In a lot of ways, the start to the 2012-2013 season has mirrored the finish to the 2011-2012 one--the dominant narrative is one of disappointment, with failure to create any sort of consistent run of results ruining the club's chances to return to the upper echelon of the Premier League. On performance and points Liverpool have been a distinctly average side for most of the calendar year, and that doesn't lend itself to too many moments of joy or celebration.
There were a few, though, and given the current climate, it's worth spending at least a little time revisiting the things we actually enjoyed. I love Liverpool very much, I love our blog, and I love the supporters' community that we choose to interact with. But none of it's been much fun lately, and while choosing to look only at the things that have gone right over the past year is both blowing smoke up our collective asses and ignoring the very real problems, it's also a respite that feels needed.
We know everything's the worst, but sometimes it's helpful to remember that it's not like that all the time.
1) Dirk Kuyt Gets the Winner Against Manchester United in the FA Cup
The alienation of Dirk Kuyt and Maxi from the starting eleven was one of last season's most maddening trends, particularly as Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing floundered and frustrated in their places. Both had to rely on substitute appearances and brief run-outs for most of the season, and especially for Kuyt, that didn't lend itself to an instant impact. Against United in the FA Cup, though, he had one of his most influential moments of the season, lashing home the winner with just two minutes left in regular time. Pepe Reina's goal kick was flicked on by Andy Carroll, and Kuyt sneaked in behind a hapless Patrice Evra to blast past David De Gea. Anfield went truly nuts, and Liverpool were on to the quarterfinals of the FA Cup.
2) Kuyt Puts Liverpool Ahead in the League Cup Final
Liverpool's League Cup run gave them their first piece of silverware in six years, and while Kuyt's goal late in extra time didn't seal the victory, it sure seemed like it was going to. His streaking run didn't look to end particularly well at first, as his blasted cross/shot failed to find Luis Suarez and ricocheted directly back to him. But an instinctive flex of his right leg allowed a shot on goal, and somehow the resulting shot squeezed in at the near post past Tom Heaton.
3) Steven Gerrard's Hat-Trick in the Derby at Anfield
On a consistent basis, Steven Gerrard is not nearly the player he once was. We can read arguments to the contrary from the manager and his teammates, but the visual evidence provides nothing to corroborate the insistence that he's still got it for any period longer than a match or so. The Merseyside derby at Anfield was one of those matches, though, and the captain sealed Liverpool's dominance with three goals, the first of which was absolutely sublime. The cherry on top was the celebration after the third and the final whistle, a blatant fuck-off to the classless chants from Everton fans he's endured for years.
4) A Wonder-Goal from Sebastian Coates at Loftus Road
What'll happen to Sebastian Coates is anyone's guess, with loans rumored and chances at increased playing time bogged down by the first-choice pairing of Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel. I'd like to see him worked in more often, as aside from the odd bobble--which is unfortunately more frequent than anyone would like--he seems to be a perfect fit for a side that needs a center-half that's comfortable with the ball at his feet. Against QPR, it was a jaw-dropping volley to open the scoring that left us wanting more, and while the result didn't end up as hoped, the young Uruguayan gave us one of the year's most memorable moments.
5) Andy Carroll Wins It Late at Blackburn
In a match full of storylines--Maxi scores two early goals in a rare start, Doni gets sent off in one of his only starts for the club, Brad Jones saves a penalty in his first involvement, Liverpool surrender the two-goal lead Maxi provided--it was Andy Carroll's arrowed header at the death that gave us the biggest lift. Sebastian Coates' long ball over the top was headed towards the middle by Daniel Agger, and the onrushing Carroll met it perfectly with his forehead to beat Paul Robinson.
6) Carroll Does It Again Four Days Later at Wembley
A dismal first half left Liverpool looking like they'd miss out on their chance at a double, with Everton deservedly in the lead via Nikica Jelavic's 24th minute goal. It didn't look like Kenny Dalglish's side had many answers, but a Sylvain Distin error gifted Liverpool an equalizer through Luis Suarez, and Carroll proved to be a match-winner in the dying minutes yet again. He won't be fondly remember for his time at Liverpool by many, but he sent Liverpool to the FA Cup final here, out-muscling Marouane Fellaini to nod past a helpless Tim Howard.
7) Luis Suarez Bags Six in Two Matches at Norwich
Opposition supporters have become dreadfully predictable over the past year and a half when it comes to Luis Suarez--boo while he's in possession, throw in a "You Know What You Are..." at an especially silent moment, and then flip-off the striker if he comes close gathering a ball that's wandered out of bounds. What's been nice to see is a new norm set at Carrow Road, one that's seen knuckle-dragging Norwich supporters silenced by consecutive hat-tricks from the Uruguayan. He first did it at the end of April, with a wonderfully-placed opener, and perfectly-struck second, and a third that humiliated John Ruddy from just inside the Norwich half. He did it again to wrap up September, with a second that was magnificent--seconds after blowing a one-on-one, he strips a defender, nutmegs him, and then tucks it in at the far post with the outside of his right foot.
8) Suarez Swans in Front of David Moyes in the Derby
Liverpool should have won the first derby of the season, and this isn't a "if they'd only taken their chances" lamentation. Suarez scored the winner and it was incorrectly waved off. No foul from Sebastian Coates, no hint of offside, no false moralizing about how he didn't deserve it because blahblah wankwank. It was a terrible call, and Liverpool should have had all three points. Of course, they also shouldn't have pissed away an early two-goal lead, but you know, whatever. Suarez claimed two and only deserved one, but his celebration for the first--which was correctly ruled a Leighton Baines own-goal--gave way to a Fowler-esque display in front of David Moyes, who spent much of the run-in talking about how dangerous the Uruguayan was for the integrity of the game.
9) West Ham Old Boys Lead Liverpool Comeback
Among the many faults of Liverpool over the past few seasons has been their lack of spine late in matches, and after they'd given away yet another early lead, it looked as though any chance at three points had gone. Glen Johnson's opener was good enough to win any match, but a Mark Noble penalty and Steven Gerrard own-goal left the visitors looking overrun for much of the second half. But Joe Cole's lovely finish from Raheem Sterling's through ball leveled the score, and minutes later Jordan Henderson combined to force a James Collins own-goal (which has now been ruled a Shelvey goal, but get real) and gave Liverpool the win.
10) Re-Ups for Suarez, Suso, Sterling, Skrtel, and Agger
Failings in the transfer market have been well documented, and ahead of the January window we're not feeling overly optimistic. But what has been a success is the work of retaining the talent that is at the club, with a number of experienced and younger squad members signing on for the long-term. Luis Suarez and Martin Skrtel led the way in the summer, and Daniel Agger followed shortly after making it clear that any move away from Anfield simply wasn't on. What's even better is the locking-down of two of Suso and Raheem Sterling, the former of whom signed up in the middle of October, with the latter finalizing a new deal just last week. Comings and goings have been disappointing, but keeping what's good matters, and that's been wonderful to see.