Liverpool: We've Found Our Rhythm, Champions League Place Is Ours
"These are the nights where you arrive in the Champions League..."
I no longer need to come up with pithy opening lines, Brendan Rodgers is doing the job for me. And he's right, these are the nights that matter, these are the nights that can define seasons, the nights that can accomplish great deeds, signal turning points, turn a good campaign into a great campaign and a great campaign into the stuff of legend.
Not that the first half performance would have indicated that. Everything that was present in the weekend's Arsenal rampage was missing in tonight's opening 45 minutes. No cohesion, no creation, no urbanisation and a comedy Kolo Toure own goal to hand Fulham a lead that could have seen the London team haul themselves from the foot of the table.
Ah yes, Fulham. Let's address the elephant in the room on that one immediately shall we? The South-West London club had spent the last couple of days telling anybody willing to listen that they may have to cancel tonight's game because they were worried that a tube strike would prevent their safety staff from arriving at the ground on time. Avoiding the fact that we don't complain to the rest if the country whenever Merseyrail is running late and not asking the question "Don't they have buses in that there London then?", the red side of the Mersey took to Twitter to point out that Arsenal could manage to put on their game against United and (as far as we were aware) that was also in London and that the truth behind the need for cancellation was that Fulham's players were goosed after running themselves into the ground at Old Trafford and the club was petrified after seeing our humiliation of the Gooners.
This seems to have quite annoyed the London club. Straight out of the traps, constant pressure, never letting Liverpool settle; their 1-0 lead was more than deserved and almost doubled. It was only a Gerrard pass of utter genius to tee up the ever cool Sturridge that ensured parity after a lacklustre first half performance.
The second was much improved with Liverpool finally finding creativity and rhythm. Obviously Fulham took the lead again. Obviously as a result of a central defensive error again; this time the problem was Skrtel's, his feeble clearance falling to Kieran Richardson for a simple finish.
The Champions league slot was beginning to appear precarious. We were, once again (as ever, as ever) failing to capitalise on the teams above us dropping points with Chelsea the latest to succumb to the Victor Anichebe sucker punch and Arsenal's implosion continuing in a bore draw with David Moyes' travelling clown troupe. Worse was that Spurs resurgence (revitalised by Adebayor in those few weeks each season where he actually gives a toss) was continuing at St James' Park, Newcastle having retrenched into their customary post Xmas slumber.
A must win game was being lost.
You could claim that sometimes you need luck on your side, you could argue that fortune favours the brave but Liverpool kept going and through this keeping going fashioned a rescue plan.
Philippe Coutinho has been in a splendid vein of form of late but his shooting has signally failed to improve. Here his move into space was impeccable but his shot destined for the keeper until a defender's back diverted it nicely into the net. A point regained but still not what was needed. Luckily Reither at right back for Fulham decided the 90th minute was a suitable time to lose the ability to tackle. A dancing Daniel Sturridge entranced the defender to the extent that he forgot the exact location if the ball and took both the number 15's legs instead. Obviously the man you need in a situation like this is Steven Gerrard.
And so a night that had threatened to squander so much opportunity, so much ground gained transformed into a come back of heroic proportions.
It's the 13th of February. We have yet to lose a game in 2014. We are four points from the top of the table with Chelsea and City yet to visit us. In the last five days we have made up five points on Arsenal. The summit is in sight. By the end of May this comeback may be seen as crucial.