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Fan Diary #16: Fearless Liverpool (As In, We Scare Nobody)

4092569026 fe2295b514 Fan Diary #16: Fearless Liverpool (As In, We Scare Nobody)

Liverpool Need Their Roar Back

Liverpool aren’t scaring anybody these days. Danny Murphy pointed this out during the Liverpool/Birmingham City half-time show. Unfortunately, he’s too right.

Against Birmingham, Liverpool spent more time with the ball than an NBA forward playing one-on-one with a ten-year-old kid. The Reds completed something like five times as many passes, and they kept the ball in Birmingham’s end so much the Birmingham players nearly changed into swim suits and took out their cameras whenever they made an attack because it must have felt like they were on holiday the rare times they approached the Liverpool goal.

But still, Birmingham were not afraid.

They were facing a Liverpool that had only one win in the last eight outings. (The commentators informed me if we lost again it would be our worst start to a season in 45 years. Who needs coffee? If that doesn’t wake you up on match day, there’s not enough caffeine on the planet.) On top of that, Birmingham entered the match with the second to least amount of goals conceded in the League. So they were content to let Liverpool keep crashing into the wall and capitalize on two of the few opportunities they were given. They haven’t lost to Liverpool in their last six encounters and they are exactly the kind of side to give Liverpool problems no matter how the Reds are playing.

But when N’Gog scored the opener, I thought for sure we had this.

It was one of those rare times when I decided to watch from home. I made myself a cup of coffee in my Liverpool mug (before I heard the 45-year thing), put a penny in the Liverpool piggy bank and wrapped myself in my Liverpool fleece. Short of going out and buying a six pack of Carlsberg and dying a glass of beer red, I had all my superstitious bases covered. (I need to stop mixing my sport metaphors, don’t I?)

When N’Gog scored I launched myself in the air, banged my shin on the coffee table and jumped around the hardwood floor like I’d just won the lottery. My neighbors downstairs must have wondered what the hell was going on. Three in the afternoon on a Monday and the ceiling is shaking. Nothing to worry about here, girls.

This goal lifted me doubly. First of all because we were ahead and we were dominating Birmingham. Secondly, because N’Gog’s goal was brilliant. It started with a fantastic run from Glen Johnson (one of Liverpool’s recent returnees from injury who actually looks like he’s back to fitness) who put the ball in for Dirk Kuyt. Kuyt’s shot was deflected but Yossi Benayoun got to it and hurled it back into the area. He found N’gog who hit the first-time volley into the roof of the net.

To me this goal coupled with his collected effort against Manchester United are signs of a player coming to maturity. Young N’Gog is bursting with confidence and ready to go at it with the big boys. This is of great reassurance with Torres still struggling with injury.

But my glee didn’t live for long. From a free kick (of course) Birmingham created a chance for Christian Benitez to head the equalizer past Reina. Glen Johnson had kept him onside and “Chucho” ate up the free header.

It’s alright, I said. We’re still dominating. We’re still playing the way we should be. Good pressure. Dominant possession. Something’s going to go in!

But fate shook its head. As half-time neared, Albert Riera (fresh back from the physio’s) was on the ground clutching his hamstring. He couldn’t continue. As I heard the roar of the crowd I thought they were only applauding Riera’s efforts. But the camera cut to Steven Gerrard taking off his warm-up kit. Stevie G. The captain was about to come on. If he was close to fit he could turn the match upside down. Was he fit though?

When the minutes were announced, I thought it was just enough time for Liverpool to make a statement. Retake the lead before the break. Let them know who’s in charge of this match.

But instead it proved to be enough time for Birmingham to break our hearts. On 47 minutes Cameron Jerome took the ball down on his chest, warded off Mascherano with his left arm, set himself up and fired the ball from about 18,000 miles away from goal. And it went in. It was one of those goals that is glorious to behold even as it tears your heart out of your chest and throws it in the waste paper basket.

Half time.

This was tough to take, but I still felt we could win. Liverpool were playing the way they were supposed to. Driving forward. Using the wings. Charging into the area. The finishing wasn’t there except for that one brilliant N’Gog moment, but I felt sure we’d figure it out. Birmingham don’t score very often and it was unfortunate they’d converted two in the first half, but we could contain them and turn it around. Plenty of time.

Now, I complain about diving a lot. I’ve fumed over Ronaldo’s flops. I’ve accused Drogba of cheating us out of the Champions League. I’ve called for retroactive punishment against Eduardo. So when David N’Gog tumbled over Lee Carsley’s leg and the replay showed there had been no contact at all, I was at war with myself inside myself. It was an ugly dive. N’Gog should have stayed up or waited for contact. But dammit we need the goal! I was sick about the dive but when Steven Gerrard stepped to the spot and belted it home, I was thankful for the penalty. In my defense, I spent the rest of the match praying we’d get two more so that N’Gog’s dive wouldn’t be the determining moment.

But no more goals came. And what’s worse: Yossi Benayoun pulled up before the match was over, clutching his hamstring. It’s bad enough Riera was only back for forty-five minutes before going off again, but now the player who’s been the most threatening for us with Torres and Gerrard going missing was coming off injured as well.

Now, Manchester United are not as good as they were last season. With Ronaldo gone and Giggs and Scholes showing their aging, the Champs are a weaker outfit. But they still put the fear into their opponents and they still have that inimitable confidence that comes with being Manchester United. Even when they are struggling they still have the grit (and the reputation) to make the difference and eke out a result on a bad day. (Unless they are down to Chelsea in which case they just start fouling everybody and then bitch to the ref like they are being persecuted every time he blows the whistle. So Chelsea’s reputation precedes them as well.)

Liverpool, however, have lost this kind of edge. Even when we’ve struggled in seasons past we’ve still had the mentality of being a top four side that is hard to beat. If we blew it one week, we’d come back the next. Sides still feared us. Our players still believed they could come back no matter how little time was left. This was evidenced in all the late winners of last season.

But now, with this extended rut, Liverpool’s confidence is shattered and our opponents come at us with the belief they can extend our miserable streak.

I thought the match against United would turn things around. And then we didn’t play badly against Lyon. But that essential mentality is missing. We need to get it back. I’m not even worried about silverware this season anymore. I just want to see Liverpool play well and reestablish the winning chemistry. Even if we don’t make it out of the Champions League group stage (unlikely anyway) and finish sixth in the League (feeling like a real possibility at the moment), I’ll feel better about everything if we just play with conviction and put that fear back into our opponents from here on.

Of all our many problems that’s the biggest one.

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20 Responses to Fan Diary #16: Fearless Liverpool (As In, We Scare Nobody)

  1. A says:

    Reira got the assit for EggNogs first goal and Jerome took the ball with a sublime touch with his boot not his chest. Otherwise nice article.

  2. Richard says:

    Great article. As an Arsenal fan this is what I’d say they’ve suffered from for four years. All it takes is a sniff of vulnerability and bottom teams play their hearts out looking for a point or more and a precious, confidence-boosting scalp. You’re right about United–they don’t have that vulnerability. Look at Sunderland–it was they who were self destructing even when they dominated United at Old Trafford. But against Liverpool this year, other teams know they can kick the Reds while they’re down.

    Arsenal show signs of overcoming that–but only if they keep scoring four goals a game. Of course, in Manchester, they were the same old Arsenal of the past four seasons. Sadly, it takes time to shake bad habits once they’ve crept in. I would love it if ‘Pool won the league before United does again, but they have a major monkey on their backs right now.

  3. Matilda says:

    I was watching the game in an airport bar between a Liverpool supporting Brazilian and a Brummie born and bred. When N’Gog dived (and what a spectacular dive it was full marks, fabulous execution) the Brummie shouted to the (predominantly American and non-football supporting) bar “It’s the bloody Liverpool Ballet!”

  4. mintox says:

    I’m sorry but that’s absolute rubbish, teams will always fear the big teams, even Liverpool.

    Teams go to Anfield (or any big team) to steal a result, very rarely do they ever turn up and play open football. They sit back, defend and try to steal a goal on the counter. They do this because they fear being torn apart if they try to play and give liverpool space. You only have to look at the 6 goals they scored earlier in the season.

    Liverpool had mountains of posession and plenty of chances to score 2 or 3 more. Birmingham looked too scared to do anything with the ball apart from lose it quickly. It took a goal of amazing audacity to put Liverpool on the back foot.

    The day teams go to Anfield and don’t sit back and defend is the day they don’t fear Liverpool.

  5. Jorge Curioso says:

    “They were facing a Liverpool that had only one win in the last eight outings. (The commentators informed me if we lost again it would be our worst start to a season in 45 years.”

    And, yet, somehow Benitez is still considered a great manager by some Liverpool faithful.

    Even Houllier did better.

  6. Sam says:

    Liverpool have startled the other big guns in a few years.

    Benitez is considered great even though there is ZERO evidence to back this up with the exception of a fluke and lucky Champions League final.

  7. Zola612 says:

    On Nov 10th, I posted in comment 4 in a different article (http://epltalk.com/blatant-ngog-dive-rescues-liverpool-angers-birmingham/12816#comments) that I was looking forward to see how you would handle (or mishandle) the issue of N’Gog’s dive.

    You did what I expected you would. You mentioned it in your 17th paragraph, but only after admonishing Ronaldo, Drogba, and Eduardo for their previous dives. You acknowledge that it was an “ugly dive” but in the same breath you state “but dammit we need the goal!” Are you saying that fairplay and sportsmanship are only important when the game is not on the line? Has it never occurred to you that those other teams might needed a goal as well?

    • nothap'n says:

      And what does that do for you? Give yourself a pat on the back for being right and move on with your life

      . It was a fan diary, so the article should progress as such, as the author explained what he was thinking from start to finish of the match. Since the penalty was called in the second half, it only makes sense that it would come later in the article. If this was an editorial or some sort of opinion piece, then the subject of diving should possibly show up sooner. But, it’s not…it’s a FAN DIARY.

      • Zola612 says:

        If it were just a fan diary about the match in it’s chronological order then why does is it reference 3 players not involved in the match? EA chose to reference Ronaldo, Drogba and Eduardo to mitigate the actions of N’Gog. He failed to acknowledge the absurdity of vilifying some players but not others for dives, dependent upon whether “his” team “needs a goal”.

        Fan diary or not it is ridiculously hypocritical and simply could have been handled better by acknowledging the 2 questions I closed my post with.

        I s’pose I could ask you what your post “did for you” or if you gave yourself a “pat on the back” before you moved on with your life. But to be honest I don’t care, post what you want and I will too.

        • ngog says:

          Quite simply, the author related his internal debate on how to feel about N’gog diving to help his team. He did that at the time by expressing how he feels about constant divers like Ronaldo and Drogba, which are always relevant to the subject.

          Funny thing is, I’m not sure you understand what a diary is. A daily record of the writer’s own experiences, observations, feelings and attitudes. Which means the writer has every right to be hypocritical since those are his thoughts. They aren’t really meant to be fixed to please a whining, nitpicking reader like you.

          • Zola612 says:

            Fair enough…a diary is indeed “A daily record of the writer’s own experiences, observations, feelings and attitudes.” But when published on a public blog (not tucked neatly under your mattress) with a space for public comments only the most naive contributor would not expect a response. You or the Mr. Armstrong can title this blog posting whatever you want, but it is a blog posting.

            So I’ll re-state what I closed my last post with “post what you want and I will too.” And look I even managed to do it without calling you or anyone else names.

          • ngog says:

            a diary is normally candid, but doesn’t have to be, so I’ll appreciate the author’s opinions regardless of whether I agree with them or not.

            you can respond all you want just as we both have. however, you have continuously critiqued the author by pointing out what he should or should not have included in the diary AND when it should have been included.

            No one is saying you can’t disagree with the author’s opinion. But you saying “He failed to acknowledge such and such…” or “fan diary or not it is ridiculously hypocritical and simply could have been handled better” is so far off it’s not really even funny.

            I guess if someone doesn’t write the way you want or think the way you think you feel you need to slam them. So be it. Just be prepared for responses in return.

          • Zola612 says:

            Ngog you say “No one is saying you can’t disagree with the author’s opinion”
            Really?!?!
            The tone of your posts and the name calling suggest otherwise.

            You also say “I guess if someone doesn’t write the way you want or think the way you think you feel you need to slam them.”
            Pot…kettle…hello?!?!?
            I gave EA some thoughtful feedback with some natural questions. And you slam me for it.

            You don’t even see the hypocrisy do you? I think I sense a theme.

          • ngog says:

            If it was an opinion piece, you can do whatever you want to criticize the writing. It’s not. We’ve established it is a diary and the author is free to express his thoughts as if he is writing down what comes to his head naturally and go from there.

            I’m trying to halt your criticism of the author’s WRITING skills as if you are some sort of English teacher.

          • Zola612 says:

            We have not “established it is a diary”, we have established it is titled “Fan Diary”. To me, it is a blog posting with a comments area (regardless of the title). If comments are not welcome then maybe the comments section should be disabled, or it shouldn’t be posted in a public forums.

            You say “If it was an opinion piece, you can do whatever you want to criticize the writing. It’s not.” But in post #13 you said I could “respond all you want”. Which is it? Who decides? You? Should I clear all my post through you, or will there be some sort of committee to determine which posts are open to critique and which aren’t?

            You could have given your support to EA with a positive post (like others have) and ignored my post(like others have). But instead you chose to reply to my post by calling me names in an attempt to censor me. It is cyber-bullying, and it is weak.

  8. YourMom says:

    A good article, properly labeled a Fan’s Diary. I expected a red tint when I read it, and got it.

    Interesting to read your take on the dive. Diving is a tough subject, because at one point or another, all teams will benefit from it, making most fans hypocrites.

    • Jorge Curioso says:

      Strictly speaking, benefiting from something does not make one a hypocrite because he criticizes it. It’s if he secretly condones it for his benefit.

  9. Andrei says:

    I’m still not sure if it was a dive. If you look closely there is no contact simply because N’Gog is trying to _avoid_ it by jumping over Carsley. It was a split second decision and you cannot definitely say what was the player’s intention. It is very likely that it was a gut reaction to avoid injury. If he really wanted to dive he would do it the way Rooney did against Arsenal – start falling before the challenge and make sure there was plenty of contact. Do not forget N’Gog was playing against Birmingham City – a team full of “not that kind of guys” that have two broken legs on their scoresheet in their last two EPL seasons. When you watched the game on TV you didn’t put your health and your professional carrier on the line in that split second decision. N’Gog did so don’t rush judging him.

    I will go ahead and state that to me it was a penalty – fair and square. Carsley went all out at N’Gog making sure he wouldn’t pass. I’ve seen many times referees giving a yellow card in the situation like this just for the intent without any contact. Birmingham just got what they deserve for their brutality on the pitch.

    • nothap'n says:

      Also, on first viewing at full speed, the match commentators believed it to be a penalty too; the camera angle was coming directly from behind the referee so he saw what we saw.

      Obviously, looking at 3-4 other close-up angles in slow motion showed a different story, but I usually prefer to look back on things at full speed to determine what kind of call would likely be made by a ref.

      That’s what makes this difficult in terms of knowing what is and what is not a dive. I’d personally rather the referee’s only call clear-cut penalties and just wave things off if they think their was not enough contact.

      After all, in most other sports, this type of thing also exists.

      In basketball, when two players collide it can be called a charge or a blocking foul, depending who got to the spot first. In American football, pass interference can go both ways. In both sports, players will “flop” for a charging call or deliberately run into a player on a drive to draw a blocking foul, while receivers will run into defensive backs to try and draw pass interference calls. We don’t necessarily call them cheaters for trying to buy a call.

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