Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “The boys are feeling flat in there. They thought they had won it. But I’m proud of them tonight. This was the best performance I’ve seen from us in a long time. And we can still say we are four games unbeaten now, including against Milan. We are struggling to put teams to bed, but they (Milan) have some excellent players. If you switch off, they punish you. We can work on picking teams up from set plays but it was a fantastic free-kick. But I was very entertained by my players tonight. We’ve given ourselves a chance but we will still have to get over this. The boys are really upset they didn’t hang on to win.” â€“ Tony Adams.
Runner-up: “My priority is to win the Premier League. We believe we are good enough to challenge. Everyone wants it so badly. I want it because I’ve never won it. I don’t want to finish my career without one. I don’t want to finish my career and people look at me as a failure. Getting involved in the title race and staying involved in it is a completely different challenge to what we are used to at Liverpool. To finish in the top four you can have a defeat and it does not hit you too bad. Two successive defeats in the title race and it could be over. But we are in there and everybody wants to make sure that’s the case at the end of the season. I’m coming up to 10 years and it doesn’t feel like that. It’s flown. I’m sure the next five or six will be exactly the same, that’s why I have to make the most of every minute I’ve got.” â€“ Steven Gerrard.
Today’s overview: On the Portsmouth-Milan match, Kevin McCarra praises Pompey: “This night will still go down in Portsmouth legend and when the tale is told there should be glowing pride to accompany the rueful looks. The team, after all, not only led until stoppage time in this Uefa Cup group fixture but deserved to do so. It was, indeed, their achievement to provoke Milan into the fine play with which they redeemed themselves after being 2-0 down.”
Glenn Moore added to the same theme in The Independent. “It is a measure of how far Portsmouth have come that there were tears in the old port when they could only draw with seven-times European Cup-winners Milan at Fratton Park last night.” Nick Szczepanik isn’t quite so charitable in The Times: “Portsmouth had paid a heavy price for failing to heed a number of warnings from Inzaghi, who had already put three efforts against the woodwork, and it was only a question of whether the final whistle or a goal for the striker would come first.”
Oliver Kay celebrates Steven Gerrard’s 10 years at Liverpool in The Times. “In his first five-and-a-half seasons, spanning the Houllier era, Gerrard scored 28 goals. In the past four-and-a-half years, under BenÃtez, he has scored 76. That is not necessarily to say that BenÃtez has made him a better player, merely a different one. Gerrard would have been world class at whatever he was asked to be, even at right back had that been his fate.”
Also in The Times, Tony Evans claims the Liverpool captain is “waiting for unconditional love.” “It’s sad that, as in so many relationships, some Liverpool fans won’t truly appreciate Gerrard until he’s gone. He may have to wait for unconditional love until he’s retired. But, after a decade, it’s clear: we were meant for each other. Steven Gerrard is one of the best things that ever happened to Liverpool. So let’s grow old together.”
Ian Wright analyses the Liverpool title challenge in The Sun. “If Liverpool donâ€™t do it this term, it could be a very long time before they get another chance this good. Elsewhere, not everything is quite so settled.” Presumably Wright was not aware of the latest reports signalling that Fernando Torres faces another lay-off.
Ahead of his return to Stamford Bridge, William Gallas turns his attention to Chelsea and as always is a bitter fool. He tells Simon Cass in thew Daily Mail: “Chelsea said, for their part, that they wanted to keep me and their offer was still open. No one knows how laughable their offer was and what I deserved.” This is the lead story in The Sun as Gallas accuses Chelsea of being “liars.”
Whilst prior to the Manchester derby, Sir Alex Ferguson has stuck the boot in to United’s local rivals. “When questioned about the growing ‘threat’ of City, Ferguson could barely keep a straight face. ‘Excuse me, where are they at the moment?’ he asked rhetorically, knowing that they lie eleventh in the Barclays Premier League, three points clear of the relegation zone. ‘At this moment in time, our threats are still Chelsea and Liverpool, who are sitting above us.'”
Matt Lawton in the Daily Mail rallies against the “boring” Champions League. “With one round of group matches to go, 13 of the 16 qualifying places have already been secured. Why? Because UEFAâ€™s president has diluted the Champions League to such an extent that serious competition no longer exists.” Also on the fallout of the Champions League, Roddy Forsyth urges football fans to “Laugh at Celtic, but don’t criticise Scottish football.”
With Frank Arnesen seemingly on his way out of Stamford Bridge, Sam Wallace looks at a “trail of broken hearts.” “After Arnesen departs, he will have to hope that at least one of his young charges gives his legacy some sort of value. Otherwise it will have cost Abramovich a lot of money and the breaking of a few teenage hearts.” Ivan Speck in the Daily Mail travels to an FA Youth Cup match between Manchester United and Chelsea to work out how many of these kids will make it.
Finally, The Guardian has three features worth a butchers. Ahead of the FA Cup this weekend, Benjie Goodhart profiles Leeds’ opponents in the FA Cup this weekend: Histon FC. The “Big Interview” in the Guardian is with Viv Anderson, who thirty years ago tomorrow became the first black player to represent England. And Scott Murray recalls the forgotten story of the 1985/1986 season: “One thing is clear, though: this was the year Liverpool, Everton, West Ham, Manchester United and Chelsea gave top-flight English football the shot in the arm it so desperately needed.”