...and here's the other half of Magic Spongers Adam Bushby
Liverpool 1 v 0 Chelsea: Champions League semi final 2nd leg, May 2005
Mine is a tale of heroes and villains. I’m looking at YOU Ľuboš Micheľ with your stupid squiggly bits on the letters of your name. “Why do you mock this poor man so savagely?” I hear you all ask. I’ll tell you, I sneer, in a really smarmy kind of way. Ľuboš Micheľ is a former professional referee. Ľuboš Micheľ was in fact ranked the world’s second best referee in 2006. Ľuboš Micheľ was the man in charge of the second leg of Liverpool v Chelsea and ruined it for everyone by not sending off Petr Cech in the fourth minute of the match and consequently awarding Liverpool a penalty, which, I think I’m correct in saying, Steven Gerrard would have placed to the left of substitute goalkeeper Carlos Cudicini and thus provide the catalyst for the largest win the Champions League semi-final stage had ever seen. Bear with me.
We all remember Istanbul. I remember going nuts in the Footage pub, Manchester, while my girlfriend at the time had a panic attack, we all got covered in beer, and bizarrely, I was struck on the head by an orange chucked (I presume by a covert United fan) from the balcony. A truly wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime experience was had that night. Let me explain at this juncture that I’m partisan because Liverpool are ever so slightly my second favourite team, edged out by the briefest of margins by my hometown side, York City.
However, it isn’t one night in Istanbul I wish to reflect upon but the tie that took place one round previous. To this day, no amount of partisanship on my behalf can cloud the still perfectly reasonable amounts of righteous fury that course through my veins when anyone mentions the so-called ‘ghost goal’ that Luis Garcia scored that beautiful Tuesday night in May. I’ll be honest here. Garcia’s shot didn’t cross the line. Gallas clears it before 100% of the ball is over and it shouldn’t have been given. WAIT, I HAVEN’T FINISHED YET. BUT… watch the video, I implore you. Cech wipes out Milan Baros. He is the last man. It is a red card and a penalty. And it was the villain of the piece, one Ľuboš Micheľ, that prevented you, dear reader, from seeing an absolute whitewash that night at Anfield.
“Where’s the evidence?” I can hear one of you shout as you wonder why you even bothered to read this piece in the first place and probably remark to one of your mates sat next to you “Magic Spongers really isn’t as good as it used to be.” Well, my friends, the proof is in the pudding. In about the 12th minute Didi Hamann hits a speculative long ranger (see 1:00 here). As you can see, Cech deals with it comfortably. But would Cudicini? Of course not. He lets it through his hands and its 2-0 Liverpool. The Kop goes apeshit. “Hamann with a tackle that TURNS INTO A GOAL,” screams Clive Tyldesley.
Now, sticking with that video, look at the magnificent Djimi Traore tackle on 1:41. In reality (ie what actually happened), the ball goes straight to John Terry who bravely passes it forward. But, and it’s a big but, what would have ACTUALLY happened if Ľuboš Micheľ had done his job properly was that Chelsea, already stretched due to their lesser numbers, had over-stretched themselves like a huge collective groin strain. The Traore tackle runs past Terry and Baros is onto it like a flash. Three touches later and it ends up in the Chelsea net. 3-0 Liverpool and they are coasting.
We see Eider Gudjohnsen receive the ball about 40 yards out on 2:06 when of course, in the alternate reality, THE REALITY THAT SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED BUT DIDN’T DUE TO A LAPSE IN CONCENTRATION/BOTTLE BY A CERTAIN LUBOS MICHEL (NO I DON’T KNOW HOW TO DO THE SQUIGGLY BITS IN CAPITALS), Gudjohnsen NEVER received the ball here. That last Chelsea move never happened. What actually happened was that Gerrard made one of his trademark lung-busting runs through the Chelsea defence and then hit a stunning thunderbolt of a shot from the edge of the box, beating Cudicini with ease. Sensational stuff and Liverpool are 4-0 up.
In some bizarre quirk though, the Lampard freekick DID still occur (on 2:15) but the result was very different. Jerzy Dudek (a man who actually deserves squiggly bits on his name, Ľuboš Micheľ) still makes a fine save but this time keeps the ball in play. The ball breaks to Igor Biscan who, spotting Cudicini miles from line, attempts an audacious chip from 80 yards. The result is one of the finest goals ever scored at Anfield. Ever scored in the Champions League and ever scored EVER. An 80-yard goal for fuck’s sake. By Igor Biscan. But you never saw it because of one silly boy. Ľuboš Micheľ.
On 2:50 we would have seen Djibril Cisse score a wonderful overhead kick that exploded off his foot and left Cudicini rooted to the spot rather than the tame and frankly quite shite header we actually saw. 5-0. After Tyldesley nearly shits himself when six, SIX added minutes are announced, Ciise adds a sixth and Anfield is in raptures. At 3:28 we see Cech make a fairly routine save but as we now know due to me telling you, Cudicini has had an absolute mare and he spills it for the Frenchman to smash in. “Is there still time for another, a record breaking seventh?” Andy Townsend never actually asks incredulously because of the behaviour of Ľuboš Micheľ.
Fast forward to 4:35. Carlos Cudicini runs out of his box and attempts to leather it, frustrated and embarrassed at the thrashing his side have received and knowing there are mere seconds left. But he misjudges it. Having sliced the ball with the outside of his right foot, the backspin produced is sufficient to send it flying far, far over his head and into the unguarded net. The most ridiculous own goal you are likely to see. And an own goal that will never grace one of those hilarious own goals and gaffes DVDs thanks to Ľuboš Micheľ.
“But you’re a Liverpool fan. You won. Why do you even care?” someone calls out at the back. I care because I am a massive stickler for the rules. I care because I don’t like listening to arseholes who tell me it was never a goal and Chelsea would have gone on to win. I mean, think about it. Every Chelsea sub would not have been possible for crying out loud. Every corner would never have happened. Or may have. That’s the head fuck. The half time team talks would have been vastly different. As it is I still have to listen to Chelsea fans preach to me how it was never a goal and that it would have been so different if it had never been given. I agree wholeheartedly with that of course but for very different reasons. Saved a 7-0 spanking you’d think they’d be grateful for losing by just the one!
After the event Ľuboš Micheľ said “I believe Chelsea would have preferred the goal to count rather than face a penalty with just ten men for the rest of the game. If my assistant referee had not signaled a goal, I would have given a penalty and sent off goalkeeper Petr Čech.”
WELL YOU SHOULD HAVE MATE. YOU SHOULD HAVE. LIVERPOOL WOULD HAVE WON 7-0 AND I’D HAVE NEVER HAD TO WRITE THIS ARTICLE. OR MAYBE I WOULD HAVE AND WOULD HAVE WRITTEN ABOUT AN ACTUAL 7-0 WIN THAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED.