Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Maxi Man

photo by scomedyvia PhotoRee

May 9, 2011, Craven Cottage, London, England
Fulham 2 – 5 Liverpool
Article by Correspondent Scott

Not to be outdone by Manchester United’s goal in the first minute of their clash with Chelsea a day earlier, Liverpool pounced on Fulham at Craven Cottage while the Cottagers were still pulling up their socks.  Shortly after kickoff, the Brazilian, Lucas, found Luis Suarez down the left flank and the Uruguayan unselfishly squared the ball to the charging Dutch boy, Dirk Kuyt, who saw the ball kicked from his path by the lunging Mark Schwarzer, only to fall appetizingly for Liverpool’s most in-form player, the Argentinean Maxi Rodriguez, who added to his recently impressive tally by completing the multinational effort with an authoritative strike.  And just like that, with only 30 some-odd seconds off the clock, Liverpool continued their scoring ways of late.

Fulham, not amused, replied with a flurry of fouls that were literally kick-started by Danny Murphy’s yellow card offense.  Nor did their mood improve when, in the 7th minute, Maxi struck again with a skillful, on-the-run, inside-foot volley that converted Glen Johnson’s arcing, yet accurate cross.

Liverpool, playing with the confidence of title contenders, weren’t even threatened until the 14th minute.  But Fulham’s time with the ball was short-lived as Liverpool countered and Schwarzer’s day got even worse when his second blatant error of the day resulted in a third goal, as Kuyt’s shot squibbled (let’s just say it's a word because it really seems to fit) by him at the near post.  After a quarter of an hour, it seemed as if Liverpool was the home side such was their dominance, and the Kop-ites that made the journey south were doing their part with raucous renditions of “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.  If not for the sea of white shirts in the stands, you’d swear you were in Merseyside rather than London.

But then Liverpool showed they are human, after all, when Suarez was a bit more selfish in the 22nd minute, and went for the old got-no-angle-so-go-for-the-roof-of-the-net shot which ended up somewhere in the parking lot.  And Maxi was forced to remove his tights and cape when he whiffed a volley in the 24th minute.  All this led up to Fulham’s most dangerous foray of the half, which ended with Clint Dempsey’s volley being cleared off the line by Johnson in the 34th minute.  That attempt, combined with a soft header easily handled by Pepe Reina in the closing minutes, comprised the sum total of Cottager's offensive efforts during the half.  Dempsey expressed his frustration in the 44th minute with a shot from somewhere near Newcastle before swiping a Liverpudlian’s legs and seeing yellow.

After the break, needing goals, Fulham’s Bobby Zamora came on for the ineffectual Simon Davies.  Although, by that standard, everyone wearing a white shirt on the field should have been subbed - with the possible exception of the plucky Dempsey who fired just high in the 49th.

In the 59th minute, I start to write a note about how Liverpool is looking a little sloppy and, before I can finish writing, Moussa Dembele puts one past Reina, having been supplied by the sub, Zamora.  Inspired, in the 60th minute, I start to write a note about how Angelina Jolie has a nasty predilection for blog-writing Liverpool fans and, before I can finish writing… my wife slaps the pen out of my sweaty hand.

Although without a goal yet in the game, Suarez is clearly causing the Cottagers fits with his bountiful energy, well-timed runs and deftness on the ball.  So much so that Carlos Salcido finally gets a yellow card for stopping him the only way possible – first bumping, then grabbing and, eventually, literally tackling him to the ground.

Attempting to get something going in the 67th minute, Fulham replaced Eidur Gudjohnson (whose play belied the first syllable of his last name) with Andrew (just)Johnson.  The switch didn’t really pan out as intended when Maxi completed his hat-trick in the 70th with a howitzer-like shot from afar that was aptly dubbed “un Golazo” by the ESPN Deportes commentators.   This was followed in the 75th minute by a beautiful through-pass by Jonjo Shelvey (who had earlier come on for the injured Raul Meireles) to Suarez, who danced around Schwarzer like a pre-“Sex in the City” Mikhail Baryshnikov before completing the Australian keeper’s humiliation for the day.

Shortly afterward, in the 82nd minute, Joe Cole came on for Maxi, allowing the superhero to enjoy an applause-drenched exit from the pitch, during which he reclaimed his tights and a cape emblazoned with an M for “Maxi Man” which, aside from the unfortunate feminine hygiene connection, exacerbated by the team colors, has a nice ring to it.

Alas, not even Steve Sidwell’s brilliant yet meaningless blistering strike in the 86th minute could break up the celebrations as time expired, and Liverpool fans everywhere paid homage to King Kenny Dalglish and his spandexed sidekick, Maxi Man.

This is farlieonfootie for May 11.

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