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.
But it was a fine performance nonetheless, as Liverpool coped with the stress of re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere by recording a pedestrian 2-0 win. Rafa Benitez named an unchanged side for the first time since 1967, but Liverpool supporters will be clamoring for a return to the rotation policy after Fernando Torres and Ryan Babel, both second-half substitutes, played like men among boys despite being boys among men. It was Torres who averted what had begun to seem a likely draw for Liverpool with his beauty of an 81st-minute goal, as he somehow gained control of a long clearance from Jose Reina, worked a neat crossover sidestep to find a space past Aaron Hughes, and crimped the ball just inside the near post. Babel, meanwhile, was a consistent threat and looked at times like the only player on the pitch with full batteries. Yossi Benayoun and Peter Crouch also played well, if not to the same level they had reached at midweek. It was Crouch who earned the penalty decision that Steven Gerrard converted for the final margin of victory.
I know there’s some brilliant and ironclad reason why Crouch and Torres are supposed to be unable to play together. Can someone remind me what it is?
For Fulham, this was as encouraging a match as a 2-0 loss is ever likely to be. Playing at a bumpy, deliberate pace, they successfully frustrated their more talented opponents for the first nine-tenths of the match, and had a few legitimate scoring opportunities themselves—Danny Murphy in particular, with his 16th-minute shot that sent Reina sprawling for the ball. Thanks to Newcastle’s draw against Sunderland, they stay 13th on points, at least until tomorrow afternoon, but they can look at their form today as a real source of encouragement heading into a difficult home match against Blackburn.
It’s hard to know what to make of Liverpool after today. They’re clearly a dangerous team, but there’s still a weird air of vulnerability around them considering that they won two matches by a score of 10-0 this week. It will be interesting to see whether Rafa sticks with this lineup (perhaps finding a way to fit in Torres and Babel) or talks himself into going to Newcastle in two weeks with a youth team and the remains of Dirk Kuyt’s confidence.
by Brian Phillips · November 10, 2007