Don’t count on it
Liverpool’s defeat to Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final was difficult to explain. The visitors had more possession and shots at the Nou Camp, hitting the post and wasting numerous chances. Yet they were beaten 3-0 and face a remarkably difficult task in overturning that deficit next week.
But football demands instant analysis, and Arsene Wenger was thankfully on hand to provide it for beIN SPORTS. And the Daily Mirror website was more than happy to oblige in terms of quoting him and giving the story a quite ridiculous headline.
For clarity, here are the Wenger quotes the Mirror use in full:
“It was hard for Liverpool tonight. But, I must say, Barcelona suffered in the second half until they scored the second goal, then Liverpool collapsed. There was two important things that happened tonight. First, when they suffered Ernesto Valverde made a good change. He brought Nelson Semedo on and put Roberto in midfield – from that point on that looked more stable defensively. The second part of it, something we have seen so many times, is Messi. Mr Messi came in and said: ‘Let me finish the job’. Liverpool had a late chance, they should have scored. They will regret this chance but overall it is typical thing I have seen at Barcelona. They are better than you in the final third, every pass is great. That makes the difference at the end of the day.”
And the headline?
‘Arsene Wenger’s two-word assessment of Liverpool’s defeat by Barcelona’
‘Liverpool need to summon a miraculous comeback to stay in Europe after Lionel Messi played like a man on mission to win the Champions League’ – Dominic King and Pete Jenson, Daily Mail.
‘It leaves the Reds down and almost certainly out – only a miracle can save them now’ – David Maddock, Daily Mirror
‘Don’t hold your breath for a miracle’ – Ian Ladyman, Daily Mail.
Mediawatch is hardly advising Liverpool fans to book flights to Madrid at some point around June 1, but:
a) Barcelona squandered a three-goal first-leg home lead to lose to Roma in the Champions League quarter-final literally last season.
b) Barcelona have lost away at Leganes, Levante and Sevilla this season.
c) Liverpool have been 3-0 down at half-time of a Champions League tie before and it all worked out really rather well.
Improbable. Unlikely. Implausible. Far-fetched. But ‘miracle’? Hardly.
Celebrate good times, come on
The true ‘miracle’ would have been newspaper journalists not choosing to make a mountain out of a celebratory molehill. The bloody cheek of Luis Suarez, eh?
‘Not only did he celebrate against his former club but his joy was slightly crazed, like his manic behaviour through much of the game,’ writes David Maddock of the Daily Mirror.
‘Never one to stand on ceremony, Suarez celebrated wildly his goal against his former club, sliding on his knees, pointing to the heavens,’ is Henry Winter’s take for The Times.
But Charlie Wyett of The Sun goes as far as to suggest that the striker ‘taunted his old fans by celebrating wildly’. Because he was definitely poking fun at Liverpool supporters and trying to wind them up, not just expressing immense and understandable joy at scoring a decisive goal in a Champions League semi-final – his first in the competition for over a year.
When his colleague Neil Ashton is the level-headed, sensible one – ‘Regardless of his history in a red shirt, Barcelona pay his wages now’ – you know something has gone wrong.
But save the absolute worst Suarez take for Sam Cunningham of The I Paper. This really is quite something.
To think, Liverpool defended Luis Suarez vehemently after he called Patrice Evra a n****. The players even wore t-shirts. He repaid the club who used to love him with utter contempt. https://t.co/2DAlejhYbz
— Sam Cunningham (@samcunningham) May 2, 2019
What a weird way of selling a measured and reasonable piece – with a line that isn’t even in the article. Hope those clicks were worth it.
Don’t know much about history
Mind you, Neil Ashton is Neil Ashton. And only Neil Ashton could recall Lionel Messi nutmegging James Milner in a game in 2015 and use it to claim that ‘these two have history’.
Quite how the Nou Camp managed to contain this simmering four-year feud is a mystery.
It’s a Knockout!
‘Majesty and chaos really shouldn’t be such natural bedfellows. But time and again, in these bewitching Champions League group stages, those two qualities come together, get a room and take our breath away’ – Dave Kidd, The Sun.
They were five months ago, fella.
Was Kidd’s fine piece top of The Sun’s website at 11am? How about Ashton’s? No? Maybe some of the numerous interesting overnight quotes from players, managers or pundits? Surely?
What is the biggest football news story the day after a great Champions League semi-final and memorable individual performance?
Let's check what's top of The Sun's website, shall we?
Ah. Man goes to work. pic.twitter.com/aciUS1VkLy
— Football365 (@F365) May 2, 2019
Mediawatch has just one question: which parking space will he use?
Poetry in motion
Writes Brian Reade in the Daily Mirror:
‘The poets are winning. That’s why he was sacked.
‘The teams produced by Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino here, and Ajax and Barcelona abroad, are the way forward. United flickered into life for a few motnhs under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer because they played with a youthful, fearless verve.
‘That’s what the dramatic victory over PSG in Paris was all about. A night when United won no trophy, but a match that fans viewed as more precious than the Europa League win in Stockholm, because it felt they had recaptured their gung-ho soul on the big stage.’
Did they really view an admittedly remarkable Champions League last-16 comeback as ‘more precious’ than a literal trophy? Hmm.
Also writes Brian Reade in the Daily Mirror:
‘Fair play to Marcelo Bielsa for his act of sportsmanship after realising Leeds had gone ahead unfairly and ordering his players to gift Aston Villa an equaliser.
‘It’s a rare and welcome sight in modern football from the Argentinian. And one others may think about copying, if only to earn some respect.
‘For example, how much more would Manchester United fans warm to Alexis Sanchez if he said he’s unfairly been awarded £30million in wages for doing next to nothing so was giving a big chunk of it to a local charity?’
Probably not all that much; he’d still be a bit sh*t and earning (not being ‘unfairly awarded’) loads for it.
‘What Liverpool fans noticed during TV coverage against Barcelona’ – Daily Mirror.
That a bird kept on slightly obscuring the camera throughout the match.
Recommended reading of the day
Jonathan Wilson on Liverpool’s defeat to Barcelona.
Bill Haisley on old man Messi.