Liverpool Tottenham. An upcoming Champions League final full of pulsating promise.
Both teams turned their semis implausibly around from three-nil down.
The pair showed giant reserves of character and defiantly stuck to their attacking – never give up – mentality.
Attack being the best form of defence for each philosophy, although they are trying to shore up at the back more now too.
What was interesting about both ultimately successful second-legs, was that, through enforced changes through injury, they both irreparably disrupted their opponents.
Spurs threw on a bumbling centre forward who created enough distraction for his colleagues to flourish in newly neglected Ajax space. Liverpool had to switch in a fresh midfield presence who skipped and brushed his way to a quickfire brace.
As with most (if not all) game-changing substitutions, the inability of the other side to handle or react themselves to the different situation they find themselves in causes fatal mayhem.
Many a bid can try this. The spectre of project creep, the closer horizon of future-proofing now enabled, the act-or-it’ll-never-happen looming disaster close.
What I liked particularly about the Barcelona-beating tactics of Liverpool, was the attention to detail of the supporting cast.
The fourth and crucial winning goal was a thing of training ground beauty made real. It came from a quickly taken corner. Like a welcome mirror to the swiss cheese theory of plane crashes, five elements combined to allow it;
The backroom staff made a video presentation to the ballboys beforehand. Yes, a group of 14-year olds were shown ways they could speed up their return of the ball back into play. The analysts had sensed they were missing a trick being the ‘slow’ pace at which they normally did so. Then, in that fateful 79th minute, the lad behind the goal-line duly rushed to hand the ball back to the corner taker.
Taking set-pieces quickly was to be a team instruction too. The video team had also identified that the Barca players like to moan and complain at every single decision that went against them. The toxin of a Suarez easily infecting an entire club and seeping from wrongly accepted evils perpetuated by the likes of Real’s Ramos elsewhere. Whilst distracted trying to influence the referee on forthcoming decisions, they were slow to set up for any re-start. A quick ball could slay them. Serves them right.
When it came to the key corner itself, the young yet incredibly mature right-back had the ball in the quadrant swiftly, courtesy of his ballboy help. But then motioned to walk away as if leaving it to another player to take. Whilst laying his feint, he realised the Barca defenders were totally asleep. Neither looking ballwards nor hurrying to fill their allotted defensive positions. So he jumped back and fired a low ball toward the near edge of the six-yard box.
It’s one thing for the defenders to be off-guard, but many a Liverpool attacker was too. Except for one. The understudy striker was alert to the possibility. He swivelled and struck.
The final piece was his finish. So easy to miss. The ball in was at pace, and slightly bobbling. Then there was still the imposing keeper to beat from just a few yards away. Yet his strike had precision, was raised to beat any flailing leg and kept down enough to bulge the net.
Quite a lot to unpack.
Yet those against us can have their daydream moments. Eye off our ball. Standing in the wrong place. We needn’t wait for them to get awake. And we too must be ready to pounce.