Red Letter: Etihad joy, fab Firmino and split over Benteke

Date published: Friday 27th November 2015 11:51

Roberto Firmino: Influence growing at Liverpool

Lifelong Liverpool fan Dave Tindall gushes over the 4-1 romp at Man City and praises the growing influence of Roberto Firmino in his latest weekly blog.

The times you get to laugh out loud in amazement at what your team is doing to the opposition are few and far between.

It usually takes a special set of circumstances. First, you need to be up against big-time opposition. Second, you need to have created the potential for laughter by having already taken a significant lead. Third, the goal that turns the scoreline from surprising to the verge of astonishing has to have an element of fantasy about it.

The best recent example I can recall came in March 2009 when, already 3-1 up at Old Trafford, flappy-footed, slightly rubbish, Italian full-back Andrea Dossena expertly lobbed Edwin van der Sar to put an extraordinary exclamation mark on a thrilling Liverpool performance. My laughter started as the ball arced towards the back of the net and continued after a brief pause for some celebratory rude words.

There were several times during the not-to-be title season under Brendan Rodgers when the wows and laughter combined. Top of the list was the 5-1 win over Arsenal. Martin Skrtel scoring twice in the first nine minutes was funny enough but it then escalated into a surreal blur as Luis Suarez smashed a ridiculous volley against the post before Sterling and Sturridge put Liverpool 4-0 up inside 19 minutes.

You clearly all know where I’m going with this so let’s talk about Manchester City 1-4 Liverpool. Yes, it even raises a smile just seeing it written down.

The laughter-inducing goal at the Etihad on Saturday, of course, was Roberto Firmino’s tap-in to make it 3-0. Thanks to Twitter, I watched a Vine of it 37 times during half-time. It’s now firmly ingrained. Coutinho shovels a pass to Emre Can, the German takes three little touches before an exotic back-heel bamboozles the whole City defence, one touch from Coutinho, a short, square ball to his Brazilian buddy Firmino, who opens up his right foot and guides the ball into the net before Mangala’s desperate lunge can stop it.

Hahahahaha. A five-a-side-goal. Total brilliance. We’re 3-0 up at Man City after just 32 minutes. We’re taking the p*ss. Hahahahaha.

I mean, I know the signs were looking bright under Jurgen Klopp but just eight games into his reign we’re giving the odds-on title favourites an absolutely spanking on their home ground.

Magnificent Firmino

Firmino threatened to take the scoreline to ridiculous places soon after that, having a shot saved by Joe Hart when clean through and bouncing a left-foot cross-shot strike narrowly wide after another lightning Liverpool break.

He was magnificent throughout although what was Firmino doing with his goal celebration? He makes as if to remove his shirt, either realises he hasn’t got a slogan on it or will get booked if he takes it off, half-tries to do a ‘shush’ thing, does a bit of signing to the deaf, beckons his team-mates over and then whirls his hands near to his head as if to say “I’m crazy”.

I think we’d all gone a bit mad by that stage Bobby, so all is forgiven.

The emotions during Liverpool’s 2-1 win over Bordeaux were somewhat different.

Joy and laughter were replaced by creeping irritability and frustration, although at low levels. We knew we’d probably get the job done but it was all just a little bit laboured.

Simon Mignolet will at least have been reminded about one of the few rules goalkeepers have to learn. He’s done that loads of times before and at least his hanging-onto-the-ball-for-an-eternity gaffe came early on in a match that was recoverable and not of do-or-die importance.

Christian Benteke: Striker has scored four goals for Liverpool

That aside, the main focus of attention at Anfield on Thursday night was Christian Benteke.

I’ve not quite taken up a definitive position on the big Belgian, as he excites me and annoys me in fairly equal measure.

His winning goal was superb as he deftly controlled a Nathaniel Clyne cross and larruped a right-foot shot into the back of the net.

But, apart from that, he was, well…. a tad gormless.

Michael Owen’s merits as a co-commentator are open to debate but he does at least talk with authority when discussing the role of a striker. He was a rather good one – 118 goals in 216 games for Liverpool; 40 in 89 for England. Real Madrid wanted him. Real Madrid signed him.

Benteke had two goals ruled out against Bordeaux for not doing the basics. As Owen pointed out, he failed to bend his run when slipped through by Jordan Ibe in the first half and, after the break, didn’t get across his man at the near post and instead pushed him out of the way before firing home.

Those aren’t difficult skills to master so he’s either being mentally lazy or just didn’t pay enough attention in goalscoring class.

That said, the bottom line in football is putting the ball in the back of net and five goals in 14 appearances (four of those coming off the bench) is a reasonable start.

A fee of 32.5 million is a lot to pay for a ‘presence’ so Benteke has to deliver goals and plenty of them.

After two winners (Bournemouth, Bordeaux), a clincher (Chelsea) and what looked a late decider (Southampton), his early grade is probably a B-. “Some signs of obvious promise but can do better.”

For now, Liverpool are a more exciting side to watch away from home with the trio of Firmino, Coutinho and Lallana buzzing around while Benteke sits on the bench looking menacing.

So, although I’d love to say that I’m expecting us to give 14th-placed Swansea a good thumping at Anfield on Sunday, the truth is I’m not. Give me a 1-0 or a 2-1 right now and I’d take it. In fact, I’d rather this match was taking place in Wales.

I’m starting to sound a little negative now so let’s remedy that with two quick fixes.

Firstly, I’ll scroll down Liverpool’s results list and note that we’ve now won five of our last six games (before that it was one win in 12).

Secondly, I’m going to watch the highlights of the Man City game again. God we were good!

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