Performance Art. That’s what it is. It’s the only logical explanation. Just like a mime artist, or a ballerina, Simon is putting on a show that so far has lasted 30 months and shows no sign of ending. For the EIGHTH GAME IN A ROW, our opponents scored with their first shot on target. I’m shaking my head in disbelief even typing it. Bonkers. I know he was offside, yada yada yada, but once more Migs was unable to produce a save when it really mattered. Until….
……it really mattered. When it was all on the line. When all the chips were in the middle. Suddenly, inexplicably, a wonderful goalkeeper appears. 7 penalties faced, two saved and he got a hand to another. Agility. Speed. Quality. The final penalty save was right out of the top drawer. Exquisite. The script-writer for this piece of performance art nailed it, and Migs has played the role well enough to be a late nominee for an Oscar. Well, he is white after all.
9/10 (Purely for the penalty shoot-out)
A performance that would bring a tear to a glass eye. The local lad who grew up in Anfield itself (he was born on the Kop, raised in the Anfield Road End and lives in The Boot Room) is back, and he performed like he had never been away. When he crunched into a tackle in the first half and left his opponent writhing in agony, it was like an electric shock to me. I had completely forgotten that defending could be like that, that Liverpool players can do that, should they choose. It wasn’t a malicious tackle, it was one full of heart, full of pride and full of passion from somebody who really, really loves the club. Instantly he exposed so many of his fellow defenders as flim-flam merchants. Welcome back Flanno.
He ran himself into the ground for the cause. A player of his *ahem* ‘experience’ has been pushed to the limits by the rigors of the fixture list and the lack of defensive options in the squad. He gave his all for 85 long minutes against a team determined to target his lack of stature, and he did exceptionally well. Along with his fellow defenders he limited Stoke to an offside goal and just one other shot on target. His legs finally gave way but his mission was complete. Lovren is back and KOLO can take a well-earned break. Give that man a Kit-Kat (no, not a Rooney sprog, the chocolate bar).
Better. Well, it couldn’t be much worse in fairness, but credit where it is due. Stoke City chose Peter Crouch ahead of Shaqiri in a blatant, naked assault on the game of football, but it didn’t work. Mamadou and his defensive partners worked their collective asses off to nullify the threat of the long balls and it worked for the most part. The goal conceded was the result of a slick footballing move, so karma clearly took umbrage with Mark Hughes and his crude methodology. You can understand where Stoke were coming from though, so the fact that their tactics didn’t work is a credit to Mamadou and co. Now, keep it up, eh?
Brad Smith. That’s all I have to say. *taps nose*
Our glorious leader didn’t last an hour. Something is not right, be it due to an injury or a lack of form. Klopp talked him up pre-match, but I know what I see, and I don’t see the Henderson we know he can be. Klopp has an interesting call to make this summer with regard to the captaincy role at Anfield. Henderson is Brendan Rodgers’ captain, not Klopps’. So if he’s not captain anymore…is he an automatic pick? Right now would you have him in the team ahead of Poor Joe Allen? There’s a thought for you to ponder on…after you finished reading the rest of this, obviously).
Remember, he’s only 21. He’s young, relatively inexperienced, and young players will have off days while they learn their trade. He’s playing alongside a midfield partner who’s not at the races for whatever reason, and who should be his Captain and midfield general. Right, that’s the case for the defence. The prosecution are outside the door with flaming torches and pitchforks. That was pretty poor from Emre last night. He even got an ear-bashing from Herr Klopp for dilly-dallying on the ball. He did work hard, gave it his all, and is worth persevering with.
Never allowed take penalties again, obviously.
You get the impression that Lucas fecking LOVED that last night. Right up his alley, that match. Scrappy, attritional, niggly. Perfect. He did well in that role, without ever really catching the eye. He didn’t pick up a yellow card which will disappoint him. In fact a late Stoke break looked extremely threatening, and he missed his attempted hack, which left him relying in Poor Joe Allen to do the dirty. The shame….
Captain for the second half of the night, started as part of the attacking unit, finished playing right-back, in a major cup game…and that’s where the Steven Gerrard / Istanbul comparisons end. Last night was his 550th senior game. FIVE HUNDRED AND FIFTY!!! I still think he’s only 24. James Milner will always only be 24. He worked hard, he huffed and he puffed, but he didn’t really do anything, you know? A solid shift from a solid professional. That should go on his gravestone.
Restored to the starting line-up after his Carrow Road heroics, and he began the game like a man possessed. He sprinted faster and farther than I’ve ever seen him sprint in the opening 15 minutes…and then he was absolutely shagged. Another attacking player who toiled, prodded and probed, but once again didn’t actually do anything. It was the first half of extra-time before Liverpool had a shot on target. At home. In a cup semi-final. Thank f*ck we won or The Samaritans would be looking for somebody to counsel them this morning….
He had a shot on target. He hit the outside of the post. Err, that’s about it really.
Oh. Great penalty.
Poor Joe Allen:
What A Magnificent Bastard.
A 35′ cameo that we’ll be telling our grandchildren about. He ran the show within seconds of setting foot on the pitch, taking the match by the balls and showing it who’s boss. His yellow card was the second greatest thing he has ever done in a Liverpool shirt. Stoke were on the break, charging forward. Two Liverpool players had tried and failed to stop them. They had 3 on 2 if they got past the midfield. The Anfield faithful had seen this break play out in front of them so many times before, they knew what was coming. Wembley was gone. The season was ruined. May couldn’t come quickly enough…and then he appeared, like Randy Orton with a RKO, from out of nowhere. A crude, cynical hack brought the break to an abrupt end. Finally, someone in red knew how to play the game in the real world. It brought me to my feet. Outstanding.
Then he capped it all off by slamming home the winning penalty in front of the Stoke fans. That’s his greatest moment in a Liverpool shirt. Quite a night for Poor Joe.
He came on. He jumped a bit. He ran a bit. He earned obscene amounts of money. He scored a bloody brilliant penalty. WAHEY!
Manager: Jurgen Klopp:
Jurgen will look back at his first season in charge of Liverpool in his retirement years and will shake his head. He’ll mutter the word ‘Verruckt’ while rocking back and forth on his rocking chair. Names such as ‘Benteke’, ‘Sturridge’, ‘Allen’ and ‘KOLO’ will bring a wry smile to his hirsute face. He’ll reach over to his cabinet and will take out his Capital One Cup Winners Medal, and he’ll tell his grandchildren about how THAT medal is the one he is most fond of. They’ll look at him in astonishment and ask him why he cherishes that medal more than the 7 Premier League, 4 FA Cup and 3 Champions League medals he won in his 10 years at Anfield. He’ll simply reply ‘Brendan Rodgers’ before cackling loudly and hugging the kids tightly.
‘Verruckt’ means ‘Crazy’, FYI.
Note: If you enjoy the guff on this blog, you can find me on Twitter (@NiallHawthorne). I’m also regularly contributing to ByTheMinSport.com. Finally I’m a co-host for the best weekly Premier League Podcast in the whole world – @ByTheMinEPL Podcast, which can be found on the website. If you’ve read this far, pat yourself on the back.