Friday, 20 May 2016

Liverpool 1 v Sevilla 3

It's been a whirlwind week. Three very quick and enjoyable days in Basel followed by a long day catching up with three days of work. 

It was great to experience a Europa Cup final and to see an English club fighting for the honours. Liverpool fans made the final by swamping the smallish city of Basel with c 20,000 fans. They dominated the main Platz's whilst the shy Sevillista's saved their passion and fervour for the match itself.

There was a Fan Park of sorts set up in Muensterplatz with a Robokeeper machine, shooting practice nets, football skills competitions and a fans federation area. It attracted more Seville fans than Liverpool. The Scousers were happier packing the Brauner Mutz bar and drinking canned beer which seemed to be sold everywhere, including some of the tourist bars. All the talk was around who had tickets, how much they paid and what were the chances of getting tickets. Seville had returned 2000 of their 9000 allocation which were quickly seized upon by the Red horde. 

The FC Basel ground holds 40,000 and looks like the Valley might if we had ever managed the final redevelopment. The only disappointment was the lurid red and blue colour scheme which made me feel familiarly unwell. It was evident that the vast majority of the Liverpool fans had managed to get tickets, around 8,000 Seville fans and the rest (12,000) those who were prepared to pay through the nose to be there in hospitality. I was slightly embarrassed to be one of the latter, especially when talking to other fans who asked me about my ticket before the game. However, I am a football fan and felt much better about being there than some of those who I shared hospitality with before and after the match at the ground. It was clear many had very little idea about football. 

We were right in line for Daniel Sturridge's opening goal and I saw it all the way from the second it left the outside of his boot. Momentarily it shut up the impressive Seville fans who were clearly enjoying their third successive final but it wasn't long before they resumed their passionate and vocal backing. At the break I thought Liverpool were in good shape, they had forced a diving save from the Seville keeper and a Sturridge header was hooked off the line. For all their pressing they had yet to test Mignolet. 

Twenty seconds after the restart I said to my Uncle that Liverpool were asleep and that Seville would score unless they woke up quickly. Within another twenty seconds they had raced through the Liverpool back line and equalised. Still Liverpool remained two gears behind and it was no surprise when the Spaniards took the lead. After that I thought Liverpool might yet equalise but they were finding it harder to get forward in possession and there were some alarming lapses at the back. Kolo Toure had been clearing everything in the middle and was left to cover for Albertom who was having a 'mare. The killer third goal when it came was controversial. As Seville played their way into the Liverpool box and broke the line, the Lino on the far side from me flagged strongly but dropped his flag after the goal was scored. I was adamant he was flagging for offside or a Seville infringement but the decision stood, even after lengthy and heated debates on the line. A Seville fan in front of me said he had been flagging for a Liverpool foul and that the ref had played on. I'd need to see it again without the benefit of a few pints and a bottle of red wine. 

It was a long journey home yesterday but it was at least lightened by bumping into Dundee and Charlton legend, Vinnie, at the airport. Vinnie had been out with a mate for the final too and we swapped a few stories waiting for our planes. Vinnie had been up in Dundee to see his beloved relegate Dundee United recently. A rare moment of Dundee Schadenfreude and he told he couldn't wait to get all the local papers in the morning to relish in great detail how the Arabs had been humbled by the local Blue Noses for change. "Back page was Jamie fucking Vardy." Inside back page was "how Leicester did it." Next page was an assessment of Leicester's first team squad. He turned the next page fully expectant of pictures and the full story only to find a huge picture of "Harry fucking Kane." Dundee's moment of glory was captured in four paragraphs on the next page. We told him the editor was obviously a United fan and that as a Charlton fan too, he should have known what to expect. Vinnie's not been to the Valley this season (Reading away) and he'll not be back much next if at all - such a shame.

It's my birthday tomorrow and all I want is a repeat of Manchester United's routine 4-0 humping of another south London side in the F A Cup final all those years ago. It's not much to ask for after what we have suffered this season. C'mon Marcus Rashford, fill yer boots son.