Nutmegs and a tight spot

November 11, 2007 |

Is this a resurgent Liverpool I see before me?

Rafa fooled and amazed all and sundry today by trotting out the same squad that gave Besiktas eight in the midweek.

Initial reports suggest that he ran out of unused team sheets before kickoff.

With his propensity to keep everyone on edge, I’m beginning to think Rafa derives a certain perverse pleasure from toying with peoples’ sensibilities.

It will be interesting to monitor how people are going to weigh in on the squad selection and the resultant outcome. Certainly Rafa will view it with a wry grin. Because as crisp as his unchanged starting lineup was, it was his choice of subs at a combined price of £47m that cracked Fulham’s defense.

It proved to be the unlikely goalkeeper-to-substitute combination that did what his starters failed to do — break the deadlock.

In typical languid fashion, Torres took Reina’s clearance on his chest and weaved his way into the 18-yard box putting a left-footed effort through a defender’s legs and by a wrong-footed Niemi.

Benny Onion was fantastic again as was Voronin, both of whom nearly put Liverpool on the scoreboard in the second half.

Crouch almost broke his Premiership duck on the stroke of half time with a looping header that found the crossbar. And when Bocanegra was forced to scythe him down just outside of the of the 18-yard box, the ref pointed to the spot. You can’t blame the ref for getting it wrong. When Crouch goes down it’s like watching a box of straws explode — where it starts and ends is almost impossible to fathom.

It must be said, we looked good. There was more creativity in front of net and a focused urgency that has come across as desperation to this point in the season. If any criticism be made, there were a couple of times where we should’ve kicked in the front door instead of trying to coax it open with cute touches.

It may be too early to get excited, but after two good showings the future is looking bright again. With another International break looming, we can only hope that history is not in a repetitive mood. If we cast our minds back, it was this exact situation that precipitated an on-song Liverpool inexplicably returning in 6’s and 7’s after a tremendous start to the ‘07/‘08 campaign.

I disagree with most of what is pinging around on popular convention wavelengths about Torres. Yes, of course Torres would look agitated on the bench. No one likes riding pine. But he didn’t need to start the game. He found his way into the game at exactly the right moment.

Why put Torres needlessly in harm’s way when he has suffered two similar injuries right on the back of one another. We need look no further than Michael Owen to see the dangers in rushing someone back from injury.

And look at the model of latter-game saints. Ole Gunner Solskjaer, the Baby-Faced Assassin — is a perfect example. He was a fantastic striker in his own right, but he made his living coming in off the bench and exploiting tired, compromised defenses in the late stages of games. Same as David Fairclough.

There are obvious differences — Torres is not a ginger ninja and neither of the other two were record signings. It is understandable that for the money Liverpool spent, the expectation would be that management should wring every last bit of talent and use out of him. I’m no bean counter, but I’d say the yield Liverpool got from his twenty minutes was well worth their investment.

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