Wataru Endo the unlikely hero as lost cause morphs into

Liverpool had an unlikely hero come to fore and turn momentum in their favour and salvage what some felt was already a lost cause against Fulham.

A mad seven-goal Sunday encounter in which Liverpool’s anti-heroes made an huge impact, with three more points obtained thanks to a collection of the most artistically beautiful strikes imaginable from the boys in red.

All offset by utter misadventure in triplicate in our own penalty area, on an afternoon that was food for the soul. There truly is no place like home.

 

Away with traditions

I’ve made mention of laugh out loud football before; the type of game that leaves you questioning whether it is all scripted after all. This was one of those days, and it delivered massively.

An arduous battle through traffic on the way to Anfield isn’t always the negative you might expect. By rule, skimming in later than anticipated means that well-worn pre-match rituals are hastily jettisoned, and the whole pattern of the match-going experience is thrown into chaos.

Creatures of habit, it can ruin half of a day you’ve looked forward to all week, and it can also be massively unsettling for the dementia sufferer you share matchdays with.

On occasions like this, for me, that means not drifting toward Flagpole Corner for the pre-match catchups and conversations with all the regular faces I’ve got to know throughout a red tinged lifetime; it’s a spot where there is an unmistakably warm comfort on a cold winter’s day, thanks to the routinely familiar nature of it all.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 3, 2023: Liverpool's Darwin Núñez during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Fulham FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Look out for the fanzine seller who looks like a cross between James May and Jesus and there’ll be a good chance that I’m nearby too. Come and say hello!

Within this however, should this part of the day be missed, sauntering straight through the turnstiles also has its benefits too.

It means you get to avoid the pre-match anxieties of others and you reach your seat with less bustle and hustle than you get when clicking through that bit later, once the social niceties of Flagpole Corner have been navigated.

There is something to be said for embracing a game of football without anyone else’s opinions swirling around your head.

Beyond the traffic issues and the crimping of my social life, as kick-off approached all looked set for a sedate afternoon of it, Liverpool’s line-up appearing potent in attacking terms, if a bit cobbled together at the back.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 3, 2023: Fulham's Kenny Tete scores his side's second goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Fulham FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Potential defensive problems completely unconsidered, it was only Fulham who were tipping up after all, led by a manager who strikes the visual image of a man who should be one of the lead characters in a gritty American crime procedural drama.

This simply wasn’t an Anfield afternoon that was primed for a wild ride. Despite an admirable ethos for the passing game, Marco Silva is the leader a team in possession of an away record in which their last win on the road in the Premier League was on the opening day of the season.

A victory that was obtained over the other side of Stanley Park, against a self-destructive Everton – a club he used to manage.

 

The rise of the anti-hero

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 3, 2023: Liverpool's Alexis Mac Allister scores the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Fulham FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Though, Fulham genuinely tipped up to unexpectedly make a gloriously ludicrous game of it, even despite Trent Alexander-Arnold’s bludgeoning free-kick and Alexis Mac Allister’s magnificent thunder bastard of a goal.

Countering their own goalkeeper being the focal point of a personal shooting range for Jurgen Klopp’s players, by Fulham tripping the ball into the Kop end net twice before the interval, the visitors then have the temerity to take the lead 10 minutes from time.

Footballing plot twists and scripts need adhering to though, and an unlikely hero stepped forward.

At 2-2, with Ryan Gravenberch noticeably struggling through the gears beyond the exits of Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai, an unexpected thought popped into my head that the man required for this situation was Wataru Endo.

Not armed with any wild notions that he would be able to swing the game directly, it was more the concept of him providing the deep-lying discipline to allow Alexander-Arnold and Cody Gakpo to plough onward. I opted to keep my vaguely outlandish theories to myself.

When Endo was eventually introduced, three minutes after we’d fallen behind, it felt like bolting the door once the horse had run.

The right choice too late; at 2-3 down, the challenge was now a different one, with hope hinging on Curtis Jones or Ben Doak climbing from the bench to make a heroic cameo.

Endo, though. Cult/anti-hero in the making, and a far more accomplished player than any of us probably expected.

While he’s never going to be a long-term option as far as regular starts go, he is proving that he can be a compelling intermediary, one who can give Klopp the breathing space to identify and source the younger defensive midfielder of his dreams – and beyond that, maybe even fill the void of experience that went with the exits of Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, and James Milner during the summer.

A wonderful finish for the equaliser, Endo re-energised a creeping lost cause, and with Alexander-Arnold’s roof lifting winner coming just 80 seconds later, it morphed into an afternoon that we might just be looking back on in May as being a springboard to something very interesting.

Four majestic goals scored on a day when the ball didn’t quite break for a front three of Mohamed Salah, Luis Diaz, and Darwin Nunez, despite the supreme efforts of the trio.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 3, 2023: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp (L) celebrates with Trent Alexander-Arnold (C) and captain Virgil van Dijk (R) after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Fulham FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

At times with Nunez it was akin to having Scooby Doo up top. He rattled the crossbar, gave Fulham defensive headaches all day, yet mixed it all up with periods of pure misadventure. As per then.

He drives me to distraction, but I absolutely adore the fella, another one who is a classic anti-hero, in all honesty.

Up the anti-hero Reds.



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