RAWK Advent Calendar #20: Sami Hyypiä v Arsenal - CL Q-Final, April 8th 2008

Posted by Phil M on December 13, 2014, 09:53:12 PM

Date: Tuesday April 8th 2008

Location: Anfield

Champions League 2007/08 Quarter-Final Second Leg Liverpool FC v Arsenal FC


An inauspicious start to the 07/08 Champions League had seen us draw with Porto, then lose away to Marseille, then inexplicably lose away to Beşiktaş when this Advent hero was credited with an unfortunate o.g before Bobo (Who? - (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob%C3%B4_(footballer_born_1985) netted a late winner, leaving us with just a single miserable point after our opening three group games. Rafa was under a lot of pressure, both on and off the field of course, but his players rallied and put us back on track in an emphatic fashion with a record breaking 8-0 twatting of Beşiktaş when Yossi Benayoun bagged a hat trick in a hugely entertaining night at Anfield.

There was no looking back, we then went and tore Porto a new one at home aswell with messrs Torres & Gerrard on fire. Next on the Reds revenge list was Marseille, after a Mathieu Valbuena strike had silenced us at Anfield, we put four past our French counterparts at the noisy Stade Velodrome in our final group game to qualify second behind Porto in Group A. We then drew Internazionale in the second round and a hard earned 3-0 aggregate win followed, including a famous 1-0 win at the San Siro courtesy of a sublime Torres volley. Our progress meant there would be four English Premier League teams in the last eight with Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United also safely through.

The anxiously awaited draw held in Nyon on 14th March saw us drawn against the Gunners with the second leg at Anfield. We’d hoped for Fenerbahçe of course or perhaps Schalke even, but we had managed to avoid a clash with Cristiano (goal a game) Ronaldo and the Mancs for now at least.

Personally I was already thinking and dreaming of Red Square. The Kop taking over the Kremlin sounded like the away trip to end all away trips, it felt like destiny calling once again. Less than a year on from a heartbreaking night in Athens, we were somehow back on the hunt for number six with Rafa at the helm and 'old Big Ears' was surely feeling homesick in Italy right?

Coincidentally, we were scheduled to play Arsenal away on April 5th in the league, awkwardly sandwiched between the quarter-finals held respectively on April 2nd and April 8th. Part 1 of the trilogy ended in a nervy 1-1 at the Emirates. A precious Dirk Kuyt away goal had the second leg perfectly poised, win the match and we’re one game away from the final. Come on Redmen!

Both managers, as expected, rang the changes for the league game resting each sides' top goalscorers, Torres and Adebayor. This one also finished 1-1 (Crouch, Bendtner) and all roads suddenly led to L4. It was in our own hands.
 
Over to you Rafa…

Liverpool: Reina, Carragher, Skrtel, Hyypia, Aurelio, Gerrard, Alonso, Mascherano, Kuyt, Torres, Crouch
Subs:  Itandje, Arbeloa, Voronin, Benayoun, Lucas, Babel

Arsenal: Almunia, Toure, Gallas, Senderos, Clichy, Eboue, Flamini, Fabregas, Diaby, Hleb, Adebayor
Subs: Lehmann, Song, Billong, Bendtner, Hoyte, Silva, Walcott, Van Persie

After almost missing it because of work (twats), I got sorted via a fellow Rawkite almost last minute and ended up in MX, hoping it wouldn't turn out to be a 'restricted view' job being down the end of the Main Stand near the away fans. It was the first time I’d not been on the Kop in Europe that season and despite not being superstitious, as I made my way to my mystery main stand spec  I couldn’t help but wonder whether that might be significant. A beautiful clear Spring sky was overhead on what was a chilly April evening. The possibility of European glory beckoned once again. The history books stood by.

A lot is said about the atmosphere in Anfield these days, but when it’s special, when it's meaningful and we are one, it’s very special. And I can say honestly and without bias even, that the noise made, the number of flags & scarves throughout the ground, the tension, the buildup even during the warmup, the atmosphere was almost  tangible, it was intimidating, it was goosebump rising stuff, the Kop looked immense, the players looked focused. The beautiful opening notes of the Champions League theme rang out, YNWA followed, here we fucking go!

The Arsenal lot can be a noisy bunch when they wanna be, a late Fabregas equaliser had cruelly cancelled out Stevie’s early opener in the corresponding league fixture months earlier in October that season and they irritatingly made plenty of noise about it leaving the ground that night. It was in the back of my head, not having that again! I was shitting it, that nervous tension where you wish you’d had time for a few more pints before getting in to settle you and then simultaneously wish you’d had a final piss at the same time! Fingernails were being bitten, an attacking lineup, this was it, we were going for it,  YNWA blasted out, Rafa took his seat, the Fields of Anfield Road, Ring Of Fire and PST soon reverberated from the Kop building into a crescendo as the first few exchanges took place in the opening minutes.

Arsenal settled noticeably quicker, they’d flown out of the blocks, crisp quick passing, something we’d become accustomed to and prepared for. Fabregas between the lines releasing Hleb and overlaps from Eboue and Clichy trying to bring Adebayor into the game. Diaby imposing himself on our midfield. Carra and big Sami had their hands full as El Jefecito flew into 50/50s in customary fashion.

The wholly original “Ah-se-nul, Ah-se-nul, Ah-se-nul” went up to counter our ‘’We won it 5 times’’ as the nervous tension rose, it was pulsating stuff from both sides and not just on the pitch. This was the third meeting between us in the space of a week and while there was a mutual respect there, there was certainly no love lost either of course. Rafa took notes, Wenger adjusted his zipper, the Kop bounced to the Torres No.9 song, and I badly needed a piss!

I looked at my watch, fucking hell, we were approaching the 13th minute, felt like less than 5 had passed. After some nervy ping ponging in our box as we desperately tried to clear from the latest Arsenal surge, they came again, Xabi Alonso failed to adequately track Diaby’s diagonal run across and into the box, he took a Hleb pass impressively in his stride and with admirable speed and poise, finished it in a manner Thierry Henry would have been mightily proud of, smashing past a hapless Pepe Reina on his near post. Myself and the arl scouse fella beside me who I’d never met but had been chatting to pre match just shook our heads in disbelief as the Arsenal horde went mental. They were in front, they’d gotten that crucial away goal. It was up to us, we'd have to do it the hard way again, we had to hit back fast, this wasn’t in the fucking script, the prospect of the Mancs or Chelsea lay ahead, this is Liverpool in Europe, we’d let Old Big Ears slip off to Milan for a cheeky continental holiday while we regrouped. The team deserved more, the fans deserved more, the manager deserved more.

Agonisingly, as the clock approached the half hour mark, our huff and puff hadn’t seen us make the breakthrough, our top scorer Fernando Torres hadn’t had a sniff, the Kop urged for more. A sustained spell of pressure forced a corner. My heart felt like it might need a jumpstart soon such was the almost palpable level of tension.
Our skipper ran to the the Anny Road corner flag. "Liv-er-pool, Liv-er-pool" rang around the ground. Arsenal had some big physical presences in that defence, namely one Kolo Toure, while we had the threat of Crouch and Torres, both lethal in the air when presented with the right delivery. “C’mon Stevie lad” – auld Jim beside me roared as that famous right boot was about to make contact with the dead ball over on the far side from us. I don’t know if his name was Jim but he looked like a Jim so that’s how I remember him. Anyway he was dead sound and a proud Red.
The Anfield Road rose to greet our skipper, red shirts began to swarm around the Arsenal goal. There was lots of shoving, jostling, shoulders being used, and that was just to get a decent spec in the stand! We sensed it.

A beautifully struck lofted pacey outswinger from Gerrard, even now I think I could accurately describe within a yard  where each of our attackers were in the box as the ball swung into the danger area.
Then…BOOM!!!  Before I’d time to even register the fact we’d equalised, I was caught up in a mass group rush hug, whatever you wanna call it with about half of my row, hats, scarves and programmes simultaneously tossed in the air, poor old Jim got someones elbow into the ribs in the celebratory schmozzle but he couldn’t give a shite, he had a grin as wide as the Mersey. A welcome hush befell the gooners to our left who had suddenly gone very quiet for the first time that evening apart from the odd shriek of “scahse cants” and “fack off!”etc.

In my head looking back I sort of go into Partridge mode trying to describe it.
Call it immature, but the most accurate summation of that moment , of that goal, of that walloping knockout punch of a header is like so: Imagine, if you will, the football can talk, it's our ball, and it's expressing what every single Red in the ground is feeling, well I always imagine the ball, our ball, screaming “FUUUUUCCCCCCKKKKKKK OOOOFFFFFFFFFF” as it emphatically left Sami’s fantastic Finnish forehead and seemed to almost curl into the corner, walloping off the woodwork before smashing into the stunned Almunia’s net.
A header and a half. A belter. A rocket. Have that you cockney twats! A goal worthy of the moment and indeed the man! Get the fuck in! What a boss goal!!!

 The Kop…

“OHHHHHH SAMI SAMI! SAMI SAMI SAMI, SAMI HYYPIA!! “ Followed by “Der der der der der der ner nerrrrr!” and cue every scarf in the ground being swung like klaxons above every Red’s head. Flags raised. This is what defines us. We’re Liverpool.

GET THE FUCK IN! GAME ON!!

Our defensive talisman, a leader, our generation’s Ron Yeats, pushing 35 but still one of the finest defenders in Europe, that flash of blonde flowing hair, the one, the only Sami Hyypia had come to our rescue. We were firmly back in the tie, it was back in our hands, game on!
Words can’t do this goal justice, so for your viewing pleasure from an Anny Road perspective:

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/lYIryPHcazk" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/lYIryPHcazk</a>

I count that night as one of the greatest games and best goals I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing in person as a lifelong Red.
The rest of the night was a rollercoaster of emotion, Torres combined with Crouchy to put us ahead, a spectacular typically Torres strike, they then cruelly equalised in the second half when Stevie completely missed a volley chance on the edge of their box and Walcott who’d come on, broke like lightning and tore up the pitch to square for Adebayor to finish, 2-2, he did his twattish dance down in front of us. I despaired again. Jim put his hands on his head, I muttered something along the lines of “there’s a long way to go yet mate”. I wanted us to win as much for him as for anyone.  Once again we were going out as it stood on aggregate, but we won a penalty, confidently dispatched by Steven Gerrard and broke away from a corner to smash in a fourth goal by the one and only Ryan Babel (who else?).

Incredibly, we were back in yet another European Cup semi-final.

This was surprisingly the best link I could find for this game, apologies for the quality.

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/uhdC1r4SBsI" target="_blank" class="new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/uhdC1r4SBsI</a>


I dedicate this my 40,000th post on RAWK to the one and only Sami Tuomas Hyypiä, a true Liverpool legend.

Happy Christmas folks!  :wave

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