In the preview yesterday, I mentioned that the game will boil down to individual moments of magic or mistakes. What I didn’t think of was the 12th man. How very stupid of me!
Arshavin, as expected, provided the sublime. There was a time when I used to wonder how God created the universe out of nothing. The little Russian demonstrates how. There were so many times when he got it wrong, a dribble that fizzled, or a pass that went astray. But we knew the masterpiece was coming when Dean failed to award the penalty. How could he have generated so much power? Surely, he must have seen the referees backside reflected in the ball.
Almunia, somewhat sadly and unexpectedly, provided the ridiculous. Well, Rooney dived and I will write about it in detail later, but Almunia was plain stupid to leave his arms out. If he had been watching the ball till the last moment he would have realized that Rooney had over committed and was going to fall anyway without getting control of the ball. Almunia later realized the mistake as was evident from his gesture.
Diaby, of course, will plead not guilty by temporary insanity. There can be no other reason. Unless the referee told him to score an own goal if he didn’t want three of his colleagues sent off. Diaby must have thought that if we got three guys sent off we would most likely lose. On the other hand, even if he scored an own goal we would perhaps have a fighting chance with 11 men on the field. He also saved three of his team mates from getting a minimum of three match bans then. Pretty smart thinking on his part and certainly no insanity there. In which case, his defence would perhaps be, not guilty by coercion. I had temporary insanity while writing that paragraph, but having come to my senses, offer my complete support to lanky Frenchman.
Ultimately, we created the magic, we made the mistake and we had a moment of madness. The only thing we didn’t have were the points. If I try to be objective, I am not sure we dominated the game. I don’t think anyone dominated the game. It was a crowded midfield and there were hardly any clear chances for both sides. Diaby tried hard but couldn’t generate much in the final third. Song and Denilson are perhaps as creative as Carrick and Fletcher. So we didn’t expect much there anyway. To top it off, most of our set pieces had poor delivery. Apart from AA there wasn’t any real spark in the game. Sparks flew though. However, they were contrived and of the diving variety. Real Spark? Wasn’t any.
That brings me crashing down to the Wayne Rooney master class. The word cunning comes to mind. If you have to dive, you have learn to dive in a manner that makes the whole world fall for it. The head master showed, in a live project, how it’s done. Firstly, you have to know that the goal keeper is coming for it. If you don’t have that kind of intelligence, it’s not a game for you. Once you see the goalkeeper coming you have to switch your mind back to the warm ups. Remember how you stretch your legs. Once you have accomplished these, the trick is in the timing. You have to practice your stretch and kick the ball away. Thankfully, you can kick it anywhere. It doesn’t matter. Then you make sure you linger in the same position enough, so that the keeper comes very close to you. If you are lucky, he will be a fool and crash into you. See ridiculous above. If not, you lean into him and fall. This last part is the most difficult and would need special training from Steven Gerrard or Rafa Benitez. If you work on your leap and facial expressions also, there is no ref in the world who won’t point to the spot. So there it is, the Wayne Rooney master class to a guaranteed penalty.