Monday, March 19, 2012
The dream of being double Cup winners is slowly materialising. Liverpool got past a potentially difficult quarterfinal match and comprehensively beat Stoke City. Goals from Luis Suarez and Stewart Downing handed a semifinal berth to the Reds.
Like every season, FA Cup semifinal drama could be in store with the prospect of a special Merseyside derby. I'd prefer that Liverpool meet Sunderland instead. Being in the semifinal of the FA Cup should be a big enough game for the Reds to be fairly motivated even if they were to face Sunderland. Besides, Liverpool have unfinished business with O'Neill's men, having lost due to Bendtner's winner recently. Storming into the FA Cup final while demolishing a side with x-Devils O'Shea, Bardsley and Richardson, would bring a happy smile to my face.
Three things stood out in the win over Stoke last weekend.
One, Stewart Downing's recent performances have been very encouraging. There are signs that he is starting to get to grips with the immense spotlight of playing for the mighty Reds. He has built on his sterling Carling Cup final performance with much improved displays. His winning goal, drilled past Sorensen, was deserved reward for his recent improvement. The inverted winger tactics worked for Liverpool's winner. Cutting in from the right, Downing was able to shoot with his favoured left foot. Clarke's insistence on using inverted wingers paid off for the first time this season.
It has been frustrating to watch Downing this season, so for him to score that goal in the weekend should have increased his confidence further. I can't wait for a vastly different and more productive Stewart Downing next season. For now, I hope that he will continue his rise in performance to help Liverpool to the FA Cup trophy.
Two, Luis Suarez had to do everything on his own the whole season. Though he has coped admirably with the pressures of carrying the club, his goals tally have suffered as a result. With Steven Gerrard back in goal scoring form and Downing's resurgence, the pressure is beginning to lift. El Pistolero can now enjoy his football again, doing what he does best, bamboozling defenders with his trickery.
Three, Maxi Rodriguez must be the ultimate team player, kicking his heels on the bench while Dalglish persisted all season with Stewart Downing. However, Liverpool generally win when Maxi plays. The Argentine got his chance against Stoke and his understanding with Suarez created the all-important first goal. In a side short of midfield goals, La Fiera should be playing a lot more often as he is a proven finisher. His intelligent link up play is perfect foils for Gerrard and Suarez.
Winning the FA Cup to dominate the domestic Cup competitions would be a wonderful finale to a turbulent season. Doing the Cup double will cultivate a priceless winning mentality within Dalglish's Liverpool squad. This winning mindset will hopefully drive the Reds to a 19th Premier League crown next season.
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