By: Aakash Munjal
The Amazingness is back for Liverpool. Last time they played in Champions league was in December 2009, when the game ended with a stoppage time loss to Fiorentina at Anfield ending Liverpool’s campaign in Champions league that year. They were out in the group stage itself.
To be very honest, I didn’t experience that. But it sounds like a start of a downfall. Frankly, my love for the club is not as old as yours. I fell for it during the 2010 season and never took my eyes off it. It became my passion, my footballing obsession. Obviously that was the year Liverpool could not play in Champions League.
4 seasons since then and I always wondered if my Footballing Love will ever make my European Nights Complete and even more beautiful. One thing that made me proud in all these years is that I never doubted it, just waited for it eagerly – a lifelong obsession, a lifelong faith.
You talk about Liverpool and Istanbul glory and Champions League glory comes with it. Goosebumps you get when you read about those nights when your club was involved in those unforgettable games. Funny thing is, it was 2007 when my boss once asked while on a drive for a meeting “so where are you watching the Liverpool AC Milan game tonight”. I was like what? (yeah, that was me back then). Then he briefed me of what happened in Istanbul 2 years back and hence, what tonight’s game is all about. And he was right, I was in Qatar and believe me, all Qatari papers were filled with preview on this Final. I can swear, the whole town was talking about it.
Well, I did not happen to see the final, I wasn’t much into football then, but I understand today what I have been missing since then.
But how wonderfully since then, my faith paid off, thanks to an amazing season 2013-2014. We are kind of unexpectedly, handsomely back in Europe and although I cannot do anything about missing that night in 2005 and another one in 2007, but I can start dreaming again, have faith and until then have a pint with Liverpool on TV at the Champions League. It’s a Wonderful and Proud Feeling! Especially when our biggest competitor is on the other side, trying to make for next year’s Champions League Qualification!
I am not sure how many of you will agree with me and how many will hit me for saying this that it would have been just perfect had Suarez been part of the Club on Tuesday night. His sheer energy and passion for the game is perfectly suited for the Nights. But no one is bigger than the club and we have certainly moved on with a new set up and new promise.
New set up, new promise is an apt thing to say from Tuesday’ experience – Liverpool’s first Champions League game after nearly 5 years. They say you need European Experience to excel in the competition and we understand what it means. We went with a new team, a new set of players who have not played many games even in the league together. And with the unfortunate injuries to so many – Sturridge to say the least, it made the combination even more of a starter.
That’s how I will sum up the game that happened. What a night it was, right from the beginning. That Champions League music at the Anfield, that grin on our faces after so many years. Most importantly, there was a sense of huge excitement but also some nerves and question on what the team will exactly do.
For me personally, it was no doubt exciting but frustrating at times. You wonder how it will be if the team plays the way they played in the League last year and much of the first part of this year. But the harsh reality is that the team was facing a new challenge altogether and with at least 5 new faces in the team from that team of last season, it was never going to be a walk in the park.
It was a frustrating first half for me with the Ball never picking the right player in the area, the missing link between Coutinho, Sterling and Balotelli, the frustrating bad form for Coutinho, and some selfish choices made by the front men. Apart from couple of Shots on goal by Balotelli and Lallana, it was more of a “what it could have and should have been”.
The most sumptuous part of the play in the half was Moreno. He was simply outstanding and for now, seems like our best buy of the year. He ran all over the park and back to do his defensive duties, tried THAT Spurs goal. He was good to watch.
Second half showed an improved and calmed team (goes without saying what BR must have said inside). There was more possession near the edge of the area. But that last ball inside was still missing, one due to so many bodies of Ludogorets players and two due to that still lack in link between our midfielders and strikers. It was Aston Villa all over again, I was thinking probably one individual brilliant moment is needed from someone.
No show off, but it was perhaps that moment of brilliance and perseverance from Balotelli in the 82nd minute. I could not believe that it’s a goal until the celebrations started at the Kop. I must say though that our game improved to a great extent even before that. Needless to say, it took us 69th minute to throw that first perfect ball in that area, first time finding a man – Borini, making Borjan stretching to save it for Ludogorets.
You sometimes feel it’s your night or not in football. That frustrating Aston Villa game had Coutinho hitting the bar and today it was Ludogorets on that side – you just knew it’s your night.
And how our night it was indeed! We had to experience that Sick feeling after giving away the lead yet again – I wondered if I will be able to sleep tonight. Crystal Palace game haunted me for quite some time. But it was our night after all – you have to give credit to Manquillo for running in and forcing that foul from Borjan in the dying moments.
You never doubt Stevie with a penalty, but it was huge moment for Liverpool. When you are back in the elite tournament after 5 years, you need to win the home game before anything else. And we just managed it.
I would not stop myself saying that it was not the most comfortable nights of football, it was not a performance that every Liverpool supporter can talk about, but it was a perfect result on a perfect night – a night we came back where we belonged.
I heard on TV most match “Liverpool lacked the creativity they are known for since the last season”. I could not agree more with that. But I guess its lack of experience in the Champions League added by an entirely new set up on the field than anything else that we clearly saw in the game. This team will take some time to gel , some experience and few wins under the belt and I am sure it will be a different experience altogether then.
Basel next. And with the result at Bernabeu, we have a right to be positive. Bring Sturridge back there and hopefully Coutinho in form and we have an amazing night in store for us.