By Sam Mathius
Too many times as a Liverpool fan, the status quo has never been challenged. In the eras of Rafa and Woy (if six months can be labeled an era) poor performances were addressed with comments politicians would be proud of. Drab draws and lousy losses were met with words that were all too positive. How many times would Rafa, as much as a legend he is, downplay the significance of a dropped three points against teams in the bottom half?
“OK, we lose. Is fine. We have other games.”
It still plays in my head like a broken record. That’s why Kenny’s harsh statement after the Bolton game was such a relief. Not only did it represent the fans frustration but it also has lit a fire under the rear end of the squad. It couldn’t have come at a better time.
The eight game stretch the club embarked on with Wednesday’s Semi-final tie against Manchester City marks a murderers row of matches for Liverpool. In just over a months time, we play United twice, Wolves, Spurs, Everton, Arsenal and Cardiff in the League Cup Final. If a rich run of form is maintained throughout, we could be holding a trophy, have knocked United out of the FA Cup, and could have taken vital points from fourth place rivals.
It’s crunch time and Kenny’s sharp words in the wake of last weekend 3-1 loss was certainly needed.
The evidence of the effect was on show at Anfield on Wednesday. It’s City’s fans who sing, “we score when we want,” but it was Liverpool that played the part of voluntary scorers. Each time City went ahead, the lads responded immediately, never dropping the tempo, never laying back. For both their go-ahead goals, the Citizens only led for a total of 17 minutes.
Apart from the ever active pair of Bellamy and Kuyt, several players were markedly more productive. The new boys, Downing and Henderson were particularly more lively. The former was a menace in the first half. After six months, the whipped in, quick crosses finally came off the England International’s right foot. He wrecked havoc in the City box and was instrumental in the build up to the first-half penalty that Captain Fantastic put away. For the first time since maybe the second match of the season, I was legitimately excited to see what Downing would do with the ball. As for Henderson, he still drifted out of the game as can be expected of a young central player stuck on the touchlines. Still, he was much better finding space and simply keeping the ball moving.
Undoubtedly, the return of Gerrard has lifted the team and Henderson may be the one to benefit the most from a marauding midfield partner to ease the burden. Even so, Kenny’s words can’t be ignored. Many of the lads played like their jobs were on the line because they probably were.
With just six points separating the club from 4th place and two cups still up for grabs, the season is well and truly in the balance. This next month will be the most important period when we look back on the campaign in the summer, be it qualified for the Europa League or the Champions League. Oddly enough, it could be a 3-1 loss away to Bolton that may hold the most importance come then.
It’s nice to see a team play for their lives going into crunch time. Cheers to the Scotsman for taking the gloves off and throwing some verbal punches. Hopefully it’s more of the same on Saturday.