Saturday, January 26, 2013

Reds Rising: Liverpool 5 - Norwich City 0

photo by futureatlas.comvia PhotoRee

Correspondent Scott is setting himself up for massive disappointment:
Norwich City has traditionally been Luis Suarez’s whipping boy, but last weekend he only scored once against them, instead of the usual hat trick.  Unfortunately for the Canaries, there were others who picked up the lash, and even Ryan Bennett joined the party with some self-flagellation in the form of an own goal.  As much as it hurt to see my second-favorite team get thrashed 5-0 by the ascending Reds, it was a well deserved result for a team that -- after several fits and starts so far this season -- finally seems to be gelling.  Beginning with the final 30 minutes of the Manchester United game last week, they have seemed unstoppable, now only needing to put together complete games against the top opponents.

Of course, it all could have gone horribly wrong after only seven minutes when Liverpool “conceded” a free kick to the particularly unbalance Grant Holt, who tumbled due to a slight breeze.  Poor marking on the ball played into the box left a wide open header for the Canaries and Gerrard and Co. could have been down a goal were it not for the good fortune of said header being directed straight at the waiting Brad Jones.

Gerrard has been on fire lately and I believe I am ready to say he has been restored to his prior playing prowess.  After setting the tone for hustle in the game with two successive crunching tackles in the 6th minute, he played tirelessly throughout, displaying the necessary Gerrard leadership we have come to expect.  And his 66th minute long-range strike that tucked in off the left post was vintage.

On the other end of the spectrum, Andre Wisdom, while generally solid defensively, needs to improve his offensive play in order to continue to get regular first-team action.  Wing defenders for Liverpool are expected to have deft touch, get forward easily and provide sumptuous crosses while otherwise wreaking havoc in the forward third, before tracking back.  Unfortunately, the 19 year-old needs to work on his crosses, bungling his efforts in the 15th and 24th minute, to name just two.  Then, in the 53rd minute after a sublime control on a cross-field pass, he hurtled into the box before…muffing his shooting lines again and not even hitting the target.  Still, at 19 years-old there is plenty of time for improvement and an ocean of upside.

Jordan Henderson, another youngster at 22, may just well be finding his feet at Liverpool.  After a troubled first season last year, despite playing almost every game, his confidence seemed shaken.  But I agree with the Twitter comment displayed during the halftime show which espoused the view that he looks much more confident this year, and is playing like it.  Which is interesting because he is not getting as much playing time this year.  Maybe that is Brendan Rodgers’ knack with youngsters?  In any case, whatever the cause, the effect was a blistering, volleyed strike from the edge of the box that had me repeating to my son and daughter three times “What a goal!”.  The goal was also notable for its setup – Luis Suarez hustling indefatigably in the box, warding off tackles and STAYING ON HIS FEET determinedly before, ultimately, having the ball tacked into the path of the panting Henderson.  I’ve been too quick to announce the end of Suarez Simulations before, but I really do hope that Rodgers’ apparent talk with the Uruguayan, after the striker’s on-air admission, has stopped the behavior once and for all.

Finally, how can we not touch on the play of Daniel Sturridge?  Sure, he misses some chances, but with 3 goals in as many games, and with a seemingly easy chemistry with Suarez, his might be the signing of the year.  His absolutely brilliant dummy in the 36th minute that put Suarez through for a goal is the kind of play that makes a mockery of football statistics – hugely important, delightful to watch, discussed by everyone but, ultimately, never recorded or given credit.   Regardless, it portends a very fruitful partnership between the strikers, with both looking creative and unselfish.   And Sturridge’s 58th minute tap-in (a la vintage Michael Owen or current Chicharito) is exactly the type of predatory scoring Liverpool will need to take it to the next level.  That the cross was supplied by Stuart Downing’s side-foot volley, made the goal even sweeter.

With the resurgence of Henderson and Downing, along with the arrival of Sturridge, the continued return of Gerrard to his former capabilities and the ever-present industry and creativity of Suarez, this Liverpool fan is very optimistic about the final 15 games of the season.  Although currently only in 7th place, is a top 4 finish possible?  According to a recent Suarez interview, he thinks so.  And now so do I.

This is farlieonfootie for janauary 26.

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