It's too good to be true

2009-04-17 00:00

WE are being spoilt, truly. For the average couch potato, the soccer on offer during this past week was nothing short of remarkable.

There were goals, there was drama and best of all, there was calamity and quality in equal measure.

I don’t profess to being the world’s best soccer pundit, but a cap must surely be doffed at those fine folk from Anfield, Stamford Bridge, the Emirates Stadium and the Theatre of Dreams.

Liverpool may have fallen, but they would have moved up a notch in the eyes of many a neutral, especially in as emotional a week as this was for them, as they displayed an iron will to defy the odds and keep the European dream alive.

The Reds are renowned for having the most passionate supporters, and I fervently agree with this. On my travels as a wide-eyed teenager, I happened to live in the city of the Beatles for over a year. I also had the thrill of a European night at Anfield.

What you hear and see on the telly hardly does justice to the real thing.

A cauldron- like spirit washes over the Kop, as You’ll Never Walk Alone thunders across the city.

When you get goosebumps even before the kick-off, you know that you are on hallowed turf.

It’s not a myth; Liverpool’s fans take support to another level in that cathedral of football.

Sadly, they may end their exciting season potless. With only a handful of league games left, they can only rely on Manchester United tripping up.

But what a way to bow out. Tuesday’s events at the Bridge will stay in the memory for a long time. It seems every time you think you have seen a great game — such as the first leg — great players have it in them to raise the bar higher still.

Never mind that both keepers produced blunders bordering on pre-school playground proportions — the sheer breathlessness of the contest was enough for me.

At 2-0, I thought Liverpool had done it again. Flashes of Istanbul came to mind, but Guus Hiddink’s pep-talk seemed to do the trick for the Blues.

Didier Drogba, he of annoying brilliance, again proved a real thorn in the Liverpool side. When he wants to, as ridiculous as that sounds, the Ivorian is truly one of the world’s best battering rams.

All muscle and pace, he is sadly blessed with the balance of a newborn gazelle.

But when he does stay on his feet, he is menacing. He had a hand, or is that a foot, in at least three of Chelsea’s goals.

Jamie Carragher must break into a cold sweat at the mere mention of the Drog. If he isn’t winning dodgy free-kicks, he is banging in crucial goals.

But the real star for Chelsea was one Frank Lampard. Quite how he is not in the running for player of the year, I don’t quite know.

He scores crucial goals, and he often makes tough chances look easy. The way he swept in the final goal of the night was classic Lampard; cool, composed and

clinical.

I can easily see Chelsea winning something this season. They are in the FA Cup semi-finals — they face Arsenal today — and that may be their more realistic avenue for silverware.

Their European fate is another matter, however.

FC Barcelona are, in a word, mesmeric. Between Messi, Samuel Eto’o and Thierry Henry alone, over 80 goals have already been scored this season. To give that some perspective, none of the English sides has managed that collectively.

Barca are a daunting prospect, and if Chelsea somehow get past I would back them to take the lot.

As for United, they went and did the impossible by winning in Porto. No English side had ever done so, and it was a suitably unbelievable strike that sealed the win.

Cristiano Ronaldo may not have reached the dizzy heights of last season, but in one sweep of a Nike boot, he confirmed why he is the current Fifa world player of the year.

United face Arsenal in the Champions League last four, and they can now smell another piece of history.

No side has ever won back-to-back European titles, at least not since it was re-modelled as the Champions League in the 90s.

Either way, this year’s final will be another tasty affair.

We could see the champions, United, against the hottest team on the planet, Barcelona. Or we could see a repeat of last year’s rumble in Russia between United and the Blues.

Or better still, we could see the two custodians of total football, Barca and Arsenal, going at it again.

And, lest we forget, we might just see a feisty London derby between the Gunners and the Blues.

Of course it would take place in Rome, but such a trivialty hardly matters.

As much as the quarter-finals thrilled, something suggests that the best is yet to come in this year’s edition of the best club competition in the world.

Truly, we have been spoilt. But I am not for one, am not about to start complaining.

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