For football fans, the weekend ended with the thrilling Liverpool and Manchester City six pointer…and captain Steven Gerrard’s tears.
Liverpool fans overcame all possible emotions within those enthralling 90 minutes. First the sadness of Hillsborough tragedy anniversary; the silence; the goosebumps at kickoff; the anticipation of how the game will flow; then the elation after Raheem Sterling sidestepped the City defence to open the score; the dream of title; the shrill and stretching of vocal cords after 2-0; the skepticism of holding on; the ‘pinching myself’ at half time; the edginess at 2-1; the disbelief and curse of luck at 2-2; the fear when City dominated; the anger when Skrtel and Suarez flirted with trouble; the mock when Kompany mis-kicked; the ecstasy when Coutinho took advantage; the uncertainty of holding on; the relief on final whistle; the tears of joy; the pumped up feel when Stevie rallied the troops; the spring in their steps and the authoritative chest thumping. In between, as the scoreline remained dynamic, fans from both sides kept calculating different permutations and combinations.
It ended the most fascinating football week the game ever witnessed, with some of the most unbelievable results.
Mighty FC Barcelona lost out in midweek Champions league action and then fell behind in La Liga race. Both 0-1 defeats to teams sitting on two extremes of Spain. Coach Gerardo Martino’s job could be over by this weekend as the famed Neymar-Messi combo hardly became the “Ney-Messis” they were expected to be. On flip side, Brazil, Spain and Argentina will look upon some key players getting longer rest before the upcoming quadrennial mega event.
Jose gave Chelsea fans yet another trademark “Mou-ment”. Orchestrating a come-from-behind win over Ligue champions PSG and then edging Swansea to remain firmly in hunt for domestic title. The scoreline in both games were misleading, the blues should have won with more to spare.
But if someone thought the Stamford bridge game would be the best come-from-behind-win this season, Mestalla witnessed a bigger miracle just 48 hrs later. Valencia overturned a 0-3 deficit by normal time and romped to the semifinals of Europa cup with a 5-0 win over Basel. A night, which their fans wont forget for a decade, at least.
La Liga’s reputation got further enhanced when Sevilla FC overcame a 0-1 deficit to beat Portuguese Champions Porto 3-1 and meet Valencia in the semis. One Spanish team is now guaranteed to play the Europa cup finals. Four out of the eight European semifinalists hail from Espana.
Upcoming Champions League rivals – Bayern Munich & Real Madrid – had mixed results over the week. Their semifinal encounter is the game both are looking up to now. The German club having won the Bundesliga in record time will have an edge over the Galacticos. The Spanish team would still be in race for La Liga and recent history against them.
However the quality of football this week was so high that the best team of the week would still not be either of the elite listed above.
Borussia Dortmund, the number two Bundesliga team netted 5-0 over the week – with mighty Real Madrid and Bayern Munich being their victims. However, to be fair, they had little to lose in both matches and played for pride and with limited pressure. Still, knocking Carlo Ancelotti and Pep Guardiola in matter of few days is no mean feat and would be right atop Jurgen Klopp’s cv. He is rightly being tipped to coach Barcelona in the coming season.
The best team of the week, and possibly the season, would be Atletico Madrid. The Rojiblancos first stopped Barcelona’s record seventh successive marriage date with CL semifinals spot. Then they extended their lead on the title race with a 2-0 win. Just like Liverpool, after two decades, Atletico see themselves within striking distance of creating history. At the finances he operates, Diego Simeone is already the best coach of the year, by a margin.
Here’s hoping both Liverpool and Atletico Madrid taste the heights of football.
And to the best footballing week in a long long time, thank you and we are leaving some nails behind for the finish. That reminds me.. Real Madrid do have a chance to make amends when they face Barcelona in Copa Del Ray final encounter tomorrow. But then, Barcelona are also looking to make amends!