Liverpool almost pull off the impossible.
Oh man, I had about four different wraps run through my head during this match. First it was of the lame capitulation rife with individual errors that cost Liverpool this tie. Then it was of a passable fightback and decent performances. Then, for more than a minute there, I was contemplating just how I was going to describe this glorious night. Something I was actually angry at Liverpool for making me believe could happen. I didn't want to get suckered in. I knew better. Been here before. But there I was on the edge of my couch, cursing every missed pass and foul, just waiting (almost expecting) one moment that would remind us why we bother in the first place. It was coming, wasn't it?
But it didn't. And now, this wrap.
It's too simplistic to pin it on Jamie Carragher, and no one wants to do that in this his last season and today his last European game (and it didn't dawn on me until this match what a crime it is that's not taking place in the Champions League where he made his name). Who knows how this match would have played out had he not slipped.
No, the tie was lost when Suarez couldn't finish for a night, though it made it more fitting that he was the one who brought them back. Or when Henderson lost the ball that led to Hulk's stunning strike in Russia. Or when Glen Johnson was searching for Lucy in the sky with diamonds when he should have been aware of Semak behind him. Or Liverpool not attempting to get just one away goal after that.
The season, which seems so empty now, will be riddled with individual, defensive errors. Rare have Liverpool been torn open time and time again lately. But it's someone losing a man on a set piece, or just missing a tackle or mark or being out of position. It's not systemic. It's between the ears. Is that on Rodgers? I don't know, doesn't feel like it totally.
But that's another discussion for another day. I don't think there are moral victories, though this is more heart than Liverpool have shown in any of the last two seasons. But now comes the real test. Can they still do it when there isn't much to play for? Can they ignore that they're playing out the string? I wonder.
-Liverpool's surge was snuffed out by another problem they've had all year. That's when a team is ready to press them up high. Again, Liverpool struggle when the opponent bunkers on their own 18, or pressures them on Liverpool's 18. What do they want? Liverpool have to be able to play out of it, because they don't have a striker or even a midfielder they can just lump it to who can hold it. Their touch and passing should be assured enough to get out and then exploit the space left behind by that pressing. That should be the goal anyway. But once Zenit got up the pitch to press, Liverpool were nowhere.
-Luis Suarez, I can't even get a golf ball to draw like that. How do you get a football to do so? I'm going to miss you when you go to Munich. I really will.
-While Rodgers has been hit and miss this season, he got it right today. Having Henderson's and Allen's pressing on the field at the same time really did give Liverpool the edge in the first half, and Enrique made up for the fact that Hendo was never really on the left. But at some point if he's played there in the future, Henderson just once is going to have to get to the byline and hit with his left just to show that he can.
-I'm sure fatigue played a role at the end too. Because a lot of the Liverpool players looked leggy, especially Gerrard. But what was to be done about that?
-That looked like the vintage Lucas today. What a difference it makes.
-Assaidi is alive? And wasn't bad? Can we see more just to see if he has any role to play in the future?
Liverpool are left with a valiant defeat. But that doesn't get you much, and it's not much to build off of. The context comes later. It stings even more on a day when Spurs and Chelsea got late drama to go through, and reminded us all that Liverpool are behind Spurs and Chelsea, and they're not even where we really want to be.
Right now, instead of being proud of a side that went out on its shield, I can only rue what it missed in the first leg. Because it was there. Just as it was at The Emirates. Just as it was at Eastlands. Just as it was at White Hart Lane. And all the other matches where Liverpool could, and probably should, have had more.