The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.
We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.
Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.
Liverpool have just beaten Besiktas 8-0 at Anfield to record the largest win in the history of the Champions League. The Liverpool players’ own shadows on the pitch did more to stop them than the Besiktas defense, but regardless of the opponent this Liverpool performance was a work of art—fluid passing, precision and power in every phase of the game, attackers pouring forward in waves. It was everything they’ve recently lacked, and while it does nothing to address their slide in the Premier League—with Porto beating Marseille in the other Group A match today, it won’t even put them in qualification position in the Champions League—it does more than any match since the 6-0 win against Derby to remind the world that this is a dangerous team.
Who stood out for Liverpool? We can start with the scorers. Peter Crouch, loping like a greyhound, was a constant threat: he scored the first after sending a low shot off Hakan Arikan, then pouncing on the rebound; and he scored the last, in the 88th minute, on a well-timed close-range header. Yossi Benayoun bracketed half time with a hat trick. Gerrard scored on a back-flick from Voronin. And Ryan Babel, who didn’t even come on until the 62nd minute, scored two not long after in the space of three minutes, the first of which he sent in with the back of his heel while facing away from the goal. It was that easy for Liverpool tonight. There were ballboys who would have scored if Benitez had only played them.
The most impressive aspect of this performance for Liverpool may have been that, watching the game, you always felt there were more goals there on the pitch. Crouch missed at least one very plausible header, Riise might have scored twice more, and Benayoun was close to netting a fourth on a couple of different occasions. Babel knocked a powerful header off the post to miss out, narrowly, on his hat trick. 12-0, or more, was in striking distance, and it wouldn’t have been a misleading scoreline, either.
For now, temporarily vindicated, Rafa and his team will look to carry this form forward into their next Premier League game, an easy home match against Fulham. If sanity prevails, they’ll do so without Dirk Kuyt, who may have been the least happy man in Anfield today as he watched this match from the bench. With Crouch and without him, Liverpool looked like title contenders again, but you can never be sure what Rafa Benitez will do. Surely, surely, with his role in today’s demolition and the spark he’s provided all season off the bench, Peter Crouch has done enough to deserve a starting place? Surely Benitez can no longer look away?
by Brian Phillips · November 6, 2007