Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Stevie G show

Cometh the man, cometh the hour as Steven Gerrard ensured the last FA Cup Final in the millenium stadium in Cardif ended the same way as the first, with a Liverpool win as their 62 game season came to a close.

Captain Stevie reminded everyone why Chelsea and a host of other clubs were willing to pay in excess of 30 million pounds for him with a man of the match performance together with 2 goals and an assist for Djibril Cisse.

And again the Reds showed why they are the comeback kings with a climb from 2 goals down to eventually win on penalties.
Not since 1990 has there been more than 4 goals in a final.

And just like that match between Crystal Palace and Man U, Alan pardew, a player then, again ended with a loser's medal.

The first 20 minutes were rather mundane with both teams still trying to find their footing.
Then in the 20th minute, the match exploded to life when Xabi Alonso uncharacteristically lost the ball and Ashton capitalised.
Lionel Scaloni made a brilliant run to latch on to the pass from Ashton whose firmly struck cross was diverted into his own net by Jamie Carragher, so often one of the most consistent performers in this liverpool team.
What was worse was that Reina was actually about to collect the ball, only for Carragher to intervene to end Reina's dreams of breaking the club's clean sheet record.

7 minutes later, Matthew Ethrington jinxed for space and shot from 20 metres.
Reina appeared to have gathered the easy shot but surprisingly dropped the ball for an onrushing Ashton who gleefully tucked the ball home.

The Reds hit back immedietely and had the ball in the back of the net, only for the Referee to disallow Crouch's shot for offside.
A minute later, Gerrard again floated an inch perfect 40 metre pass which was met by an onrushing Cisse who matched the pass with a crisp volley. Game on.

Half time soon followed to put an end to 20 pulsating minutes, with Cisse changing both his silver and red boots to a more flambuoyant yellow pair.

With barely a minute gone in the second half, West Ham showed their reluctance to protect their one goal advantage with Ethrington bursting through and crossing for Harewood although Reina was equally up to task.

Then captain Stevie came as Crouch won a header and Gerrard blasted the knock down into the corner whose first time shot gave Hislop absolutely no chance, with his stunning volley levelling the score.

Liverpool sared to dominate but against the run of play, Pardew's side counter attacked.
Paul Konchesky ran onto an Ehrington pass and hit the ball, seemingly with the intention of crossing it.
But somehow, the cross looped over Reina and was in the back of the net to spark Wild celebrations among the West Ham fans.

The Londoners could smell the scent of victory and tried to waste time.
They even brought on 40 year old forward Sheringham when it would have been more realistic to bring on another Midfielder or defender.
Moreover, they already had 2 forwardson the pitch in the form of Harewood and Zamore.

Liverpool, Gerrard especially made them pay for that mistake.
Minutes earlier, he had a shot which sailed over the bar, but on his next attempt, made no such mistake again.
He latched on to a poor West Ham clearance from 35 metres and let loose a huge cannonball shot which was arguably a goal of the season contender to send the match into extra time.

Extra time followed which wsa rather anti climatic considering the fans had been spoilt by such marvelous fare in regulation time.
Extra time left both teams with wounded players as Liverpool had Cisse and Sissoko limping while West ham had harewood damaging his ankle.

Yet in the dying minutes of extra time, Harewood was presented with the chance to be the hero but he scuffed his shot wide.
Reo Coker's header seemed destined for the net, only foe Reina to make fingertip save to push it onto the post.
From the resulting rebound, Hyypia skewed his clearance, but Harewood was unable to capitalise.

The penalties came.
Reina, who earned a reputation for saving penalties lived up to his reputation as he saved all but one of west Ham's spot kicks as he saved from Zamora, Konchesky and Ferdinand.

Hamann, Gerrard and Risse scored although Hyypia did miss.

After Risse's spt kick, Ferdinand stepped up needing to score to keep the hammer's dreams alive.
Alas, Reina broke the Hammer's hearts to send the Red half of Cardiff into ecstacy to provide a thrilling finale fit for this epic classic.
All thanks to Gerrard.