It's that time of the year in which the past is becoming increasingly irrelevant and the future's uncertainty is the subject of fevered speculation. So, before the season just gone fades utterly from your memories, let me soothe your transfer window-addled minds with the balm of pleasant recollection, as we review what was, for this scribbler, our finest performance of the campaign.
The most basic and subjective set of criteria were employed for assessing this one. I simply asked myself which performances by my beloved club, in yet another needlessly traumatic and painful season, gave me the most pleasure and, of those, in which one was the team most impressive? My conclusion was the emphatic and compelling six goal defeat of Alan Pardew's Newcastle, in their own back yard, at the tail end of April.
Naysayers will be quick to pour scorn on any celebration of this win. Luis Suarez was already serving his ban for Serb-munching, Liverpool were not realistically in a battle for anything of worth, and the season, many would attest, was effectively over. The pressure was off. This mentally fragile team can only turn it on when there is nothing at stake. Where were these wins when we needed them?
It pains me to admit that these gloomy voices only irritate me because what they say has a ring of veracity. Liverpool have been mentally fragile this season. The difference has been that when they've played well, they've played really well. Some of the football produced by Brendan Rodgers' charges, especially in the second half of the season, was as good as anything I've witnessed in years.
The resoundingly comprehensive defeat of the Magpies at the Mike Ashley Sports Direct Soccer Bowl was a treat to behold -- a healing unction applied to an irksome wound. In the context of the sordid, yet eminently typical transfer wrangling currently being played out in the media, it is doubly satisfying that this result was obtained without Luis Suarez, whose season-long brilliance was all that separated Liverpool Football Club from a flirtation with the relegation zone.
There were many pleasing elements that constituted this performance but the most gratifying, for me, was the impact of Phillipe Coutinho, Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge. These three will be vital to Liverpool Football Club's continued development in the season to come and on the day each of them was particularly effective.
Early goals are clearly a tremendous advantage to any team, as they quickly establish control of a match, and the rout began after only three minutes with an unlikely scorer, as ink-enthusiast Daniel Agger rose to head a lofted ball from the left over Rob Elliot in the Newcastle goal. The Toon defence were caught cold and Liverpool had set the tone for the day.
The goal which followed on seventeen minutes was amongst my goals of the season. Liverpool worked the ball back to Pepe Reina, whose punt forward was not in his usual class -- it had too much height -- and one feared concession of possession until Sturridge showed his delightful touch, killing the ball instantly and laying it off to Coutinho, all in a solitary fluid movement. The Brazilian is already showing the potential to be a Liverpool great and his delightfully chipped pass forward to Sturridge remains one of this writer's favourite moments of the season. The England striker squared for Henderson, who had made a clever supporting run and finished with his left foot.
Coutinho was only getting started and his role in the third goal was central. Jordan Henderson harried the Newcastle midfield all day and his pressing led to Coutinho driving at the opposition back-line. As Newcastle's defenders retreated, he conjured another of his trademark dinked passes, straight into the path of Sturridge, who finished with a beautiful, and aesthetically pleasing, high sweep into the net.
Sturridge had his second within six minutes when Henderson reclaimed possession lost by Downing and the ball was worked back to Gerrard in the middle. Not to be outdone by the number ten, the captain chipped a beautiful ball forward to Henderson, who was in perpetual motion all afternoon. The England Under 21 captain then squared for Sturridge who was arriving at the back post, took a touch and finished with his right foot.
The fifth goal was particularly gratifying as it was scored by Fabio Borini, whose season had been decimated by injuries. Coutinho was again pulling the strings, centrally this time, and funnelled the ball out to Downing, who committed his man and centred for the young Italian. Borini was pleasingly clinical, taking a touch and finishing unerringly past Elliot. It was hopefully a sign of a far brighter future at Liverpool for the striker.
The performance received a final sheen from Jordan Henderson, whose notably excellent set-piece deliveries have caught the eye of your humble writer. This one, from the left of the box following a hack on Coutinho, was curled in at a lovely pace and height and eluded everyone, including the Geordies' custodian, before finishing in the net. Six-nil. It was worth repeating. Six-nil.
No amount of mealy-mouthed griping about the relative awfulness of Newcastle, the tactical ineptitude of Pardew or the pointlessness of the win in the bigger picture can detract from this performance, for me. We got to see Coutinho perform imperiously, Henderson command the centre and Sturridge look every inch the Liverpool striker. That'll do pig. That'll do.
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