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 His red card is later rescinded, so that’s okay, then.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, dat did”.

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 offside.

Liberec’s defence is allowed to kick Emile Heskey here, there and everywhere with no punishment whatsoever.

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 of the 
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 at Anfield.

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 on)

Birmingham defender Johnson clearly handles in second 
half, denying Reds a pen and a two-goal lead late on.

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 final.

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 Men.

Unsworth feigns serious injury and Biscan is sent off with 30 minutes of the derby still to play.

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 best.

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 team.

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 home.

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………Liverpool 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…………