THERE is something horrendous about going out like that. Stilettos and broken bottles all over the shop.
Let’s get it out of the way: The goalkeeper’s error is dreadful, it changes the game and costs Liverpool the tie.
He’s not a bad person, is a good second-choice keeper and has played his part this season. And he isn’t an idiot. However angry you are at him, he will be as angry in himself. He’ll be livid that this has happened and will be cut up about it.
You can’t avoid the fact that this game is entirely defined by his error. It’s an AD/BC moment. The world before and after are different places. It means that Liverpool have essentially lost Champions League ties in the last three seasons in a manner where poor goalkeeping is paramount. Loris Karius has company.
It’s a massive shame because prior to the error Liverpool are marvellous. Their only weakness is their final third decision making, and even that is broadly speaking alright.
Repeatedly Jan Oblak rides his luck, saving well but parrying into company. While the Roberto Firmino goal comes back off the post, it felt long overdue something dropped to a Liverpool player for them to tap home.
Sadio Mane attempts a couple of mad overhead kicks, the first of which he could bring over and swivel, Rush-like, and turn home. Andy Robertson hits the bar; he should probably nod home. But Liverpool keep their patience, their heads and marry relentlessness with calm. They allow it to take 120 minutes and the Firmino goal vindicates that decision.
It’s Firmino I feel for the most. He does the decent thing at Anfield after so, so long. And then he is outdone, subbed and shot. Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Cometh it getting taken away.
In truth, this is a piece of writing that was going to speak of many heroes.
Eulogising about Virgil van Dijk and Jordan Henderson. Loads of chat about leadership and dynamism and tempo. Loads of brilliance from Mo Salah, yet again being played against with his own rules. Loads of chat about Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain breaking past, probing and searching. Something about Gini Wijnaldum scoring massive goals, yet again grabbing a game.
But we can’t. We can’t feel that, feel that moment. Atletico Madrid crabbed their way through, the crustaceans that they are. I’m fine with it, I’ve watched it and lived it. I have been in their shoes. There isn’t a moral position here. There is winning and losing. Goals are scored because of one player doing something brilliant, two something very good or a mistake. They hung on and got the mistake.
Liverpool are dreadful straight after and the second Atletico goal drives you mad. They needed to get to 105 but had absolutely deflated. Collapsed. It happens but it hurts to happen here and now. On this night with everything in the air.
The uncertainty about in every sense. I wanted The Reds to set me free from all the concerns. They did that and it then came crashing down around. Spinning around in circles. I wanted bright tomorrows. I wanted our adventure to continue on together.
I was thinking of you, of us, of our lives and our journey. It isn’t good that matters have concluded here because of one mistake. But it had to stop somewhere. You can’t progress in Europe forever, though Liverpool gave it a pretty good go.
A season without a European final. But with a league title. A league title! They are all our boys. It’s the reality of the never walking alone thing. You have to live it. They are all our boys and are all our heroes. One mistake doesn’t change that.
They are the Champions Of Earth. Of Europe. And very soon of England.
Up The Reds.