Liverpool Fan: I've Managed To Forgive Mario, So Should You
So we did it again; left all the madness to the last five minutes. It’s becoming a habit this, perhaps if Liverpool just sold tickets for parts of the game from now on? Turn up at eighty minutes, see the business end of the game.
Unlike the insanity that turned the QPR game into a free for all from the 86th minute onwards after a seemingly endless dismal irritation to that point, unlike the ultimately fruitless bombardment of Hull after boring everybody rigid for the first hour of the game, Liverpool were actually fairly decent against Swansea.
It’s the Capital One Cup (is that right? Is to still the Carling? The Milk/Rumbelows/Johnson's Paint/League whatever?) so we’re almost contractually obliged to use the phrase ‘much changed’; Liverpool were ‘much changed’. Nine changes from Saturday and none that you could say disgraced themselves in ay way at all. No bad performances. We played nice football, neat football, lots of possession. Just no real threat up top. As is pretty much the norm at the moment.
Rickie Lambert came in as sole centre forward, held the ball up well, moved with more fluidity than we’ve seen from him so far. Fabio Borini arrived in what we’d probably call an old inside right position if we still used such terms; arrived as a man with a point to prove, yesterday’s man, unwanted, untrusted, unloved by the manager that promised so much on the player’s arrival. He proved his point. The lad’s best performance in a red shirt, endlessly available, turning with the ball, making space; all topped with one of the most sumptuous crosses that you’ll see this season.
Shall we talk formation?
We got a new formation. I do love a new formation. Technically we started with a 4-2-3-1 but spent most of the evening employing some kind of mutant 3-2-4-1 which I’ve not seen before. Manquillo, technically at right back, seemed to have strict instructions to believe that he was a rampaging right winger. Johnson, supposedly employed at left back for the evening, was actually some sort of left centre back in a 3; he appeared to add muscle to his frame as the evening proceeded in order to match the physical presence of Kolo Toure somewhere to his right. I say somewhere as Kolo seemed to be ready to play anywhere he damn well felt like playing - ‘I’ve got the ball, what shall I do? Might as well see how far I can run with it’. There were moments, many moments, where the night’s defence was Lovren. Just Lovren. A wonderfully manic way to run a game.
Ahead of them Markovic had his most quietly impressive game so far; nothing flashy, nothing smart but he grew into the game, grew into the English game. Tidy, solid, not explosive. I’ll forgive that ridiculously slashed shot that could have given us an early lead and wasted a fine move. Henderson and Lucas sat well, threaded some glorious through balls to the forwards that weren’t actually there. Coutinho was more Coutinho than ever, more Coutinho than his cameo on Saturday. Everything went through the Brazilian. Everything. Slump over, the lad’s ready to kick on again.
But still there was no cutting edge. Obviously we succumbed to a Swansea sucker punch. A kindly deflection but a hell of a finish. At 83 minutes we’re going out of the (whatever we’re calling it) cup and we have more problems, we’re deeper into the crisis that parts of the media love so much.
Last week I took a firm stance on Mario. More than happy to never see him in a red shirt again. Sell him now. With the caveat that I may change my mind.
I may change my mind. I may forgive him. He put himself in the right place, he slipped between defenders, he connected with Borini’s sumptuous cross and put us back in a game that we were letting slip.
Still though, the threat of extra time and more sodding penalties loomed. I’ve seen enough penalties this season thanks, I can live without any more. Swansea’s centre back goes through Coutinho as he threatens the box. The red card’s unwarranted but gives us numerical advantage. We’ve got five minutes of time added on. A free kick from the flank in the last of those five minutes goes undefended and Dejan Lovren, the improved and improving Dejan Lovren, nods it in at the far post.
We may not have had the easy ride we hoped for, we may not have had the clean sheet but this Liverpool side, this ‘much changed’ Liverpool side, came from a goal down to win a cup game in normal time. This ‘much changed’ Liverpool side gave us a touch more madness, augmented by whatever it was that went on between Balotelli and Shelvey - applauded otherwise by the home fans at every corner for his service and his dignity in the closure of that service - in the area and continued to go on after the whistle, into the tunnel and may well still be going on when you read this. I do love a bit of madness. As long as we win.
We won. Might as well win the cup then. Whatever it’s called.