Liverpool conjure up a rare authoritative performance at Anfield
The past week has been full of negativity surrounding the club, its functioning and the direction in which we are headed under our ‘Messiah’ known as Brendan Rodgers after the manner of our defeat to Aston Villa. The ouster from the Capital One Cup at the hands of Swansea ensured that there was no mid-week fixture and the Reds prepared for their next home game, incidentally also their last at home in Anfield for 2012. The week rolled by and the forever faithful supporters filled in the stadium in the hope of something special to cheer them up for Christmas and believe you me, they were not disappointed.
Ever since the beginning of the year, Liverpool has had a very poor record at Anfield in the league, constantly being frustrated by teams who used to be a stroll at home in the past, but this was not to be the case against Fulham. The Reds started the match in confident style and were penetrating the Cottagers’ midfield with considerable ease and for the first time in the season, they made it count when a Steven Gerrard corner was received by an unmarked Martin Skrtel in the box, who blasted it into the net with such skill that Liverpool’s finishers could take a leaf out of his book. For the first time this season, Liverpool had scored a goal in the first ten minutes of a Premier League game and the signs looked ominous.
A lot of people have stated that Gerrard has been way below his usual self and it’s true given his high standards, although not many of them realize it was partially due to the absence of the ever-reliable Lucas Leiva in the middle of the park to help relieve him of his defensive duties and provide him with more freedom upfront – something which makes Gerrard the dangerous player that he is. Gerrard looked like a man on a mission right from the start and he made the chances count when granted. Now if the world hadn’t ended on the 21st of December, it could have on the 22nd for Stewart Downing, yes Stewart Downing, had just provided an assist of such quality that even Iniesta would have stood up and clapped. And Gerrard was at the other end to slot it across Schwarzer into the back of the net. 2-0, 36 minutes gone and Liverpool had made a statement of intent here.
The Fulham team was struggling to cope up with the fluid passing of the Reds across the field, with a make-shift midfield that was devoid of the likes of Diarra and Steve Sidwell. Berbatov remained largely subdued and was booed every time he touched the ball, ex-Liverpool youth Alexander Ka?aniklic tried to spark things up but in vain and barring a strong left-footed effort from Kieran Richardson, Pepe Reina remained a spectator to the game.
The second half started as the first and Liverpool were in no mood to relax or sit back and again started pushing forward relentlessly, until a Steven Gerrard pass found Downing on the right, who ran, turned Riise the other way around and blasted the ball home for his first goal of the season. This was not a dream, Stewart Downing was really ripping the Fulham defence apart, a three goal lead and only fifty minutes played – yes, the goals were finally flowing at Anfield and to the delight of the fans, this was indeed going to be a happy Christmas in the red half of Merseyside.
The game went quiet after that, with no real urgency in the Reds’ play who were happy to dictate the pace of the game and the fans were happy singing and enjoying a rare authoritative performance at Anfield this calendar year. But then the icing on the cake was left and a great run down the left by Jose Enrique was rewarded when Luis Suarez tapped in to score his eleventh goal of the season and complete a commanding 4-0 rout of Fulham.
Man Of The Match: Tough one between Steven Gerrard and Stewart Downing, but the latter will get it for finally scoring and assisting a Premier League goal after 45 competitive matches in a Liverpool shirt, and it made boss Brendan Rodgers state in his post match conference that “with such performances, I don’t think he has to leave the club.” Up next is a tough away fixture at Stoke and Downing will be hoping he can contribute with his new found zeal and continue resurrecting his club-career, one which had stooped to a new low when he was used as a second choice left-back.