After You Claude
Here we go then. Anfield and Liverpool, Klopp, Lallana, Lovren, Clyne and the media fawning over their every move. We are of course 1-0 up from the first leg and I’m nervous. It’s horrible. I am not expecting us to get through but just maybe it’ll happen, maybe Virgil will be fit and maybe, maybe, maybe…
‘Van Dijk out for 3 months’ scream the tabloids in the morning – wankers. How the fuck can they know – it’s just an unsettling tactic from the Scouse-heavy media departments, I hope. Maybe Murdoch is trying to get into the good books of people on Merseyside to actually sell a paper there. It’s not going to work mate. It’s the same sort of tactic as used by Steven Gerrard when he was gobbing off about Liverpool signing Virgil. What a coincidence – just before we play them – just fuck off. As we were reminded by their media department before the 1st Leg, they have 4 of our players already. I wonder if they’ll be pulling that rabbit out of the hat again as it worked so well in the first leg.
Ah, the first leg. We of course 1-0 and it should have been more and the wisdom spouted forth is that we would live to regret that. It’s hard to disagree. I watched a few previews and a few experts. Those in the ‘Southampton to win’ corner – numbered precisely zero. In the ‘Liverpool to win’ corner – Carragher, Murphy, Hasselbaink, Schwarzer, Lawrenson etc etc. Fuck ‘em – we’ve got a chance. If we can score then I fancy us – their defence is crap….ish. On the plus side (for us) they have a kid at right back, they have Lovren and they have Milner, who is shit and always will be.
Liverpool have managed though to get FIFA to come down on their side and declare that Joel Matip can play for them despite being selected for the Cameroon AFCON squad. The rule for everybody else is that if a player has been called up for an AFCON squad then he can’t play for his club until the country is out of the tournament. For example – if Sofiane Boufal miraculously recovered from his injury in the next 5 minutes, he couldn’t play for Saints tonight as Morocco are still in the AFCON. Matip is arguing that he’s ‘retired’ from international football, despite only being 25 but his FA ignored him and selected him. What utter shit? A player could therefore ‘retire’ from international football every two years to dodge the AFCON. Bloody typical and he’s back tonight.
In the build up to the game, Saints announced that both Josh Sims and Oriol Romeu had signed new contracts with the club which is great news of course, especially with Oriol as he is becoming a player that the big boys might be looking at. However, Coutinho has signed a new deal with Liverpool so that’ll be all we’re hearing about tonight. It’s gonna inspire them etc etc. Didn’t Luis Suarez sign a new 5 year contract just before he left and we all know that Nivea Twat Adam Lallana likes that sort of behaviour.
To the teams and Liverpool supplement their dodgy defence with Henderson and Emre Cannot in midfield, with Coutinho, Lallana and Firmino creating for Sturridge up front. Sturridge – great goalscorer, lazy selfish fucker, wanker dance. The news we were all dreading but somehow expecting was that Virgil was out and in came Jack Stephens for his second first team game at centre back. Steve Davis returned to take Hojbjerg’s place in midfield and the rest of the team was as we had against Leicester. Worryingly, our bench contained no centre half with Martina preferred to Gardos. Gulp!
Away we go an it’s all Liverpool possession and calmly knocking it about. We’re quite happy to let the defenders have it and we don’t close them down until it either goes into midfield or out to Milner. He manages to give us the ball three times in the opening couple of minutes. Jack Stephens looks calm in defence for us, winning a couple of headers and generally dealing with anything that comes his way. However, he then attempts to roll a ball back to Fraser and passes it straight out for a corner which thankfully, we clear.
The first shot comes from the Scousers as Bertrand make a rare mistake and gets dispossessed by Lallana and Liverpool eventually tee up Sturridge who shoots from 20 yards but straight at Fraser. Another effort straight afterwards as Firmino takes aim and once more it’s straight at the big man. The kid that Liverpool have at right back is called Trent Alexander-Arnold and he’s proving lively out there but he doesn’t seem to give a lot of thought at what’s behind him if Liverpool lose it.
Right on cue we break out on the left as some nice work by Bertrand and JWP sends Redmond scampering away from the right back and towards the penalty area where he fires it across and Lovren clears awkwardly out to Davis on the edge of the box and his shot is straight enough but blocked. It’s nice to have a shot and it seems to inspire us as we’re soon away on the left again with JWP to Davo to Bertrand and once again it’s Redmond with Arnold trailing in his wake. Redmond drives past Matip who can’t make a challenge and pokes it across to Tadic who must score but he hits it well enough and Karius flies out of the goal and virtually sits on it. Great chance. Shite.
Liverpool haven’t heeded the warning and are still leaving Alexander-Arnold to fend for himself but he’s not helping by over-committing and once more we’re down the left with Romeu putting Redders away again – once more he flies past Matip as if he isn’t there (like he shouldn’t be) and his cross this time comes off a defender and Steve Davis has a chance on his swinger and he swings from 8 yards and smashes it into the Kop. Fuck it again.
The good news is that despite these misses, we have arrived at half time with it at 0-0. 45 minutes to go. To be honest, that was a pretty good half for us with not much danger from Liverpool and Stephens and Yoshida looking excellent at the back. I wonder if all the experts are still saying it’s a formality that Liverpool will win it?
It’s not been a great day for J-Rod so far and he’s spend most of it with his head in his hands as others missed efforts instead of passing to him. He appears to have picked up a knock and Shane Long is on in his place at the start of the second half. The opening five minutes of the half are pretty uneventful with Liverpool doing a good Southampton impression with their sideways passing and no penetration. On 53 minutes, overrated bag of shit Emre Cannot has a pop from about 25 yards and it’s not great but Fraser makes a bollocks of it and it spins behind him and it’s going in but somehow, from being on his arse, Fraser dives backwards towards the goal and slaps the ball away with a big paw and gets it away from the post. Liverpool all appeal and the Kop is going mental but even up here we have goal line technology so fuck off. It’s the worst bollocks followed by one of the best saves ever. It’s absolutely impossible to see how he has kept that out from where he was. Onwards – we’ve all aged about 10 years but onwards.
Heart Attack Time
Shane Long has not contributed much as yet as we are struggling to get the ball forward and retain it for more than a few passes and then he made his mark… on JWP as a ball came in and the two of them went for it and clattered into eachother, causing JWP to pick up a knock and have to go off but Claude (in my opinion) got it spot on by bringing on Hojbjerg to give us a bit more strength in midfield. It’s wasn’t long til our next major scare as a Milner cross sailed over everyone (because he’s shit) but it was returned and Sturridge was 6 yards out with a volley and thankfully, he skied it…. And breathe, again…. For another few minutes when following us coughing up possession, Henderson crosses it in and Sturridge meets it on the volley but no danger because he hasn’t got a right foot and it went sailing over the bar again. This didn’t stop him having a little dive though and a quick look at the ref, probably trying to convince the German bloke in the glasses on the sideline that it was more difficult than it looked.
Pressure and lots of it. We can’t get out at all but Liverpool keep going across and then back across, then someone slings it in and Stephens or Yoshida head it out. Coutinho is always a danger though this is based on previous deeds against us rather than anything he’s done today but there’s a bit of a moment as he works space for a right footed shot from the edge of the box but the man whose new contract is the only one that matters today, fires wide.
Get in the Fuckin' Boards...
Redmond has tired after his excellent performance in the first half and I was fully expecting Sam McQueen to come on and sit in front of Bertrand but on came Josh Sims. Not long after there’s a good moment when Romeu, the man whose new contract barely rates a mention, slides in on Milner, wins the ball and sends the Liverpool man crashing into the boards. Romeu has really come to the party in the second half. He gave the ball away a few times in the first half but now he’s right on it.
It’s a cliché but the minutes really are taking hours – 15….. fucking ages…. 14. Corner to Liverpool, headed out, overhead by Firmino and it hits Long and a big appeal for handball. Fuck offfffff, play on… The German in the glasses is going bright red and jumping up and down. Pipe down Jurgen you knob head. I had to watch about 6 replays before I thought that it might have brushed his upper arm. Jurgen must have fucking good glasses if he can see that clearly. Luckily, Martin Atkinson didn’t agree. 3, 2, 1, 0…. 4 minutes to go. Come on!!!
A ball gets played into our box on the left and Origi is onto it but Stephens is across and pokes it away for a corner with Origi hitting the deck with maximum embellishments. Fucking diving bastard. Stephens and the rest of the Saints players in proximity leave Origi in no doubt about what they thought but it’s a corner which Milner takes and you can always rely on Milner. Shite corner to Romeu at the front post and cleared out to Davis and headed on to Sims and he’s off up the pitch diagonally, racing away from Henderson and Wijnaldum and driving into the Liverpool half where he draws the defender, and slips it to Long. It looks a bit far ahead of him for a second but Shane’s touch is brilliant (in complete contrast to most of his control this season) and bang… across Karius and screaming into the net, right on front of the Saints fans… mental.
You fucking beauty and we are going to Wembley. Have that Lallana – go cry on Jurgen’s shoulder you rat faced nivea twat little shit. They have a minute to score twice to send it to extra time but they’re a busted flush. The defence repels a half hearted ball forward and that’s it. Fuck Yeah!
After the whistle the players line up and go to the fans and everyone’s going nuts and in the middle of the pitch is Claude Puel, calm as fuck, shaking hands and talking to Liverpool players as they walk off. Lallana has already gone, he’s shaken hands with the ref and fucked off as he probably didn't want to be filmed crying. He could have repaired some damage if he’d gone to the Saints fans and clapped. Actually, who am I kidding, he’d have got the verbal kicking of a lifetime. Are we bothered about Dejan anymore? Well it was amusing seeing him looking dazed and confused at the end which is really no different to how he plays these days.
Claude got the game spot on it has to be said. He’s got it wrong a few times this season and I’m not pretending that I’ve ever been completely won over but that was magnificent from him, over both legs and he joins Lawrie McMenemy and Gordon Strachan as managers who have got us to a major final – something not managed by the much higher thought of Pochettino and Koeman. We were set up perfectly and the proof was in how solid we were and how many chances we created over the two games and Claude deserves the success for these two games alone. Liverpool will shit on about missing Mané but we were missing Austin, Boufal and Van Dijk and Fonte as well I guess. I wonder what that was like in the Fonte household. Join West Ham to win trophies but leave the team that’s just reach the final who coincidentally (or not) has improved dramatically since you left. I guess we dealt better with our four absentees than Liverpool dealt with their one.
I’m sure that Claude will say that he is nothing without the players and there were some serious performances out there. Jack Stephens was brilliant and put in a performance that no one thought he had in him. Next to him, Maya Yoshida put in a performance which has started to become the norm. Six months ago, if one of Fonte or Virgil was injured there would be a huge panic amongst the fans that Yoshida was playing but maybe that’s changing. It should be. Cedric and Bertrand were superb in defence and attack and the midfielders, all four who played were like machines, not giving Liverpool a second with the ball in dangerous areas and breaking intelligently. Where have all the Redmond haters gone? He, like JWP will be pushing for the England squad pretty soon and then there was Shane. Bloody hell he’s been crap this season but that was perfect. Sometimes you look at him and know he could play all night and not score. Tonight though… as soon as the first touch was good, he was never going to miss.
There were 14 heroes out on the pitch today with every one of them putting in a performance. Fucking brilliant. Can’t say more than that. As for Liverpool – well Klopp used his post—match interview to veer between congratulations to Saints, moaning about his strikers and mainly slating the referee for not getting a penalty for the perceived handball against Shane Long. If that’s all you’re going to go on about after 180 minutes of football when you’ve been 2nd best and haven’t really looked like scoring then you’re really struggling mate. Maybe he’s a one-trick pony manager whose teams can only play one way? There’s really no competition if you’re looking at who was the best manager over the two games.
Is it sweeter because it’s Liverpool and all the players they’ve signed off us? Of course it fucking is. With Mané at the AFCON and Clyne injured, it was down to Lallana and Lovren to carry the can for the Liverpool FC media department and their pre-first leg ‘rub our faces in it’ graphic. Lallana was very peripheral to say the least and Lovren looked like what he is, an accident waiting to happen. Even back in harness with Matip he looked all over the place. Maybe his head was somewhere else. I was spewing when he left and thought he was a great player but in truth, we dodged a bullet there.
So, Liverpool…. you lost home and away to your ‘feeder’ club. You lost home and away to the team that Steven Gerrard sees fit to comment about in terms of signing more of their players. You lost home and away to the team who sign a player and then your fans shit all over the official announcements on social media with oh-so-funny ‘Welcome to Liverpool’ or ‘see you in a year’ comments. Fuck off and fuck you. We’re going to Wembley and you are not. Sky haven’t got their dream final but what they don’t get is that it’ll be a better game now because Liverpool aren’t in it.
So the next round – is the final. Get in. I was there in 1979 for our only previous League Cup Final in what was my second trip to Wembley after the Charity Shield in 1976. We lost to Nottingham Forest 3-2 and it was a great game but as a 10 year old, it was hard to be consoled by that because we lost. This time we will be playing Mourinho’s Manchester United after they made heavy weather of getting through against Hull. It was always going to be them and it will be massively difficult but it’s rare to get to a final and play someone easy. Hopefully they’ll think it will be easy and we’ll want it more. We definitely wanted it more than Liverpool.
Next up, Arsenal, FA Cup 4th Round. It’s a free hit as far as I’m concerned.