When I was a kid growing up in Israel, one of the football-like games I played a lot was Stanga, which I think is the Hebrew-ized word version of the german Stange. In this game, which was often a great option for situations in which were playing one-on-one or two-on-two, the main purpose was not to score, although scoring would give you the same point as it does in a regular game of football. Aimed at testing the skills of the players, your team would score more points for hitting the posts or the crossbar. Oh, and it was a single-touch affair; you could keep hitting the ball multiple times as long as it doesn’t touch the ground, but once it does, you lose possession. if you played this a lot, you would inevitably become better with ball control, shot placement and passing accuracy.
And why am I reminded of that? Let me explain.
The reality of today’s game was that it was mostly uninteresting, a shockingly routine affair from this particular Liverpool team. To be fair to the Hammers, they played a very good game, and mostly succeeded in their goal of disrupting the merseysiders from deploying their devastatingly effective full backs. But Liverpool being the way it is in this moment, if one thing doesn’t work, then the other will, and in this case the focus on the wings freed up the middle. First Salah scored a penalty off of a routinely brilliant piece of Firmino trickery and routinely brilliant pass to Origi, before he got fouled in the box. Oxlaide-Chamberlain capped the scoreline off later following a routinely fantastic counter and an incredibly routine, routinely incredible pinpoint pass from Salah. Neither goal involved the lanes.
Ultimately, though, the game was a little boring. The Reds dominated. West Ham did their best, and had a couple of moments. Alisson was his usual monstrous self in goal, and to the Hammers’ credit, he actually had to stretch for a couple of saves, rather than simply grabbing the ball in his massive arms. We can discuss these sorts of things all day long, but in the end, it seems to me that one stat best describes this game: the first shot on target by either team was Salah’s goal.
Which was a penalty.
And so, as the game progressed inexorably towards another routine Liverpool victory, the most exciting moments came in the form of single-touch hits on the posts and the crossbar. In a couple of notable events, Trent almost got himself on the (wrong) scoresheet, and Salah was rather unlucky to be denied a second, but both earned 2 Stanga points, and sent hearts at least somewhat aflutter in what was otherwise a rather dull evening in London.
Picking a man of the match in a match that nobody will remember is another way to feign interest, and so I shall. But who should it be? Alisson, for the two stretchy saves and one other which almost turned into an assist for an own goal? VanaDonis – sorry Van Dijk – for just being his usually godlike self? Salah for the goal and assist? Maybe. In the end, though, I think the one who deserves it is the one who best exemplifies this team, the one who is emerging as a beast amongst monsters this season, and whose influence on games is becoming impossible to ignore.
What a captain we have in Jordan Henderson, eh?