Those of us old enough to remember the 1985 European Cup final and the 1989 FA Cup semi-final where, between the two, swathes of Juventus and Liverpool fans lost their lives, instinctively read the worst from the tea leaves. Police teargassing families with small children outside the ground is one sure way to inject panic into a crowd, creating the potential for a stampede. Fortunately, no fatalities occurred last night in Paris but it seems the handling of the showcase soccer event was anything but professional or efficient.
The result more so than the game was a disappointment. I never fancied Liverpool from the outset, detecting a frailty in the team. As with non-alcoholic beer, it looks good but there is just something not quite right about it. Like the fighter Chris Eubank, post-the Michael Watson bout, Liverpool all too frequently just about win. They secured two domestic cups this season but scraped by on penalties rather than take either handsomely or convincingly. At no time did I think that Real Madrid would allow the Reds to get beyond 120 minutes where the odds would shift to the men from the Mersey.
Despite being philosophical about the outcome, I still slunk off to bed in a grump, Covid not helping, dismayed at the missed opportunities and the needless ceding of the killer goal. There I read a few pages on Camus before drifting into a sleep which was punctuated throughout the night by the woes of Stade de France. It was either read Albert Camus or listen to Leonard Cohen – the French Algerian won out but without helping me extract something meaningful from last night’s theatre of the absurd.
Prior to the match Mo Salah had been talking up revenge for the final four years ago, when he was carted off after being unceremoniously bundled to the ground by the uncompromising Sergio Ramos. Then I had spent the evening with my dying brother Martin in a Belfast hospice, listening to the match on radio. Madrid’s riposte to Salah was a loud No, Mo, delivered like a veteran from the boot of a rookie. The goal while well executed should never have been scored. Camus as a former goalkeeper in Algiers would have acknowledged that. Trent Alexander Arnold was caught ball-watching having failed to track his man, despite knowing he was threatening. The battle between Trent Alexander Arnold and Vinicius Junior was marked out as one worth waiting for. The Brazilian clearly emerged as the winner. He only had to be lucky once and he was. TAA, so often the boon and the bane of LFC fortunes.
As heretical as it may sound, I preferred a Real Madrid win in normal time to Liverpool winning through penalties after extra time. Liverpool have done that twice this year and a third time at such a high level would have been a serious blight on the game. Once is acceptable, twice is bearable, thrice is horrible. At that point the cock crowing signals the betrayal of open play soccer, the essence of the game. It is simply no way to win finals. I told my son had it gone to penalties I would not have watched them. It had nothing to do with the tension and everything to do with the descent of the flowing beautiful game into the inertia of spot kicks. Not that he cared - he was cheering Madrid on, which made me look forward to my seventies, if I reach them, and a child-free home.
For all that is written and said about this Liverpool side - the hype and the expectation of the quadruple, the superlative quality of their front three - they have finished their season at the lower end of the market. They won the less important cup competitions but failed to clinch the big two leagues. The large hats went to those with the prize cattle - Manchester City and Real Madrid.
Former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard said after the game "I don’t think Liverpool did too much wrong…” I simply disagree. They failed to score a goal, and they failed to defend a goal. What more wrong is there to do?
|⏩ Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre.|