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UEFA Launch Investigation After Liverpool v Arsenal Champions League Tie Described As ‘Decent’

UEFA chiefs today announced they would be conducting an inquiry to investigate claims that the Champions League Quarter-Final second leg between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield on tuesday was “a decent game”.

The investigation was launched after an unusual amount of reaction to the game was found to be positive. One spectator was heard to summise that the game was “actually not all that bad“, whilst another observed that he found it to be “quite a decent game, really“.

Suspicions first arose that the game might actually be alright when someone reported that he had heard a raised voice on the TV commentary. The viewer, who is seen by UEFA as key to their inquiry, said “It took me completely by surprise and I can’t remember what it was all about, but I know I heard it. Clive Tyldesley definitely described an incident in a louder voice than he had the previous one. What’s more, I thought I heard an ‘oh!’ from Jim Beglin too, but I can’t be sure about that at the moment. I may have been getting carried away“.

A UEFA spokesman confirmed that they are taking the claims seriously: “Usually there are one or two who go over-the-top in their assessment of a match, but we can’t afford to ignore this. Many people seem convinced that this was a decent game, and it’s our duty to look into it. Fans can rest assured that our investigation will be most thorough“.

The spokesman was asked about further claims that TV pundit Andy Townsend had actually described the game as ‘exciting’ and ‘a thrilling spectacle’ but was quick to play the story down, saying: “This is clearly hysteria. It is one thing to say that this could have been a decent game, but to imagine that vulgar hyperbole such as this might apply to a Champions League match, especially one between two sides such as Liverpool and Arsenal, is just crazy talk. Andy Townsend has seen a great deal of Champions League football in his broadcasting career and he would know better than to make such claims. I’m confident that Andy has been misquoted, and we will be contacting him for confirmation of this“.

As the news broke after the match, many began to raise concerns about the possible knock-on effect that this allegedly decent game might have for the rest of the tournament. The spokesman addressed this also: “If it turns out that this was a decent game then we’ll have to take it on the chin and move on with the tournament, but I’m confident that this is an isolated incident. I would consider further decent games to be highly unlikely, and fans should not be concerned if planning to view future matches in this season’s Champions League. On a reassuring note, we can announce here and now that there will definitely be no repeat of this in the semi-final when Liverpool play Chelsea“.

Jamie.

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Filed under Arsenal FC, Arsene Wenger, Chelsea FC, Comment, Europe, Football, Soccer, Sport, UEFA, UEFA Champions League

Reality Bites

In a week where it seemed every discussion on football concerned off-field matters, it was nice to see the game come back yesterday with a healthy dose of realism. Whether it be lunatic plans to turn the Premiership into a U2 tour, or hyperbolic panic over whether lost legends would be appropriately commemorated, it seemed to have slipped everyone’s mind that it is what takes place on the field that keeps us, as fans, so attached.

I experienced a slight feeling of surprise that a match actually took place at all in yesterday’s Manchester derby, such was the speculation surrounding it’s unique preamble. Yet once the whistle went, it didn’t take long before I, as a football fan, and a neutral on this most partizan of occasions, was back in the place I know best, a place I could feel comfortable again.

Having taken in the parades, the mascots, the adapted kits, and the wonderfully observed (much to my surprise, I must admit) minute’s silence, this match, far from being weighed down by any emotional baggage, instantly became a classic tactical battle that could have been played out in any era of the game – one that was won, hands down, by Manchester City’s Sven Goran Eriksson.

Manchester United could probably have been forgiven for believing that things would go their way in this match, given the massive wave of sympathy that flowed in their favour, but City turned up with a spot-on attitude and a classic underdog’s gameplan, and upset both the script and the odds.

It took around ten minutes for the game to settle into a pattern that was never really broken. All of a sudden, Manchester United found themselves banging their heads against the brick wall that was City’s five-man midfield, expertly marshalled by man-of-the-match Dietmar Hamann, a realist’s footballer if ever there was one. Any thoughts of the occasion were lost, as suddenly United found three crucial points in the Championship race drifting away from them.

Immediately afterwards, over at Stamford Bridge, the worldwide audience got a timely taste of just what could be coming in their direction in 2011. If they’ve got any sense or taste, they’ll be writing their letters of opposition in Kuala Lumpur right now.

Quite why Chelsea and Liverpool even bother to fulfil this fixture is a mystery to me, neither of them ever has any inclination to win it, so they might as well just take a point each and save us all the misery of sitting through the worst 90 minutes of the season. As dull, turgid, pointless, meaningless 0-0 draws go, this was up there with the best of them.

Between them the two sides mustered one solitary goalbound effort in the entire match – and that was a Peter Crouch header so tame that the big man could have picked himself up, made his way to the goal and saved it himself if he so wished.

My initial thought was that new rules ought to be brought in to enable these two to be docked points for this display. My second thought was that if some yank wants to walk on at the end of this, and insist the game be settled by a session of “added-time Multiball!”, then I for one would be in favour. Bring it on, it would actually be better than this.

Then I paused for a third thought. I realised that this was great. I had endured 90 minutes of total crap, but in a silly way that only hardened football fans can understand I had thoroughly enjoyed it. This was football reality, the game brought down to it’s bare bones, and a match that will bring absolutely no new converts to the game.

After this week’s insane proposals, it was exactly the sort of game that needed to be showcased to a worldwide audience. After all, if you’re going to market a product, then you must be honest with your customers about exactly what they’ll be letting themselves in for, so well done Premier League for not keeping the truth locked away.

Anyone watching Chelsea v Liverpool in one of the exotic locations the Premier League has lined up will surely now feel feel far more threatened by English Football coming their way than we feel by the idea of losing it.

A day that, if Sky Sports and the Premier League had had their way, was meant to be full of emotion, passion, and excitement ended up being dominated by arch-professionalism and heavy strategy. Good. It reassured me that you can take the football out of England, but you’ll never take England out of the football.

Jamie.

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Filed under Barclays Premier League, Chelsea FC, Comment, England, English Premier League, FA, Football, Liverpool FC, Manchester City, Manchester United, Munich Air Disaster, Opinion, Sky, Soccer, Sport, Sven Goran Eriksson, Television

Munich: A City Fan’s View

Something about the Munich air crash has been brewing within me for some time. In fact, I suggested the idea of writing up on this site a controversial City fan’s view around a month ago.

I’ve avoided actually doing it because wasn’t sure what it was that I wanted to say. Did I want to point out that United arguably exploited the disaster to create a kind of club founding-myth (something that was suggested in the Manchester Evening News as early as 1959)?

Did I want to say something about the hypocrisy of some of the things coming out of the club and its sympathisers in the media, given how little respect fans of United (and every other club, including City) give to the memory of the Hillsborough disaster? (I always find a good test of how offensive something is, is to remove the word ‘scouse’ and replace it with ‘black’, and think about whether a “respectable” broadsheet paper would publish it. But that’s another issue.)

On the other hand, did I want to write an apology to United for what some City fans might do – or for what they might have done without the sustained pressure from inside and outside Eastlands? Did I want to muse on the rights of football fans to say what they like inside the ground, given what Sol Campbell said earlier this season about abuse?

I don’t know. There are too many issues I want to explore and I don’t really think, on reflection, that it’s appropriate to base a discussion of them around the anniversary of a tragedy.

National newspapers don’t necessarily like complexity, so for most of them this week has been about one young man – Duncan Edwards, who died at the age of 21 and a few months, younger than I am now. His death has been made to stand for the whole Munich crash: the end of a great team, and the cruel way in which youthful promise was taken away. Not many events in football have this kind of symbolic power.

Generally, it is football itself that inspires us. So although a moment of silence on Saturday is only proper (and I sincerely hope it is observed), the best way to honour those young men, many of whom were from the very city whose two great clubs are meeting, is to play a great game of football.

“To say that these men paid their shillings to watch 22 hirelings kick a ball is merely to say that a violin is wood and catgut, that Hamlet is so much paper and ink… for not only had you escaped from the clanking machinery of this lesser life, from work, wages, rent, doles, sick pay, insurance cards, nagging wives, ailing children, bad bosses, idle workmen, but you had escaped with most of your mates and your neighbours, with half the town, and there you were, cheering together, thumping one another on the shoulders, swapping judgements like lords of the earth, having pushed your way through a turnstile into another and altogether more splendid kind of life, hurtling with conflict and yet passionate and beautiful in its art.”  — JB Priestley

Harry.

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Filed under Barclays Premier League, Comment, England, English Premier League, Football, Liverpool FC, Manchester City, Manchester United, Munich Air Disaster, Soccer, Sport

Match Report: Liverpool 5-0 Luton Town

Liverpool 5 – 0 Luton Town

FA Cup: Third Round Replay

Anfield, Liverpool

Att: 44,446

This was a game with a spine of survival, albeit of two different kinds.

After the revelation that Liverpool owners Tom Hicks and George Gillette were chasing the Bayern Munich bound Jurgen Klinsmann, Rafael Benitez decided to start Steven Gerrard; Fernando Torres; Peter Crouch and Jamie Carragher, who claimed his 500th Liverpool appearance, in a bid to arguably extend a stay of execution, and avoid one of the biggest FA Cup shocks ever witnessed. In the end, it proved more than ample.

For Luton, whilst their time in the FA Cup is now over for another year, they’ll at least return to compete again. The 2020 consortium and this valuable replay have offered a pardon for its sixteen remaining players and the soon to depart Kevin Blackwell, who was forced to play the injured Dean Brill (who struggled to even kick the ball); and the former Liverpool playing Scot Don Hutchinson, who was given the unfamiliar position of centre-back, and forced to deal with the threat of Gerrard.

The experience of Hutchinson, who called for composure before half-time, almost kept Luton right in the game until a fatal lapse in concentration by his fellow players led to Ryan Babel’s neat finish in the 18-yard area in first-half stoppage time.

Prior to that, Hutchinson was there to close down Gerrard and throw himself in front of his long-range efforts; while the Luton back-line was managing to cope with the threat of Torres and Crouch.

And, when able to go forward, Luton did occasionally threaten. Dean Currie and David Bell were useful; and Calvin Andrews’ effort and determination was undeniable, coming close to being clean through on goal after 37 minutes, only to be judged just offside – that was as close as Luton came.

The increasing pressure from Liverpool was telling, and the Babel goal was almost inevitable. To go into half-time all square would arguably have outdone the result at Kenilworth Road. After the break, you could sense that more goals were due. This was confirmed seven minutes later, when Gerrard slotted in a close range header after a neat lay-off from Crouch.

This finally broke Luton, who were almost embarrassed when confusion between defender Keith Keane and Brill lead to the ball having to be swept off the line. Sami Hyppia added a third moments later after his header was deflected inwards; an astutely placed Gerrard strike inside the area added a fourth after 64-minutes, and Gerrard completed his hat-trick eight minutes later with a sweetly struck long-range effort of which he is only capable of.

Although the scoreline will please Benitez, it was to be expected considering the current plight Luton are in. What will not please him is the form of Babel and substitute Dirk Kuyt, who were occasionally wasteful and, in the case of Kuyt especially, looked increasingly desperate. This over-reliance on Torres and Gerrard could be the difference between Benitez keeping or losing his job.

The Sight is in End’s Man of the Match: Don Hutchinson

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Filed under Don Hutchinson, FA Cup, Football, Liverpool FC, Luton Town, Match Report, Opinion, Rafael Benitez, Soccer, Sport, Steven Gerrard