It's not over till its over - Zenit's time to hold your head high

Posted by Veinticinco de Mayo on February 22, 2013, 01:35:25 PM

Or the Liverpool 3 - 1 Zenit St. Petersburg EW Report

Before I start I want to make two points.  Firstly to those forumites who would have us believe that the UEFA Cup is not worth contesting that 4th place and the Champions League is all.  Just try telling that to the lads who actually go to the game.  Just try telling that the 40,000 who hollered, roared, sang, bounced and willed us towards an improbable comeback last night.  Does this competition matter?  To fucking right it does.

Secondly, to those forumites who tell us that our fanbase is fucked, that it is corrupted with numpties, bells, wools and beauts. Maybe it is but my god we can still be bloody brilliant when we want to be.  That game would not have happened at any other ground in the country.  No other ground in the world would have reacted to Hulk's opener the way we did. Bums would hit seats, chins would hit the floor, the moaning and sniping would start.  If we still had in-game threads I am sure that it would have started here.  What we got at Anfield though was that marvellous thing, unconditional support, walking head held high through the wind and the rain for the team.  Anyone can support a side when they are romping home, still giving a side your full vocal backing when you need four goals in the next 70 minutes just to stay in the competition. That's support.

I had the day off on Thursday so I got, what is a rare treat for me these days, the chance to spend the day in town.  It always has a special atmosphere on a big European matchday, with groups of reds from home or abroad milling around and mingling with those who have travelled supporting whoever we are playing.  There were a lot of small groups of Zenit fans wandering about but it's on occasions like this when you realise just why we become a news story when we descend on foreign shores.  There aren't many clubs that take over the centre of their host towns with the same colour and humour as we do on our travels.  The UEFA cup is a fine competition and the list of British managers who have won it is very short and contains some illustrious names (and Keith Burkinshaw) but UEFA have messed with it and tarnished it's lustre, it could really have done with the spectacle of a Scouse army painting Amsterdam red to reapply a little of its sparkle.  Zenit may make worthy finalists but I think its safe to say that their fans for all their bouncing in the ground will not add hugely to the occasion.

So into the ground early and straight to the seats.  The Kop already awash with flags and the atmosphere building nicely.  An early YNWA and then George wisely cuts the speakers and leaves it to the crowd.  Things are warming up nicely and after the normal UEFA branded nonsense there is a rousing, bellowed, passionate, nerve-jangling rendition of YNWA.

The game begins and before long a real test of our mettle, Carra turning and trying to play the ball back in one movement scuffs his pass and turns it into a perfect through ball for Hulk who runs onto it and gives Reina no chance with his clinical finish.  We now need four goals and the ground and the team is reeling.  On the pitch heads look like they might drop.  Luckily on the terraces, belief is dragged from the depths of our despair and once more the chant of Leeeeeeeeeeeevuhhhrpool Liiveeeeeeeeehhhhrpool cranks up and grows, and grows.  Heads are lifted, hearts swell, courage flows from stand to pitch, this is not over yet.

Suarez pulls one back from a free kick and as half-time approaches the ground is buzzing, we are pushing them back, we can fucking do this.  We just need another before half-time.  The swashbuckling Enrique gets to the byline and crosses, Allen heads goalwards but it is saved. The ball is loose.  A welsh leg reacts quickest and prods over the keeper and into the roof of the net.  Pandemonium.

Half time flies by and we emerge for the second half and lay siege to Malafeev's goal.  Zenit are defending with both discipline and commitment though and clear cut chances are hard to come by so when we get another free kick in a promising position we really need Suarez to work his magic once more.  It looks too far out though it will have to be something truly exceptional to beat a keeper of Malafeev's class.  It was exceptional.  It was bloody peerless, over the wall and whipping beyond the keeper's outstretched fingers and into the corner of the Kop goal.  The ground erupts.  Only one goal needed now and thrity minutes to get it. 

Zenit are visibily wilting - or so it seems through my partisan red tinted adrenaline pumped goggles.  In the event it is us who slowly run out of steam.  The superhuman efforts of the previous sixty minutes taking their toll, tiring limbs allow Zenit to regain a foothold in the game, grab a bit of possession and relieve the pressure on their goal.  There are still chances, another Suarez free kick is saved, as is a Gerrard shot, Shelvey hits the side netting when well placed.  Eventually however the referee rules that we have run out of time. Two sides crumple.  Those in red through effort and the disappointment of thwarted ambition, those in white through relief that their ordeal by fire is over.  That somehow, improbably what looked at 830 like it was going to be a stroll has by 945 turned into one of the longest and hardest nights of their careers.

YNWA is ringing around the ground for the third time, the team applauded off like Champions.  Regardless of the result it was another famous Anfield night.  Proof that together we are more than the sum of our parts and we can make the impossible possible.  The improbable probable. 

If your reaction to all that was to come onto RAWK and question the manager's substitutions then in my view you are missing the point.  Stop analysing it and start feeling it.

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