Liverpool v. Bolton. Alright. As I’m starting this it’s nearly 2am here on the east side of America so I’m going to reel off a few hundred words before bed. Sorry for the brevity compared to my usual output, but kickoff is eight hours away and this writer needs some sleep. But I do want to get my pre-match thoughts in.
Mostly I want to talk about Dirk Kuyt. I’ve written about him before. I’ve put forth my praise and my belief in him. But last time out I think I was a little hard on the man if only through my undertones. I basically said with Yossi, Steven and Fernando out, I didn’t know where the goals would come from. I said Dirk looked tired. I said he needed more service to get something going. I showed skepticism. I was out of line.
And while I’m sure Liverpool’s loyal and dogged Dutchman didn’t read my last entry, he responded to my disbelieving gripes anyway with two sure goals against Tottenham. The first was unadulterated magic. Dirk—who’s first touch can so often seem clumsy and makes any Liverpool supporter skip a breath, waiting to see if the ball will stay ours—gracefully took Pepe Reina’s long pass down with his chest and sent it right to Aquilani. Aquilani deftly pushed toward the area and gave it back to Dirk who’s long in-traffic strike looked as improbable as it was earth-shattering. We were one-nil up on Spurs, one of the toughest teams in the league these days.
The second goal was a well-taken stoppage time penalty. Perhaps more notable then your average pen since Dirk had to take it twice (after the ref blew on the first attempt for encroachment) and he converted both times.
But then there was Wolves. After Liverpool beat Spurs 2-0, one should expect them to easily shrug off Wolverhampton. Especially with Steven Gerrard coming back from injury. But as always, the so-called minnow sides of the Premiership have a way of giving the Reds endless headaches. My friend Carl says Liverpool really beat themselves in matches like these and I must agree. Nobody attacking the goal. Constantly ceding possession. This was a dismal outing.
Bringing it back to Dirk, I think he took on less responsibility with Gerrard coming back. Like: Stevie’s back, he’ll win it. I’ll take more of a support role again. I don’t know. Dirk just wasn’t playing as an out and out forward but with Torres still gone, we really need him to push up and try to devour a chance. But none of our players looked like they had anything to play for that outing. I can’t blame Dirk for us drawing to Wolves. But I can hold him largely responsible for us beating Spurs.
So here comes Bolton.
Bolton are one of those sides that could come out and just implode, or they could fire themselves up and really devastate. You just can’t tell with Bolton these days. Any set piece they earn is going to have me just convulsing with worry. We suck at defending them. Matthew Taylor can definitely put one away from distance.
But at the same time: I’ve only seen Bolton beat us once since I’ve been following English Football. 2-0 in the fall of 2006. Every match since that we’ve won. Even in seasons when we’ve had problems against sides we should have owned (Stoke, Hull, Barnsley!), we always seemed to pull together against Bolton. Maybe it’s that Derby-like atmosphere that comes from trotting up the road to the Reebok, I don’t know. But we can beat Bolton. We’ve got to.
Dirk Kuyt, I’m sorry I doubted you. You are the man to get in there and make a real difference. You wear Liverpool on your sleeve. You probably sleep and shower in your home kit. You are everywhere on that pitch every week and I just know you are going to pop up in front of goal and make me wish I could erase all the doubt from my previous article. Go get ’em, Dirk.
Forgive me my past doubts: in Dirk I trust.