A rare occurrance, and probably an ill-advised one as well, as I have yet to start writing my last essay — which was technically due on Friday, but I’ve been told to send it in “sometime this weekend.” That’s an invitation to watch Saturday morning football if I ever heard one.
A quick link before I get into the game: The Run of Play has a Peter Crouch one-liner contest that has befuddled me for a few days now (if my lack of a proper submission is any indication). What’s that? Incentive, you say? The winner gets to request the next Tuesday Portrait, which, if you’ve been paying attention, is a weekly must. Kind of like church.
Now, then. The team that I love, playing the game that I love.
1. A starting formation of 4-3-3 from Rafa is about as rare as unspoiled food in my refrigerator. But with Voronin and Crouchinho adding to the attack (although the GTFBM playing wide left is terrifyingly reminiscent of Houllier’s human experimentations on Heskey), you can see what he was trying to do: force the Reading defenders to focus on more than just the best and quickest way to put Torres out of commission. To top off the bizarreness, Rafa had the added audacity to field the midfield trio of Gerrard, Mascherano, and Sissoko. Three parts hard knocks, two parts skill, one part nihilism.
2. Jack Hobbs, in his first Premiership start at age 19, what a kid. He’s looked hugely promising for the reserves and in various cup/youth competitions, and the early plan of playing him at the holding midfielder position has seemingly paid off in terms of his positional awareness and his touch. He’s not silky by any stretch of the imagination, but getting these big-league minutes will do even more for his development and his confidence.
3. I won’t go so far as to say that penalty call was bullshit, but the replays tell the story. Carragher was very fortunate not to be booked for the challenge, though, which was a bad one, even if it wasn’t PK-worthy. Ironically, getting an early lead finally forced Reading to play like they deserved it.
4. We’ve seen the Gerrard-Torres Express leaving the station quite a few times this season, but the return trip is every bit as scenic. A lovely control by Torres, a surging run by Gerrard, and — wait, hold on, am I sensing the glimmers of an actual strike partnership? I haven’t been able to say that about a Liverpool team since Owen left.
5. Sonko’s job on Torres, it was kind of like No Country for Old Men, except without sawed-off shotguns. Also known as, Shite and Unconscionable Defending.
6. That second Reading goal was 1) perfectly set up, 2) terribly conceded. Luck and arbitration aside, Liverpool didn’t show much sustained pressure leading up to that. The third goal I won’t even go into. Reading haven’t played absurdly well, but they’ve kept up with the pace, they’ve gotten a few breaks along the way, and most importantly, they’ve taken their chances, and they’ve earned the point.
7. I have to go back to the 4-3-3 as the start of Liverpool’s problems. It was a good idea on paper — add firepower, solidify midfield prescence — but Bobby Convey pretty much singlehandedly nullified that. His work rate on the wing today was, at the end of the 90 minutes, pretty emblematic of Reading’s spirit, and contrary to the thankless individual task it might usually be, his efforts paid off in handsome fashion for his team.
8. Losing for the first time this season doesn’t feel as soul-crunchingly horrible as I expected it would. It’s almost therapeutic, in fact. Now we can concentrate on Marseilles and the Mancs, which, let’s not lie, every Liverpool fan and employee wants to see more than a win against Reading.