This ain’t the time for singing the Blues!!
The build up to the game, for me, was a mixture of many different feelings. I was on the edge of my seat at work all day in anticipation for what could be a great, fierce battle between two of the Premiership’s elite, I was also very apprehensive of a disaster. Thinking we may walk into the battle in fear of the opponents and be like lambs to the slaughter. I also felt like over the past few weeks, especially over the Christmas period, that I had seen a different side to Liverpool FC. A spirited side, that was not going to lie down and give up 4th place so easily and would go to the Bridge in the knowledge that another defeat at this point would give us yet another dent in our challenge.
This season, or at least so far, has been, quite frankly, a shambles. Ok we had a very poor run last year but that we knew was just a blip. One that would be erased when this season started in August. We were eagerly awaiting the first game of the season, at home to Chelsea. It felt to most that payback for the loss of Champions League football after the game in May was due but unfortunately this did not happen.
Ok so a defeat to probably the best team in the Premiership, so be it if only on paper, didn’t look so bleak at the time, but here we sit 5 months later having lost 6 games in total, sitting too close to mid-table for my liking and effectively way out of the title race, which is where we should be. I was hoping, begging, praying for all 3 points, I felt like even 1 wouldn’t be enough to pull us from this season’s rut.
6:00pm is on the clock and here I am at work, Wednesday nights, the only late nights I have to do and possibly the worst for loss of football coverage!! Speaking to a few friends and fellow reds on Messenger gets me through the evening as we have a talk of the good times past, present and future at Anfield – or at least L4 anyway!! Then the teams were announced and there are a few surprises to go with it.
Dudek in goal, only real option due to the unfortunate loss of Kirky in the holidays, Henchoz continues awkwardly on the right side of defence, finding it hard to remove the fairly successful partnership of Hyypia and Biscan. Traore replaces the unimpressive Riise on the left; even I welcome this change for now. Diouf and Kewell share the wings with what looks to be a 3 man center midfield trio of Hamann, Murphy and very surprisingly Cheyrou, who could be played in a more attacking role in the trio, with big Emile up front.
Now the conversation topic was Bruno, no not the FA Cup blushes-sparing hero Heskey, but the inclusion in the first 11 of the young Frenchman Cheyrou. When he arrived at the club he was being praised by many, tipped to be the next Zidane apparently!! Well who wouldn’t expect too much from him, I admit it, I did!! This was to heap a fair bit of pressure on the number 28’s shoulders, pressure that he admits himself after spending his first year in England.
So 8:00pm is on the clock, the battle commences. I, however am sat at a cold, lonely bus station waiting for the number 11 to hurry up. I did get back before the end of the half-time break. Oh how sweet that sounded, 1-0 up at Chelsea, these are what dreams are made of……1986 anyone?!!
Good work by Heskey on the right, accurate ball into the center met by a crashing half-volley by, who’s this……none other than Bruno Cheyrou!! A few more highlights are shown, just enough to tell me that it looked as though we were there for a game, not just title feed for the Blues.
So the second half comes and goes, nothing too thrilling by all accounts, both sides played fairly poor with many mistakes from almost everyone on the pitch. Main talking points seem to be off the ball incidents rather than off it. Firstly there was Dudek’s injury which saw Liverpool go both 1st team goalkeepers short, and see the first emergence of Patrice Luzi, who was probably our best player bar Traore in the second half. He made a couple of excellent, quality saves and could be forgiven for not being anywhere near Mutu’s header that came crashing back off the bar 15 minutes from the end, after a corner was swung in to the near post. Second talking point has to be the very controversial and bizarre sending off of our Senegalese hitman El-Hadji Diouf. Diouf was already carrying a yellow card from an earlier incident when he went into a standing challenge only to be met by Mutu’s upturned studs. Nothing to serious there but it was enough for a little squaring up from both members, again nothing too serious it was the aftermath that followed that causes the confusion.
As both Diouf and Mutu went their separate ways, it seemed their paths crossed each other and their feet either got tangled up accidentally or someone stood on the other’s shoelaces or something like that – you tell me!! All I saw was the two players seem to trip up but remain on both feet and then jog away without causing a fuss, which was more than the referee who had his back to the incident. Next we see the Chelsea contingency appealing for some decision from the match official, who having seen nothing himself, decides to see the assistant referee’s opinion on the matter, who for some strange reason decides El-Hadji was the one at fault and the referee has no choice but to give the Liverpool player, under much protest, his marching orders. Liverpool down to 10 men, but it was enough in the end after much pressure being soaked in the 4 minutes stoppage time, to give us the hard-earned 3 points.
Ecstatic I was on the whistle. This meant more than just 3 points to us. This proved that after defeats to Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea earlier this season, that we could compete with the best. A historic result as well. Liverpool's first premiership win against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Other matches went our way too with Fulham losing, Charlton snatched a point against Man City but it is better than 3 and also Birmingham lost which carried Liverpool back into 5th place, just 2 behind Charlton, who have played a game more. A popular saying is "I’d rather have the points in the bag than a game in hand" which I hope won’t come into play just yet. If only we had already played Wolves, things would be looking a fair bit rosier than at present, no disrespect to the Molyneux guys but lets face it, any less than 3 points against them would be considered a disaster.
All in all, a fantastic, unprecedented result, spirit lifting performance and a point which proves that this is the time that us Kopites get right behind every single player and even more so the manager during this ever so important stage in the football year. We as a club need that 4th place, we might not think that the likes of Fulham, Charlton, Southampton and Birmingham etc are capable of maintaining this challenge, you just try telling that to them, and if they don’t I guarantee Sir Bobby’s Toon Army can.
4th Spot, that elusive cash flow to football’s elite is vital in our progress as a club, we need it, we deserve it and we damn sure ain’t gonna give it up without a very long hard fight. And if we do, sorry that is when we do return to the pinnacle of European Football, we’ll stay there. We have tasted it once in 2001-02 how far we have grown as a club in both stature and spirit, 2002-03 was disappointing admittedly, but we know 2004-05 could mean big things for this club. Champions League football means bigger and better signings, more spirit, willingness, happiness and commitment from our current players as well as us fans getting what we deserve, exciting European destinations for us to ply our trade as the greatest fans in the world.
© Adam Elce, LFChistory.net