21 February 2008

Dirk Kuyt silences his detractors against Inter

By Tim RichLast Updated: 9:55am GMT 21/02/2008

Perhaps the Liverpool fans who daubed graffiti on the walls of the club's training ground demanding Rafael Benitez's sacking and the removal of Dirk Kuyt might wonder about their sense of timing.
It was the vandals' equivalent, written in spray paint, of the Wembley commentator blurting out: "And Smith must score," as the Brighton striker prepared to win the 1983 FA Cup eventually lifted by Bryan Robson in the more predictable colours of Manchester United.
That Benitez oversaw the defeat of Inter Milan after somehow contriving to lose to Barnsley in the FA Cup was no surprise; since he arrived at the club the Champions League has always been his great refuge. It was in nobody's script that Kuyt would be his saviour, though.
The Dutchman has been suffering from a serious case of second-season syndrome. His move from Feyenoord to Liverpool seemed a success initially. His work-rate was exceptional and his sense of team spirit was rather un-Dutch, while 13 Premier League goals appeared a reasonable first payback on Benitez's £9 million investment.
This campaign has seen Kuyt still running himself into a lather for the team but, domestically at least, to very little effect. His return has been three Premier League goals, and two of those were from the penalty spot in the Merseyside derby.
The slightly deflected shot that sped past a hitherto impeccable Inter defence, worn down by a red card and injuries, was actually his fifth in the Champions League, which accurately reflects Liverpool's season.
Kuyt recently lost his father to cancer. Sportsmen's personal lives can affect them in ways that people rarely understand. Sometimes, as when Lee Bowyer produced the form of his life for Leeds while on trial for assault, it can have no impact at all.
However, in 1978 Geoffrey Boycott lost his mother to cancer, which contributed to this supreme professional cricketer seeing his form disintegrate on the subsequent tour of Australia in a way it never did before or since. Kuyt deserves patience from both journalists, and fans with access to a can of paint.
Benitez's European ambitions have had some unlikely saviours. In the Nou Camp last year, victory over Barcelona was engineered by Craig Bellamy, who could hardly have expected to play after assaulting John Arne Riise at the club's training camp in Portugal before the fixture. One of the men who took advantage of Juventus' loss of nerve at Anfield in the 2005 quarter-final, meanwhile, was Sami Hyypia.
Steven Gerrard is a more predictable hero and on Tuesday night it was his desire to press on when others might have been satisfied win a one-goal win over the Italian champions that presented Liverpool with a clear passage to the quarter-finals.
"It's funny," Kuyt said, "because after I scored I said to Stevie, 'Maybe now we just need to keep the ball and get a clean sheet?' And he said, 'No, we want another goal'. And he was right; the second goal made it a great result."
Having played for an hour with 10 men, Inter might have accepted a 1-0 defeat, but to overturn a two-goal deficit, even at the San Siro, is a big ask. Once more, on another memorable European night at Anfield, the Liverpool captain had the final say.
His friend, Jamie Carragher, summed him when he said: "In the Champions League, the top teams come here and you see the names they've got. But in the end he is the one who does the decisive thing. He stole the show again."

No comments:



The GOLDEN Team of Kenny Daglish

The GOLDEN Team of Kenny Daglish
If we have them now, say farewell to Arsenal, Man.U and Chelsea... if...