Well bugger me. Who knew? Last we heard Liverpool were a deluded team caught up in their glorious but distant past, on the rebound from appointing our best ever manager. Then this.
Fulham were in many ways the archetects of their own downfall – how many times have you seen Hangeland and Hughes made to look like amateurs? – but Liverpool brought something special with them tonight. Curiously you could almost see it before kick-off: they had the body-language of Roman centurions about to do battle; they seemed to know that they would win.
News to me, as I had thought we had a good chance, but Liverpool scored in 30 seconds when Suarez skipped off down the left, cut inside and eventually found Maxi Bloody Rodriguez, who scored.
Then he got another, Glen Johnson beat the offside trap (!) and crossed to the far post, from where Maxi volleyed past our yellow suited goalkeeper.
Then a third, Kuyt this time, drilling hard and low and past Mark Schwarzer’s hands and in. Whooops.
At this point an argument could have been made for making three subs, as we were getting embarrassed. At half-time no single player could claim to have earned 5/10. In the event we saw Zamora on for Davies, when the introduction of Etuhu might have given us more chance in the middle of the park. But it made a difference, as Sidwell and Murphy stepped up and Zamora bounded around with that endearing optimism he sometimes has.
We got one back when Zamora teed up Dembele in the Duff zone, 3-1. Then came the game’s best spell, as the crowd roared the Whites on. A goal here would make all the difference, and momentum was with us.
Then it wasn’t. Maxi blasted one of those goals that makes you think “that’s the hardest I’ve seen a football kicked”, the Suarez flew past Schwarzer and tapped home a fifth. Steve Sidwell got in on the screamer fun with a belter of his own, but sensibly opted not to celebrate such a meaningless moment.
It was the sort of match where you find out afterwards that Aaron Hughes had a cold and Brede Hangeland’s hamstring wasn’t quite right after all. I’ve never seen those two outplayed so comprehensively, and while much of that is a result of Suarez’s skill and general slipperiness, we’re better than we showed. Murphy had a poor first half but stepped up in the second, and it was encouraging to see Zamora so strong again. Kakuta’s play suggested that he might have been a good choice to start, but, well, we got hammered anyway.
One minor annoyance: Liverpool’s players were poleaxed six times (I counted them), and while Mereiles went off, the remainder were surely in the “you don’t need to act like that” category. Anyway: have we just seen next season’s champions? They looked awfully good. We just looked awful.