Arsenal 1 Liverpool 2 - FA CUP FINAL (May 12 2001) - 1st team 2000-2001 - The Liverpool Way Jump to content
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Arsenal 1 Liverpool 2 - FA CUP FINAL (May 12 2001)

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Arsenal 1 LIVERPOOL 2

Report by Dave Usher at the Millennium Stadium



Scorer(s) – Michael Owen (2)

Half Time - 0-0

Venue - Millennium Stadium, Cardiff

Date - Sat 12 May 2001

Star Man – Michael Owen













Two down one to go. Forget the fact that for long periods in this game we were second best, as in cup finals all that counts is winning. Arsenal will wonder how they didn't end up lifting the trophy, but they only have themselves to blame really. Despite the 'lucky Liverpool' jibes that we keep hearing from the media and from all the so-called experts on TV, there was nothing lucky about it. We didn't play well, but we dug in and ground out the result.


Much has been made of Henchoz' handball, but there is no way on earth the referee or the linesman could have spotted that, because a) it was only the slightest of deflections, b) the ball thudded against the post, which would have suggested to the officials that Henry had simply missed the target, and c) it all happened so fast that the only way TV could prove it struck Stephane's arm was to show numerous slow motion replays, a luxury which the officials don't have.


There's no doubt that it was a penalty, but it was certainly not intentional, as Stephane didn't have his hand outstretched and the ball only hit his elbow as he was falling over. What was he supposed to do? Run across the goal with both his hands behind his back? Sorry, but that's just not feasible. So a penalty? Yes, a sending off? No chance.


Now had we gone on from that and taken the lead, then Arsenal fans would have had every right to feel aggrieved, but the fact is they went on and scored the first goal anyway, which made the non award of the penalty pretty much irrelevant. Given how we responded to going a goal behind, who's to say we wouldn't have done exactly the same had they been awarded that penalty and scored from it?


Arsenal were guilty of wastefulness in front of goal, but I dispute the claim that we were lucky because Sami cleared three off the line. That's not luck, it's great defending. Our players simply won't give anything up, and for that they should be congratulated, not insulted by claims of being 'lucky.' Arsenal should have been more clinical, but they weren't, and they paid the price. I have no sympathy for them whatsoever, as it's happened to us many times this season. Aside from a couple of notable exceptions (Chelsea and Arsenal away for instance), in almost every defeat we've suffered this season we've created the better chances but wasted them and paid the price.


There's no doubt that we haven't been given the credit we deserve for this win. Yes, Arsenal had by far the better chances, but look how strongly we finished the game. We've been playing almost a game every three days for three or four months now, yet look how strong our lads were at the end. Arsenal should have been fresher than us, and for most of the game they appeared to be, but the last fifteen minutes we dug deep and took control. Surely we deserve credit for that?


The other thing that has irked me about the coverage of the game, is that much has been made of the fact that we were defensive and only wanted to play on the counter attack. Wenger even said in his post match interview that "that is how they always play." Yeah that's right Arsene, I remember how we got everyone back behind the ball at Anfield in December and somehow managed to get four lucky goals on the break against you.


I'm not disputing that we often look more comfortable playing that way, but the suggestion that we went there to defend whilst Arsenal wanted to make it an open game is complete bullshit. I've watched a tape of the game on Sky, and Andy Gray was so far off the mark with his assessment of the game it was laughable. Arsenal were the better side for much of the game, but they certainly didn't play open attacking football.


What they did do, was take us on at our own game if you like, as they sat back deep, allowed us to have the ball in our own half and waited for us to give the ball away. When that happened (and it did far too often to be honest), they hit us quickly with the pace of Henry, Wiltord, Ljungberg, Pires and Vieira. Almost all of their best chances came after we had given the ball away cheaply, and for anyone to suggest that we were the only counter attacking team is wrong.


Michael Owen received all the plaudits after the game, and rightly so, but for me the turning point was when Sander somehow pulled off that save when Henry was clean through. Again, Arsenal fans are bleating that there should have been a handball given against Henchoz, but I thought the ball hit his head as he was on the floor, not his hand, and besides, Henry was clean through on goal, so why would the referee stop play?


Had the ref stopped play and awarded a penalty, there'd have been uproar, especially if the penalty was missed. Just because Henry failed to score, they're complaining that a pen should have been given. The save that Sander pulled off though is one of the best I've ever seen. It was phenomenal, and the importance of it cannot be under-estimated. In fact, I thought Sander was exceptional throughout, the one blemish being the poor kick that came in the build up to their goal, although it was a bad ball from Henchoz that gave away possession, not Sander's miscued clearance.


The three subs all made a difference as well, with Gary Mac improving things no end. Murphy, Smicer and Hamann were all terrible in truth, and Stevie G was only average compared to his usual sky high standards. They all worked hard, but the contribution of our midfield for 75 minutes of this game was virtually nil. That all changed though with the substitutions. Fowler didn't actually do much right, but his mere presence on the field opened things up for Owen, who up until then hadn't been given any service at all.


At 1-0 though, I admit I had given up. I couldn't see any way we'd score, but then the ball fell to the little man in the box and it was all square. Cue complete mayhem in the Liverpool end. The atmosphere had been fantastic all day, but what happened in those last eight minutes, and then for half an hour or so after the game will live with me for a very long time. When the winning goal went in I've never experienced anything like it. Words can't describe the joyous scenes in the Liverpool end.


The emotion in the stadium after the game was overwhelming, and seeing the players celebrating with us at the end was a special moment. When YNWA was played and all the players joined in, I could barely hold back the tears, it was just something else. I've seen us win FA Cups before, but this was different. I'm not sure exactly why, but it just seemed more special somehow.


There's a bond that has developed between fans and players this season, that has got stronger and stronger as the season has gone on. We've got a squad of players now that we can be proud of. They may not be the greatest team we've ever had (at least not yet anyway), and they aren't even the best side in England, let alone Europe, but they have a tremendous work ethic and will to win which makes them capable of beating anyone.


They're a team that wants to win as much as we do, and that's something that we haven't always had in the last ten years or so. The credit for that is entirely with the manager, and the bond between Gerard and the fans is such that if he carries on like this he'll be revered in much the same way that Shankly and Paisley are.


Gerard was so emotional afterwards, as he stood back and just looked on as his players celebrated. He looked just like a proud father, and I'll never forget the look on his face as he took in the celebrations that were going on around him. Gerard has given us back our pride, and I'd say there's quite a few people out there who owe him an apology, including one particular ex player who has done nothing but criticise 'the Frenchman' since he came to the club. I'm sure you all know who I'm referring to, but in case there's anyone who doesn't, I'm talking about Ian St John.


I love the Millennium Stadium, it's a fantastic arena and Cardiff is a beautiful city. The fact that we've now won two cups there may have influenced my judgement ever so slightly I admit, but if Wembley never gets to host another final again it won't be too soon. Cardiff should be the permanent venue for cup finals from now on. Much was made of the traffic chaos after the Worthington final, but this time there was nothing of the sort. I can only speak for myself, but our coach was not held up at all. We had a clear run in and an even clearer one out, and we were back in Liverpool for about 10.30. Due to having been up since 5.30 that morning, the celebrations were limited to a couple of swift ones in the 'Jawbone' in Bootle.


I didn't even watch the tape of the game until the following night, after coming back from the local boozer. I watched the final ten minutes and the ensuing celebrations around about four or five times, and it all became a bit too much for me I'm afraid. I mentioned that when YNWA was played I could barely keep a dry eye at the time. Well that was when I was sober. After coming home from my local I stuck the tape in and "Who let the reds out..."


Then came YNWA. This song gets to me even when it's played at a reserve game with a couple of hundred people, let alone when I'm slightly inebriated watching the video of one of our greatest triumphs! I tried to join in, but just couldn't get the words out. The lump in my throat prevented any words from coming out and the old eyes started filling up. Thankfully I was on my own, and no-one saw it, although the fact that I'm writing it now for the world to read probably makes that something of a moot point really!


It was also great to see Jamie Redknapp go up to lift the trophy. Jamie being the modest lad that he is, didn't want to do it, you could tell, but all the other players wanted him to do it which says a lot for how popular he is. Jamie is known as one of the nicest people you could ever wish to meet, and he's also a damn good player in my opinion. I'd love to see him get back to what he was, as a midfield duo of Redknapp and Gerrard would be as good as anything around.


Whether he does or not remains to be see, but if he doesn't it won't be through a lack of trying, and Redknapp is also one of the hardest trainers at the club. He's been around through all the shit years, so hopefully now that the club has turned the corner he'll be able to play a part in the successes. God knows he deserves it after the bad luck he's had.


The only downside to the day was the amount of day tripping, glory hunting, face painted, News of the World bowler hat wearing arseholes who had somehow managed to get tickets for the game. Most of these have probably never even been to a game before, at least not since the 1996 final anyway. Just how any Liverpool fan could possibly think it was acceptable to walk around wearing a plastic bowler hat with the News of World logo on it is beyond me. It disgusts me.


The amount of true reds that couldn't get tickets for this game makes it even worse. The likes of Chris Smith and others like him, who had been to every FA Cup game this season, and the thousands of ST holders who's serial number ended in 5 or 6. Yet these fucking part-time band wagon jumpers can get tickets. It just isn't right.


It's a miracle I didn't end up lamping someone to be honest, as standing outside in the baking heat trying in vain to sell the fanzine was hard enough without having these fucking idiots asking me "is that the official programme?". Does it look like the fucking official programme! Would the official FA Cup final programme have a picture of Fowler on the front, but no Arsenal player? Would the official FA Cup final programme have "The Liverpool Way Fanzine" written across the front in big bold letters? Of course not, and anyone who had been to more than the odd game before would know that.


But then again as I said, there were thousands there who had obviously never been to a game before. Me and my old fella stood outside in that heat for two and a half hours and sold fifty fanzines between us. 30,000 fans there, and we sold about 50 mags. To top it all off I left my camera on the coach so I couldn't even get any pictures to put on the site, and it's fair to say I was pretty disillusioned as I stood there outside gate one.


I was seriously wondering whether all the work I've been putting into the fanzine (and website) these last two years has been worthwhile. I've had a few setbacks recently involving some of the branches of WH Smith's that were selling the mag, (the result of which means that there won't now be a summer issue) and as I stood outside the beautiful Millennium Stadium, having to put up with being asked "is that the official programme" every two minutes, I was feeling pretty low, when it should have been one of the greatest days of my life.


So low in fact, that I was genuinely contemplating jacking the whole thing in, and it was only after a pep talk from TTW&R's Steve Kelly that I began to feel a bit better. He even insisted that me and my dad should join him and his mate in a good luck 'huddle' before we went into the ground, which gave me a good laugh and lifted my spirits. The result also helped put things into a bit more perspective, and for the time being I'll certainly be carrying on as normal.


So it's next stop Dortmund, and after the way the lads came back against Arsenal - ironically the first time we've come from behind to win all season, and the first time the Arse had lost after scoring first - they must feel that they are unbeatable. Alaves have made it clear that they plan to try and play on the counter attack, so I can't see it being a classic game, but then again I don't care whether it is or not, just so long as we win. In fact, in a perverse way I hope it is a crap game, because it will really wind up the BBC, who've done nothing but moan about our games in Europe all season. And as for their commentators...well don't even get me started on them.



TEAM: Westerveld; Babbel, Hyypia, Henchoz, Carragher; Murphy (Fowler), Gerrard, Hamann (McAllister), Smicer (Berger); Owen, Heskey:

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