An Ignorant Non-Fans Running Diary of Liverpool v. Chelsea

Title: An Ignorant Non-Fans Running Diary of Liverpool v. Chelsea
Date: May 1, 2008
Original Source: The On Deck Circle
Synopsis: I’ve never been much of a soccer fan, but I figured a Champions League game was a good place to start. A running diary ensued. (For the record, I now play the sport, which makes me appreciate watching it more, though still not a great deal.)

Pre-Pre Game
Based on the fact that our very thin soccer writing roster is unable to adequately cover this game, and because I rarely turn down an opportunity to make a fool of myself, I am writing a running diary of the second leg of the UEFA Champions League semi-finals between Liverpool and Chelsea. I have no idea what that means, except that the winner will face Manchester United. I also learned a good deal about soccer in the past few weeks picking the brains of Mo Cash, Cascone, and Weezie Whee, so this maybe won’t be quite as ignorant as I expected.

Before doing this, I considered what else I could do with this time instead. I also thought about live-blogging what I was doing instead. But no, I’m sitting here with a turkey burger, a headache, and a coffee, and it’s time to write An Ignorant Non-Fan’s Running Diary of the UEFA Champions League Semi-Final Second Leg Game Between Chelsea and Liverpool or, more simply, Big Sexy Does Soccer Part 1. Here we go.
 More after the jump!
2:30 – Pre-Game
The pre-game show has informed me that the finals will be an all-English affair for the first time ever. It also informed me that 57% of the 55,000 network voters think ‘The Red’ will win, which based on the logos I am assuming means Liverpool. The announcers in the studio are very separated on the outcome, but I think we can all agree that ‘Seamus’ is the penultimate name for a soccer analyst.

Chelsea has the “slight advantage with the away goal,” which, for those of you not in the know, means that in the event of a nil-nil (0-0) tie, Chelsea would win because the tie breaker is Away Goals, of which Chelsea has one. I really like this rule, but I’m not sure why. Just seems like a better way to determine a winner than a shootout, like in hockey and…oh, wait…oops.

The final game will take place on May 21 (the first leg only, I’d assume, if the Finals even do a two-leg format). Check your local listings, says the faceless ESPN Soccernet voice. I will, Man Who I Will Call O’Sullivan.

I thought I should take inventory of the friends I have that watch soccer, in case I need to enlist some help with future soccer articles. I know that Mostafa, Cascone, Weasel, and Trevor all enjoy it. I can’t remember who they all cheer for, but I can safely assume Cascone cheers for an Italian team and Trevor cheers for a perennially awesome team. I have jumped on MSN and found that Weasel is watching the game while he unpacks back in his luxurious Klemencic Homes-built Trenton mansion. He will be throwing in occasional comments, maybe.

2:40 – The Lineups
Umm, there are a few kids on the field with the teams. Strange. Stranger still is that both teams enter through the same tunnel and walk out together. Isn’t this supposed to be a bitter sport with heavy rivalry and emotion?

I am informed via O’Sullivan and his partner, The Man Who I Will Call McSullivan, that Chelsea has not been defeated at home in 34 millenniums. Tough day for Liverpool, it seems. With that note, I am going to predict a wild 1-0 win for Chelsea, despite what 57% of people think. Edge: Chelsea.

They just showed the lineups. Chelsea has two changes from the 1st Leg, but they went through them too fast for me. I don’t recognize a single name. Liverpool also has two changes, and I didn’t catch those either. I recognize the name Gerrard from a video game. Edge: Liverpool.

The announcers just called the coin toss ‘ever important.’ I thought this was a pointless formality? Someone please explain.

2:45 – Game On
The rainy atmosphere and wet pitch could “lead to some unpredictability.” I doubt it. The first leg was a “veritable apalache” of goals…umm, what the hell does that mean?

We’re a minute in and there have been two play stoppages. Two 45-minute halves and three days of injury time is how this works, right? Actually, I have no idea how long a soccer game takes to play. I may have to miss baseball practice for this if they take four hours or more. How long do they get for orange slices at half time? And do professional teams have a single employee whose job is the orange slices?

What the…? One of the goalies (the one in black…to confuse me, I’d imagine) is wearing a helmet or hat that looks like an old-school leatherhead football helmet. On the other side, Chelsea has a black guy who has dreads and is pretty aggressive, making me more confident in my pick.

2:50
Drogba, the apparent name of my first soccer man crush (the black guy with cool hair from the paragraph above), gets the games first shot but is robbed (?) by the goalie with the huge Carlsberg sign on his yellow jersey. In fact, Liverpool players all have Carlsberg on their jerseys. I’m going to assume this is an advertisement and not Old English for ‘Liverpool.’

2:55
Since the initial awe of the game seems to have worn off and I will be slowing down, I feel the need to disclaim: I do not dislike soccer. While I am completely ignorant of the intricacies of the game, strategic matters, and how people can be so insanely emotional about it for an entire game, I do think it is a cool sport and don’t mind playing it. I just can’t be “arsed” to pick a team and learn how to follow it, not while hockey is trying to win me back.

The Cheslsea goalie (Helmet Joe) just made a pretty sweet save at the side of the net. This game already has more shots on goal (2) than I had anticipated.

3:05
We are 20 minutes in. My coffee is strong. Good thing, too, because I haven’t thought of anything to write about in 10 minutes. Oh, there we go! Drogba just missed on a shot from about 10 yards out. He tried to reach the far corner and just missed. Chelsea leads 5-2 in shots, 2-1 on target. What is the normal percentage of official shots that make it on target? Anyone?

Add Silmser to the list of relative soccer fans. His parents are at this game. Cool, I think. He asks who I like in this game and apparently I’ve learned something already, replying, “I like Drogba and Chelsea doesn’t lose at home, plus they’ve been more aggressive so far, I think, so I like them.” Look at me go.

Someone just went down for Liverpool, on what was apparently “an important tackle.” Didn’t look that bad, but I guess the flopping reputation soccer players have wouldn’t go as far as to leaving the pitch entirely.

3:17
Yes!!!!!!!!!! Drogba scores!!!! Reina made an unreal save but Didier Drogba was right there for the juicy rebound from about 14 yards out. Reina almost had that one too, and I’m guessing he’s a pretty good goalie based on what I’ve seen so far. This is Drogba’s 5th goal in 10 Champions League games. I guess I chose the right horse to hitch my cart to, so to speak. 1-0 Chelsea. That was at the 33rd minute, for the record.

Note: I can see now, a bit, why people get rabid about this game. I almost dropped my laptop when I saw that rebound after 10 solid minutes of lethargy.

3:20
Chelsea has lost in 3 of the last 4 Champions League semi-finals, twice to Liverpool. So, this is a serious grudge match then? Had I have known that, I may have picked Liverpool, thinking Chelsea to be chokers. However, I remain confident with my pick. Liverpool has hardly even had possession in the 18-yard box yet, and they look disinterested on Chelsea’s half of the pitch. Go Chelsea!

3:25
I went to the bathroom and came back and it’s a Chelsea free kick from about 25 yards out. It hits the bar that is right behind the post. Ballack = bollocks! Man, that’s clever. I may have a future in soccer blogging.

3:31
It is halftime. Chelsea leads 1-0 in score, 5-0 in offsides, and 1-0 in poorly helmeted goalies. I’m going to try and run and get a sub, but I’m told halftime is only 15 minutes. Hmm, a sub or 15 minutes of Seamus…this is a tough call, for sure. I’m going to get food, sorry soccer fans, but Seamus The Great will keep you entertained through the halftime break.

3:50
I’m back, sub in hand, and only missed 5 minutes of play. How was Seamus at halftime? Here’s my halftime report: Remember Reggie Bush? And his sexy girlfriend Kim Kardashian (host of Wrestlemania)? Remember how she had a sex tape a while back? With Ray-J? Well Ray-J, brother of Brandy and R&B singer in his own right, has a sick new song out featuring Yung Berg. It’s called Sexy Can I, and you should download it, if sexy can you.

4:00
Still one to nil for Chelsea at the 60-minute mark, and I really haven’t seen much from Liverpool in terms of offensive pressure. They have to score, so I’m sure this will change (and as I write that they get a shot on goal, albeit a weaker one)…if they fail to score, they lose the match, but if they can score even once, they force penalty kicks (since the away goals will then be 1-1, making the tie breaker a tie and forcing the game to kicks). The crowd is pretty loud on their case, too, but I’m not sure if this has an effect on soccer players. Does it? Seems like it wouldn’t, but given the home dominance of a lot of teams, it probably does.

4:05
Three Chelsea defenders fail to collapse on a Liverpool striker and they sneak a pass through, leading to a goal in the 64th minute. My heart sank a bit and the crowd absolutely DIED. Credit that one to Fernando Torres, and we are set for what should be an exciting last 25 minutes of play (and possibly penalty kicks). By the way, a minute since the goal and Liverpool has begun to pressure the hardest they have all game, perhaps trying to catch Chelsea reeling. With my limited strategic soccer knowledge, I’d guess it makes the most sense for Liverpool to sit back and play defensively at this point, as it must be easier to force penalty kicks than it is to score on the road. We’ll see.

4:10
Just thought I’d point out that soccer players don’t get enough credit for their toughness. Forgotten in all the flopping is that you have to be an elite athlete to run for 90 minutes straight, and this entire game has been played in the pouring rain. This game is no easy task, as simple as it may look on TV.

4:15
Michael Essien has a great opportunity in close but hits the side of the net. He has four shots today, two on target. The offense has kind of sputtered at this point for both sides, but I expect the final 13 minutes and penalty time to be exciting.

4:20
Yossi Benayoun is out of the game for Jermaine Pennant, who has only four appearances on the season. Not sure what the reasoning behind this substitution for Liverpool is, but apparently Pennant had a great game against Birmangham City this past weekend. Sounds good to me, play the hot hand.

Liverpool has a corner here, and it is only the 7th corner of the game. I was under the impression, perhaps from video games, that there were way more corners in soccer. A Chelsea player does a great job blocking the corner kick with his back, and we are then treated to several consecutive throw-ins.

4:25
Add Psycho Horatio to the list of my friends who enjoy soccer. I should have figured, since he’s a regular at The Badger here in Cambridge. Apparently, all of Horatio’s family is from Liverpool, so he likes them. He will be sadly disappointed when Drogba scores in OT. Yes, rivalry breeds fandom, indeed.

Just found out that they play two 30-minute OT periods before kicks would ensue, but there is no Golden Goal. So, I could be looking at another hour of soccer today. I’m not even mad, which speaks volumes about both the quality of this game and of my life.

4:30
Gerrard makes a huge leap for a header and apparently hurts his hamstring. He stays in the game. They need him (he’s played well, as far as I can tell) for what appears to be an inevitable overtime, since there are only two minutes of injury time to be played.

4:33
We are done regular time. There is a quick break for orange slices and then two 15-minute OT halves, which I’ll be watching very intensely, believe it or not. An interesting note here is that if Liverpool scores, they have a huge advantage since that would mark a second away goal. Thus, Chelsea will probably play a defensive minded half, especially if it stays tied at 1-1 late into the overtime period.

4:43
After Liverpool misses several close chances, Gallagher makes a great tackle on a Drogba opportunity. Right after, Essien rips a howitzer into the top left corner of the net! Make it 2-1 for Chelsea.

But wait…no goal! The ruling is that someone was blocking the goalkeeper’s view and interfering with play, so Essien’s freakin’ rocket doesn’t count, and we stay locked at 1-1, 2-2 aggregate, with 1 away goal a side.

4:45
Bad tackle by Liverpool is called a penalty, and even though Ballack is apparently a good free kicker, Lampard will take it under a load of pressure. He scores! Lampard sends it bottom right and the crowd erupts. Lampard is holding back tears, having just returned from bereavement for the death of his mother. The announcers make a pretty big deal out of this. I guess it is a pretty big deal. Okay, so, Chelsea up one in aggregate but a Liverpool goal would still give them the advantage in away goals.

4:47
That helmet goalie, whose name I still don’t know, makes a good save on a header off of a corner kick. Leatherhead is good. Ryan Babel is into the game for Fernando Torres which, since I recognize the name Torres, is a strange and controversial move to some.

Man, the offense has really picked up in overtime. Soccer would never be under attack for being slow or boring if every game was played at this level of intensity.

4:53
Drogba scores!!!! Again!!! Didn’t I predict that a while ago? Checking and…yes, I did. Take that, Heymans! 3-1 Chelsea and Liverpool will need two goals in the second half of overtime to win this thing. The crowd is raucous and they’ve been chanting or singing all game, though it’s been largely inaudible.

5:00
Rather uneventful second extra frame thus far. Chelsea has actually been more aggressive than I thought they would be with a two goal cushion at home. 8 minutes left for Liverpool to start something.

5:05
My dad just came home and told me I need a life when he saw that I was watching soccer. Word.

5:06
Liverpool scores, but it may be too little too late. Leatherhead The Goalie made a great leaping attempt at it and got a piece but it went in. Babel gets the credit, and it was a great kick. Actually…there are still two and a half minutes plus penalty time, so if Liverpool can get some pressure they have a chance. This is essentially “next goal wins” time, since a Liverpool goal would win it for them despite tying the aggregate score. Chelsea makes a substitution for Lampard that O’Sullivan and McSullivan can’t understand.

5:10
Heading into injury time now, Liverpool pressing…

5:12
Chelsea wins! They’ll head on to the finals to face Manchester United. They mention that the game is in Moscow, so I’m assuming that game on the 21st is a one-off event, not a part of a two-leg match.

Overall Thoughts
This was pretty entertaining. I don’t think I could watch soccer every day or anything like that, but it was definitely a more enjoyable viewing experience than I expected. It could help that it was a 3-2 match played at such an elite level with so much on the line, so I can’t really judge for soccer in general, but I would watch this match once a week or so, for sure. Go out of your way to check out the UEFA Champions League Final on May 21, trust.

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