And They Said That The Romance Of The Cup Was Dead

By Faith Fulcher on Jan 12, 12 04:55 PM in Fans

Or did they?

Over the last seven days we have seen Liverpool progress in what old romantics like myself believe to be the more important Cup competitions.  They are of course the FA and the Carling Cup competitions'.  Competitions, which until the advent of the European Cup/Champions League and Europa League competitions, were a major part of the Football supporters Calendar.

Liverpool of course have not had much luck in either of these competitions since our FA cup win in 2006 but the return of Kenny Dalglish has once again instilled the importance of both competitions into the players so much so, that they now have one final within their sights.

 

That final of course is the Carling Cup Final at the end of February and providing they can get past the s Manchester City in the second leg of the semi -final, a visit to Wembley will be most welcome.

This will of course take place at Anfield in a fortnight and I suspect it will be totally different from what the players and the supporters were confronted with last night.  It had been made known over several days that some of Manchester City's main players would be missing and nobody really knew whether the team would be as formidable as the one faced 7 days earlier in the Premiership.  Liverpool were of course going to be without the suspended Luis Suarez but with the hopeful return of our captain, there did not seem to be too much to worry about.

The evening itself started with the television camera's homing in on around 5000 empty seats in the Etihad (Eastlands) stadium, which indicated that their supporters could not really be bothered with the game. We then had the bizarre spectacle of the stadium lights being turned down and a large blue moon appearing as the supporters sang Blue Moon.  You could not hear this of course, due to the lack of atmosphere in the ground and the whole scene looked as though it had accidently fallen from either a Batman or indeed the E.T. movie.

But the game began and Liverpool were on the upper foot from the moment Lee Mason blew his whistle.  Manchester City certainly did not look anything like the team from seven days earlier.  The only person who appeared to be on top of his game was goalkeeper Joe Hart, who on being restored to the starting line-up proved once again why he is part of the England set up.  He saved a couple of chances from Andy Carroll as well as one from Stevie. There was no method to their passing and the court jester was determined to ensure he had his say in the game.

That court jester of course is Balotelli, which after being fouled and patted on the head by Charlie Adam, decided that a foul mouthed tirade was the order of the day. Thankfully James Milner stepped in calmed him down just as referee Lee Mason was going over - would it have been a red card otherwise, that I guess is something that we will never know.  Then of course Balotelli decides to show yet again what an immature young man he is, by falling down and feigning injury because he miss-kicked the ball after taking the free kick that had been given.  He was substituted several minutes later and thankfully things returned to normal.

Before all this happened of course, Stevie stepped up to take the penalty given after Savic pulled down Daniel Agger.  It went into the back of the net and Liverpool was in the lead.  A lead that in the second half they did everything they could to ensure Manchester City couldn't score.

That has led to a lot of people complaining that the game had become boring and that Liverpool looked as though they had lost the will to score more goals.  All Kenny had done of course was to try and confuse the re-awakening Manchester City players and he succeeded.  Yes, they kept us from moving into our half of the pitch but it certainly showed to the stadium and the television audience that our defence was having a good day.  To ensure that they were well and truly blocked from scoring Kenny took Craig off and replaced him with Jamie.  Stewart Downing had earlier been replaced by Jose Enrique and at this Glen Johnson seemed to be unsure as to where he would be playing, but eventually and after Stevie had, had a word with Kenny all was sorted and the game ended with Liverpool gaining a 1 goal advantage to take back to Anfield.

The atmosphere of the second leg will be totally different of course.  There will be no empty seats or indeed a very quiet crowd.  Liverpool's twelfth man will be much in evidence and I am sure this will help the team to realise its ambition of reaching Wembley once more.

Controversy followed Liverpool home once more.  This time it was due to a two footed tackle from Glen Johnson on Joleon Lescott.  Referee Lee Mason did not send him off and Roberto Mancini decided to have rant about the situation.  In a way you can understand this, because Kompany has received a four match ban after getting a red card for exactly the same thing.  Why he had to bring Stevie G into the equation is something that needs to sorted out.  After all, it would have been better for him to go into the dressing room, ask to speak to the referee and go from there.

Now Anfield in a couple of weeks will be a different kettle of fish.  The atmosphere will fantastic, the stadium will be full and the twelfth man will be very much in evidence to ensure that Liverpool can after a break run out on the hallowed Wembley turf.

The previous Friday night Liverpool was involved in an F.A. game against Oldham.  Now this could have turned into one of those great 'giant killers' stories if the chosen team had been a weakened one.  Kenny though, had no such ideas and a team which included Steven Gerrard walked out onto the Anfield pitch.

 It was a pity that his players did not grasp that fact immediately, because Oldham were determined to show that they could be as good as anybody and scored first on the 28th minutes from a volley by Robbie Simpson.

Preceding that of course Liverpool Football Club celebrated the life of ex-player Gary Ablett who died on New year's Day.  There as over a minutes applause and you could also hear the dulcet tones of the Kop ringing out 'There is only One Gary Ablett.

I get the feeling Gary's spirit may well have been watching over Anfield on Friday evening, because several minutes after Oldham had scored, Craig Bellamy picked up a deflection from Jonjo Shelvey and the game was level.

The Wake-up call had happened and shortly before half time, Steve put us in the lead with a penalty after Maxi had been knocked over by young Tom Adeyemi.   We went into the dressing room at half time knowing that if we could either hold on to or indeed improve the score line, thoughts of Wembley would begin to emerge once again in our thoughts.

Improve on it we did, when on the stroke of 68 minutes JonJo Shelvey sent one flying into the net and Liverpool sensing victory began to run rings around Oldham and with a change of personnel on the pitch ensured that two more goals were scored.  Both Stewart Downing and Andy Carroll scored in the dying embers of the game but proved to all concerned that Liverpool were determined to bring Silverware back to Anfield.

You cannot take anything away from Oldham who played extremely well and who on perhaps another day would have been the competition's giant killers. They had to deal with young Tom Adeyemi being abused by an ill-manned idiot in the crowd, but this was done with the upmost dignity and I really hope that they and young Tom have a very bright future.

All said and done though, we have just played in two different English competitions.  Two competitions that could result in first bus parade in Liverpool for several years and without the romance of these two cups, it would not happen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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