Cup of Coffee

Cup of Coffee

Liverpool v Wolves

29TH of December, 2019

I was coffeed-out.

There is only so much you can drink. I had half an hour to kill before going to Davie’s for the match.

The closest place for a hot drink was Sainsbury’s. It was still open and I got a hot chocolate and plonked myself down, the only person in the café. Flipped the Mirror crossword open and tried to do it. No chance. It was just one of those days where I had now failed to get going in all three of them. Or was it that my mind was being distracted by Liverpool – that was my excuse anyway!

The sweet drink went down a treat – I can recommend it.

I contemplated navigating into a proper car-parking slot – you know, between two cars; what do they call it, parallel parking. Well, I’m sorry, if there is an easier alternative then I choose it and besides which, I immediately became superstitious, so parked down the road, on the right – where I have normally parked this season.

Carly, Davie’s wife, opened the door to me, with a smile as always. Then Fudge, the loving dog, was not far behind and as I began to stroke her under her chin, she just sat there and lapped-it up like the softy she is. I am sure she knows everyone. I am sure all pets do.

Deano and Davie were there and then Carly presented me with my top which she had kindly washed and dried for me – it felt like brand new and smelt fresh. It was like she was my little, though, big sister, the way she is with me – trying to guide me in the affairs of the heart but laughing at me at the same time!

They are all my extended family and in this holiday period, I have spent as much time with them as I had my mum and brother, if not more.

So, Wolves. Wolves who had come from 2-0 behind to beat Man City the other night and win dramatically 3-2! Incredible – it meant Conor Coady’s side had done the ‘double’ over Pep Guardiola’s so I knew, just knew, as every sensible red did, that they were going to be tough opponents.

Liverpool lined-up as follows; Alisson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andy Robertson as wing-backs, Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez as centre-halves, Jordan Henderson – despite picking a knock-up v Leicester, Gini Wijnaldum and Adam Lallana in the middle. The front three again picked themselves as most of the spine of this team does; that’s just how it is these days.

Wolves were dangerous but apart from that Adama Traore and Coady – the former Liverpool player, then I could not honestly name any of them but what I did know was that their collective was a very good, football playing unit which could cause Liverpool problems given half the chance.

I had been concerned that I had not got any sweets to go into the bowl on the table but I need not have worried. There were special ones there. Traditional Christmas ones – Roses! Anyone would think it was still Christmas – or that limbo period in between; waiting and bracing ourselves for New Year. The chocolates were just there and smelling so appetizingly, especially in their colourful wrappers – ‘Take me, take me’ they were calling and I soon gave in, just diving in without looking until the soft, sultry, sweet, texture was in my mouth, soothing instantly any tension I may have been feeling in those moments. It was like, like – well, a Divock Origi champions League Final goal in a wrapper!

Liverpool started brightly, attacking the Anfield Road End. Two chances went begging if my memory serves me correctly. It would have made all the difference if we had scored one.

I found myself kicking every ball. My feet forever moving as I lounged on the sofa, almost in a horizontal position. It belied how tense I really felt inside though. I just could not rest – Liverpool need to score – full-stop. That was all that was missing as they probed patiently for a gilt-edged chance.

‘Keep at it reds’, I sighed, as the tension arose around the living room.

Then the ball was in the box, Adam Lallana jumped for it and played it to Sadio Mane and he finished, low, to Wolves keeper, Patricio’s right.

‘’YES!’ I shouted, raising both my arms in the air, in triumph as though lifting a trophy, criminally in my book, without hearing the fat lady sing or in this case, without a VAR check.

‘Wha?’ we all went. Looking at each other and the screen. Just wondering how they could possibly disallow the goal.

How long was it – two minutes perhaps. I felt sorry for all the fans in the ground. They must have been more in the dark than we were.

‘I think they are also checking for a possible offside, as well’, Deano wisely said as it dawned on me that our chances of being allowed the goal took a seventy-five per cent swing to the good.

Finally, a massive roar came from Anfield.

The goal stood.

‘Now come on reds, get the first tackle in’ I urged, fists clenched, just knowing how slender our vital, vital lead was that we had just about got and been allowed, after VAR had decided Lallana’s shoulder, not his right arm, had touched the ball in the build-up.

The reds didn’t listen to me though. They did get a tackle in but it led to a free-kick. In an advantageous position. The ball was hacked clear, with a good old up and under and we all felt a sigh of relief. So did Liverpool’s players but Wolves were on it and got the ball to their right wing and as it was crossed into our box, one of their gold shirts slammed the ball to the right of a despairing Alisson.

It was 1-1 and we had been made to pay for switching-off.

It was gutting. It was like we had each been given a tin of roses to eat and Carly had snatched them away.

But lo, hark the angel that is VAR (not). Wait a second, as the screen was boxed again to look not at the lush green Anfield turf, but somewhere in the magnificent newish Main Stand. A monitor was being checked. Suddenly, my heart was skipping a beat at the remote prospect that maybe the legitimate – all day long, goal was being looked at.

VAR only went and disallowed it! The relief I felt was just head shaking. I could not fathom it out. I was just grateful that Liverpool were still, still ahead. As far as I could figure, a Wolves player’s boot lace was over the line in the build-up to the goal. I’ll take that all day long though. Especially, now, let’s re-wind a moment here, in VAR fashion, to when Bobby Firmino was denied a goal by VAR at Aston Villa, when we should have gone 1-0 up or to a Mane header v Watford when it could have given us a 2-0 lead, long before Mo Salah’s cheeky last minute back-heel.

Davie called it though. He said that the VAR people are never known and sit behind screens so they don’t get stick and pick-up their money without a problem.

It was, after all the drama, 1-0 to the reds at the break and it was definitely time for more chocolates and tea!

‘Fudge’ was baby Kelsey’s new best friend as she cwtched-up to the soft old dog, in the corner, whilst the drama un-folded itself into the second half with the reds briefly spurting to attack the Kop, which was urging the team on to score a second, which would have made all the difference.

A few times Liverpool seemed to be on the brink finishing – they could not pull the trigger though; it was akin to dunking a shortbread biscuit into tea, leaving it in the cup too long, before it collapses   in the tea.

Wolves pressed and pressed. Forcing Liverpool back as I again, squirmed, contortedly on the sofa, almost going into a defensive ball, as I tightened my grip on my jumper, with the tension rising, to even greater heights when not only did Virgil van Dijk of all people get caught out for his over-confidence on the ball but especially when that Traore came on and started to rampage down our left and then our right.

Trent Alexander-Arnold was having a torrid time against him. Twice he left him go and in came the ball to the edge of the ‘d’ and two shots were wastefully fired over, thank goodness as I reached yet again for the roses, for a crumb of comfort to ease my nerves.

I shouted, violently towards the screen at one stage, towards my heroes, urging them like some far away sergeant major to ‘get some in’ (you must be as old as me if you recall that tv series) and ensure they held-out under another barrage of Wolves missiles as another ball was pulled across and chance somehow wasted. At this point Joe Gomez must be singled-out for special praise. He was magnificent – reading every move and covering Trent Alexander-Arnold at every turn, and boy can he put a sliding Alan Hansenesque tackle in and I can give him no higher praise than that. It was though, yet again, the team collective strength which was the most important factor; not any individual’s performance.

I can always tell how tense and tight the game is because I counted the clock down from 70 minutes onwards. Then past 90 minutes and the extra, contorted filled four minutes.

Was it no wonder, that at hearing the final whistle, I jumped up off the sofa and shouted, gleefully at the top of my voice, ‘Yes!!’ and made a bee-line for the toilet for a relief flowing wee jimmy riddle!

Whilst there, it sunk in that Liverpool had incredibly lost only one League game in 2019 – I do not think any Liverpool team has ever achieved that feat in a whole year.

However, as I left Davie’s, I still, still, could not hear the ‘Fat Lady’ singing in the distance but just, just, just, very, very cautiously whisper it, maybe she was waking-up from her 30 year-old sleep and preparing to have a cup of coffee…

30/12/19.

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