Something's Happening At Liverpool And Rickie Lambert Started It
There are two ways that you can look at this:
Liverpool managed to weather a second-half fight back by a struggling Villa to close a game out at 2-0, with goals from players whose ability and value has been severely doubted recently. Thanks to a desperate rearguard action we remained in eighth place after rising briefly to the dizzy heights of seventh.
That’s the dull, prosaic version. The more poetic version, the more Liverpool version is this:
Something is happening to Liverpool, a spirit is returning; a defiance, a belief, a togetherness, a communion between the fans and the players, a sense that - once again - we’re all part of the same thing. It’s the spirit that you saw in the closing stages of last season as the flags appeared, as the massed ranks of red came out to meet the champions elect. You may mistake this for hyperbole but we know how this feels.
And this spirit? Where do you locate it?
It’s not in the moment that Jordan Henderson, captaining once more, providing dynamism once more in a perfectly balanced midfield alongside Lucas Leiva, lofts a ball into the six yard box for Borini to convert for the first goal. Cue the appropriation of the Balotelli song, possibly ironically, possibly not, to hail ‘Fabio Magnifico’. His Anfield career has underwhelmed, he’s provided running and little else, we’d gladly see him sold this month but he did his job here, he gave us a lead.
It’s not in the moment that Lazar Markovic - a forward, lest you forget - spots the cleverest pass that Villa play all afternoon and chases it down in exactly the way that you’d hope your best right-back would.
It’s not in Skrtel winning everything, absolutely everything or Emre Can becoming more impressive by the second. It’s not the unstoppable force of nature that Mamadou Sakho has finally become.
It’s not in Mignolet, the much maligned Mignolet, finally having the kind of afternoon that you want him to have; coming for crosses - TAKING crosses, commanding his box, pulling off double saves at crucial moments that keep his team ahead. It might be worth noting that Mignolet, that appalling goalie who we’ve called for everything this season, currently has as many clean sheets to his name as De Gea and Courtois.
It’s not even in the moment that Fabian Delph decides that he’s already a Liverpool player and sets up a lovely pass for Sterling to move the ball to Rickie Lambert, nor the sublime turn that Lambert executes to take a defender out of the game before curling home.
It’s immediately after this. Lambert wheels away as the travelling Kop go wild. He heads for the crowd - and the inevitable yellow card that follows - and celebrates as one of them, as one of us. As he is. As he’s always been. He’s followed by everybody and suddenly the Liverpool team is effectively within the crowd. Skrtel arrives and crowd surfs. And the the moment arrives. THE moment.
Lucas Leiva. Lucas who was the subject of Italian-bound conjecture, who had supposedly said goodbye to us all on Twitter, who MUST have been aware of the fan reaction to the ludicrous nature of the thought that we would allow him to leave when he has been so instrumental in our recent form. Lucas arrives. And he hurls himself into the crowd. He’s engulfed, he’s screaming, he’s lost. He’s a fan.
You’ve seen the vine by now. His face is contorted in joy. It is, for him and the team, a moment of relief, of release, of celebration. They know they’ve struggled, they know they’ve been criticised and they know that at Villa Park they rose above it all through unlikely and criticised figures.
Something’s happening. Let’s keep it going against Chelsea on Tuesday.