IImagine, for a moment, that you are the goalpost at the east end of Wembley. Last summer, you saw Marcus Rashford, at the climax of that sulphurous night of Julyhe took a straight run, stuttered and then, as Gianluigi Donnarumma dropped to his left, dragged his penalty to his right.
You like the young man, his obvious decency, his stance on various social issues, and you are an English goalkeeper after all. You wanted me to score. You tried to just stretch a bit more, to widen your stance, but your feet were rooted and the ball shot off the base of your post and went away. If only he had hit him three more inches in the middle you probably could have helped him, and if you had, England would probably be European champions and Rashford might not have had such a miserable season; Manchester United might not feel like such a faded force in desperate need of reconstitution.
On Saturday, César Azpilicueta’s penalty grazed the outside of your left post and went wide, and immediately Thiago Alcântara’s shot touched the inside of your right post and went in. have been different and the saving of Édouard Mendy by Sadio Mané -the great psychodrama between international colleagues, which Jürgen Klopp acknowledged that he had unnecessarily complicated telling Mané not to go with his usual approach – would have won the final for Chelsea.
And if that had happened, how different the aftermath would have felt, how different the emotions on Sunday morning. What sense must this goal framework of the arbitrariness of human destiny have, how life can teeter on a razor’s edge before taking a decisive step in one direction or another.
Yes chelsea had won, now we would be talking about a spirit born of adversity, although an adversity characteristic of the time of high decline in football, the oligarchic financing crisis is extinguished when the invasion of a sovereign state on the other side of the continent finally persuades people that gleefully lapping up cash from this highly litigious associate of a brutal authoritarian leader might not be all right.
(And as the Cup celebrated its 150th birthday with a bizarre start time, boos from Abide With Me and a DJ obstructing the view from part of the press box, one wonders what Charles W Alcock, the Sunderland-born old man) . Harrovian, whose idea it was, could have made it all up: “Look, Charles, there’s some very good news: your competition will still be going in 2022. But I have to warn you, it’s moved around a bit, not really a laugh for public schoolboys.” , plus a theater for the soft power game between the petro-states and US capital”).
There may be some grumbling about another poor showing from Romelu Lukaku and the strange scarcity of strikes meant by a 14-minute cameo as Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s emergency centre-forward: how bad must he be on penalties that he had to be taken off? And how bad must Ross Barkley, who Thomas Tuchel said he was hired by Loftus-Cheek because of his penalty history, have to be now in the open game that he couldn’t take any chances for 14 minutes?
But there would have been a sense that the storm had passed, that the foundations remained for the consortium led by Todd Boehly build on.
And to Liverpool there would have been a lingering feeling that this season, which could still be the best enjoyed by any club in terms of trophies won, could end up like a typical Don Revie season at Leeds in the late 1960s and early 1970s – induced tiredness. close misses, great memories and not much in the trophy case.
Klopp acknowledged that winning the league seems unlikely now. And with doubts over injuries to Fabinho, Virgil van Dijk and Mohamed Salah, the build-up to the Champions League final could only have been pessimistic.
Just one League Cup? After playing every possible game this season, after keeping the possibility of a Quadruple alive longer than any team before? As great an achievement as it was to have come so close, it would have been an extreme disappointment.
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Liverpool were inches from defeat, and yet the truth is that the final has never felt so close. Liverpool may have drawn four times with Chelsea this season, but they are obviously a better team. Part of that is due to Klopp, his charisma, his organizational skills and the belief he instills. But he also credited neuro11, a German neuroscience company that has been working with Liverpool for more than a year, for the success of penalties: the team’s record of 17 scored from 18 shootout attempts this season suggests he’s right. in doing so.
That is the other face of Klopp. His personality tends to get most of the attention, but he is also extremely receptive to specialists who can offer a competitive advantage, from neuroscientists to data analysts for serve coaches. That’s one of the reasons why Liverpool haven’t made a bad signing since Christian Benteke in 2015. Mentality and exciting football have an advanced scientific basis.
The goal frame, with its knowledge of angles, can understand how contingent everything is, how dependent the results of fractional movement of a piece of leather can be. But behind all that there is a great science that helps to adjust those margins. Preparation plus luck equals destiny.