Advent Calendar Day 24: Heart of Midlothian 0 - 1 Liverpool
Posted by MichaelA on December 22, 2015, 03:38:02 PM
Heart of Midlothian 0 - 1 Liverpool
Wednesday 23rd August 2012, Tynecastle Stadium, Gorgie Road, Edinburgh
I moved to Edinburgh from Liverpool in 1994, so this was an away game that I had been waiting for for nearly twenty years. At the end of the previous season, Heart of Midlothian had just about got their act together long enough to qualify for the Europa League, and frankly, so had Liverpool. Actually, that's harsh on Hearts, who had qualified for the Europa League the previous season, and had been thoroughly beaten by Spurs in the qualifying round. They had capped the end of the season with their 5-1 win over Hibs in the Scottish Cup Final, a famously one sided match that is still celebrated in the West side of this city. It also happened to be the first time I had ever watched two Scottish teams play a football match. Along with a significant slice of the population, I've never engaged with the Scottish Leagues, so even after all of the years of living here I have never settled on one of the Edinburgh Clubs as a favourite.
Back in 2012, I did know that they were putting together a run of form, for the first time in a while, and I knew that they were capable having a decent game against us, especially with the usual tedious drivel in the press about Scotland versus England.
And us? Well we'd skidded around to 7th in the league, and owed our appearance in the Europa League to our League Cup win under King Kenny. But now? Brendan Rodgers was in charge, already blooded in Europe, we were also under way in the League, beaten by West Brom, but going to Norwich for one of the regular thrashings we dished out them during his tenure. What did we think? I don't think we knew what to think! The jury was out on FSG, the jury was still deliberating about Brendan, and there was much ill feeling about the departure of Kenny Dalglish. Twenty years of drifting about, and for me it didn't feel that we were setting course for anything other than more average performances and the odd decent cup run.
Hopes were outweighed experience, and expectations were tempered by reality. We were crap. Post Rafa, post Kenny, beyond the days of the Owl, we were looking on with scant belief at a team of journeymen and what if's and wannabes. As pleased as I was to be seeing the Reds away at home, the match had a low priority for me - I had my hands full elsewhere.
From the moment that the tie was announced, I knew that the timing of this match could be problematic for me personally. During the previous round of the Europa League I'd been waiting expectantly for the arrival on my third child. Waiting. Waiting, waiting, waiting. When he (he was a he) finally got his act together long enough to arrive (fifteen days overdue) it was August 10th, and despite tickets promised to me, my attendance at the game was looking precarious. Fortunately, I married a wonderful woman, and I got a pass out, just days after they arrived home. I could go and watch my home town team away, at my own home, and manage a wee trip to the pub beforehand in the company of the legend that is royhendo, and his pal Grant.
We scooted around various the pubs in the vicinity of Tynecastle wetting the huge head of my huge (10lb 8oz) newborn son, and then we were rapidly in to the ground. Hearts' Tynecastle stadium is nestled amongst the Gorgie tenements on an impossibly small pocket of land. These playing grounds are old, and Hearts even older. Older than Liverpool and older than Anfield, and even though the Roseburn Stand is relatively new, the walk up the steps to the seats felt like a step back in time. That sense of a traditional stadium is enhanced by the view of the Main Stand, now almost 100 years old and a real throw back to different times in football. The angle of the stands and the proximity to the pitch give an intensity not dissimilar to Anfield, and the home crowd were determined to create a hostile and intimidating atmosphere for the Red Men.
And so we kicked off, and as we stood in the away end, the familiar sense of frustrated despair kicked in as we toiled in turgid travail against an abrasive and well organised Hearts team. Sterling was on the wing, showing signs of the player he was about to become, and Jordan Henderson was slowly puling his game together in the midfield, but it was grim stuff in the main, all the more so when Fabio Borini demonstrated his twin skills of speed in the box and inability to hit the target, and then missed again...hitting the post. That was the highlight of the first half, really, and about as much as I can remember. We won the match late in the second half when Borini managed to elude a cross from Martin Kelly, and gifted one of the Hearts defenders an own goal.
We took our away goal advantage back to Anfield, and managed a one all draw at home. Hearts had acquitted themselves, showing great endeavour, and Liverpool were, well...Liverpool were what we have been for almost a decade now - a disjointed work in progress, a patch work of players of varying quality, somehow less than the sum of our parts, the opposite of synergy.
For this boy who grew up watching us win, win, win, I wonder what my son will see as he grows up as a Red.
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