One of the downsides of living in California and being a football (soccer) fan is that I frequently have to get up early to watch a game. California is eight hours behind so a three o’clock kick off is a seven A.M. start. On the other hand, I get to watch almost all of the games. In the UK only so many are shown for each team due to broadcasting rights / issues / contracts. Over here, they just pick what they want, and with Liverpool being one of the more popular teams (still), they show practically the entire season of games across the Fox soccer channels and ESPN.
Today Liverpool played in the Carling cup. This cup is considered the smaller of the two domestic cups allowed for Premier League sides, and ranked third if you include the Premier League itself. It is often seen as prize that is no big deal not to win, unless of course, you make the final and have a chance to win it. Other teams see the cup as a stepping stone to something else. Liverpool have been without a trophy win since 2006, so saw this not only as a chance to win a trophy, but a chance to breed the winning mentality, and thus hopefully a stepping stone to something else. They are still in the FA cup (the other domestic cup, and largest domestic cup competition in the world), so will harbour hopes of winning that as well. They also want to hit a minimum of 4th in the league, and are still in with a shot of achieving it.
This cup final was against a team from a lower league so on paper should have been a Liverpool victory if not an easy Liverpool victory. But this is a cup final and Cardiff, the opposition, had deservedly gotten there. In a one off game, they stood a chance. The game as it panned out, seemed to be an illustration of the way Liverpool had played all season. Early on they dominated possession and chances, but proceeded to make a defensive mistake. Martin Skrtel played the opposing forward Joe Mason onside, allowing him a good finish, and Cardiff to take an early lead. Liverpool responded by more possession, creating a number of chances, but mostly shooting off target. Credit Cardiff with good defensive play here, they consistently got in the way and closed down players like Suarez, stopping clear cut chances from being created.
Second half Liverpool increased the pressure and almost created a goal, were it not for Skrtel offside, then were able to get a goal, courtesy of Skrtel, redeeming himself from the earlier errors. Pressure continued from Liverpool, good defending continued from Cardiff. Liverpool created lots of chances, not many good ones, a consistent theme for most of the season (especially playing at home in the League). The game went to extra time, Liverpool brought on Dirk Kuyt, who despite not playing as often this season, is still a player who rises for a big occasion. It was not too long before he had a chance to score, then did score giving Liverpool the lead. At this point you would have expected Liverpool to try to retain possession and see the game out. They did neither. They sat back, although this partially could have been due to tiredness, allowing Cardiff to get a slightly fortunate goal through Ben Turner. It did not look like Liverpool’s day.
Extra time ended with a 2 – 2 scoreline, penalties beckoned. Both teams missed their first penalty, Stephen Gerrard being stopped by a fantastic save from the Cardiff city keeper, Cardiff merely hitting the post. Then Charlie Adam stepped up to hit a contender for the worst penalty ever, skying the ball 8 yards over the goal. Cardiff scored the first penalty. It definitely did not like Liverpool’s day. However within seconds it began to turn. Liverpool then scored through Kuyt, Cardiff then missed. making it 1 -1 after three penalties a piece. Both teams scored their next penalty, going to the last one each, of the original five. Liverpool scored through Glen Johnson (Downing had scored the proceeding one), leaving Cardiff needing to score to survive. Up stepped Stephen Gerrard’s cousin Anthony, six years his younger, who promptly became the pantomime villain by putting it wide. Liverpool won, Cardiff lost, served him right for being an Everton supporter. Or not. To be fair, penalties are a tough way to win or lose, with fine margins either way. Stephen Gerrard had seen his penalty saved so both Gerrards had missed, but Stephen, rather than immediately celebrating with his team mates, went over to console his cousin Anthony, a nice gesture on his part. That is the way penalties go.
Cardiff had done well and made a good fight of the game. Liverpool had played well in possession, lacked some cutting edge, and nearly threw it all away, almost the story of their season. They did however win, myself and many other supporters were allowed to relax and celebrate after the stress they had put us all through, and they have their stepping stone. They might have a season largely good from the back, but plagued with some odd defensive errors in some crucial times, and lacking in cutting edge, but on occasion getting some crucial goals, but who knows? Maybe they may yet make a large struggle and limp but winning finish, to the final part of the season. And, I should add, they have now at the very least qualified for the Europa league, and won that first trophy in six years.
Congratulations to Liverpool football club, you are still by far my favourite sports team (in any sport), and you managed to make my day after all.
So in a final of lesser importance (to me), tonight sees the 84th annual academy awards. Sometimes fun, usually watchable, totally smug and back slappable, yes, you know the drill. Tonight I’m going to an Oscar party where we have to guess who will win which award with the hope of winning some small prize. Hopefully there will be food and drink there. Actually I know there will be so it should not be too bad. To be fair, I’m not that excited about these oscar awards mainly because I have seen absolutely none of the films up for awards. Yes that is correct, I’ve seen none of them. Small child see. Mind you I always thought the oscars were a bit predictable, and a bit more political than they ought to be. The award is important to whoever wins (much like the Carling cup) but the nominations often contain the more intriguing performances than the winner, although they might sometimes be one and the same. So with that in mind, well the predictable bit, I’ve had a little read around and here are my predictions for the winners:
Best picture : The Artist
Best director: Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
Best actor: George Clooney (The Descendants)
Best supporting actor: Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
Best actress: Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady)
Best supporting actress: Octavia Spencer (The Help)
Best foreign-language film: A Separation
Best documentary: Pina
Best original screenplay: The Artist
Tomorrow we shall compare how well I did, plus other musings on the ceremony, and “what I learnt from the weekend”. Enjoy.
Lexicon word of the day: Polyethnic.