Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Reds Rules

Another repost of one of my more memorable sports review...

If anything bad were to befallen me today, I'd leave this world knowing that I've witnessed THE MOTHER OF ALL CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL MATCH today.

That's the statement I'd use to justify the intensity, suspense, excitement, superb, best of the best, excellent, great, entertaining, fun, trepidation, passion, exhilaration, outstanding, terrific, marvelous, and first-rate of the match between Liverpool and AC Milan. All these words I just mentioned don't give the least credit to the game I've just watched.

After 20 years of waiting, Liverpool finally got their grasp on the European Champion's Cup once again. As the most highliy decorated English club in the competition and one of the best achievers in the competition of Europe, it is only fitting that Liverpool took home their rightful cup tonight by just being present in the Finals.

The match started off one-sidedly with Milan owning Liverpool in practically every aspect of football; from through passes to long passes to attempts on goals to techniques used to defensive quality and dexterity. Arguably one of the earliest and best goal to be scored in a Champions League final was netted by the Captain of AC Milan; Paulo Maldini. Just 30 seconds into the first half, Liverpool conceded a free-kick at the right edge of the penalty box, opening its defenses up for a surgical strike. With a minute coming up, the kick was swung in and with the Midas one-touch volley from Maldini, the ball struck the ground once and went straight into the back of the net with such force that everyone in the room roared as if they were struck down by the ball itself. Such was the intensity and quality of the first goal.

AC Milan went on to show Liverpool, the underdogs, how the BIG BOYS played in this competition. AC Milan was so good and mesmerizing to the extent of emulating Arsenal in their trademark quick, short-pass counterattacks. 10 minutes from half-time, Hernando Crespo (former Chelsea striker) received a cross from the right wing after puncturing Liverpool's defenses at its heart and tapped the ball into the goal, leaving poor Jerzy Dudek to lick his own injured pride. Just when we thought the first half was ending at a 2-0 score line, a mistake by Sammi Hyppia to intercept an oncoming ball from mid-air set Crespo loose once again to hound Liverpool's crumbling defenses. With only the goalkeeper between him and his 2nd goal, Crespo neatly and skillfully chipped in AC Milan's 3rd goal, practically securing the Champion's Cup for his team's taking. 3-0 was the half-time score.

At this point, one would think the end is over for Liverpool and they rightly deserved it. Shame on those who went to sleep during half-time for they missed the greatest match that has ever been live-telecasted for a very, very long time. Liverpool came back into the second half with kilojoules of vigour to spare. And spared them they did. Captain Steven Gerard whom I so humbly admire, gave his team a winning chance when he head in a superb, sharp ball into the top right corner of the goal, leaving helpless Dida on the groound. Now, Liverpool brought it on to AC Milan's ground matching speed for speed and passes for passes. 2 minutes later, Vladimir Smicer bulls-eyed in an excellent and perfect goal outside the penalty box. It was approximately 35 yards from my memory and it was a very low ball, straight into the left bottom corner of the goal. Again, Dida was helpless to deflect it. With nothing to lose, Xabi Alonso took the spot kick. I told James he was going to miss because I could read his expression. I have a knack for this sort of thing ;) He did miss but he also quickly compensate for his blunder by capitalizing on Dida's error of not catching the ball. As you guessed it, he rebounded the saved spot-kick and brought Liverpool to AN EYE FOR AN EYE with AC Milan.

The game went on at 3-3 until the end of regulation time. After several more misses and nerve-wrecking moments in extra-time, the Finals was to be decided on a penalty fall-out, notice the term here. Liverpool won the fall-out 3-2 with Milan blundering 3 of their penalty kicks (where Dudek saved 2 of those) despite Dida saving Liverpool's John Arne Riiser's kick. It was that bad for Milan and that obvious for Liverpool that Captain Gerard didn't even have to take this penalty as the 5th taker. It was inevitable, it was memorable, and it was self-justified. Liverpool showed CHARACTER and they deserved to win.

Althought I'm not a Liverpool fan, I have to admit I was with them even from the beginning of the match when they seemed hopeless. After all, I was a one-time Reds fan a long time ago in a galaxy, far, far away...wait, that didn't sound right :P Anyway, because of this, I couldn't help but vouched for Liverpool even when they were 3-0 down. C'mon, anyone who's been following the Championship should know that there's something about this Liverpool team. Defeating 3 great and powerful teams in a row to clinch the title of Champion of Champions in Europe is not an every-season feat; Juventus, Chelsea and AC Milan, two being the league champions in their respective country.

With this new-found sense of confidence in the Liverpool camp, I am now looking forward to their meet with Manchester United next season. I would relish on the thought of MU defeating the current Champion of Europe.

For now...

A toast to Liverpool, to a great game long to be remembered, and to football...