Snake & The Monkey’s Shadow

If the football season is like an epic unfolding chapter by chapter with sweeping twists and turns of plot and character, the Chelsea Liverpool match was like the climactic scene of a Kungfu movie. From the start to finish, the venom of attack and counter-attack (often, both by Chelsea) and the thrust and parry, lost none of its vim. Every moment when you thought they’d had enough and the skirmish would subside to a more weary and cautious few minutes, they were at it again. Until the last pass was played and the last loose ball punted desperately upfield. Until the last hope was lost.

Cup football has a soulless way of creating winners and losers. It cares not for history, form, expectations, deservingness or any apparent rationality. It cleaves a path between those who progress and those left to wonder why. In this case, perhaps Chelsea will also wonder how. How was it that a team they beat with monotonous ease through the season came back to steal what was supposed to be Chelsea’s penultimate moment of glory for the season. The irony will surely not be lost on Arsenal supporters who suffered a similar fate at Chelsea’s hands last year, but most Chelsea fans will surely be too distressed to appreciate irony. They will understandably blame fate, the linesman and perhaps Luis Garcia for snatching from under their noses the prize they were already savouring.

If the delirium does not prove to heady for the Liverpool fans – they can certainly appreciate some of the irony strewn across this situation. Consider Steven Gerrard – a walking irony… a man apparently headed for Chelsea. A man who’s own goal gave Chelsea impetus in a previous match. A man who has recently proclaimed that he wants to play not for Liverpool, but a winning side. A man who suddenly finds himself on the winning side and stops to think about where his future lies. Spare a thought also for a certain Michael Owen, whose reason, inter alia, for departing to Real Madrid, if memory serves me right, was that he wanted to play Champions League Football. God speed Michael.

People talk about the gruelling run of playing a full season. Pundits quote the number of matches played by the likes of Zidane or Henry or Vierra or Roy Keane. But if awards were handed out basis 90 minutes of insane adrenalin, the Liverpool defense would be given trophies on Wednesday night itself. The unstoppable force of Chelsea had suddenly met the immovable object that was Liverpool’s resolve. It would have been poetic justice to let this match go on and on just to see who gave up first. And you wouldn’t bet your shirt on either.

All great players have a little memory cupboard full of special moments – “that goal” and “that save”. Ronaldinho has “that goal” against England. Zidane has “that goal” that won the Champions League. Carragher, Finnan, Riise, Hyypia, Traore, Hamman and Biscan will always have “that semifinal” against Chelsea. With this match they have passed into football folklore.

Neutrals will argue about the goal, about who was the better team, about what Mourinho could have done and about strategies and tactics. But when the battle was on we were all staring white-knuckled and on the edge of our seats, not daring to move. When the battle was on, we saw many heroes stake their claim for glory. But when the victory trumpet sounded, it was red at heart and Liverpool were the last men standing.

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