European Cup – Win it and keep it

If Liverpool triumph in Istanbul on May 25th and bring the Champions League trophy back home they’ll be able to keep it. For good.

Liverpool’s museum currently houses four slightly-smaller replicas of the famous trophy, each representing one of the four previous times the Reds have won it. A fifth success would mean under the rules of the competition that Liverpool would not need to hand it back again.

Liverpool’s opponents in the final – AC Milan – have won the trophy six times, second only to Real Madrid (nine times) for the number of successes in the competition. Liverpool are joint third with their four wins.

The section of the UEFA rules concerning the cup follows:

"A challenge cup donated by UEFA is presented to the winning club for one year. The holders are responsible for the loss of or any damage to the cup, and must return it to the UEFA Administration in perfect condition two months before the next final tie.

UEFA is responsible for engraving the cup with the name of the winning club.

A scaled-down replica of the cup is awarded to the winners.

The challenge cup becomes the permanent property of any club which wins the trophy three consecutive times or five times in total.

The cup-holders may have a copy of the trophy made, provided the copy is clearly marked as a replica and does not exceed 4/5 (four fifths) of the size of the original."
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Rafa: I’ve never seen supporters like those

Rafa Benitez would like to stay as Liverpool’s manager until he’s 65.
The 45-year-old Spaniard has managed to get Liverpool into the final of
Champions League in his first season, smashing everyone’s expectations
in the process.

Rafa was linked with the Real Madrid job earlier this year but doesn’t
want to leave this country for a long time if he can help it. He told
the Liverpool Echo: "As a manager I’m young and if I’m at Liverpool for
another 20 years, I hope to reach many more finals and win many more
trophies."

Tuesday night saw the passion and atmosphere at Anfield reach new
levels, certainly since the all-seater era started, and that has
confirmed to Rafa just why he took the Reds manager role on: "I don’t
know if I’ll be here that long, but I hope so. When you’re happy here,
you’re winning and you see the supporters, why wouldn’t you want to
stay for so long?"

It’s not the first time Benitez has been overawed by the fans: "I was
expecting the club to be like this when I joined, but only when I
experienced nights like the Arsenal and Olympiakos matches did I
realise how good it was."

Back in 1977 Liverpool had perhaps their most famous night in European
football, when they came back against all the odds to overcome St
Etienne in the European Cup quarter final. Liverpool went on to lift
the trophy for the first of four times that year. "On Tuesday people
spoke about the St Etienne match in 1977, but for us this is more
important because it’s about now and the future. I’ve never seen
supporters like those against Chelsea. It was fantastic." 

Continue reading Rafa: I’ve never seen supporters like those

Sammy Lee – it doesn’t get any better

Former Liverpool midfielder Sammy Lee says that what Liverpool achieved on Tuesday night "doesn’t get any better". Sammy left the Liverpool coaching staff last summer to take up a position with the FA. The Reds legend is in Italy at the moment, with the England under 17 team.

Sammy was speaking to the official FA web-site, and said, "It doesn’t get any better – the players all performed brilliantly I am just so pleased for all the players who deserve this for all the hard work they’ve put in."

Although obviously happier to see Liverpool go through, Sammy was pleased that regardless of the result there would be an English team playing in Istanbul: "It was great seeing two English sides play in the semi, knowing we would definitely have a side in the final. The quality that was displayed by both teams was excellent and can only bode well for the future of English football."

Sammy has two European Cup winners medals himself, from 1981 and 1984 when Liverpool won the title for their third and fourth times. As a member of Liverpool’s playing staff during those glorious years, the atmosphere didn’t surprise him: "I watched the match here in Italy and what an atmosphere it was at Anfield. The fans are great on those big European nights and that was up there with the best games from the ’70s and ’80s."

Lee didn’t leave because of the arrival of Rafa Benitez, he left to take up a role he relished for the FA. After playing for a short time himself in Spain, he is fluent in Spanish and Rick Parry had hoped he’d stay on to help out. Sammy respects Liverpool’s new manager and is impressed with their performances in Europe: "I actually fancied them from the very start of the competition. They have a good manager in Rafa Benitez and they’ve got that defensive platform from which all good sides are built. They are well suited to European competition and you don’t knock out Juventus and Chelsea unless you are a good side."

Two players that Sammy was particularly pleased with were Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher. Like Lee, both players are local lads, joining Liverpool at an early age. Lee spent eleven years on the Anfield coaching staff, joining in 1993 – so he’s known the two since they were youngsters: "Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher were fantastic. They are the leaders of the team on the pitch and both played brilliantly. Steven was influential in the midfield and Jamie was an inspiration at the back – he’s had an incredible season and deserves this chance."

Can Liverpool beat the Italians in Turkey? Lee says, "Milan will be difficult but I think Liverpool can go to the final and do it – I see no reason why not."
Continue reading Sammy Lee – it doesn’t get any better

Gerrard: Parry, Rafa and I will talk

Steven Gerrard further confirmed today that he’ll be talking about a new deal when the season ends. Gerrard was speaking by telephone to Sky Sports News, and repeated more or less what he’d said to the Liverpool Echo the day before: "I have two years to run on the four-year deal I signed and the plan was always to talk after two years. My agent and I will sit down with the manager and Rick Parry after the Champions League final and we will talk." Gerrard’s words yesterday referred to talks "about the future" – some felt this didn’t really confirm he meant contract talks. Today’s words help clarify what he means. There’s obviously still time for things to change, but as it stands it certainly sounds like Gerrard wants to get a new deal sorted out.

Gerrard also spoke about the contrasting form  from the Reds this season: "We have been disappointing domestically but we have a chance to make history and become legends at the football club and we want to grab that."

Stevie also says that getting into the Champions League Final is something that the players never expected until recently. He said, "I don’t think any of the players or anyone connected with the club thought about that. We have been underdogs from the start, there were some fantastic teams in the competition, but we have produced some great form in the Champions League."

PSV Eindhoven almost  cause a shock on Wednesday night, eventually going out to AC Milan on away goals. Gerrard thinks that the meeting in Istanbul between four-time winners Liverpool and six-times-winners AC Milan will be a difficult game: "It will be a tough match. We will be up for it and fight hard and hopefully bring the cup back for the Liverpool fans."

Gerrard resisted the temptation to rub salt into the wounds of Chelsea after their defeat at Anfield. Jose Mourinho claimed after the matcht that "the best team lost" and said that the linesman won. Mourinho made a point of congratulating the Liverpool players on the pitch after the game –  a nice gesture, pity it was followed by such bitterness in the post-match interviews. Gerrard focussed on the gesture rather than the comments: "It was nice to see the Chelsea players and the manager congratulate us and I thought they took the defeat really well."

Continue reading Gerrard: Parry, Rafa and I will talk

Liverpool will play Milan in the Final

Liverpool will meet AC Milan in the final of the Champions League. AC Milan were 2-0 down on the night, 2-2 on aggregate, as the game was about to enter injury time. AC Milan scored in the last minute though, meaning PSV needed to score twice. They scored once – but it wasn’t enough. Final Score: PSV 3 AC Milan 1, Aggregate 3-3, Milan go through on away goals. The final is in three weeks – May 25th in Istanbul, Turkey.
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Gerrard positive about Liverpool future

Expect more positive news from now on about Steven Gerrard – from a Liverpool perspective at least. All season long Gerrard has been going to Chelsea. Every single piece of commentary or press report on a Liverpool game seemed to mention Steve on his way to London. Alex Ferguson allegedly said that Gerrard going to Chelsea was already a done deal – as recently as last month. How Ferguson would be privy to what’s going on in the boardrooms of Anfield and Stamford Bridge we’ve no idea, but the media are happy to ignore detail before going with a story.

This need to publish a story and ignore the minor details hasn’t gone away, but the emphasis from a Gerrard perspective is to paint him as a committed Red again.

What’s changed? Nothing really. Gerrard rubbished claims he’d already signed for Chelsea back in March. The day after Liverpool and Chelsea drew at Stamford Bridge reports came out of Chelsea saying that Mourinho didn’t want him any more. Liverpool played Portsmouth a week before that game, and Gerrard was on the bench. A clear sign he was leaving Liverpool according to the press. He’d had a row with Benitez claimed some. The fact he’d made a return to action a little too soon after a fairly serious groin injury was ignored. It didn’t make good headlines.

Gerrard has looked really unhappy after games that Liverpool have lost in the league. So have we, and we aren’t planning to start supporting anyone else. Gerrard’s a Liverpool fan as well as a player – if we are annoyed that Liverpool have failed to take all three points in a league game, Gerrard will be too. Plus a bit more.

Last night Liverpool got through to the final of the top competition in European club football. You’d struggle to find a Liverpool fan that wasn’t grinning from ear to ear last night after that game. Gerrard was grinning, looking happy. Like a fan would be – Liverpool are going places, at last.

Gerrard did many interviews last night. When he spoke to the Echo he was asked about his future. He basically repeated what we already knew. He’ll be talking to the club in the summer about his future. "I didn’t want any distractions before the game and it will be the same before the final," he told the local Liverpool newspaper. "After the Champions League final I can say I’ll be sitting down with Rick Parry and the gaffer and discussing the future. That’s been the situation for a while so, from that point of view, nothing’s changed.

"

Those talks will be about his own contract situation – Liverpool won’t want to lose him, but won’t want to lose money on him either.  The money side of things has never been mentioned publically. There’s no indication that Gerrard wanted to leave for financial reasons. Gerrard wanted success. Michael Owen left for the same reason. Unfortunately for Michael it’s not quite worked out like that – he was at Anfield last night as a guest of ITV after his own club were knocked out before the quarter final stage. Now Gerrard sees that he might be able to get that success with the club he loves: "Obviously a result like this helps everyone at the club and we’ll have a lot of positive things to talk about. I’ve said all along all I wanted was to see the club going in the right direction and this shows we are.

"

Gerrard then repeated: "We want to go on and win the competition. It will be a dream for me to lead the team out in Istanbul."

And once that game is out of the way, we believe that Gerrard will repay the man who pulled out all of the stops to keep the Liverpool midfielder at Anfield – Rick Parry – by signing a new, five-year deal. The trouble is, between now and the announcement being made, every word and facial expression from Gerrard will be used to fit him into a new story.

Continue reading Gerrard positive about Liverpool future

Carragher – You can’t buy fans like ours

Chelsea have started a new era for their club with new money from a new chairman. Whereas offers of money can be used to tempt players away from their clubs, it doesn’t work with fans.  Jamie Carragher, Liverpool’s player of the season,  says: "Chelsea have bought great players and have an excellent manager, but you can’t buy fans like ours."

Jamie was referring to the phenomenal levels of noise that made Anfield an intimidating place for the expensive Chelsea team last night. Carragher, speaking to the Liverpool Echo, said that last night outdid everything he’d experienced before: "That atmosphere was better than anything I’ve known and I’ve been involved in some great nights recently. The games against Roma, Juventus and Olympiakos were unbelievable, but that was something else."

Last night Steve Gerrard talked about how the atmosphere was already electric well before kick-off, Carra repeated what his captain said: "Even when we were warming-up 40 minutes before the game, the crowd was as noisy as it’s been for a long time. Normally you can hear DJ George playing his records, but even he was drowned out by the singing. We knew then it was going to be a special night. We all knew what it was going to be like and it gave us a hell of a boost."

Chelsea’s players and manager played down the impact Liverpool’s fans would have before the game took place. They perhaps underestimated it: "No disrespect to Chelsea, but their supporters aren’t like ours. We’ve got a working class support while the majority of fans at the game last week are probably a bit more well-to-do. In my opinion, clubs which have that traditional core of working class fans are always going to be more passionate about football. They get involved in the game a lot more and create a much better atmosphere."

John Terry tried last night to make out that the Chelsea fans were as good as the Liverpool fans for creating an atmosphere. He said the words, but his face told the truth – Chelsea’s fans are very quiet. Carragher continued: "I’m not trying to be disrespectful to them when I say that, I think it’s just a fact which is proven by other grounds across the country, and there’s none better than our fans or Anfield on a European night."

Jose Mourinho said before the game that the referee was a good referee. He would – after all that referee was in charge when Mourinho took Porto to UEFA Cup success. Carragher took a chance with UEFA when he joked: "The most worrying part was the six minutes of injury-time, but I think the referee is a mate of Mourinho’s and he certainly gave them plenty of extra-time to get an equaliser." If UEFA have a sense of humour there’ll be no problems for Carragher. Certainly he was less critical than Mourinho was about the linesman.

Mourinho said "the best team lost" after last night’s game. Carragher disagreed: "I don’t think it’s right to say we didn’t deserve to win. Over the two games there weren’t many chances for both sides. Last night Chelsea only had a free-kick from Lampard and the shot at the end from Gudjohnson. When you consider what a great side they are, how expensive their squad is and the fact they’ve just won the Premiership, I think all the credit deserves to go to us for limiting them to a few shots. We’re in the final because over two games, that’s where we deserve to be."

Carragher reminded everyone though that as good as the victory last night felt, there’s still some work to be done: "The scenes at the end were superb, but we all realise we haven’t won anything yet. There’s one more game left to win. I don’t care who we play. It’s going to be tough, but now we want to make sure we use this win as the platform to win the whole competition."

Liverpool will find out who their opponents will be in Istanbul on May 25th when the other semi-final between AC Milan and PSV Eindhoven is played this evening.

Continue reading Carragher – You can’t buy fans like ours

What the papers say about Reds in Europe

Enjoy the game last night? Got the urge to go and buy every paper* in the shop to read the reports and look at the photos? Well we still recommend you go and do that, you’ll possibly be wanting to show those papers to your grandchildren in years to come. In the meantime though we’ve helped you to start reading some of those reports by providing a few links to a few reports from some of the main newspapers’ websites.

(* Every paper except one of course.)

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Stevie: My proudest moment by a million miles

Speaking to Sky Sports News after the historic Liverpool victory over Chelsea in the Champions League semi-final, Reds captain Steven Gerrard was asked if this was the proudest moment of his career. "By a million miles, yes", he said, with a look on his face that told you without words just how proud he was. It’s like a dream come true for Stevie: "I really didn’t think it would happen."

Still smiling, still looking emotional, Liverpool’s captain said, "To lead the boys out in the Champions League Final will be the proudest moment of my life, and I’m looking forward to it so much."

Stevie would have been sitting in the ground as a supporter on nights like tonight if he’d never made it as a footballer. He’s a Liverpool fan, always has been. He nearly left Liverpool in the summer, but the persistence of Rick Parry and Rafael Benitez persuaded him to see what this season at least had in store. He’s not stopped being a fan though, and said, "I wanted to get into the stands, in with the fans and celebrate".

Whilst Gerrard has been troubled by all the off-the-field pressure he’s been under, fellow scouser Jamie Carragher has had the job of holding the lads together on the pitch. Carraghers performance tonight proved how much he’s improved under the guidance of Benitez. Sami Hyypia also reminded us tonight why his presence in defence did so much at the start of the Houllier era to settle Liverpool down defensively. Gerrard said, "We defended like lions tonight. Credit’s got to go to Jamie Carragher and Sami Hyypia – they were immense for us tonight. Chelsea are a great side, they put us under tremendous pressure. They’re the champions of the league and you can see why – they played really well, but we got a bit of luck, and we’re in the final – I can’t believe it." Such was his immense pride at the victory tonight and what it means, Gerrard had to pause for breath before saying, "we’re in the final".

Gerrard said the game went more or less to plan: "They were the tactics we worked on, we wanted to be compact and tight. They had a lot of the ball but we limited them to chances on goal. My heart was in my mouth in the last couple of minutes when that one whizzed across the goal, but when you see that happening you know it’s going to be your day."

Talking about Liverpool’s defeat in February at Cardiff, Gerrard said, "I thought overall in the Carling Cup they deserved it. They were the better side on the day, they got a bit of luck, but tonight it was our turn."

Gerrard went on, "I’m just made up for the fans. The atmosphere tonight was… I just don’t think you’ll find an atmosphere like that. The ground was shaking 45 minutes before kick-off when we were warming up. I just hope they all enjoy Istanbul and hopefully we can go and get the trophy and bring it back."

Tonight’s game should give Liverpool’s players a lot of self-belief: "It’ll be a massive confidence boost. We haven’t been good enough in the league, but we’ve been awesome in the Champions League. There’s one more final step to go – we don’t know who it will be, it looks like it will be AC Milan. Whoever it is though, we’ll give it our best shot. You’ll see performances like tonight, where we’re hard to beat."

Continue reading Stevie: My proudest moment by a million miles

Mourinho – the best team lost

Jose Mourinho confirmed his reputation as a poor loser tonight – by stating that "The Best Team Lost". Interviewed immediately after he saw his expensive side humbled by Liverpool the pain he was suffering was plain to see. All of his bravado about how it wouldn’t matter if they lost had disappeared.

The Chelsea manager found his luck had finally run out. That’s all that’s separated the two sides in their five meetings this season. Mourinho said, "The best team lost and we are very sad we did but at the same time we must understand what football is."

He continued, speaking to ITV1: "This game was a copy of the game in Cardiff where one team scored a goal in the beginning of the game. In Cardiff it was a wonderful goal. In this, no-one knows if it’s a goal – not even the linesman. "

He admitted he’d lost the tactical battle, but didn’t like the tactics: "Tactics is with Rafa. He is responsible for them and they are happy they reached the final. I don’t want to criticise them but they played the way they wanted, they fought a lot. I have to give them credit for that.  We are disappointed but at the same time I am very proud of my players. And from my heart I hope Liverpool win."

Whether his last words really were from the heart or not we’ll never know. Chelsea’s defeat tonight ended their dreams of a treble.

Continue reading Mourinho – the best team lost