ALIVE AGAIN

November 29, 2007 |

El Nino was the business today. We won’t speak of his Houdini act for much of the second half, or of his complete disregard for one of physics’ simplest tenets when trying to go through a player instead of around him, and we definitely won’t comment on his inability to put the bow on a gift ball in front of net when there was only the goalie to beat.
No, for ₤20m, what we will speak of are his two superlative strikes to ease some of the pressure from a Liverpool whose European future is on the line. We will speak of value for money.
The first was a great use of the noodle and encompassed everything you are told as a kid – down and hard. The second goal was inspired. Shrug off a defender here, curl one around the goalie and another defender there. Top class.
With today’s win, Liverpool has now scored 17 goals in their last 4 games. You’d like to think that this, and today’s emphatic and crucial win, would be the main talking point as to the upswing in Liverpool’s waning fortunes both domestically and abroad. But no, it is simply provides a segue into further examination of the clubs “internal rift.”
It was nice to see the local lads out in support of Rafa. It was also nice to see Rafa exercise a little self-control and cease his vocationally-suicidal rants. What is most heartening is that his squad has come out and proved their class and Rafa’s worth as a manager and a tactician despite, or to spite, all that is going on in and around Anfield.
But as nice as a byline the 2000 Man March makes, we all know that it is the results more so than the outward show of support that will ensure Rafa keeps his job.
The irony may be lost on many, but with this string of results, Rafa is effectively validating G and H’s assertion that the cake he has already mixed needs to be forced to rise before he looks to add other exotic and expensive ingredients.  
Detractors may point to the fact that these results are false positives as they have come against some of England and Europe’s “weaker squads,” (Turkish minnows Besiktas, middle-of-the-log Fulham, struggling Newcastle and Porto). We will take this as begrudging praise, because – more so than any other team – Liverpool is held to a different, higher standard than any one team in European club soccer by the media, by other team’s supporters and especially by those that watch them week in and week out.
Pundits will point to the month of December, with its grueling schedule (9 games in 30 days), as being the true Litmus test for whether or not Liverpool’s has indeed emerged from the early season doldrums. Once they take on the likes of Man U and Chelsea (a-bloody-gain in another Cup tie), then it will become apparent whose philosophy about dipping into the transfer market is more advised.
As it stands now though, Rafa is doing what the bosses have asked – and well, too. It seems unlikely that the American duo, as sports-savvy as they are, will jeopardize their home-based support by canning a man that has proven himself a winner and a firm fan favorite.
Also, with Rafa’s apoplexy becoming apology (as muted as it was) he has demonstrated that he can be contrite and humble. Mourinho would’ve just quit. Wait, he did.
When all this is said and done, this much-hyped “rift” will be put down to hand bags at 50 yards, and Rafa will be polishing some of his hard-earned silverware with a couple of extra million pounds.

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