John Henry’s week from hell finally took a turn for the better.
The American billionaire endured a nightmare few days. The beloved Boston Red Sox baseball team, which he owns, suffered a dramatic collapse to miss out on the playoffs. Then Henry was hospitalized after falling down the stairs of his luxury yacht.
But his other sporting interest, Liverpool, put a smile back on his face Saturday, outdueling hated local rival Everton for a 2-0 road victory at Goodison Park.
Even better for Henry, it was his two biggest outlays since purchasing the English Premier League side that turned the tide just when the contest looked to be heading for a goalless draw.
Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez cost $55 million and $35 million respectively when they joined the club during the January transfer window. Both have had their value questioned – especially Carroll. Yet such is the depth of feeling that surrounds this rivalry that on Saturday each man suddenly seemed to be worth every penny.
When United States international Tim Howard saved a penalty from Liverpool’s Dirk Kuyt, Everton’s hopes began to rise, despite the ill-founded and controversial sending off of young defender Jack Rodwell in the first half.
On 71 minutes though, Carroll turned Craig Bellamy’s cross past Howard and into the net for perhaps the most significant goal of his Liverpool career so far.
With eight minutes left Suarez got the second, and put the result beyond doubt. Everton’s defending was chaotic. Leighton Baines collided clumsily with Sylvain Distin, and allowed the ball to return into Suarez’s path. The Uruguayan World Cup star made no mistake, and the derby was effectively sealed.
Suddenly, after a somewhat patchy start to the season, Liverpool can start feeling a little better about itself and Henry’s confidence in his $90 million investment in the club – and its star signings – must have increased.
With a head coach in Kenny Dalglish who understands the club’s intricate workings, Steven Gerrard on the road to full fitness again, and Carroll showing signs of improvement, the signs are positive. Carroll may never live up to that enormous price tag, one that was driven up due to the inflated figure Liverpool received for selling Fernando Torres to Chelsea, but he certainly can be a valuable contributor as the side attempts to reclaim a place in the Champions League.
It is in fifth right now, and although there is a danger of Manchester United and Manchester City motoring off into the distance, hopes are high at Anfield that the team can remain in contention a little longer.
For Henry, it was a fine way to end a horrendous week. While the Red Sox debacle that cost manager Terry Francona his job was painful enough, the accident was more serious. Henry slipped dangerously, injured his neck and required emergency-room treatment. He was released from the hospital and a Red Sox official described it as a "minor accident."
Saturday’s events gave him some much-needed cause for cheer, and if Liverpool’s resurgence can continue on this track then he may find soccer provide a pleasant distraction in the winter months until baseball season rolls around again.
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- Andy Carroll