The world’s finest footballers are known for defining their positions. Henry the striker. Gerrard the midfielder. Cech the keeper. But if you look back in their past they’ve often played roles in other parts of the pitch before finding and defining their niche. Peter Cech was once a midfielder. Steven Gerrard began his Liverpool career as a right back. Henry was a winger before becoming one of the world’s most prolific hitmen.
Paul Scholes, Manchester United’s longtime pivotal midfielder, must have spent some time in goal as a kid. His two-handed, goal-mouth block of Bobby Zamora’s header in Fulham’s 2-0 victory over the Red Devil’s yesterday was a brilliant piece of goal-keeping. But as he wasn’t wearing Edwin van der Sar’s blue shirt, the ref sent him off for the blatant handball. It was a curious move by a veteran like Scholes, but maybe Scholes forgot he was an outfielder and had slipped into some happy childhood memory of playing keeper. Fulham would retain the lead and add another goal before the final whistle.
Elsewhere, Chelsea visited White Hart Lane in a riveting London derby. Spurs were up to the task from the start and after much good possession, Tottenham gained the lead with a fine goal from Luka Modric after service from the newly resigned Aaron Lennon. Chelsea were unable to capitalize on United’s loss. Now Liverpool have the chance to profit from both of these premier league giants dropping points on what could prove to be a pivotal weekend.
A win for Liverpool would bridge the gap to the top to a mere point, though Manchester have a match in hand. More importantly, a good performance for Liverpool tomorrow would continue the momentum the Reds have built since beating Sunderland 2-0 two weeks ago. Since then breathtaking results against Real Madrid and Manchester have given supporters the glimmer of hope that the title may still be within reach.
Even after a win tomorrow, Liverpool would still have much work to do while hoping for more setbacks for their Mancunian neighbors. United would need to drop five points between now and the end of the season with Liverpool dropping no points at the same time. But at the very least, with back to back losses for United, other sides will see that points can be taken off the champs and will follow Liverpool and Fulham’s example in a meaningful way.
Next weekend United will face league upstarts Aston Villa without the help of Nemanja Vidic, Paul Scholes and Wayne Rooney who are all suspended. Scholes has been an important player for years, but Vidic and and Rooney have been absolutely essential players in the current season. Rooney came back from injury with immediate success to put United on an important streak. Vidic has been a pillar of defense in helping United keep the sheets clean when Red Devil goals have not been in abundance. Liverpool supporters can’t count on it, but Manchester could have problems against Villa with these suspensions in place. Liverpool will need to keep the winning streak going in hopes that the Red Devils slip further.
The title is not quite in reach for Liverpool yet, but yesterday’s results certainly give the Reds reason to continue the good fight.