The Treble - Lucky Liverpool?
By Colin McCabe
From Issue 52, Summer 2001
With the score 0-0, Nick Barmby is clearly taken
out on the edge of the Arsenal box. Inside or
outside? Doesn't matter, Graham Poll hasn't given
anything at all.
Arsenal score the first goal from a corner that
should have been a goal kick.
Graham Poll makes a mockery of the contest by
sending off Gary McAllister for one poorly timed
challenge - then sends Hamann off just as we're
getting back into the game. His red card is later
rescinded, so that's okay, then.
Diomede's overhead kick against Sunderland goes
over the line before Sorensen saves it, but the
linesman doesn't give the goal. To paraphrase
David O'Leary, "dat cost us second place,
Despite an entire afternoon's worth of niggling
and kicking and dissent, Sunderland's Kevin Phillips
is allowed to remain on the pitch.
Nick Barmby hits the post against Rapid Bucharest,
with the score still 0-0.
Dennis Wise fouls Westerveld at a corner, but
the ensuing 'own goal' is allowed to stand.
Heskey is sent off against Chelsea for butting
Winston Bogarde's elbow. Desaillay gives the most
shameful, posturing refereeing performance of
the season (and it's like he didn't have competition),
but escapes without censure. Jody Morris is a
psychopath, but stays on the field.
At 2-0 and cruising, a Ziege clearance hits Bowyer
on the arse and rebounds straight into the path
of an unmarked, but delighted, Mark Viduka. Lee
Bowyer commits enough fouls for a red card but
stays on. Ziege is off the pitch when the third
goes in, and Berger twists his knee forcing a
five month layoff. Chance after chance goes begging
for us, but Viduka puts his four away. It is clearly
Liberec's defence is allowed to kick Emile Heskey
here, there and everywhere with no punishment
Spurs players are offside in the build-up to
their winning goal but it is allowed to stand.
A blatant penalty is turned down when we're 1-0
up. Rebrov commits a shocking 'tackle' on Danny
Murphy but isn't even spoken to.
In Greece, Liverpool hit the post and bar, then
miss at least three sitters. Olympiakos have just
two shots on goal - and score with both. The most
one-sided 2-2 draw there has ever been.
Liverpool force chance after chance against Newcastle,
who win 2-1 with their only scoring opportunities
of the game.
Ipswich score with their one real opportunity
at Anfield, and win 1-0. Danny Murphy hits the
bar with a free kick.
With extra time looming, four days before a daunting
visit to Old Trafford, Murphy hits the post against
Fulham. When will he ever get one on target?
Michael Owen hits the bar at Old Trafford, with
the whole goal gaping.
Dennis Bergkamp kicks Jamie Carragher in the back
head, but the referee fails to spot it.
With three players in an offside position, Westerveld's
fumble falls right to Karembeau's feet to put
Middlesbrough into the lead in a game where they
were getting battered and had ten men back in
defence on their own patch.
Southampton equalise from a corner that was quite
clearly a goal kick.
Biscan's shot is blocked by a hand at 1-1 at
home to Southampton. Match of the Day pundit Mick
McCarthy describes the incident as "ball
to hand" and not a penalty.
Igor Biscan is sent off for two completely innocuous
fouls against Rotherham.
Liverpool give a shocking display of attacking
football at Crystal Palace, wasting chance after
chance, while the home side score twice with their
only clear-cut chances of the game.
Owen continues to spurn chances, missing at least
three he would normally bury against Middlesbrough
Lee Bowyer assaults Gary McAllister and draws
blood. Because of his imminent court cause for,
erm, assault, Bowyer is allowed to remain on the
field. David O'Leary saw nothing wrong with it,
and the BBC's Barry Davies accuses Gary Mac of
playacting - which doesn't explain why Andy D'Urso
later asks Macca to leave the field to wipe off
the blood. Bowyer later claims it wasn't him,
he was at a lap dancing club at the time to "catch
a glimpse of der luvverly laydeez".
The Manchester City goal leads a totally charmed
life at Maine Road, as once again Liverpool fail
to take advantage of their dominance.
Don Hutchison commits his second bookable offence
by leaping into the crowd after his goal. Graham
Barber decides to 'talk' to him about it after
the game. Doesn't talk to him about it when he
is being manhandled by Don (oo er) after the lucky
lucky lucky penalty award for Liverpool.
Varga commits bad tackles on Heskey (who limps
off) and Fowler, then commits a blatant professional
foul on McAllister. He's done enough for TWO red
cards, but is still out there at the final whistle.
Fowler's late winning goal at Sunderland is clearly
onside, but it's disallowed anyway.
Nicky Weaver gives away two penalties with ludicrous
dives at Vladimir Smicer's feet. Curiously, he
is booked for one and not the other.
Roma in dirtiest performance at Anfield for years,
with weak referee turning a blind eye to almost
everything. Shows a player the yellow card twice
- but the player stays on!
Birmingham's captain stays on pitch after a blatant
professional foul takes Gerrard out. The linesman
gives Stevie offside (despite him being four yards
Birmingham defender Johnson clearly handles in
half, denying Reds a pen and a two-goal lead late
After numerous wasted Liverpool chances, Birmingham
equalise with a penalty 3 minutes into non-existent
injury time. Hamann hits the post with minutes
of extra time left at Cardiff.
England play Liverpool players for the full 90
minutes in a friendly. United's players are rested.
Coincidentally, Steve McClaren is an England coach
on the night. More coincidentally, Peter Taylor
is also an England coach on the night. Even more
coincidentally, Liverpool's next game is away
to Leicester, who are managed by er Peter Taylor.
At 0-1, Leicester's Matt Elliott clears off the
line. Liverpool, attacking all out, get caught
from the rebound and Leicester go up and make
it 2-0 seconds later.
A completely flukey deflection off Markus Babbel
gives Tranmere a lifeline in the FA Cup quarter
At 1-0, Gary Neville's second most blatant handball
of the season goes unpunished, denying Liverpool
a clear penalty.
Graham Poll decides, at 2-0 and cruising, that
we are not allowed to make Man U look so wretched
and sends Danny Murphy off. Even then, Heskey
hits the post late on.
The FA insist that Liverpool play fellow CL place
chasers Ipswich two days after the FA Cup semi
final, making it part of a schedule that reads
Barca Wycombe Ipswich Leeds Everton Barca and
Spurs - 7 games in 17 days.
An Owen effort is cleared off the line in the
first five minutes against Wycombe. At 2-0 and
cruising, a lucky bounce to an offside player
brings all of Wycombe (the WI and the Am Dram
Society must have been empty that day) into delirium
Gerrard scores against Leeds to bring us right
back into it, so the referee decides to send him
off after Batty feigns a bad injury. Even Leeds
players know the decision is a farce and protest,
but Gerrard walks anyway. End of comeback, Leeds
stroll to three vital points.
Fowler hits the post with a penalty against Everton.
A goal then would have made it 3-1 and an almost
certain hammering for The Slightly Less Than Quiet
Unsworth feigns serious injury and Biscan is
sent off with 30 minutes of the derby still to
Jeff Winter gives a ludicrous penalty against
ten-man Liverpool to make the derby 2-2, but ignores
the more blatant trip on Vignal late on.
Liverpool's 'second' goal against Spurs is disallowed
thanks to a dubious offside. Spurs go straight
up the other end and equalise, despite an offside
during the build-up. Steven Gerrard hits the bar.
Paul Williams deliberately handles a goal-bound
Owen shot. The Coventry defender clutches his
face and sneaks a peak at the referee to see if
this subterfuge has worked. It has. No penalty,
no red card. Still 0-0 with 8 minutes to go.
Astudillo and Karmona of Alaves commit fouls
that could have broken the necks, never mind the
legs, of Heskey and Owen respectively. Far worse
than anything McAllister did at Highbury. Minutes
after being booked, the ageing Karmona takes out
Smicer in the first half of extra time when the
Czech has beaten him all ends up but the referee
allows him to stay on the pitch. Gary Mac was
booked for the heinous crime of pointing out to
Astudillo that his challenge wasn't one of the
COLIN McCABE (not the least bit bitter)
It certainly became laughable, once the Reds
started to get closer and closer to the Treble,
how the "lucky" accusations got stronger
and stronger. Without being typically Scouse and
"chip on shoulder" about it, I do feel
other things come into play here.
There is a weird psychology among football fans
that automatically assumes a successful team never
has any BAD luck. Well, I reckon Colin and I have
debunked that particular theory! The Boy Wonder
said something in issue 50 about Winners making
History and Losers making excuses. Damn right.
In games where we've suffered from poor refereeing
decisions and we've still won, it is the opposition
manager who has gone into the press room and whined
about this penalty or that handball. We won the
game - why do we need to say anything? Hence the
press are only hearing one side of the argument
all the time.
David O'Leary is already a master at this. When
we won the cup tie, there was no mention of Bowyer
- except to say that he thought there should have
been a penalty given when Handyfists plummeted
in our box when it was 1-0. By the end of the
season, he was moaning about a linesman's decision
in February that cost Leeds two points. Jesus
wept! Couldn't we say the same about Viduka's
offside fourth goal? Or any amount of the decisions
listed above? Yes - except we don't have to. We
got third place, and it is Leeds that have to
find the excuses to pretend they are the better
It is fairly outrageous what comes under the
heading of luck where Liverpool are concerned.
The opposition's poor finishing or our good defending
(especially Sami at Cardiff), whatever it was,
we were lucky! That did make me think we were
being targeted a little bit. For the most part
though, it is simply that the best teams can overcome
bad luck and through skill or strength of character
(or both) still win the game. When they get some
good luck, they are capable of ramming that advantage
There is a wonderful irony to all this. The hoary
old cliché "luck evens itself out
over a season" can only be proved or disproved
by the people who see a team on a regular basis
throughout the season. And, apart from local journalists
like Chris Bascombe, the only people who can come
up with the answer to that one are
fans! Therefore I am taking it upon myself to
represent all Reds by saying to the great British
public "in my humble and unbiased opinion,
Liverpool Football Club were not the least bit
lucky in season 2000/2001, the year of our glorious
and not-lucky-in-the-slightest Treble".
I hope that ends the arguments once and for all