Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Liverpool players that have made me get really drunk, in a bad way: Djimi Traoré

There's loads of Liverpool news here in the aftermath of this past weekend: Rafa and his contract squabbles have bubbled up again, Torres is tipping United to win the League, the derby is coming up. However, none of that interests me all that much here on Tuesday because I feel a drunk coming on. And when I get that itch to booze, I always flash back to one man: Djimi Traoré. The infuriating Liverpool left back, who I not-so-affectionately dubbed "The Donkey" during his time at Anfield, sent me off saucing like you wouldn't believe.

It's because of Traoré and his it'd-be-funny-if-it-wasn't-so-tragic level of inept play that I'd like to introduce a new, semi-regular Match Pricks feature – Liverpool players that have made me get really drunk, in a bad way. I'm an old man now, but a few years back, guys like Traoré sent me off on Jameson-fueled benders that would make a Somali pirate blush. Yet, my affection for Liverpool Football Club is such that in an odd way, I've come to love Traoré and others like him for their savage attacks on my liver and personal dignity. For that reason, I've started Liverpool players that have made me get really drunk, in a bad way. As time passes, these men deserve a unique form of celebration.

So, on to Traoré then. The case file against his play would fill a file cabinet four times over, but there's two moments that stick out above all else: Early October 2005: Liverpool 1 – Chelsea 4 and January 2005: Burnley 1 – Liverpool 0. As Colin says, "Dios, mio!"

With Burnley, it was Rafa's first season in England, and he failed to show proper respect for the FA Cup. Benitez treated the third-round tie at Burnley like a training ground scrimmage, fielding the following side:

Liverpool: Dudek, Raven, Hyypia, Whitbread, Traore (Baros 65), Nunez, Biscan, Welsh (Mellor 75), Potter, Warnock, Sinama Pongolle.
Subs Not Used: Otsemobor, Harrison, Smyth.

I couldn't even tell you who half those guys are. Raven? Otsemobor? What? Actually, you could have told me a guy named "What" was on the subs' bench that night and I wouldn't have batted an eye. However, this is about Djimi Traoré, and that night he opened the second half with one of the great own goals in FA Cup history. Traoré somehow back-heeled a cross into his own net. He probably couldn't do it again in a million tries, but luckily photographers attend these sorts of matches. One was present to capture Traoré's shame that night in all its sadness.
Says it all, don't it? To this day, Burnley 1 – Liverpool 0 remains a fat, black mark against Rafa's record in England. Pundits bring it up all the time as a critique. Thanks, Djimi.

However, the own goal at Burnley was a bit of lucky incompetence in the end. Traoré's most sustained display of impotent play that I remember took place during an amazing sequence at Anfield on the first weekend of October 2005. In a match that early in the season, Traoré helped Chelsea inflict Liverpool's worst home defeat in decades and contributed to an effort that by Oct. 2, 2005, had, stunningly, left Liverpool 17 points adrift of the Blues. I mean, if that doesn't call for a stiff drink, you must be a teetotaler.

The cherry on the sundae that afternoon was Traoré taking possession in the left corner and turning to clear upfield. He kicked it directly at Drogba, who calmly controlled, turned to his left and made for the goal. Not content to merely give away possession so close to his own goal, Traoré went for his own personal version of a brace and cut Drogba down in the box, gifting Chelsea an easy penalty. It was shocking in its efficiency. In less than five seconds, he did all but kick the ball for Chelsea into his own goal. I can still envision the sequence in my mind's eye. I think I blasted back two quick shots and slammed a Guinness.

But, Traoré wouldn't be a Liverpool player without a little bit of affection in reserve. Despite the examples cited above, and several others too painful to mention, Djimi Traoré, with a little help from his friends, was able to do this:
And for that, we can all be thankful. Here's to Djimi Traoré, a Liverpool player that made me get really drunk, in a bad way.

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