An Emotion Filled Evening At the Bridge
Last night, was one of those nights that should have been played out in an entirely different way. It was the night that Liverpool met Chelsea once more at Stamford Bridge. This time, it was to see, who out of the two teams would enter into the next round of the Carling Cup draw, which takes place this evening.
There had of course been many hours of interviews and media reports around the fact that, Liverpool would have to play this game, 48 hours after their league clash with Manchester City. This led to a large section of the media wondering if in fact, it would be a bridge to far for Liverpool, who are classed as a team in transition. Enter a certain Kenny Dalglish, who just assured everyone, in his own wonderful way, that Liverpool would do the best they could and under an unexpected emotional cloud, that is exactly what they did.That emotional cloud began with the one minute's applause that was made in honour of Gary Speed, who as we all know, lost his life last weekend. The sound around Stamford Bridge was deafening and pleasing to see as the tribute to a well-liked and wonderful player was made. The most poignant scene of course was taken place in the middle circle. Craig Bellamy, who had been given Sunday off as bereavement leave, was back and the tears began to fall, tears for the man who was not only his mentor but also his best mate. We can only guess how Craig feels, but I am sure Kenny and the club will give him all the support that he needs
Then came the moment that we had all been waiting for, referee Phil Dowd signalled for the game to start. A start, which three minutes later, indicated that it was going to be a game fuelled by incidents. It was at this point that Chelsea tried to claim a penalty as David Luiz went down after a challenge from Sebastian Coates. Referee Dowd, though saw the incident differently and Luiz was the first of four Chelsea players to get a yellow card.
This did not seem to dent the enthusiasm of either team, who had both started brightly. Liverpool supposedly the more tired of the two teams was the team that seemed to be the one in the hunt for the goals. As the team pressed further and further forward, Andy Carroll was caught by David Luiz, but once again Phil Dowd dismissed the penalty appeals.
Now Phil Dowd is normally a very good referee, but last night was not his night and before the game was over, he would make several more mistakes, thankfully though they did not affect the way Liverpool were beginning to rule the game.
The next decision he made was the right one, when on twenty two minutes Alex handled the ball after intercepting a pass from Jose Enrique. A penalty was awarded to Liverpool, which Andy Carroll stood up to take. Now Andy to me, although showing signs of improvement, was having an awful game and why Craig Bellamy never took the penalty, none of us will ever know. The one thing we did know was that he was never going to score and the ball ended up in Chelsea reserve keeper Ross Turnball's hands. A lot of people will say that it was a good save. From what I saw, the ball was kicked straight into his hands.
This seemed to wake Chelsea up and suddenly Pepe's goal seemed to be under siege. Step forward, young Sebastian Coates, who was having a fantastic game. Lukaku was stopped from shooting by his fantastic defensive movements, which helped Pepe who had to make some great moves himself to ensure that Florent Malouda was stopped from scoring.
The half-finished goal less and with the supporters cheering them off, both teams returned to the dressing room. It had so far been an extremely game and nobody would know that the two teams were made of players from the reserves and several returning from injury. A sign of course from the Liverpool perspective that means Kenny and the old Liverpool style is on its way back.
It was Liverpool that began the second half with the urgency that was now needed. Several good counter attacks took place in the box with Craig Bellamy being the centre of attention. I am sure that everyone on the away side of the stadium held their breaths as he shot towards the goal only to see it go over the corner. It would have been fitting for him to score but all was not lost because when the goals did come, he was a major player in each of them.
Chelsea by now had made a couple of changes and it looked as though, elder statesman, Frank Lampard would break the deadlock when he took a free kick, which was picked up by Ramieres, who sent it towards the goal. There are times, when the crossbar does come in handy and this was one of them, although the rebound was caught by Luiz who sent the ball flying in once more, only to be stopped by Coates.
Moments later, two of Liverpool's elder statesman linked up and Maxi's love of Stamford Bridge was in evidence once more. He picked up a move that had been started by Jordan Henderson, intercepted by Craig Bellamy and tapped it into the back of the goal.
Liverpool and their love of Stamford Bridge was now in evidence once more and with the travelling supporters singing their hearts out, it did not take long for this to be monopolised once again. Craig took a free kick and it was picked up by an unmarked Martin Kelly, who sent it flying into the net. He had scored his first goal for Liverpool's senior team and the smile on his face told the whole story.
With Liverpool now being in totally control of the game, Chelsea introduced Juan Mata into the fray and he immediately made several forays into the area, but thankfully these came to nothing. He was also involved in a tackle with Lucas, who after several minutes treatment, went back onto the pitch, but it soon became evident that he could not carry on. He was was unfortunately stretched off and going by the news now circulating, it appears that he could be out for quite some time. I just hope, that the result of the scan which he will have on his knee either later today or early tomorrow, will show that the injury is not as bad as the lad himself believes it to be.
Charlie Adam was then introduced into the fray and who shortly afterwards was followed by Dirk Kuyt who replaced Craig Bellamy. Now Craig had, had a fantastic game and walked off the pitch to the words THERE IS ONLY ONE GARY SPEED from the travelling Kop. A telling tribute, for a young man and his grieving mate.
Chelsea realising that the game was slipping from them, tried to stage a comeback with Alex and Torres trying for goals. They did not happen and Liverpool walked off the pitch worthy winners and a semi- final to look foward too. Questions of course are now being asked about Torres and Andre Villas-Boas.
Torres as we all know, left Liverpool last January for pastures knew. Unfortunately and I am pretty sure I am right about this, he knew very quickly that he had indeed made a mistake. This has affected his form and I honestly believe he has forgotten what football is all about. That football I believe will remain missing until he returns to Spain. Andre Villas-Boas is a young man, brought into this country by Roman Abramovitch to ensure the title comes to Chelsea. He is very young and I don't believe he really understood how much of a challenge the Premier League is.
If last night proved anything, it proved that Liverpool under Kenny are definitely on their way back. It also proved that he is more than just a manager. The picture of him above giving Craig a quick cuddle as he came off the pitch, says a lot more than words ever will. Liverpool's travelling Kop also proved yet again that they represent the greatest supporters in the world.