I WATCHED the game on Saturday in our house an hour after it had kicked off. I watched it with my four-year-old son. I didn’t have a drink. These three statements are quite important really, because it didn’t half alter my match-viewing experience.
For starters, I had to set up communication blackout to stave off any potential spoiling tweets, Whatsapps, phone calls, messages, or jolly Red passers-by. Phone off, radio off, curtains shut. Press play on the Tivo box and away we go.
The other significant factor is that it was also the first game I have watched live (or re-live) with my son. He’s only young, he’s not that interested yet, but I managed to blag him into watching it by offering up lolly ice to sweeten the deal. I hadn’t watched a live game with him up until Saturday, as I am pretty much banned from watching The Reds in our house in the presence of other humans since Hull away in 2013 when I hastily took my shoe off and lashed it at the telly and nearly ended up living in my car as a consequence.
Anyway, that’s the context of my match-viewing experience this weekend. It is mad watching the game as if it is live when it isn’t really. It completely changes your mindset. My nerves had gone, completely gone. In the period when I knew the match had kicked off but I wasn’t watching I was convincing myself that all kinds was happening; The Reds are three up, or maybe they are getting battered; what am I missing? Fucking hell, just get your phone out and check you prick.
Once I had pressed play, all I could think about was the fact that the game was already well on its way to being decided, without my influence. There was nothing I could do to change matters, I couldn’t sit in a certain way, or talk sense to the players to make them improve. I couldn’t even check Twitter to inform my opinion on the game. I just had to sit there and watch it hoping for the best. There is something really off-putting about this loss of imaginary control. The transformation from an involved influential force to be reckoned with to just some bellend sat on his couch trying to convince his kid that this is a fun way to spend the day is quite something, when you think about it.
Anyway, the game kicked off and The Reds were poor. Alarm bells ringing from the offset, from the first minute. The intensity from the Hull game was AWOL, misplaced passes and a lack of options were the order of the day. Degsy Lovren was getting caught under the ball again, maybe too keen to impress. Joel Matip, for the first time, looked slightly rattled and a little ponderous in possession, probably as a consequence of The Reds lack of shape.
Swansea scored, Adam Lallana got injured and it looked like another one of those days; you know the ones, where The Reds concede, do nothing, concede again before half time, do nothing again and we all go home with a cob on for the rest of the weekend.
It was at this particularly low ebb that my lack of influence over proceedings was pointed out pretty succinctly by my viewing partner:
“Dad, they can’t hear you, you know — they are on the telly.”
“I know lad, I know.”
Seeking to remedy the morale issue he carried on:
“Shall we put another football match on?”
Just when we thought The Reds would spiral out of control we managed to stay in the game. The script for this type of first half performance has them scoring again before the half. The Reds, acutely aware of this, sought to keep the ball. Whilst there was still an element of panic in the final third, it was significantly less than at Burnley. By getting to the half at just 1-0 Liverpool, gave themselves a chance of a turnaround in the second half. There is something pretty important in this.
It suggests that, after a five-year absence, some form of game intelligence is finally starting to creep back into this Liverpool team. There is nothing wrong with getting to the half. There is nothing wrong with getting in the changing rooms and getting a much-needed bollocking, while the game is still alive. In fact it should be applauded. The overall approach wasn’t lost on my co-commentator:
“The whites keep chasing and the Liverpool just kick it to each other.”
Succinct, to the point, first-class, modern-day analysis right there. Cutting through all the shite about counter-pressing, passing lines, half spaces, half turns, there is something really refreshing about watching a game with someone who sees it for what it is; almost like watching the match with Bob Paisley, although he followed that one up with:
“Don’t let him do that you silly bongo head.”
Now I wasn’t privy to the inner conversations of the Boot Room, and never really heard Paisley speak, but I’m fairly sure that this was a staple statement back in the day.
The second half brought a change in character. The Reds seemed to remember that Swansea were on the way to robbing our points off us and set about catching them in the act.
Roberto Firmino’s goal was magic. His movement, when everyone else is stepping out of the box to either try to stay onside or to try to catch us offside, was one of complete awareness of the situation; two steps forward before the ball is played and a belter of a header into the corner. He is some player, isn’t he? He is quietly one of our best; ruthless in front of goal, tireless out of possession, intelligent enough to play in five positions and look entirely comfortable. He has got a fabulous technique for obtaining possession, whereby he unbalances his man with a subtle nudge here or there without really fouling him and keeps chasing until it appears it has been miscontrolled and then pounces.
The rest of The Reds are on to it as well. It’s right on the borderline of a foul but because it is designed to knock the opponent off-balance, to force an unforced error if you will, The Reds are getting away with it. Let’s hope some bellend doesn’t flag it up for referee’s to get on to it.
Once we’d scored there appeared to be only one winner. Liverpool ran over Swansea, squeezed them into submission. The shape was more compact, the work rate was higher and as a consequence it was easier to play and keep the ball. Swansea couldn’t get out and started to tire.
Liverpool battered them for 20 but couldn’t score. Nathaniel Clyne was everywhere, Firmino a nuisance, James Milner better than John Barnes but Swansea hung on. I asked Paisley next to me for an insight into what was going on. He lifted his head from the superhero figures he was playing with and calmly muttered:
“The whites are old mans,” before going back to knocking shite out of Spiderman.
He was right. Of course he was right. Old men get tired, tired minds make mistakes. The best left-back in the world slotted what was the best penalty ever taken and The Reds marched on with three more points, thanks to Degsy Lovren’s last minute kick it over the ground winner. In the words of Paisley:
“Come on the Mighty Reds — Come on the Mighty Reds — Can we go the park now, Dad?”
Is right lad.
Let’s go Redmen.