Yesterday’s Champion’s League Final loss hurt. A lot. It’s rare that I let the outcome of a sporting event play such a driving role in my mood anymore, but Wednesday’s disappointment simply took it out of me. Struggling to write about it afterwards, I started once, deleted it and started again. This is as far as I got:
2-1, Milan vanquish Liverpool to win the 2007 Champion’s League.
*low guttural groan*
While it’s challenging to make the proper keystrokes while in the fetal position, I’m managing to multi-task between that and licking my wounds after that game.
This is a hard loss to stomach. Nobody wants to end the season on a loss, especially in Europe’s biggest game, but it’s the manner in which the loss came that makes it even worse.
Firstly, I’m angry. But, I’ve been angry since half-time. For 44 minutes, Liverpool looked the part. The team was putting in an industrious performance, looking dangerous and playing with heart and intent. It was Liverpool who pushed forward and asked questions of their opponents defense. Milan was the quieter side, content to steer clear of trouble and boot the ball towards Inzaghi.
And then came that silly fucking foul on Kaka.
I was furious the second it happened. Right outside the area, a minute before the half, the stage was perfectly set. All Liverpool’s hard work was going to get flushed because Xabi suffered a brain fart. From 20 yards, it was just too obvious that Milan were going to steal a goal right before the half. And steal they did.
Considering the pace of the shot, neither the linesman or referee can truly be expected to spot the infraction, but the ball clearly came off of Inzaghi’s upper arm. That’s a handball. Technically, it shouldn’t count.
But, these things happen. It’s such a close call, I can’t cry to the officials or label Inzaghi as a ‘cheater’. And, unfortunately, Reina doesn’t have much of a chance on a deflection of that caliber. Frankly, I lay the blame at Alonso’s feet.
So, the Reds (again) walk into the locker room, down a goal. But, it’s a better deficit than two years ago right? Funny, because I was more furious this time around.
You know what? I can’t do this shit. I can’t continue to recap and try to work through this like I’m not still seething. Fuck this, I’m spilling the venom.
The second half sucked ass. That second goal was shit. 3 fucking defenders around Inzaghi in a triangle, and they let him practically walk the ball in. And seeing the replay, with Riise immediately looking at the linesman for help as Reina was left D.O.A., made me more livid. All fucking game, Liverpool players are throwing hands up and stopping when the GODDAMN BALL IS STILL IN PLAY. I don’t care if you think it’s offsides or a foul, PLAY THE FUCKING WHISTLE. Even Carra was guilty of this more than once. I could not believe my eyes. Play the motherfucking whistle.
I didn’t even flinch when Kuyt scored. It was over. The damage was done and there was no magic in the air. While Liverpool showed intent and there were chances to be had, it just didn’t happen. We may have been good enough over long stretches of the game, but in flashes we weren’t. Milan were. They won.
Congratulations to Milan.
The next day, my fury has subsided. The sun is only partially obscured by the clouds. The venom has run dry. Watching my girlfriend’s co-ed team advance to their own Final (on PK’s) may have also helped…
Now, back to the team…
Reina: I thought he was solid on each and every cross into danger. He can’t be blamed for the first, and although he may have done a bit better on the second considering the ball went under him, he’s absolved of blame. A great ‘keeper, but was twice victimized by a great striker.
Finnan: Another solid performance. He didn’t overlap as much with Pennant as he has in games past, but that may have been by design. Once or twice he could have put in a cross sooner, but that’s nit-picking.
Agger: A quiet game but he did well enough in both the center and out on the left flank, repeatedly covering for an out-of-position Riise. As an added bonus, he was involved a rare Liverpool goal from a corner. It’s a comforting thought to know he’ll only get better.
Carragher: Not good enough by his own lofty standards, highlighted by arare mis-communication in the second half that almost led to another Milan goal. But, per usual, he made crucial interventions on numerous occasions. Thankfully, he’ll be signing a contract extension within days.
Riise: Woeful. Over and over and over again, he got caught up field after possession was turned over (often by his own doing), and Milan attacked in his empty space, forcing Agger to stretch the defense to cover for his absence. For too long, I’ve given him a free pass on his defensive liabilities because of that cannon of a left-foot, but no longer. With Auerillo and Arbeloa in place, his starting days are surely numbered.
Pennant: While very active on the right and eager to engage Jankulovski, he repeated cut the bacll back and in, allowing the defender to stay with him. Surely his pace would have allowed him to continue past the slower back, but this was a rarity. Like the rest of the squad, his second half was less stellar, but Pennant was a bright spot. I’m willing to admit, though, we may need a more talented player in the starting XI.
Zenden: I can describe my feelings at seeing his name including in the starting XI with one word – “FUCK”. While Rafa has demonstrated his tactical shrewdness time and time again, he got this one terribly wrong. Utterly ineffective the entire game, Bolo should have stayed on his crutches. Kewell should have started and the pacy Gonzalez could have been the sub if the Aussie came up lame. Thankfully, Zenden is gone this summer.
Mascherano: A solid defensive performance on the evening. So much, in fact, it should have been Xabi that made way for Crouch. Rafa got himself a real steal in the little Argentinian and I hope he’s at Anfield for a lengthy spell.
Alonso: A poor evening from a usually exquisite player. It’s not that he was so poor, it was that his game lacked the sharpness which seemed to have deserted him the past few weeks. Unfortunately, the under-par performance will feed his exit rumors, but Rafa isn’t about to sell such a classy player. Nor should he.
Gerrard: The intent to stamp his authority on the game was there, but the ink just didn’t take. He did
well adequate with his one real chance on goal in the second half, but Dida did better. I kept waiting (or hoping) for him to pop up with a screamer from outside the area, but it wasn’t to be.
Kewell: Not much of an impact on the game, which is disappointing. Sadly, his substitution for Zenden barely provided Liverpool with an upgrade on the left flank. It’ll be interesting to see what happens this summer. A fit Kewell (over a whole season) would be a wonderful weapon for Rafa to wield, but whether he stays healthy or stays in Red is questionable.
Kuyt: No surprises here; Dirk worked his ass off, running hard and keeping the workrate up, even popping up with the late consolation goal. But, as much as I like him, the words ‘goal threat’ don’t seem to apply. But, pair him with a real goal poacher and we may have ourselves a dangerous juxtaposition.
Crouch: Should have been put on sooner, as his arrival made an immediate impact. I would have started him and brought on Kuyt’s workrate later in the game.
Arbeloa: I think he waited to get on the field longer than he actually played.
So, sadly, Liverpool were not good enough on the night. In retrospect, my decision not to drink was a poor one. Massive amounts of Guinness would have counter-balanced the fury prompted by the game nicely.
But, as Rafa has strengthened the squad, he’ll continue the process this summer, adding muscle and cutting the fat. Who the players that will end up on either side should prove interesting. Obviously, it would have been nice to take a summer break celebrating #6 and plotting #19, but the hunger will go unfed.
Maybe this disappointment will prove to be motivation in next year’s Premiership race.
Something needs to be.
So, until then, we have the silly transfer season to entertain us. Plus, the new away kit and the new European kit should be unveiled in the next month. Good times, good times.