1 (especially of something unwelcome or unpleasant) flourishing or spreading unchecked:political violence was rampantrampant inflation
(of a person or activity) violent or unrestrained in action or performance:rampant sex
(of a plant) lush in growth; luxuriant:a rich soil soon becomes home to rampant weeds
[usually postpositive] Heraldry(of an animal) represented standing on one hind foot with its forefeet in the air (typically in profile, facing the dexter (left ) side , with right hind foot and tail raised , unless otherwise specified):two gold lions rampant (via OED)
(Much, much more after the jump)
That was something to watch. This was a team that had been completely outplayed by Wolves at Anfield merely two weeks before. Liverpool were at their speculative worst in that match, failing to close down midfielders, giving the ball up easily, playing with uncertain and ill-positioned defense, and generally acting like Leeds before the drop. How things have changed! Liverpool played with great assurance today, dominating a side that had every natural advantage except ability and quality. The pitch was a nightmare, the stadium was hostile, and Wolves had just put three past Manchester City in Manchester. Liverpool showed great quality across the pitch, from the back line to the forward position, not just playing with flair on the ball but with assurance off of it. In addition to these fantastic individual performances, they showed a tactical flexibility that effectively canceled out any chance of Wolves coming into the match.
The first twenty minutes were cagey and physical, with Poulsen picking up an almost immediate yellow and Wolves content to kick any Liverpool player within two yards of their position. The pitch was in hideous shape and neither team were doing much with the ball; Liverpool seeing the greater part of possession and a couple half chances. The first goal is what really opened up play, as it often does. After receiving a ball from the back line, Poulsen played a great ball to Meireles, whose defender had broken forward to push him offside. However, Torres had pressed farther up and his defender was late in breaking up the pitch, leaving Meireles both on side and unguarded. Presented with the opportunity of a clear but difficult shot, Meireles neatly squared the ball to Torres, who slotted it home with a single touch. An away goal is a rare thing for Liverpool, an away goal from the run of play like finding the Hope Diamond in a cereal box.
This first goal opened things up a bit- Liverpool showing a great deal of confidence in attack and defense and Wolves forced to press to retrieve at least a point from a vital home fixture. Wolves was attempting to attack through the air, preserving their integrity in the midfield but failing to create any of the chaos in Liverpool's back line that has been omnipresent in aerial clearances this season. For their part, Liverpool were doing a fairly good job getting forward and getting the ball back when they gave it up, which was quite frequently. There were no more goals in the first, however, and the sides went in at half 0-1.
The second half was quite lively, a frank surprise. I actually thought Wolves tactics in the first were working fairly well- kick the tar out of a Liverpool player, win the ball in the midfield (usually from Poulsen, profligate and turgid as ever), hoof it over and hope Skrtel suffers his usual epileptic fit. However, Wolves came out attempting to widen the pitch and play it down the channel, granting the Liverpool midfield time on the ball and space to run into the channel themselves. Meireles, who was having a fantastic match already, found himself in space quite frequently, and with Lucas (and theoretically Poulsen) in support he was able to get forward and threaten the back line. Wolves, as stretched as they were, were unable to respond to him in the middle third, and a failed clearance led to the second goal. The defender, challenging Torres on what I believe was a Reina long ball, headed it to where the holding midfielder is supposed to be. Instead of the holder of his own team, he found Meireles, who was running into space to support Torres, and Meireles in all honesty mishit the volley off the outside of his foot, but it spun back and dipped under the crossbar for the second goal. It was a wonderful effort either way, the kind of goal that would be a goal against any keeper in any league in any match, but in this match it essentially closed it down. Wolves were forced to press, and the third goal came on a quick counter, Meireles to Kuyt to what should have been a penalty to Torres, who neatly put it in an empty net.
Meireles' involvement in all three goals was no accident. He was at his best, putting decisive balls into dangerous areas, moving into space, and showing a clinical final touch. The announcers, who were top flight (McNanaman, despite minor shortcomings, knows Liverpool and how they play unlike almost anyone else in the media) sounded slightly confused by his attacking ability, but anyone who watches Portugal knows that is where he is at his best- in the middle to final third. His performance highlighted an excellent team performance. Reina was actually a bit shaky today, but was almost untested in this match. To see our defense play well in an away game is strange and awful, almost apocalyptic, and I cannot remember the last time they bore the lion's share of a clean sheet, so perhaps we are seeing the beginning of something truly terrifying: an effective defense. Honestly, the worst performance of the match came from Poulsen, who despite his best efforts to kick start the Wolves counter managed to provide an excellent pass which led to the first goal. Lucas was again fantastic and his play allowed a fluid tactical shift that really won the match for Liverpool. Kuyt and Maxi both did a great job today defensively, and although Maxi faded in and out of the match Kuyt was a key part of the second and third goals. Torres was pure class again. Although he had two fairly easy goals, no goal is easy, and he turned half chances into legitimate shots on target. I noticed the Blond is starting to show through a bit. Daffodils are perking up, the birds are returning, Torres is returning to his natural color, and Liverpool scores three in an away match. Things are looking up.
The keys to this match were primarily found in the run of play: the defenders confidence, the midfield's passing, the final execution, but there was an important tactical undercurrent which really dictated the match in Liverpool's favor. Liverpool opened in a 4-2-3-1, which, after the first goal became a 4-1-4-1 and a 4-3-3 at the same time. The first goal was actually a typical "4-3-3 goal". First, the back line to Poulsen on the wing, then Poulsen through to Meireles on the trap press. From the look of things, we're playing a zonal flat four in the back, which really, really worked today, and it allowed that "1" (almost always Lucas) to roam and stop the ball in the middle third. Along with Kuyt, Poulsen, and Maxi, he could press the ball carrier further up and then spring on the attack, with the spare wing moving past Torres with Meireles. One of the best build up passages of play occurred before the third goal, where the midfield gradually moved it forward through a series of simple, square passes, using their man advantage over McCarthy's rather strict 4-4-2, and then, when they had put Wolves along the top of the box, shifted into a 3-4-3 with Johnson up, holding the ball, passing it back to Reina, and then lofting it for the final goal. This formational move was fluid and automatic, canceling out the weaknesses of both the 4-1-4-1 and the 4-3-3. In the 4-1-4-1, the lone forward can get stranded, in the 4-3-3, it's hard to press when you are short a man against a 4-4-2 (two against a single striker). The move became a lot easier once Shelvey got on the pitch- his pace and passing ability were more suited to moving up in a 4-3-3 than Poulsen, and the variability in the identity of the forwards really gave Wolves trouble. Wolves, although physical, are well disciplined, and they weren't picking up early enough in the move who exactly the forwards were going to be.
This may have been the best match of the season so far. The defense performed well, the midfield was brilliant, and Torres had a bright game. There were problems, and there are always things to work on, but hopefully this is where we start winning. Not only did we win our first "must win" match in a run of about five of them, we did it in dominant, entertaining style, dismantling a team that previously shamed us on our home pitch. I hope we see more of this in the future, and that we show the flair and confidence we watched today in all our future matches. A performance like this will beat Chelsea. It will beat Arsenal. It will beat Manchester United. It had better beat Fulham.
It's good to have an entertaining team. It's better to have a winning team. Finally, it looks like we have both. I hope there are many more matches where this one came from. It's an old cliche, but it's true: Form is Temporary. Class is Permanent. Time to show we're Class cut through.