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.
The first half was, I am going to say, deliberative, in the style of a testy academic debate. The first entrant, Prof. Rafael Benítez—scowling, keen, bristlingly goateed, blotchy of face, militant, wearing a history of kidney stones and media mind-games, as though he were nursing an infected psyche and a minor case of mumps—sent out his red ideas and watched them like an angry egg. The second entrant, Prof. Luiz Felipe Scolari—a debonair hulk, looming in wind pants, ready to smash his fist through the first two-by-four that didn’t find him charming—sent out his blue ideas and looked on like a swaggering potato.
The flow of argument was biased toward the red. Quick series of proofs kept branching in that direction. Frequently, with a thump of the podium, the red professor would send a screamer from Alonso or Mascherano straight at his opponent’s goal, forcing a defensive rhetorical retrenchment in the form of the flying Petr Čech. And even then the rebuttal was frequently bungled, leaving the goal open to a series of missed retorts.
The blue professor’s thinking seemed to have retreated and congealed before the irritable aggression of the red professor. Frequently, only the intemperate and clumsily articulated nature of the red ideas themselves—Dirk Kuyt’s lack of composure, Mascherano’s ad hominem rudeness—kept Prof. Benítez from scoring a decisive point. On the stroke of halftime, the nimble theorem Steven Gerrard spun through Prof. Scolari’s logic and brilliantly laid the ball off for Rieira. But Rieira was unequipped to advance the cause of knowledge and, utterly discredited, merely tapped it back in search of a more current school of thought.
The second half was more of the same, except that Lampard got sent off (undeservedly), Bosingwa didn’t get sent off (undeservedly), and Fernando Torres scored two goals at the end (one a twisty horizontal header, the other a Yossi Benayoun-crafted plink into an empty net). You can’t say it was exactly lux et veritas, since Chelsea never should have been reduced to ten men. (It was like, no, sorry, Plato does still have a place in this discussion.) At the same time, Liverpool were in control of the game from the opening whistle. And the gossips at the faculty club are going to be wondering about Scolari’s late decision to replace Kalou with Stoch.
My man of the match was Alex.
by Brian Phillips · February 1, 2009