Liverpool 3 - 1 Olympiacos: An Unobstructed View from the Couch
Posted by Olly on December 9, 2004, 02:11:28 PM
I hate missing these games. It's just wrong. When I had to make a decision at the start of the season on which set of games to miss to enable me to make all the European aways, I decided that the European home games would save me a lot of money, but I knew the decision would cause me grief in the end. I love European nights, but true to my word I found myself in a small pub with a mate watching the mighty red men, instead of standing there in the Kop amongst friends.
To be honest I'd been bricking it all day, and by the time I met Nick at the station I was shaking. The media talk before the game had once again been totally dominated by a certain Steven Gerrard, and although his recent comments could be seen as ill timed, this country's wonderful press took it as simply another opportunity to knock us. Is it just me, or are we all getting fed up to the back teeth constantly hearing reports about our captain?
A couple of pints later, and I was feeling slightly more optimistic about what lay ahead. We made our way to a small cheap pub with the intention of being able to watch the game without any hassle. £1.80 for a pint is an absolute bargain down here, and so we settled down to drink the night away. With Didi suspended, Benitez brought in Crazy Legs at left back, pushing Riise to left midfield, with Kewell playing behind the returning Milan Baros.
I'm the first to knock TV coverage of football, but credit where credit's due - Sky showed the outstanding mosaic in remembrance of those who died at Hillsborough and the Olympiacos fans who died in 1981, and explained the meaning behind it. It looked brilliant on the TV, and a huge thanks must go to girly haired Andy for his efforts in organising this.
The game kicked off, and immediately Liverpool tore into their opponents. Within two minutes we'd been awarded 3 corners, and as Gerrard curled in the last one, Baros leapt up and nodded the ball over the line before a defender cleared. With Nick and myself going crazy, we noticed the referee had disallowed the goal, and so he set the tone for the rest of his performance - fairly awful once again. The first fifteen minutes saw the mighty red men attack the Anny Road End like their lives depended on it, and time and again they swarmed forward squeezing the life out of Olympiacos. Another corner saw a good header by Hyypia flash wide, and a Gerrard flick from an Alonso free kick hammered against the post. Every time a ball was swung into the Greek box we looked dangerous, but each time the loose ball fell at the feet of an Olympiacos player enabling them to clear.
Midway through the half, Olympiacos started to settle coming more into the game, by keeping the ball. Just before the half-hour mark a break saw Rivaldo skip round a couple of challenges before falling over Sami's thigh on the edge of the area. Having been at Villa Park on Saturday I feared the worst, and as Nunez decided to take a wander away from the wall, Rivaldo planted his free kick through the resulting gap and into the back of the net. It was at this point that we first noticed a rather large girl sat under the TV with her mates. She had the most annoying high-pitched voice and insisted on ensuring that everyone else in the pub could hear her conversation. This was not the time to piss me off and so I just screamed at her to shut up, and surprisingly felt much better. We now needed three goals to go through, and this didn't look likely.
Just before half time, Rivaldo went down under a challenge from Carragher, and started writhing round on the floor, in a successful attempt to get our inspirational defender booked. Amusingly, the referee sent the Brazilian off the pitch for treatment, and prevented him from immediately returning to take the free kick. Watching Rivaldo prance about on the touchline in frustration at his own stupidity just made me laugh. He used to be an incredible player, but his antics at the 2002 World Cup against Turkey were disgraceful, and I personally cannot stand him anymore.
At the interval we undeservedly went in a goal down. This is where managers earn their money, and Rafa's team talk must have been almost as good as Nick's. Ordering me to remember the game at Craven Cottage earlier on in the season, telling me that this team of ours will now fight right till the end, and giving me encouraging squeezes on the shoulder got me through half time, and ready for the second half.
And what a start. Benitez had replaced Crazy Legs with Pongolle as the mighty reds looked to force the issue. Within two minutes of the restart, Kewell, who played very well all night, controlled a long pass on his chest superbly, drove past the fullback, and played a great cutback to our first super sub who tapped it home. The fight back had started, and the reds weren't going to go down without a fight. The rest of the half is a blur - a blur of red shirts streaming towards the Kop, driving forwards and pushing Olympiacos back further and further. Around the hour mark Stevie G hit a great long drive that slipped through the keepers hands and nestled in the corner of the net. With beer flying all over the place as I got jumped on by Nick the referee decided to disallow this goal as well. For what I'm not sure.
Looking like our Champions League adventure is over for another season, the mighty reds aren't finished yet. Baros was replaced by Mellor, and with his first touch our second super sub hammered the ball home from close range after Nunez's header (is it me, or does Nunez look like one of your mates?) has been saved following great work by Pongo. 2-1 up and with ten minutes to play and my head was banging. The reds were still piling forward, and when Mellor knocked the ball to Gerrard 25 yards out our inspirational captain lashed a sumptuous half volley into the corner of the net as Anfield erupted. We were jumping round the pub hugging anyone who cared, and those that didn't and with my voice completely ruined I was squealing at the TV. Four minutes of injury time later, and I was still jumping up and down unable to keep still, amazed by what I'd just witnessed. Incredible stuff.
Feeling absolutely exhausted we decided it would be appropriate to toast the red men, and so drank some more whilst apologising to the bar staff for our actions, whilst grinning insanely. I have no idea when I got home, but speaking to my housemate this morning he informed me that he found me sat on our house steps having failed to work out how to use the key with this huge grin on my face. After falling down the steps, I jumped on him and in true Olly style, hugged him and told him I loved him.
What a night. The only thing that would have made it better would have been actually being there. Damn!© Olly 2004
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