduce his side to 10 men.

Meanwhile, perhaps in a bid to make poor Phil feel better, Steven Gerrard sat at the captain’s table of unintentional irony by criticizing Everton of a direct, long-ball approach (he later recanted). In fact, it was the Reds who abandoned their possession style of play for the derby and seemed to relentlessly smash the ball long, hoping for a successful counter but, more often than not, simply giving the ball away. My notes are peppered with increasingly agitated handwriting first lamenting, then bemoaning and finally lambasting this stylish development. We can only hope it was a one-off.

This is farlieonfootie for November 3.

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