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Fulham Report - Liverpool Back on the Terraces

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Steve C:
Cab also be read HERE

As I made my way from the pub to the ground, I felt a nervous buzz inside me. It was must win game for Liverpool, and 500 of our fans were going back on the terraces. As far as I’m concerned, forget about the new plastic stadiums, Craven Cottage has that wonderful traditional feel to it. We walked past the terraced houses, past the proggy sellers, with the smell of greasy food thick in the air. This had the feeling of an old ground, a proper ground. I love aways, and queuing up to get in, with the chant Liiiiiiiiiivvvvvvverrrrrrrppppppoooooolllllll being belted out got my adrenaline surging. Get in!

Made my way to the terraces, spotted a couple of mates, and shuffled into position. The singing was brilliant. About 20 of us kept it going for the whole 90 minutes. We sang about Houllier, Thommo, Anelka, Carragher, Stevie G, Henchoz, Sami, Xavier, Riise, Murphy, Smicer, Jari and Jerzy. ‘Fields of Anfield Road’, ‘We All Live in a Red and White Kop’, ‘Every other Satdee…’, a few anti-cockney songs, and many many more. Even ‘Liverbird Upon My Chest’ got 2 outings (although the first one was rudely interrupted by the first goal!). We sang the lot. Incidentally, are Fulham fans in competition with Ipswich for quietest fans in the Premiership?

On to the game. As I had thought, Owen was rested, with Anelka and Heskey starting up front. These two look a good partnership to me. The thought of facing them must scare any defender. It was Fulham however who started better, with some sharp one-touch passing that is their hallmark.

But it was Anelka who was to break the deadlock, adding to his Derby goal after 13 minutes, at the second attempt with a left-foot shot from the edge of the area after his first effort struck Rufus Brevett. Cue mass hysteria on the terraces, and 5 minutes of singing about the on-loan Frenchman. We surged forward, arms aloft…until a barrier stopped our forward movement. Didn’t want to be pushed up against a barrier again, so slipped underneath and moved right towards the front. Eye to eye with a steward!!

Credit to Fulham. They hit straight back, with Saha (I think) hitting the bar, with Jerzy well beaten. Then Henchoz made a brilliant tackle on Marlet when everyone thought he was clean through on goal. Stephane really has played superbly this season. He played well last season, but had a ‘mare in all 3 finals really, which clouded people’s memories of him. In my opinion, he has been our best defender this season (yes, better even than Sami!). The timing of his tacking, the courage of his blocks, and his general awareness of what’s going on about him have been lovely to watch. Defending is an art form in itself, and Stephane is one of the best in this country, no doubts.

The rest of the second half passed by without much incident. Or maybe I missed something through concentrating on singing too much…

Pie and pint at half time. Well, its tradition isn’t it? Not at Fulham apparently. Signs of NO ALCOHOL were annoying (but understandable) enough, but no pies left as well…I settled for a hot dog. Still, spirits were high as I weaved my way back to ‘my spot’, and more songs were belted out.

After a couple of minutes one of their players dived in the area. The Ref (Alan Wiley, who had a decent game by the way) had no hesitation in booking the offender, much to our amusement.

It was a great game though. Maybe not one for the neutral, but for fans of either side, it was a belter. In some ways, I thought it had the feel of a Cup-tie. End to end stuff, some quality play by both sides, hard tackling, but a game played in good spirit. Dudek made a couple of cracking saves, and Murphy had a great curling effort tipped wide by Van Der Saar. Whilst on the subject of Murphy, the more I see him, the more unfair the criticism from certain quarters seems. He played in the middle for Gerrard, and looked very comfortable alongside Hamann (who gave his usual composed quality display). Murphy did his fair share of tackling, passed the ball well, and showed a couple of clever flicks and skip-overs. Perhaps if the home lot were as supportive as the away lot we would see the confidant, composed Murphy at Anfield as well. The away support has been magnificent all season, and Murphy, in particular thrives on that.

With 5 minutes to go, Fulham piled on the pressure, a couple of corners saw Van Der Saar advance to the halfway line, and in the final minute, he paid the price to this. Xavier played the ball forwards, and Jari, on as sub for the magnificent Anelka nodded the ball past the Dutch keeper, and finished well from a tight angle. Twice in 2 games Jari has made an impact coming on from the bench. I have seen him over-run and by-passed a few times when he has started away from home this season, but similarly, he has made an important impact from the bench on several occasions. Maybe this is his best role for Liverpool, as he can exploit space very cleverly (when we lead and the opposition is pushing forward). This might also be a compromise for the 2 schools of Jari-haters and Jari-lovers.

As the ball creaped into the net, the terraces went wild again, with fans surging forwards towards the front. One guy got himself a piggyback, most of us just hugged total strangers. That second goal is always a tension-reliever, especially when it’s scored in the last minute.

So it was to be another away win, our tenth of the season in the league, and 3 more points in the bag. Overall, our performance wasn’t that great, but it was quite an easy victory really. Fulham played quite well, but their inability to score goals cost was highly apparent. Liverpool battled and fought brilliantly. The difference really was a superb game from Henchoz, some important saves from Dudek, and it was Liverpool who took their chances, whereas Fulham didn’t. Football’s a simple game really. I would say it was a 50-50 game that really could have gone either way, but considering the way we have battered Gala twice and Everton in the space of a week, and got only 3 draws from it, a bit of luck, and a win, was no less than we deserved.

Can we win the league? I think we still can, but we probably need to win 8 of our 9 games. In that way its frustrating as it’s not in our own hands, and I cant see the top 2 (Arsenal in particular) dropping many more points this season. The key for us is our home form. It has been patchy, to say the least. From 16 away games we have a magnificent 33 points, with 10 wins, 3 draws, and 3 defeats. From 13 home games, we have just 23 points, with only 6 wins. Recently it’s been the draws against the likes of Bolton, Southampton and Everton that have been costly. With 6 home games left, starting with the clash against the Geordies on Wednesday, it seems that something extra is needed to unlock teams who come to Anfield with a packed defence and midfield. Maybe Houllier’s seemingly imminent return will provide that boost, maybe we might start with 3 strikers. Its down to Houllier and Thommo to sort it out, and I have faith in them that they are capable of doing so.

And the terraces? Its not for me to debate the re-introduction of safe-standing, so I’m not going to argue for or against it here, but I loved every minute of it yesterday.

Liverpool FC, Man for Man:

Dudek: A couple of very good, and very important saves. Kicking was good, as ever. The guy is sheer class. 8/10

Xavier: Looked solid again. Seems to have fitted into the back 4 very comfortably, and his long ball set-up Litmanen’s goal. 7/10

Wright: Didn’t do much wrong, impressive performance again. 7/10

Hyypia: Won the aerial battle with Hayles and Saha. 7/10

Henchoz: Magnificent performance. 1 tackle in particular showed his quality. Most players would have given a penalty away, but Henchoz won the ball cleanly. An inspiration. MOTM by a mile. 10/10

Smicer: A couple of nice touches, but didn’t really get into the game. I am a fan of his, but he is struggling at the moment. 5/10

Riise: Covered Wright well, and a couple of powerful, surging runs. 7/10

Hamann: Composed, calm, class. 8/10

Murphy: Once again was impressive away from Anfield. Needs more support at home. 7/10

Heskey: Lively, aggressive, strong. Looks good with Anelka. 7/10

Anelka: Super finish for his goal, ran all game, pacey, sharp, a constant threat. Playing with a smile on his face as well. 9/10

Fans: Superb support away from Anfield again. 9/10 (would have been 10, but we weren’t as good as Henchoz!).

Quality report steve. i wasn't lucky enough to be there but from most accounts the terracing gets the thumbs up. i think man u and arsenal will drop points as they have to play each other and man u have to go away to leeds and chelsea. we however could win all are remaining games if we do im sure the league title will be where it belongs-with us. spurs and newcastle are the two crucial games i think, if we win both we surley can win the league.

I aswell was there to feel a great buzz of standing again,obviously I was only a kid when there was a real spion kop but I can remember the late 80's and the early 90's and I really believe it would re-ignite football and although it will never be the same surely around 15-16000 people could stand on the kop and give Liverpool Football Club the support it deserves.I not having a go at the people who today sit on the kop and sing throughout and have to put up with people telling them to shut up but when the opposition pack 10 men behind the ball that is the cue for the kop to back LFC but instead they hear frustation and impatience so the players panic for example:Leicster City.
But on footballing terms stephane henchoz(my player of the year last year and this year)was outstanding and with that surely our 2 strikers,2 supposed to be wingers and Stevie G can attack with confidence.
Also please play Jari

Top class Steven

Wish I'd have gone, sounded a good away.

Allez, Allez,
Allez, Allez,
Gerard Houllier!

John Barnes, Anchorman:
But the atmosphere was already on the wane when the terraces were still there (late 80s).  What people really mean about the great days of the Kop, Stretty, North Bank etc is the days when they were over-crowded.  That was of its time, but is impossible and undesirable now.

The noise made in big games and a lot of aways from seated supporters proves that it can be done.  It's the prices, the people, etc as well.

Time to address the real reason for the loss of the Anfield atmosphere - the supporters.


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