Friday, 19 March 2010

SW6 Post-Impressionism: Fulham 4 Juventus 1

Just as the analysis of a joke kills it, robs it of its essence, and ultimately suffocates its humour, so I hesitate to dissect this extraordinary game.

I want to enshrine the totality of last night in my mind, to indemnify the texture of the events that infused the concrete details.

Multiple, dispassionate, play-by-play breakdowns are available out there, no doubt. But I don’t wish to lay the bones out on the table in an attempt to understand the inner workings. I’m content with the mystery.

Yes, I was there. I saw Zamora’s indomitable edge. I witnessed Gera’s wiles, and Baird’s central ascendancy. I was charged by Duff’s agile electricity, and heartened by Davies’ mercurial revival. I welcomed the erection of the Hughes-Hangeland Thames Barrier after the early breach.

Yes, I denied Dempsey his audacity when I perceived what he was attempting. I debated it with myself as the ball split the floodlit drizzle, slowly on its way: first I registered its accuracy, then I acknowledged the goalkeeper’s futility, before finally conceding that even the approaching coalition of post and crossbar might not be enough to deny Clint’s vision. I marvelled that a man barely back from traction could burst out of the cocoon of caution inbred by his manager, and manhandle fate in such a way. What of “match sharpness”, and “slowly regaining confidence”? Glib cliches dismissed at will.

For me, this was a triumph of collective endeavour. Hodgson’s doctrine has always instilled transcendence of the team over the individual, sublimation of personal desire for collective good, despite Dempsey’s benign rebellion last night. But here the players appeared, more than ever, to be operating on a single frequency. Undeniably together.

Even before Cannavaro’s demise - and, lets face it, a sending off needn’t be a terminal event, particularly with a two-goal lead - Juventus displayed a stifled vitality. A facsimile of greatness, they appeared to be practising their prowess by rote, in denial of limbs whose muscle memory was appearing increasingly shot. Devoid of inspiration, they were like golden ghosts drifting across the pitch in the rain, phantoms condemned to a seemingly endless dance with their tormentors.

I’ll surely watch the game again and savour the discrete events upon which this victory was constructed, but for now I’m content with the sense impressions.

I’ll remember Roy’s uncharacteristic fist-clench towards the crowd, Baird and Hangeland’s mile-wide smiles, and Davies leaping onto Schwarzer’s back clutching Del Piero’s golden fleece for his spoils.

I’ll remember glancing at the scoreboard as I climbed the steps on the way out. Earlier I’d struggled to fathom those two names together. Now, with the respective scores next to them, it could have been a different language. It was a different language.

I’ll remember walking up Finlay Street and turning to look back at the floodlights backlighting the Cottage, the plumes of rain swirling in their glare and, I swear, lifting slightly off the ground, just for a moment.

So, I’ll leave the executive summaries to others. The debriefs and the detailed inquiries, the tactical appraisals and the critiques. For now, I’m immersing myself in the rapture, mainlining the sensations, and reiterating the emotions.

They’ll sustain me for a long time yet.

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