The best team won is an apt phrase to describe the English Premiership champions. I was sitting with my wife guzzling red wine and people watching on a Paris street while my son kept texting me the scores from home. When he told me Brighton were one-up against Manchester City and that Liverpool were also ahead of Wolves, I replied, "that won't last long." Not much time passed before that forecast was borne out, although it would be blowing smoke to claim prescience for it.
Manchester City had showed spirit and passion throughout the season even when they stumbled and took a fall. As expected this Liverpool side never had it in them to win the title. Theirs for the taking at Christmas, seven points in front, they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. They always looked suspect, out in front by false pretences, and it seemed they knew it, putting up no real fight until they found their true station. There is no denying they kept things on the boil, going at it with everything in the run-in. But the self-inflicted damage had been done. They gave City a second chance and unlike the Merseysiders, the Mancunians were determined not to fluff it.
Liverpool ultimately drew their way to second place instead of wearing the crown, as if the weight of it left them calcified. Four disastrous games were crucial: Leicester, West Ham, Everton, Manchester United. The latter even ended up fielding a second tier team which Liverpool still failed to break down. So poor were Liverpool at this point in the season that former stalwart Jamie Carragher said United were a better team. If Liverpool could not match United they were never going to ratchet up their performance to overtake City.
... the Reds accumulated 97 points in a season that saw many believe that this year really would be their year, but when Manchester City are in contention, you’re bound to lose out.
Their victory midweek against Barcelona was remarkable, unforgettable, maybe their finest hour in Europe but only if Istanbul 2005 is blocked out. This side have yet to win anything. I was delighted to see them pull it off, but for the fans. My son sometimes comments that unlike me, his best friend is passionate about the team, whereas I see only the fans. That is not entirely true but my affinity for the team is proportionate to the service they render to the fans. The fans who strove so valiantly to save the lives of their friends and fellow supporters, who have resisted all the demonising, the smearing, the lying, the cover ups, who have overcome the crooked coroner, the mendacious cops, the despicable Sun, a class biased judiciary, the Tory law and order brigade - they are the true champions.
At the end of the Barcelona game, the team stood facing the fans as YNWA rang around the ground. It was impressive but the nagging thought persisted that the fans were too often left to walk alone by a side that at crucial moments underwhelmed. The disparity between players and fans in terms of the passion is frequently disquieting.
Harsh as it might sound, in the 30th anniversary year of the unlawful police killings at Hillsborough, the team let the fans down. Yes, they got through to the final of the Champions' League, but that no small achievement remains second best. To bring the fans so tantalisingly close to what they most desire, only to blow it and throw it through inept performances summons up the words of Orson Scott Card:
The opposite of the happy ending is not actually the sad ending - the sad ending is sometimes the happy ending. The opposite of the happy ending is actually the unsatisfying ending.