Champions’ League semi-final, leg 2: Liverpool 1 – Chelsea 0

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
May 3rd, 2005 • 11:55 pm

The funny thing about these Champions’ League games is that, even when the quality of the game is really poor, it is still compelling to watch, simply because of the dramatic tension. This return leg was a prime example. There was hope that we would get at least a half of decent football, like we did when Liverpool played against Juventus a few weeks ago at Anfield, when they went ahead with two good goals before closing up shop. Unfortunately, in this case, they closed up shop immediately after the first goal, i.e. after 10 minutes or so. The rest of the game was all one way traffic with Chelsea more or less desperately trying to level the score and get the away goal advantage.

There is something profoundly dishonest about Mourinho claiming that the Liverpool goal only existed in the linesman’s imagination. The video replays are inconclusive, but there is little doubt that what influenced the linesman’s decision (if anything influenced him) was not the formidable presence of tens of thousands of Liverpool supporters in the stands, but the fact that Baros was purely and simply tripped by Cech on his way to goal and that it looked like a certain penalty. One would have to study the video replays very carefully to find out whether the referee actually did see the trip as a penalty offence, but waved “play on” to give the advantage to Liverpool. But there is no debating the fact that Cech’s trip was a penalty offence. In that sense, the Liverpool goal was more than justified.

Of course, football is rarely fair and one could also argue that Cech might have been able to stop the penalty kick, had it been given. But the bottom-line here is that Mourinho’s complaints about the linesman conveniently ignore the fact that the trip on Baros before the goal was a penalty offence. Liverpool deserved the lead, and defended well enough thereafter to preserve it and win the tie.

Then there is the fact that, apart from Gudjohnsen’s glorious chance in the 6th minute of stoppage time, Chelsea never really looked like they were going to break Liverpool’s defence. How does this square with Mourinho’s vision of things? Is he saying that the game would have ended 0-0 and would have gone to penalty kicks and that his team would have won the penalty kick lottery? It doesn’t sound very convincing to me. It sounds a bit too much like the words of a sore loser. And such comments will deservedly attract the ire of the UEFA once again. At some point Mourinho is going to have to learn how to shut up and accept the fact that his team cannot win everything all the time, and that there are just as many instances where his own team is actually favoured by debatable refereeing decisions.

Instead of complaining, he could ask himself why it is that his players created so few clear-cut chances. The Liverpool players were not exactly astoundingly good. They defended well, yes, but Steven Gerrard didn’t have a particularly good game, Traoré is not the most convincing defender around, Hyypia and Carragher didn’t have to perform too many heroic acts, etc. Maybe, just maybe the problem was actually with the lack of creativity of Chelsea without Duff and Robben… And borrowing a line from Arsène Wenger about the fact that “the best team lost” probably won’t help Mourinho’s cause either. He was more honest before the game when he admitted that the absence of both Duff and Robben was a problem he could not solve…

At this stage, it’s hard to tell whether Liverpool will have what it takes to defeat Milan AC in the final (assuming that PSV Eindhoven fails to perform a miracle today). But what’s nearly certain is that the final will be just as unspectacular as this semi-final was. Yet, for some reason, it might be compelling just the same. I suppose that it depends on how you feel about the two teams and who “deserves” to win the Champions’ League. These days, actually winning the thing doesn’t really come with the aura that it had in the past. Remember FC Porto? They were not exactly a Europe-dominating force this year, were they? Even if Liverpool win, it will be very hard to argue that this is a return to the “glory years”, especially in light of the poor domestic performances this year. But they will definitely be the underdogs, and, if only for that particular reason, it might be fun to watch them try and repeat their defensive performance once more against the Italian giants.

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