Liverpool v Chelsea
A number of comments had been written and said in regard to the possible outcome of yesterday's result, nationally and on this site. Jose Mourinho mentioned he felt no pressure coming to Anfield, Liverpool were under pressure to perform and win in front of their own fans. The Chelsea coach clearly saw it that Chelsea would be too formidable to be overwhelmed by the Reds and their twelve man, Rafael Benitez is a nice manager, but hasn't the players or enough guile to deny Chelsea from the Champs League final, and the chance of adding yet another trophy to their achievements at the drawing of this season. Our results have been fluctuating, to say the least, and perhaps even Benitez was puzzled as to why Liverpool displayed inconsistency in the League, especially where Everton and Bolton failed to capitalise.
After the Stamford Bridge leg, Mourinho mentioned he was satisfied that his side had gained "a very good result", that they will score and win at Anfield, progressing to the final in Istanbul. "We have got goals in Liverpool and they have to play a different way. It's dangerous for them.
"They play at home and 99.9% of Liverpool fans will be thinking they are in the final but they aren't and it will be difficult for them."
Chelsea scored one goal at Anfield, and I must have been in the 0.01% because I didn't think we'd got into the final at all after the 1st leg. Mourinho must have had his own MORI poll done on the spot. So he poured scorn over Liverpool's chances of beating Chelsea and going through. Couldn't be helped, he was frustrated Chelsea hadn't scored. But not downbeaten, he was confident of his side's strong performance come Tuesday.
On Monday, Benitez was told Mourinho has not stopped winning for three years. The ex-Valencia coach said "Until tomorrow.
Jose is one of the best coaches. He has a good team and he is a good manager so if you put together both those things you have a winning formula. He works hard and knows the game, but we will try to do the same. It is difficult to say if he is the best coach, he is one of the best, sure. He has a very good team, sure.
But they will lose tomorrow."
How a number of Chelsea fans must have scoffed at those words. How the team must have scoffed at those words too.
Benitez went on further: "We feel we have a good team, even if we are playing against one of the best teams in the world, they have spent a lot of money on good players. They have a lot going for them, but this is a challenge for us to beat them. We showed a European mentality at Stamford Bridge last week in the first leg and now we know we have our supporters behind us, it will make a difference."
"You need a clear idea against a good team, they have good wingers, a good centre forward and excellent midfielders, maybe it will take to the last minute but we can achieve what we want."
(It actually took the game as far as the sixth minute, of injury time.)
Those words may not have been of significance to Chelsea fans, but Liverpool fans knew their value. They were passionate words, perhaps out of some frustration after playing mediocre against Middlesbrough on Saturday, prior to going into a big home game against the best team in the league for a valued asset in a place in the Champions League final. But when he spoke, Liverpool fans listened. The value of the support at Anfield was underestimated. It was spoken of like an urban legend, Juventus can lay testament to that. Now you can add Chelsea.
'Berry' added a piece regarding the passion at Anfield yesterday and he was castigated by a number of replies. We at EFT welcome criticism and/or praise, we love to share views on the game immensely. If we're wrong, we'll stand corrected. If you agree, disagree or offer an alternative, all the more better. But some of the comments of yesterday spoke little of that and more of rudeness and profanity, so we gained little to nothing of supposedly contrasting constructive football views. Only one spoke out in his defence, understood that which was written. Albeit that one person was a Liverpool fan, but it took a true fan to understand that passion, or a heartened neutral who lives, eat, breathes, plays the game.
The game itself. The goal has been labelled 'inconclusive' by virtue of camera positioning yet the linesman gave it as having gone over. With the many cameras that Sky have at their disposal, why was it ITV could only muster one view in such a big game? 'Match of the Day' use virtual imagery to establish whether the ball crossed the line. ITV didn't have such technology available. Andy Gray would have dragged that moment from all angles to establish what happened. ITV let us down.
Liverpool's play was to keep hold of the ball, and their contingency plan was to stand firm in defence and not shirk from an incoming shot, get there first to shut down a player, ensure someone made the ball theirs whenever it came in, high or low. And we did a damn good job of it, obviously. In balance, Jerzy Dudek had a relatively Premiership performance to exert, he wasn't overawed with the expected avalanche of shots and close-range taps. Liverpool still needed to get a grip on their possession abilities, Chelsea had plenty of the ball owing to Liverpool's knack of losing it too often and too easily.
Yet while Benitez spoke passionately pre-conference, Jamie Carragher showed it on the pitch. Almost every and any ball coming his way was dealt with by him, and he was up against Drogba mainly. Even when big Robert Huth came on up front, Carragher was there to challenge with the German, clearing the ball. That was how much this game meant to Liverpool, right there, from central defence. That is practically the one thing Benitez was wrong on. He looked to Steven Gerrard as the talisman for the game, it was instead Carragher, rightly MOTM.
Six minutes of stoppage time that possibly came out of punishment for the two annoying persons who had Liverpool colours on, who came onto the pitch. But we did it, we managed to thwart the best team in England for a coveted chance in football, our first for over 20 years.
And then, like clockwork, afterwards, Mourinho poured scorn on the result. "What everyone was speaking about, the power of Anfield Road, was magnificent....[i]t didn't interfere with my players or my team but maybe it did interfere with other people and with the result."
"Bring out the linesman and ask him why he awarded the goal. It must be 100% in and he must be 100% sure it is. My players say it's not a goal. Other people say nobody can confirm it was a goal. Only one person decided the future of a team and of players who have never played in a Champions League final."
"The best team lost and didn't deserve to lose.....[t]hat's the most important thing I can say from the game. For sure. No doubt. It was a copy of Cardiff. They just defended after that and kept balls out. They did it well, with a lot of courage, commitment and enthusiasm. They fought to keep a clean sheet and were lucky."
So the linesman is to blame. The atmosphere of Anfield wasn't strong enough to influence against Chelsea, but good enough to sway the linesman. Sure, I'm happy the goal was given. Had it been Chelsea it was awarded to, I would have been furious, but then Liverpool would have had 92mins from then to at least equalise. Chelsea had possession, the players who could create and score, and they were"the best team", so why didn't they score? Quite simply because we kept them out. We wanted to win more than Chelsea, and we stuck hard to doing just that.
Luck had little to do with it. We got the decision, which maybe proven to have been the right one, but we still had to play 90+, and Chelsea had 6mins injury time from practically nowhere. All they had to do was score the once and they were through. As I said earlier, they had some chances but they weren't as frequent as you'd expect from Chelsea. How fitting was it for Gudjohnsen to miss in injury time, after he'd dived to get Alonso booked in the first leg?
I wrote last week, either in a blog or reply, that Chelsea's domestic form was so superb, yet in the Champions League they had come close to going out. I also said that where they'd wrapped up the title chase at Bolton, they may well be too ecstatic as a result to concentrate fully on the 2nd leg. I felt that they saw the match as a foregone conclusion for them, I got that impression after hearing Mourinho after the 1st leg.
Other than possibly a Chelsea fan, who would begrudge Liverpool a result after having come close on three occasions? Particularly after Mourinho's gesture to Liverpool fans with his finger during the League Cup Final, we badly wanted to win last night. Think back to when Clinton Morrison ridiculed Liverpool's forwards after the League Cup semi-final 1st leg at Selhurst Park in 2001, and was then made to suffer for it as we came back 5-0 in the 2nd leg, Morrison encapsulating the night by missing one chance twice, yards from goal.
Mourinho's 'shhhhh' gesture came back to haunt him last night. We'd have given up the League Cup Final to be in the Champions League version and we deserved it, not Chelsea. And we were reserved with our opinion of our chances of winning, unlike Mourinho. The maxim says 'He who laughs least, laughs last, laughs longest.'