A few brief thoughts after I managed to watch the game on the internet.
I mentioned in my preview on Thursday that I felt we could get something from Liverpool, but I was entirely wrong in the way I constructed an argument suggesting that my optimism was well founded. Instead of grabbing a goal on the break, we played some open and expansive football at Anfield – arguably making us the better of the two sides in the first half – and defending stoutly after the break.
Bobby Zamora’s had to bear the brunt of some fairly fierce criticism since signing for the club in the summer because he hasn’t produced a big enough goal return since joining from West Ham. But we’ve made the point time and time again that Zamora offers a lot more than just goals to the team with his work rate and ability to create chances for others. Given the departure of Brian McBride and his famed aerial ability, I was interested in Colin Baker’s research that suggests that Bobby isn’t bad with his head either.
But the point I wanted to make about Bobby’s performance today was that he was totally selfish. When you are playing at a place like Liverpool, especially with the Reds having had such a successful start to the season, centre forwards have a vital role to play in holding up the ball, linking the play and relieving the pressure on a defence that will need to keep its concentration. Zamora filled this role admirably – battling well to keep possession and running with precision down the flanks, especially in the first half when his surging run created an opportunity for Jimmy Bullard, who nearly opened the scoring with a curling shot from the edge of the area.
I thought the entire back five were immense. Mark Schwarzer was always going to come under pressure today and he produced a series of top drawer bsaves that made me thankful we had gone to all that trouble to secure his signature in the summer. He’s certainly a ‘keeper on another level to Keller or the ageing Niemi. He should firm to deny Robbie Keane from close range and was at his best to keep out instinctive shots from the returning Fernando Torres.
Schwarzer had plenty of help from his defensive colleagues too. Pantsil was superb at right back, mopping out any loose balls and distributing the ball into the midfield to start our counter-attacks. Hangeland and Hughes were excellent again kept Keane so quiet that I almost forgot that he was out there. That was particularly impressive given that the Irish striker has had an annoying habbit of getting on the scoresheet against us.
The midfield worked hard rather than being as creative as we might have hoped. Bullard and Murphy were exemplary in central midfield – I felt Murphy was excellent and put himself brilliantly for someone who some people felt was over the hill when he signed. Dempsey and Davies flittered in and out of the game but the characteristic that typified their display was their work rate to kept us in the game.
Drawing at one of the title challenges is an excellent result. My mind flickered back to the corresponding fixture last season during the second half where we held firm for 70 minutes before conceding two late goals to fall to a dispiriting defeat. It is the sort of point that we wouldn’t have mustered last season – and shows how we might have really progressed this term. Now, the important thing is to build on the result and go and get something at Aston Villa next week.
For tonight, though, we can bask in the glow of a point well made. Well done to the black and white army up at Anfield – we heard the songs being sung loud and proud! Jack gave me an ecstatic phone call after the final whistle but I could hardly hear him amongst the cheering Fulham fans. I trust he’ll have a great night tonight and be online some time tomorrow to give us his thoughts.
What a superb performance.