Liverpool finals are entertaining, as a general rule. The exception, in recent history, being the last time they reached a final at Wembley when their cream suits and Eric Cantona left people smiling, not in a nice way. In a ‘Liverpool are shit’ way.
But now, 16 years later, people no longer expect Liverpool to realistically challenge for titles, so neutrals probably prefer the thought of a cup final with Liverpool, than Chelsea or Manchester United.
With Liverpool, there’s invariably a chance they could lose, and at the very least there’ll be a game that’s evenly-matched with whichever lower league or ‘weaker’ opposition (West Ham, Bolton, Birmingham and Cardiff in the past two decades since the ‘glory days’) they face likely to believe they might have a shot at winning.
Cardiff deserved the win over 90 minutes yesterday. Johnson’s shot off the bar apart, Liverpool created little for their expected dominance in possession. Kenny Miller played well, and is unfortunate to have to remember the final for a missed penalty and chance to win the game in the final minutes of normal time.
For many Liverpool players this should be the end of the road. The situation with Carragher is an interesting one. Having suffered lengthy setbacks when he was younger, he spent a lot of time resting when others were straining themselves to break into Premiership teams.
He could well play for another four years. That may end up being away from Liverpool. While he would be an invaluable squad member, his defensive response to Andy Burton’s question on Sky as to whether this was ‘farewell’ showed a man who is contemplating a future away from Anfield.
Given a regular run of games with the backing of their manager, Skrtel (my man of the match yesterday) and Agger have excelled. Question marks over Agger’s fitness will remain, but the two could be a first choice pairing for years to come, with big things hoped for from Seb Coates leaving little room for Carra.
Her may stay, tempted to move into a part-time coaching capacity. But his eagerness to be second in line to lift the trophy behind Gerrard betrayed the actions of a man who may cause problems should he stay past his sell-by date. Will Skrtel and Agger appreciate being bossed around by Carragher for much longer?
His experience is huge, and he’s a player to admire. But if he’s not first choice it becomes harder for surrounding players to bite their tongue.
He’ll also be a big wage earner. A chance to cut that from the wage bill for a man who would most probably move for lesser wages if it meant a regular game, could be tempting.
Dirk Kuyt should go this summer. Although his goalscoring potential never quite materialised at Merseyside, he has been deployed as a workhorse midfielder rather than a striker for most of his career and should be remembered fondly for that.
Big games often proved his making and winners over Everton and a hat-trick in the 4-1 demolition of Man Utd will ensure he is remembered fondly. But he carries too little threat when it’s 0-0 with 70 minutes gone and Liverpool are trying to break down a stubborn defence.
Wingers and pace are crucial and given that Liverpool’s full-backs are good going forward, but neither particularly pacy, the ball is too often slowed down when Kuyt finds it on the right.
As for the newbies, Henderson was poor, Carroll was average and Downing was bright (albeit once again against lower league opposition). Henderson is young, England U-21 captain and I think will be a good player. A year bedding in with a team of which much is expected in a different style of play has proved difficult. But he is also struggling to find his best position.
Carroll has shown enough in recent weeks to suggest his best has yet to come. He will never be worth £35m. Never. But he may well be worth keeping hold of. Downing remains the most disappointing signing of the season and needs a strong finish to the season now he has no excuse not to be confident.
Bellamy was a sub, but his post-match comments were worth the wait alone. He clearly buys into the ethos Dalglish is trying to set at the club by welcoming a new trophy, but insisting it’s the least Liverpool should aim for. And he’s right. The return of a trophy is important (ask Arsenal would they like one) but the club needs more changes and to finish a rotten season on a positive note.
A win against Arsenal on Saturday is crucial and well within the grasp of this team. And an FA Cup not an impossibility. Could be a decent return from a season that resembled a car crash this time a month ago.
Here’s a look at how things stand in Euro 2012 qualifying after tonight’s fixtures, with competition not set to resume till 2011. Notice in particular the strength of the usual European superpowers Germany and Spain, with Italy, France and the Netherlands all looking strong again. England will most likely be the sole UK team involved, with Northern Ireland blowing a good start with a draw with the Faroe Islands tonight. Ireland will struggle to top the group after a home defeat to Russia and will face a tough battle for a play-off spot having blown a good chance to beat Slovakia tonight.
|2||Republic of Ireland||4||2||1||1||7||5||2||7|
|4||Bosnia and Herzegovina||3||1||1||1||4||3||1||4|
16:46 Meanwhile hosts South Africa have drawn Nigeria in a tough group in the African section of the draw…
16:42 So there it is then. Scotland and Wales have the toughest groups. Northern Ireland and Ireland will be hopeful of getting second. England will be quietly confident. Who would have predicted that??
16:36 Pot 7: France, Romania, Serbia, Lithania, Austria and Faroe Islands. Not bad for France, not great though. Romania looked really strong in Euro 2008 qualifying and led the Netherlands the whole way. Serbia are generally tricky, though France will not be knocking their knees just yet. Austria are the biggest name in the 5th seeds but some fans have asked the government to pull them out of Euro2008 as they fear an embarassment. Blimey.
16:34 Pot 8: IRELAND. Yes they get capitals because they’re my team. It looked good for a while there. Italy threw a spanner in the works. Ireland have a great shot though, at least at a play-off place. Bulgaria are decent, yes, but revenge against Cyprus, a familiar foe in Georgia and the mighty Montenegro should all be beaten, leaving a fight with Bulgaria to secure second place. Italy won’t fancy their games against Ireland too much though. If Ireland can get them in Croke Park next year the atmosphere will be sensational and Ireland will at least be reminded of their glory day in 94 when they beat Italy 1-0. Unfortunately this does mean Ray Houghton will be providing the commentary for RTE….bugger.
16:32 Pot 9: It’s going to take a titanic effort again from Scotland. Netherlands haven’t looked great so far, but they will get stronger, no doubt, as Van Basten gets more time with them. However, Norway, Macedonia and Iceland are no push-overs. A runner up spot will be a tough ask, let alone even winning the group.
Well, Israel did it. Russia crumbled and the draw that kept their hopes alive was dashed when straight after hitting Israel’s post, they conceded a last-minute equaliser.
England coach Steve McLaren reinforced his god-like status when he revealed how he was always sure it would come down to the final game against Croatia. Fair play Steve. Maybe England lost to Russia last time out on purpose.
The Sunday Times’ Joe Lovejoy reveals today that several sources in the FA have revealed McLaren is on borrowed time regardless of Wednesday’s result at home to Croatia.
Scotland have beaten Ukraine by three goals to one. Shevchenko won’t be at Euro 2008, however James McFadden might be, another great performance from the Everton man capped with a quality third goal. Kenny Miller and Lee McCulloch scored the two opening goals for Scotland within ten minutes before Sheva hit back for Ukraine. A trip to Georgia beckons next before the vital clash with Italy….
England won 3-0, Crouch didn’t play but we did predict the correct scoreline. Fair play to us. SWP, Wayne Rooney’s first goal for England since his Everton days and a cracking o.g. did the business for Steve McLaren.
Wales, at the time of writing, are 3-1 down away to Cyprus. Mrs Toshack is getting another beating tonight….
The Republic of Ireland have been keeping a reasonably low-profile ahead of their vital double-header against Slovakia and the Czech Republic this week. While manager Steve Staunton has been heavily criticised by the Irish media so far, things are beginning to click for his team, and the impressive 4-0 win over Denmark in last month’s friendly has increased optimism that Ireland can take the necessary points in these games to give themselves a shot at qualifying.
While Germany are well out in front, and have a huge goal difference thanks to their 13-0 demolition of San Marino, Ireland are very much in the mix for second spot, and can take heart from the fact that they should have beaten the Czechs in Lansdowne Road back at the start of qualifying, instead they had to settle for a 1-1 draw. Furthermore a 1-0 win over Slovakia in March exposed the Eastern Europeans as a team that Ireland are well capable of beating. Confidence will go a long way, and the Czechs will go into the match in confident form as they face San Marino on the Saturday. If Ireland beat Slovakia, it will essentially become a straight fight for second with the Czechs and it makes Wednesday’s encounter all the more intriguing.
Staunton: We have to change the mindset of the whole country. We’ve never done well against big teams away from home but, in saying that, we have accepted that draws have been great results. They are – but only if you qualify. At the end of the day, I want us to have a winning mentality. I think the lads proved in Denmark that there is a belief within the squad and that will grow with each game and get-together
|08/09/2007||20:30||San Marino||Czech Republic|
|08/09/2007||20:30||Slovakia||Rep of Ireland|
|12/09/2007||20:45||Czech Republic||Rep of Ireland|
- Germany 7 19
- Czech Republic 7 14
- Rep of Ireland 7 13
- Slovakia 7 9
- Wales 6 7
- Cyprus 7 7
- San Marino 7 0
Saturday, 08 September 2007
European Championship Qualifying
(McLaren’s cheek implants get the dreaded ‘vote of confidence’)
Fixture, Group, Time:
Belarus v Romania, G, 17:00
Croatia v Estonia, E, 19:30
England v Israel, E, 17:00
Georgia v Ukraine, B, 16:00
Hungary v Bosnia-Herzegovina, C, 15:00
Iceland v Spain, F, 21:00
Italy v France, B, 19:50
Latvia v Northern Ireland, F, 17:15
Luxembourg v Slovenia, G, 16:00
Malta v Turkey, C, 18:30
Moldova v Norway, C, 19:00
Netherlands v Bulgaria, G, 19:30
Portugal v Poland, A, 21:00
Russia v FYR Macedonia, E, 16:00
San Marino v Czech Republic, D, 19:15
Scotland v Lithuania, B, 15:00
Serbia v Finland, A, 19:15
Slovakia v Rep of Ireland, D, 19:30
Sweden v Denmark, F, 19:30
Wales v Germany, D, 19:30