Saturday, March 29, 2014

Plane and Simples: Manchester United 4 - Aston Villa 1

photo by [niv]via PhotoRee

In a season which has veered from one disaster to another, Manchester United held off the impending doom and gloom surrounding the club for at least another few days, winning 4-1 at Old Trafford over a hapless Aston Villa side that did more damage to itself than was inflicted by the home side.  Despite the misleading final margin of victory, the performance was far from easy on the eyes, and typical of most under manager David Moyes this season: devoid of style and attacking flair for much of the match, and papering over the cracks of a sloppy defensive effort.  Still, a win is a win, and United at least head into the mid-week Champions League showdown with Bayern Munich without the customary hand-wringing and cringeworthy explanations of another puzzling performance.

Standouts on Saturday afternoon included Juan Mata, whose scruffy goal represented the first real return on the board's largest-ever investment, and Shinji Kagawa, who played the number 10 role as if it was tailor-made for him.  Wayne Rooney also offered a passionate performance for the Reds, scoring one goal from the run of play and another from the spot while leading the line.

Herewith, a look at our individual player ratings on a  game that should be seen as no more than it was: a home win over a poor team that missed some very easy chances.

De Gea: Screened by the wall on Westwood's free kick, and little enough to do after that. 7.0

Rafael: Gaining quite the collection of yellow cards this season; seemingly a red card waiting to happen every game.  Good thing Bayern is coming into town....  6.0

Jones: Filled in at right back after the break, but was fortunate that Benteke couldn't find his range when played onside.  6.0

Vidic: Fortunate not to give up a penalty.  6.0

Büttner: Yet another dire performance.  4.0

Fletcher: Efficient, but not the same player he used to be. 6.0

Fellaini: Being uncomfortable with the ball at your feet is not a good quality for a central midfielder.  5.5

Young: Just not good enough. 5.0

Clasico Fondue: Ruminations on Barcelona and Real Madrid

photo by Rodrigo Moraesvia PhotoRee

Scott hasn't had to eat much humble pie this season:

Watching Neymar dive last Sunday to win a penalty was hard enough without the shouts of joy that erupted from my Dutch friend.  I had kind of forgotten that John was a Barcelona fan when I accepted his kind invitation to host our family for an El Clasico viewing party, complete with fondue dinner.  The offer was further sweetened when he offered to delay the viewing until after my son’s soccer game, poorly scheduled (by me, no less) for 3pm.  Not that I would have declined the invitation were I better informed as to his fandom (they are really good hosts), but I might have been a little more prepared.  And I definitely would have worn my Real Madrid shirt (although I did have my Real Madrid hat). 

Unfortunately, I couldn’t even make fun of my friend for being a bandwagon Barca fan (like most of them are) because he came by his team honestly.  It seems he followed Johan Cruyff and his fellow Dutch cohorts to the Catalan team and has been a fan ever since.  Damn it. 

No matter which team you support, it was a chaotic day.  Lots of goals made for lots of excitement.  Lots of penalties made for lots of debate.  And lots of mistakes fuel those debates.  Two things are clear in my mind: (1) Ronaldo was fouled outside the area and should not have been awarded a penalty; and (2) Neymar dove and did not deserve a penalty (nor Sergio Ramos the red card) but did deserve a yellow card. I got so worked up that I was trying to rationalize why Iniesta was not really fouled later.  In my defense, he was sure looking for the penalty.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Game Day Beer Review: St John Brewers' Island Hoppin' IPA

In which Ed definitively proves that some beers just taste like vacation:
I am confronted with a kaleidoscope of colors on the illuminated bar of  Grand Palazzo -- orange and pink and yellow and somewhere in the background, the orange brown of St. John Brewers' Island Hoppin' IPA (St. John USVI, 6.2% ABV).  Our bartender keeps bringing out something new, something even more colorful than the next.  It's all strikingly similar to the neon display beneath the sea that I've witnessed each day I've been here.  Beautiful royal angelfish, immaculate polka dot box fish puffing at the sand, vivid purple damselfish frolicking through the coral -- all of these have turned at least one of their eyes to me as I grope my way through the sapphire blue water behind them, an awkward stalker from a far away world.  But yet I still return to the familiar, and Island Hoppin' IPA has much of that: flavorful hops abound, and the firm feel of a substantial foundation of the style holds the line.  Yet there's something more there -- a sniff  of fruit?  A touch of mango or pineapple? It's hard to discern, as I'm lost in the islands on a journey that takes me to an indefatigable supply of abandoned beaches with sugar sand and plastic blue waters.  With mask and snorkel always at my side, I contemplate the joyous repetition of our days.  But like the IPA, I remember there's something more substantial to return to, even than this paradise.  Just not quite yet....
Island Hoppin' IPA, a foundation of the familiar with a bashful hint of the color of the islands.  A-

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

David Moyes Must Go: Manchester United 0 - Manchester City 3

Eden Dzeko bookended halftime with two goals, the first coming less than a minute after the opening whistle, to lead Manchester City to a third straight derby victory over cross-town rivals Manchester United, and Yaya Toure added a third goal in stoppage time to create the game's final scoreline. The performance was another vintage effort under David Moyes, as a shapeless and shiftless Manchester United showed little fluency in attack and created a paucity of opportunities in front of a sullen and early departing home crowd at Old Trafford on Tuesday night. Displaying his now familiar flummoxed look on the sideline, a clueless Moyes could only sit and watch as the blue half of Manchester rolled easily past his charges, challenging virtually every United cross and breaking up almost all of the Red Devils' offensive chances before they had the opportunity to become even remotely threatening.

Shut out at home yet again this season, United displayed a willingness to attack before the interval but too often lacked a focal point to their offensive efforts. Defensively the team appeared nervous and exceedingly edgy, and they were victimized by a routine training ground exercise for the goal that put the game well out of reach. Having been warned only minutes before when Fernandinho headed just over the bar, seemingly half of the home side's defense stood like statues as the big Bosnian landed the killer blow. City closed out the game in a state of exceeding comfort, as United seemed almost content to surrender to a fate they have become increasingly familiar with this season. Coming after yet another false dawn of two straight victories, the derby loss served only as a stark reminder of the action urgently required by the club's directors: David Moyes Must Go.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Comfortable: Manchester United 2 - West Ham United 0

photo by OliBacvia PhotoRee

Manchester United rode two Wayne Rooney goals to victory over West Ham United in a game that meant little to either team, but did manage to keep United's momentum moving forward before the Manchester derby early next week.  The first Rooney strike, from nearly 50 yards out, easily recalled the exploits of the watching David Beckham, with the United forward spotting the West Ham 'keeper off his line before volleying home from near the center line.  The Englishman's second goal was a poacher's delight, Rooney the recipient of a poor clearance attempt and able to slot the ball into an open net after shuffling his feet to corral the errant pass.

Although it was true the Reds' offense looked more fluid today in a game that saw Rooney supported by both Juan Mata and Shinji Kagawa, the visitors were unable to capitalize on their lead after the break, flubbing several opportunities to widen their margin of victory on a day that saw no lack of quality goals in the League.  Herewith,  the individual player ratings on a relatively comfortable away win.  

De Gea: Needed to stop Carroll's early header and did so. A little indecisive on a late cross, but didn't have much else to do tonight. 7.5

Rafael: Early yellow and beaten by Downing; aways looks one rash decision away from a red card of late. Improved as the game wore on. 7.0

Jones: Outleaped by Carroll on occasion, but had help keeping the Hammers' big man in check. 7.5

Carrick: Great distribution from the back and a confident performance in defense from the midfielder.  7.5

Büttner: Did well enough filling in for Evra, although did not face the same kind of test he will endure in the Champions League.  7.0

Mata: Great touch, fluid movement and beautiful passing.  7.5

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Penalties Rule The Day: Manchester United vs Liverpool from the Visitors' Perspective

photo by storemvia PhotoRee

Warning -- Fans of Manchester United Need Not Read Scott's Piece Any Further:
Liverpool stomped Manchester United last Sunday at Old Trafford.  In fact, you wouldn’t even know the game was being played at Old Trafford, such was the visitors’ dominance throughout, except for the white kits they wore.  Nor did the home side benefit from any close penalty calls, as one might have guessed.  In fact, it was quite the opposite with spot kicks, both missed and made, both deserved and undeserved, ruling the day.

Once I got over the sight of Raheem Sterling in Philippe Coutinho’s central midfield role, and over the sound of Tim Howard’s American accent commentating, I was pleased to see a series of true derby-style tackles and Liverpool playing well.  Sterling splashed the ball around well and weaved out of trouble when necessary, but needed to show more for his fellow players when they encountered resistance.  Steven Gerrard was playing as if it were his last United derby and Jon Flanagan, emulating his mentor, was calm on the ball and equally as tough in tackling.  Meanwhile, despite not scoring yet, SAS gave the defense fits throughout the first half.

At 33 minutes, Rafael should have been sent off with a second yellow when he purposely handled the ball to prevent Suarez’ deft touch from beating him in the box.  Subsequently, Gerrard soundly converted high in the right corner where, as Howard pointed out, David De Gea had no chance even if he had guessed correctly.  But then, at 36 minutes, Gerrard’s physicality caught up with him when he was rightly yellowed for an elbow to Marouane Fellaini’s head that bloodied the Belgian.

A few minutes later, the home team finally put together a dangerous offensive foray, even if the Robin van Persie shot was ultimately blocked.  Inspired, the Red Devils were spurred on by brilliant dribbling by Adnan Januzaj down the right who fed Rafael who then pulled back for Wayne Rooney.  Fortunately for Liverpudlians, Simon Mignolet was more than equal to the task and parried number 10’s shot high and wide.  Would this momentum push United to equalize in the second half?

No. Merely a minute after the restart, Phil Jones carelessly bump-tackled Joe Allen from behind in the box and the referee again correctly pointed to the spot.  Captain Fantastic again converted to the right side, this time low and into the corner.  Noticeably, both teams blatantly encroached in the area prior to Gerard’s kick, which meant I had to pause the game to explain to my 10-year-old son why the referee didn’t call it.  Quite frankly, I didn’t have a really good answer.  The best I could do is that it is for the same reason referees don’t call pushing, shoving, tackling and near-shanking in the box during corners – everybody does it and we’d never get the game played if it were always called. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Waking Up the Echoes: Manchester United 3 - Olympiacos 0

photo by urbanlegendvia PhotoRee

Playing as if suddenly awoken from a long slumber, and showing grit, passion and incisiveness for virtually the first time in this nightmarish season, Manchester United rebounded from a dour 2-0 first leg defeat to knock Greek side Olympiacos out of the Champions League on Wednesday night.  The 3-0 victory in front of the home fans revived the many European memories this storied club holds in its vaults, with tonight's circumstances and result most closely approximating United's famous comeback against Barcelona nearly 30 years ago. 

Led by a Robin Van Persie hat trick, and inspirational play from Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs and Antonio Valencia, the Red Devils' offense was not the only storyline to emerge from the pulsating encounter; rather, it was David De Gea's stunning work in between the posts that saved the team from disaster on several occasions, the Spaniard staking his legitimate claim to world's best with his performance -- a position he no doubt holds in the hearts of any true United supporter after yet another otherworldly outing.
Although the predictable reaction in the twitter-verse was to greet the evening's victory as "saving" the manager's job, and even more so as a game that could well represent a "turnaround" in United's quagmire of a season, instead the victory should be savored for what it truly was: a win for the home crowd, and a game that woke up the echoes reverberating throughout the stadium from the clubs' legendary European past.
Herewith, the individual player ratings on a rare night to be enjoyed from this season:

De Gea: Stunning, instinctive saves both before and after the break: a stone wall that kept his team alive.  Man of the Match: 9.5

Rafael: Confident, decent defensive performance tonight. 8.0

Jones: Solid at the back.  7.5

Ferdinand: Did just enough to put off Olympiacos.  7.5

Evra: Nearly scored on a header before the break, but caught out repeatedly on defense and became a bigger and bigger liability as the game wore on. 5.5

Valencia: Targeted early for physical treatment and hammered repeatedly. Played one-eyed for most of the contest, and put in one hell of a shift.  8.0

Faster!: The Need for Speed in the Barclay's Premier League

photo by Kevin Krejcivia PhotoRee

Ed wrote this column pretty quickly, as well

Is it all about speed?  The new trend of the BPL's winningest teams makes you thinks so.

Let's start with Liverpool -- Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez, both very fast and quick with or without the ball.  United's defenders looked absolutely plodding against them.  On the other end RVP and Wayne Rooney looked, well, okay.  But on the break the two Liverpudlians seemed untouchable.  It makes what happens behind them somewhat irrelevent.  Just hold a good line and eventually you'll get one through.

How about Chelsea?  For all the talk about Samuel Et'o's age, he still looks pretty darn fast to me.  Their game plan against Spurs was to wait until he or their other speedster, Andre Schurrle, stole the ball or got a break.  Pretty football?  No.  Effective?  Yes.

Arsenal?  Well against Spurs this weekend, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain played the number 10 spot.  Was he there to act as a creative playmaker?  No.  Clearly, Arsene Wenger took page out of Mourinho's book and just waited for the break.  It came, of course, but Oxlade-Chamberlain messed it up.  The rest of the game was all Spurs, but did it matter really?  And what has hurt Arsenal more than Theo Walcott's injury?

Spurs?  Emmanuel Adebayor is pretty fast, but not that quick.  Andros Townsend comes into the game and it's a different story.  Everything seems to click as he rockets around the pitch.  Chances are made, shots are had.  Townsend is great on the ball, but more than that he's the fastest guy out there.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

David Moyes Must Go: Liverpool 3 - Manchester United 0

....In other news, a disjointed, dispirited and downbeat Manchester United lost for the ninth time in the League this season, the most recent defeat coming at the hands of the club's historical archival, Liverpool.  The 3-0 spanking will have come as a surprise only to those who haven't seen the club play recently, as the Reds were throughly outclassed on their home pitch, never truly in the contest, out-coached, completely and utterly overrun in midfield and guilty of too many mental and physical lapses for one person to count.

If David Moyes and the club's legions of fans were hoping the two recent victories in the League were a sign of things to come, they would do well to remember who those victories came against -- sides near the bottom of the table.  The gap between the home side and the top four side from Liverpool looked like a yawning chasm on Sunday afternoon, with the startling 43 point turnaround from last season's point total seemingly a highly accurate reflection of the clubs' opposing trajectories.  One side looked to have a good young coach, a solid game plan, hounded the opposition at every turn, and received big performances from its stars; the home club had none of that.

While we have been somewhat hesitant to join the "Moyes Out" brigade -- creeping slowly but surely in that direction, yet desperately trying to resist the temptation to overreact to any single development -- the belief can no longer be denied: David Moyes must go.  Manchester United will not re-join the top ranks of English football until they free themselves of the weighty anchor that the former Everton manager has become.  

Moyes may be a nice man; he may even be a good coach.  What he is patently not is a good choice as Manager of Manchester United.  To those who think this call unwise and too hasty, I understand your position but disagree.  I could write chapter and verse as to the failings of Sir Alex's hand-chosen successor, but I will not -- the mental energy required is beyond my meager strength at this time, and many of the reasons have been commented upon here and in many other places.  In short, suffice it to say that Everton man's time is up due to the many reason enumerated elsewhere.  To persist in the current path is not a productive solution, and represents pure folly on the part of those hoping for a quick return to the pinnacle of English football.

If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, the Board at Old Trafford will be headed toward Bedlam if they refuse to act at season's end.  Perhaps the most disastrous decision would be to "double down" on Moyes, handing the overwrought manager a purse full of the club's massive treasure.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Dispatched: Ruminations on Manchester City vs. Barcelona and Spurs vs. Benfica

photo by geezaweezervia PhotoRee

Ed offers a dispatch on how Spurs and Man City were dispatched:
o Was I the only one watching Manchester City play Barcelona at the Nou Camp?  It seemed the English media -- all the English media -- got it wrong (and not for the first time).  While City did have a spirited first 20 minutes or so, and while they did play better than in the first leg, they were once again completely outclassed by Barcelona.  The slick and counterintuitive interior passing of Barca left City's expensive lineup swinging madly at the ball as it bounced between them, and it could have easily been 2 -0 pretty early in the game if not for a poor offside call and a missed penalty call on a clear foul against Messi.  The idea that City is "still a year or two away from European football success" is stupidity.  Or that they're still missing a few players to get them over the top.  That's wishful thinking apologists talking.  City isn't too NEW to compete in Europe, nor are they just missing a few players: the reality is Barca is simply far better than what may be the top English club, and they're far better than most other Clubs in Europe.
o Part of the reason is Messi, who is  finally returning to full form.  Messi looked so much faster and quicker than all of the City players it was bizarre.  He darts past their entire lineup when he wants to.  Neymar ain't bad either.  Or Iniesta.  Or Fabregas.  Wow. are these guys good....
o I understand that the Spanish media have been all over Barcelona's manager due to poor league play.  Having never watched them I can only speculate.  But perhaps the teams in La Liga are finally learning how to play against their system.  Clearly the zone doesn't work;  I'm still not sure why teams don't man mark Iniesta and Xavi in the middle.  Regardless, I expect to see this team in the finals.  Wouldn't Bayern v. Barca be a dream to watch?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Reversal of Fortunes: On Liverpool's Ascendancy and United's Downfall

You gotta hand it to Scott: it's taken 28 games for him to start gloating:

o Ten games to go, including away at United, followed by the benefit of hosting Spurs, Chelsea and City. Lucas returning for the United game....  While I still don't say the word "Title" out loud, lest I be the recipient of some ridiculous "Mind Game" comment from Jose Mourinho, I have allowed the Top 4 belief to escalate to the point of intractability. Historical statistics, supposedly, guarantee a Top 4 finish for the in-form Reds. This fan believes and will enjoy the rest of the season, Title or not.
o And making that acknowledgment and acceptance all the sweeter is an embarrassing amount of giddy shaudenfreud when I compare Darth Ferguson's disparaging writings to United's current plight.  That David Moyes is collateral damage, in the demise of the Evil Manchester United Empire, is regrettable but unavoidable. May he abandon ship before Lucas the Brazilian Skywalker and Co. brave the narrow Old Trafford gauntlet and torpedo the thermal exhaust port (OK, I had to look up what that was called).
o In other news, making for an increasingly pleasant Spring, United's Spanish counterpart, Barcelona, are also beginning to implode (in the League anyway), to the benefit of my Real Madrid. And this 2014 stumble is largely with Messi in the team and fit. The opposite trajectories of the Catalans and Madrileños does not bode well for Spain's World Cup defense, but there is still plenty of time to right that ship. But, in the meantime, Carlo Ancelloti has Los Blancos floating to the top of the table like Classico warrior ghosts bent on treble destruction, including the thus-far elusive Decima.

This is farlieonfootie for March 13. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Spanked: Thoughts on Spurs, Chelsea and Arsenal

photo by Franco Folinivia PhotoRee

A refreshingly realistic Ed, on Spurs' traditional end of season tailspin and other thoughts:

  • Spurs decidedly played the part they historically play against Chelsea this weekend -- that of a fifth place team with pretty much no business making the top four.  They lost, of course, four to nil, and let's not kid ourselves into thinking that the game was actually closer than that.  It should have been 1 - 0 with Spurs down to ten men after about a minute if the refs had not made a charitable offside call.  And this was just a preview of what was to come, as it turns out, over and over and over and over....
  • Chelsea let Spurs possess the ball, which Spurs did, but it was no surprise that Spurs did so harmlessly.  Kyle Walker was playing in an advanced role on the right and his lack of skill was exposed by Cesar Azpilicueta.  The Chelsea left back made it clear yet again why Ashley Cole now occupies a spot on the bench.  On the other side, Gylfi Sigurdsson is simply not enough of an athlete to make a difference out wide.  And Aaron Lennon, who buzzed around in the number 10 position more often that not, did his typical "I'm crazy fast and dart all over" routine but never threatened the goal.  Poor Spurs, outclassed and outmuscled.

  • Was it the manager's fault?  Well, some blame could be allowed for Benteleb and Sandro being outmatched by Chelsea's pressing midfield of Ramires and Lampard.  Perhaps Dembele and Paulinho -- however tired they were -- should have been pressed into action, as Benteleb is a liability defensively and did make a poor pass right to Samuel Eto'o.  But ultimately the middle triangle of Chelsea just bossed the game because they were better.  Nemanja Matic is a tough holder, covering ground and making the middle a no fly zone.  Matic cost $21MM from Benfica.  Wait, how much did Spurs pay for Erik Lamela to warm the bench?
  • A word on Jan Vertonghen is due.  The defender made noise about defecting from Spurs because he wanted to play in the Champions League.  To this I sometimes think -- if you were as good as you think you are , shouldn't you be able to carry Spurs to the Champions League?  Don't you bear some responsibility for them not making it?  Well, it seems the football gods agreed with me in part, as the first goal was the direct result of a Vertongen mental mistake.  Look, he's a great player and a terrific addition to Spurs, but dude, be a leader!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Showing The Way Forward: Manchester United 3 - West Bromwich Albion 0

photo by David Salafiavia PhotoRee

David Moyes rolled out perhaps his best starting lineup for his club's trip to The Hawthorns and was rewarded with a 3-0 victory on Saturday afternoon.  Although the final scoreline suggested a leisurely stroll in the park, the Red Devils did not pick up the game's pace until after the hour mark had passed.  With Danny Welbeck replacing a frustrated Robin van Persie, the visitors' attack picked up speed and momentum, as space opened on the pitch for the first time all afternoon.  Wayne Rooney and Welbeck both provided late scores to complement Phil Jones' header before the interval, but it was Rafael Da Silva, United's attacking right back, who showed his teammates the way forward all afternoon long.

Herewith, the individual player ratings for a game that will quiet the critics, at least for a week's time:   

De Gea: Little to do until late, resulting in another shutout. 7.0

Rafael: The return of some attacking panache: denied by a fine Ben Foster save but offered a well-aimed cross for Rooney to put the game on ice. A Man of the Match performance from the Brazilian. 8.5

Jones: Shaky beginning before heading home prior to the interval. Crunching tackles delivered with youthful exuberance. 7.0

Smalling: Displayed an unexpected ability to make up ground. 6.5

Evra: Beaten too easily. 6.0

Carrick: Solid outing; paired well with his Belgian counterpart.  6.5

Fellaini: Played a holding role and provided a target for set pieces. Displaying an increasing steadiness in his new role. 7.5

Mata: His talents are wasted on the wing, although he did contribute a fine defensive clearance. 7.0

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Gunning for the Gunners

Ed is remarkably consistent in his Spurs' coverage this season:

o Spurs rebounded nicely from their loss against Norwich and were able to secure the three points from Cardiff City, but did it have to be that hard?  Granted, the team had a difficult Europa League game earlier in the week, and as their manager has said, the team usually plays terribly after such matches when they return to the BPL.  However, it seems that Spurs are too content to sit on a one goal lead, even against poor sides such as Cardiff.  This makes the end a flurry of crosses and near misses and makes the odds of slipping to a draw all too high.  I recall the master class show that Barca put on City in the last five minutes.  No flurry for City; simply no ball to get ahold of.

o I'd like to think Roberto Soldado also heard at least echoes of my past writings in this space.  Or perhaps he was just due.  His finish was terrific; his other play was, at it has been of late, quite good.  But let's not think one goal will spur (sorry) him into action.  Adebayor and the coverage he draws clearly helped.  That said, it would be nice for him to be something of a threat in this last quarter of the season.  Is it too much to ask for him to gain some confidence and start to put some more shots in the back of the net?  Clearly he could do it in La Liga, why not here and now?

o Michael Dawson continues to perform like the John Terry-light of the team.  He doesn't have the athletic ability or speed required to be a top defensemen, yet he sometimes always gets that leg out or his head on the ball.  He is underappreciated by people like me, and will probably continue to be despite this small praise.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Too Soon But Thickening: Liverpool 3 - Southampton 0

Scott is enjoying himself, almost as much as this guy here:

Still too soon for title talk, but the win over Southampton at St. Mary's bode well indeed. Not that the score line accurately reflected the run of play. For most of the first half it was the home side who was firmly on the front foot forcing clearances and saves aplenty from the scrambling Reds. Only a fortuitous bounce to Luis Suarez, who promptly put his mini-drought behind him by cooly finishing into the side netting, allowed the one goal margin at half time. 

The second half started much as the first with high pressing by the Saints causing many of us to grab our rosaries and mumble in the general direction of Liverpool's beleaguered back line. Then, as if to renew faith in a higher power, who clearly has time to take in a match or two over the weekend, Suarez found the recently-entered Raheem Sterling who passed into the goal and restored breathing to Liverpudlians while simultaneously knocking the air out of the valiant home team.