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Liverpool 1 Chelsea 2 - FA Cup Final (May 5 2012) - 1st team 2011-2012 - The Liverpool Way Jump to content
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Liverpool 1 Chelsea 2 - FA Cup Final (May 5 2012)

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LIVERPOOL 1 Chelsea 2

Report by Dave Usher at Wembley

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Scorer(s) – Andy Carroll

Half Time - 0-1

Venue - Wembley Stadium

Date - Sat 5 May 2012

Star Man – Andy Carroll

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If 1996 is remembered as 'the white suits final', for an hour this one was shaping up to be the 'white flag final'. Andy Carroll's arrival changed that and sparked a spirited fightback that saw us go within an ant's pube of finding an equaliser. Whether or not Carroll's header was over the line or not doesn't matter now, it wasn't given and not even countless replays from various angles have provided conclusive proof to say that it should have been. No, I'm far more concerned about the complete no-show we witnessed until Carroll arrived and put the team on his back in a valiant effort that just fell short.

 

It's just so disappointing to lose like this, and even more disappointing that it was to them. Them winning hurts almost as much as us losing. Chelsea didn't have to work for their victory, we virtually handed it to them. That's difficult to take regardless of the opposition, but it's worse when it's those lowlifes. I don't think they were better than us on the day, but they didn't contribute to their own downfall the way we did and tactically they'll feel they got it spot on until Carroll's arrival changed the landscape with half an hour to go. After that they dug in, rode their luck a bit and saw it through.

 

Unfortunately our worst fears became reality as the Premier League version of Liverpool turned up when we needed the cup version. By the time the cup side showed up we were 2-0 down against a well drilled team that had managed to keep Barcelona out with ten men for the entire second half in the Nou Camp a couple of weeks ago. They had eleven men this time, and we're no Barcelona. Chelsea went into 'park the bus' mode again and although we put them under a lot of pressure they just about withstood it and we were left to reflect on what might have been.

 

It's difficult to pinpoint exactly what went wrong in that first hour or so. Obviously with the benefit of hindsight Carroll should have started, but that alone doesn't explain just how awful we were. It was shocking stuff, there was nothing there at all. It was 1996 all over again, two teams more concerned about cancelling out the other and not really showing any ambition of their own. Chelsea weren't any great shakes, but then they had the gift of an early goal to protect and the onus wasn't on them to force the issue. This was an FA Cup Final, our biggest game of the season and the last chance to salvage something from what now has to be seen as an appalling campaign. How could we produce such a lifeless, insipid display?

 

Clearly it's not an issue with effort, nobody is going to give less than 100% in such a showpiece game, so it has to be mentality. Too many players looked overawed by the occasion, which in turn affected those who wouldn't have been overawed, specifically Gerrard and Suarez. Luis was ridiculously isolated in the first half and found himself surrounded by two or three Chelsea defenders on the rare occasions we managed to get the ball to him.

 

As for Gerrard, initially I couldn't work out why he was playing so deep. I'd assumed the reason Carroll didn't start was because we wanted Gerrard as close to Suarez as possible whilst still giving us an extra midfielder to match Chelsea's three when we didn't have the ball. He ended up miles away from Suarez though, probably due to him having to babysit Henderson and Spearing who were both having 'mares.

 

We couldn't get our big players into the game because the rest of the side froze and because tactically we didn't get it right. The opening goal was a culmination of three mistakes, each worse than the one before. Spearing lost the ball in the Chelsea half and it was played swiftly to the strong running Ramires on the right. It looked like Enrique should have dealt with it but he got his angles all wrong, Ramires was too quick for him and ran clear.

 

Despite those errors, the goal should still have been prevented. I've written before about how great goalkeepers make saves that help out team-mates who have made mistakes. Pepe used to do that, as he used to be a great goalkeeper. This season he hasn't even been a good one and you could probably argue he hasn't even been an average one. His slump is alarming and his attempt at keeping out Ramires' shot was borderline negligible. It was poor on so many levels.

 

Firstly, positioning. Why didn't he come off his line to make it more difficult? You just don't stand on your goal-line when someone is bearing down on you, it was incredible to see that from such an experienced keeper. Maybe the chip Ramires scored against Barca was on Reina's mind, but I'd rather he was challenged to try and do that again than for Pepe to just stand on his line and let him score at the near post.

 

Secondly, look at his balance. Keepers are supposed to be on their toes, ready to spring into action to make a save. He's flat footed and almost falling over, having once again started to shift his weight to one side only for the ball to go the other way. How many times is that now? Too many.

 

Thirdly, what's with the weak hand? Even after the errors in positioning and balance, he STILL should have kept out what was a pretty crap effort from Ramirez. You got your hand to it, so fucking keep it out. There's just no excuse for it, he didn't even look like a goalkeeper, you could have grabbed anyone out of the crowd to do what he did and seeing him then bollock Enrique didn't sit well with me at all. Save the fucking shot and then shout at whoever you like, I don't care. You embarrass yourself as badly as that then you've got some front trying to put it on someone else.

 

Reina was all over the papers on the morning of the game admitting his form hasn't been good this season. I'm happy that he's accepting of that and isn't shying away from it, but I'd be even happier if he hadn't given a demonstration of it on such a big stage. Most of his problems seem to be down to a complete breakdown in technique, which makes me wonder just what the fuck our goalkeeping coach is doing to him. It's not that he's making poor decisions, handling errors or flapping at crosses, the kind of 'normal' mistakes that will affect even the best keepers occasionally. He's just not making many saves and he's letting shots in that shouldn't be going in, and it's mostly down to poor technique in my opinion.

 

When you break it all down to it's bare bones, essentially the most significant difference between us and Chelsea on the day was the two goalkeepers. Reina couldn't keep out a simple effort from Ramires whilst Cech made that miraculous stop in the second half to prevent Carroll making it 2-2. For all the discussion about Kenny's tactics and team selection, or the merits of Spearing, Henderson, Downing etc - and those discussions are certainly valid - if you swap the two keepers then we win the game.

 

That's simplifying things a great deal I know, and you could just as easily say if we'd turned up for the first hour then we'd have won the game, or maybe if Carroll had started we'd have won the game. It's all 'if' 'if' 'if' though. The facts are we didn't turn up for the first hour, we didn't start with Andy Carroll and we have Pepe Reina and not Petr Cech. We also have FA Cup losers medals, and all of those facts are not unrelated.

 

Downing was pathetic in the first half, not because he was doing a lot wrong but because he was just cowardly once again. He's an international player in the prime of his career. He's got plenty of ability but he's got no balls. If the team is playing well he's fine, if we're struggling he just doesn't bring anything to the table. This reminded me of his non-performance at Old Trafford. Top players take it on themselves to make things happen, they take responsibility. It's about having a winners mentality and sadly Downing just hasn't got that. It's not a question of ability, he's got that although a lot of people may disagree. When things are going well you can see his talent, he's got good control, pace, sound technique and a sweet left foot. His right foot isn't bad either, I've seen him put plenty of good crosses in with his right foot.

 

Unfortunately talent isn't everything, you need that mental strength and I just don't think he has it. Instead of taking the initiative, he becomes passive and looks for other people to do it. I've got no doubt that he's got the talent to be playing for Liverpool, I have huge doubts about whether he has the mentality. It was depressing watching him and Enrique in that first half. They were like the chuckle brothers, neither taking any responsibility. 'To me to you, to me to you' and then one of them would lose it. I blame Downing more as he's supposed to be the one to make things happen, not just pass the buck and hope someone else does it instead.

 

The right flank was not much better, despite the best efforts of Glen Johnson. Bellamy started out there but didn't get in the game and was often so far infield that Johnson had no option ahead of him when he had the ball. This was Bellamy's worst outing of the season and couldn't have come at a worse time. Johnson was one of only three players for me who performed before the break (Agger and Skrtel being the other two), but he had very little support from Bellamy and then Henderson when he was switched over there. The one chance we had in the first half came from a great run by Johnson, his cross was half cleared and Bellamy's shot was blocked by Ivanovic (Cech seemed to have it covered anyway).

 

Whilst hindsight suggests Carroll should have started, I can't be too critical of that because I wouldn't have picked him either. Don't get me wrong, I want to see him and Suarez paired together as much as possible - and against most sides I'd have no hesitation in doing it - but Chelsea pack the midfield and going in with just Gerrard and Spearing/Henderson didn't look like a good plan to me. I think a lot of people felt that way, and the team Kenny picked is exactly the one I expected him to, especially based on who was rested for the Fulham game. Like most people, I had no issue with it but I'd say it was obvious to everyone (except Kenny) that it needed changing at half time. That was the main topic of conversation as a few of us met up for a half time chat. It couldn't continue, Carroll was going to be brought on at some point so why wait? Just do it now.

 

We'd been so bad in that first half that any number of players could have been brought off. The likes of Maxi and Shelvey couldn't have been worse then Henderson, Spearing or Downing, Bellamy could have had no complaints if he'd made way for Kuyt and you could even have made a case for getting Carragher on for Enrique and moving Agger to left back, as Enrique's performance in the first half was piss poor. Hell, I wouldn't have even objected to Doni coming on for Reina!

 

But for all of the poor individual performances the most glaring thing that needed addressing was getting some support for Suarez. If we did that it would hopefully make everybody else better as a result. Whilst I wouldn't make excuses for how poor the players were in the first half, the formation wasn't helping as the ball wasn't sticking up front. Leaving Carroll out was supposed to make us stronger in midfield and allow Gerrard to play higher up the pitch as he'd done to great effect last week at Norwich. It just never happened, we were weak in midfield and we didn't support Suarez. May as well get Carroll on, we'd be a man down in midfield but at least we'd give them something to worry about and maybe get our best player a bit of support.

 

It obviously wasn't going to get any better with the same players on the field and even though Kenny usually waits ten or fifteen minutes into the second half to change it, this wasn't a time to be doing that. Our season was on the line and it was no time for caution. We needed action now, there was just no point in waiting and I was seriously pissed off when I took my seat for the second half and saw that no changes had been made.

 

And guess what, we began the second half exactly how we'd ended the first. Who'd have thought eh? If the change had been made when it should have then who knows, but it wasn't and it didn't take long for us to go 2-0 down. Lampard got away from Spearing far too easily and found Drogba in the box. There didn't appear to be any huge danger as Skrtel was in close attendance, but Drogba got his shot away and it went through the legs of Skrtel and trickled into the far corner. Two shots on target, two goals. Typical. (for the record, I'm not pointing the finger at Reina for this one).

 

The game was really threatening to get away from us at that point. We were disjointed, timid, basically just shite all over the park. With the game almost lost, we belatedly saw the introduction of Carroll. He would eventually change the momentum of the game completely, but before he did Chelsea were threatening to put themselves out of sight. Gaps were appearing all over the place every time we lost the ball and they had several good opportunities to hit us on the break. They didn't make the most of them and then almost out of nothing we were back in the game.

 

An attack down our left hand side looked to have broken down, but Downing made a great challenge on Unibrow Bosingwa as he attempted to clear, and the loose ball found it's way to Carroll. Initially it looked like he'd delayed his shot too long as he turned 'Mongo' inside out, but credit to Carroll he was in full control of what he was doing and it was a brilliant finish. The more I watch it the better it gets, that was footwork that Peter Crouch would be proud of. Game on now.

 

Chelsea went into a defensive shell and our tails were suddenly up. Carroll was on fire, he was winning everything and bullying Terry and Ivanovic. He had them rattled and now that he had someone up there to share the load Suarez suddenly came into it. The rest of the game was one way traffic, players who had been struggling badly now wanted the ball and looked confident. The transformation in Downing and Enrique from first half to second highlights this as well as anything. They not only looked like footballers in the second half, they actually looked like they had some semblance of an understanding too. Like I say, Downing can be effective when the team is playing well and I thought he had a good second half. The part he played in the goal probably boosted his spirits too.

 

From the moment Carroll's shot hit the net, the whole team suddenly looked more confident and got the bit between their teeth. Suarez was menacing, the full backs were bombing forward, the widemen were linking up with them and the midfielders were backing up the play and dominating possession. And when Chelsea did manage to get the ball out to Drogba, usually Skrtel or Agger dealt with it and got us moving again.

 

The last half hour of the game was tremendous, we couldn't ask for much more than that and we were unlucky not to take the game into extra time. Had we done so I'm convinced we'd have won as Chelsea didn't seem to have much left in that second half. The Cech 'save' from Carroll's header is what decided the game. If a goal is given, I'm sure we would have gone on to win the game, possibly even in normal time.

 

You could say a linesman's call has decided the game, but you can't say whether he got it right or wrong. Having studied the replays I'd say the ball did just about cross the line, but there's no way the linesman could be sure either way. How could he be, even I'm not sure either way and that's after the benefit of a load of replays. Of course it would have been nice if he'd just given us the benefit of the doubt, but he can't give it unless he's sure and how can you be sure when something happens so fast and is so close? Chelsea got lucky with a goal-line decision at a critical point in the semi final against Spurs, and they got lucky again here.

 

I don't blame Carroll, it was a good attempt and 99 times out of 100 it's a goal. You have to give Cech great credit for the stop, he's not the keeper he was back in 2005 but he rolled back the years with that save, it was a fantastic effort regardless of whether it had crossed the line or not. We had other chances, but none as clear cut as that and Chelsea held firm, meaning Torres got to collect another medal he'd done fuck all to earn. Well done Fernando, you've become the new Josemi.

 

The way we ended the game does not make up for what went before I'm afraid, especially given the diabolical league results this season. After effectively just writing off the Fulham game a few days earlier it's unacceptable to see us shit the bed like this. It's easy to forgive the Fulham defeat (not to mention all of those that went before it) if we go on to win the cup. Not so easy when we play the way we did for an hour.

 

Carroll was superb, Agger and Skrtel were both very good, Johnson and Suarez (once he got some help up there) were ok and everyone else should be looking at themselves today thinking they didn't do enough. After the season we've had in the league, they owed it to the fans to put on a performance and they failed to deliver. The fans were a credit to the club as usual, they deserved a better performance than this but at the same time you can't win them all and over the years we've been very fortunate to witness some great victories in finals.

 

Much is being made of us booing the national anthem. Not sure why, this happens at every cup final we're in so I don't know why suddenly people are surprised. Admittedly there was more booing this time than usual, but we always sing YNWA over God Save the Queen and have done since 1989. The booing will have been intensified because it was Chelsea and they love that whole patriotic shite. That's their anthem, not mine. There's also an element of sticking it to the FA and the 'establishment'. The rest of the country don't seem to understand, but a lot of Liverpool fans don't see themselves as English and that anthem simply means nothing to many of us.

 

I can see why some aren't happy about the booing, perhaps it would have been better to not boo and just sing YNWA over it. I understand that viewpoint but I can't say I'm particularly bothered. The idea of sitting there and joining with Chelsea fans singing anything is pie in the sky. Let them have 'God Save the Queen', their shitty plastic fans, that loser Suggs, toad faced slimeball David Mellor, unfunny cunt David Baddiel, their degenerate captain and that fucking birdie song shite they come out to.

 

The fact is I'd much rather lose as a Liverpool fan than win supporting Chelsea.

 

 

Team: Reina; Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Enrique; Bellamy (Kuyt), Henderson, Gerrard, Spearing (Carroll), Downing; Suarez:

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Guest davelfc

Great report as always.

 

The day got off to a shit start the moment I got to my seat and saw a fucking little flag to wave. Like many around me, it got the treatment it deserved.

 

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I just wasn't confident we'd win but when I turned on LFC TV for a bit of the build up they had the line up going across the bottom of the screen and I suddenly got very excited because I thought kenny had pulled a surprise by naming kuyt, carroll and maxi up front but then I realised it was the subs and he'd picked the team I expected him to pick. we rarely do well when I've predicted the team beforehand.

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Totally agree about our fans being a credit to the club Dave. As I walked out there was a rousing rendition of "We love you Liverpool" from all the fans streaming down the stairs. Brought a lump to the throat, to be honest.

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Great report as always.

 

If I might just pick you up on one point though: "...that loser Suggs..." is a bit harsh. He is married to Bette Bright of Deaf School - probably the best band ever to come out of Liverpool. He sometimes performs with Deaf School on their infrequent gigs and is deffo pro-Liverpool. He's a bright, decent, down-to-earth guy. Really.

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Great report as always.

 

If I might just pick you up on one point though: "...that loser Suggs..." is a bit harsh. He is married to Bette Bright of Deaf School - probably the best band ever to come out of Liverpool. He sometimes performs with Deaf School on their infrequent gigs and is deffo pro-Liverpool. He's a bright, decent, down-to-earth guy. Really.

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