TV View: McManaman despairs as upbeat Owen looks on the bright side
No Anfield Miracle this time around as Real Madrid spoil party
Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah in action against Real Madrid’s goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois during the Champions League quarter final, second leg at Anfield. Photograph: Peter Powell/EPA
Pre-match(es) Wednesday and the odds were on Paris Saint-Germain v Manchester City and Chelsea v Real Madrid making up the Champions League semi-finals. Four Goliaths, divil a David. To keep the romance alive, then, we were depending on minnows Liverpool and/or Borussia Dortmund doing their startling comeback-thing.
Whatever about the prospects of City being slain over in Dortmund, Michael Owen was very hopeful-ish of an Anfield Miracle, even if the usual contents of The Kop were stationed in nearby beer gardens, the chief source of his confidence the contrast in the rustiness levels of the respective midfields.
“Energy is the key for Liverpool – and remember, Real Madrid’s midfield is ageing,” he noted. He wasn’t wrong. Milner, Fabinho and Wijnaldum – average age: 30.67. Modric, Casemiro and Kroos – average age: 31.67.
The late great Shay Healy might have asked “what’s another year?”, but for Michael, in Champions League terms, 12 months was massive.
Jürgen Klopp was only a little bit prickly with BT Sport when he chatted with them before the game, so that was progress, his chill levels possibly heightened by his post-lockdown haircut, just when he was beginning to look like Motorhead’s Lemmy (RIP).
Whether his team would be up to playing heavy metal football against the Madridistas remained to be seen, but Michael thought they could take hope from their injury-time win over 11th-placed Grealish-less Aston Villa last Saturday, the decisive goal their first from open play at Anfield since December 27th – 12 hours and 45 minutes and 132 shots in all – and one that ended a run of six consecutive home defeats.
Gary Lineker: “Rio?”
Over to Anfield. Still not a sinner in attendance.
If Liverpool had opted to stage the game in Sweden they’d have been able to play in front of eight fans – and on that note, may we salute the eight AIK (Stockholm) fans who chanted “everyone in Gothenburg smells like fish” all the way through their game against Degerfors on Monday. God, you’d miss the fans.
Up and running and Mo Salah missed a chance in the opening nano-seconds that had Steve McManaman bursting Darren Fletcher’s eardrums, in a cry of despair so guttural you’d almost think he once played for Liverpool.
Some time later, unless these ears were being deceptive, he likened Modric to Benjamin Button, so if Luka was ageing in reverse, that meant the average age of the Madrid midfield would be 12.2 by half-time. That would have blown Michael’s mind.
On Liverpool ploughed, “at least they’re trying” said Steve, the only salute he could muster as they persisted in failing to trouble the scoreboard despite copious opportunities.
Come half-time, Michael’s hope levels remained lofty, him impressed by Liverpool’s energy, much of which, Rio felt, was being misspent on despairing over missed chances.
Over in Dortmund, meanwhile, a blow was struck for football’s small people when Stourbridge’s Jude Bellingham scored for the Germans against the Mancs, proving, as if proof was needed, that this truly is an international game. But then an Algerian, Riyad Mahrez, and a person from Stockport, Phil Foden, replied for City and they were, no doubt, dancing in the streets of the Abu Dhabi United Group. Just as the streets of Qatar Sports Investments were rocking the night before over PSG’s success.
Back to Anfield and, come the final 20 minutes, Steve was speaking in hushed funereal tones, him greeting the introduction of Xherdan Shaqiri as a substitute as confirmation that Liverpool’s 2021 Champions League adventure was done and dusted.
By now, then, Steve was in severe despair, simultaneously complaining that Liverpool had played too much through the middle while bemoaning the fact that they had put “a 100 crosses” in from the wings.
Back in the studio, Michael remained upbeat. “Tonight Liverpool created more chances than they have all year! A lot of people will say “ooooh, they’re not scoring goals”, but tonight they were excellent!”
If David Brent was watching on from his office in Slough, he’d have been purring.
So, as we feared, Paris Saint-Germain v Manchester City and Chelsea v Real Madrid.
All’s that left to decide is: who do we most want to lose?