After the indifferent March, it was imperative that April went without a hitch if we were to claim fourth or win a trophy this year. Unfortunately for us, it didn’t go without a hitch and it started on April 1st.
We were the April fools when we travelled to Portugal to take on Benfica in our quarter final of the Europa League. Despite taking the lead in the opening ten minutes with a deft touch from Daniel Agger, yet again in Europe we were unable to defend a lead.
We conceded two very, very debateable penalties. Mind you, almost every decision the officials made that night was, to say the least, contentious. The first big decision was Ryan Babel’s red card after the home side’s skipper – Luisao – kicked Torres six foot in the air. Babel raised his hand and I suppose by the letter of the law that is a red card, but Luisao should also have been shown red. Not with this ref though.
Later on in the match, a so called foul by Insua on Aimar and then a “handball” by Carragher gave the Swedish official the chance to point to the spot. Benfica’s leading scorer Cardoza slotted home twice to give us a difficult task in the return leg.
Not only are we behind on the scoresheet but we’ll also be missing Insua and Babel through suspension. Any chance of a better official when we take on Birmingham in a few days time?
Martin Atkinson was the ref for the game at St Andrews and yes he was better than that joke in Lisbon. However, our ability to defend a lead wasn’t. It was an all too familiar story for the Reds.
We took the lead through a sublime Steven Gerrard goal but then our defence went to pieces only a few minutes later. With the ball coming in from the left, it went right across the box where Ridgewell stood on his own. Not a Liverpool defender within ten feet of him, gave him the chance to put another dent in our challenge of finishing fourth.
In a must win game against Benfica next on our agenda can we learn how to defend a lead this time?
Defending was the last thing on our minds in midweek. We were on the front foot from the off, blowing Benfica away. They didn’t know how to cope with our slick, crisp passing.
Although the goal we needed was a straightforward corner from the captain to the head of Dirk Kuyt, there was nothing straightforward about the celebrations. No sooner than Kuyt had wheeled away, the officials where once again causing havoc with Liverpool in Europe. The linesman (or whatever the technical term is these days) decided to call Kuyt offside. Luckily for us, at least one of the officials knew the rules and the ref overruled the decision. We were on our way through – albeit on away goals.
But we wanted better than that and boy did we get better. A great ball over the top from Gerrard allowed the breaking through Lucas to round their keeper and slot it home. A welcomed sigh of relief from the Kop came in the second half when Torres – who else – got our third on the night.
Not only our third on the night, it was also our best of the season. Fans of this generation will talk about that goal the way those of yesteryear talk about Terry Mc’s goal against Spurs in that 7-0 win in 78. It all came from the visitor’s free kick, it went through the legs of Johnson, it hit Lucas and fell back to Johnson. He played it forward to Mascherano who quickly found Benayoun on the left. He played back across the pitch to Kuyt who put into the six yard box first time for Torres to score what can only be described as a dream goal.
We were made to sweat a little when Cardoza scored a free kick but we knew they still needed another. As they pushed for that goal, they left space at the back and who better to capitalise on that space than Fernando Torres. After being played through, he calmly lifted it over the oncoming keeper to take us to the last four.
With our European tour starting to take shape, maybe now we can build a real push for fourth eh? Ironically, our next game is against our potential finalists in the Europa League – Fulham.
A push for fourth? Stuttering more like I’d call it. A lot of fans got their wish when Kuyt and Lucas were dropped but that didn’t make much difference. We were still unable to grab the points required to really make fourth a realistic option.
A goalless draw with Hodgson’s men just wasn’t good enough and it probably has put an end to out hopes of claiming that final Champions League place. But we’re Liverpool Football Club and we’ll continue fighting until there’s no fight left and our next aim is that of West Ham? Can we heap more hurt on the Hammers as they fight to stay up?
Of course we could. Like I said, we’re Liverpool Football Club. We tore them apart in the first half before cruising in the second. A scrappy goal off Yossi Benayoun’s stomach gave us the lead before a clinical finish from David Ngog made the points assured.
We got the third after the ball bounced back off the woodwork onto Rob Green and back over the line. 3-0 was very much deserved and with back-to-back clean sheets under our belt, the European game against Athletico Madrid is looking more promising.
And there was another clean sheet but not for us this time. We were disappointing in the Spanish capital but nowhere near as bad the home side’s diving.
It was disgraceful but if you can get away with it, then why not do it? After all some of our lads have, how shall we say, bent the rules a little. Ngog against Birmingham jumps (pun intended!) straight to mind. They got their goal through former Man United “legend” Diego Forlan. He’ll be an even bigger legend with them now after scoring against us.
The goal came in after yet another ball this season was failed to be stopped from the right hand side while Forlan stood unmarked six yards out. How he missed the header I don’t honestly know. But because he was so free in our area, he had the time to amend and still almost failed to score but he didn’t and we were one down.
That was about the height of the excitement, the rest of the match was a let down. Or dive down in Athetlico’s case. But with it all to do at Anfield in a week’s time, we need to build some momentum up against relegation bound Burnley. Are we the team to knock the Clarets back to the Championship after just one year back in the top flight?
We were indeed the side to take that honour. A brace from our captain, one deflected and the other a peach curling into the bottom corner from about 20-25 yards set the wheels in motion.
Before Aquilani created once again, this time giving it to Maxi who netted his first goal in a Liverpool shirt to just put the icing on the cake. But in the dying few minutes Ryan Babel put the cherry on the top after he coolly slotted home Lucas’ through pass.
Now, it’s up to us to take this form into Europe and deal with Atheltico Madrid in typical Liverpool fashion on a typical Anfield evening.
Of course, typical Liverpool is make you sweat, have your nerves shattered and lose every nail through biting. This wouldn’t be any different. Although we got the game level on aggregate in the first half, that wasn’t going to be enough.
The goal came from Aquilani, who scored a great a finish and flights to Hamburg seemed to be imminent. But like I said, typical Liverpool have to make you sweat it out first. So off we go into extra time to prolong the inevitable.
A great goal from Yossi Benayoun put us ahead and it seemed as if once more we had done it, the hard way. Hamburg here we come. It was fate, we get beat in Spain, we ruin our fans brand new false nails but still end up progressing.
Why the fuck then didn’t anybody tell Athletico Madrid that? Why did they have to ruin what was yet another perfect Anfield evening? Failing to stop the ball coming into our box, there stood former Man United forward Diego Forlan to break our hearts. Again.
Just like the first game, he was totally unmarked. He’ll certainly go down in United folklore now, his two goals knocking us out of Europe and confirming we’ll finish the season empty handed.
We’ve still got some chance at fourth but that’s looking less and less likely as games are running out. Can we take six from six in May? Only time will tell.
As for April, it’ll be remembered for that night against Atheltico than anything which is a shame because at times our football this month was breathtaking. Just look at Torres’ first against Benfica – can’t get over how good it was. But the month will be seen as a disappointing one because of a game we won but still went out of Europe in.
Off the field we’ve had some real highs though with the club being put up for sale, hopefully, signalling the end of their tenure at the club. We’ve also brought in a new chairman, although he’s a Chelsea fan.
Continuing off the field we also had the Hillsborough Memorial Service. The twenty first Memorial Service and it gets no easier. This year’s was an all ticket affair and I’m glad to say the fans that attended where fantastic as always. But it’s still a day that brings home that football is only a game and we shouldn’t get too down on ourselves over that defeat in the Europa League.
There’s more to life than football and that service and the day as a whole brings it home more than anything else. Twenty-one years on but the 96 still haven’t been forgotten and they never will be by Liverpool fans and the greater footballing family.
Going undefeated in the League during April while picking up three clean sheets in four games. As well as playing some great football in that time.
Beating Benfica comfortably including a goal of the season (if not decade) thrown into the bargain.
And finally the fans on that heartbreaking night against Athletico Madrid. They certainly did the club and themselves proud that night. Non stop noise from the Anfield crowd was a joy to behold.
That’s on the field though, off it there was a success story when we were finally put up for sale which could signal the end of the pain of those two clowns. Possibly the best news of the year.
Well there’s only one real low isn’t there? That defeat. Says it all really.
I suppose losing Fernando Torres to injury and the continious rumours that our manager is leaving have been disappointing to us off the field.
And finally, during this month we’ve passed another year without our 96 friends. I’m not sure if this is a low or high because the service this year was impeccable like it is every year. But it is a low because it is another year, twenty-one years now, without them.