We have missives on Liverpool’s first trophy of the season, Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds exit and FIFA’s latest shame.
Get your thoughts in to firstname.lastname@example.org…
Chelsea today exhibited a crazy amount of sketchy gamesmanship. From the constant feigning of injury to slow down Liverpool whenever we were dominating possession to the snide fouls all day long on Mané, Salah and Co as soon as they realised that Attwell was going to let everything go all game, they played dirty tactics. I don’t blame them; when you know you’re the inferior team you have to find a way to try and create an edge. That all said, Kepa gets subbed on especially for the shootout and then spends the entire shootout trying to needle. The ref spoke to him goodness knows how many times between kicks. Mr. Specialist not only fails to save 11 spot kicks after trying so hard to get into our lads’ heads, he also then pops his so far over that some kids outside Wembley are playing a game of 5 a side with the finest ball they’ve ever found.
But the truth is that it should’ve been over in normal time. Liverpool had the better chances early on and should’ve been ahead. Chelsea came into the game later but by then it should’ve been put to bed. The VVD goal has arguments for allowing and disallowing it but I can’t help but feel that I’ve seen a lot of players deemed inactive all season because they didn’t play the ball (but did influence defensive positioning etc). I’ll be amused when next week these same referees and VARs ignore the decisions today and manage to see the same situation completely differently. I’ll not be surprised if it’s Man City playing and get the benefit.
Today Klopp’s substitutions didn’t help the flow of the game. Thiago was massively missed throughout and Salah was kept the most quiet he’s been all season. Trent was poor offensively and Henderson was barely present before he was subbed. Matters little when you win the cup though.
Given the world situation right now, hard not be happy that Oligarch FC don’t get anything to enjoy. If you’re silent then you’re complicit.
I won’t lie, I took immense pleasure in that Liverpool victory following the pathetic statements issued by Abramovich and Chelsea regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the cocky arrogance of Kepa during the shootout (why wasn’t he booked?) so here’s to the rest of the season
Seán (YNWA Ukraine) Dublin.
…Can we all just confirm that it was utterly crazy for Mo Salah to take Liverpool’s 5th penalty in the League Cup final.
I’ve not seen twitter but assume Jamie Carragher et al was in meltdown yesterday as “Salah taking the 5th penalty in a shootout final is madness” as was stated early this month.
Or does it seem to be that these decisions on penalties are only ever madness if they don’t work out?
Paul K, London
Keepers in a spot of bother
Since they started strictly enforcing keepers staying on their lines, penalty kicks have got a little boring without the saves.
Gosh, that was not a final for the faint of heart. Writing to add some conclusions of my own as a Liverpool fan, after reading the excellent ones by Matthew. I hope I can come up with 16 in the end!
1. First of all, credit is due to the Chelsea players, for having maintained focus and performed well despite the obvious distraction of Russian ownership amidst the Ukraine crisis. It must have been so hard to sort out the myriad of moral and professional considerations, and it cannot have been easy to play in an atmosphere with so much (additional) hostility against the club due to the ownership. If the players were affected, that didn’t show at all.
2. What a gut wrenching sight it was to see Thiago in tears pre-match. In fact, after the initial euphoria of the victory subsided a bit, I was already scouring the internet for news on the nature and extent of Thiago’s injury, as that would have a far greater significance on the title race and the battle for trophies.
3. Some Chinese people, myself included, have this superstition where they avoid talking up a child’s health and good behaviour (e.g. “He’s growing up so fast and so strong!”, “She’s such a sweet and well-behaved child!” etc.), in fear of incurring the wrath of the spirits and jinxing it. Clearly, my ancestors knew best, as you would never have caught them boasting how we have a fully fit squad. Look what happened within days of such comments being made!
4. Kelleher’s selection to me was a no brainer. Yes, Alisson would arguably be the safer and better choice, but in the grander scheme of things, I feel it is much more important to show faith and reward the young contingent, especially if they are the ones who got us in the final in the first place. In the same spirit, I was secretly hoping that Minamino might get at least an extended cameo, even if I know he’s not going to start. As much as I want to win trophies, I feel for the squad players, and giving them a chance is better for the longer term recruitment project. At least Klopp, bless him, was quite categorical in the strong intent to give Kelleher his day in the sun.
5. That high line and offside trap … every match I keep dreading that we will be found out, with recurring nightmares of the Aston Villa mauling. We came mighty close again. That Lukaku goal which was chalked off, after multiple viewings, I am still not 100% convinced it should have been ruled out. Live by the sword die by the sword and all that, I am just relieved we lived to fight another day.
6. On that note, we get into a series of (slightly) controversial refereeing decisions. I will start with the disallowed Matip goal. I was so incensed at first but after looking at replays, I have gradually come around to acknowledge that it was at least a plausible call. I might have judged it to be harsh, and it would be easy to pick out other instances when the same call is not made or others get away with much greater interference, but Van Dijk’s actions did have a (potential) impact on how the play might have unfolded. I think I would still have struggled to overturn the goal even if I were not a Liverpool fan, but equally I cannot say it was such a ludicrous decision that it defied belief … unlike quite a few other calls during the course of the season.
7. I think the football gods, at least for this match, evened things out in the end. Against the (perceived) injustice of the Matip no-goal, we have that Lukaku play which was very debatable, and Keita could have been sent off on another day. Again none of the calls were 100% slam dunk easy decisions even on replay; both teams should be able to walk off the field without feeling unduly aggrieved. We should be thankful for this, as it would have been such a shame for the final to be remembered for bad officiating instead of the high octane, brilliant spectacle that it was.
8. Mendy is a beast. I swear after the save on Mane, I almost felt like switching off, because I felt I was living the Dudek save in reverse. If the other team’s goalkeeper is on fire to this degree, maybe it’s just not destined to be our day. Of course I remained glued to the TV, but that conviction of being fated to lose never left me until the very last kick, or at least until when Kepa was brought on. Mendy was just that good.
9. But as good as he was, our goalkeeper was no slouch either. Kelleher was magnificent in his own right and made his share of crucial saves, or did just enough to make things difficult and contribute to the less than clinical Chelsea finishing. This is a guy who rarely got competitive starts; a young man who is walking out into a Wembley final for the first time; amidst the backdrop of knowing that if he screwed up, his manager would have a lot to answer for, with a fan base who is not exactly known for being kind to goalkeepers who blunder. As it turned out, our Prince of Cork came through in a big way, I am so happy and relieved for him (that word “relief” is going to end up being repeated a lot, while I write with a still fast beating heart.)
10. Before we get into the penalties, a word or two about the Liverpool substitutions, in particular Keita who came on as an emergency for Thiago, and Milner. I understand that for Keita in particular, the team was obviously training with a Fabinho-Thiago partnership in all the preparations, so being parachuted into such a situation was always going to be difficult. But overall, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that MF is really where we need to strengthen in the off-season. I know it’s a lot to ask, but I hope we will ultimately find the Jota’s and Diaz’s of the world for our midfield - players who come in adding such strength in squad depth, to the point they are ultimately good enough to displace the originals.
11. And about that man Diaz … I have tried to avoid repeating the more obvious things that many others already highlighted, but there is just no way to not talk about how energetic and seamless his performance is. It is so gratifying to see a player who is such a clear match to the manager’s philosophy, being decisively bought and BOOM!, he performs way ahead of even what were already quite heady expectations. The technique and hunger we already knew about; the way he takes on defenders he can probably do under any team; but the way he just knows to be in the right places at the right time vis-a-vis his teammates, and how he’s helping press as a unit, I can’t even imagine how much dedication and footballing intelligence it takes to be able to do all that within weeks of joining. Per the ancient Chinese wisdom I alluded to earlier, I will now strongly caveat that it’s still early days, “he’s only just OK la”, and a lot of hard work remains etc. But boy, this young man is one big reason to feel excited about the future.
12. And he’s not even the youngest player that would generate such excitement. Harvey Elliott, once again looking like he belongs on the biggest stage even in a brief cameo. Aside from the talent, I especially loved the way he stuck up for Trent – this is a lad who is all club and teammates first, and who knows no fear. Watching him for a few minutes and I feel like going straight to my FIFA 22 tool, and bumping up his aggression rating by like 20 points. In a good way.
13. Finally, onto the penalties. I don’t quite know how the coin tosses work and so on, but I was half shocked that we somehow got to take the penalties at the Liverpool end, AND got to go first. Going first is such a huge psychological advantage, that I thought one would never be able to get the best of both worlds in a shootout situation, but what do I know.
14. That penalty shoot-out was just breathtaking. I wonder what is the record of most consecutive successful spot kicks in a major English tournament. Whatever that is, what we witnessed yesterday must have come close. For my team, the technique of all the first five takers was superb. I distinctly remember that I was a bit nervous when Van Dijk went up, for probably no other absurd reason than him being a defender, and then I almost laughed out loud when he put it away the way he did. When everyone is that good, it’s almost moot who should go fourth and fifth etc. Knowing how this club is run, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if a story emerged later that they had drills for this, or else we had in-house psychology experts honing the penalty takers’ focus and mindfulness and so on.
15. At the trophy presentation, I was beaming with pride as the cup was passed from one player to the next. In light of the squad and even youth players having played the earlier rounds, this really was a team effort in every sense of the word. I only wished that the likes of Minamino and Gordon, just to name a couple, could get more recognition and credit in addition to Kelleher.
16. So where do we go from here? Again, Confucius says we should never say things which might end up in a “Comments Preceding Unfortunate Events” thread on Twitter, so any talk of a quadruple is way premature. The Thiago injury in particular is worrisome; we are simply not the same team this year when he is out of the squad. But then again, perhaps this really isn’t the night to worry and fuss. Come what may by the end of the season, this is still one of the best teams we have witnessed in all of LFC’s already illustrious history, playing under a manager who is gradually making a case for being the club’s best of all time. We have won a final led by a young talented GK who would not look out of place in any title chasing side, against one of our most hated rivals. I will therefore just sit back, be present and savour it a bit. I hope every Liverpool fan will too.
Hey, I did manage to come up with 16 conclusions in the end! Man, this is hard work.
Jeff, LFC, Hong Kong
Silva is gold
What an insane football match, it had everything except perhaps a sending off. But before Minty waxes lyrical about Van Dijk I have to say that he was completely overshadowed by the performance of the 37-year-old Thiago Silva. Van Dijk looks heavy and slow, He was fortunate that Chelsea were so profligate in front of goal.
Silva at 37 and through 2 hours of football was peerless.
Great game, better side lost
Gutted to hear that Marcelo Bielsa has gone. However badly this season has gone (I think the right decision has been made personally due to this season, our form and the likelihood he won’t change his tactics), he cannot be praised enough for what he has done for leeds. Just some highlights:
1. Making frank lampard cry over spygate.
2. Promotion as champions by a ten point gap.
3. The fantastic football.
4. The 2020/21 season including winning 10 away games and holding the traditional top six at home (including beating Spurs). Comfortably top 10.
5. Beating City away. Probably the most unlikely result given we had a man sent off and city dominated. Stuart Dallas’ winner still gives me the feels.
6. Taking an average championship squad and making them better than the sum of their parts (and wage bill) to making Phillips a regular international and bamford getting one cap to reward a fine season.
7. Restoring pride to the shirt and stability (which we haven’t had for a long time).
8. His general nature – fatherly, committed to improving players and never moaned about refereeing decisions despite us getting some shockers.
So thank you Marcelo – you did your best and made us believe again. I’m hoping el loco gets the chance to unleash bielsaball on another team that needs a lift.
Tom, leeds fan in Newcastle.
Man Utd’s next manager
GIVE IT TO MARCELO TIL THE END OF THE SEASON
FIFA morally bankrupt
There is nothing more laughable and sad than a morally bankrupt organization like FIFA. It’s decision to continue to allow Russia to play in the WC playoffs as Not Russia, in spite of the fact so many nations have said they will not play against them is beyond Ostriching and hoping it would all go away. Besides North Korea and possibly the town in Florida where the Putin lovin’ CPAC are meeting, who would allow Not Russia to host their games anyway.
At this rate we will have the spectacle of Not Russia getting to the already tainted Qatar WC Final, as all their opponents refuse to play them and forfeit the game.
FIFA have finally bitten off one PR spin too many as don’t see how Not Russia are going to be seen as anything other than Pariah they are.
P.S what a great League Cup final. So many finals are borefests and both teams are to be commended for putting everything into it – even getting some Kepa Karma.
…Absolutely torn emotionally right now. I’m obviously delighted that we’ve added another number to our champions wall after a hugely compelling game of football. Both teams were fantastic in attack, resolute in defence and gave their absolute all in every aspect of the game.
It really was a showcase of why this sport of football is so revered.
But then I find out that FIFA have decided that Russia can continue in their quest to qualify for the sportswash World Cup (which I plan to boycott, along with countless others no doubt).
This is the day after Man City as a team showed solidarity with our cousins in Ukraine ahead of the match at Goodison whilst at the same time their owners abstained in a UN resolution to rebuke the Russian aggression.
Far too often the people who run our clubs and federations are found wanting in the morals department whilst those at the grass roots lead the way in how to behave. I just wish the power imbalance could be redressed.
James Outram, Wirral
…Seeing the official response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine as posted on their own website on Feb 28, I have realised that I can speak FIFAese.
It seems FIFAese is related to other vague languages like Hotwaffle (as spoken by politicans) as well as the more deceptive dialects of Housefroth (spoken by realtors) and Revhard (by used car salesfolk).
So I can translate for everyone.
‘FIFA would like to reiterate its condemnation of the use of force by Russia’ translates as ‘we’re surprised this is still happening, but because it is we’ve been forced into this official statement’
‘FIFA calls again for the… constructive dialogue to commence immediately’ translates as ‘FIFA have a shitload of money declared and otherwise tied up with and related to Russia and it’s natural resources, so can we please get some concrete assurances that we will maintain access to said money??? I have a yacht in the Bahamas to moor!’
‘the Bureau of the the FIFA Council… has unanimously decided to take immediate first measures, in line with…the International Olympic Committee’ which translates as ‘We’ve caught up with our blagger mates at the IOC who are in the same deep shit as us if this whole Russian cash thing falls over. Russia are good mates with China, you know that, right? Anyway, whatever, we’ve both agreed to do some stuff, just the first stuff though, no second or third base stuff. No touching!’
‘No international competition shall be played on the territory of Russia.’ translates as ‘We’ll do all we can to get club football back where it belongs: Norilsk. Meanwhile we are seeking to redefine the legally recognised meaning of the term ‘territory. Our lawyers reckon there’s a good chance Gorky Park can be recognised in a similar way to the Vatican City.’
‘The member association representing Russia shall participate under the name “Football Union of Russia (RFU)” translates as ‘Phew! Russia are still in! That was too close for comfort, fellas.’
‘No flag or anthem of Russia will be used…’ translates as ‘we’re currently developing a doppleganger flag & anthem for RFU that closely resembles the original but does not resemble it closely enough to get us in too much hot water.’
‘FIFA will continue its ongoing dialogue with the IOC, UEFA…’ translates as ‘We’re working around the clock with all other craven organising bodies and committees around the world to see how we continue to have our cake and eat it too.’
‘Importantly, FIFA strongly believes that the sport movement should be united…’ translates as ‘self-importantly, FIFA strongly believes it should be left to do as it damned well pleases and to grub as much money as it can from the corrupt world without any pesky interference or scrutiny from anyone’
‘With regard to the upcoming… qualifiers, FIFA has taken good note of the positions expressed.. by the Polish FA, FA Czech Republic and the Swedish FA.’ translates as ‘these games are coming up whether you like it or not, and we’ve taken good note of your complaints and have already filed them in our overworked incinerator that is usually reserved for special instances like corruption enquiries’.
Honestly, what a bunch of pliable wet fish these pricks are. One of the most lily-livered sporting bodies on earth is given a golden chance to do the right thing and restore even the smallest modicum of respect and hope to themselves… and instead they choose to piss in their own cup of myopic self interest.
Dr Oyvind, Earth.
A letter to Bruce Buck
I’m not a Chelsea fan but an Arsenal Fan, and find the opportunity to align club sentiment with the underlying values of a fan base few and far between, so I was compelled to email you.
For we Arsenal fans Stan Kronke presents himself as diametrically opposed to the fan’s values. What we would give for some leverage.
As chair of the Chelsea Players Trust and other related Trusteeships you now represent this power. You can bridge this gap and ensure club sentiment and fan sentiment are the same, and I feel this is an opportunity that can’t be missed
It’s inadequate, in my opinion, to simply accept the offer to take over the guardianship of the club from M. Abramovich but the Trustees must express a club statement on their position on the conflict between Ukraine and Russia when accepting this honour. If the fans are anti-war then the club must now also be anti-war. If the fans have an opinion on President Putin then the club run by a trusteeship representing this fans must also adopt this opinion.
An easy route out is to claim football is apolitical, however when a clubs owner is a byproduct of a political landscape taking this option is akin to supporting the worst of any political situation. Or in other words politics facilitated the purchase of Chelsea FC and it’s too late to take a bipartisan position now.
It is thoroughly understandable that M. Abramovich takes no vocal stance as his business success is symbiotic with the support given domestically in Russia and it would be naive to try to insist on such a binary stance to be taken by Chelsea’s owner. Notwithstanding his own personal fortune he must carry the weight of 50,000 employees all of whom depend on his choices. But as a Trusteeship this should not be your concern. Your concern should now be to operate Chelsea in line with the values and sentiments of those you represent.
While my options are only expected to slip into the broth of commentary surrounding this situation, I would be remiss if I failed to point out this golden opportunity for Chelsea to be the only club in the EPL that actually matches in step with his fans.
I wish you the courage to review how the fans feel on the situation and make a public statement accordingly. I hope this statement extends beyond the diplomatic lines of ‘Chelsea hopes for an end of conflict’ or something equally as vacuous but takes a clear and unambiguous position.
With many thanks
He ain’t heavy
I am sat here as a passionate Liverpool fan compelled to write in and praise Everton football club.
Last night’s game against Man City was an emotional ride to say the very least, but it’s what happened before the first whistle that will stay with me for some time.
High praise to whoever within the club is responsible for the decision to replace the normal air-raid siren and Z cars theme with The Hollies classic “He Ain’t heavy, He’s My Brother” – I don’t see myself as too emotional person but I found it spine-tingling and was pretty much in tears by the end… the words striking such a chord. So proud of our close neighbours for what they did.
Today I will be heading to the pub to watch the final with a few mates – I will be wearing predominantly blue and yellow (don’t worry Roman … this does not imply that I have switched allegiances to the club under your ‘non-stewardship’).
To all Russians that may read this, we know that the actions of the inadequately minded, botox riddled autocrat does not represent your views.
To all Ukrainians who may read this, know that we support you and your rights to democratically decide the future of your country.
The road is long …. with many a winding turn …
So what does it come down to? Arrogance? Stupidity? Incompetence? (Dare I say) corruption?
Nah. It’s the absolute lack of accountability for their actions that’s the number one issue. Where is the incentive among these officials to even try to do their job better when it’s clear as day that even the most horrendous of errors have no impact whatsoever on their job security? Worst thing that can happen is that maybe @johnnie3907268276738 calls you a cheat. Decent work if you can get it suppose.
James Quinn, Dublin.
…The commentary team stayed on after the match between Manchester City and Everton to explain the offside before the handball. It was a marginal offside, but I at least understand the decision. There are very few things the NFL gets right, but officials explaining their decisions to the crowd is one of them.
Niall, Bethany Beach
There’s a few changes I think would benefit the game here in England.
1. Refs are not on the pitch. I’ve said this before but I don’t think refs need to be on the pitch anymore. They can ref from a sky box pretty easily and have more resources to hand. They also don’t need to try and keep up with players half their age and three times fitter. This eliminates the possibility of crowd and player influence. Give me a solid reason why taking the ref off the pitch would be bad? Apart from “we’ve always had a ref on the pitch” because that’s not a solid reason at all.
2. Players who down injured must leave play for 7 minutes of treatment – this is an overall net positive for everyone. If the player is actually injured he gets treated as he should, particularly important for head injuries. If the player is simply feigning…congrats you’ve made your team play for 10 men for 7 minutes. People often say yellow cards should be given for feigning injury, but how do you tell when it’s real or not? You can’t. My way avoids that entirely.
3. Ref swap – our refs should go to officiate games in other countries and their refs should come here..this too is a net benefit for everyone involved. Players can transfer, managers and backroom staff can but not refs…why? Because Jonny foreigner might nick their job? If they were doing a good job we wouldn’t have this conversation at all.
On a side note how come whenever one team tries to nullify another teams attacking prowess it’s called a masterclass of tactical defending yet when we saw Milan and juve nullify each other by never trying to attack in their champs league final nobody praised it as one of the greatest shows of tactics in football history? It’s universally acknowledged (with Good reason) as one of the worst finals in history. Either stopping the other team is a thrilling exercise of tactics all the time, in which case two teams not bothering to attack is peak football or actually trying not to lose is a pretty cowardly way to play football.
Will Leeds get relegated thanks to their attitude of always playing positive? Maybe. But is anyone (apart from maybe Leeds fans) mad that they did it? Probably not because it makes a great game of football to watch and this is a spectator sport. Maybe if you only got points for winning there wouldn’t be many teams who’s sole aim is to not lose.
…I know the rules have football have become a lot more complex over the years, and the last thing we need is more complex, subjective rules thrown in, but that’s exactly what I’m going to propose.
Firstly, I’m a Liverpool fan, so a draw yesterday would’ve been the best result for us. And it was 100% handball. But why should Everton (or any team) be given a free shot at goal (by their best player) when the aforementioned handball wasn’t the denial of a clear goal scoring opportunity?
It also bugs me when midfielders go on a meandering run in to the corner of the box near the touch line, run out of gas and fall from the slightest touch to claim a penalty.
And for fouls, it should be the player that goes down that should take the penalty, too. This would sure liven up the race for the golden boot each season too.
Anyway, I’m getting old and grumpy and basically just shouting my opinions in a car park hoping someone will go “Yeah.. YEAH!” to validate me.
In other news, it’s my kids first taste of a cup final today and I’m gonna make a huge deal out of it in our house. You can’t beat a cup final, regardless of which cup it is.