Wednesday, May 25, 2005

a liverpudlian post...

Tonight will undoubtedly be the biggest night in 15 years for any Liverpool supporters all around the world. That was when we last won the domestic title, and 21 years since the last European Cup. Nothing can get bigger than this.

The heroes in red who had paved the way up until this far, thanks for bringing Liverpool back to the world map. Even though the match has yet to be played, you guys have done a great job in and regardless of the outcome of the game, this will be a key moment in Liverpool Football Club’s history.

The manager
Rafael Benitez
One of the best coaches in the world, brought to Liverpool in the summer after emerging triumphant in the UEFA Cup with Valencia. Also won the Spanish La Liga with the same team. Made several exciting signings since becoming the Liverpool manager, namely Garcia, Alonso, and Carson. Also turned some players deemed to be surplus to requirement in previous season into match-winning team players (think Biscan).

The players
No 1: Jerzy Dudek
He did not shine in recent years as like he did back in his first year with the club, but is still regarded as one of the top goalkeepers in the world. Played in 9 of Liverpool’s 14 CL games and kept 5 clean sheets, conceding 1 goal per game in the rest. Will probably play his last match for the club.

No 3: Steve Finnan
The consistent fullback suffered from injuries early in the season and lacked first team appearances after the signing of Josemi, but came back strongly wrestling back his place, and is now considered by Benitez among the first 11. Played in all but one of LFC’s CL games, which is the 1-0 defeat to GAK at Anfield.

No 4: Sami Hyypia
The towering vice-capt of LFC played in every match in the CL, and had been rock solid in defence with Carragher. Lacked a bit of pace and easily exposed when dragged to wide areas, but reads the game well.

No 23: Jamie Carragher
The scouser who ‘will run through a brick wall for the club’ is arguably among the best centerbacks in the world, and still improving. Came through the ranks from the academy, he made the CB position his own and forced Henchoz to move clubs. Strong in tackles and determined, no-nonsense defending.

No 21: Djimi Traore
Originally intended to be sold by previous manager Houllier, Benitez gave Traore a chance to prove his worth to the club, and he did so quite impressively. Prone to some silly errors once in a while, most notably the own goal against Burnley which ‘almost made him quit football’, but he has showed to be a valuable player in the squad.

No 8: Steven Gerrard
The LFC captain’s enthusiasm is infectious, as he single-handedly led Liverpool to victories in some games when others performed poorly. Will best be remembered for the thunderous goal against Olympiakos which sent Liverpool on course to this final. Will probably captain the team for the final time before moving clubs, but a victory may delay that from happening.

No 14: Xabi Alonso
The young Spaniard suffered from broken ankle after a clumsy tackle by Lampard on New Year’s Day, but came back straight into the first 11 against Juventus after a 3-month lay-off, and what a display that was. Masqueraded Liverpool’s midfield and held off Juventus for the full 90 minutes, and received standing ovations from the crowd and fans around the world. Great vision, even better execution.

No 6: John Arne Riise
The fullback-turned-leftwing played in every match in CL and is a certain starter in the final. With an incredible left foot and shots packed with power, he is showing signs of returning to the kind of form he showed in his first season. Scored against Leverkusen in the last 16.

No 10: Luis Garcia
The little striker was shrugged off as a lightweight player who couldn’t adapt to English football, but that statement charged Garcia like a bolt of electricity and he ended the season superbly, being joint top scorer with Baros, and the top scorer for the club in CL with 5 goals. Dazzling trickeries and passing, but sometimes loses the ball easily to opposition players.

No 25: Igor Biscan
Biscan has been the most improved player since Benitez took over, and showed what a determined character he is by cementing his place as a regular in the first 11 after seasons of failures. Made an impressive 9 appearances for Liverpool in the CL, but will most probably leave in the summer.

No 16: Dietmar Hamann
Hamann is one the the most underrated player in the Liverpool squad, his defensive midfield position has been the key to the reason why LFC conceded a miserly 4 goals in the 8 CL games he started. Good control with the ball and a tough tackler, sometimes capable of belting in a stunner from long range.

No 5: Milan Baros
Liverpool’s sulking striker was the Euro 2004 star where he grabbed the Golden Boot with 5 goals in 5 games, and is now Liverpool’s top scorer with 13 goals. Going through a dry patch and often find himself lost with LFC’s 4-5-1 approach, and may not even start in the final despite notching in 2 goals in the CL. Will most probably be leaving LFC after the CL final.

No 9: Djibril Cisse
Completed a remarkable recovery from the horrendous injury where he suffered broken bones in 2 places, he is more than determined to get back into action and proved that he still has what it takes to perform at the highest level with the season-ending 2-goal performance against Villa. Scored 1 goal in the CL, and will most probably take over Baros’ place in the final.

No 7: Harry Kewell
The boyhood Liverpool fan had been fading since his move from Leeds, and the recurring injuries had not helped. Played through the first half of the season carrying an injury, he’s now back in action, despite still not 100% fit. Hopefully he’ll remain with the club next season and show what he is capable of when he’s injury-free; terrorizing the opposition’s defence.

No 11: Vladimir Smicer
A crowd favourite, although never showed that he is capable of filling in Mcmanaman’s boots when he was signed 6 years ago. If he manages to get some action in this final (I certainly hope he does), it will be his final involvement before being released by the club. Came in as substitute in 5 of the 6 CL games when he is fit.

No 28: Stephen Warnock
Broke into Liverpool’s first team after being given the chance by Benitez, he has been fighting with Traore to claim the leftback position. Played in 6 of LFC’s CL games, and often consistent when he’s in action. A bright prospect for the future.

No 17: Josemi
His reckless defending has caused Liverpool some games, but he was the first of Benitez’s signing who showed superb adaptability to English football. Did not made much impact thereafter, and an injury forced him out of action since, where his place is eventually taken over by the consistent Finnan.

No 18: Antonio Nunez
The only Spanish signing who has yet to shine for Liverpool, the former Real Madrid reserve is finally looking to be at ease after missing the first half of the season with an injury he picked up during his first training session. Played 5 games in the CL, completing only 1 game which is against Leverkusen at home. Will definitely start on the bench.

No 20: Scott Carson
When he signed, Carson wouldn’t imagine that his first game for LFC would be a tie against Juventus at Anfield, a game which Liverpool won 2-1 thanks to some brilliant saves by Carson. Conceded a tame goal in that game, but some great displays in the EPL sees him being drafted into the England squad replacing the injured Paul Robinson.

No 13: Anthony Le Tallec
Le Tallec went on loan after a fallout with Benitez early in the season, but came back a more matured individual. An unknown to Juventus when he started the game, he ran riot at Anfield and left the Juventus players stunned, helping Liverpool to a 2-1 victory.

No 22: Chris Kirkland
Liverpool’s sicknote played an unbelievable 4 games for Liverpool in the CL before injuring himself again, giving the keeper position back Dudek. Dubbed the most promising keeper in the country, but never proved his worth. When he’s fit, he’s a match to any keeper in the country though.

No 24: Florent Sinama-Pongolle
The tiny striker with Le Tallec were France’s brightest prospects when they came to Liverpool, and he showed his maturity in the 45 minutes of action against Olympiakos where his goal sparked an unbelievable comeback for Liverpool. Got injured after that, and missed the rest of the season.

No 33: Neil Mellor
The burly striker had only 2 games in the CL before he went out injured, one being a substitute where he scored an important goal against Olympiakos that sent Liverpool through. He played only 12 minutes in that game. And who can forget the last minute long range cracker that shocked Arsenal in the EPL?

The fans
Over the course of the season, the Kop fans have been at their best and very much influential in Liverpool’s performance on the pitch. The atmospheric Anfield rocked the ground as the fans spurred the players on in defeating Juventus and Chelsea along the way to final. After the game against Chelsea, newspaper worldwide credited the diehard supporters for ‘winning’ the match for Liverpool. Even Jose Mourinho admits that Anfield’s voice ‘amazed’ him.

So there you have it, a brief introduction of Liverpool before tonight’s Champions' League Final. Goodluck, I will be one of the millions in the world cheering for Liverpool tonight.

You’ll Never Walk Alone.

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