Liverpool: More Referee Idiocy But We're Five Games From Glory
Any time that you feel like breathing, just give it a go. In. Out. In. Out.
It’ll come back to you eventually.
Turns out that we can do grim and gritty.
You know the kind of test that you can look forward to at Upton Park, know the kind of test that an Allardyce side will throw at you. God love ‘Big Sam’, his ongoing delusion that he is a modern manager with a scientific bent is almost endearing at times, flying in the face of all independent observation as it does. Still, at least his own fans didn’t jeer him from the pitch today. Got to be a bonus that.
In fairness, West Ham weren’t quite as agricultural as expected today. They seemed quite happy to play football. As long as it was in the unbelievably crowded centre circle. From that point on it was all high and long, high and long. They huffed and they puffed and they did the whole ‘none shall pass’ thing and they made life as difficult as they could for Liverpool but ambition? No, not really. Their sole attempt on target by game’s end stands as evidence of their limits and limited ambition.
The one thing that you can do when you face an Allardyce team is ensure that you’re ready for the fight. Ensure that when artistry will not work that you are willing to roll up the sleeves of that awful away shirt and dig in and scrap it out.
It’s a small pitch, the Boleyn. Too crowded, too many bodies to try and thread a touch of genius through. Patience is paramount. Probing and poking and moving and switching. Liverpool indulged in all that as well.
So Liverpool fought. Liverpool took on the physical. Liverpool countered the head tennis tactics and Liverpool moved the ball and waited and moved the ball and waited. Waited for the gap. Waited for the chasers to wilt. Waited for the moment.
So Liverpool had the patience and the desire and the backbone and the fortitude and were ready to take on the might and majesty of Sam Allardyce’s West Ham United.
They forgot that, as ever, they were also going to have to battle a 12th man who felt the need to involve himself in the media reports.
I’d love, one day, to write a piece on Liverpool that makes no mention of refereeing ineptitude but referees don’t seem willing to allow me.
And yes, opposing fans are complaining about the number of penalties that we are awarded but we spend our time in the opposing area, we force opposition mistakes. If a central defender chooses to handle as his only solution to the trickery of Luis Suarez it is because we have forced that mistake, forced that situation.
What we don’t force is the sheer abysmal quality of refereeing decisions elsewhere on the pitch.
Andy Carroll was always going to be part of the story today. We didn’t think that it would be due to his punching Mignolet in the head, clearly fouling the keeper and forcing a dropped ball to gift West Ham an undeserved equaliser.
The linesman saw it. That’s linesman, let’s get rid of this assistant referee rubbish and call them what they are - linesmen. The linesman saw it. He flagged it. Anthony Taylor - let’s name the guilty idiot shall we? - entered discussion with his linesman and then gave the goal anyway.
And all this time the Liverpool players are pointing the pointless official in the direction of the big screen in the corner of the ground which is replaying the incident and showing him exactly how wrong he is. You can’t make this stuff up.
One all at half time, Lucas for Coutinho, dominance of midfield once again falling to the side in the terrible away kit. The second penalty? Look, I’m biased but I’m having it. Adrian (go on, do it in the ‘Rocky’ voice, everybody else does) touches the ball but then takes both Jon Flanagan’s legs. Mistake forced again. Penalty again.
So I thought it was a spot kick. We’ve established that fact. Doesn’t mean it was but the fact is that Taylor was always going to give it no matter how dubious he thought it. He knew how badly wrong he’d called the first half decision, he knew he needed to atone. So atone he did. Apparently these things do even themselves out.
From there Liverpool start to play some real football and West Ham find themselves dragged around their far too cramped pitch. Big Sam’s solution? Stick a second big lad up front and send it high and long, high and long. Our reply? Go five at the back by throwing Kolo Toure on. Which I think we’ll all agree is quite entertainingly mental.
Throw it up, head it back, throw it up, head it back, the standard Allardyce dance.
We withstood. There have been seasons where we wouldn’t. Many of them. But this season is different. This season we take the challenges and we take the problems and we take the dangers and we deal with them.
There are those that claim that we can’t do it. You can’t win fourteen on the bounce they say. They’re missing the point. We don’t need to win fourteen on the bounce. We need to win five. We’ve won the first nine already.
Five to go.
Still on. Still believing.
Follow Ian on Twitter, @fish2310